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Book Three Pt 1 - The Reckoning

Written by - Turin Wallace Page 1 Book 3 posted on Nov 05, 2005

Within the grove, amidst the chanting and fervent prayers, Ithramir's body began to once again transform. The spirit of Avandor coursed once again through his mortal frame, the healing powers of Nyrondis, Kaia'hanas, and Avandor cleansing the demon-taint, restoring his vitality, and mending the great wound he suffered.

Opening his eyes, eyes that shone with the brilliance of fire, he begins to sit up, calling for the healing to cease. His words, with a voice mixed of mortal and the divine, are,

"It is enough, I am here, my wife and son. Ithramir is with me as well. We are now here, each of us with our family, friends, and loves."

Standing up, he continues,

"Children of my son, Nyrondis, your prayers and sacrifices have not gone unanswered. Daughter of my wife, Kaia'hanas, your hearts answer has been fulfilled and your own has been healed. And now, my own servant Ithramir..."

With but a pause, Ithramir's form returns to normal, and he finishes with his own voice,

"...he thanks you all."

Moving over to Lithwyn, he takes her into a huge bear hug and whispers into her ear,

"I knew one day you would open your heart to Kaia'hanas, letting her work her wonders through you. My heart is doubly joyous that it was through me that such a thing was accomplished."

Setting her back down, he looks into her eyes and says,

"A amin mela lle, nin norui min."*

Pulling her close, he kisses her deeply, feeling his lover, his soulmate, once again in his arms. If there was one thing he was ever sure about, it was this, and the feeling of her warmth on his.

Gently pulling away, his stands beside her, his arm around her waist pulling her firmly into him, he says,

"Now, let us finish this ceremony. Let us heal the rest of our comrades and soldiers so that we may rest and rejoin the fight. Mark my words, there will be a reckoning within the coming days and we will make those that betray and deal within the shadows pay for their vile deeds!"

Moving within the grove, Ithramir once again transforms into the avatar of Avandor, ready to lend his aide to heal his people.

****

* - "And I love you, my fiery one."

Written by - Tempyst

Tempyst felt the war between Ithramir and the demon taint within him. Her hands clutched at him when she felt what seemed to be spikes piercing through her body, then let out an anquished cry as she felt the knives cut into her stomach and her insides being torn apart. Then, there was peace. Tempyst felt the energies of the 3 avatars rush through her, filling her with power and strength. As Ithramir sat up, Tempyst fell back, her body torn and bleeding from the exchange of life she had done, to make sure this elf stayed alive long enough to return.

"It is enough, I am here, my wife and son. Ithramir is with me as well. We are now here, each of us with our family, friends, and loves." Ithramir stood, towering over Tempyst, then again he spoke. "Children of my son, Nyrondis, your prayers and sacrifices have not gone unanswered. Daughter of my wife, Kaia'hanas, your hearts answer has been fulfilled and your own has been healed. And now, my own servant Ithramir..."

Tempyst barely heard the words that Ithramir spoke, her vision blurry, barely making out Lithwyn's and Ithramir's embrace. Her heart filled with joy at the sight, knowing that they had succeeded and that all would be well. She layed down upon the grass, her head upon her husband's feet, then closed her eyes and let the darkness take over.

Written by - Wilhelm

Ceredan bowed to Avandor/Ithramir and then to Kaia'hanas/Lithwyn and Nyrandis/Lucant. In a ringing voice he then spoke:

"By the request of Avandor, Kaia'hanas and Nyrandis, let the Gods of Light manifest in this Sacred Grove and form a Great Circle to heal those within this grove from all ills they have suffered. Let all here support their deity in this Great Ritual."

Ceredan then walked to stand at the edge of the clearing behind Avandor's follower's. He thrust his staff into the ground, where it glowed brightly, and said,

"Let the powers of Light seal this Circle from all enemies without and contain within all that is done here."

Ceredan bowed to Avador and said,

"Hail to Avandor, God of Light, Vengeance and War, and all initiated to him. Join your power into this Great Circle to heal those within."

Avandor's followers joined hands, the seniormost placing their hands upon Avandor himself. Each of them began to glow with light that seemed to flow through their linked hands towards Avandor. Ceredan then began walking clockwise around the edge of the circular clearing, his staff leaving a glowing trail behind him from which a glowing wall of light began to rise. He bowed to Kaia'hanas and said,

"Hail to Kia'hanas, Goddess of Beauty and Love, and all initiated to her. Join your power into this Great Circle to heal those within."

As her followers also linked and began to glow, Ceredan continued to walk the circle leaving the glowing rising wall of light behind him. As he passed each following group of initiated followers he called upon their deity to manifest, calling upon Nagarren, Goddess of Healing; Tinorb the All Father, God of Justice; Yvesinia, Goddess of Fate; Inveor, God of Wisdom; and Ulfin, God of Smithing and Crafts. As he called their names the group of linked followers began to glow, each group with a different color, and the color flowed though them to the seniormost among them, who began to change and grow as their deity combined thier channeled power to manifest. Ceredan reached the followers of Nyrandis, God of Nature and Balance, and bowed to Nyrondis/Lucant. Ceredan then closed the Great Circle behind Avandor's followers and the clearing was surrounded by a wall of light. He then walked forward to the central oak tree, his staff held high over his head. The walls of light grew upward and inward and when he reached the center he grounded his staff and the clearing was enclosed in a hemispheric dome of light. All sound from outside was cut off. The air was still. All were silent.

"The Great Circle is complete. Let the Gods of Light now join in their own Divine Circle and combine their power, that these who here lay injured in the cause of the Light may be healed of all ills."

Cerdan then bowed to Nagarren, Goddess of Healing. The assembled dieties grew larger and reaching out linked hands to form their own Divine Circle. The glowing air began to move clockwise along the circle, and all within the Great Circle felt invigorated with each breath they took. The color at each deity began to flow around the circle and was gathered in by Nagarren, who now glowed in purest white. She gathered the power of all within the Great Circle into an intense ball of white light between her hands and then tossed this towards the center calling out in a great command,

"BE HEALED AND WHOLE!"

The ball of light seemed to explode outwards and fill the entire clearing with a light that seemed to at once blind all sight and yet convey vision more clear and deep than any but the deities had experienced. All seemed to merge into Unity and in a timeless moment the injuries and ills of all within the clearing were perceived and then healed as if they had never happened. All within the clearing felt healthier than they had ever felt before, full of life energy and healed of all ills.

The assembled deities gave their joint blessings to all within the clearing and then faded away. As they did so, the light faded from each group and then the hemisphere of light also faded away and the clearing was again united with the outside world. All throughout the clearing those who had previously been gravely injured or ill began to stir and marvel at their healing. In the center of the clearing, Ceredan leaned upon his staff, his hair, robe and staff now white like a frosted tree in winter. He then intoned in an aged voice,

"Praise be to the Gods of Light. It is done!"

Written by - Ardwen

The amount of god-taint streaming into the Sacred Grove boarded on the inane. Ardwen could swear he could almost smell it, a sharp pungent order, not unlike the keen scent of a freshly sharpened blade. The ritual progressed, and the raw power of the gods began to manifest itself, honed and directed by their various sycophants. One after the other the so-called “Gods of Light” deigned to touch the moral plane with their presence.

Strange gods with names and titles Ardwen did not recognize, with forms wondrous and bewildering. All that is save one. Ardwen heard the druid conducting the ritual call His name out, and Ardwen’s blood ran cold. “Tinorb the All-Father, God of Justice . . .” the druid intoned, and one of the members of the ritual circle begin to shift and swell as the god took form. “It cannot be!” Ardwen hissed . . . but it was. He had the same face, the same form, and the same glow of power and reverence as He did more than five thousand years ago when Ardwen first witnessed His physical form.

Despite the fact that he was on another world, removed by incalculable distance and immeasurable sorrow from his old life, the All-Father remained. Ardwen rocked onto the balls of his feet, one black-plated hand shot forward to point at the All-Father, the other whirled the large blade off his back. He did not have the time to summon the Beast from within, Ardwen had no clue how long He would stay manifest – it was strike now or forever lose the opportunity.

With a rage born of over a century of denial, pain, and abandonment Ardwen charged toward the divine presence of the All-Father. For His part the All-Father calmly turned and watched Ardwen move forward like a sable tidal wave. Ardwen inched closer, closer, the slab of steel he dubbed a sword raised for a strike – and then he suddenly shot backwards, lifting into the air to collide with an ancient oak. The Elf was several feet off the ground, and while he could struggle and move with some effort, the invisible force that held him did not waver or weaken.

The All-Father looked at the other gods, gave a serene nod and spoke in a voice that also had not altered in all those long years, “This one is my responsibility. For in his heart does he hold Me the sole purveyor of his torments and shortcomings. He will brook with no other save Me, and so he warrants my attention.” Ardwen continued to try and free himself until the All-Father spoke saying, “Cease your struggle Ardwen, you will be released ere long.”

Ardwen did indeed stop; the calm of a man facing death and accepting it settled over him. The All-Father continued, “I know you, as you I. You have been both my friend and foe, both disciple and anathema to Me. You have served in My church and given Me thanks, and you have cursed My name and defiled My most sacrosanct grounds. Verily Ardwen, we have a reckoning that has been long overdue.”

The All-Father let a short pause separate his speech before he once again began, “You hold Me solely responsible for the occurrences that drove you to become a monster. You hold Me responsible for the slaying of your friends and the abolishment of your order. You hold Me, even now, responsible for the greater part of pain and suffering in your life.”

Suddenly a scowl covered the All-Father’s face, and it was as if the sun were veiled and brooding clouds obscured the Heavens, his voice was now charged and animated, “But such thought is flawed and wrong, a falsehood perpetrated at the expense of My love. Let me then, my wayward son, expound for you the Truth. The beast you have become, verily the person you are before me, is a creation entirely of your own devices. Never have I sought to restrict or deny you, never have I forced My will upon you – what you are is an amalgamation of your own choices and actions; none others.”

“Secondly,” The All-Father continued, “the ones you so love did not perish, for those who held faith and believed in Me were saved from the crucifix of Aerynth and given a far better life here. Did I not promise this? Did I not say I would reward my faithful? Those who remained had their own reasons, as you supposed you did, or who in the last deviated from My word – I would not force them even then to obey.”

“And in the last,” The All-Father said, and now his voice shifted to one of coolness and precision, “you continue to torment yourself, by your own hand. Know this: it was I who brought you to this world, that plucked you from the hell of Aerynth so that you might know salvation. Thus far have you squandered that opportunity, but no more.”

Even as he spoke the All-Father seemed to draw Himself up, his radiance became as the sun at its zenith, a halo of light silhouetting a figure that seemed to contain all of creation in its magnificence. His voice now boomed off the trees, and all of heaven and the firmament seemed to shake with every word, “Hear me then Ardwen, who has been both a friend and a foe to Me. Hear me now Ardwen, who has been both beloved son and errant fool to Me. This is my judgment: two choices are open before you, two paths that mirror your life. On one path lay redemption and penance, a putting aside of errors and forgiveness. Accept Me, serve me as you once did, and I may yet heal and save you. In time, you may yet know peace and repose as is apportioned to you from Heaven.”

A long pause followed, and then the All-Father elucidated his second offer, “Down the other path lay damnation and suffering. This is the road to ruin and the path to Hell. This is the road you even now walk, and there is no force beyond yourself that can remove you from it. Deny Me, continue along your dark way, and you condemn yourself. I cannot guarantee the aegis of your soul so long as you continue on this path, for it leads away from Me in all things. I say once more, hear me Ardwen, you rest upon the edge of the most perilous knife, for it can cleave the very spirit. The good and evil of your life demands the reckoning be met . . . now choose, I will not give you time to think, for the choice rests with the soul and not the mind.”

Despite the glowing brilliance of the All-Father, despite his dire words, and despite the fact that he was still pinned to the side of a tree by His will, Ardwen met the god’s eyes. And there the warrior looked long, while a wind not of this world pulled his dark cloak from behind him and waved it like some manner of tattered banner in a forlorn wind. He appeared in that moment more longs-suffering than he had in any other, like a candle striving valiantly but vainly against a tempest. Finally he spoke, and his words carried the weight of finality and the gravity that emulated the god’s, “And still You lie, You who we name Pandarrion. Do not speak to me as if You were flawless and without error, for among my people there are still those who remember Your great blunders. You made yet another mistake when You abandoned me and the Hands, when You abandoned all of Aerynth! They were Your people, Your faithful, and Your charges! I say this, You are like the king who abandons his people for a life of exile!”

Ardwen was now yelling, his voice ringing from the clearing. “You are no better than a tyrant! Do not lecture me on divine plans or purpose, I know where those hollow lies lead! Even if Aerynth was lost, it was still our home, yes, every last ‘mere mortal’ one of us! Like a coward, You ran, and so I answer you as I would answer a craven lord! Go to hell!”

A look of sorrow crossed the All-Father’s face, and he seemed like a candle behind a screen. His voice was tinged with weariness and melancholy, “I fear, my poor lost one, that your request will instead be your fate. So be it, you have made your choice. You may deny Me, but I will never deny you, for I am your creator – whatever else I may be to you. But I am afraid I cannot aid you now, so long as you persist in your prideful denials. Fare you well Ardwen, for though not all things are known to Me I do not foresee a happy end for you.”

Thus turning the All-Father faded with the rest of the gods, departing for their own places and realms. Ardwen gradually lowered to the ground. Immediately he fell to his knees and glanced at the sky, a blank expression chiseled into his face. He raised one hand, clenched in a fist, and noticed no pain. He looked at the armor, and noticed it was cleaned of all blood and battle-stain. But the Beast still lurked within it as it lurked within himself. Ardwen lowered his head and let his arms dangle at his side, he did not speak or move.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

As the elder druid Ceredan bowed before him, along with the younger druids and other followers of Nyrondis, Lucant could not help but feel uneasy out of place. He didn't belong in one of the great temples at one the holiest rituals known; he belonged in a forge, making horseshoes and plows. He shouldn't be wielding a god-forged sword; he should be wielding a hammer and a pair of tongs. From deepest reaches of his heart, he pleaded to Nyrondis "I don't want this. It's too big. Why did you pick me? Surely there is someone more suited to this role!" However, there was no answer.

He didn't want to press the issue, not at such an important ritual. He waited impatiently for the ritual to conclude. When it finally did, felt Nyrondis' power leave him as he bowed before the followers who were still kneeling before him and thanked them. He then rushed immediately over to where Tempyst lay and knelt down beside her, taking her in his arms. Through their soul-link he could feel how weakened she was in body, mind, and soul. Wanting desperately to help his wife, but not knowing how, he simply held her close and waited.

****

Leov and Dom stood on the deck of Tiertiala's Grace and watched as magnificent city of Lothiel-Gadith faded from view. "Why isn't she sending a pursuit force," he wondered out loud. Dom reached over and slapped him on the back and said with a laugh, "Want to see that little firebrand again so soon, do ya!" Leov turned to his friend and said with all seriousness "If you were anyone else, you'd be dead by now, old man. And as far as I'm concerned, if I ever see her again, it'll be too soon. Get everyone together down at the meeting room for me, would ya? We've got some things to hash out." Seeing that he had gone a bit too far, Dom happily agreed and went about his orders.

"Something's up..." he said, taking one last look towards the city. He turned, then looked up at the ship's sails, still billowing in the full gale. "Well... at least You're on my side, no matter how much I may not want You here," he thought as he headed towards his quarters. Opening his door, Leov looked around the room for the cats, who were nearly always there. "Wonder what kinda trouble they're causin'..." he said to the flask he had just picked up. Before leaving he checked the table to make sure that the book was still there before realizing that he had left it in Lithwyn's care.

He headed down to the hold and tapped one of the barrels of whiskey and filled the flask to the brim. "Now then, if I can't think you outta my head, then I'll drink you out." He tilted back and chugged the entire contents of the flask, then filled it again before heading back up to the meeting room on the second deck.

Bursting through the large double doors and seeing Dom, Gilbert, Aloray, Glen, and Miranda there already, he took a seat and went right into business. "You all know what happened at Lothiel-Gadith. I will not damn us to live under the elves' heels. I know that Ironskane ship was heading to Shrikefield, but I don't care anymore. I'd rather face whatever lies there than live under the eye of some elven witch!" He took another long drink as everyone cheered at his decision. "Now we're gonna bide our time and build our strength, and when the time's right..." Leov didn't get to finish that thought, however, as Josef, the watchman burst through door. "Captain! Captain, there's a ship directly ahead headin' towards us like a bat outta hell! It came outta nowhere... I didn't even see it until it was too late..." Without a word, the entire room filed up onto the deck to see the mysterious ship coming towards them.

"No flags or markings... and it doesn't look like any kinda ship I've ever seen before... Get everyone ready guys, this one could be bad." Leov said as he finished off the whiskey and drew Sulrista from its sheath.

Written by - Tempyst

Tempyst opened her eyes and found herself in her husband's arms, his eyes gazing down upon her, worry settled deep within them. The pain from the wounds she pulled from Ithramir were no more, but she still felt weakened and drained, and lost. As she looked into Lucant's eyes, she could see the eyes of her child looking back at her, as she had done in the vision before she gave her life for Ithramir. Tempyst felt the ache in her soul, felt the emptyness and placed her head upon her husband's chest and began to cry. She knew she should have been happy; she could sense through her link with Lucant, that their goal had been accomplished. Ithramir lived. She could also still feel the energies of the gods all around her, but she didn't care. All she could feel was loss. Yes, the child had chosen to give up her life, but it did not help her to feel any better about it. A child died, her child died and she was helpless to prevent it. Through her tears she whispered, "I'm sorry Lucant, I am so sorry..."

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

Lucant sat there on the ground in front of the massive tree, holding his heartbroken wife in an attempt to console her. "I'm sorry Lucant, I am so sorry..." He leaned in a whispered to her "You have nothing to be sorry for. It was her decision to do this. And she is not gone - she is one with the world now. So long as we remember this, so long as she is in our hearts, she is not gone." He hoped his words could ease her pain and his just a little.

****

Leov stood on the deck barking orders above the confusion with an unnatural calm: "When everything's ready, turn broad and rain hell on 'em until they get too close, then come about and we'll cut what's left of the bastards to pieces!"

"I don't know what it is you're driving me towards, Tiertiala, but I'm not going to take it lying down. I'll fight you with everything I have until my dying breath, and then I'll strike at you from the hot side of hell for all eternity," he swore.

The archers stood at the sides of the ship waiting for their captain's order as the unidentified ship came in closer.

Written by - Sycon

Sycon witnessed this great ritual without knowing. His mind was blank, soaking in all his surroundings but retaining none of it. A completel numbness, but no darkness. This a short stab of pain as if someone was pushing their finger through his heart then peace. His cold body started to flow with warmth. First through his chest... then it spread through his extremeties, to every part of his body. It was the warm feeling that she gave him, but this warmth was foreign.

Wait! A thought! His mind had created and retained a thought! Images still were wracking his brain and he could make no sense, but he could think.

His tried to move his finger. It twitched. He tried again, it would completely curve now. He made a fist. What love! He would never take the simple task of moving lightly again. It was almost joyous.

Sycon could feel his mana returned to him. But not by the gods in this circle... "That's right... I am here." Her words echoed throughout his head strong as ever. "A barrier they set up or no, our link has become stronger whether it was of my choosing or not. You being a warlock only strengthens this link." Did it really matter that he was a warlock? "I have given you a small supply of mana to suffice yourself. I have plenty. That oaf did not catch me completely off guard, though it was a bit of a shock. I know it was for a good cause, but it was still rather rude, don't you think?"

"Of course Mi'lady. One should always ask a lady first, yes? And no means no right?" Sycon's thoughts echoed back.

"Men, you'll never stop being corny or idiots will you," the short giggle in her voice started to emerge again, "I swear... if you even knew how old I really was, hahaha. You will be fully able to move soon and be completely ready for what is to come. Be ready my love, and be careful. I'd hate to have to find another just as you."

"Just as me?" Sycon spoke! "wOoT!" It was an expression he had heard from many people on Aerynth when they were joyous. He was now able to move. He got to his feet and brushed off his robes. He ran his hair through his hands and looked around. Everyone was hugging and lovin' on each other. Well... maybe he could find a way into this. Perhaps a barmaid around?

Written by - Tempyst

Lucant whispered, "You have nothing to be sorry for. It was her decision to do this. And she is not gone - she is one with the world now. So long as we remember this, so long as she is in our hearts, she is not gone."

Tempyst sat up, tears streaming down her face, eyes red from her crying. She looked at her husband, almost with disbelief. "We, we were her parents Lucant, parents tell their children no. We protect them from harm, even if they don't want protection. How could she know what she wanted, she was only afew days conceived? What if it was that demon tricking us. I, I should not have let it happen." Tempyst tried to move, to set up by herself, but she fell back into Lucant's arms, her body and soul weak. She looked into Lucant's eyes, searching, the pain still so evident. "She is gone Lucant, she is gone. I let her down. I let you down. It feels..." Tempyst put her hand upon her stomach, the ache there so deep, a hole inside her she could not truly describe. "...it feels like I have died, yet death does not want me; I am stuck in a place where pain and despair is the very air I breath." She closed her eyes, remembering the soft, wispy kiss her daughter had given her. "One moment, I am filled with life, filled with energy and joy, then in a heartbeat, darkness and an ache..." Tempyst turned from her husband and layed upon the ground, feeling the grass and earth beneath her, feeling it's call of enveloping comfort and darkness. Her hands clutched the grass and she sobbed, one of anguish, of one who had lost a part of her very soul.

Written by - Rikshanthas

As the Gods of Light manifested to perform the Great Healing, Vhar finally understood the gathering of power he had been sensing, and realized with a slight shiver the magnitude of what was about to take place. One of the female deities, Nagarren, focussed the summoned energy into an expanding sphere of power, calling out, "BE HEALED AND WHOLE!" As the wave of healing energy swept over him, Vhar felt his calm and control return, the tumult of human emotion he had been experiencing eased; though he remained in human guise, he felt the strength and vitality of his true self return; the gaps in his memory were filled, and he understood what had happened to him in the Library, and why. The knowledge disturbed him as much as it relieved him, but he understood the wisdom behind the occurrence. He would have to discuss it with Ithramir and Lithwyn.

Then something happened that completely shocked the Loremaster: an elf -- a race noted for its wisdom, of all things -- attacked one of the assembled deities! Vhar's jaw fell open at such a senseless act, as the One called Tinorb halted the elf's advance. The strength of the rage and hate flowing from the elven warrior struck Vhar like a physical blow, and he stared dumbly as the two exchanged sharp words, the All-Father eventually consigning the elf called Ardwen to his fate as the gods departed. Seeing the black-clad elf sink to his knees, Vhar shook his head slowly, sadly. There kneels a man whose pain runs deeper than the canyons of Kel'n'trii, he thought. Leaving the elf to his own issues, Vhar turned toward the now-healed Ithramir, who was standing with Lithwyn. Inclining his head in a brief but respectful bow, he said, "I would speak with you both, if you have a moment." Belatedly realizing the last time he had seen the elflord he had had a somewhat different appearance, Vhar removed the enchanted lenses, handing them to Lithwyn and adding, "I think I'll not be needing these anymore."

****

Shara woke reluctantly, unwilling to give up the peace of sleep, but she sat up anyway -- and looked around in bewilderment as she saw the gods manifested in the Grove. She felt as well as heard the Call to lend her strength to the great deed the gods were about to perform, and she did so unwaveringly, her eyes fixing on Nagarren, reaffirming her devotion. As the wave of healing washed over her, she felt a sense of serenity, peace such as her restless spirit had never known. Her tenuous connection to Nagarren became as steel, and Sharanya finally had found her place: she was a Priestess of Nagarren.

****

Lienad's eyes shot open, and he sat up suddenly, looking down at his body in surprise, flexing muscles that had been shredded only hours before, supported by bones that were splintered before he had lost consciousness. Not only was he healed, but he felt better than he had in years -- since before he had first wielded Khelek'urya, he realized. Sword really had been getting to him.

Suddenly aware Shara was standing over him, he looked up and, seeing her inane smile of relief, he grinned, pulling her down into his arms with a laugh. She gave a startled yelp that broke into joyous laughter as they embraced, silenced when he gently but firmly pressed his lips against hers in a kiss that lasted a moment and a lifetime.

Sir Mathell found them there several minutes later, still in each other's arms.

Written by - Wilhelm

The great healing ceremony was over and great was the joy and rejoicing among them as those who had been sorely hurt and close to death now stood up and removed their bandages and marveled at their return to complete health. At Ceredan's command the kitchen staff from the Citadel were led in by the druids carrying food and beverages, and tables to set them on, to satisfy the hunger that was the immediate consequence of such healing and to celebrate the great miracle. Such a Divine Circle miracle was extremely rare and stories would be told for generations about this one. A cheer could be heard through the Gate as word of the healing was carried to the troops.

Ceredan walked wearily towards Lucant and Tempyst, leaning on his withered staff, his hair and cloak as white as snow, but smiling with a look of satisfaction and compassion. When he reached them he bowed low to both of them.

"Hail to you, Demonhunters, for your success in defeating the demon and saving Ithramir, Avandor's Avatar. The Gods of Light are proud of your efforts and share your sorrow for your loss. Do not berate yourselves for what more you might have done. You succeeded where many a more experienced team would have failed and your success is a great victory in this War of the Gods. Death is part of life and those who lay down their lives in battle are to be missed with sadness but also to be celebrated and honored for their noble sacrifice. Your daughter was one such who knowingly sacrificed her life that another may live. This Conclave honors her and indeed Avandor Himself has honored her for her sacrifice. He has given her a post in his Hall.

The fatigue you feel, Tempyst, is that of the soul because you gave so much of yourself to keep Ithramir alive. Although the great healing has healed your body your soul needs a different kind of rejuvenation, just as does mine. I am immensely honored to have presided over a Divine Great Circle, an extremely rare event, but the effort has taxed me severely. I will shortly retire to the great central oak to undergo the Elder Sleep, where my body will recharge while my soul wanders and learns amidst the Spirit Plane. Dalomir will preside over this Conclave during my absence.

"By command of Nyrandis Himself, I offer you, Tempyst Whisperling of the Deepshadow Glen, the opportunity to accompany me into the Elder Sleep. After you have undergone your Spirit Journey you will awaken refreshed and rejuvenated as the youngest Elder Druid I have ever heard of. You might even visit Avandor's Hall."

Written by - Tempyst

Tempyst lay on the grass for a while longer, until the sobs and tears fell no more. She sat up shakily and leaned against Lucant. She felt his arm go around her, then realized, something seemed different. She sat up again and looked around the grove, seeing all there who had been healed and saved. She saw the man she had comforted earlier, Sycon, sit up and look very happy; she even heard him go woot. That brought a smile to her face and then she brought a hand up to her lips, suddenly remembering the kiss he had given her. Tempyst quickly turned her head away and saw Lithwyn and Ithramir still embraced. He lives. It was not in vain and they look so happy. Seeing them, she once again realized something was still wrong.

She looked at Lucant; she could still see the worry in his eyes, but there was something else there too. Or rather, something missing, something was different. She reached out to find A'lanthear, but again, her link with the sword was gone, she could not even sense where it was. She tried to reach out to Lucant, using their bond, but it was gone too. She reached out a trembling hand to Lucant, then felt Ceredan slowly walk up beside them.

She listened numbly to the High Elder Druid commend them of their deeds. His words reached her, but she felt no joy or passion from them. Not even when he told her of the fate of her daughter. She felt his aged hand touch her shoudler gently and she looked up at him, her eyes and soul searching.

"The fatigue you feel, Tempyst, is that of the soul because you gave so much of yourself to keep Ithramir alive. Although the great healing has healed your body, your soul needs a different kind of rejuvenation, just as does mine. I am immensely honored to have presided over a Divine Great Circle, an extremely rare event, but the effort has taxed me severely. I will shortly retire to the great central oak to undergo the Elder Sleep, where my body will recharge while my soul wanders and learns amidst the Spirit Plane. Dalomir will preside over this Conclave during my absence.

By command of Nyrandis Himself, I offer you, Tempyst Whisperling of the Deepshadow Glen, the opportunity to accompany me into the Elder Sleep. After you have undergone your Spirit Journey you will awaken refreshed and rejuvenated as the youngest Elder Druid I have ever heard of. You might even visit Avandor's Hall."

Tempyst knew what Ceredan had just told her, was indeed a great honor, but in her current state, it truly meant nothing to her. She took Ceredan's hand an stood up wobbily and felt Lucant rise behind her and help to steady her. *Ceredan," she spoke, her voice sounding lost and hollow, "may I go into the sleep now, I cannot bear this any longer. I feel nothing. I cannot even feel the links to those I love, it is like, everything, everything I have cared about is dead and gone. I want to be gone too."

Ceredan looked concerned, then called over two younger druids. "They will help you to the tree young one. Indeed, your aura is dark and in dire need of repair, we should not wait any longer." The two young druids went on either side of Tempyst and helped her towards the central oak. Tempyst let the druids lead her on; she did not even look back at Lucant or say goodbye.

Tempyst could hear the sound of thunder. A storm is brewing. She thought, as she was being helped to the great oak. One final cleansing, then all will be well. She felt a few drops of rain fall upon her, the few that could make it through the canopy of the sacred grove. Then she felt the wind start to pick up again, as if once more sensing her aura of loss. Once at the great oak, the druids disrobed her and upon shaky legs, she walked naked into the oak, disappearing into the great trunk of the tree.

Written by - Wilhelm

Ceredan escorted Tempyst to the central oak and watched until his assistants disrobed her and she entered the oak tree. He then returned to Lucant and said,

"Her healing and spirit journey will take some time, perhaps many days. Much depends upon her and how her spirit journey goes. You will know when she is better by how well you can feel her through your link. Remember that you and your sword are still bound to her and that you are her link back into this world. It is sometimes hard for a druid to find the path back the first time. Be prepared to call to her if you feel the need. Believe in your feelings, for you will know when there is need.

You are welcome in this Sacred Grove and you may consult freely with any here, but I advise you to take some time to learn from those in the Citadel more versed in the arts of war, for yours is a much more martial path than ours. And now I too must go to my rest. May the blessing of Nyrandis be ever upon you."

Ceredan bowed and then turned and made his way slowly to the central oak tree, handed his cloak to Dalomir, and walked into the trunk of the giant central oak tree. Dalomir folded the cloak carefully and handed it to an assistant, then took Tempyst's folded cloak and came over and presented it to Lucant.

"Hold this for your return. You can present it to her when she emerges again."

Written by - Isuiln Fellblade

Drifting through the peaceful blackness of oblivion, Isuiln was content. Death would find him sooner or later, he just had to wait, wait in this void that was forever in a second, a moment dragged on for all time. But time no longer mattered. Death didn't deal in time. Death would come soon enough. And until then, there was no life, no pain, no feeling. That is, until he felt something on his cheek. Lifting his hand, he felt the wetness on his cheek. He twitched as something lightly struck him right by the mysterious wetness, and then the moisture was gone, as if wiped away.

Then he saw the light. It started as no more than a pinprick. Then it drifted closer, larger, coming to claim him. Finally, death has come. Then Isuiln wondered why he had thought "finally"... after all, had any time passed since he arrived? He gave up on trying to apply logic to this place, and instead concentrated on the light, willing himself towards it. As it came closer, he felt an emotion. He felt... uneasy. There was something not quite right about this light. He had heard of people talking about going towards a light just before they died, but this light didn't feel like death. This light felt like... life.

The uneasiness evaporated. It was replaced by terror. This wasn't right! He had served his life sentence, he had watched the only person he had ever felt a real connection to die, and for what?! To save his worthless hide. He was even struck down in battle, lashing at a foe whom he knew he could not win against, and still he had not earned his rest? He screamed, and the silent echo was deafening. He scrabbled his hands bloody on the nothingness, trying to gain a hold that would keep him from that light. Yet still it marched upon him, more terrifying than all the orcs. Then it was upon him, and he was blinded by the light.

His eyes flew open and he inhaled deeply. After a moment, his eyes adjusted to the sunlight, and he saw Trinni sitting watch over him. He noticed the tear streak down her cheek and felt his own, remembering the mysterious wetness in the void. But she didn't look sad right now. She looked rather, well, livid.

"It's about time!" she began. "And what were you thinki-"

He silenced her by reaching up, grabbing the back of her neck, pulling her face down to his and kissing her. After a few seconds he eased himself back and saw the look of utter shock upon her face, and could not help but laugh. He lay back on the grass and laughed until tears streamed down his face. In that moment that the light had blinded him, he had seen the truth. Life was full of sorrow, of heartache, of pain, but every coin has two sides. For how hateful he had been when Aylan had died, he could love that much. For how angry and depressed, he could be that joyous. After trudging through the pits of this world's hell, he could dance on the clouds of its heaven. And that made life look a whole lot sweeter.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

Lucant stood there, hurt, as Tempyst entered the massive oak without so much as a second glance.

The druid Ceredan turned to him and said "Her healing and spirit journey will take some time, perhaps many days. Much depends upon her and how her spirit journey goes. You will know when she is better by how well you can feel her through your link. Remember that you and your sword are still bound to her and that you are her link back into this world. It is sometimes hard for a druid to find the path back the first time. Be prepared to call to her if you feel the need. Believe in your feelings, for you will know when there is need.

You are welcome in this Sacred Grove and you may consult freely with any here, but I advise you to take some time to learn from those in the Citadel more versed in the arts of war, for yours is a much more martial path than ours. And now I too must go to my rest. May the blessing of Nyrandis be ever upon you."

Ceredan bowed and then turned and made his way slowly to the central oak tree, handed his cloak to Dalomir, and walked into the trunk of the giant central oak tree. Dalomir folded the cloak carefully and handed it to an assistant, then took Tempyst's folded cloak and came over and presented it to Lucant.

"Hold this for your return. You can present it to her when she emerges again."

As the druid stepped into the massive oak tree along with Tempyst, Lucant walked slowly over towards it and sat down, leaning against the cool bark, determined to wait for his beloved as he had before. As he sat there in quiet contemplation while those around him celebrated until the storm rolled in. His thoughts began to wander as he sat there. However, they did not come to rest on Tempyst as he expected them to, but rather to the young elf-maiden Belyena Gadoril, whom he hadn't seen in years.

He thought about the time he first met her - at the small market in Almurad nearly six years ago. Her father, Gilandor and been there on a diplomatic mission to speak to Alonso Halleck, the magistrate of Almurad. The two became fast friends, despite their vastly different backgrounds. Belyena's father was a wealthy trade baron who had built his vast powerbase on importing goods from the Elven homeland, specifically from the Nuar'Lith area. Lucant's family, however, had been poor for generations.

The shrewd Gilandor Gadoril did not agree with his daughter's relationship with this commoner scum, however. And he forbade her to ever see him again. Belyena, however, was a spirit as free as the wind itself. She frequently made long trips away from Lothiel-Gadith to see him Almurad, aided by the family servants with whom she was very close. In a final attempt to end the insult to his family's honor, he used his connections with Alonso Halleck to forclose on the meager holdings of the Dolvan family and then he intended to have Lucant killed that very night he left.

He had come to Lothiel-Gadith to try to find Belyena and make a new life for the both of them, however, the Hand of Fate led him to the prisons of Lothiel Gadith and to the druidess he had shared so much with. As he mused about the past, A'lanthear broke in.

"Lucant, your task is through. Should you wish it, you may be free of this mantle to go about your ways. I apologize for myself and for Lord Nyrondis for using you, but it had to be done for the sake of all who live." Stunned by the sword's confession of sorts, Lucant stood up in a confused rage and looked up at it, still floating in the arcane gate, before addressing it in the pouring rain. "You used me! Nyrondis used me to His own ends!? This whole... everything... it was just... just a lie... just a ruse, so some god could save his pawn?"

He stood there in the pouring rain, staring at the now silent A'lanthear as he realized that he had been healed by the great miracle. He could now see clearly. He could see what his heart truly wanted. In a final gesture of goodbye, he placed his hand upon the massive oak and whispered "Goodbye Tempyst. I am truly sorry for causing you such pain. If not for me, you never would have had to feel this loss. I cannot ask you to forgive for what I must do, but it must be done." He neatly folded Tempyst's cloak and sat it down in front of the tree before walking solomnly off into the rain.

He walked, as if on clouds the whole way, to the verdant hill on which the Gadoril estate stood. The blue and white banners of the household flew proudly in the storm wind, seemingly welcoming him back to his true home after so long away. Lucant stood in front of the huge ornate doors before taking a deep breath and knocking on them. A few seconds passed - though they seemed like hours - until the door slowly opened. Again, the Hand of Fate seemed to be at work as Belyena stood in the doorway, looking as if she had seen a ghost. Lucant thought she had never looked more beautiful - she was dressed in a long violet gown with a high collar, wearing shining silver jewelry with her platinum blonde - almost silver - hair pulled back revealing her bright blue eyes.

Lucant stood in the doorway, his clothes thoroughly soaked as the two hearts quickly remembered what had been lost. He only had time to choke on a few words before Belyena threw her arms around him in the falling tears of the heavens.


Written by - Teran Page 2 Book 3

Nightfall was fast approaching on day two of the special mission Sabbatine was leading. She puffed out her chest as she walked along smiling proudly. Teran had made her leader. Sabbatine peered back at Jasmine on her horse, smiling smugly.

Sabbatine knew Teran loved her, after all would she be leading these people around for someone she didn't love? Images of the assassin fluttered through her mind like butterflies and a smitten expression appeared on her pale face. Teran, Teran, Ter....something lovely found its way into Sabbatine's senses. A perfect scent, something that must taste exquisite was nearby. Sabbatine looked around anxiously peering into the forest, but the scent wasn't coming from the forest, it was coming from Keeryn.

Sabbatine glowered at Keeryn, and then hissed, gripping her spear more tightly. In a flash of movement Sabbatine skewered Keeryn with her spear and pounced on her meal. Sabbatine cried out in pure pleasure as she tore out the stunned creature's throat. She felt the regenerating effects of a beings lifeblood perishing within her body, and the pleasure the warmth of the blood and gore brought her.

Sabby sighed blissfully but her bliss quickly turned to fury. She glanced back at Keeryn again, glaring daggers at the delicious smelling creature. Sabbatine licked her lips anxiously waiting and waiting for Teran to appear and tell her she could eat Keeryn. Until then Keeryn would be safe except for within the confines of Sabbatine's twisted mind.

Teran hated her, she knew. Why else would he torture her with the walking feast that Keeryn was? She grit her teeth as she thought about Teran, her anger growing and growing. She stabbed her spear into the ground with every step, imagining that it was Teran's face. She pondered eating Teran but recalled that she was absolutely repulsed by his scent, in fact it seemed to dampen her apetite all across the board.

She grumbles as they walk along, reliving her Keeryn feast fantasy over and over again to hold her over, until finally and abruptly, for no apparent reason she stopped.

"We'll stop here for the night." she turns and smiles pleasantly at Jasmine, and turns the smile into an awful charicature of a smile when she turned her wicked gaze on keeryn.

She began gathering up wood to build a fire. If she couldn't eat at least Sabbatine could be warmed by a fire.

Written by - Tempyst

Tempst could hear the sweet songs of birds above her and a warm breeze wafting over her, bringing with it the deep, rich scent of an ancient forest. She opened her eyes, then sat up smiling. All the pain, all the ache and guilt, it is gone. Tempyst then heard a noise behind her.

"I am glad to see you are awake m'lady." Tempyst turned upon hearing the familiar voice and was surprised to see an armored clad knight standing behind her. She looked at him with a slightly puzzled expression, but took his hand as he offered to help her up. He smiled and bowed deeply. "Yes m'lady, it is I, A'lanthear and I am honored to meet you here in spirit world."

Tempyst smiled, knowing it truly was A'lanthear, the sword she had spent so much time carrying and protecting. "It is a pleasure to meet you too A'lanthear, but I am surprised to see you; should I not have been met by Nyrondis?"

A'lanthear eyes showed a saddness as he spoke. "Aye, m'lady, normally that would be the case for your Elder Sleep, but Nyrondis has ordered me to greet you first. I have to make right for the pain I have caused you and must be the one to deliver to you more sad news."

Tempyst looked at him quizzically. "What pain could you have caused me A'lanthear? Everything you have done, we have done together. And sad news, here?" A'lanthear held out an arm for Tempyst and she placed a gentle hand upon it. A'lanthear then motioned towards a path and began to escort Tempyst through the ancient forest. Both were quiet for a bit, then Tempyst spoke again. "A'lanthear, please tell me, what is troubling you. I have never felt this from you before. I feel, remorse, saddness, even shame. That is not like you."

A'lanthear was quiet for a bit more, then spoke, voice weary. "For the first time m'lady, I do feel all those things. The great healing not only healed those that lived, but myself as well. And once I could think clearly, I realized what I had done and that I needed to make amends."

Tempyst stopped walking and turned to face A'lanthear. "What do you mean? Make amends for what?"

A'lanthear sighed and motioned for them to keep on walking down the lush, verdant path. "M'lady, let me start from the beginning, it may be easier for you to comprehend. I was once alive, an elf druid-warrior, with a special ability to sense demons. I fought to protect those I loved. Then the day came, when the battle was long and harsh. I almost ended up killing the great demon, but was injured too greatly, my body broken, nearly dead. The only one left to fight was a young druid, but I knew he could not take on the demon alone. It was then I prayed to Nyrondis to give my knowledge to the boy, so that I may continue the work. Nyrondis answered and as my body died, he placed my soul within the blade I had carried. With this blade, with my spirit inside, I helped the young druid defeat the injured demon. And thus, my life as a demon slayer began.

Through the centuries, I have been passed down to many, who would use me to defeat the evil that entered the world, all in the name of Nyrondis. However, though I was now a powerful weapon, I still had my mortal flaws. As each demonhunter wielded me, it was my natuer to preserve some of who they were, to build up my knowledge of fighting demons. Each one left a bit of who they were within me. But as good a plan as this was, it began to twist me, to change me. I began to sway from what I had originally thought to be right and wrong. I sometimes had my wielder take shortcuts in order to get the job done. It got to be, that all I cared about was to kill the demons, no matter what the cost. As I grew in power, I also grew in anger and resentment for what I had chosen to become. And this m'lady, is why I must apologize to you, for the pain you have gone through.

Nyrondis knew the demons were appearing again, which is why, during your rebirth, he sent me back to this world. I was anxious to fight again; though you were my caretaker, I still felt, I felt embittered. I did not like just waiting around. When you finally entered the citadel, I was elated, for I knew soon, I would see battle. But from Nyrondis, I kept getting the word to be patient, that to find the right one to wield me would take time. That is when I became even more impatient. I did not wish to wait any longer. As you sat in that cell, I sensed the young man Lucant, his feeling of being lost and unsure of himself. I decided He would wield me. I knew from Nyrondis there was a great threat coming, but I could not sit and wait, I had to take action so that I could help slay the demon threat.

I knew of your memories, of your dreams, of the mysterious man that you felt so strongly for. I used your feelings to my benefit m'lady. I used you and I used Lucant for my own selfish needs. Nyrondis did not know of my deceitfullness, you must not put any blame upon him. I take it all upon myself."

Tempyst, her face soft with concern, looked to A'lanthear. "What do you mean? Lucant was not, is not..."

"No, m'lady. Lucant is not the man you have dreamt of all your life. He is someone I manipulated, just as I manipulated you, to feel for each other, to become close in an instant, all so I could do what my passion was, to kill demons." A'lanthear's voice grew heavy, filled with shame and disgust for himself. "I brought you and Lucant together, I created those feelings you two shared, I even used my magics to make sure you conceived the first time you bedded, to make sure you two would stay together and be what I needed to do what I wanted. I even fooled our god Nyrondis. It all worked too. You and Lucant became bonded, even though the bond was not real. You and Lucant took on the mantle of being demonhunters and he accepted me, as well as Nyrondis and with my knowledge, power and skill, slew the great demon atop that tower."

"But..." Tempyst hand trembled, but as she was here, in the ancient wood, the words did not affect her as emotionally as they would have back in the mortal world. Here, she was calm and could hear the sword out as he confessed his wrongdoing.

"Please, m'lady, I am almost finished. I did not know your child would sacrifice herself and for that loss I am truly sorry." A'lanthear took a deep breath, then continued. "During the great healing, when all the god's manifested and their power was beyond any I had experienced before, the energies there not only cleansed the mortals that were suffering, but me as well. All the anger, the pain, the thirst for more power and killing, was gone. For the first time, since I was first interred into the sword, I could think clearly, I remembered my true purpose and desire. And I realized all the wrong I had done in the name of good."

A'lanthear stopped and turned towards Tempyst, taking her hand within his. "I could no longer bear to keep the deception I had started, going. I confessed to Nyrondis and he has given me the chance to at least put those I have recently hurt, their emotions at rest. I am sorry m'lady Tempyst, for using you, your emotions, your dreams to further my goal. I am sorry I brought false love into your life, and that deception caused the conception and the death of your child. If there was any way I could make up for what I have done, I would do so. I am afraid, all I can do is confess and hope you can still piece your life together."

Tempyst was quiet for a time, then looked into the knight's eyes. "Does Lucant know?"

A'lanthear nodded. "He does not know the whole story, there was no time. I told him that he was free of his bindings to me and to Nyrondis, that I had used him to further the cause, and that nothing he felt was of his own. He was very angry and..." A'lanthear paused, then continued. "I am afraid m'lady, he is gone. He no longer is waiting for you outside the great oak. He left the sacred grove and I do not think he will be back; Nyrondis will be able to explain that more when you see him. This means m'lady, your marriage is dissolved and you too, are free to go on with your life."

A look of saddness came over Tempyst, her shoulders slumped a little as she took in all that had been said. She stared at the ground for the longest time, not saying a word. Finally, she looked up, her eyes brimmed with tears and she leaned up and kissed A'lanthear on the cheek. "I felt so lost, so heartbroken A'lanthear, back in the mortal world. If you had told me this while I was still there, I doubt what was left of my soul could have taken what you have done. But here...." Tempyst looked around, the feeling of calm and peacefullness still flowing through her, "...here, I can hear your words and take them to heart and know, I know you truly did not mean to hurt me, or Lucant, or even our child. You knew, almost better than anyone else, the danger that was loose in the world and even if you were not thinking clearly, you did what you needed to to assure victory. I do not hate you A'lanthear, but know this, you would not have needed to trick me into helping you. My loyalty is with Nyrondis and his needs, his direction, is mine."

A"lanthear's eyes brightened, though there still remained a saddness within them. "Thank you m'lady, for you have done for me. You will never be forgotten." A'lanthear stopped. "But now, I believe my journey with you is at an end. There are others that wish to speak with you and help you along your journey." Tempyst looked ahead and could see that they were now at the edge of the ancient forest, rolling hills and meadows stretched out before them. "She awaits you m'lady." Then he let her arm slip from his and faded away.

Tempyst looked around, the sun shining warmly upon her. For a few moments, she wondered who A'lanthear was talking about. Then, she heard the laugh and turned towards it. Running towards her was a young girl, arms open and smiling ear to ear. "Momma!" The little girl shouted and threw her arms around Tempyst's neck. Tempyst held onto her daughter tightly, wanting this moment to never end.

Written by - Tempyst

Tempyst wrapped her arms tightly around her daughter, tears of happiness flowing that she could actually hold her little girl. The child’s enthusiasm was so great, both Tempyst and she fell over into the warm grass and laughed. Finally, Tempyst caught her breath, sat up and hugged her daughter again. “I am so glad to see you here little one, so glad.”

“Avandor named me Tirigil, which means bright star. Isn’t that pretty momma?”

Tempyst smiled, “It is very beautiful Tirigil and it suits you so well. You were only with me a short while, but you brightened my life so much.” Then a tear slid down Tempyst’s cheek, knowing that this would be the only place she could ever hold her little girl.

“Don’t cry momma, please, don’t cry.” Tirigil reached up and wiped the tear from her mother’s cheek. “You did nothing wrong. I wanted to help you and pappa. I wanted to help so I volunteered.” Tirigil crossed her arms defiantly. “Ya, I am your little girl, but you could not have stopped me. I got my stubbonness from you!” Tirigil laughed and tackled her mother again. Tempyst and Tirigil played and laughed in the sun for quite awhile; chasing butterflies, picking wildflowers and just enjoying being mother and daughter.

Tempyst sat down next to a brook and held Tirigil close. They watched some frogs hopping and fish catching flies. Finally Tirigil stood up, looked at her mother and tugged her to her feet. “It’s time momma.”

“Time for what?” Tempyst stood up and let her daughter lead her to a path.

Tirigil smiled. “Time for you to meet someone special momma.” She laughed. “Well everyone here is special, but this is gonna be a big surprise.”

“Alright, if you say so, lead on my little star.”

“Bright star momma, bright star!” Tirigil looked sternly at Tempyst then laughed. After traveling down the path for a way, Tirigil let go of Tempyst’s hand and took off ahead. Tempyst ran after her, her heart soaring at the love she felt for this child. Then the two turned a corner and Tempyst found herself looking upon a large manor house nestled in the trees. Tirigil looked at her mother beaming, then ran towards the home. Tempyst watched, walking slowly behind her daughter, wondering who could live at such a beautiful place. Then she heard a squeal and looked up. “GRAMMA!” Tirigil yelled at the woman who had just emerged from the home. Grandma? Tempyst thought, her mind searching for who this woman could be.

Tirigil finished giving the woman a hug and rushed back to Tempyst and took her hand, pulling her mother towards the large home. “See momma! I found her, I found gramma, YOUR momma! Aren’t you happy? We both found our momma’s.” Tempyst looked up into the woman’s soft eyes and in an instant knew, she knew it was the truth. Tempyst said not a word, but walked up the steps and into her mother’s waiting arms.

She knew not how long she stood there, only that she felt so at peace. She looked up, tears in her eyes and saw the woman before her was crying and smiling as well. “You, you are really my mother?” Tempyst questioned, though she already knew the answer.

The woman’s blue eyes twinkled and she reached up to caressed Tempyst’s face. “Yes, my child, my name is Brinna and I am indeed your mother and I have been watching over you since you were born. I have so long wished to touch you and hold you, I was so angry that we were separated so soon after your birth. But, I have waited patiently for this moment and now, now I see what a beautiful young woman you have become.”

“Is my father here too?” Tempyst questioned.

“We will have time enough to discuss that. For now, let us all get aquainted.” Brinna took the hands of her daughter and granddaughter and led them into the warm, inviting home. The sound of laughter and joy could be heard as the three learned of each other and got aquainted. Then, Tirigil said she had to go do something, but would be back to take Tempyst on to meet the others.

“What happened mother? What happened to you and my father.?” Tempyst looked inquisitively at Brinna.

Brinna took a deep breath, then took her daughter’s hand within her own. “That story will be explained by another, at another time. But I will tell you this. I was pregnant with you, on a trip and was attacked by orcs. I was left for dead. I regained consciousness for a while, during which I went into labor and gave birth to you.” Brinna reached over and touched the jeweled, triune medallion Tempyst wore. “I knew I was dying, so I placed my medallion, one your father had given me on our wedding day, around your own neck, then held you until everything went black. I saw the acorn upon your chest and prayed to Nyrondis for your father, for anyone to find you and keep you safe.”

“My father, but I was told he was dead.”

“Well, the one who found you, Coren, how could he know otherwise. The place was scattered with bodies. You were the only living thing admist the carnage. He knew I was your mother, for I had not even time to cut the cord before I died. There were so many bodyguards and servants about, dead, it was no wonder he believed my husband to be dead as well.” Brinna took Tempyst’s hand and brought it up to her lips, kissing it softly. “My dear sweet daughter, your father lives and even now searches for you.” Tempyst gave a startled gasp, unable to say anything. “For all these years, he thought you dead, carried off by the orcs for one of their rituals. But as it happened, Coren, found his way to your father’s lands and was able to put it all together. Your father is a strong willed man, I could do nothing to reach him, but you, you my sweet, sweet daughter, you I was given permission to reach out to.” Tempyst sat there, still silent, looking into her mother’s eyes, amazed and in shock at what she was hearing, but in her heart, knowing it was all true. “The man, that man you have been dreaming about all these years. The one you have come to love, trust in, is your father little one. I placed those images in your dreams, hoping one day, you would understand them and then seek out your father.”

“I, I don’t know what to say…my father…my father lives and searches for me?” Tempyst’s eyes filled with tears again and threw her arms around her mother’s neck.

“I know what A’lanthear had done, using those dreams to further his cause, but do not hate him, for now, I have a beautiful granddaughter, I have finally been able to hold you, and you now know, your father lives.” Brinna pulled Tempyst close and stroked her hair. For a short time, the two of them cried, then, they stopped, Tempyst sat up and looked directly at her mother.

“What is he like? What is his name? Where is he?” Tempyst blurted out her questions.

“Know that he is a great and noble man, stubborn and irritating at times, but never did I know anyone finer. His name is Turin, Turin Wallac and he comes from the north. That medallion you wear, he wears a matching one.” She smiled at her daughter. “You have his fire, his sense of nobility, of right and wrong, and you have his strength.” At that moment, Tirigil came bursting in through the door and jumped into the two women’s laps.

After a lot of hugs, she stood, taking Tempyst’s hand once again. “Time for us to go momma, time to see the really important people.”

Tempyst felt her heart tear a little, but then it quickly mended, knowing that when she returned to the mortal world, her mother and daughter would be together watching over her and each other. She stood, hugged Brinna tightly, then with a tearful goodbye, she followed her little bright star to the door of the manor house.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

Standing on the deck, Leov directed the helmsman to turn the ship abroad. Stepping behind the archers, he shouted calmly and decisively "Fire! Rain down hell!" No sooner than he finished did a symphony of twanging bow strings and hissing arrows rend the air. The crew of the strange ship, however, paid no attention to the flaming arrowstorm raining down on them.

"Cocky bastards, aren't they," Dom said as he stepped beside Leov. "Why aren't they turning... why are they still charging..." Leov wondered aloud, paying no attention to Dom's comments. "Al, bring us about! Don't let them ram us," he yelled. "I'll try boss, but they're coming at us way too fast to sidestep completely." As fast a ship as she was, Tiertiala's Grace could not evade the strange ship before it crashed into the starboard side.

A moment before the two ships collided, Leov managed to get out the order to brace for impact, though it did not help the situation any. As Leov and his crew picked themselves up off the deck, they saw the extent of the damage - the strange ship had lodged itself fully halfway into Tiertiala's Grace. The captain of the opposing ship had intended to cut straight through them, but he did not have the speed required. Enraged, Leov looked to take out his fury on the strangly clad sailors now boarding his ship.

"Kill them all! Their ssssoulssss will make fitting tributessss to the Massster," the appearant captain of the "things" hissed. He climbed atop his ship's fallen mast, clad in a loose black robe with an oddly shaped mask covering his face and, wrapping a scaley clawed hand on the hilt, drew a red crystalline sword from the ornate scabbard at his side before ordering an all out charge. "You arrogant piece of garbage! You wrecked my ship with your rickety junk pile, and now you think you're gonna kill us!? We are the Children of the Wind, and we yield to no man, woman, or god-forsaken snake-lookin' son of a bitch!" Leov made a sweep with Sulrista before pointing it at the thing. As soon as he did, another storm of arrows rained down before the two crews met in battle.

Leov took great delight in the fight, as he had with the bar fight. Ducking, weaving, sweeping, and thrusting, he cut a bloody swath through the snake-like creatures before him. As slaughter began in earnest, he climbed atop the fallen mast and pointed Sulrista at the scaly captain "You belong to me!" Removing the red overcoat he had taken from the Ironskane ship and casting it aside, he took an open stance in direct challenge to the creature in front of him. "Your ssssoul will be mosssst ussseful. It sssshall be my pleassssure to claim you for the Masssster," the creature hissed back as it removed the mask, revealing a reptilian head. The two went at each other with all the skill and fury at their disposal, matching blow for blow.

Parrying a high overhead swing, Leov foolishly left himself open, which the lizard quickly took advantage of. A swift, powerful kick sent Leov sailing through the air back onto the deck of his ship. Miranda's attention snapped immediately to the scene and she rushed forward, seemingly carried by the wind itself, to come between Leov and the lizard-creature who was already in mid-leap, about to land the fatal blow against Leov. Forcing him back, Miranda looked over her shoulder and said to the surprised Leov, "He may belong to you, but you belong to me. No one else will have you."

As he climbed to his feet and regained his balance, he noticed that Miranda was wearing the red coat he had cast aside. What he did not know was that she wore it to cover the bleeding wound on her shoulder. "Mir... get out of the way... please. Let me finish this," he pleaded. Reluctantly, she stepped aside to watch the two fight once more. Again, matching blow for blow, the two could have gone on fighting until dusk. Breaking the fight momentarily, the two stood in a showdown aboard Leov's crippled ship.

However, by Her divine grace, Tiertiala again showed favor to her beloved son with a strong gale that knocked the lizardman off balance for a moment. Taking the opening, Leov made a sweeping strike across the lizard's chest, then carried through on the momentum of the strike and thrust Sulrista through the lizardman's belly. As it fell upon the deck, gasping for air and coughing blood, Leov placed Sulrista's edge on its neck and said with a serious tone "Tell me who your master is and I'll make it fast. Otherwise, you're gonna lay here and bleed out while I finish off your buddies." The lizard creature looked up at Leov, eyes full of hatred, and muttered in a raspy voice "Va....un..." before Leov slammed Sulrista through his chest and the deck he rested on. With Miranda at his side, Leov went back to help finish off the remaining creatures.

As the last one fell, Leov looked around at the carnage. Many of his friends had been killed or wounded by these monsters. Even he had not managed to escape the creatures' blades - he now wore a deep cut over his right eye as a badge of victory and had several deep bruises. He placed his hand on Mir's wounded shoulder, wanting to ask her about what she had said in the heat of battle, but he did not get the chance to. Josef called out from the crow's nest "Captain Klein! There's a sea-elf ship comin' dead at us! All that smoke must've caused 'em to notice!"

Sighing in desperation that there was nowhere left to run, Leov looked skyward and said "Damn... you won't cut us a break, will you?" The sea-elf frigate plowed steadily towards them.

Written by - Tempyst

As Tempyst stepped through the door with Tirigil, it was not a wooded forest they entered, but a long, glorious hall, crafted of golden bricks. There were tables, chairs and many figures, all dressed in orange-yellow armor, both male and female. As she was marveling at the splendor, she heard voice speak to her. “It’s this way mom, Avandor is waiting to see you.” Tempyst looked over to her daughter and let out a soft gasp as she saw before her, not the little girl she had just been with, but a lovely, full grown woman, dressed in flowing yellow robes.

“Tirigil?” Tempyst questioned? “What happened, why…”

Tirigil put her arms around Tempyst and hugged her once again. “This is my form now mom, as it will be for all time. I appeared to you as being younger because I thought it would help you adjust more. And, well, I enjoyed being little with you and grandma.”

“Thank you little one, it was nice to see you as a small girl and even more special now, seeing you as the woman you would have become.” Tempyst brought a hand up and caressed Tirigil’s cheek. “You are so beautiful; you have your father’s eyes.”

The two hugged again, then Tirigil pulled back and smiled. “We really do need to go mom. Please, follow me.” Tirigil then turned and began to walk further into the long hall. Tempyst followed, but looked at the people she passed. One friendly face caught her attention.

The young man walked over, took Tempysts’ hand, bowed and kissed it. Then he stood, grinning from ear to ear. “Daveon?” Tempyst smiled, looking at the unmarred face of the elf before her.

“Yes, m’lady.” Daveon continued to smile. “I saw you and wanted to thank you for all you did for me back there. You made my passing calm and smooth. Thank you.”

Tempyst smiled. “I am sorry I could not do more for you, but am glad I could provide you comfort when you needed it most.” They both nodded at each other, then Tempyst looked to see Tirigil looking a little impatient. As Tempyst walked on, she turned back to Daveon for a momen. “I will keep my promis and will tell Avandor when I see him next.” Daveon raised a hand to say goodbye, then went back to the others. Tempyst scurried and caught up with Tirigil, just as they reached a set of large, ornate doors.

“I cannot go any further mom, but he is in there, waiting. Just go on in.” Tirigil made a gesture and one of the large doors swung open. Tempyst looked at her daughter, about to say something, but Tirigil beat her to it. “Don’t worry mom, I will be here when you return, we have more to visit after this.” Tempyst nodded, turned and walked through the door, into the bright shining light. As Tempyst stepped through and the light grew lower, she could see ahead of her, a very, very tall elf, dressed in brilliant orange-yellow armor, his eyes seeming to emit a white-blue energy from them. She could also see what seemed to be light and flames dancing around him.

“Tempyst Whisperling,” A deep voice called out, “come forward, so I may properly thank you for your sacrifice and your success in keeping Ithramir Sir-Galdur alive.”

Tempyst moved forward, awed by the site of Avandor. When she got closer, she curtsied deeply. “I did what was required of me m’lord, it was my duty to keep him alive.” She spoke, keeping her head bowed in respect.

“No child, you did more than what was required. The sacrifice you and your daughter have made, went beyond anything that was asked of you. I want you to know, her unselfish sacrifice has not gone unnoticed or unrewarded. Tirigil is now one with the gods, for she is our messenger now. Her duties are serious and require the utmost devotion and bravery, for being a messenger of the gods is not for the faint of heart.”

“You honor her, and her father and I greatly m’lord. Though, for a short while, I was angered and hurt at her loss, being here, I now understand. I will still miss her, but now I know she will always be safe and just a whisper away.”

Avandor smiled, “Indeed, she will never, truly, be far from you again. Her job is not without some peril, as being a messenger of the gods, means she will also serve the gods of darkness, but I give you my word, I will never let anything happen to her.”

“Again, thank you m’lord, I know in your care, she will be well.” Tempyst sensed that it was time for her leave, but before she did, she raised her eyes and looked directly at Avandor. “M’lord, I wish to thank you too, for the beautiful name you have given my daughter. It suits her perfectly.” Avandor smiled and nodded, prompting Tempyst to then turn and walk back out to her waiting daughter. Once outside again, the large, ornate door closed. Tirigil was there, smiling warmly.

“See mom, everything is okay, I even have important work to do now.”

Tempyst laughed softly, “Yes my dear, I am so proud of you and I know your father would be proud as well.”

At the mention of Lucant, Tirigil looked a bit sad. “I have heard what has happened mom and I am so sorry for that additional loss you are suffering from.”

“Shh, little one, no worries. The sadness is there, but, everything does have its purpose and reason and whatever I had to go through, to have you in my life, was worth it.” Tirigil smiled and led her mom back from whence they came, to another large set of doors.

“There are others who wish to see you mom, come, follow me.” Tempyst walked through the doors, following Tirigil closely. Tempyst was amazed by all that she saw during that walk. Kaia'hanas welcomed her with open arms, embracing her and praising her for all she had done and been through. The goddess also promised Tempyst to take heart, to learn the wisdom to be found in her sadness and that she would one day find true and honest love. The others all gave her their nods of appreciation, assuring her Tirigil would be safe within their care. Nagarran commended Tempyst on her healing skills and when Tirigil brought her to Tinorb, the all father, the diety did not say anything, only touch her amulet and smiled.

Tempyst felt so overwhelmed and so full of life now. Never in all her days, had she ever though she would meet the gods. She felt so at peace here in this realm and began to wonder, if she really needed to go back. Tempyst was in the middle of that thought when Tirigil tugged her sleeve and motioned down a garden path. “Aren’t you coming with me little one?” Tempyst asked.

“I am afraid that for now, our time together is at an end mom. I have duties to perform and it is best that you see Nyrondis on your own, for he will have plenty for you do.” Tirigil hugged her mother tightly. “Don’t worry mom, don’t cry. I will always be close with you. And if you see a star shooting across the sky, know that I am delivering another message and watching over you.”

“I love you little one, my Tirigil, my bright star. I love you like I have loved no other. I will still be sad that you are not in the mortal realm with me, I have peace now, knowing you are loved here and will be well taken care of.” Tempyst looked down the path that led into the ancient woods. “Thank you my daughter, thank you.”

“Thank you mom.” Tirigil smiled and stood watching Tempyst walk down the path until she could no longer see her mother. Then, smiling brightly, Tirigil made her way back to the great hall.

Written by - Renalis

Crystal knelt on the ground, her husband’s lifeless head resting in her lap, tears streaming down her face. She was oblivious to what was going on in the circle, she knew they were performing the healing ritual, but she cared not, her love was beyond healing and her soul needed what only the Gods themselves could give back.

Renalis remained suspended in his spiritual prison, the black expanse being the only thing he could see. He was content to lie in wait, his eyes closed, contemplating how he lead his life, and hoping that what little damage he did to the Demonic legions was enough to save at least a few worlds from their wrath. But the silent serenity was broken when he could hear his Wife’s scream of sorrow. “No… NO!” he thought to himself, almost crying out into the darkness, his eyes wide open for what good it did him. He could feel her sorrow, her pain and her anguish, he could feel the loss she felt and it tore him up inside.

“Would you take it back?”

A familiar voice from behind caused Renalis to instinctually try to spin around and much to his surprise he found himself now standing on the ground - a seeming endless plane of white. Only a few feet from him stood the familiar form of Avendor. Renalis could see Ithramir standing beside him and it filled him with some joy to see that his plan had succeeded. With a deep bow, Renalis addressed the Elf, “Commander Ithramir, it is good that you are well, and my efforts were not in vane.”

Ithramir returned with a small bow, "Your sacrifice was well-made, Renalis. Many owe you their lives and their thanks. Now, you can rest well knowing your work was not for naught. You have done well."

“You still did not answer my question Renalis Dalamar” The divine voice boomed, “Would you take it back?”

“Take it back?” Renalis was confused by the question, “take what back?”

“If you could end the sadness, the loneliness you feel, and end her suffering…” Avendor motioned upwards with his head, “would you?”

Avendor motions with a wave of his arm, and the images of Renalis’s brothers appeared before him.

“Talis, Kel’Thalas, Lokiren, Tyr’Ael…” Renalis moved towards them, his hand outstretched, but stopped as Avendor motions him back.

“Would you give up on ever seeing them again? Aiding them in the everlasting battle against the Burning Legion?” Avendor’s voice rang out.

Renalis brought his hand back; forming a fist he held his head low and spoke softly, “They would understand… this is bigger than me…” Renalis raised his head and looked at Avendor “This is bigger than me, and it’s bigger than them… they can take care of themselves, but this world, ” Renalis pointed at Ithramir, “ This world needs him. Once the darkness is cleansed from this world, they will go out into other worlds as I have done, and help them.”

With another wave of his hand, his brothers disappeared, a single image replacing them. Crystal knelt on the ground, weeping. Renalis could feel the sorrow within her, filling the air with a poison that made even breathing difficult for him, and he looked away. “And her? You wouldn’t give it up to end her suffering?”

“This is bigger than them, it’s bigger than me and it is bigger than her!” Renalis was screaming now, “This is an entire world and I cannot condemn it just so I can be happy, I cannot condemn it … even for her…” Renalis lowered his head and with another wave of his hand, Avendor dismissed the image.

“You are willing to give it all for this cause are you not Renalis Dalamar? You are not even of this world and yet you would give it all for these people." Avendor paused for a moment, "The healing ritual is complete now, and those that watch over you are here now to finish what was started.”

As Avendor finished speaking, Renalis could see the images of Corellon and Elune appear before him, and he dropped to a knee.

“Rise Renalis Dalamar, faithful servant of the light” Elune spoke as she stepped towards him, Corellon right beside her adding, “You have done well this day, many an Orc falling to your blade and skill, we are proud.” As Renalis rose, Elune continued Corellon’s thought, “And your selfless sacrifice to save this world has not gone unnoticed…” With a wave of her hand, Renalis could feel some… difference within himself and looking down watched the soulstone – a residual image he attributed to his remembrance of it – reform, the cracks disappearing.

“We leave now Renalis Dalamar, to come to this world is very taxing. Your soul is now freed from that prison.” Corellon turned and began to walk off, Elune continued, “We leave you in Avendor’s care, and may my light continue to guide your path.”

Renalis bowed deeply, “Thank you both, for everything.”

Corellon and Elune disappeared into the light, and Renalis again turned to Avendor for guidance, “So what now Avendor? May I once again enter your halls?”

A booming chuckle from the divine being resounded throughout, “Your soul is not mine to deal with Renalis Dalamar…it belongs to another.”

The healing miracle was complete now. Crystal continued to kneel on the grass in the grove, even as the various people began to up and leave. She felt herself fully restored but she still felt hollow somehow. She witnessed Ardwen attack the incarnation of what was referred to as “Tinorb” but paid it no head. She could feel the connection with Elune being a its hight, so strong infact that she could almost feel what the Godess herself felt. As if in answer to her sorrows, the sky too began to weep, the rain beginning to trickle through her hair, and over her armor, the rumble of thunder roared overhead. Crystal closed her eyes; she no longer cared about anything going on right now. She felt a hand rub the tears from her cheek and a familiar voice weakly called up, “Come now, you are far too beautiful for tears.”

Crystal opened wide her eyes and peered down into her husband’s now half as he rubbed the tears from her face. “You’re…you’re…” Crystal couldn’t get the words out. Finishing her sentence, “I am back… with a little divine assistance and your love, I am back.”

Crystal rolled Renalis off her lap and slammed him into the ground as she rolled onto him, straddling him. He gave out a small, “ugh” as she leans down toward him, holding onto the chest plate of his armor, only inches from his face, “don’t ever do that again…” as she presses forward and the two embrace, uncaring of the world around them as the thunderstorm continues to grow.

Written by - Tempyst

Tempyst walked slowly down the path, feeling very connected with the ancient forest around her. She would look occasionally from side to side and would see magnificent stags, playful foxes and many other woodland creatures. In the trees, she could hear the songs of forest birds and the mighty calls of the raptors that flew above the canopy. Why would anyone wish to live somewhere else? She felt a warm breeze wrap around her, filling her nostrils with the deep, rich earthy scent of the forest and she wished she could just walk through this forest forever.

With each step, she felt her soul rejuvenate. Her heart had been healed, seeing her daughter and her mother, as well as the gods who all thanked her for her sacrifice. But it no longer felt like a sacrifice. Tempyst was at peace now, with the choice her child had made. With her own anguish and guilt washed away in this realm, Tempyst could calmly see and remember, life is circular, with life comes death.

Tempyst suddenly felt the warm rays of the sun wash over her. She found herself on the edge of a large clearning within the woods and in the center of the clearing was the largest oak tree she had ever seen. She gasped as she felt a wave of reverence come over her. The Great Oak, Nyrondis’ birthplace. She stepped forward, treading carefully as if afraid the vision before her would vanish. Soon the sun was shaded from her, as the canopy of the great oak loomed over her and most all of the clearing. When she reached the trunk, she placed a trembling hand upon the rough, welcoming bark.

’No need to tremble child, the tree won’t bite and neither will I.” She turned around and found herself face to face with her god, her father, Nyrondis. Tempyst curtsied deeply, keeping her head bowed in respect. Nyrondis chuckled, his voice deep and musical. ”Please, you are here at my invitation, there is no need for such formalities. Come child, let us sit.” Nyrondis reached out a strong but gentle hand and placed a finger under her chin, then tipped her head up. She could see the joy, life and laughter in his deep green eyes and immediately was put at ease. Nyrondis then motioned to a welcoming patch of clover. He moved over and sat down, waving Tempyst over to do the same.

Tempyst moved over and sat down, still in awe of being her, with her father god. Her first words however, were of concern for another. “What will happen to Lucant? If he has turned away from you, who will he turn to? I am afraid he will become lost within himself.”

”It was his choice child. I am sad to see him leave me, but in truth, he was never mine to begin with. A’lanthear manipulated him to complete his own task.”

"And what of our marriage, our bonding?"

"Ceredan will be informed of what has transpired. When your sleep is over, you and Lucant must decide between yourselves, if you wish your path to be together or apart. If apart, Ceredan will dissolve the bond."

“What will become of A’lanthear?”

”A’lanthear is at peace now. He was not punished for his actions; he feels enough guilt about it all on his own. However, I could now see, he has spent far too long on this mission and I decided to give him his freedom. He will be released of his duties and be able to continue on in the spirit world and rest. Once the gate is no longer needed, his task will be complete and he will be at rest.”

Tempyst smiled, though there was a bit of sadness in her face. “I am happy for him, though I will miss his whispers.” Tempyst let out a soft gasp as she felt something crawled upon her leg, then laughed when she saw the bear cub roll over and flop into Nyrondis’ lap. She looked around and could see other animals and birds were congregating on the spot where they sat, all of them at peace with each other, here under the great oak. “M’lord, thank you. Thank you for this honor. I never would have thought I would be asked to be an elder druid, not for a very, very long time.”

Nyrondis smiled and played with the bear cub in his lap. ”You have learned more in the lsat few days of your service to me, than you have learned from the entirety of your life child. The lessons were harsh, but I wish you to know, it was never my intention of your child having to sacrifice herself.”

“M’lord, I know now, it was her own choice, no one else. And I am proud of her, to so so unselfish and giving. It gives me a lot to live up to.” Tempyst picked up a ferret, laughing as it climbed onto her shoulder and dove into her hair. She then looked serious. “M’lord, what is it you will have me do now? With Lucant and A’lanthear gone, I will be of little use as a demonhunter team.”

”There will be another team assembled, by me, and by the other gods. We all now know what a dire threat they are and they will be dealt with. As for you my child,” He reached out and took her hand. His grip was strong, yet so gentle and sent waves of energy through her body and soul. ”That path is up to you. There are many things that need to be done, many ways you could go. You could return to the Deepshadows and become one with your clan again. You could stay at the sacred grove and continue your lessons. But I think, I think you will not choose either of those. I feel within you child, a need to keep helping those around you, seeing the world and making your mark. Which, you are well on your way to doing.”

“Indeed M’lord,” Tempyst took a deep breath, “I would not be happy settled down in one place yet. I knew of life and death before I left the Deepshadow, but now, now I have experienced it. I know the reality and brutality of it. Though for some, I will not be able to stop death, I can be there, to help them and ease their sufferings. And I can heal the suffering of the land as well. With all the war going on, much that suffers is overlooked. Plus, plus I want to find my father.”

”Aye.” Nyrondis smiled, gently squeezing her hand. ”That you do child. You also need to find what druidic path best suits you. You have demonstrated your ability to heal, but you need to be careful and not put so much of yourself into it. There may be a time it will be too much and you will not be able to recover, no matter what is done for you. You need to explore your other talents. Now that you are an elder druid, your powers have increased. And now, speaking of that, it is time for you to finish your journey.” Nyrondis stood up and helped Tempyst to her feet, the animals around them scampering off. ”Enter my oak Tempyst, and search, search yourself, search through both life and death and find your place. I will tell you though, many druids who come here, decide they do not wish to leave and remain here, as guides to other druids. It is easy to become lost within the great oak. Listen, listen for those who wish you to return to them, their voices will guide you home safely.”

Tempyst nodded. “Thank you M’lord, for marking me as your child and thank you for this honor.” Nyrondis smiled and led Tempyst over to the trunk of the great oak. With a wave of his hand, a knothole opened up into a doorway. Before stepping through, Tempyst looked back at Nyrondis. “M’lord, may I ask you one more question?” He nodded yes. “What of this elf, the one in the black armor? I, I feel such a sadness when I am near him, but yet, I feel…I feel, drawn towards him, as if I need to help him through this?”

Nyrondis paused for a moment, as if waiting for something, then he looked back at Tempyst. ” "His name is Ardwen, an Elf from a world far from here. A world known as Aerynth, a world that died a hundred years ago by his reckoning in the Turning. After the Turning, Ardwen entered the service of Tinorb, whom he calls the All-Father, the order he joined was known as the Hands of Providence. This Tinorb is the same god, as the symbols on your medallion represent. Despite how he is now, he did many good works there; fighting faithfully in Tinorb's name. But Ardwen's faith was not entirely true, for he served because he valued the companionship of the order that he came to love above all else - not for the grace of Tinorb. So when the final test came for the Hands, when it was meant for them to depart from Aerynth, he did not heed the call. He returned to their holy city of Ancora to find it overthrown, and there he died fighting for the last time under their sigil - a single white candle in a blue field. But there is no true death in Aerynth, not now at least. When he was clothed in flesh once more, he joined a militant Elven legion known as Avari. It was that singular choice that set him on his path - he became increasingly hostile, bitter, and savage. He came to hate all those not of Elven blood, and performed many vile deeds, the likes of which I will not enumerate in this sacred place. But, he still held in reverence the Hands and so Tinorb brought him here, without him knowing, in the hopes he would seek redemption. He has not.”

Before Tempyst could speak again, Nyrondis continued. As to why you feel drawn to this elf, this creature, only you know that. But my thought is, it involved this.” Nyrondis touched the amulet she wore. Tempyst nodded, knowing she would get no clearer answer from her god. She took a deep breath and stepped through the doorway. As she felt the it close behind her and the comforting darkness wrap around her, she wondered with Lucant gone, who would call her back. But her concerns quickly dissipated, as she began to hear the voices of Nyrondis and of druids past giving her their wisdom and knowledge.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

Belyena ushered Lucant into the foyer of her family's enormous mansion, still speachless at the sudden turn of events. "I... I got your letter a few days ago... saying you were coming for a visit. You never showed up and... and I got so worried, but it looks like you're fine." Something seemed to be bothering her, but Lucant couldn't quite put his finger on what it was. He thought of Tempyst, and how he would have instantly known what was on her mind, without having to ask her. "Yeah, I got held up a bit by... some other business." His heart sank as he passed off the events of the past few days as something so mundane, when they clearly were not.

"Father is meeting with a couple of emissaries from the homeland right now. He'll join us for dinner in a bit. But tell me, what have you been up to. It's been years since I've seen you, surely you must have something stories to tell," Bel said as she ushered him into a spacious sitting room. Lucant wanted to tell her of the spectacular events of the past few days and of the druidess who had given him a life less ordinary, but he could not bring himself to do so. Instead, he lied to her and told her that his blacksmithing buisness had been booming and that he had taken a vacation to get away from the grind. A few hours passed and they managed to keep the strained conversation going. "I need to go get ready for dinner. Feel free to wander around the place. I'll come find you when everything's ready." She left with a smile, while Lucant sighed and wondered why he was even at Lothiel-Gadith to begin with. Surely, he thought, there are better places for blacksmith to go - such as the capital at Westgale or Austgard on the island of Kassal. Pushing such thoughts out of his mind, he got up and started to wander the grounds.

Slowly meandering down the long hallways, he noticed a disturbing lack of any servants, or any life at all for that matter. The Gadoril manor had always been a bustling place in the times he had been there before. As he continued down the hallway towards the great library at the end, he noticed the door was slightly ajar. Thinking he could set down and read for a while before dinner he proceeded forward, but as he placed his hand on the door handle, he heard Gilandor's voice from within: "Yes, everything is nearly finished, just as Lord Vaun commanded. The only thing we lack is the book for the summoning." Surprised, Lucant stood as still and quiet as a church mouse while he continued to listen to the voices coming from the library. "Ah yes... that damnable pirate again... we followed him for days trying to get our hands on it, but he ended up giving it to that slave of Khai'hanas," a light female voice said. Gilandor responded, "I'm sure the two of you had ample chances! Why not kill him when his back is turned and be done with it!? And what of the servants Lord Vaun said he was sending over? Where are they?" An impatient male voice responded to Gilandor's questioning "Yes, we had ample chances, but never the right moment. That rash Defiler, Sarvaleth, charged forth at the first opportunity he got, and look what happened to him. As for your Lith'Raug slaves, I don't know where they are. They never were the best sailors anyways..." The female voice chimed in again "That slayer isn't around anymore, either. I can't feel his presence, but there is someone nearby." Knowing that he had been found out, Lucant counted to five, then entered the library, hoping that it was not obvious that he had been eaves-dropping. He looked around for the bodies that the other two voices belonged to, but he saw only a pair of cats - one with fur as black as midnight, and the other as white as freshly fallen snow.

"Ah, Luca! It's good to see you again boy! Bel told me you were coming for a visit. She was very happy to get your letter," Gilandor said in false friendship. "Lord Gadoril, I am glad to see both of you again." Rising from his chair, Gilandor said, "Come now, we can catch up on old times over dinner." As the two men left the library, the cats followed closely behind.

The three sat down to dinner and - ironically - toasted Lord Ithramir. As Lucant began to eat from the massive feast spread before him, he began to feel very sick. He collapsed into his plate as he heard the same voices from before - "We should kill him now and be done with it," the strange male voice broke in. "No, brother, he may yet serve some purpose to us. Besides, his soul is much too weak to be of any use... this bond I sense, though... it is weak, but it holds great promise." As he sat there, trapped in his own conciousness, he thought of Tempyst, and if she was okay. "Bel still seems to care for this piece of scum. Rough him up a bit - make it look like bandits' work, then dump him in some alley. "With pleasure..." the male voice said sadistically.

Lucant awoke, face down in some strange back alley. He had no idea what had happened to him, no memory of the past few hours, no clue to the sinister plot unfolding. A massive jolt of pain shot through his entire body as he tried to stand. Collapsing again, he cryed out in pain. He rolled over onto his back in the pouring rain, and found himelf desperately trying to reach out with his weakened soul-bond. He did not think it would work. He did not expect it to. He had betrayed her. He had hurt her worse than any blade ever could. But still, in one final, desperate breath he whispered "Tempyst..." before succumbing to the pain.

Written by - Trinni Shannon Part II of Page 2 Book 2

Leaning over her love, a bright flash burns her senses for a moment. Then, as she looks down, Ithramir's body transforms before her eyes. The features of Avandor become more prominent, his skin glows, his eyes, blazing with the full power of the God, open, and Lithwyn's heart soars. Feeling Kaia'hanas slowly withdrawing, she rises with Ithramir/Avandor.

The booming voice of Avandor speaks from between Ithramir's perfect lips, "It is enough, I am here, my wife and son. Ithramir is with me as well. We are now here, each of us with our family, friends, and loves. Children of my son, Nyrondis, your prayers and sacrifices have not gone unanswered. Daughter of my wife, Kaia'hanas, your hearts answer has been fulfilled and your own has been healed. And now, my own servant Ithramir..."

From one moment to the next, his eyes return to normal, and his voice softens to the crisp tones that can only be described as Ithramir's, "... he thanks you all."

Blinking furiously, trying to hold back an onslaught of tears, she can only smile at him as within one fluid stride he picks her up in a strong hug, her arms wrapped tight around him.

Whispering only for her, he says, "I knew one day you would open your heart to Kaia'hanas, letting her work her wonders through you. My heart is doubly joyous that it was through me that such a thing was accomplished."

"I thought I lost you, I thought you were gone forever, before I had the chance to tell you... before I could say... Itharmir... Amin mela lle, Amin mela lle, mela en' coiamin.*" Pushing her face into the side of his neck, she holds him tightly, never wanting him to leave her side again. As he lowers her to the ground, she can't help but let out a small sound of complaint, but he doesn't let go, not truly, and she smiles up at him.

"A amin mela lle, nin norui min." Laughing with joy as she looks into his eyes, Lithwyn strokes his cheek, then runs her thumb over his lips and whispers "A'maelamin.*" In a moment that has built up for years, filled with countless nights of tossing and turning, coy smiles thrown across the room, carefully innocuous touches, murmurs of love spoken only in the innermost reaches of the heart, all of those years of waiting culminated in one kiss. In that white hot instant, Lithwyn knew, now and forever, she was his and he was hers. There would never be the need for another, even when death knocked on their door. Upon parting, breathless, her mind spins as Ithramir addresses the group. Standing only by the grace of his arm firmly held at her side, Lithwyn feels Avandor surge through him. Knowing it is time, and thankful for the moment they were given, she thus oopens herself up to Kaia'hanas again and she once more feels the Goddess fill her, body and soul.

As Ceredan begins the ritual, followers of both Avandor and Kaia'hanas approach the pair, placing their hands on them, joining in prayer and focus, a beautiful bright light flowing into the growing circle in the clearing. From God to Goddess, Ceredan slowly strides. Each avatar joining the light of their followers and adding it to the growing light of good, of all. Ancient ceremony being performed, until now it was just a story, an explanation given by Ehlonna before her passing.

"Vanima...*"

Then all was silent as Ceredan moved towards the Great Tree. "The Great Circle is complete. Let the Gods of Light now join in their own Divine Circle and combine their power, that these who here lay injured in the cause of the Light may be healed of all ills."

The light grew in intensity and flowed toward the avatar of Nagarren, building and building between her hands. With such power of healing, only held by Nagarren, she tosses the great ball of light into the center of the clearing, shouting,

"BE HEALED AND WHOLE!"

In an instant, a blinding light flashes through the grove, a wave of healing in its purest form. Whatever vestiges of her past life, her past hurts that still clung to her, were shaken off and set free as the wave hit her. Blinking, her body returning to her as Kaia'hanas departs slightly, leaving a warm feeling of love and pride, Lithwyn looks around in awe at the multitude. All sign of injury and pain were gone. All within the clearing were healed, all wounds eradicated... but... wait. Not all, not completely. She sensed... incompleteness. There is no better word to describe it. Where?

Ceredan. He put so much into the ritual, he nearly paid too much. And what happened? His hair, his beard, even his clothes...?! He will know how to replenish his spirit.

But more, where?

Tempyst. Lying on the ground, by where Ithramir had been, held in Lucant's arms. She saved him. She kept him alive with a gift only she and her unborn baby could give. Physically she seems fine, but her spirit, it is so week. As she watches, Tempyst opens her eyes and talks with Lucant. She will be alright, she will be alright.

And another... looking behind her, she sees the dark knight.

Ardwen. Truly broken, not physically, no. But somewhere, deep within. He does not move, something changed him. Something else happened just now and she did not see it through the bond with Kaia'hanas. what will become of him, that not even this ritual could clense his heart?

Closing her eyes a moment, she looks up at Ithramir and gives him her best smile, trying to hide the pain she feels from those around her. Then, as Kaia'hanas withdraws completely, so does her link with all those in the grove, and she breathes without weight.

The man who was Vhar'Kanix, but not quite him, approached. "I would speak with you both, if you have a moment." Vhar removed the enchanted lenses, handing them to Lithwyn and adding, "I think I'll not be needing these anymore."

Nodding, Lithwyn takes the glasses and turns to Ithramir. By way of explanation, she says "This is Vhar'Kanix." Seeing the look of confusion and uncertainty, she continues, "You met him before, when he had just entered our realm. I still don't fully understand what is going on, or how he is able to look human, or why he is here, or what he wants, or... " Shrugging, she turns back to Vhar, smiling softly, yet somehow sternly, as she waits for answers that are long overdue.

A bolt of lightning and a few drops of rain draw her attention skyward for a moment.

"Perhaps we should continue this conversation inside?" Receiving nods of affirmation, she leads the two men, Ithramir's arm still about her waist, towards the dining hall. It's been ages since she has eaten a good meal and her stomach is rumbling nearly as loudly as the heavens. The smells coming from the great hall as she approaches lets her know that someone on her staff deserves a big raise. At least someone was thinking clearly, she thought wryly as she glances up at Ithramir and smiles, still overwhelmed by all that has happened.

"Can you eat, Vhar?"

****

Flash!

The brightest light she'd ever seen. Brighter than the sun, brighter than anything she'd ever known. And then, as Trinni blinks to clear her vision, Isuiln slowly begins to stir beneath her hands. Glancing next to her, she sees Renalis isn't moving yet. Isuiln takes a deep breath and his eyelids fly open.

He's alive! Isuiln... he's alive alive ALIVE! He didn't die! He almost died, but he didn't! Silly man, running up there without me, it was so close and he could have died!

"Grrr... It's about time! And what were you thinki-"

Isuiln suddenly leaned up, grabbed the back of her neck, pulled her down to him, and kissed her soundly on the lips. mmm Sunshine and flowers and butterflies and her arrow flying into an orc's eye was nothing compared to this. A few moments of warmth and softness and comfort, and then, then it was gone. Releasing her, she leans back and stares blankly down at him, completely surprised and overcome. Her lips still tingle and it is only his laughter that brings her back to reality. A flash of lightning followed by a sudden downpour, and still he laughs at the sky.

"What's the big idea? What's so funny? Who said you... you could do that? You scared me half ta death, ya know? How'm I supposed to fight by you if'n you don't wait for me? Huh? That was very silly. You shoulda waited! Maybe I coulda done something, maybe I coulda helped! You big... big... meanie head!" Feeling stupid even as she says it, she pokes his chest. Now soaked, the sudden change from sunlight to rainstorm makes her cold and her teeth chatter. "D-d-don't d-do that ag-gain!" Did she mean running off to fight without her or kissing her? The kiss was nice... but he didn't even ask! That's very rude! Scowling down at him, she doesn't quite know what else to do in this situation. Dealing with an orc is easy... but this... this is very different.

Looking around, most everyone has gotten up. "Renalis!" But Renalis... no. No no Renalis isn't moving. But the miracle! It didn't work, how could it not work? It's a friggin' miracle for goodness sakes! He was here, right here!! The mean woman cries, holding him tight, the pain in her sobbs brings tears to Trinni's eyes and she hugs herself. Her friend is gone, she couldn't protect him, she... he's... wait... he's moving! Looking at Isuiln, her eyes still streaming with tears, she smiles brightly. "You're both alive! Alive! Don't do th-that again, Isuiln! Ya here me? Never ever ever again! You wait for me, are you listening?!" Hugging him tightly, she laughs up at the sky, enjoying the freezing rain, glad to be alive.

****

Amin mela lle, amin mela lle, mela en' coiamin = I love you, I love you, love of my life

A'maelamin = my beloved

Vanima = beautiful

Written by - Sycon

More and more of the fallen seemed to rise. Each to find someone who had waited for them, or hoped for them. He tossed his head to the side only to find more of the same. Joy, tears, laughter, love, and even lust flittered about the air. It was a time of celebration. There were still events of the past and the upcoming battles in some of their minds, but it was pushed back for the love of life. At least for the time being.

Sycon closed his eyes, letting his mind flow through the feelings of jubilance and exultation. His mind danced along with the feelings of the others. Letting his own intermingle with theirs. The very air he breathed was alit with energy.

There it was. The thoughts of another lonely soul in the crowd. She was indeed also joyous, but with no one to spend it with. He followed her thoughts. She was so easy to read, as if she was trying to wear her thoughts on her sleeve, so to speak. He opened his eyes and saw her standing no more than a hop, skip, and jump away. He moved over to her, letting himself strut slightly. After all, he had just been in a monumentous battle. She looked a druid, possibly of this grove. An initiate perhaps? She was young, maybe a couple of years behind him. He caught her eyes and he moved in for the kill.

Before she had time to speak, before he let himself think twice about it. He put his lips on hers. Letting them press hard against hers. She did not protest, but instead leaned in. He picked her up off the ground and spun her once in the air. He set her down on her feet and pulled back, letting their eyes meet again and their breath settle.

"Well, aren't you the fiesty one?" she spoke bouncily to Sycon.

"Fiesty? No, just full of energy! Can't you feel the joy, the laughter? Come, lets dance the night away!" Sycon's smile was from ear to ear and he took a step back and offered his hand.

"Perhaps some other day, or even if you could granpap," she promptly turned and found another warrior who had been in the battle, cooing softly into his ear.

Sycon was stunned...Granpap? Laughter rang through his head. It was not his, but he knew who's it was. "And what have you to do with this?"

The laughter slowly faded away and she spoke softly into this mind, "oh, but everything," then she laughed even harder than before. Now I've got to find out why, Sycon thought. He jogged over to a small pool of clear water. It seemed almost bottomless by the look of it. He lifted a small pebble and dropped it in. It did not seem to hit bottom. Either way, he was just looking for his reflection. He knelt down close to the pool and allowed his head to poke out over the water. The ripples from the pebble smoothed out and he watched his reflection form over the clear, bottomless water.

He looked himself over. His face looked the same. But...what in the blue blazes! The laughter roared in the back of his head now. She was finding this quite the joke. But his hair! It had white in it... everywhere! Well, there was still quite a bit more of his auburn hair than white... but it was quite noticeable! It looked like every 7th or 8th hair was a silvery white! Sycon's thoughts shouted atop her laughter. "What did you do!" The laughter only died long enough for her to get out a few words.

"I love you humans! Always crazy over your looks. It was bound to happen sooner or later anyway! Besides... I think it adds distinction!" The laughter continued. It sounded like it was almost mixed with snorting now.

"Hmph." Well, this is definitely not an improvement. He ran his hand through his hair. "Distinction, indeed." It still felt the same. He looked into his reflection once more. His eyes seemed a bit paler to, but...eh, it was probably just the water.

A storm was brewing. Sycon continued to watch his reflection, studying his features to make sure nothing else had changed either until the sprinkles from the storm started to mess with his image in the water. He rose from the pool and looked out into the crowd. Some were finding shelter, others were still elated with their recent finds in partners or loved ones. Sycon felt the joy still with him, but it was greatly diminished now. He allowed himself to delve into the thoughts of those all around him. He fell into a slight elation until he heard a small tinge of thunder overhead. It was still a bit off.

Sycon looked at all those around him and knew he would introduce himself to everyone soon. There would be a meeting, for another battle was soon to come. But for now, he would find elation within himself and not from those around him. He needed to be content on his terms.

He felt the wind around him. He manipulated it slightly using a little mana. He then built his mana, though he knew it wouldn't take much. He had always had a natural talent at this feat. He built more than he knew he would need and concentrated it in his core. The wind caught his robes as they fluttered. He took the sword from his back and let it go. It floated through the air over to a tree and rested against it. The wind almost picked him up from the ground it was so strong around him. Sycon raised his head and looked straight into the sky. Small droplets of rain landed on his cheeks and nose.

Sycon shot into the air, he did not jump nor did he seem to move any part of his body as he gained in altitude. He rose further and further into the sky, letting himself rise farther than any arrow could go. But still he let himself rise further. He knew he would be out of the sight of those below and the clouds up above were waiting for him. The dark rain clouds were just above him now. He pushed himself harder and he burst into one. It was like a fog. He was in a dense mist. He was inside the rain, or so it felt, just sitting there waiting to fall to the earth. He laid himself out as if the mist were a bed. He cleared his head, searching for any thoughts he could find, of others or himself. There were none, none to interrupt his meditation. He closed his eyes and let his mind drift. He did not sleep nor did he fall from his cloud. He just let his mind wander over absolutely nothing. Letting all the memories, the day's past events, the pain, the suffering, even the joy and laughter melt from his mind as he felt the peace he needed now. He did not even hear her laughter in the back of his head now. He was alone now, as he had been for most of his life. He breathed deeply and let out his throughts across this foreign world. The shout never left his lips, but he his thought ripple out across the entire world it seemed, if he could even do that, "Why am I here?"

It was then that he felt it...

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

As the sea-elf frigate plowed steadily towards his crippled ship, Leov consulted his officers on what to do. "We can't fight them, kid. These... things... really took it out of us. Let's just see what they want. They didn't seem like bad people before." Gilbert said as he helped a wounded man to his feet. "Are you saying we should just lay down and surrender without so much as a peep!? You all can do whatever you want... I'm not ever placing myself under someone else's heel again." Leov drew his sword again as he finished. Miranda grasped his sword arm gently and said in an almost pleading voice "Leov... please don't do this. We can't run forever, not like this. If you really care for your people... please don't do this." Leov sighed as he sheathed his sword.

The elven ship pulled up alongside and threw down their gangplanks. There was an uneasy silence as the two ships waited to see who would make the first move. Leov, wanting to get the situation over with as soon as possible, stepped forth onto the elven gangplank and stopped halfway as he waited for an elven representative to come forth to the parlay. The elven sailors stood there watching him, as if he were some strange beast that had never been seen before. Spreading his arms in a sign of peace, he yelled "I'm waiting!" On board the elven ship, an old woman turned to the young captain and said calmly "I will deal with this one." With a nod, the young captain turned to her advisor and replied "But of course, Tide Mistress." The old woman stepped forward onto the plank - her pale blue hair danced in the wind as she stared Leov down with her bright blue eyes that had seen all the world had to offer. Leov returned her icy stare as he looked her over - she wore a royal blue robe, trimmed in white and a brilliant silver circlet with a large aquamarine inset in it sat upon her wrinkled brow.

"I"m not surrendering," Leov said flatly. "I'm not asking you to," the old elven woman replied in a stern, gravelly voice. "Then what the hell are you here for?" "To bring you back." "I thought I already told you lady, I'm not going back." "What about them," she said gesturing towards his crestfallen friends, "Would you damn them to the depths for your own stubbornness?" Leov gave a disgruntled sigh as he knew that he'd already been beaten. But still, he wasn't going to go down without a fight. "I'd sooner sink us all then damn us to elven servitude." The old woman smiled grimly, then closed in for the kill: "Do you really think that the Lady Lithwyn would make your people slaves? And the Lord Ithramir has been rather generous to the humans, wouldn't you agree?" Leov lashed back at the old woman "He fools them with gold and promises... buys their silent obedience... uses the Young Lady's name to convince them to go to their deaths for his own selfish cause. And that woman... that seductress... don't even get me started on her... she acts the friend, then stabs you in the back with a smile."

Still smiling, the old woman said "You Kassali men are all the same. Too blinded by your own pride and stubborness to see the rest of the world." "What makes you think I'm Kassali," Leov asked, quite surprised. "Besides the way you and your crew look, the way you act, boy, gave it all away. As wild a spirit as the wind... defiant against the grim truth... and you still keep your pride, even in defeat. You are very much Her son." Leov stood silently, for once he couldn't think of anything to respond with. "And... if my memory serves... the Kassali were always a very... patriotic bunch." Leov broke in "Were, are, and always will be." "Yes... there's that spirit shining through. I knew it was there somewhere," the old woman thought to herself before continuing, "Beridane has taken control of the entire area, hasn't he? He's destroyed everything you and your people love. And you want it back, don't you?" Leov nodded. "Well then, idiot, you just proved yourself wrong. That is why the humans, the elves, and the dwarves are fighting. To take back what they love from the evil that grips the entire world, not because our leaders have tricked them." Leov knew then, that he truly had been defeated.

He sighed again: "I'm still not surrendering to the elves." The old woman, knowing that she had won, responded: "You are not surrendering to the elven people. You are surrendering to me." Leov chuckled, then burst out into a full laughter, "I suppose I can do that. But just who am I surrendering to?" "I am Aelyndria Val'thanis, but a humble mage to the Sea Elf fleets." Laughing again, Leov bowed and introduced himself "Leov Klein, the Mockingbird of Kassal." The two bowed more formally this time, showing that the parlay had ended, before heading back to their respective ships.

"Well, I tried, but it looks like we're going back to Lothiel-Gadith for a while. Get the wounded on board their ship first off. Get the money, too. Dom, help me give the dead at least a partially proper burial," Leov said as he stepped back on board.

"Grandmother... do you really think that was a wise thing to do," the young elven captain asked. "Lafiel... you'll see some day. He is very much Her son... that drive, that unyielding spirit... if he just had some discipline, he would be formidable indeed," Aelyndria said matter-of-factly. "Formidable for what purpose Grandmother? He seemed too smart to let himself and his people be used," Lafiel asked as she turned towards Leov's ship. "I don't know yet, Lafiel. These old eyes see the future dimly. All I can do is teach what little I know and hope that you and he can see it more clearly than I, and guide all of us to that brighter future." Lafiel nodded and said "But of course, Grandmother."

After the dead had been given a proper Kassali funeral and everyone had gotten settled, the elven ship turned back towards Lothiel-Gadith, where storm clouds gathered overhead.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

As the elven ship finally docked at the town outside of Lothiel-Gadith, Leov looked over the deck in dismay. It looked as if few - if any at all - had escaped the fight with the lizard creatures unscathed. He wondered how many more would have to suffer and die before it all stopped. "Um... Mister Klein? We're back at Lothiel-Gadith. I think Grandmo... Tide Mistress Aelyndria wanted to have a word with you," Lafiel said, approaching him cautiously from behind. Leov turned around to see the young elven girl standing there behind him, nervously playing with her long hair, "Hmm? Oh yeah... her... Well, I don't suppose I have much of a choice do I? Without another word to the anxious captain, Leov quickly made his way to Aelyndria, who was waiting by the gangplank down to the docks.

"I suppose you're wondering as to what those things were you and your people fought," she said offhandedly, overlooking the carnage with Leov. "Yeah... I don't know what they were, but damn, could they fight." Aelyndria looked over to Leov and noticed the grave concern on his countenance, "They were Lith'Raug... vile, wicked things from the deserts of the elven homeland. I have not seen one in many, many centuries. As I'm sure you know, my people are already sorely beset by the orcs. The last thing we need is for our enemies back home to come to our doorstep here. Lord Sil-Galdur, Lady Deltheron... they must be told of this turn of events." Closing his eyes and sighing, Leov responded "And what does this have to do with us? We were in the wrong place at the wrong time... it's just that simple. I don't know no Sil-Galdur and if I never see that witch again, it'll still be too soon." A smile formed across Aelyndria's lips as she said "You really are an idiot, aren't you? Think about it child... if you tell them of this, they'll be able to plan for any contingecies... they'll end up oweing you a favor." Suddenly it all clicked with Leov: "Why are you telling me this, lady? Why are you helping us?" She replied in her typical gravelly, flat, matter-of-fact tone: "Because child... division will only continue this cycle of destruction. The humans... the elves... the dwarves... everyone... we must all stand united if we are to make a brighter future for this shattered world. My generation could not, so now it falls regretablly upon yours."

She leaned upon her magnificent, bejeweled staff, feeling her age, before continuing "I am but the Flame that tempers the Steel. You... Leov... you must become the Hammer that reshapes this world... that unites its divided children." Still looking out at his own beaten, crestfallen people, he replied "Aelyndria... I can't even help the people who follow me... how am I supposed to help the world?" "That is what I am here for, child. I will teach you what I know, show you what I have seen, so that you may learn from the mistakes of the past," she paused a moment to let it all sink in. "Aelyndria... thank you," he said quietly. "But of course, child," she replied as the two them headed towards the citadel.

Written by - Archeantus

The northern winds sliced through the lone village high atop a rocky crag. It was a small village, far from the nearest town. Lately there had been a strange deathly wind that came down from the mountains. It grew increasingly colder by the day. All daily activities had stopped as the inhabitants of the town hunkered down and prepared to brave the strange storm. Some had caught a strange sickness. An old tavern keeper spoke quietly to his long time friends. Miners by trade, they had worked the mountains all their life. They sat huddled around the central oaken table speaking in hushed tones, large mugs of ale in their strong hands. They spoke of the strange weather as if it were a beast come to haunt them.

“Imish, what do you make of it?” A large husky man with a deep black beard whispered, looking over his shoulder at nothing at all.

Imish bristled his own red beard; his simmering eyes glowered in thought. He puffed on his pipe a few moments, and then answered. “A’ve ne’er seen such a wind in all me days ‘ere. I can’t say what ah make of et, but it doesn’t bode well…”

He leaned in, his eyes narrowed dangerously. “For any of us…”

“An what o’ Haggoth? Ah ‘eard he went right crazy, an’ ran raving mad into the blizzard last night…” Another added, meaning to take a swig of ale, but shivered instead.

No one spoke; all of them merely looked at one another and shook their heads in worry, the same thought on their minds.

The wind was death.

The dim fire in the hearth nearby suddenly blew out, as the door to the tavern slammed open. Four men walked in, heavily cloaked.

The miners stared at the sudden appearance of the strangers. None of them had seen visitors for months. The tavern keeper stood and greeted them. None of them spoke at first, they merely looked at them, yet finally the foremost of them stepped forward.

“How many have died here?” The male voice asked strangely.

The tavern keeper looked at his comrades in confusion.

“Speak Keeper.” The voice persisted.

“There have been a few.” The keeper muttered cautiously. “Many are sick. It’s this blasted cold.”

The foremost looked back at the others with him and returned his gaze back to the Keeper.

“This wind. Where does it hail from?”

The miners looked at one another knowingly, each seemed reluctant to speak. But finally one answered, just as the figure’s hand strayed to the inside of his cloak.

“Eh, through Craghearst valley, it blows yonder to the upper mining towns beyond us, we havn’t ‘eard of em’ in months. No one knows what’s b’came of dem. Our neighbors to tha’ south ‘ave vanished. It’s whispered it comes down from tha’ lone mountain far to the north.” The miner whispered.

The strangers looked at one another.

“How far?” The stranger asked, almost eagerly.

At this the miners brightened up, heartily laughing at such a prospect.

The strangers watched in silence.

“How far?” This time the voice came out in icy warning.

“Don’t be foolish traveler, the way to the mountain leads only to death.”

“Exactly.”

Suddenly a cold blade sprang into the stranger’s hands and he fell upon them, as did the others, except one. The one stood back, and tried to look away, yet he couldn’t. The mage again took their souls, placing them in his stone.

They took what supplies they needed, and entered the cold again, heading north.

****

In the moments when Mavigan and Teran had disappeared, Jasmine had known what was happening. She had watched to long to not notice the Queen’s curious stare. She wanted to learn. She was torn between two worlds. Teran was to train her and he took her to do so. Jasmine’s mind went to the past suddenly. She had taught herself by hate alone, building raw skills by tremulous will alone. It grew into a need to become greater, walking a line that grew thinner. Once she set out in her course, she could not return, and yet her she was, the line she walked was gone. She no longer held such hate, it had left her much like her love she once had. Suddenly Keeryn was before her, she had heard shouting in the back of her mind, and now Mavigan’s fuming friend stood shouting truthful accusations that struck a nerve of action within Jasmine’s heart.

"Did you know he was going to do this? What exactly is your purpose on this trip anyway?! I thought you were the one that had tried to kill Mavigan, why are you not dead yet?! Answer me, before I decide to change that fact!"

The questions blurred, as did Jasmine’s hand, as it struck with such quickness that the cat like creature was taken off guard from the previously docile woman. In a deft motion, she disarmed Keeryn of her spear, knocking her do the ground. Keeryn bounded back to her feat with near unsurpassed agility only to find Jasmine holding her dagger, hilt pointed toward Keeryn, the dagger’s point toward Jasmine’s heart.

“If that is your wish, here is my dagger.” She said, her drab brown eyes had a calm about them. “I deserve death, it is true, I tried to kill her, and I failed. I am in constant pain, pain that grows by the hour. Why am I here…?” Her voice rose to a higher pitch, her confusion and anger clashed within her. “I don’t know!” She cried out. “Why am I not dead?! Tell me!”

She had advanced toward Keeryn the hilt of the dagger appeared inches away from her nose….

****

There in the heart of Ancora, a hooded figure looked across the horizon to toward the Elven citadel, blue eyes piercing grey skies. He had sensed it. It was as he had been told. It was a knowing look, a look which shifted to a look of longing. The God’s had descended. The small ember of light hovering near his head flared ever so slightly.

“Soon my friends, soon.” He said, a long sadness exiting with his breath in the cold night air. "This world has little hope without us."

Written by - Vylia

Keeryn wasn't quite sure what to make of Jasmine. First she had knocked her down, far quicker than she had expected from the meek woman, and now she was holding a dagger to her own chest and telling her to kill her. Keeryn's hand twitched as she almost gave in to the woman's request, but her continued wailing stopped her from doing anything else. She was in too much despair to have had a clue what was going to happen, and it snapped her out of her fury.

Keeryn stood up slowly and stared Jasmine in the eyes, "I won't kill someone who wants to die like that. It's shameful to even think of doing such a thing, you were spared, though I don't know why. There must have been a purpose, so maybe you should think on what it is, and actually make yourself useful instead of wallowing in self-pity." With that she turned around and helped Sabbatine finish packing up the camp, though she kept her distance from the disgusting thing.

****

Keeryn knew Sabbatine was staring at her, and based on her previous statements she had a general idea of what the creature was thinking. Rather than letting it bother her though, after all she did the same thing around some animals, she just ignored the stares, and focused on the beast's movements. Sabbatine was obviously very fast, though how fast exactly Keeryn didn't know, but considering the company she had kept up to this point she decided it best to keep alert and ready to move and parry at the slightest hint of an attack.

Keeryn still wasn't sure what to do about Jasmine, the woman had remained silent since their encounter two days ago, her face expressionless. She hoped Jasmine wasn't contemplating suicide, she didn't want to have to deal with watching her every minute of the day to keep her from killing herself. With that thought she decided to try a new approach to the situation, and walked over next to her horse, "I'm sorry about before, I shouldn't have gotten angry at you when you had nothing to do with it. Are you feeling any better than before?"


Written by - Archeantus Page 3 Book 3

There was a fleeting moment where Keeryn’s eyes flashed, her hand twitched with the possibility to take the dagger. Jasmine watched as quickly as it came, the moment was gone. Her eyes, which yielded to an ephemeral excitement now lowered knowingly.

"I won't kill someone who wants to die like that. It's shameful to even think of doing such a thing, you were spared, though I don't know why. There must have been a purpose, so maybe you should think on what it is, and actually make yourself useful instead of wallowing in self-pity." Keeryn said, her voice at the brim of utter confusion.

She turned then, a strange glare in her oval eyes.

Jasmine remained there, the dagger still in her hands. Slowly, she took the dagger and placed it in its sheath. Truthfully, she hadn’t wanted to die, though it would have been welcome to end the pain she felt. It was the towering weight of justice that made her do what she had just done. There were few who deserved to die more than her. There were men who would have killed to be offered a chance to take her life. And had. If Keeryn had known just how far her nefarious deeds actually reached, she would have felt obligated in behalf of thousands of souls to bring justice to their deaths. There were times in the stillness of night, Jasmine heard them, and the one thing that truly scared her was death, among them. And yet, the cat-like creature’s question rang in her head. “There must be a purpose…there must be a reason she had been spared…”

Jasmine, watching Keeryn and Sabbatine packing, began gathering her things in thought.

It wasn’t long, as they began moving out, that Keeryn again approached her.

"I'm sorry about before, I shouldn't have gotten angry at you when you had nothing to do with it. Are you feeling any better than before?"

Jasmine looked into the face of one so different than her. A race she had never seen, nor heard about. It was that strangeness that allowed her to speak. Ever since what had happened in her past, she had never been able to converse with those like her. Humans, elves, Dwarves. She had turned them into rodents, insects, insignificant things, the future dead in her mind. She had had to with what she did. Therefore, she truthfully felt more comfortable in the presence of Keeryn and Sabbatine than when Teran and Mavigan were with them. And so, still with great timidity, Jasmine responded, much like how an ally cat responds to things it not used to.

“I fear…I may not ever feel better. There…are things you do not understand, things I don’t want to explain to you. You are justified in how you feel against me. I make no excuses. But…I ask of you, please….if you can…judge me only as you view me here now. This is who I want to be.”

Jasmine had closed her eyes, breathing in the thin possibility of one knowing her as someone completely different from who she had been for so many years.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

As Leov and Aelyndria walked slowly towards the celebration at Lothiel-Gadith, the rain began to fall. "I need to rest a moment," Aelyndria said as she moved towards the large fountain in the central square of Port Ancora. "Well rest up, then. I don't wanna have to haul you everywhere," Leov said as his gaze wandered back towards the docks. There was a short pause before Aelyndria spoke again: "While we're here, I suppose I can give you your first... lesson... of sorts. Look around, child. Tell me, what do you see?"

Leov was a bit vexxed by the old woman's question, but tried to answer as best he could: "A bunch of people walking around." A sharp pain struck him in the back, as if a thousand needles were being pressed into his skin. "Ouch! What the hell was that," he yelled, making a spectacle out of himself why trying to scratch at the stinging in his back. Aelyndria sighed, and said "That was me, you fool. You don't think they just give the title of Tide Master to anyone, now do you," she smiled, then said "It really is a quite misleading title. Any water in any form from any place is mine to command as I see fit. Now, tell me what you see here, or am I going to have to show you more of my abilities?" Leov, quite angry, snapped back "I did tell you lady! The only thing here is a bunch of people going about their business." With slight gesture of her hand, a fist-sized column of water reached forth from the fountain and knocked Leov to the ground. "Look past that, child. I know you can see it, and I know you know what it is. All you have to do is tell me and we can be on our way."

Picking himself up of the ground, Leov shot Aelyndria an icy glare before sitting down beside her to look out at the scene. A few minutes past, then Leov finally spoke: "Strength... the strength of the Young Lady. These people who follow her are her strength... the Walls and the Castles that shield her." Aelyndria calmly stood up and said to her reluctant student "Very good child. There may be hope yet. Now, let's get to the citadel... I'm sure the party should be well underway by now, and I would hate to miss it." Leov stood up, sighed, then followed behind his teacher.

Written by - Sycon

It was then that he felt it…

A swift breeze passed through the cloud. There was a whisper on the wind that barely caught his ear. He could not make out the words, but they sounded as if an angel had come to this plane to utter the very sounds herself. It was soothing, almost a song in the whisper. The alluring tune carried on this breeze as it twisted up and around him. It did not seem to want to leave the cloud, this wind, but stay and swirl close to this strange being that it had found. The wind had a life of its own, twisting around his tattered, worn robes making them quiver. His hair also seemed to have a life of its own as the wind passed through the strands of auburn hair now laced with this silvery white.

Sycon, completely enthralled by the melody, moved with the wind as it spun along his body. He slowly turned in the air, letting his arms flail out to his sides letting the wind catch every inch of him. It was as if heaven itself was coming to earth, or perhaps he had gone far enough into the clouds to find heaven’s pearly gates. The harmony of wind and melody entranced all his senses, as he fell into the pure ecstasy that this was. It was too good to be true.

A soft voice, the same that had given the harmony with the wind, spoke to him only one word, “Sycon.” It snapped him out of his senses. He turned towards the direction the voice had come from, loosing all thought of bliss he had experienced only seconds ago. The wind abruptly stopped, even the very mist he was levitating in seemed to stop. For the second time in his life, Sycon knew the exquisiteness of beauty. She stood only several feet from him, standing on the same cloud that he was in. Just standing there, looking into his eyes.

Her eyes were almost glowing. They were silvery white like mercury, and danced with every flicker of light. Like pulsating orbs of pure radiant energy waiting to be released. She was smaller than he was, but there was not a detail about her that wasn’t graceful, almost elegant. She was natural the way she moved, the way her hips, her legs, her feet moved and bent with each step. He watched as she progressed closer to him, her white dress caressing every curve of her body as she moved. She was enthralling.

Sycon had seen this maiden once before and knew her all to well. She was one with him, as he was one with her. Though a union of the physical had never been made, they were never truly apart. Their souls were still their own, nothing like the link that Lucant and Tempyst had seemed to share, but their minds were linked… always. This was the woman who made fun of him when times were down. She lifted his spirits and kept his thoughts warm when it was cold. And now, when Sycon had felt depressed even when all the exultation down below had surged through him, she was here for him. It was his silver maiden.

She continued on her destined path to him, never deterring nor hesitating a single step, only to stop inches from him. She looked up into his eyes. Sycon looked down into hers, and he saw the world and its creatures through her silvery white eyes. He saw the death of Winter, the rebirth of Spring, the life that was Summer and the beauty and wisdom of Fall. Her very soul was there in her eyes for all to see. Her sorrows, her joys and fears. He also felt her eyes searching his soul as well. Trying to find whatever it was that she needed, why she had come to him at all. And there it was, a small smile trickled across her face like the first sprinkle of a thunderstorm.

She spoke to him, half through his mind and half aloud. I know you love me. I can see it in you as clearly as the water of the grove down below. I want you to know that I have come to love you as well. I have loved many in my centuries, but I believe you might somehow be diverse from the others. You have showed me things in such a short time that I thought never to be true. You showed me the world like I have never seen it before, and I thank you eternally for that. Please, let me do this for you now. Be one of my chosen and accept this gift I am willing to offer you. Will you have it? Will you have me? She stopped. Her eyes seemed to gaze deeper into his soul than ever before. She was searching for his answer before he could even give it.

Sycon almost chuckled and let it turn into a soft smile to match her searching eyes. “You know me better than most anyone has ever known a person. You have seen my thoughts, and know who I really am. You have seen my sins, my passions, my lusts, my loves and yet you still stand here before me now. You knew I would accept you from the first time I set eyes upon you. It is not just your stunning physique that makes me falter, but your eyes. The very window into you soul that you are willing to share with me. Yes, I love you. I will love many others, as you will yourself, but I will never love them as I love you. We are not meant to be, but my love stands regardless. I will accept you, milady. Forever and eternally pledged to your side, for I am now your Sycon.”

At this they both delved into each others eyes as their lips drew closer. Her gift to him as he gave his gift of love and loyalty to her. Their eyes closed and lips met. Her lips were like fire. The warmth spread through his body, hotter and hotter it felt, almost painful. Their bodies intertwined as his robes and her dress fell away into the wind. Sycon’s mana gave out and he was levitating no longer, but the cloud they stood on seemed solid now as he let his weight upon it. And there, as they expressed their love for the other in only ways one can express through actions, a bond was made. Each was aware and each willing. As the time passed and the thunder rolled closer to them she pulled away from him. Looking him once more in his eyes. She spoke in her soft whisper of a voice once more You have given me more than I have ever asked of you or ever expected. You have accepted me and pledged yourself to me. For this, I give you my gift. You will find yourself changed forever by this, though perhaps not all at once… but please I ask you once more. Will you accept me?

“Yes,” was Sycon’s only reply as he could barely find the words. She leaned down once more and kissed him passionately on the lips. Once again her lips were like fire, her touch almost deafening to the skin. But the fire did not stop, it only increased in intensity. The fire turned to lightning, then to molten rock that only came from beneath the earth. It spread through his body. Sycon couldn’t think, he couldn’t move. He couldn’t breathe. His body tried to jerk away but he found himself powerless to her, his body completely suspended in her arms and their embrace lasted for what seemed forever. But he did not die. He did not perish away and fall to dust as he felt like his body would do at any moment, then the fire ebbed.

Slowly she pulled away from the embrace they shared and Sycon’s vision started blackening from the sides. The blackness moved in quickly on his sight until he could see no more, then it moved to his sense of smell, then to his sense of touch as he felt her slowly let him go. He could no longer taste anything in his mouth, not even the mist on his tongue. Finally, before his hearing gave way to the darkness he heard her say Sycon, my little hero. Be strong and be brave. Perform the task that you promised me and I remove your gease here and now. Know that I love you and will always be with you and there for you when you need me most. Now rest my love. Sycon faded from the world giving way completely to the blackness that was a deep sleep. His body slowly floated down to the ground, naked and open to all the world. He gently landed upon a small soft spot within the grove, near the puddle of water in which he had noticed his looks earlier. The rain started to fall a little harder now, and Sycon started to shiver, but his body was still far to warm still to catch cold. Had everyone yet left the grove or would he wake to a mob staring at him. Sycon’s dreams were of the most pleasant things, only to be unaware of the possible embarrassment that was soon to follow consciousness.

Written by - Vylia

“I fear…I may not ever feel better. There…are things you do not understand, things I don’t want to explain to you. You are justified in how you feel against me. I make no excuses. But…I ask of you, please….if you can…judge me only as you view me here now. This is who I want to be.” It was practically a whisper, but Keeryn heard it perfectly.

"You want to be viewed the way you are now? Someone so timid in appearance a rabbit could scare you? I don't understand why you would wish this, it only invites people to try and take advantage of you. People like that rat Teran, he's using your current state to get what he wants, and I doubt he cares at all what happens to you in the end. Of course, it may have been the only way to get you to travel with us, but I'd still pay close attention to what he asks you to do." Keeryn then starts sniffing around, hoping to catch a whiff of Mavigan's scent so she can find her again.

Written by - Teran

"Heeheehee" Sabbatine grins from ear to ear at the two other women, she found Jasmine's performance to be humorous.

She had a bonfire going and was crouched close to it, they had been travelling for two days now, only one day to go.

"You two should get some rest, tomorrow we meet up with Tery and Mavy." She scuttled around the fire as though trying to find a warmer spot without getting any closer.

Written by - Isuiln Fellblade

As the rain fell, Isuiln's laughter slowly subsided, but he was still grinning from ear to ear, especially while he watched Trinni sputtering as she reacted to that spontaneous kiss.

"What's the big idea? What's so funny? Who said you... you could do that? You scared me half ta death, ya know? How'm I supposed to fight by you if'n you don't wait for me? Huh? That was very silly. You shoulda waited! Maybe I coulda done something, maybe I coulda helped! You big... big... meanie head!"

He starts to laugh again, and she pokes him in the chest with her now shivering finger as she chatters to him, "D-d-don't d-do that ag-gain!"

"Alright, I promise to ask your consent first next time," he replies, knowing even she doesn't know whether she meant the kiss or running off without her, and only the amused gleam in his eyes hints at which he's referring to. She tries to scowl at him, but her hearts not in it, and he grins back until she looks away, frusterated with his lack of guilt for worrying her. Then the look turns into one of true pain and worry, and he follows her gaze to the mage, Renalis, being held by a woman. His body was quite still. Looking back up to Trinni, he sees her crying and hugging herself. He sits up beside her and wraps an arm supportively around her. But as he tries to lead her away, he sees Renalis twitch. As he stares, the mage slowly comes around, and Isuiln looks over at Trinni with a renewed smile, which she returns.

"You're both alive! Alive! Don't do th-that again, Isuiln! Ya here me? Never ever ever again! You wait for me, are you listening?!" She hugs him back tightly, and this time lets him lead her away, towards the kitchens where he had seen Ithramir and Lithwyn heading. As he passed Renalis, he bent down to clap him on the shoulder, and gave a small bow to the lady. Then, arms around Trinni, they walk out of the grove, and he whispers in her ear, "I'll wait for you as long as you want me to."

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

Leov and Aelyndria continued their procession to the kitchens behind the freshly healed soldiers, captains, and generals. He noticed Lithwyn walking close to a marsh elf, and the long-haired man from the bar following close behind them.

Falling in behind a pair of elves wrapped in each other's arms, Leov frowned when he saw the man lean over and whisper something in the ear of his companion. Sighing in disgust, he protested to Aelyndria "Do we have to go to this thing? I'm really not in the mood to see a bunch of love-sick fools fawning all over each other. Why can't I just write 'em a letter or somethin'?" Aelyndria flatly replied "Because, idiot, the full effect is lost if you do not deliver the news in person. Those cuts and bruises will go a long towards proving your claim rather than a few words on parchment." She looked over at Leov, still frowning "And you seem a man rather given to his emotions. What is it about love that disgusts you so?" Leov shot her a glance and said sharply "That's none of your damned business, old woman." "You will have to face it eventually, child." Leov didn't respond. The rain continued to fall as everyone made their way into the dining hall.

Leov found a small corner in the large dining hall and made it a point to get there before anyone else. Aelyndria followed close behind him, carefully observing her charge. Leaning against the wall, he watched silently as the party-goers continued to pour in. He hoped to avoid the notice of anyone important, after all, he was still a bit of a fugitive. As he waited for the precise moment to tell the commanders of what he had encountered in his attempted escape, he cought himself looking down at the small brass ring on his left hand.

****

Erruno Holgrave scratched his bristling beard as he and his small band of guards made their regular patrol in the falling rain. They had just gotten back from the battle at Minas Aure, but they had no time to rest. After all, the streets were not known to keep themselves safe.

"This is completely rediculus! We can't go on like this forever, we're not golems! We need sleep and some halfway decent food," a young brown haired man complained. "Baldwin, if you don't quit yer belly-achin' I'm gonna... I don't know what I'm gonna do, it won't be pretty," Erruno yelled back at him. Another one of the guards - a man in his early thirties with sandy blonde hair - turned towards Baldwin and calmly said to him: "We're almost finished with the patrol Baldwin, just have a little patience. We've been away for a good while... who knows what's been going on here while we were gone." "William is right. We'll be finished soon, so just grin and bear it," another guard - a young man with a stern countenance and long blonde hair - said.Erruno yelled back again, "I said shut up! That means you, too, Doram!" The four guards continued their silent patrol as the rain continued to fall.

When the four guards reached the warehouse district of the port, where all the construction material was stored for the nearly finished keep, Doram noticed a small trickle of blood running into the street from one of the back alleyways. "Hold up," he yelled to the others ahead of him.Erruno turned around shouted back at him "Doram, this had better be good! We're nearly finished here..." Doram didn't wait around to hear Erruno's yelling, he had already started down the alleyway to find out what was there. The others quickly followed after him and found him kneeling down beside the body of a young man who had been badly beaten. Erruno came around to see the young man and just how badly he was injured. A long, deep gash ran down the left side of his face from just above the eyebrow to the middle of his cheek. He had numerous other cuts, scratches, and gashes, and Erruno was sure there were many broken, if not shattered, bones.A cold chill ran up his spine and he suddenly felt ill when he recognized the broken man as Lucant. He then started shouting orders, using his guards' last names as he always did when issuing orders: "Crisato, help me pick him up and carry someplace better. Orale, go see if you can find a cart or horse or something. Sandaval, head up to the citadel and tell the healers to get ready. The others did not respond, they merely went about their orders with all due speed. Doram helped Erruno lift Lucant's shattered body up as Baldwin ran out into the rain to look for some means of transportation. William ran as fast as he could towards the citadel to tell the healers of what they had found.

Written by - Rikshanthas

"Can you eat, Vhar?"

The Loremaster smiled as they moved to the dining hall, his nose also picking up the smells of cooking wafting from the kitchens. "Indeed," he replied with a chuckle. "And I have found it one of the more enjoyable aspects of being human -- yes, this is no mere illusion, I know now I have Nyrondis to thank for that. The details are somewhat complicated, suffice it to say the deity taught me a valuable lesson with this last week's experience, one I will long remember." He sighed. "And to answer your other queries, my presence here was more or less accidental, the aethers being somewhat difficult to navigate," he indicated the Gatekey at his wrist with a wry smile, "and I want the same thing most people value: knowledge. I am a scholar, after all." He paused before continuing, "However I must take my leave soon. While I have enjoyed my time here, I should not have come in the first place; my people observe and record, we do not as a rule interfere with other cultures. If my visit to this world had been intentional, you would have never been aware of my existence; my people have ways of travelling undetected, so as not to disturb those we study. All things considered, though, I am glad for the time I have spent here --" he stopped mid-sentence as he noticed the sailor who had escaped earlier, in the company of a sea elf no less. "Hmm." Vhar's eyes narrowed slightly. I would have thought he would be putting as much distance between himself and this Citadel as possible, why is he here? "I have just been reminded of something I wished to mention to you, milady," he said, turning to Lithwyn. The young human sailor I encountered earlier, the one responsible for that tavern scuffle ... he managed to talk his way out of his cell and escape. I was going to inform you at the earliest opportunity, but it seems the young man ... reconsidered." Vhar inclined his head toward where Leov sat.

Written by - Tempyst

Kaya opened her eyes, not feeling like she had slept long. The sky shining through her cell window showed it was still daylight out. She sighed, almost wistfully, as a rush of fresh air came through the window and filled her nostrils with the wonders of city life. I miss running about the city. Watching all the people, having a friendly scuffle in a bar, going to market and tasting fresh bread and pastries. But I doubt I will be doing any of that any time soon, if ever again. Kaya stood up, and removed some of her bloody clothing, tossing it into the furthest corner. She looked around and called out for a guard, but no one answered. Again, she was not surprised. After taking off all but the torn, bloody shirt she was wearing, she sat back down on the mat, holding her legs tightly to her and waited.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

A warm, comforting darkness enveloped Lucant as he collapsed to the ground. He stayed within the darkness for a while before finally opening his eyes.

When he did, he found himself in front of his forge at his old workshop in Almurad. Several heavy bars of iron sat on the anvil as the freshly stoked forge roared with anticipation. Lucant did not know how he had ended up back at his meager workshop, nor did he care. He was home; he was were he belonged; that was all that mattered to him. He stood slowly from the wooden stool he was on and walked over to grab his apron from its usual spot on the wall. He noticed that there was no pain in his movements, nor was there hesitation.

With a smile on his face, he picked up his tools and set to work. The anvil seemed to laugh with joy at each resounding strike of the hammer, the forge roared happily as each bar was heated, and the trough squeeled with joy when the red hot metal was quenched in its waters. For the first time in a long time, Lucant was truly happy and truly at peace with himself. He was so content, he did not hear the door to his workshop open.

Written by - Tempyst

Tirigil watched her father for a short while before entering his sanctuary. She walked in slowly, then as he turned towards her, she smiled brightly and warmly, her love for him able to be felt by any who would be close. The young woman moved towards Lucant and wrapped her arms around him and hugged him tightly. "Hello daddy. I am so glad to finally meet you." She felt his strong arms wrap around her and she too continued to hug him. Who knows how long the two stood them, embraced, but after awhile, Tirigil pulled back and kissed her father's cheek. She then slipped her hand into Lucant's and pulled him over to a bench and sat down.

"My name is Tirigil daddy, Avendor named me, it means *Bright Star*. Momma thought it suited me, I hope you like it too." Her bright blue eyes shone with joy as she sat there with her father. "I know a lot has happened daddy and I hope I can explain some of what has occured. I want you to know, neither you, nor momma is at fault for my death. It was my choice. You two would have raised me to be a strong willed girl, stubborn like you both, ready to stand up for what is right and to always do what is needed to help others. So, I took that strength from both of you and id what I felt I needed to do. I wanted to help; I gave my life willingly, so please, no worries, no fears. I was never once in pain and I feel so proud to be your child and I hope you are proud of me as well." Tirigil then stood up and pulled her father up with her. "Now, why don't you show me around here daddy, teach me what you do?"

Tirigil and Lucant spent a lifetime together in forge. He taught her his trade and both of them laughed at her endeavors. She was not perfect, but she loved the time she had here. By the end of the lessons, both of them were smudged and dirty, but neither of them cared. She led him outside, under a tree, where a picnic had been set up. She watched Lucant carefully, studying his face, then spoke softly again.

"I know you are hurting daddy and I am so sorry for that. Please, don't hate A'lanthear. His soul is good, he just became lost along the way of his fight against the demons. He did what he thought he needed to, to make sure the evil would be defeated. " She saw Lucant tense up a bit; she placed her hand on his. "I do not think he did was right, what he did to make you and momma come together, but how can I feel he was wrong. I can't, for if he had not done what he did, I would not be here. I would not have such a wonderful father and mother who loves me. And please, don't hate Nyrondis either. Nyrondis was not aware of the trickery A'lanthear used to get his needs met. He trusted the sword and left him to his own means. If you wished to speak to either of them here, it would be possible, but I won't push it. That choice is yours to make." She paused, then squeezed her father's hand. "just like another choice you will be making. I saw you leave the great tree where momma is. I saw you with Beleyna." She looked into her father's eyes, love and concern within them. "Is she your true love daddy? Do you have any love for momma?"

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

In truth, Lucant knew this place was not real. He would never see his workshop again, nor would he ever be able to spend time with his daughter or hold her in his arms. Still, even though he knew it to be true, he entertained the farce a while longer.

Lucant had leaned back against the massive tree as Tirigil said to him softly: I know you are hurting daddy and I am so sorry for that. Please, don't hate A'lanthear. His soul is good, he just became lost along the way of his fight against the demons. He did what he thought he needed to, to make sure the evil would be defeated. " She saw Lucant tense up a bit; she placed her hand on his. "I do not think he did was right, what he did to make you and momma come together, but how can I feel he was wrong. I can't, for if he had not done what he did, I would not be here. I would not have such a wonderful father and mother who loves me. And please, don't hate Nyrondis either. Nyrondis was not aware of the trickery A'lanthear used to get his needs met. He trusted the sword and left him to his own means. If you wished to speak to either of them here, it would be possible, but I won't push it. That choice is yours to make." She paused, then squeezed her father's hand. "just like another choice you will be making. I saw you leave the great tree where momma is. I saw you with Beleyna." She looked into her father's eyes, love and concern within them. "Is she your true love daddy? Do you have any love for momma?" She may have been an agent of the gods, but she was still very much a child, and she cut swiftly to the heart of the matter as children often do.

Lucant hugged his daughter tightly and said to her as truthfully as he could "I do not hate them, my heart. Yet still, I was used. I cannot forgive that. From now until I see you again in the heavans, I will stand or fall by my will alone." He wanted this time to last forever; he dared not close his eyes for fear that when he opened them, the tree, the workshop, Tirigil would all be gone. After a pause, he spoke to Tirigil again, his voice leaden with a serious tone: "Belyena and I are two very different people. Nothing good has ever, nor will it ever, come from a meeting between us. As for your mother... I'm not sure..." his voice trailed off. "We shared so much together, but I barely know her. If she was a lie, if you were a lie..." his voice trailed off again as he continued to hold his daughter while he was still able to.

Written by - Rikshanthas

Lienad and Sharanya both rose when they realized the old knight was standing over them, smiling with what could almost be called paternal pride. "You're looking a sight better, lad," Sir Mathell said, and patted the younger man on the shoulder with his left hand, the arm now fully healed. "Still haven't learned to judge when a fight's too much for you though," and the hand on Lienad's shoulder rose to lightly cuff him on the side of the head. Lienad grinned, then assumed a serious expression as he formally saluted his old mentor. "At least you haven't forgotten everything I taught you," Sir Mathell said, returning the salute.

Shara looked from one to the other, her eyes widening as she suddenly became aware of the great resembance between the two. "Lienad, is Sir Mathell your ...?" she began, but Lienad shook his head, smiling. "No, the only blood we share is what we shed together on the battlefield," he answered. Then conversation was suspended by the rain, and all three moved to the dining hall, both for shelter and because neither of them had eaten more than an occasional journey ration in over three days. They spent the next half hour sharing tales of their adventures, of the two men's history together, and everything else under the sun.

Talking about her time at the battlefield infirmary, when she had reconnected with Nagarren and thus chosen her path as a priestess, reminded Shara of the elven woman she had seen, first as an injured patient, then later in the battle to secure the keep at Minas Aure, and finally and most distressingly as host to the demon that had nearly killed Ithramir, Lienad and others. Shara wondered what had become of her. She didn't realize she had spoken aloud until she found Lienad and Sir Mathell both gazing at her curiously, and she blushed.

"Y'know that's actually a good question," Lienad said, leaning back in his chair and biting absently into a fresh apple.

Written by - Tempyst

"Belyena and I are two very different people. Nothing good has ever, nor will it ever, come from a meeting between us. As for your mother... I'm not sure..." his voice trailed off. "We shared so much together, but I barely know her. If she was a lie, if you were a lie..."

Tirigil looked up, her eyes soft and filled with love. "A lie daddy? I don't think it was a lie. I mean, I am here, I am real. I am Tirigil the messenger of the gods now. I have been made into a divine being. I don't think anyone conceived of a lie would be allowed that honor, no matter what they did." She gave her father a kiss on the cheek and then settled back in his arms. "As for momma, well, I can't speak for her, but I know when i saw her, she had concern for you and I could swear I heard love in her voice. As for barely knowing her, well, you barely know me, and yet here we are. I know we did not have the time for me to grow up with you, but still, I am here, I'm your daughter and now, now..." She smiled brightly, "You need not worry for me anymore, I am alive as a divine being, and when I am not busy doing work for the gods, I hope to visit you and momma in your dreams. Afterall, I love both of you with all my heart. Don't be sad daddy, please, don't be sad."

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

Tirigil looked up, her eyes soft and filled with love. "A lie daddy? I don't think it was a lie. I mean, I am here, I am real. I am Tirigil the messenger of the gods now. I have been made into a divine being. I don't think anyone conceived of a lie would be allowed that honor, no matter what they did." She gave her father a kiss on the cheek and then settled back in his arms. "As for momma, well, I can't speak for her, but I know when i saw her, she had concern for you and I could swear I heard love in her voice. As for barely knowing her, well, you barely know me, and yet here we are. I know we did not have the time for me to grow up with you, but still, I am here, I'm your daughter and now, now..." She smiled brightly, "You need not worry for me anymore, I am alive as a divine being, and when I am not busy doing work for the gods, I hope to visit you and momma in your dreams. Afterall, I love both of you with all my heart. Don't be sad daddy, please, don't be sad."

Lucant chuckled at the innocent truth in his daughter's words. "Who am I to dictate what is real? Life is, after all, but a passing dream. We all just have to be bold enough to live it... to see life for what it really is... through a dreamer's eyes or not. Tirigil, my beloved daughter, you are wise far beyond your years." He hugged her tightly. "Thank you for showing me the truth. I look forward to seeing you often, my bright and shinning star." At peace, he closed his eyes.

"Easy now, don't drop him," Erruno continued to bark orders as he and his men carried Lucant into the infirmary within the citadel's walls. "Captain, he's waking up..." Baldwin said, a bit dumbfounded by the situation. Lucant felt another shattering wave of pain wrack his body as he opened his eyes to the soft light of the torch-lit room. He saw only a blur of light from his left eye. He tryed to call out again for Tempyst, but only a weak grunt came forth. Doram laid Lucant down in one of the small cots in the infirmary as Erruno yelled at the top of his lungs: "Somebody get me a surgeon, a doctor, a healer... just get me somebody that can help this kid!" Erruno had sworn to protect Lucant earlier on, and, even though the battle for Minas Aure was finished, he still intended to stay true to his vow.


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.


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.


Written by - Turin Wallace Page 6 Book 3

The snow fell hard now. It had only been a few days since Turin, Nica, Deluwiel, and a few escorts had left their adopted home in search of his daughter, a part of their family. The weather had not been kind so far. Severe snow and bone chilling wind had slowed their progress, but this was the frozen north after all, Turin had to chuckle that it was appropriately named.

Turin did not know how long it would take to reach where he was going. All he knew was that he was headed south, past Westgale and into the elven lands. He was to look for the citadel of Lothiel-Gadith, there he was told he would find answers and the treasure he sought. But first things were first, he had to get there.

As dusk approached, he and his party could see a town, dark and foreboding against the darkening grey. Moving into the town, Turin noticed there were no signs of life save for the tracks made by a few horses and some wagons. Judging from the snowfall, he would say that they were no more than a day old, as they were very hard to distinguish. Turning to Nica, he says,

"Seems like either the town left in a hurry, or someone passing by did. Night is coming, and I would prefer not to spend another night out in the snow keeping myself from being buried alive or turned into a icicle. Take a few men and look at the Inn, I'll take a few and look around some of these houses to see what I can find. Take mom with you, too."

Nica nodded dutifully and their searches commenced.

Taking a few soldiers, Turin began searching the houses closest to the Inn. In each he found the same thing, nothing. If it had been raiders, or Orcs, dead bodies and blood would be everywhere, but there was nothing. It simply looked as if folks had gotten up one day and just walked out the door, not in a rush or panic, just up and gone. Instructing the others not to touch anything in these houses, they made their way back to the Inn.

At the Inn, Nica and the other soldiers opened the door to find much the same thing. It was if one night the barkeep had closed up and just never re-opened the next morning. Nica spied wood in the fireplace, laced with kindling. Lighting a small match, she started the fire, which allowed for the candles to be lit to add light to the deserted inn. Nothing was out of place.

Just after they checked the rooms, all vacant, Turin and his men came in. Looking to those assembled, he said,

"We'll use our own supplies of food and drink. We don't know what happened here, but whatever it was, it's very odd and puzzling. We all have heard the reports of whole families up and disappearing, but whole towns? We should trust nothing here, but as it is late, let us stay here for the night and be gone come first light."

Everyone nodded in agreement. After everyone had rested for a bit, Turin went to Deluwiel and asked,

"Mother, think the earth mother could grant us her blessing this eve and offer us a little extra protection?"

Smiling, she replied,

"Of course, my son."

Closing her eyes, Deluwiel began to chant and pray, the earth shook for but a brief moment and she was done. Upon opening the outer door, Turin smiled. The entire outside of the inn was covered in a hedge or bramble trees, their spikes better than a man-at-arms with a spear. Whoever, whatever, if anything, was out there it would have to hack and claw its way in. Of course, by that time, they would know and be prepared.

He earnestly hoped the protection was for nothing, but still, it was better to be prepared.

Hugging his mother and sister goodnight, Turin laid down with his back on the wall next to the door, sword in hand. As he started to fall asleep, he still preferred to be here than out in that freezing snow...

Written by - Tempyst

Amara looked back towards the sailor and could see him heading her direction. She wasa bit surprised when she felt her heart skip a beat as he approached. "Khai'hanas, you really have outdone yourself. 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.

Amara watched stunned, as he walked away. Wow, it seems Leov Kline got his lands legs back after all. She thought as she watched him exit the party. I...well Amara, that's a first. Usually you are the one turning the other person down. Well, he is a sailor. All alone at sea with all those men. Hmm, what a waste of perfectly good men. She sighed, then smiled to herself. Then her attention was brought back to the party, as Koso and the other musicians had made their way back to her. "Looks like the guests of honor have arrived dear Nightsong."

Amara looked and saw Commander Ithramir and Commander Lithwyn enter the party, both of them hanging upon each other, love obviously surrounding them. "Well my friends, it seems Commander Ithramir is no worse for the wear after his demon encounter today. I do hope I can talk with him at some point to get a first person account of the tale. It will be one that everyone will be asking to hear in the years to come."

Koso nodded. "Aye, but for now, we had best play some more music, so the lovebirds can dance." Amara nodded, a smile upon her face. She quickly let the band into a good dancing song, a waltz. Everyone loves a good waltz. As she and the band played and as the Commanders and others started to dance around the room, Amara found herself glancing back at the door Leov had left through. Then song came to an end and the band started up some background music, waiting for the next request to come in.

Then she watched Commander Ithramir motion for the room to quiet down. She quieted the band, then waited to hear what he had to say. Once the room was quiet, he stood in front of Commander Lithwyn, then dropped to one knee. "Lithwyn Deltheron, will you marry me?" Everyone watched as he pulled his signet ring off, offers it to her. Amara efen felt her own breath slip away, as she and everyone else also awaited Lithwyn's response.

Written by - Tempyst

Kaya awoke with a start and a scream. She had dreamt about the earlier battle. Once again she had tried tokeep the demon from taking over but found herself helpless, unable to do anything but watch. She sat there in the corner of her cell shivering. Soft moonlight lit the dark, cold compartment, enough for her to see that while she slept, someone had places a small tray with some food on it, in her cell. She stood and weakly made her way to the cheese and bread and the small jar of water. Kaya resisted the urge to wolf down the food, knowing if she did not eat slowly, she would cramp up and possibly regurgitate the food. Kaya was too hungry for that. The last thing I was... Kaya put down the food and threw up anyways, remember what the demon had made her do to those children a few days earlier. She drank some of the water to get the bitter taste from her mouth, then used some of the straw to push the mess down into the sewage hole.

She left the food where it was, to wait for her stomach to settle once more, but sipped the water slowly. She wished she had more of the precious liquid; more water, more hot water. A bath. By the gods what I would give for a bath and clean clothes. She finally put the jar down, still half full, for she did not know how these people treated their prisoners so thus, did not know when she would get more. Kaya leaned up once more in the corner of the cell, pulling up the small blanket around her. What now Kaya? Will they leave me here to rot? She sighed and began to feel sorry for herself once more.

"Kaya, what the hell are you doing?" She said outloud to herself. "This is not who you are. You are better than this." Kaya stood up and began pacing the cell, still keeping the blanket wrapped around her. You know you were manipulated, you tried your best to stop it and that is all you could have done. So what if you can't tell anyone about it. They have to be smart enough to figure that out; they have mages and priests that can see through truths and lies. Kaya stopped by the cell window and looked up to the sky. I have given you my confession Avandor. You are the one who will judge me. Me, on the other hand, I need to think about what to do when I get out of here. "And I will get out of here!" Kaya said outloud to the moon. Then more quietly as she sat back down. "I will get out of here."

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

Leov and his party made their way to the stockades in a grim procession of purpose.

Stoping just outside the stairs to the the underground prison, the group ducked into an alleyway to plan their break in. "We're going to need a distraction... those guards sure aren't just going to let us just walk in..." Gilbert said as he peered out towards the prison. "I'll take care of it, guys." Josef spoke up enthusiasticly. Leov gave him an unsure look, then went against his better judgement: "Don't do anything stupid Josef." "Of course not! Just tell me when you guys are ready," he said, getting ready to bolt towards the guards.

Leov and his friends made a few small preparations, then he gave Josef the go ahead. Running out into the night towards the guards, Josef formulated his plan along the way. He ran headlong into one of them and wrapped his arms around the elf's waist. "Mister... mister... you gotta help me... you gotta help me misters... they're gonna get me," he said between fake sobs. He found the keys he was looking for, then deftly lifted them off the guard's belt and dropped them on the ground. "What's the matter? Who's after you?" Smiling to himself, Josef played his part a little more, "Follow me misters, I'll take you right to 'em. I just hope we make it in time." They started to follow Josef until one of the guards looked over at the other and said "Audun, are you sure we should abandon our posts like this?" "No one's going anywhere Kaeltan. We'll be right back, and besides, we're doing the right thing."

After Josef had lead the guards out of sight, the rest moved towards the gate. Gilbert bent down and picked up the keys, then carefully and quietly unlocked the gates. Moving down the hallways quickly, they came to a small, lightly guarded office before the cell blocks. "What in Avendor's name are you all doing down here!? a guard shouted as he started to draw his weapon. Dom slammed him against the wall and pinned him there. Placing his hand over the elf's mouth to muffle any calls for help, Dom looked towards Aloray, "Get anyone left kid. You two get a move on, and we'll keep a lookout here." "We're good!" Gilbert yelled as he unlocked the gate. He and Leov made their way down to the cells and began to look for something familiar.

Walking slowly and quietly, Leov heard a faint, familiar whisper on the wind: "I will get out of here" "Gil, this way," he said as he dragged Gilbert down the hallway towards where he heard the whisper. Slowly and purposefully, the pair walked down to the cell where the faint voice had come from. Seeing the familiar, beautiful, violet eyed woman agian, Leov said with all the seriousness and gravity in the world: "We need to talk."

Written by - Tempyst

Kaya heard the voice at her cell open and she looked up with curiosity. A look of surprise came across her face as she saw the sailer that had earlier been in the cell beside her, at her door holding keys. He had a grim and serious look upon his face. "We need to talk."

Kaya raised an eyebrow. "Well, well, when did you get a job as a guard?" She could see her attempt at humor did not find its mark. Standing up, she looked Leov straight in the eyes. "What my good sir, do we need to talk about?"

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

Leov let out a long, frustrated sigh. "Cut the crap lady."

Gilbert stood back and watched what was going on. It was rare when Leov started acting this way, but Gilbert had known him long enough - since he was a child, in fact - to know to stay out of his way.

"I'm going to ask the questions and you are going to answer them..." He took a deep breath, then began his questioning: "What the hell is going on here? I knew... I KNEW we shouldn't've come to this land, but NO! Tiertiala has other plans... We're here for a reason, and I intend to figure out what it its."

Leov looked directly into the girl's enchanting violet eyes and said "Are you in league with demons... with this one that looks like a kid... or a cat... the one that murdered my people? Are you in league with ANY demons? Is it true you tried to kill that Ithramir guy... the commander of this city? Who's this hero kid everyone's talkin' about? What... in the name of the gods... what... is going on?"

Leov took another deep, frustrated breath as Gilbert kept an interested vigil.

Written by - Tempyst

Leov let out a long, frustrated sigh. "Cut the crap lady." Kaya folded her dirty arms over her even filthier clothes. But before she could respond, the tall man before her kept right on talking. She listened to his questions and let out her own frustrated sigh. Kaya was tried of all of this. She knew full well she could not tell him a damn thing he wanted but something about him barging in and blabbering like he wsa got under her skin and was the last straw to all she had been through.

Kaya took a few defiant steps forward. "What's going on? You want me to tell you what I know? I would LOVE to tell you everything! YES...." Kaya throat bagan closing up on her once again, this time harder and faster than ever before. She dropped to her knees hands at her throat as if she was trying to pry some invisible hands from them. She fell over, her face starting to turn purple. KILL ME AND GET IT OVER WITH She screamed inside her mind, but she could sense, whatever this was, it would not kill her but keep her in pain for a long, long time. She looked up, her eyes now pleading with Leov.

Written by - Ardwen

The sound of an opening door broke Ardwen's thoughts. The servant who he had earlier sent in search of Ithramir had returned . . . but Ardwen clearly saw Ithramir was not with him. A moment of silence passed before the servant spoke, "Your pardon swordsman, but Ithramir instructed me to inform you that he would not be available for an audience until the late afternoon of tommorow. He did suggest, however, that you enjoy the celebrations tonight and take time to relax and rejoice over the recent victory."

Ardwen leaned forward in his seat and muffled his face with an armor-clad hand. His voice came out thick and stiffled by his posture, "So be it. You've done your duty well, however, I have one final task to ask of you. Please bring me some parchment and quill - I need to scribe a couple of letters. Ah, and before I forget, bring me two strips of cloth, each a little longer than half the length of that sword on the wall," he motioned towards Turin's blade, "with one strip died sable and the other deep blue."

The servant tilted his head and muttered quickly over all that Ardwen had just said in an effort to memorize it, "Alright, but sir, if I may - what's it for?"

Ardwen raised his face from his hand and said simply, "Why, it's for one of the messages I intend to write."

The servant bowed briskly and left the room, closing the door gently behind him. Ardwen returned to his reclining posture and placed his feet on the small desk, he looked up at the cieling that was already shadowed with the closing evening and thought. It was thus that the servant found him, and without a word between the two he placed the desired items on the small desk, just to the left of Ardwen's feet. He left the room, almost as silently as he had entered.

Righting himself, Ardwen dipped the quill in the prepared inkpot and wrote the following:

Commander Ithramir,

I regret that I could not wait for our meeting on the morrow. Doubtless, you would have presented sound council for what I already fear is a fool's errand. Nevertheless, we must all do the duty that falls to us, and I can no longer ignore mine. The All-Father has made it painfully clear as to how and why I was brought here, but doubtless things did not progress as he had expected. I will be terse sir, for you are a busy Elf, and doubtless your duty calls you as well: I'm going to Westgale. To be more precise I'm going to castle Ancora - to be even more exacting I'm going to where the Hands are laid to rest in this world - to where my fallen brothers and sisters in arms make their final repose. Alaric told me precious little, the human seemed suspicious of me in all regards, how very like their kind.

My largest regret is in not being here to finish the campaign with you, but I have little choice in the matter. This is not my world, and I have no place here. You have proven to be most hospitable to a stranger, but a stranger I remain. Perhaps this is for the best. I do have one final request of you, as a fellow soldier: should I die upon this trip, and should you find my remains, do not bury them. Burn my corpse. Then cast the ashes to a strong north wind.

In Service,
Ardwen

Ardwen sighed, that was the easy one to write. What was to come would be much harder. Grabbing another clean sheet of parchment and wetting the quill with fresh ink he began a second letter:

Turin Wallace, by the grace of the All-Father Priest of Battle of the Hands of Providence,

I've never scribed a letter to the dead before. Yet in this world have I seen many things of wonder already. Perhaps it is not insane to think that one day you might somehow read it? These words needed to get out in any case, and your blade needed prepared as befits a warrior of your stature. Turin . . . it's strange how hard this is to write this even to a dead man. After all this time the words still don't want to come. I've become a monster in every sense of the word. Since Ancora fell, since I was gutted like some mewing lamb by the traitors in the Cathedral of Saint Lorne, since that night . . . all has changed. I have done things that incarnadine my name with the blood of countless victims. Men, women . . . children. It made no difference to me.

I have thought it a mercy that you left the world before this happened. I don't think I could bear to have you look upon what I've done; what I've become. Yet it was the greatest cruelty too. If you were there, who knows how things might have been? Perhaps with your strength we would have triumphed, or with your mind a cunning solution reached. But it was not to be, and I was alone as I fought. Damn, listen to me. Three years and I've just pushed what happened into a small corner and covered it in blood and wine.

But then, that's the problem, isn't it? Yes, above all do not blame yourself. You, Ariana . . . all of you tried to make a virtuous man out of me, you tried to guide me to be a better person. But once you were gone I showed my true colors, guess I always was crooked on the inside. Kierhaven taught me that much. I don't know what else to say. If the gods are good this letter will be nothing more than a flight of emotion never to be read. But knowing the gods you'll come across me even as I walk to the graves of those I could never forget. Should that happen you may thank me for my service under you by granting me a quick death.

Ardwen

The Elf folded each letter onto itself three times. He placed the one for Ithramir on the small desk and scrawled the commander's name hastily on the outside. Taking the two strips of cloth, Ardwen wound them about Turin's blade with the deep blue cloth covering the blade of the sword and the black the hilt and pommel. Twisting and tying a simple knot from the excess cloth at each end, Ardwen wedged the letter partly into one of the folds, and then propped the sword back against the wall. Grabbing his own blade and a map that would hopefully take him to where he desired, Ardwen headed to the larder to gather supplies. He would have a harsh road ahead of him, but such was his path.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

Kaya took a few defiant steps forward. "What's going on? You want me to tell you what I know? I would LOVE to tell you everything! YES...." she began to yell at him, then collapsed on the floor in a coughing fit. She looked up at him, with her raven hair dangling in front her face. Her eyes locked on his, pleading in silent desperation.

Leov stood there in confusion until Gilbert's stern voice brought him around: "Leov! She needs help." A warm wind blew from the barred window in the opposite cell - the one he had been in earlier. He looked at her for only a moment before he made his fateful decision. "Damn your eyes..." he said taking the keys from Gilbert and hurriedly trying to unlock the door. He had a feeling that he would be saying that again. The gate creaked open and Leov walked in and knelt down beside her. "Just uh.... just breathe. Breathe real deep," he said a bit flustered. "Kid, if you say anything that stupid again, I'm leaving you here..." Gilbert said jokingly trying to calm his friend and the girl down. "You're NOT helping Gil," Leov yelled back. He stood up and paced back and forth for a moment as Kaya continued her fits. "What am I supposed to do..." Leov asked himself. He cought himself looking out the window and he felt another breeze. Another snap decision was in order.

He abruptly knelt down again and took Kaya into his arms. "C'mon... just calm down... please calm down. You... you're the only one who can help me... so please... please calm down," he whispered to her as he carried her across the hall into his old cell. He lifted her up onto the bench there next to the barred window. The wind howled in glee. Leov steadied her as she started to take in the fresh night air. "I am the wind... I will lift you up to the heavens... and scatter your fears to the far corners of the world..." Leov whispered the old saying his father used to tell him.

Written by - Tempyst

Kaya locked eyes with Leov, his sage green eyes staring back in disbelief and concern. She heard the other man shout, "Leov! She needs help." But that was about the last she could make out well. She heard something about eyes, then feeling the man kneeling next to her and telling her to breath.

Is this the end Avendor? Am I doomed to be silent now and forever. She felt her head going fuzzy from all the choking, which took her mind off of what she had been trying to reveil. I can't give up, I can't... Then she felt herself being lifted up and could feel the warmth of a body holding her close. She heard a whisper, "C'mon... just calm down... please calm down. You... you're the only one who can help me... so please... please calm down." Then she felt a warm, fresh breeze play across her face and heard the whispers again. "I am the wind... I will lift you up to the heavens... and scatter your fears to the far corners of the world..."

The invisible grip around Kaya's throat began to loosen up, letting her breath once more. As the choking began to subside, she closed her eyes and layed her head against the warm shoulder. Be smart Kaya. If you are to get out of this, you have to be smart. Kaya gasped deeply, then coughed a few more times, intaking as much air as she could into her lungs. Kaya suddenly felt so small, weak and lost. Without even realizing why, she began to cry while Leov held her. Through her soft tears she managed a few words.

"Please, please don't ask me those questions, please."

Written by - Rikshanthas

Sharanya was about to speak up when she saw Ithramir turn and address a tall, robed man with the most unusual eyes she had ever seen. Too proper to butt in, and a little unsettled by the human's appearance, she simply stood and waited until they had finished. Before she could speak to the commander though, he had started moving away from her location, out among the guests, forcing her to fumble across the hall after him mumbling apologies to the guests she jostled past.

She had just about reached him when the music started, and he moved to the dance square with an elven woman Shara would have to have been a fool not to recognize as the lady Lithwyn. She sighed, arms dropping impotently at her sides. Seeing Sir Mathell was nearby, she decided to loosen the tension that had been building up in her for the last few hours, and asked the knight for a dance. Gentleman that he was, Mathell obliged with a smile.

Sir Mathell proved an excellent partner, though Shara realized she would have preferred to dance with Lienad, had the rascal not ducked out earlier - the man had an uncanny knack for being elsewhere when there was music and dancing. Mathell chuckled, and she flushed at having allowed her thoughts to be so apparent on her face. But before he could comment, the room fell silent as all eyes turned to the couple at the center of the square. When Ithramir dropped to one knee, Shara gasped, her hands coming together over her mouth, and waited with held breath for the lady's reply.

****

Lienad walked back toward the main hall at a brisk pace. It had taken him over a half hour to get Nightwind back to the Citadel and properly stabled, and himself properly dressed for the celebrations. He noticed the rain had lessened to a light drizzle, and loosened his cloak slightly. His two decades of mercenary work having trained him to spot the unusual, he also noticed the five humans - sailors by the look of them, probably out of Kassal if Lienad knew his seamen - heading toward the Citadel's stockade. One eyebrow raising slightly, he altered his direction ever so slightly. Shara's probably going to kill me for bailing on her, but this is just too good to pass up, he thought, indirectly following them toward the cell blocks.

He kept his distance, using every trick in the book to keep them unaware of his presence, while still keeping them in sight. He knew he couldn't risk a confrontation; with only his belt knife the fight would be over laughably quick. When he finally heard them stop, Lienad maneuvered himself as close as possible while remaining out of sight, and settled in to listen. He was too far away to hear them clearly, though he was able to discern they were speaking with a female prisoner - and down here he had a good idea who the woman was.

"... questions ... the hell ... I KNEW we shouldn't've ... but NO! ... plans ... " Lienad couldn't quite catch what they were saying, and he risked a lot to get just a little closer. Then the woman nearly shouted something, and Lienad heard an awful, racking cough echo down the hall. ... the hell? "Leov! She needs help," another voice said, giving Lienad one name at least. He listened as they continued to speak, his mind storing every word, every nuance for later recall.

This was getting interesting.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

Leov wrapped his arms around the crying girl, unsure of what to do. "Please, please don't ask me those questions, please," she said between quiet sobs. "I'm...I'm sorry. I just... I need to know what's going on here... I need to know why my people where brought here."

Leov looked up through the barred window again to the mood shining above. He reached out with one hand towards the shimmering moon as he had for the sun earlier that day.

Written by - Tempyst

"I'm...I'm sorry. I just... I need to know what's going on here... I need to know why my people where brought here." As Leov's words faded, Kaya took another deep breath and quieted herself. How can I tell him? How can I tell anybody? Do I try to escape or wait to see what fate befalls me here. Kaya looked up at Leov, seeing the concern and desperation in his own face. You know what you must do Kaya and you cannot condemn anyone else to your fate. She took another deep breath, then weakly began to move herself from the man's arms. She sat upon the bench and looked at him and his friend. "I wish I would help you. I don't know why you were brought here. If you stay and help me, you will be able to help no one, not even yourself. I killed..."

Kaya then looked at Leov, suddenly remembering something from his first outburst. "Is it true you tried to kill that Ithramir guy... the commander of this city? Tried to kill Ithramir? Did that mean he was not dead. If he is not dead, then perhaps I have a chance. She places a hand on Leov's shoulder and looked into his eyes once again. "You said I tried to kill Ithramir. That means he lives! And if he lives, there is hope!" Kaya stood up and began to walk weakly back to her own cell. "Please, please leave before you are caught and lock me back up. Have Ithramir find me, have him, tell him to talk to Avendor and seek me out, please. Then, maybe then I can..." Kaya began to cough again, falling against hallway wall. Once more she felt invisible hands clasping around her throat, this time, she was not sure if they would stop or not. She looked up and whispered, "Please hurry." before the choking overtook her once more.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

Leov instinctively knelt down to help Kaya again as she fell against the wall. She looked up and whispered, "Please hurry." before the choking overtook her once more. Leov helped her to her feet, then carried her back to her cell reluctantly.

"Kid... maybe she really can't tell us about it... I mean... I don't think she's faking this," Gilbert said flatly. Leov looked Kaya squarely in the eyes again. Another warm breeze blew in from the window. "Leov... one way or the other, we have to do something," Gilbert urged. Leov let out an acquiesing sigh to Tiertiala, then spoke to Kaya. "I'm... I'm going to trust you. I'll speak with Ithramir for you. But..." he said, stepping back into the hall, "I'm not going to lock this door."

He stood there, still locked in place by her piercing eyes, until Gilbert unceremoniously jerked him along down the hallway. "Some way, some how, I will get some answers about what's going on here..." he said to Gilbert as they made their way back up the hallways.

When the two reached the small office where Dom and Aloray where, he saw them leaning against the wall, waiting impatiently. "It's about time you two got back! I thought you got lost or somethin'," Aloray yelled. "Al, shut up before you get us cought.... speaking of that... what'd you two do with the guards," Leov said, looking around for them. "They're in the office... counting up a... gift," Dom said with a nod towards the office. "You've been hanging around Gilbert too much, Dom," Leov grinned. "Hey! Well... I suppose you're right. I hope you didn't pay too much," Gilbert said lightheartedly. "We can talk about it later. Let's get out of here before someone notices something," Leov stated as he started up the hallway.

Written by - Sycon

Sycon awoke slowly, letting his limbs stretch out along the bed he lay on. It was satin, such a wonderful cloth for a bed as he spread himself out amongst the sheets as far as he could. His hand closed on the satin, curling it into a soft ball of fabric almost caressing his palm.

The recent events did not come rushing to him in a shockwave nor did they haunt him in any way, but were more of an omnipresent luxury about him. But There was another in the room and his thoughts drifted to her. A woman, to Sycon's liking and her throughts drifted across the room to him where he lay. She was entrusted with his care till he woke, and if he woke in time, with instructions to send him to some fancy party nearby. But now her thoughts were in big jumble. She was startled at his awakening, but her mind had been on other, softer things. And they were not the satin on this bed, but rather his skin.

This made Sycon's mind almost roll in both laughter and excitement. Life today, it seemed, was full of surpsises. Only a five year old at his birthday celebration would have been happier and it was still a close comparison. He let go of the satin and sat up in the bed, draping his legs over the sides of the satin sheets the fell gracefully on the floor. He found he was still proudly naked as before and as usual, trying to impress, he liesurely strode across the floor to a small wardrobe against the stone wall. He blatantly ignored the maid sitting by the door, almost teasing her in a sense as he felt her eyes move with him.

He opened the wardrobe without a creak. It seemed this place was well kept for the wardrobe was old, but the hinges were perfectly oiled. He found a new set of robes where his old ones were naught. They were the same as his old, but uncut and actually white where his others had turned brown from his days on the road. They had an a deep red velvet trim. Fancy, Sycon thought.

Above his head with his arms first, all the way to his feet, Sycon slid on his magerobes. A sash was neatly hung on the inside of the door on a shiny gold hook and newly polished black boots sat on the floor next to the wardrobe. He reached down and grabbed the robes directly between his legs and tore straight up. Sycon could have sworn he heard a gasp from where the maid was sitting. He then reached to his sash bit it on both ends with his teeth making small rips, then with both hands tearing both of the ends off. He took these sash miniatures and tied them to his ankles, making the newly ripped robe more of a pair of pants. He made sure to fold them correctly so he wouldn't be flashing any skin from his ankles up. The fold would even hold during battle, but was elegant enough for dinner apparel. The robes hung on his form loosely enough for any priest to be pleased, but cut for a warrior to make long strides and quick evasions in.

The original sash was long almost to his shins, for was the style these days, but from the rips and the square knot he wove around his waist, it hung a square eight to ten inches on either side. The sleeves were next as he rolled them three times upon themselves to rest on his upper forearms. The neck was a bit tight though. His hands tore another small rip just below his throat to create a "V" that was rather more comfortable. Finally the boots. Sycon took great care as he felt let his feet glide in. Soft interior, and he bet they were warm. They fit his feet perfectly and this was a surprise considering his left foot was slightly bigger than his right, but not even enough to notice even when staring at them. He tucked the robes into the tops of the boots, along with the minisash, hiding it from sight.

"A pair of scissors perhaps?" He asked gingerly.

Startled by the question and quickly gaining back her composure, a quick "Aye m'lord" and she walked elegantly, swaying her hips, over to the small bedstand. She opened a small drawer and pulled out a pair of scissors and proceeded to sway her hips all the way to where Sycon stood. Sycon watched with delight, letting his face obviously show he was enjoying her subtle behavior. She handed him the scissors and promptly returned to her seat. Sycon's eyes danced with anticipation as he turned his attention back to his new outfit.

He cut the loose strings from the rips he had created. Making small folds and snips to make them close to tailor perfection, or at least look it. He half strutted over to the nightstand and placed the scissors on top of it. "I'm guessing I am supposed to head to the party then?" His head turned to the maid, catching her on her guard this time.

"Why yes, m'lord. But the party will last all night I'm told. You may go whenever you wish. But this is such a comfortable corner of the grounds, and a beautiful evening." Her words had an eagerness in them, almost luring him to stay.

"Really?" He turned completely toward the door and the maid beside it. Poised as best he could, he walked toward the door. The maid stood to her full height, a head shorter than Sycon. Her hair pitch black and shone off the evening light that played through the window. Her eyes were narrower than most and skin darker than his, but not by far. He stopped in front of the door, his right shoulder no more than a foot from her as she stared intensly at him. He turned to face her as she stepped into him. Her eyes closed and she leaned in to kiss him even before he had the inclination to do so himself.

Sycon always did love the agressive type... Agressive was the word he found as new thoughts caught the fringes of his mind. Between frustration and seemingly stubbornness, these thoughts reverberated around inside his skull. Someone was in the hallway, making a brisk pace and what seemed in a bit of a mood. Maybe anger, but moreso leaning toward determination. All these thoughts progressed in Sycon's head almost in a instant while the maid leaned even closer to his lips. Time almost stopped as the thoughts of this stranger and this lovely maid, and his alternatives calculated in his brain.

The thoughts he knew, as well as the stubborness. Sycon's lips met hers as he put one arm around her waist and his other opened the door soundlessly. Good, it opened to the outside. He faked being feint from 'falling from the sky' and stumbled out the door holding the maid with him. The door thudded into the figure that was passing by, knocking him to the wall opposite the door. Sycon nearly fell as well as the maid he held onto. He quickly righted himself before the stranger could and looked into his old pigheaded eyes. Pigheaded being a more crude comment that he had heard many women call him in the past. It meant being thicked headed or the like, or at least that was what he hoped.

A smirk ran across Sycon's lips as the maid stepped back as quickly as she could, trying not to look incriminating. Sycon stared at the stranger who righted himself quickly...and... was that a hand going toward a blade... Their gazes met, Sycon letting his smirk turn into a sly smile.

"Well, what have we here? Its been a long time Ardy."


Written by - Ardwen Page 7 Book 3

First to the larder for food, hopefully there he could pick up something to carry the food in as well, the leather backpacks they had in Aerynth were ideal, but who knows if they had something similar here? Money would be important too, regardless of the world no one went anywhere without a bit of gold to smooth the process. "I suppose I could make it without the money . . . but it'll make the whole thing a helluva lot more difficult . . ." Ardwen was so distracted by his own thoughts and planning that he did not see the door swinging open until it was too late.

Cursing himself for his laxity the door bumped him into the wall opposite, two figures stumbled out of the door, and Ardwen immediately knew one of them. There was simply no mistaking him, and the fact that he had a woman (didn’t he always?!) wrapped around him helped. The maiden, or at least Ardwen still assumed she was a maiden, quickly backed away from the Warlock and tried to make herself inconspicuous. Sycon quickly righted himself from his blunder through the threshold, Ardwen was in no hurry, and he wanted the Warlock to speak first. This could, he decided, be an excellent opportunity.

"Well, what have we here? Its been a long time Ardy." Ardwen winced at the old familiar abbreviation of his name, and for a brief instant his sword-arm twitched near one of his T’lnarions. He drew it away quickly, this opportunity may well be the last he had before departing, and he refused to botch it.

“Aye, too long Sycon, too long.” There was a brief pause before Ardwen continued, “It’s good to see you’re still hale. Renalis, that would be the mage that drained you at the portal casting, did a number on the mages it seems.” Another awkward pause, “If you’ve got a score to settle with him just let me know.” Ardwen waved a dismissive hand continuing, “But that’s all prattle. I’ve got important news to discuss with you Warlock, news that concerns us both. But not here, too many ears, come inside the room.”

Ardwen motioned for the mage to walk into the room he had just stumbled out of, the woman remained outside, and Ardwen closed the door behind him. The Elf took a position leaning against the wall opposite the Warlock and let out a long-held sigh, “I thought you were dead for so long. When I returned from Eglan Berriador and the traitors burned Ancora I couldn’t find you. How long have you been here? How did you get here?” Ardwen realized he was digressing from what he had come to say, so he spit it out all at once, “This world looks to be the final resting place of many of the Hands.”

Ardwen prattled on hurriedly now, a touch of excitement lining his voice, “If they’re not alive, then we may at least recover where they were buried. I don’t know much about this world, but I know that Mavigan’s rightful throne was usurped by this bloody round-eared bastard called uh . . . Beerandinner? Beriadin? Damn human names all sound alike to me. That’s not important, the important thing is he’s a fool that walks on sacred ground, and having him tread on the hallowed ground where our charges are interred is more than I can bear!”

Ardwen paused to take a breath and practically blurted out the following, “But there’s more! Alaric presented Turin’s blade to me! Turin Wallace! The Priest of Battle! There may still be hope for vengeance!” The warrior cleared his throat before saying carefully, “Of course, I won’t tell you what to do. But surely you see the importance of what has been laid before us? Westgale is a huge city, and we will have to contend with whatever an entire kingdom can throw at us. Avari taught me to expect war in all things, and I am rarely disappointed.” Ardwen looked intently at the Warlock, silently pleading he’d accept. His aid would be invaluable, and could be just the ticket in getting past Westgale’s defenses. The die had been cast, now for fate to either smile or frown.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

Kaya's coughing fits continued to echo down the halls. Leov kept checking over his shoulder as he and his friends moved steadily forwards. He fell ever more behind with each sound from behind him. "Kid... what's up? If you don't hurry the hell up, they're gonna catch us," Dom said in an almost pleading way. "She's not stopping..." Leov responded half to himself.

The four men stopped in their tracks and all looked towards Leov for his decision. "Leov... make the call, kid," Gilbert said, "We'll do whatever you need us to. Just tell us." Another echoing cough rang through the halls. "Dammit! Why are You forcing me into this!? Is it really so important that I be here?" He looked down at his muddy, weather beaten boots and sighed: "Gilbert... go find that Ithramir guy and tell him... or bring him back here... or something. Dom, Al... go get Josef before he gets us all in trouble, then just lay low for a bit." He started back towards Kaya's direction, vowing to himself "I will NOT let another person die without doing anything. If I can't save her... at least I can make sure she doesn't die alone..."

"He's going to kill himself if he keeps going like this," Gilbert said as he watched Leov head down the hallways and past the office. Dom and Alorya nodded in silent agreement. "C'mon fellas... this night's not over yet, and we've got a whole lot to do," Dom said as he clapped the Gilbery and Aloray on the back.

Written by - Kiradia Afirewen

Captain Lessler was in his tent, examining the region's maps while sipping some of the best wine in all of the area. He was thinking how much he hated having taking a job to such a remote village in the foothills when he hated the cold. He didn't like this camp in the gloomy woods marking the border between the middle of no where and the snowy plains where people lived. But it was a job, and a lot of money came with it. Money he could use to keep his band of mercenaries in line for a few more weeks.

Suddenly he heard movement outside the tent and two of his men walked in. With them they had a girl, one of the most beautiful young ladies he had ever seen. She was very young and frail, her skin pale and her robe in tatters. An expression of sheer terror was on her fair visage and she was shaking all over.

"Captain, we found this girl on one of the forest paths. It looks like she's been attacked, but she hasn't said a word. She's too terrified. She may not even speak our language."

"Interesting. Bring her some hot food and something to wear."

"Yes sir," the two men left and were soon back with what he had asked for.

Lessler observed the girl and could not avoid feeling affection towards her, for she reminded him of his sixteen year old daughter. He also noticed that she ate and drank very little and without enthusiasm; it was clear that she was still scared. The old soldier tried to calm her, speaking with a soft and warm tone of voice, "Do not be afraid. We are friends. Friends. What is your name?" The girl looked up at him and seemed to understand his words.

"Kira, me Kira." The Captain was relieved. He couldn't recognize her accent, but at least some communication was possible. "What happened to you?, where is your family? Mother, father?" With her innocent eyes open wide, she answered "Forest... monster... die, all die. Kira no die." and she started to cry, sobbing violently. Lessler was moved and decided to leave her alone for some time. He walked out into the red light of the setting sun and called the sergeant. “Kemmer, have the men raise a tent for our guest and double the guard tonight. She spoke of a ‘monster' and I'm afraid that one of the wolf packs that inhabit these forests has attacked the group she was traveling with. But it's best to be prepared for the worst It seems she's the only survivor."

"At once sir!"

Then the night came.

Lessler was woken up abruptly by a terrible scream that pierced the darkness. In a moment he was outside the tent, his sword ready. Where were the guards, he thought, and why had they allowed the camp fires to die out? He heard more shouting from the barracks and rushed in that direction. He entered the large tent cautiously and by the dim light of the braziers he could see that it was too late. His warriors were dead. Some bodies were still in their beds, their throats ripped open. Others lay on the floor, their bodies torn apart and dismembered, apparently by the talons of a creature of awesome strength. A Troll! No, impossible. One of those creatures couldn't possibly make its way into the camp stealthily enough to surprise these experienced warriors in their beds. What was it then? How could he fight it? The Captain's mind was overwhelmed by fear and anger. Then another thought hit him like a war hammer: the girl! He had to protect the girl. He started to run to her tent, but was stopped by a new series of cries, coming from the edge of the wood nearby. Some of the guards were still fighting and one of the voices was clearly female – she was there! He reached the tree line where he could clearly see a torch burning not far ahead. He headed for the light and almost trampled on the lifeless body of a guard. The girl was leaning against a tree, an arrow protruding from her shoulder. Her clothes were covered in blood, but she was still alive, that was the important thing. She looked at Lessler with hope, but immediately her eyes focused on something over his shoulder and she shouted "Behind you!" The mercenary turned, ready to fight, prepared to give his life to protect that innocent creature from such a terrible fate.

His eyes scanned the darkness for any trace of the monster, when another voice spoke from behind him, sending a shudder down his spine. It was the languid, sensual voice of a full grown woman, with an evil, ironical hint in her tone: "I told you it was behind you..."

Those words, and the feral snarl that followed them, were the last sounds that Captain Lessler was to hear in his life.

Written by - Tempyst

Kay lay on the mat, still coughing. She watched the men leave and yet, it still not cease. Is this the way it is going to be? I failed, so now, death will come for me. She closed her eyesand tried to think of anything other than what was happening right now, to see if she could get the invisible hands around her neck to let loose. She thought of home, for the first time in ages; the large expanses of sand, the wonderful lightning storms flashing through the sky. Then she thought of that man, Leov, the one that had made her go into this fit, but also the one who had held her close. It had been a long time since she had felt any compassion from anyone.

Then she heard her cell door open once more. Who is it now, the guards? So they can gladly watch me die? She opened her eyes and saw the one who had held her moments before, Leov, standing above her, concern filling his face. Kaya felt the grip on her throat lessen and the choking calmed some, but found she still was hardly able to catch breath. She looked up into his eyes, her breaths short and shallow, and for the first time, showed someone how scared she truly was.

Written by - Sycon

Ardwen went over his story quickly. First asking question then quickly reverting to the matter he held over top of all else. He was like a giddy schoolboy during recess.

Sycon absorbed all Ardwen had to say, keeping his smile throughout their encounter. He did not read the old elf's mind, for one, it would just be impolite. Another, he owed respect to his former commander of the Glen. Sycon had always remained loyal to the Hands and the Glen, even though he would sometimes wonder from their eyes and the eyes of everyone to take on the incognito of an errant house. This way he could...locate donations for their guild without fear of jealousy of other houses. Either way, Sycon always returned with presents for everyone and Ardy had never asked questions.

It seemed Ardwen was expecting full out war with a city. And he, or perhaps the Avari in him, was willing to take it on alone if need be. Sycon weighed the advantages and disadvantages in his head. Logistics always were worked quickly in his brain and apparently much faster than Ardwen's. Maybe it was bravery, but bravery alone never won a battle.

Sycon spoke with the same sly tone in his voice, "So you intend to take on a city by yourself? Would almost want to go with you just to see it," Sycon chuckled to himself. "You know, you always were the most impatient elf I've ever met. No matter how you put us 'round-ears' down, you sure have a few qualities of some. No offense meant, of course." Sycon was ready to roll with laughter at this, but he kept his composure only letting his smile become a bit broader. He knew Ardy hated being compared with any human, even Sycon which he'd known and trusted for years.

"If I'm to help you... which I figure I might be able to, seeing I would hate to see you interred with our fellow comrades... I might expect a few things from you if you wouldn't mind." Sycon waited for a second to see if Ardwen would interject, but all that came was silence. "Number one, lets at least make a plan first. Maybe get a layout of the city, and it doens't even have to be a detailed one. Two, maybe persuade another couple of people to come with us? I mean, if none will come we just have to be a bit more to the stealthy side than you would like...but we can at least try, no? Three, I know you hate social occasions, but I plan on having a hell of a time before I'm walking off to face an entire city with two people, soooo," Sycon's smile went from ear to ear as he could swear Ardwen almost dropped his head a little, "I am not wasting this party tonight." He turned his eyes to indicate outside the door and let a mental image of wine women and song drift to Ardwen's mind.

"I also forgot to mention these wonderful people," Sycon was saying this loud enough so if the maid outside was listening, she would surely pick this up, "that have helped me thus far without even knowing who I am. I mean, introducing myself might be a wise idea if I plan to return here. Managing I am able to stay alive long enough." He was tempted to throw in a 'we lost so many good men' for the maid outside, but decided against it.

"Oh, one last thing," Sycon dropped his smile into a mocking stern look, " I'm a warlock, but I have a name there Ardy. I mean, you can remember at least one 'round-ears' name can't you?"

Written by - Ardwen

Sycon presented his demands. While he had a somewhat abrasive manner, it was his precise and logical mind that Ardwen was relying on. There was, however, something the Warlock needed to be instructed upon, “Hear, hear!” Ardwen interjected immediately after Sycon inquired if he could remember one “round-ears” name. “It is considered proper in Avari to refer to a comrade by his profession. Normally I would give your title in Elven save, as you are doubtless aware, there are no Elven Warlocks.”

“However,” Ardwen began again, “your demands are certainly reasonable, definitely logical. A map will be a simple matter, this Citadel is doubtless crawling with books, archives, and whatnot. As for people, now there . . .” Ardwen paused to gesture at the surrounding room, “there I think I can answer for you. Do not be disappointed if we get no one. This world has too few good souls, such as we, methinks. Ithramir has his obligations here, as do his soldiers and aids. Isuiln is in the same boat as Ithramir doubtless. Tempyst faints too often, I don’t think the poor girl has the stomach for this really. Renalis, well, you’ve met him. He’s a strong mage and a fair swordsman, though I do not think him up to par with even a Jen’e’tai – no offense – but he probably has his own agenda.”

Ardwen rubbed his chin in thought as he tried to recall more names, “Wilhelm . . . now there’s an interesting one. God-slave to Pandarrion, but a powerful paladin – and he’d probably see the importance in what we’re doing to boot. Still . . . I’ve not seen him since arriving back at the Citadel. Trinni . . . grah, why’d her name come to mind? A decent archer I suppose but the girl gets on my nerves as easily as she plucks yew. Entirely too lighthearted, I doubt she could take a sword at her throat seriously. She’d probably run my ears raw with her trite morality when I start putting heads on poles. The girl has no gut for war! And she’s a bloody Elf!”

Ardwen let out an exasperated sigh and tossed both hands in the air helplessly, “See old friend? This is what we have to deal with! I haven’t even seen Mavigan since I got back, and this is her gods’ damned throne! Oh what I’d give for a single Avari legion! Or a bloody ten-day in charge of some of these milksop humans they try to pass as soldiers!” Ardwen let out a derisive snort, “Aye, aye though, go to your party and see who you can get – but I wouldn’t be too discouraged if we get no one mellonamin. I’m going to go get us a map of the actual city, ponder on a plan, and then I might join you to get drunk enough so that this simmering ocean of rage I call ‘being awake’ boils off some.” Ardwen let out a rough chuckle before turning to the door and looking at the mage once more, “Sound good to you?”

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

Leov stood there in shock as Kaya looked up at him, pleading almost. She appeared to be at death's door. "Again... it's happening again... everywhere I go..." Leov thought as he knelt down at Kaya's side.

"Don't go... please, please don't go. You're the only answer I have right now... so please don't go. This is my fault... I have to make amends for this. I... I can't have your blood on my hands, too." He held her close and whispered to her: "Please don't go. I can't... let it happen again."

Written by - Tempyst

I'm so scared; I can't die like this. Kaya then felt this stranger's arms pull her in close. "Don't go... please, please don't go. You're the only answer I have right now... so please don't go. This is my fault... I have to make amends for this. I... I can't have your blood on my hands, too. Please don't go. I can't... let it happen again."

Kaya's gasps started to grow slower and more shallow. She felt like she was wrapped up tight by a giant snake; ribs being crushed, all her life being squeezed away. She looked back up to Leov, seeing her fears mirrored in his face and eyes. "Not...your...fault...my own. I...I failed." she whispered, her head leaning upon his chest now. She gasped again as she felt the squeezing continue. I gave it my best, but still I fail. Beridane, Tahlon, you will still feel my vengence, even beyond death, you will feel it.

"Tell...me..." she whispered again, "...tell me about you, who ... who did you fail?"

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

"Tell...me..." she whispered again, "...tell me about you, who ... who did you fail?"

Leov closed his eyes and tried to ignore the pain from that question. "Everyone..." he whispered, "Everyone.... my wife, my friends, my contrymen. I had a part in all their deaths... I'm responsible for them. Their blood is on my hands... and the stains will never go away."

Written by - Tempyst

Inside the Black Dove, a favorite tavern of soldiers, human and elven alike, many who were at the battle that day sat and drank, not giving up their brief opportunity to relax. But many of the elves in the place were mulling over what they had witnessed earlier. Betrayal. One of the elves too a long draught, then leaned over the bar to the others with him."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..."

A human sailor next to them put down the bottle he was holding and spoke up. "Kaya?" He asked off-handedly.

"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. The human sat there for a moment, then stood up abruptly and walked outside without paying.

The elves shrugged. The first one who spoke thought a bit more. "Yes, Kaya'Talas is her name. She was a hero in the homeland, helping our cause here. But it seems all along it was nothing but a joke. SHE is the reason I came over there. I heard her talk about how much Ithramir needed our help, and how if the elven race were to live on we needed to open our minds and explore new lands, meet and embrace new people and their culture." The elf spit on the floor.

Another one stood up and shouted. "THAT's the witch who tried to kill Ithramir?" The grumbles in the bar began to rise up dramatically.

"She's the reason I am here too! Was it all lies!"

"Damn the bitch!" The sound of the drunken voices rose even more.

"She's why I've not seen my wife!"

The first elf chugged the rest of his drink, a look of anger and betrayal on his face. "I don't know about the rest of you, but I am not going to let her get some sort of pardon. She lied to us and others! She tried to kill our commander AND she is in leage with demons! If she is left alone, more will come. SHE MUST BE DEALT WITH." A roar of aggreement went through the bar. "ALL WHO ARE WITH ME...LET US GO!" The elf placed some money on the table then staggered out the door. A dozen other elves followed him towards the stockades, determined to seek their revenge.

Written by - Rikshanthas

Lienad listened until the sound of footsteps could be heard nearing his location, then decided discretion was the better part of valor. He exited as swiftly and quietly as possible, then raced back toward the main hall. If he called the guards things would probably get ugly fast, and Lienad didn't want a confrontation - corpses were rather uncommunicative. Better to get the top dog himself, Lienad decided; the Avatar might be a little more ... persuasive than a platoon of guards. And that woman's coughing sounded serious, seemed callous of the elves to leave one of their own down in a cell in that condition, regardless of what she was charged with. May as well get Shara, she wanted to talk to the woman anyway and that might be difficult if she choked to death.

Lienad's mind continued to run over what he had understood of the illicit conversation as he entered the hall; while his entrance was not the most discreet, all eyes seemed to be on the center of the hall for the dancing, so few took note of the slightly-dusty human's arrival. It wasn't hard to locate the commander - he was in the middle of the square, dancing with a fire-haired beauty, what was her name? Lint, Lithium ... something starting with an L. Shrugging to himself, he quickly scanned the crowd until he saw Shara dancing with Sir Mathell, near the south end, and moved to meet them when they stepped off the square. An odd feeling seeped into him at the sight of the two together - jealousy? Nah, couldn't be ...

He had just reached them when all eyes went to the center of the square, as Ithramir drew everyone's attention. As the elflord went down on one knee before his lady, Lienad deftly - and completely innocently, nothing proprietary about it - inserted himself between Shara and Mathell with a word of greeting, putting an arm around Shara's shoulders and squeezing lightly. Sir Mathell nearly laughed aloud; his eyes were dancing as he greeted his old friend, saying, "I was wondering if you'd gotten lost, and I would have to keep this young lady company all evening ..." Lienad's eyes flashed before he realized his former mentor was ribbing him, and he actually blushed. He withdrew his arm from Shara's shoulders, chuckling softly in embarrassment, then straightened. "Wish I could while away the evening but we have to be quick," he said quietly, the tone of his voice alerting them both to trouble. "Shara, I need your help; we need to get down to the prison level, and quickly. Mathell, can you tell Ithramir to meet us there as soon as he can get away from ..." he jerked his thumb at the crowd of people who would no doubt soon swarm the couple regardless of the lady's answer. "We may have a jailbreak on our hands, and I'm sure the commander will agree, quietly and without blood would be better than having a detachment of guards charge in." With no further explanation, leaving Sir Mathell to explain the matter to Ithramir, he pulled Shara out into the now-clear night. As they darted toward the stockade Shara asked, "well what do you want me to do? In case you didn't notice I'm unarmed?"

"Not looking for a fight, I just want to make sure they don't escape; and well, you're a healer and there's a woman down there who needs help, the sooner the better," Lienad answered. "I just hope Ithramir can slip out after that fireball," he muttered.

Written by - Sycon

"Me brash? Nah old chap," throwing in an accent he couldn't even remember where he had heard it, "That'd be dandy."

Sycon reminded himself to forget all about this campaign tonight and let Ardwen do all the work. Seemed logical enough to him, considering he was planning to get so drunk he couldn't help, or perhaps just to busy to notice anything else. All work and no play makes Sycon a dull warlock.

"Ardwen, just remember when recruiting people. TRY to be friendly or at least in need. Remember that they are actual people that have names. I know that Avari place that is omnipresent in your mind...but you are not there anymore. I know its a hard task to do to remember that, seeing we are here. But one has to face it soon enough. If against your morals or not, consider it." Sycon hoped he had not offended the old elf too much. It was very straight forward, but hopefully the friendship they shared long ago would endure.

"Now, if you would excuse me. I have business to attend to." He hurridly shuffled Ardwen out of the room before he could get off a full sentence and shut the door. Remembering the maid outside, he opened the door again to see Ardwen staring confusedly at the maid wondering why he had been shut out with her. Before this effect wore off he pulled the maid inside the chamber and shut the door again.

Now that the maid was with him, her still being as confused as before, he instructed her. "Now, the elf you just saw is a good man, stern-hearded and thick headed, but a good," Sycon remembering Ardwen was no man, "elf none the same." He paused for a second to take a breath and went on. "I need a couple of things from you. I know you must have a small store somewhere of clothes or where would you have plucked these out for me. I know no seamstress was able to do this quick and fine of a job. Find a what a woman going to this party tonight would need. She is about your size. While you are gone I'll find her and bring her here. Now if you'd be quick about it." The maid looked almost devasted but angry, but tried to keep her face straight as she left the room.

Sycon stayed in the room until she returned a few minutes later with these things. I suppose she expected to find no one here, but was surprised to find Sycon near the door. "Now, you'd please freshen up and put these on we can make out way to the party. I'll wait in the chamber opposite of this one." He promptly left the room, seeing her almost stunned and found himself in the chambers across the hall which looked much like the one he had just left.

She was a maid none the less, but some of the best people, in his opinion, were commoners. She was very pretty, though a bit diry, she would clean up very nicely. Put her in a dress and she would very quickly be mistaken for a princess of the eastern world. Sycon felt a quick shiver of excitement run down his back.

Written by - Tempyst

Kaya heard the pain in his voice. "Everyone..." he whispered, "Everyone.... my wife, my friends, my contrymen. I had a part in all their deaths... I'm responsible for them. Their blood is on my hands... and the stains will never go away."

She felt the invisible snake around her squeeze tighter, making each breath painful and precious. It made speech near impossible, but she was not going to give up, not now. "I...I failed...too...I'm soaked...in blood...your...not alone." She gulped for some air, closing her eyes for a moment, feeling so lightheaded. She opened them back up with some effort, for her eyelids were begining to feel like dead weight.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

Lucant could barely make out what Erruno was yelling as he lay there on the small cot. He hung between life and death on a small thread of Fate. He did not know where he was, what had happened, nor the condition he was in. Bahataru's mind-warping magic had seen to it.

"For the love of the goddess, shut up old man," a fiery young woman yelled from the other side of infirmary. She had been tending to the wounded sailors that had been brought in by the Sea Elf warriors. She immediately stood up and stormed over towards him. "Well, get out of the way if you want me to help him!" Humbled, Erruno stepped aside and let the woman come go to Lucant's side. She removed the long red coat she was wearing and tossed it to a large barrel chested man who was standing nearby. "Give that back to Leov," she ordered as she knelt by Lucant's side. She pulled back her long black hair and looked him over. A moment passed, then she spoke "There's nothigh I can do. This is beyond me." A deep sigh escaped her lips before placed her hand gently upon his Lucant's fevered brow. Again, he called Tempyst's name. Erruno, Baldwin, and Doram closed their eyes and bowed their heads in silent desperation.

Meanwhile, William quickly made his way to the Temple Row, frantically searching for an experienced healer. Always one to keep a clear head, even in a situation as dire as what he was facing now, he sprinted up the steps to the Temple of Nagarren. Inside, the temple was nearly deserted - everyone, it seemed was at the victory celebration. He quickly glanced over the temple, then his eyes came to rest on a young blond priestess, dressed in pink, and kneeling in front of the enormous statue of Nagarren in silent prayer and contemplation. William came up quietly behind her and knelt down: "Beg your pardon priestess, but there is a man who desperately needs your aid." The young priestess jumped, clearly startled. She stood up then turned to face William: "What do you mean soldier?" "Beg pardon again Your Grace. The Demonslayer... the hero who saved Lord Ithramir... something horrendous has happened to him. He is at Death's door, Your Grace. Please, you must help him," William pleaded. "Of course soldier. He cannot be allowed to perish so soon. I have been fasting recently and I am not yet at full strength, but I will do what I can," she said with a bow. The two exited the great temple and hurried towards the citadel's infirmary.

As the infirmary's doors slowly creaked open, everyone at Lucant's side looked toward it, hoping that someone would walk through it that would be able to help him. "Who is she," Erruno questioned out loud. "My name is Alulael, captain, a priestess of Nagarren. I am here to help this man." Erruno blushed, a bit embarassed by his brashness. "I'm sorry. Just... you gotta help him," he said. She said nothing, but stepped confidently forward to Lucant's side, and assessed his condition. Taking a deep breath, she closed her eyes and began to pray to Nagarren, opening the link her goddess.

A moment passed as Alulael continued praying and chanting. Then Lucant's shattered body began to glow with a faint white light that steadily became brighter. The broken bones and numerous gashes began to mend themselves with Nagarren's divine aid. Alulael began to sway, then fell to the ground. "Forgive me," she said weakly. "I am not yet strong enough. He... he is not fully healed, but he will live. I was able to heal the serious injuries, or at least ease them some." She was referring, Erruno believed, to the terrible gash on Lucant's left eye - it had ceased bleeding and had healed a good deal, but the damage done was still severe. "Thank you, Your Grace. Please, get some rest. You have done a great deed, Erruno said, helping her up.

Written by - Tempyst

Time passed in the Elder Sleep. How much time Tempyst did not know, nore did she find herself caring. Her time was filled with lessons from wisened, elder druids of days past, those that had served Nyrondis with honor and were given positions as his councelors. One by one she listened to what they had to say, practiced what they taught, grew in her understanding of the life and earth she would go back to. But once again, she found herself empty. Often, she would find her thoughts drifting back to the living world, thinking of Lucant.

Nyrondis appeared to Tempyst again and sat with her within the great oak. "You are distracted young one. Most who come here are free from worries while in the Elder Sleep. Could it be that all of this is not what you truly want?"

Tempyst looked at him. "Oh my Father, my lord, that is not true. You, serving you, doing your work...you are my life Nyrondis. Your way is my way. I could not bear to be without your guidance or trust..."

"But?"

"But my lord, my heart still thinks of Lucant. I know what A'lanthear told me, what you told me of our bonding, of our feelings. But, if it was never meant to be, then why do I miss him so? Why do I wonder why he left the grove? It, it could not have been just manipulation that brought us together. I was told the one I had always dreamt about was actually my father, not my soul mate. But if that is true, why do I ache as I do, even here, within your embrace, a place where I should feel whole and at peace at?" Tempyst sighed, feeling embarrassed now at her outburst to her god.

Nyrondis only smiled and took the yound druid's hand. "This is why I have chosen you dear one. Your faith, your love, the hope you carry within you. Even through all that you have been though in this short time, still, you think about those around you, those you love. you hold onto what you believe. You are strong, stronger than you even know you are. With this strength, will come great trials, many of which will test your faith and love."

"And I will face those tests with faith and courage Nyrondis. I, just hope I do not have to face them alone when I return to the waking world."

"I wish I could tell you what you wish to hear, but I can't. Only Lucant knows what he feels. He is the one that holds the answers. But let me tell you this. Be true. Be yourself. Find strength within the saddness you may face. Follow your heart, but also, know when to let go." Nyrondis stood and held out a hand to Tempyst. As she took his hand and stood, he smiled once more. "When you leave this sleep, you will have new understandings of the waking world. You will have new powers and new weaknesses. But always remember, I am here and you are loved, and thus, you are never truly alone." Nyrondis then let go of her hand and faded out of sight.

Tempyst took a deep breath, thinking of all her god had said to her. I have much to ponder during the rest of my time here. I only hope, it is not too late when I return. As she stepped back into the darkness to continue her lessons, she called out into the nothingness. "Please come back Lucant. Please."


Written by - Ardwen Page 8 Book 3

“Me brash? Nah old chap," That'd be dandy." Sycon said. Ardwen was more puzzled by Sycon’s assumed accent than what he said.

"Ardwen,” the Warlock began again, “just remember when recruiting people. TRY to be friendly or at least in need. Remember that they are actual people that have names. I know that Avari place that is omnipresent in your mind...but you are not there anymore. I know its a hard task to do to remember that, seeing we are here. But one has to face it soon enough. If against your morals or not, consider it."

"Now, if you would excuse me. I have business to attend to." And with that the mage rushed Ardwen out the door, where the warrior saw the maid he’d shut the door on still standing there, looking perplexed. Ardwen turned to go, but before he had taken two steps the door opened again and Sycon ushered the woman inside the room. Ardwen merely shook his head in consternation, Sycon had obviously not lost his “taste” since he’d last seen him.

The problem of procuring a map was, as Ardwen had expected, a minor thing. A few quick questions had him sitting at a large wooden table covered in old parchments. Ardwen handled each document gingerly, his hands still covered in their protective gauntlets, could easily fill the fragile documents with tears and holes if he were not cautious. After a few minutes of shifting through the array of paper Ardwen found his target, a detailed breakdown of Westgale’s municipal districts. Ardwen could not restrain a cold grin from growing on his face, he positioned the candles on the table to provide better lighting and set to studying the map with all the longing hunger of a wolf staring at a wounded fawn.

Westgale proved, however, to be no fawn. The city’s defenses were considerable: thick walls, towers, grain and foodstuff silos, strong gates to bar any easy entrance, and probably much more. Ardwen sighed and ran his thumb and index finger along his chin, the metal of his gauntlets rubbing against his flesh. “The problem,” The Elf muttered aloud to himself, “is that a survey of this city showing all of its defenses and surprises most likely doesn’t exist. Only an idiot ruler would allow such detailed schematics to circulate knowingly. Still, I’ll have to consider the place under heavy guard as well, garrisoned to the brim. This morsel will be a difficult little nut to crack . . .”

Ardwen let his hand fall to the table with a resounding thud, but his eyes remained transfixed to the map. He had to take into consideration every contingency, but he had little to work with. The city was strong, but strong cities had fallen before to Avari hands, there had to be some manner of common link here, something he could exploit. The city was strong, but the soldiers that guarded it, now there, there might be a different story. The men who stood watch on the walls and gates would be men like any other: they would likely be underpaid, overworked, or better yet – disloyal.

Ardwen’s mind began to hatch a scheme now, one that revolved on the very girl he’d criticized not too long ago. Mavigan. The last heir to her line. Surely there were still sympathizers in the city, surely at least one man on that stout wall was at this very moment imagining how much better life would be without the inept little man who now occupied the throne. If his heart did not stir for Mavigan then certainly the prospect of removing that which he loathed would prove almost too enticing to ignore. And all Ardwen would ask in return is that he forget to leave a gate locked, or a little extra laxity on his vigilance. Ardwen’s grin matured into a smile full of malice, it was a damn fine plan!

Ardwen began to roll up the parchment to present to Sycon so he too could study it. The mage might come up with another idea, it certainly could not harm their chances. Ardwen let out a slight derisive scoff, sometimes he thought Sycon relied too much on complex plans and complicated duplicity. Ardwen knew the value of a good plan, but he knew the value of fervor and zeal more. What was inside that city was worth more to him then anything else in this, or any other, world. “And by the Abbess herself,” Ardwen said, his voice low with menace and severity, “I will enter this damned city even if I can do nothing more than laud their graves. Whatever the cost. Whatever the reckoning. I don’t care if I have to kill every filthy human in this world and make a ramp out of their stinking mongrel corpses to-“

Ardwen paused and took careful note of what he had just said. He rolled it over carefully in his mind. It was not a bad plan. “I could pile the corpses so high as to merely climb onto the walls,” he began slowly, “Sycon could move them there with his magic, or we could use the corpses themselves as shields while we construct the ramp. Such a sight would likely cripple the morale of any guards, and the sheer macabre spectacle, not to mention the smell, would mean any weak-stomached fool would be in no condition to fight. Plague might even sweep the city if I’m really fortunate! I wouldn’t have to risk using Mavigan’s name and possible betrayal. Why it’s . . . brilliant!” Ardwen’s smile returned, for a plan of this magnitude and genius could only be concocted by such a versatile warrior as himself. Gripping his new map carefully Ardwen walked off, having satisfied the map and plan portion of Sycon’s demands, Ardwen set out to find the party.

It was, as it turned out, even easier to find than the map. The guests seemed oddly silent, certainly a great deal more so than the Elf would expect from drinking and jubilation. Sticking to one of the outside corridors, Ardwen could see the head of every man, woman, and child swiveled as if to focus on an object of shared fascination. Ardwen could not see what was so interesting, but he recalled Sycon's advice to be affable, and breaking such silence would likely be frowned upon. A small wait for a strong drink, he decided, would not kill him.

Written by - Ariana

THWACK!

The sound of a stick striking the trunk of a tree with great force rang out through the forest. This sound was then followed by angry stomping of feet and general grumbling.

“Pompous, arrogant, bastard”, came the low muttering.

THWACK! The much abused stick struck angrily at another unsuspecting and innocent tree.

Mavigan’s voice took on a high, mocking tone. “Perhaps if you can prove your worthiness….”

The bush next to the previously unsuspecting tree suddenly took an undeserved thrashing.

“I’ll show….” There was an odd pause in the tirade that had obviously continued for some time if the trail of battered bushes and trees was any indication. In fact, if anyone were to follow the trail, it would lead directly back to the source of Mavigan’s frustration, calmly sitting on a log. She had not dared use her one question, feeling sure that if she used it now, she would only wish she had it later. Instead she had studied each of the plants on display with tight-lipped intensity. Then, without a word, she had turned and headed out into the forest. Once out of ear-shot, the angry litany had begun, only interrupted by impressive THWACKING and the occasional find.

“Oh look,” she said, then stooped down and began digging in the dirt, her trusty stick being used as a trowel. “Here’s the last!”

She pulled out a bronzeleaf, its metallic coloring glinting in the weak light. Unsure of how much of the weed she was to retrieve, she grabbed two handfuls and added them to the noticeably large pile of vegetation she held captive in the upturned hem of her shirt. Since Teran had not specified how much of each plant he wanted, she had gathered as much as she could find.

Finally satisfied she had completed her task, she stood, readjusted her burden, and hurriedly stepped back the way she came. It wasn’t long before she stumbled into the small clearing where he had stationed himself. Walking up to his seated form, she promptly tipped open her shirt, dumping the entire contents into his lap.

“Here are your damn weeds,” she said, stepping back and doing her best to brush the dirt and small bugs off the front of her shirt. "What do we do with them now?"

Written by - Ardwen

Ardwen squinted. It was not for want of vision, but because of pain. For some reason, the Elf’s temples had begun to throb, sending waves of dull but annoying tension racing through his head. Shaking his head in a vain attempt to dispel the sudden headache, Ardwen found it only intensified. “The hell?” He muttered softly as he raised a hand to massage his aching head.

The instant the Elf’s hand reached his head his world went white.

It remained that way too, a vast blank field without a single characteristic to break its snowy hegemony. Ardwen felt as if he were falling, but his environment did not lend itself to detecting motion, there was only the acute and unnerving feeling that there was nothing beneath him and he was spiraling downward to some unknown end.

As suddenly as the vision of a white void had begun though it ended. Instead, Ardwen found his eyes filled with the fantastic vision of a great city: paved streets, houses and mansions, a proud dock jutting out into a choppy sea. Still, something nagged at the edge of the Elf’s mind even as he beheld the grand city, like some invisible miasma clouded his every sight. As Ardwen looked closer he could see trash lining some of those streets, some of the buildings had busted windows or broken doors, many appeared to be vacant.

Suddenly the scene changed again, this time to a narrow stone corridor cloaked in darkness. A few sputtering candles were the only source of light. Ardwen’s “vision” rushed through the corridor, and into a dank and gloomy little holding cell connected to it. At first Ardwen could see nothing but more shadow, but either by some trick of the bizarre vision or by virtue of his keen eyes, the scene inside the tiny cell slowly filtered into focus.

It was his greatest fear. Ardwen tried to jerk aside his head, to squeeze his eyes shut, to move his hands to block his sight, but he could do nothing but look helplessly on. He looked at her, alone, trapped, and abandoned in some gods-forsaken little corner of the world. Bright red scratches crossed parts of her body where her robes had been torn, but they did not seem to concern her. She sat unmoving, the only motion giving credence to life still being in her frame was the slight stirring of breath every few seconds.

Ardwen tried to shout her name, tried to reach a hand forward, tried to do anything, something. He knew he was not really there and was merely observing, but it did not stop him from trying. His efforts met with a voice booming through his mind that plunged everything back into an immutable field of white, “You wish to stand on your own, but how can you do this when you have already fallen? Show me. Show me if you can still stand.”

Ardwen thought in reply, “I’ll show you more than that. I’ll show you what it’s like to be the last one standing!”

With that Ardwen found himself back in the Citadel, and back in his own body. He was on one knee, and one hand was pressed to the floor as if to lend support. The warrior rose quickly, barely noting as those who had seen him sink as if to kneel breathed a sigh of relief. Ardwen’s other hand clasped the map he had brought for Sycon, he unfurled it, and found something strange.

The map he had in his hand was the one showing the way to Westgale, the one he had left behind. But, the warrior was certain the map he had brought with him had been the one showing a detail of Westgale itself. It had been what Sycon requested after all! “Pandarrion . . .” Ardwen muttered, but for the first time in many years no invectives followed that word. It was most likely Pandarrion that he had to thank for that vision, and regardless of the cause, either divine or a simple lax memory; Ardwen had the map he needed to guide him to Westgale on hand. To the ancient warrior, his path was all too clear.

Silently he left the hallway and the party behind, without a single word or stop he arrived at one of the portcullises out of the Citadel. Even with festivities going on, and the fact that by now he surely must have been known within the Citadel itself Ardwen was still halted at the gate. An Elf emerged from a small guardhouse near the gate and said, “Where are you off to friend, and at such a hour? Evening has all but faded, but from what I hear the party is yet young.”

Ardwen saw no reason to lie to the guard, “I’m going to Westgale.”

The Elf let out a short laugh before countering with, “A good joke you have swordsman. Westgale is not an inviting place for those who fight on the young queen’s side. You’d be inviting grave danger just by going there, what is it you truly want?”

Ardwen raised one eyebrow quizzically, “I want power enough to withstand the whims of gods and fate. Failing that, I want to go to Westgale.”

This time there was no laugh from the other Elf, merely a sigh, “I’d say you have more hope of achieving the first of those than the later, do you even know how to get there? No offense friend, but if the rumors in the barracks are true there are human children that know more of this land’s geography than you.”

A rueful smile crossed Ardwen’s lips as he responded, “A human child you say? What other hurtful things do you all whisper about in your damn quarters? Well, the child may know more, but I’m not above cheating.” With that Ardwen produced the map he had kept concealed in his cloak. Unrolling it for the guard to see.

The Elf looked at it and nodded a few times before saying, “This is one of the Citadel’s maps.”

“I’ll return it. If I don’t it’s because I’m dead, I figure I’ll have more to worry about than a missing map then.”

The guard shook his head before saying, “A map is fine, but if you don’t know the way . . . wait right here.” With that he withdrew back into the little stone lodging, a few minutes passed before he came back out carrying a small leather pouch with a long sling attached to it. “You’ll find a compass in this. It’s a basic one, but it should keep you pointed in roughly the right direction. If I were you I’d also ask for directions to make sure my course stayed true – Westgale is a big city, and I’d wager every human from here to it knows some way of getting there. Nothing else in the bag, though you can keep the pouch.”

Ardwen accepted it with a curt nod, “I will return all of this should I live.”

The other Elf merely smiled, but his smile was tinged with sadness, “I’m not counting on it, which is why you’re getting nothing fancy – we don’t have resources to waste on suicide missions.” The guard ushered Ardwen through the gate, bid him good luck, and went back in side. The resounding echo of the gate closing and the bolt being rendone quickly left the air, and Ardwen was on his own.

With a brief look at his map, and after spinning the compass around a few times he took his first few steps toward his final destination. “Ariana.” He spoke to the night wind, and then all words failed him.

Written by - Teran

"We sort them" Teran offers her a handful of herbs (A very small amount compared to what was left in his lap).

He began sorting the herbs with practiced ease and after about five minutes he had three neat piles stacked on top of his cloak which he had spread out across the ground.

"After we sort them, we dry them."

He pulls what appears to be a simple pouch off of his belt and begins putting his herbs inside individually. Two things seemed odd about the pouch, first it did not seem to grow as he filled it to what should have been its capacity. The second was that a moment after Teran closed the pouch he opened it and began removing the herbs but now they were dry and brittle. He stacked the dry herbs where they had once been and began filling the pouch with the next pile. Once he had dried all his herbs he handed the pouch to Mavigan and indicates that she should try it for herself.

"I am surprised you applied yourself so enthusiastically to gathering these materials." he says with a thin smile "perhaps you have earned two questions."

He removes a mortar and pestle from his pack and begins grinding his dried herbs into powder.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

Erruno helped the young priestess to the door, where two initiates where waiting to take her back to the Temple to rest. With a deep sigh of relief, he bid her farewell and thanked her again before closing the oaken door and walking quickly back to the small stool beside Lucant's cot. Sitting down with a grunt, he looked over at Lucant's still battered body. He did look better, Erruno, thought; at least he would make it through the night. Another weak cry of "Tempyst..." escaped his lips as he lay there. It then suddenly dawned on Erruno that she was no where to be found. He remembered the two of the locked in each other's arms just before departing for Minas Aure. Surely, he thought, she would want to be here at his side. "Hey, you three... go down the Sacred Grove place all the druids are at... ask around for a girl named Tempyst." Doram immediately stood up and replied "Yes captain." The others quickly followed him out the door. Looking over at Lucant again, he thought of the two young lovers, and said to him "You can't die just yet kiddo, you've got too much to live for."

Lucant, however, was reliving his experiences of the past few days, both pleasant and terrible.

First, he remembered the horror and carnage he had seen at Minas Aure - impaling an orc on A'lanthear, Lienad being thrown like a rag doll against the citadel walls, Kaya's hideous transformation, and the one memory he wished he didn't have... Tirigil's sacrifice.

Then his thoughts changed to those of his home in Almurad; the day his father had dropped dead in his tracks at the lord's manor; the grief and sorrow that consumed his mother for two years before taking her as well; the day the magistrate's tax men stole his whole world from him.

Then he found himself at the doorstep of his oldest and dearest friend, the one familiar thing in an increasingly unfamiliar world. She wasn't the same person either, though. For better or worse, Lucant knew his life would never be the same again.

Then came an unfamiliar, altogether strange expereince. He found himself standing in a vast snowy field surrounded by snow capped trees. He was holding a great sword that, while entirely unfamiliar, felt like an extension of himself. A terrible piercing howl shot forth from the forest as an enormous black skinned monster charged forth at him. He raised the sword to block the monster's falling claw. As it came down, darkness engulfed him.

Thankfully, his next memories were more pleasant: first he was under the massive tree at the stables again, just before he had departed for Minas Aure, locked in Tempyst's arms. Then he thought of the night the two of them had spent together, then of their wedding and soul-binding. Finally he thought of when he had waited for her at the massive oak in the citadel's park.

He wanted to stay with these memories, these happy experiences forever, but the darkness overtook him once more.

Written by - Kiradia Afirewen

Life offers happiness… fulfillment… peace. Fate however, offers glory, eternal greatness, and the knowledge that you made a difference in the world. It is ironic then, that Fate is also the one who snatches everything that she offers away time and time again. And when Life turns away from those who turned to Fate, what does that leave left for that poor soul?

Revenge, anger, hate, all the dark emotions that a moral society tells us to keep away from; such emotions are the fuel of those who have nothing left. Such a one was the young girl who sat on an ornately carved throne. Inside a bleak, stone fortress Kiradia Afirewen spoke to a large gathering of men and women within the Fortress’ receiving hall.

“Brothers and Sisters, I welcome you to your new home. In the coming months we will be beginning a new way of life for this region. Forging a new empire that will make this land prosperous again, you all have seen the devastation that has near destroyed this land.”

Looking over the crowd as she paused she saw in more than one persons eye the spark of glory. These people are afraid for their life, and are willing to believe in something more than themselves.

“But I say that this plague does not need to continue, I have seen visions, visions of a wondrous and glorious city erected around this very fortress. A place of happiness and eternal greatness. It is within our reach and I ask that all of you join me in making it a reality.”

Kiradia knew she had won the crowd over with that last little lie of hers. Oh, there would be glory to be sure, but not the kind they expected. No, the only glory to be found would be a pyre of burning corpses, given up to the Dragon and the end of all things, such that even the ideas of life were no more.

However, the people did not know what dark thoughts coursed through Kiradia’s mind, and they cheered her, believing she would deliver them from the horrors they had witnessed these past weeks*.

In the few weeks sense Kiradia’s spell had begun, the land for miles around had become wild. Untamed forests sprouted almost faster than people could cut them down; the animals became more and more ferocious.

Looking over the crowd again, Kiradia asked a question, “Who among you is strong enough to see this dream through? Who among would be willing to walk through fire, and death, and suffering?”

A hush came over the crowd as people stopped cheering, before they had not understood what it would take, the sacrifices that would be asked of them. They thought only of the moment, and not of the hard future. But now Kiradia brought those thoughts to the front, and waited for one to answer her question.

****

Kiradia is atcually a few weeks behind the rest of the thread right now.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

“Who among you is strong enough to see this dream through? Who among would be willing to walk through fire, and death, and suffering," the young girl asked in a strong, steady voice.

Alarin looked around and saw his friends and family filled with a new strength. For once, they were not afraid of the creeping darkness that had infected their lands. Kiradia had offered them strength, protection, courage, and most of all, purpose.

He stepped forth and knelt down before Kiradia. "I will my Lady. I will suffer any pain to save this land and her people. Allow me to be your sword and your shield, my Lady. I swear to serve you well."

Written by - Ariana

Mavigan sat cross-legged on the ground and watched with keen eyes as Teran shifted the herbs around. Secretly, she preened under his praise, oddly happy she had pleased him, but she carefully guarded this response, not wanting to tip Teran off about her glee.

As she watched him deftly sort herbs, his motions tugged at some fragment of memory. Chasing it, she realized that his attention to detail and the respectful way in which he handled the plants reminded her of the many gardeners at the Castle. The Ancoran gardens were quite extensive requiring year-round care. As a child, she would often approach one gardener or another begging for the chance to help him or her dig in the dirt. The care with which they handled plants, the nimbleness of their fingers as they pulled weeds from the earth, and the swiftness with which they managed to harvest good plants from bad all seemed to be replicated before her very eyes in Teran. She idly wondered if he had a garden he tended at home, assuming he had a home.

Putting idle speculations aside, she mimicked his actions, quickly sorting the small pile he had handed her, and then drying them in the magical pouch. It really was a nifty little gadget, she thought. The uses for such a thing out in the wilderness were innumerable, and she wondered if it could dry meat as fast as it did herbs. If it belonged to anyone but Teran, she would certainly be tempted to steal it.

Alas, the pouch did belong to Teran, and Mavigan reluctantly handed it back to him after drying her own pile of herbs. As she waited for her chance to grind the herbs to powder, she contemplated asking him a question. After all, she now had two and it still didn’t seem fair that he knew so much about her, but she knew practically nothing about him. Deciding to take a chance, she asked, “So how old are you really?”

Written by - Archeantus

Cold rain pelted a lone figure on the muddy road to Ancora. The air was crisp and cool, the dark grey clouds that loomed far overhead, as far as the eye could see, seemed to come down and touch the earth, creating a white mist across the sweeping countryside. It was still there on the road, silent except for the rain’s soft pattering. The figure was alone, walking slowly along the street, a long stave in its firm hand. Far beyond those mists, through the grey gloom, Archeantus paused in his march to lift his head toward the dark looming silhouette of Ancora through the vapor. He lifted his free arm to pull his hood from his face. The old grey cloth that was wrapped around his eyes began to take in the rain. Though he could not see Ancora’s walls, he stood there in the rain, his face firmly directed toward it’s spires, it’s massive walls, it’s people. The small glowing ember that hovered sporadically around him seemed to fly about more energetically.

“We are near?” He asked out loud, his voice was tired, raspy, but hopeful. A long wait had finally come to an end.

He seemed to receive an answer; his lips formed a slight smile. The ember fluttered inches away from the graying wet hairs of the old warlock, and began to fly around in excited twists and dives around his feet.

“Patience my friend.” He said with a chuckle. “My feet can only travel so fast.”

The ember flew up to head level and cycled around his stave.

“No, my powers are not be used for my own gain.”

The ember seemed to drop slightly in altitude and then spin about in every possible way as if in exasperation. It then shot up in the air as if to see Ancora’s spires better.

A creased smile was on Archeantus’ lips now as he again walked forward through the rain.

*****

It wasn’t long until he found himself standing upon the large cobbled road that led directly up toward the two massive wooden doors of Westgale. Upon the wooden doors was a large ornate bronzed symbol of a candle encircled in steel. The symbol, its meaning emblazed yet forgotten to those who now inhabited it's walls for it appeared so old, ancient even, it seemed to blend in with the damp wood of the large doors. The doors were closed; the city was no longer open to those who had a will to enter. He paused again, his head bowed slightly. The two guards watched the lone man from the entrance. Soon they found themselves looking at one another as the man continued to stand there for a long while in the rain.

Finally one of them spoke up, calling out, “Hey, you there! Be on your way, the city is closed by order of King Beridane.”

The other guard, following his friend’s lead, called out, “Move on, or we’ll be forced to tax you.” A sickly grin appeared on the guard’s face as he pulled his sword from its sheath.

The man, at the sound of the guard’s voice, lifted his head and directed it toward the two guards. The man’s sightless gaze quickly unnerved them, and then the man’s head seemed to shake as if in shame of the comments. Not another moment passed and the man suddenly flew into the air through the rain, a slight glow emanating around the man’s head, and over the towering walls, disappearing into the fog.

The two guards stood there, and blinked, forgetting they had ever seen him.

Written by - Archeantus

Cold rain pelted a lone figure on the muddy road to Ancora. The air was crisp and cool, the dark grey clouds that loomed far overhead, as far as the eye could see, seemed to come down and touch the earth, creating a white mist across the sweeping countryside. It was still there on the road, silent except for the rain’s soft pattering. The figure was alone, walking slowly along the street, a long stave in its firm hand. Far beyond those mists, through the grey gloom, Archeantus paused in his march to lift his head toward the dark looming silhouette of Ancora through the vapor. He lifted his free arm to pull his hood from his face. The old grey cloth that was wrapped around his eyes began to take in the rain. Though he could not see Ancora’s walls, he stood there in the rain, his face firmly directed toward it’s spires, it’s massive walls, it’s people. The small glowing ember that hovered sporadically around him seemed to fly about more energetically.

“We are near?” He asked out loud, his voice was tired, raspy, but hopeful. A long wait had finally come to an end.

He seemed to receive an answer; his lips formed a slight smile. The ember fluttered inches away from the graying wet hairs of the old warlock, and began to fly around in excited twists and dives around his feet.

“Patience my friend.” He said with a chuckle. “My feet can only travel so fast.”

The ember flew up to head level and cycled around his stave.

“No, my powers are not be used for my own gain.”

The ember seemed to drop slightly in altitude and then spin about in every possible way as if in exasperation. It then shot up in the air as if to see Ancora’s spires better.

A creased smile was on Archeantus’ lips now as he again walked forward through the rain.

*****

It wasn’t long until he found himself standing upon the large cobbled road that led directly up toward the two massive wooden doors of Westgale. Upon the wooden doors was a large ornate bronzed symbol of a candle encircled in steel. The symbol, its meaning emblazed yet forgotten to those who now inhabited it's walls for it appeared so old, ancient even, it seemed to blend in with the damp wood of the large doors. The doors were closed; the city was no longer open to those who had a will to enter. He paused again, his head bowed slightly. The two guards watched the lone man from the entrance. Soon they found themselves looking at one another as the man continued to stand there for a long while in the rain.

Finally one of them spoke up, calling out, “Hey, you there! Be on your way, the city is closed by order of King Beridane.”

The other guard, following his friend’s lead, called out, “Move on, or we’ll be forced to tax you.” A sickly grin appeared on the guard’s face as he pulled his sword from its sheath.

The man, at the sound of the guard’s voice, lifted his head and directed it toward the two guards. The man’s sightless gaze quickly unnerved them, and then the man’s head seemed to shake as if in shame of the comments. Not another moment passed and the man suddenly flew into the air through the rain, a slight glow emanating around the man’s head, and over the towering walls, disappearing into the fog.

The two guards stood there, and blinked, forgetting they had ever seen him.

Written by - Teran

The assassin continued to grind his herbs for a moment seemingly considering Mavigan's question. He handed the mortar and pestle to her once he had finished and waited for her to start before answering.

"Ninety-three years have I wandered these lands." he answered with a grin "If you wish me to appear younger you need only ask."

As he spoke he mixed all three powders together into a single pile and withdrew a vial from from a pouch on his belt. It had the consistancy of water but was a sickly gray color.

He poured about a fifth of his vial into a second vial and funneled the powder into the second vial. The gray fluid seemed to dissolve the powder very quickly. Within a minute the vial was filled with a bronze colored liquid that was much thicker than water (almost like tree sap).

Teran pulled a second vial of the gray fluid out of his belt pouch and offered it to Mavigan.

"I have taught you half of this poisons recipe, if you remain trustworthy I will teach you how to make this fluid. Until then, this is yours. Use just enough when you make this poison and it could last you a year or two."

He will watch her repeat his actions making sure she does everything correctly.

Written by - Ardwen

It had started to rain. A slight drizzle, just enough to dampen the air and darken the mood of a solitary Elf as he trudged north. At least, he assumed it was north, or rather, northwest. It was some direction anyhow. The warrior muttered to himself as he pulled his cloak’s hood over his head to shield off the rain tapping the world softly around him.

He had not paused since departing from the Citadel, even while checking his bearings he kept his legs moving, knowing that every step brought him closer to Ancora, closer to her. That was all that mattered to Ardwen, all that could possibly matter. But, he was alone, and while the gathering darkness of night presented no difficulty to his Elven eyes, nothing could dispel the gathering darkness in his heart and soul.

He had been betrayed, and yet he himself was a traitor. Every painful thought turned to Ariana, every tormented question was directed at how to meet her, how to save her. Ardwen had no answers, and the heaviness in his heart told him there were no answers. Still the Elf’s feet pressed on, one heavy metal-clad step after the other. The ground became wet, and soon his footprints could be seen in the soft soil. Ardwen was not certain if he was on a minor road or merely a convenient stretch that lacked trees and undergrowth, the only thing he knew was northwest, always northwest.

A sudden gust of wind snatched at his hood and nearly peeled it from his head, cursing he raised a hand to yank it back into place, his feet did not pause. A loud snap resounded from underneath his feet, a twig cried out with protest as it broke under his weight, Ardwen paid it no heed. His thoughts turned again to Ariana, he saw her so clearly as she once was: the indomitable Abbess who had helped pull his life from the wreckage of a fallen empire. He had sold his services as a mercenary after Kierhaven fell: Kingscross, Khar, all the filthy freeholds had their share of sellswords, men and women who were desperate for coin.

Escorting fat merchants, assassinating people he did not even know the name of, fighting in other men’s armies – he had done it all. And he had spent it all on alcohol and prize fighting. He had not cared to do anything else, or to make anything else of himself. He had seen the death of the empire and the culling of his beloved people, and he felt that the noble death that should have been his had been stolen by the Turning. The Hands of Providence had changed all of that.

But in the end, when they had needed him most, he had failed him. Failed them, and as a consequence damned everything he had loved. Ardwen placed his forearm across a tree, he rested his forehead against the cool, moist metal plates of his armor. He had stopped walking; stopped moving forward. He knew what to say to Ariana now, knew what he had to say, and so he muttered the words to the apathetic air and uncaring wood in front of him, “Ariana,” he choked out, his voice and throat tight and high with pain, “It’s all my fault.” Slowly he pushed himself from the tree’s trunk and continued his lonely journey. He was not sure if the water on his face was from tears or rain.

Written by - Ariana

Mavigan accepted the mortar and pestle and began to vigorously grind her herbs. Certainly her touch was not as exact or measured as her tutor’s, but she what she lacked in deftness and experience, she more than made up for in enthusiasm. Much like the bushes and trees before them, these herbs stood not a chance against her stone weapons.

So engrossed in pulverizing her herbs to powder, she almost missed Teran’s quiet reply to her inquiry.

"Ninety-three years have I wandered these lands,” said Teran.

Mavigan suddenly went still, half wondering if her ears had deceived her.

"If you wish me to appear younger you need only ask, Teran added.

The nonchalant delivery of this comment caused Mavigan’s whole body to jerk. She eyed him with deep distrust and suspicion, certain he has having some joke at her expense. He couldn’t be 93 years old because that would just be… EWWWW. Besides, weren’t most people that age stooped, wrinkled, and missing many teeth? Teran did not appear to be grizzled, walked tall, and had no obvious gaps in his mouth where teeth should be.

She knew that Elves and Dwarves aged differently from everyone else. Ithramir could be (and likely was) as old as dirt (which certainly explained his disposition), but he still looked to be just over prime. Hell, her Mother was in the hundreds before she married her Dad. But Teran did not have any points on his ears, and he certainly wasn’t short and bearded.

But then again, if he could change his appearance at will, then he could look however he wished. He could look like Father Ag, or have two-heads and tentacles, or be the most wrinkled person on the planet, and Mavigan would never know unless he wanted her to.

The thought shook her more than a little, and she scooted away from him a little bit, putting some reassuring distance between them.

Really not liking her train of thought, she reapplied herself with even more vigor to the task at hand. And when he showed her how much of the mysterious liquid to use to make the poison, she paid close attention. Old people were supposed to have lots of knowledge after all.

The thought made her crack a grin as the absurdity of the situation washed over her. Somehow, she managed to keep a lid on the giggles that were threatening to bubble up and successfully finish the lesson: carefully applying the right amount of the liquid to powder and gazing in awe at her creation.

She had many questions: What was the name of this poison? How potent was it? How much would be required to be lethal? What was the best way to administer it? How long would it take a victim to die? Was there an antidote?

None of the questions made it past her lips, however. When Teran, a man who was anything BUT trustworthy, who could change his appearance at will (though she wasn’t entirely convinced of this), refused to share anything about himself, stayed in the shadows most of the time, and was undoubtedly a thief and assassin, stated that she had to prove HERSELF trustworthy, the laughter that she had been trying to hold in erupted.

Through mighty guffaws that brought tears to her eyes and stitches to her sides, she managed to blurt out, “You’re funny!”

Written by - Tempyst

Trinni was overjoyed to see Renalis stirring, but she sure couldn't let them know it. You're both alive! Alive! Don't do th-that again, Isuiln! Ya here me? Never ever ever again! You wait for me, are you listening?!" She hugged him tightly then let him lead her to wherever. Once they got inside, she could smell the wonderful aroma of food. She stopped for a moment, closed her eyes and inhaled the marvelous scent.

Then she felt Isuiln lean close to her and whisper softly in her ear. "I'll wait for you as long as you want me to."

She stood still, his words making her feel very strange, just like his kiss had done. Taking a deep breath, she opens her eyes and turns to the handsome, Wow, when did he get to be so cute...no...stop that, I don't care about....do I... "Well, uhm, you better or there won't be a next time of me waiting over your dead body again!" She stumbled on her words, not knowing if she made any sense or not. Then she sniffed again and wrinkled her nose at the elf. "Uhm, you need a bath. You have blood and orc guts all over you and I don't think the others would find it very nice to be eating when you smell so rank!" She looked down at her own clothes. "I guess I need one too. So, okay then." Trinni took Isuiln's hand and shook it vigorously. "I'm going to go clean up, uhm..." She looked a bit unsure of what to saw, part of her wanting to give him a hug and kiss again, the other part wanting to punch him in the arm. Then her eyes got their mischevious glint back in them. "Race you! First one back to the dining hall wins!" She turned and took off, leaving Isuiln in the dust.

Trinni ran quickly to her room and just as quickly, washed up and changed into a new set of clothes. After making sure all her weapons and everything was back in their place she started towards the door. Then she stopped and pouted.I bet they won't want any weapons at dinner. I seem to remember them frowning at that. Hmm, well, I can leave my bow and sword, but they won't see my dagger so that I will take. After re-arranging her weapons, making sure her dagger was well hidden in her boot and the others laying safely on her bed, Trinni dashed out the door and headed towards the sounds of merryment and rich smells of fresh food.

She walked around the edges a bit, looking out for Isuiln. HAH, I win! Wait, but what did I win? Trinni wrinkled her nose again. Then she saw Isuiln walk in, but instead of running up to him (which is what she felt like doing), she backed away, hiding herself in the crowd, watching him. Then the bardds began to play *Round the Town*, one of her favorite songs. But still she kept back, watching everyone else, and not sure why. Then she found the food table and like a starving child began to find all of her favorite treats. She had just popped a cream puff into her mouth when she felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned, mouth full, a bit of cream on her chin, to see Isuiln standing there, grinning from ear to ear. She smiled and without thinking, took the creampuff that was in her other hand and brought it up to let Isuiln taste. But as he opened his mouth, she made a quick move and dobbed the cream onto his nose. Seeing him there, with a big ole dollop of cream on his nose made her double up with laughter.

Then, everything went silent and Trinni quickly quieted her giggles. She, along with everyone else, turned towards the center of the dancefloor, in time to see Turin get down on one knee and propose to Lithwyn. Wow! I wonder how big the wedding cake will be? She thought as she awaited Lithwyn's answer.

Written by - Ariana

Two sets of eyes peered into the gloom just beyond the cell door.

“See? It is just like I told you, Delrus” the smaller fellow whispered. “I put the food in her cell, and she doesn’t touch it.”

“Hmm,” said Delrus, a bigger and much hairy fellow than his partner. “Well, Pete, if she wastes away to nothingness we won’t be able to get a ransom for her.”

Pete edged up on his tiptoes to get a better look at the prisoner inside. “I know, Delrus! I’ve tried everything! I even tried to spoon feed her like my Mum used to do ta me!”

Stepping back from the door, he held up his hand in front of his partner, his fingers clenched around an imaginary spoon. “Here comes the galloping horse! Let’s open the barn door!” he shouted and then rushed the imaginary spoon towards Delrus’s mouth.

Delrus frowned and tugged at his bushy beard, a gesture he always made when deep in thought. “And that didn’t work?” he asked Pete.

Pete shook his head. “She didn’t even so much as bat an eyelash at me.” Pete inched closer to Delrus, dropping his voice. “Its unnerving how she sits there staring at nothing all day. Looking into her blank eyes is enough to make me wonder whether or not I’m really here!”

Delrus responded with a thwack upside Pete’s head with a meaty hand. “Don’t be stupid, Pete. Did you mail the ransom note?”

Pete raised a sheepish hand and rubbed the back of his head. “Yes. To Wilhelm at the Temple of Tinorb,” he said in recitation. “We have yer Priestess. If’n ye want ‘er back, bring lots of money….”

Delrus blinked at him a minute, then raised the hand and smacked Pete on the head again in the middle of his sentence. “You fool! The High Priest isn’t at the Temple!”

“I know that!” said Pete hotly. “But everyone has to check their mail!”

Delrus tugged at his beard again, and thought this over. “You’re right, of course,” he said after several minutes. “Every man has to answer his mail,” he agreed, conveniently forgetting that mail delivery in the city had completely stopped when Beridane took the throne.

“Right then,” said Delrus. “Alls we got to worry about is making sure she don’t die. And to do that we have to make her eat.”

“How will we do that?” asked Pete.

Delrus turned towards the doorway, his aura becoming menacing. “We force her,” he said bluntly, rolling up his sleeves. And with that decided, both men pushed their way into the cell, and shut the door firmly behind them.

Written by - Tempyst

Tempyst was between lessons, setting under a tree. She looked down and touched the pendent she wore, thinking about her mother and father, then remembering the words Nyrondis's spoke when she had asked why she felt connected to that elf in black, Ardwen. "As to why you feel drawn to this elf, this creature, only you know that. But my thought is, it involved this.” "How are you connected with this? Did you know my parents? Were you the one who..."

It was then Tempyst heard the anquished plea. "Ariana. It's all my fault." She did not recognize the voice, but she knew who spoke them, she felt she would know that presence anywhere. The elf in the black armor. Ardwen. She stood and placed her hand upon the bark, and felt him, as if he was just on the other side. She closed her eyes and focused, then let out a soft gasp as she could see through the veil, into the real world. She saw the darkness and the rain and saw Ardwen there, alone. Her heart went out to him, feeling his pain, feeling his anguish, though she could also feel his hatred and anger. When she had healed him on that rooftop, she felt his darkness, but she had also felt something else, a light, buried deep, but still there. She watched as Ardwen stood upright, face wet from rain and tears. As he turned to walk off into the night, Tempyst focused and reached through with her spirit and placed a comforting hand upon his shoulder.

"Momma?" Tempyst withdrew her hand, turning to face her daughter.

"Tirigil!" She smiled brightly at seeing her daughter once again. But her smile quickly turned to concern. "What is wrong my little one?" She took her daughter into her arms, her heart racing. She already knew the answer before it was said. Something had happened to Lucant.

"It's daddy, momma. He's been hurt, by demons. The taint in him is strong and eating away at his soul. He needs you momma."

Tempyst gasped, "Is he..."

"No, his body has been partially healed, but he won't last through the night. His link with Nyrondis is keeping him alive, but he needs healing, his soul is hurt." Tirigil stepped back and began to lead Tempyst towards the great oak. "I am here to lead you out. Nyrondis wants you to know that your training, for now, is complete. He will require you to stay at the citadel and sacred grove to finish your training, after you heal daddy." Tirigil kept speaking as she rushed them towards the tree. "Also, daddy is still Nyrondis' avatar, that link can never be severed, but it may take daddy a long time to accept his role in the world. You need to help him momma. Please, help him."

They reached the massive oak and Tirigil hugged her mother tightly. Tempyst hugged her daughter back, wishing she could come with her. "I love your father, with all that I am, I will wait for him and with him as long as it takes."

"Thank you momma. Now hurry. I will come for you again when it is time for more lessons." Tempyst kissed her upon the cheek and stepped into the tree. "Tell daddy I love him!" She heard Tirigil call out as the comforting void of the great oak took her in.


Written by - Archeantus Page 9 Book 3

The alley, dark and wet, was devoid of anyone or anything when the old warlock planted his booted feet back upon the surface of what he termed, New Ancora.

It was not as he had hoped it would be. He was not prepared for what he would discover.

Archeantus stood there in the alley, wet, cold, and took in his surroundings.

This world was different, far different from Aerynth. He found levitation had taxed him far more than he had anticipated. He was mentally exhausted from that small effort. He noted that, and would plan accordingly.

The rain still pelted the cobbled street, there was the sound of the rushing of waters flowing down the gutters, and a dank putrid smell.

It was then that the small glowing ember appeared again, floating whimsically near his wizened face.

“What do you see my friend?” He asked mentally.

A moment passed as information was relayed. The old warlock’s face grew grimmer by the moment as the information was quickly revealed: Ancora was slowly dying.

“Take me there. Take me everywhere.” He softly pleaded upon hearing it.

Taking his walking stick, he stepped forward out of the dark alley to discover the state of the city, and of the world.

*****

Many perhaps saw the old blind beggar, he was barely noticeable, but none knew what he was doing as he passed among them. His unique skill was completely unknown to them.

His mind entered a great many of the people, gleaning vast amounts new information in every conceivable category.

In the grand courtyard, a place meant to house merchants, cultures, and peoples from all across the lands, now was a place of shady open deals. It was now a place of hors and gambling. Here he learned of the assassination of the royal family from a small spindly man counting his coins.

In the docks, a place which used to signify the connection to the world, a place of wonder and rumors and excitement, now was riddled with seclusion and distrust. He learned that there was a war going on with those who still sided with the royal family, that forces were moving across the world to do battle for control of the continent.

In one of the many local taverns that now littered the city, he discovered the name of the man who had won the throne by bloodshed, from a dark and foreboding mercenary in a corner, and from another that was dealing with the mercenary that there still lived a single heir to the throne. A young woman.

Along a flight of stairs leading up to the battlements, he learned the usurper, Beridane, had been acting strangely lately from a large guard who walked slowly down. The man was reconsidering his stance on his decision to support the king.

From a rare small child, dirt covering his face, he learned of the nature by which the people were treated. Only the strong survived. The weak were cast off. That child found himself the recipient of a small bag of traveling jerky from the strange beggar.

He wandered the city, resting his old hands on wet pillars and old statues only he understood, of all those in the city. They knew nothing of it’s origins, of it’s forbearers, they were as a whole, an uncaring, selfish, and power hungry people, devoid of the single most important bits information the old warlock sought: information of his old friends, those he missed more than anything.

When he was finished, Archeantus stood upon the battlements, his wet face, intermingled with tears and rain, sightlessly gazed down at the once great city, now corrupt, the world about to burst forth into a terrible war. He had felt the hateful emotion, the horrific pride, the gaping hole of virtue present in the hearts of all those in the city. He knew grim state of the world. He sensed its possible demise. He realized he stood overlooking the heart of evil in the world, a thing he never would have supposed when he was finally called to come by his God. He had waited hundreds of years for this, he had been told he has been saved to come forth distinctly during this time. And now he found, and slowly came to terms with, that he was left to uncover a vast mystery.

Laying his bandaged head in shame, it was then that he sensed her. She was faint, but his keenly aware mind quickly latched onto her mental waves.

She was here, and in danger.

He head rose again and his mind began to search. If she was here, so it would follow they would be as well.

“Find her if you can Angellus. Quickly, she is in pain.” He whispered to his small friend. “I will search the land for the possibility of the others.”

The small ember flew off through the rain.

He then stood and bowed his head from atop the battlements, his powers expanded and unlocked after great difficulty, and his mind traveled great distances in search of life forces he knew, and knew well.

Written by - Wilhelm

Wilhelm once again led his small group forward so he could scan the heartfires of Mavigan and the others. They were all present, and while Keeryn seemed unhappy she was not alarmed. Teran was as steady and unreadable as ever, but Mavigan's heartfire continued to show a similar constancy that was unnatural to such a fiery personality. Wilhelm crept closer until he had a visual sioghting, and was alarmed when Mavigan and Teran were not in view at the locations their heartfires indicated, although Argent was there.

"Calm yourself, all is well. It is just a training excercise." came the deep inner voice.

"Easy for you to say," thought Wilhelm in reply, "do you have any idea how much trouble she will be able to get into if she has learned magical transportation? And I'm her Champion!"

"Then we will just have to ensure that you are there when you are truly needed, won't we?" the All Father replied with a deep chuckle.

Wilhelm crept back to his men and they remained at the edge of his tracking sense. Mavigan's return would likely show up as a resumption of change in her heartfire. Wilhelm wondered how Teran had done that trick, but anyone as stealthy as Teran would likely have means of dealing with the tracking senses of bounty hunters. They settled themselves to rest, as things were quite likely to get lively once Mavigan rejoined the others.

Written by - Tempyst

Lithwyn put her arm within Ithramir’s, and guided him and Vhar along to the feast hall. As they were introduced she let out a soft squeal when she felt Ithramir pinch her rear. She gave him a stern look, then soften as he saw his wonderful smile and playful wink. They wandered a bit, saying hello to some people, Vhar close behind. It was obvious he wished to speak more to Lithwyn. Taking his que, Ithramir leaned close to Lithwyn. "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. Then, turning to Vhar he 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." Ithramir gave a slight bow, then made his way to others within the hall. Lithwyn watched her love walk through the crowd, making sure everyone was having fun.

Vhar waited for Ithramir to depart, then spoke once again. "I have just been reminded of something I wished to mention to you, milady," he said, turning to Lithwyn. “The young human sailor I encountered earlier, the one responsible for that tavern scuffle ... he managed to talk his way out of his cell and escape. I was going to inform you at the earliest opportunity, but it seems the young man ... reconsidered." Vhar inclined his head toward where Leov sat.

Lithwyn looked over at Leov and let out a small exasperated sigh. Why am I not surprised at hearing this about you Mr. Klein? “Thank you Vhar, for your information. I will speak to him later about his escapades, but for now, let us all just enjoy our celebration.” She pointed Vhar towards some pastries, then turned to speak with some others who seemed to need her attention. She too wandered a bit, making small talk. It is so nice to see all these people in such a relaxed atmosphere. No worries, no troubles, no emergencies. She found her gaze though, keep going back towards Ithramir. She felt her face flush and her heart race at the sight of him. Is it true? Is it for real? Will I wake up from this to find it only a dream? She felt Khai’hanas touch her spirit and in that moment, knew it was all real.

Then she felt him draw near and take her within his arms. The band began to play a romantic waltz and the two found themselves dancing with the other couples there. This is the elf I always knew was there. She thought, her eyes giving away her joy at this moment. Smiling, Ithramir 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. 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.

The room was silent. Only the crickets from outside could be heard, chirping, oblivious to what had just happened. Lithwyn’s face paled, all the blood rushing from it to her heart and that felt like it was going to burst out from her chest. Her mind raced as she looked upon her soul mate. Did he just ask me to marry him? He couldn’t have. Not here, not now. I mean, we have not even had time to ourselves yet and here he is asking me to marry him? Lithwyn felt her face begin to flush now. She looked at Ithramir, her eyebrow raised and a look in her eyes that he would know he stepped over some line. Her jaw clenched as she bit her tongue to keep the first words she though of from popping out of her mouth. Lithwyn took a few deep breaths, well aware of the silence and all eyes upon them. “Ithramir, I...this...you…I…”

It was then, a deep voice could be heard rise above the silence. “Sir Ithramir! Sir Ithramir! Are you here, I need to speak to you!” A wiry man brushed through the crowd and into the center of the hall.

Ithramir stood, looking slightly annoyed at the intrusion, “I’m Ithramir. Now what is the meaning…”

The man stepped towards him and several guards started to push their way through the crowd as well. “Thank goodness I found you Sir. You are greatly needed in the stockades. There is a young lady there, dying and she needs help.” Ithramir raised his hand, signaling the guards to stand down. Lithwyn took a deep breath, silently thanking the gods for this intrusion.

Ithramir took a step towards the man. “What is your name sir? Why do you come to me and not the infirmary?”

“My name is Gilbert Sir. I am a sailor, under the leadership of Captain Leov Klein.” At the captain’s name, Lithwyn let out a sigh, Why am I not surprised he is in on this. “The young lady said between her fits that you were the only one who could help her. Please, you must hurry.” Gilbert looked at Ithramir sternly. “I should also mention Sir, that while I made my way here, I came across a mob of drunken soldiers talking trash and heading towards the young lady’s whereabouts.” Gilbert stood there, waiting to see what the elf would do.

Lithwyn felt a tug at her mind and welcomed the voice of her goddess. Lithwyn, what the man says is true. At this very moment my husband is speaking to Ithramir, telling him the same. You must not go with them, you are needed elsewhere. It will be revealed to you soon. Lithwyn nodded silently, then stepped up besides Ithramir. She leaned close and spoke softly. “Go my love, but know this, we are not done talking about this. We will discuss things later when we have our privacy.” She kissed his cheek, then watched him hurry off towards the stockades.

She, herself moved quickly to the bards. “Please, play something light and lively, we must not let our guests forget what a joyous occasion this is.” Then Lithwyn turned to the crowd, who still had all eyes on her, even though they were now murmuring to themselves. “Please, everyone.” She spoke with a calm command. “Everyone! Everything is fine, I would be saddened if you all did not continue this wonderful celebration this evening. We have much to be happy about. We all have been under much stress these last weeks and now, now we must enjoy the time we have with those we love. Keep dancing, keep eating, and have fun. I don’t want to see any food or drink left over from tonight!” The crowd cheered and the band began to play a lively jig.

Lithwyn gave a relieved sigh and made her way to one of the tables and treated her self to a glass of wine. Then her mind went back to what had happened only moments before. "Lithwyn Deltheron, will you marry me?" The proposal ran through mind. Will I marry you? Will I! Lithwyn let out an annoyed snort. How human of you Ithramir, to rush into marriage only moment after I open myself up and accept all that I am, all my feelings for you. And in front of EVERYONE. She took along draught of the wine. We have not even had any time to speak. Yet you are brash enough to...ohhh…you can make me so mad sometimes! Lithwyn put her empty glass down and was reaching for another when she felt a hand tap her shoulder. She turned around, and the poor girl that was standing there cowered from the look Lithwyn had on her face.

“I’m sorry to disturb you m’Lady, but you are needed in the infirmary.” He voice shook slightly.

Lithwyn’s face immediately softened. “I’m so sorry dear, I didn’t mean to scowl at you. What is wrong in the infirmary, surely everyone was healed from the ceremony?”

“Most were m’Lady, though there are stragglers being brought in from the docks and from the battle. But he needs help m’lady. The hero. The one who slew the demon.”

Lithwyn knew this was what her goddess had told her of. She placed a gentle hand upon the girls shoulder. “Take me to him. Is his wife with him as well?”

The girl, along with Lithwyn, began to make their way down to the infirmary. “Someone is trying to locate her m’Lady, but we don’t know if she will be found in time.” Lilthwyn did not like the sound of that and hastened her pace. Hold on Lucant, Tempyst cannot lose you this night as well.

Written by - Tempyst

Tempyst heard her daughter's words Tell daddy I love him. then all was silent. Inside the void of the great oak, all was at peace here. But even within the peace, Tempyst could feel the urgency in which she was needed. Then there it was, the soft glow of the way home. Without hesitation, she stepped through into the night.

She was greeted by the druid Dalomir, who bowed. "Welcome Tempyst Whisperling of the Deepshadow Glen. May Nyrondis' wisdom enfold you like this Elder Druid's cloak."

As Dalomir wrapped the cloak about her, she smiled. "I am Tempyst Dolvan now, I will take my husband's name, but you are forgiven."

Dalomir blushed slightly. "Forgive me then, Welcome, Tempyst Dolvan." Dalomir then stood straight and reached out his hands, looking up. A long, straight, flowering branch above them shivered and detached itself, falling neatly into his waiting hands. He handed the staff to Tempyst. "May the power of Nature support you like this Elder Druid's staff. Be welcome into the Circle of Elders of this Sacred Grove." Dalomir smiled and enfolded Tempyst in a firm hug, and the other druids present cheered. Dalomir then stepped back and his face grew solemn.

"I know why you have returned. The messenger from the healers told me that Lucant is gravely injured and suffering from demonic taint. You will need to gather the other senior healers and form a healing circle to save him. Begin with Commander Lithwyn, who is at the Great Hall along with many of the healers from the army and citadel. Priestess Alulael has already tended to Lucant and is aware of his need." He gave her one more hug then spoke again. "And Tempyst, remember that while Alan'thear abused his role by magically hastening the matter, he used what was already there. Not even he can create a soul bond if the potential was not already present."

"I know Dalomir. I have no doubts about Lucant and I. Now, I have no idea where the infirmary is or the other healers, could messengers be sent for them, I just need someone to show me to my husband now."

"Of course Tempyst. But may I also suggest something. Though here, your stateof undress is not a concern, I would suggest putting on a simple robe under your cloak." Tempyst blushed, reazling what he said to be true. She nodded, then Dalomir raised a hand and several young druids came over. He instructed most of them to go find the other healers, but asked one to get a robe for Tempyst then take her to the infirmary. Tempyst quickly put on the simple green robe, then quickly followed the druid through the citadel, but as they approached the infirmary, Tempyst broke out in a run, letting her love for Lucant guide her to his side.

As Tempyst burst into the infirmary, she saw Erruno and knew that he was standing by Lucant. She rushed over, then brought a hand up to stifle her gasp. She could sense the demon taint within him before she even could see him. Then, there was all his injuries. Here he is, my husband, dying. How could I have not been here for him? She knealt by his side and took a battered hand into her own.

"Oh Lucant, what has happened? How could this...I..." Tempyst felt the tears brimming her eyes. Then she felt a stronge hand upon her shoulder. She looked up, tears falling, into the concerned face of Erruno.

"I am glad they found you lady, I knew you'd want to be here."

"Erruno, do you know what happened? How did he get hurt like this? Where was he?"

Erruno shook his head. "I don't know what happened. We found him in an alley in town like this, only worse. The priestest Alulael came and healed him as best she could, but it wasn't enough. Please lady, you gotta save him."

Tempyst sniffed, then wiped her tears. "I will Erruno. I will not lose my husband this night. I will not." She turned her attention back to Lucant. "Watch for the other healers and bring them here as soon as they arrive." Erruno nodded and stepped back.

Tempyst leaned over and kissed Lucant's bruised lips. She then closed her eyes and grounded herself, then reached out with all her love and abilities to see what was wrong with her husband. She could see the taint within every scratch, every wound, within his blood and spirit. It was stronger than what she had felt within Ithramir. What did this to you Lucant. She took a deep breath, trying not to let her discovery shake her. I am stronger this time. I know what to do now. I will not fail him. She reached, trying to find Lucant within the darkness of his mind, to lett him know he was not alone, that she was there to pull him back. Now, all I can do is wait for the others.

Written by - Teran

"We all age at our own pace Mavigan. I am still young if you look at my life span as a whole." He said a little slyly "That is of course assuming I die old and in bed rather than in the mud with a dagger in my back."

Teran placed all of his tools back into their pouches.

"You have just created a poison, now it is time you learn what it does and why each ingredient is important."

He held up a sprig of bronzeleaf for her to see.

"Bronzeleaf is harmless. You can eat it, roll around in it, do whatever you like with it and alone it will never harm you. It is also the most important ingredient. This binds the poison to our weapons and prevents it from smearing off on clothing, armor, or even our own sheaths." He said, keeping an eye on her making sure she was paying attention.

Next he held up a sprig of thistleshrub.

"Thistleshrub is a nuisance, it causes rashes and itching almost immediatly after it comes into contact with a creature's blood. Often the 'suffering' caused by the thistleshrub is more overwhelming than the pain of the initial wound you have given your enemy."

Finally he held up a strand of whipper root.

"This is the most dangerous ingredient. It does not cause any pain but it slows your enemy down and with enough of this in their blood will paralyze them. This poison is designed to weaken your enemies just enough that you can more easily spot holes in their defense and their attack patterns. It is one of my favorite poisons for that reason." He offered Mavigan a somewhat charming smile.

"There is no antidote really" he continued "but probably because it is more of a nuissance than an actual threat. I'm sure some alchemist somewhere has figured it out." he murmured.

Written by - Tempyst

The rain poured down upon the elf, as he road towards the city on his horse. He stopped his horse and paused, hearing someone approach. Full plate by the sound of it. What fool would be our here in full plate? The fool soon came into sight. The rain seemed to drizzle off and the moon shone sparingly thorugh the clouds. He could see the individual now. An elf, the biggest elf he had ever seen; carrying the biggest sword he had ever seen. Damn, who is this guy? I wonder if he's for hire? "Hail there man. I need to ask you a few questions." The large elf stopped, silent. Then turned his face towards the horseman. Maybe I should have not garnered his attention. But it was too late, the attention had been obtained.

****

The drunken soldiers, elf and human alike, with the odd dwarf thrown in, made their way to the stockades. All the elves were mumbling about the demon bitch and how she ruined their lives. The others were spouting off slurs about her and what she had done to their commander and friends. There was talk that perhaps she had been in league with the orcs all along. By the time they reached the stockades, some had their weapons drawn, letting anyone know that it would not be a good idea to stand in their way. They made a lot of noise and as they entered the stockades, anyone insode could hear that trouble had arrived.

Written by - Tempyst

Amara watched with the rest of the crowd, as Ithramir proposed to Lithwyn. Then she watched with a bit or surprise (and amusement) as Lithwyn stammered in response. Then, there was the dramatic entrance of that man who had been with the sea captain she had had her eye on. Then she heard the sailor talk about a woman in the stockades dying. Interesting developement. Amara thought. I can only assume that someone has gotten to her, after all, she did attempt to assassinate the commander of the armies. She watched Ithramir and the sailor leave, then Commander Lithwyn approached the dias.

“Please, play something light and lively, we must not let our guests forget what a joyous occasion this is.”

Amara nodded. "Of course My Lady, as you command." She turned back to her bandmates and discussed with them what song to do next. Then she heard Lithwyn speak again.

“Please, everyone.” She spoke with a calm command. “Everyone! Everything is fine, I would be saddened if you all did not continue this wonderful celebration this evening. We have much to be happy about. We all have been under much stress these last weeks and now, now we must enjoy the time we have with those we love. Keep dancing, keep eating, and have fun. I don’t want to see any food or drink left over from tonight!” The crowd cheered and that was the que for Amara and the band to play a lively jig.

As they played the joyful tune, she watched the crowd settle back down. Then noticed that Commander Lithwyn was spirited away and shortly after, others were escorted out as well. When the song ended, the band took another break, eager to get some more food and wine into their bellies. Amara just sat on the stage again, watching the crowd, then found her mind drifting back to the sailor she met earlier. Leov, that is his name. With all what must be going on, I hope nothing has happened to him or his friends. Hmm, but why am I worried about him, it is not like he means anything to me, I just met him and he refused my advances. Amara shrugged, trying to get Leov Klein off of her mind. She picked up her flute and began to play a low, almost mournful song, the notes floating upon the night air. A few coupled took to the floor to dance again. As she watched the joy and love that was surrounding her, she felt that old, familiar pain deep in her soul. She closed her eyes as she played, unable to bear the site of such happiness.

When the song ended, the people applauded, a few came up to tell her how wonderfully she played and put more money into the jar. One young man even brought her up a glass of wine, flirting with her and showing his interest. She could tell he had been drinking to get his courage up, and normally, she would have flirted and played along with the young man. But suddenly, the joy of the evening seemed to drain from her. She thanked the man for the drink, but sent him along his way. She felt a little bad at doing so, but then saw him pick up another young lass and knew he would be fine.

As she watched, she realized, that aside from all the joy and happiness people felt, there were other emotions there. The saddness of those that had been lost in the battle. I know what I need to do. Amara stood up and tapped her flute against the half full wine glass. "Excuse me, everyone. May I have your attention?" She continued to tap the glass until the room was quiet and all eyes were upon her. "Tonight, we are celebrating life, victory in battle. But there are those who are not here with us tonight. Those that fell during the fight, those that must not be forgotten." She heard the soft murmurs in agreement. "I would like to sing for you all, a song I heard a long time ago, one to remember those that have gone onto the afterlife and those that are still with us." Amara lifted her glass, then, acapella, began to sing.

I was your husband, I was your friend,
I was your brother till the end
I was your father, I was your son
I’ve been with you, since time begun

But now I’ve gone into the halls
Where ever life awaits us all
A valiant death, at your side
Lifts me up, filled with pride

Now sing for me, sing for us all
Sing for men, who took the fall.
Sing for the battle we fought this day
Sing for all who walked away.

Fight for honor, fight for love
Fight to help others rise above
Fight for love, our memories
Fight for what should always be

If you be sad and shed your tears
Make sure it’s not for wasted years
Live for the day, give all you’ve got
Don’t let your life wither and rot

Now sing for me, sing for us all
Sing for men, who took the fall.
Sing for the battle we fought this day
Sing for all who walked away.

Raise your sword, raise your glass
Raise your voice to futures past
Raise your hopes and you’ll never fail
Here’s the wind, now raise your sails

One day too soon, we will unite
Until then, put up a Fight
Our lives will not, fall through the seams
And I will see you, in your dreams.

As the last verse drifted away into the night, she could hear the crowd pick up and sing the chorus with her. A choir of voices singing to those they loved.

Now sing for me, sing for us all
Sing for men, who took the fall.
Sing for the battle we fought this day
Sing for all who walked away.

Now sing for me, sing for us all
Sing for men, who took the fall.
Sing for the battle we fought this day
Sing for all who walked away.

When the song ended, Amara raised her glass, along with all the others in hall and downed her drink with them. Then, her heart a little lighter, she put the glass down and played her flute once again, starting up a warm folk song for the crowd to enjoy. As she stood there playing, the rest of the band got back up on staged and joined her, playing their hearts out.

Written by - Ardwen

Ardwen had not expected to see a traveler on the roads, much less a fellow Elf. Still, he had not expected to be sucked through a dimensional rift by a god he thought dead only to find himself on a journey to save his friends who were also thought deceased. Fate laughs at most men, but it shat on Ardwen. The other Elf was mounted, and seemed alarmed at Ardwen’s appearance, nevertheless he managed a greeting of sorts, “Hail there man. I need to ask you a few questions.”

Ardwen stopped and looked at him. He was blood, and that alone earned him the right for some questions. “Vedui kinsmen.” Ardwen began with a common greeting, “What is it you would ask of me?”

Written by - Tempyst

"I seek the citadel, and a warm place to stay. Do you have any recommandations good sir. Also, I am in search of a young half elven lass, a bard. Quite fetching in looks; white hair, green eyes, dark skin. But I tell you looks can be decieving for she is dangerous criminal, wanted for the murders of a whole traveling show group and attempted assassination of a elven lord in the southern lands." The elf paused, trying to discern the other's demeanor. "She is worth a lot of gold to the one who finds her. You look like you could use a coin sir. So, if you have any knowledge, please share it."

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

Again the all-consuming shadow overtook Lucant. He remained there in the darkness for what seemed like years. Suddenly, as if he had always been there, Lucant found himself again in a snowy field, surrounded by a dense snow-capped forest. The sun struggled to make its presence know through the thick blanket of dark clouds overhead.

A sudden forceful strike knocked him backwards. As he attempted to regain his senses through the searing pain, he saw that he had been pinned to the massive oak tree behind him by a large black spear. Another piercing scream resounded from the forests as Lucant looked around for what who or what had done this. A large ebon-skinned monstrosity thundered forth from the woods chasing a dozen fleeing villagers. Lucant struggled to break free, but the pain only worsened with each minute movement. He looked on helplessly, painfully as the monster tore the villagers to shreds, taking clear delight in the slaughter.

As the creature finished off the last villager, it turned towards Lucant. A woman dressed in white with stone grey eyes walked around in front of him from behind the tree. "Give up boy... give in. You are no match. Let it consume you. Then the pain, the suffering will be gone. There will peace... unending peace," she said in a silken voice. Lucant gazed down at the pure white ground, trying to avert his attention from the blood soaked field in front of him. "I..." he hesitated. A warm, comforting voice came into his mind and heart from the massive oak: "My Champion... do not give in to darkness. You are stronger than that. Have the faith, the strength to drive it back. But say the word, my Champion, and I will aid you." The words of Nyrondis, Lucant found, strangely comforted him. "No, I will not! I will not allow the shadow to take my soul," he shouted.

"Then so be it," another voice said. A young man in black stepped out from behind the tree as well, dragging a battered Tirigil behind him by her golden honey-brown hair. "Perhaps this," he said jerking Tirigil up to her knees, "will persuade you." A long black, single-edged blade, wreathed in flame appeared from the shadows in his right hand. As the black clad man reared back his sword hand, ready to behead Tirigil right in front of him, Lucant yelled out from the depths of his soul: "Tempyst! Nyrondis! Someone help me! Don't let this happen!"

Written by - Tempyst

Tempyst sat at her husbands side, waiting. It seemeed like hours passed before the others began to arrive. Lithwyn put a gentle hand upon the young druid. "He will not die Tempyst, we will save him, just as you both saved Ithramir." Tempyst nodded, but did not move, not wanting to take her eyes off of Lucant. After a few moments, Lithwyn spoke again. "Everyone is here Tempyst, we can begin." Only then did Tempyst look up. She saw the familiar faces of the other healers and druids that were at the healing circle.

"This is Lucant, my husband, my splitapart, my soul." She choked back a soft sob. "If things do go bad and he cannot be save, then do not save me. For without him, I will be nothing." There were a few murmurs, but she gave them all a fierce look. Then looked up to Lithwyn. "Promis me! Promis me you will let me go with him." Lithwyn felt a tear fall as she nodded in agreement. "Alright then, let us get started, I feel the taint so strong in him, so dark. It will be dangerous, I can feel it. Please, direct your strength and energy and let me do my work." Tempyst placed her staff along side Lucant and wrapped her cloak tightly about her shoulders. Taking a deep breath she places a hand upon Lucant's chest, over his heart, closed her eyes and began to softly chant.

For those standing watching the healing circle form, it looked like ethereal vines of ivy sprung from the floor of the infirmay, wrapping up and around each healer, connecting them to one another, then all the vines joined together to form one and wrapped itself around Tempyst's waist, becoming one with her very being. The air turned fresh, like the forest after a rain, and a soft, warm wind started to flow through the infirmary, cleansing the whole space.

When Tempyst felt the strength of the other healers enter her, she took another deep breath then felt her spirit dive into her husband. She felt the two of them connect, finding the gaps in each other's soul, filling them, creating one strong bound soul. Bound with love, faith and courage. She felt Lucant struggling and sought out where the pain was coming from. All physical injuries began to heal completely, leaving behind no scar or bruise. But there was more than the body, there was the mind and still one part of his soul. Tempyst cried out Lucant! Hold on. But was not sure if her husband heard her for she suddenly found herself facing a thick, black fiery barrier. She tried to reach through it on her own, but could only feel the pain and anguish that fueled it. Once again, she cried out. Nyrondis, please, help my husband, help your servant. Yes, I know he is angry, but he is a good man and I cannot live without him. Help him please, I beg you my God, my Father, please, help me break through the blackness, the poison, the taint. Please, help him.

Tempyst suddenly felt a deep golden light filler her as she felt Nyrondis burst through her to aid her husband. She followed her god and heard him whisper to Lucant, to hold on, to not give in. Tempyst too, called to Lucant. I am here, we are here, let us help you, please. She could feel the searing pain from the taint and rushed to take what she could from Lucant. Those within the circle, watching her, sending her energy, felther falter as the taint swarmed into her, willing to take another life if possible. They could feel Tempyst give all of herself for Lucant. Lithwyn's heart called out, wanting to help her young friend but Khai'Hanas whisperd to her, reminding her of the Druid's request and that it would be honored. Lithwyn sighed and concentrated more, giving Tempyst all the support she could.

Tempyst felt her own soul weaken, but she would not let go. Then she heard Lucant's call. In that moment, the two were united. She felt the barrier of darkness begin to shatter and felt herself flow into his soul, giving him the strength he needed. Then, it was all faded and she found herself sitting upon the bed at Lucant's side. her hand still upon his chest, tears in her eyes as she and the others waited.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

The black spear that had pinned him to the oak was obliterated by a golden beam of live energy from the tree. Lucant quickly stood and again saw the sword from before in his hand. And even though she was not there, he felt Tempyst at his side as well. Charging forward in a rage, he swept upward with the magnificent sword, easily slicing the sword arm of the man in black off. As he howled in pain at the stump, which was pouring black flames, Lucant brought the sword overhead, and cut the creature in half. Lucant turned his rage on the woman in white, but was denied his retribution as she faded into nothingness.

He rushed to Tirigil's side in time to hear her say "Daddy... thank you. Nyrondis... Mommy... me... thank you." Lucant held his beloved daughter close as the black skinned monster began its rampage towards them. "Daddy..." Tirigil whispered. Lucant hugged her one last time, then turned to deal with beast that threatened her. Rushing as fast as he could, Lucant dodged the monster's claws with a grace not his own. As he brought the sword to a ready position, he saw another pair of hands holding his own. He felt Tempyst with him now more strongly than ever and as he brought the sword down on the demon's black hide, he could swear he saw her at his side.

The demon let out another piercing scream, the stumbled back in pain. A bright white light emanated from the wound and it only got brighter until consumed him as had the shadow before. When it had finally subsided, Lucant found himself on his back, looking up at Tempyst. Her long chestnut hair obscured her face. Without thinking Lucant reached up and brushed the hair from her face and placed his hand upon her cheek. "Are you... are you real? Or is this... just another dream?"

Written by - Tempyst

Tempyst opened her eyes when she felt the hand reach up and touch her cheek. Then she heard him speak. "Are you... are you real? Or is this... just another dream?"

Tears of pure joy fell as she leaned down and kissed Lucant. When she broke the kiss, she whispered. "This is real Lucant. I'm real. I'm here and always will be with you." She kissed him again then kissed the palm of his hand. Tempyst sat back up and looked around at the exhausted healers. She stood and hugged Lithwyn tightly. "Thank you. Thank you all." She let the commander go, then hugged everyone else. "Thank you all, I know this wa a lot to ask, I know how much it has taken from you..." At that point, Tempyst swayed and sat back down hard on the side of Lucant's bed. She took Lucant's hand into her own, seeing his eyes flicker, still weak from the ordeal.

"Yes, it drained us all, but not as much as you Tempyst. You were the one using the energy." She smiled at the two young lovebirds. "We will be fine. We will go eat, drink, for I suspect there is much food left at the party, You two, should be taken to your room. I will have a feast sent to you." Lithwyn turned and gave the orders for all who were not needed to go enjoy themselves at the party.

"'Scuse me miss, is he gonna be alright?" Erruno's voice still sounded worried.

Tempyst looked up and smiled tiredly. "Yes, he will be." Erruno let out a relieved sigh. "But we do need your help. He, well both of us are still weak and, well, could you get some folks to help us to our room upstairs?"

"Most certainly lady!" Erruno dashed out to find some spare guards.

Tempyst carressed Lucant's face, her eyes lighting up to see him gazing back at her. Then she looked up. "Thank you Nyrondis, thank you for bringing him back to me." She leaned down and kissed Lucant again and layed her cheek against his. "I love you Lucant."

Written by - Ardwen

“Hmmm,” Ardwen began, “as one of Elven blood you’d most likely find a welcome place at the Citadel. You’re mounted, you’ll find the place not too far from here to the southeast – in truth I’ve just departed from there. As for a bard . . .” Ardwen paused and shuffled through his mind for anyone matching the description his kinsman gave, “No, no, I’ve not seen anyone who looks like that. Still, that does not mean your mark is not at Lothiel-Godith, the Citadel has many people in it, and a bard would most likely have found an easy entry what with the feast and all.”

Ardwen paused again and rubbed his chin between his index finger and thumb; his face carried a pensive look, “Her attempted assassination of one of the blood makes her my enemy as well. While I would love to know why she did such a thing, it’s not necessary to tell me. Where I . . . come from the half-breeds are known for their instability and wanton behavior. Coin is of no consequence to me, if I see the one you seek I will make her answer for her crimes. As it stands however, I’m on an urgent journey to Westgale. I don’t suppose you’d have any news from that area?”

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

"I... I love you too, Tempyst. I am so... so sorry for what I did. I beg your forgiveness," he said as he sat up beside her. He wrapped his arms around her in silent desperation.

Erruno came back with Baldwin and William in tow. "C'mon now you two..." Erruno said as he lifted them up. As they walked back to their room, Lucant glanced down at the ground the whole time, only occaisionally looking at Tempyst for a few seconds. The shame, the embarassment was more than he could bear. He only hoped that she would forgive him for the unkindest cut he had given her.

As they the party reached the door of their room, a small army of chefs carrying food met them there. "Here is the food Lady Lithwyn promised. She sends her regards as well." Erruno forced the door open as Baldwin and William escorted Lucant and Tempyst in. The chefs quickly filed in and arrayed the feast on the large ornate table near the balcony. "All right you two, have a good time now. Get some rest. I'm sure Lithwyn'll be furious if you don't."

As the door shut behind Erruno, Lucant was more unsure than he had ever been.


Written by - Tempyst Page 10 Book 3

"A feast you say, that will indeed be a place to look. Thank you good sir, for your information. And I am sure Lord Dekard would thank you for your sentiments concerning this young bard. But please, if you can, leave her alive, for I am sure he would love to see justice done to her himself. "And I know little news from Westgale, except it has become a dangerous and unruly place." He shuffled in one of his pouches, then tossed a token to the elf. "Here. This is a token of mine. Use it as you travel through Shrikefield and your journey will be less bothersome. Tell them Raevyn gave it to you. And if you make it to the capital, it will get you into see Lord Dekard himself." Raevyn then nodded, kicked his horse and headed onto Lothiel-Godith.

Written by - Tempyst

Tempyst lit the rest of the lamps within the room and as the door shut behind Erruno, she turned and faced Lucant. For a moment, there was an awkward silence as the two of them stood alone in the room. It was Tempyst who broke the silence. "Well, Lucant. Look at all of this food here, we have enough to last us days, if we decided to stay in." She stepped towards him and began to wrap her arms around him, but felt his unsuredness, his uncertainty. She stopped, took his hand within hers and sat down on the edge of the bed, her body still so weary from the healing.

"So much has happened to us Lucant. I know about A'lanthear and what he did. I know you left the grove and I get the impression that you were not going to come back." Tempyst felt a lump catch in her throat at the thought of losing her husband in any way. She squeezed his hand then let it go and looked up at him. "I want you to know Lucant, I believe, I believe that no matter whatever A'lanthear did, he could not create if from nothing. I feel your soul Lucant. I feel your heart. I feel you. I would have known who you were whenever and however I had met you." She stood and walked carefully across the room to the balcony, the vines still growing into the room, covering the cealing and walls, draping down over the bed and furniture.

"You asked for my forgiveness a few moments ago. And you have it. I ask you for yours in return. For a moment, before I went into the Elder Sleep, you were there to comfort me, but I turned away. I am so sorry Lucant. I..." She felt the tears fill her eyes again and she took a deep breath.

"I won't force you, or beg you to stay with me. We were married, bound together, but we never consumated our vows. If you wish to annul our marriage, I will comply. But please know this. There is no one else within this world for me but you." Tempyst bowed her head and felt the tears run down her face.

Written by - Ariana

Through her laughter Mavigan was vaguely aware that Teran was speaking to her. She took several gulps of air and tried to quiet herself enough to listen.

"We all age at our own pace Mavigan. I am still young if you look at my life span as a whole."

Wiping tears from her cheek with a grubby hand, she realized that Teran was entirely serious about his age. Doing a quick calculation in her head she inwardly cringed at the double digit number she came up with. He was 75 years older than she, and for some reason that made her twitchy.

“Geez,” she said in disbelief, “you really are an old geezer.”

Then something else struck her from the information he had given her. “If he is 93 years old and still considered young,” she thought, her eyes going wide with realization, “then that means…..” Her thoughts paused, her mind reeling as her eyes did a quick examination of him looking for anything that looked out of the ordinary. “What are you, Teran?” she wondered as her examination turned up nothing but what appeared to be a human male.

Whether he intentionally ignored her comment or simply hadn’t heard it, Mavigan did not know, but Teran plowed forward carefully instructing her on the ingredients and type of poison he had just taught her how to make. At first, she struggled to recover from the shock of her new discovery, but her natural adaptability allowed her to push the thought aside and concentrate on the task at hand.

She was a little disappointed to discover that the poison she had just learned to create wasn’t lethal. Disappointed, but not surprised. Even in the Thieves Guild in Westgale, only those who had been around for awhile and proven themselves worthy were taught the art of creating the most lethal of poisons. She supposed it made sense that Teran would teach her a formula that was more an aid than a tool for murder. After all, he didn’t think her trustworthy, the thought causing her lip to curl in a slight sneer.

The expression was gone as quickly as it had appeared, however, as she realized that she was still learning advanced techniques that she would have had to toil under the watchful eye of the Guild for several years before gaining. Eager to use the new find, she began pulling out the daggers secreted on her person, one on each wrist and one in each boot. The daggers normally strapped to each thigh had been left behind when Teran had suddenly spirited her to the shadow world. Undaunted, she reached up and fiddled with her hair, removing a tiny dagger from its depths. She then reached for her shirt, hesitating as she realized she had an audience. She decided quickly that if he wasn’t embarrassed, she wouldn’t be either. Tossing him a warning glare, she reached down the front of her shirt and removed a small dagger with a rather uniquely shaped hilt, adding it to the arsenal before her.

Feeling the weight of his gaze made her jumpy, so she snapped a demanding, “What?” at him. “Jonan said a girl always has to be armed.” Sniffing haughtily, she reached for a dagger with one hand while clasping her vial in the other. Her tongue poked out of the corner of her mouth as she set to her task.

About to apply the poison, she paused, casting a look of uncertainty at Teran, looking for some reassurance that she wasn’t about to screw up.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

A short, stocky man briskly strode towards the massive iron gate that led to the underground stockades on the outskirts of Westgale. There were two distinguishing features about the man that any passerby would immediately notice. The first was his mustache, full and meticulously groomed, it was waxed into an uncommon style, its tips shaped into curls that rose upward like rings of smoke. The second noticeable feature was his choice of companions, two fully uniformed policemen, their buttons shined to perfection.

The three made an odd-looking tableau as they approached the gate,and had anyone ventured close enough to observe, they would have noticed small signs of nervousness among the three. One man fidgeted with the buttons on his uniform while another seemed to have a small tremor. This could be excused, however, for anyone would fidget when confronted with the sight of dungeons that had never seen the light of day. "State your name and purpose," stated a helmed guard, his voice aged and rough."Chief Constable Gral Larseno," replied mustache-man. "Here to escort the prisoner Jonan Soval to his execution for crimes of theft, murder, and high treason against King Beridane." The helmed guard quickly yelled, "Enter!" His loud voice served as the signal for the imposing gates to be opened, and the trio marched through without incident.

The dank, musty air caused Larseno to contort his face in revulsion as he and his entourage walked down long, winding corridors which were faintly lit by a few sparsely placed torches. They seemed to walk an eternity, and the dungeon sent him disturbing images of being a tomb. The occasional scrape of bodies moving along the floor, the occasional moan or scream, and the sound of their own boots clopping on the cobblestones indicated to him that the denizens of this tomb were not dead, not yet anyway.

After what seemed hours of travel, the trio finally arrived at a small cell tucked at the end of a hallway. Inside lay a young man who appeared to be in his early 20's, though exact age was difficult to ascertain through the layers of oil and grime that were caked on his skin. He was clothed only in a pair of ratty trousers that appeared to be too big for him. He hung from the ceiling by a pair of manacles and the trousers hung low, pulled by the weight of gravity and the lack of flesh available to hold them up. The man raised up his head at the sound of people outside his cell. His dirty, dust-covered blond hair that had not been trimmed in some time, hung over his blue eyes. Squinting in the gloom, he finally recognized his visitors. "Larseno!" he said eagerly, "It is about damn time you showed up. I was beginning to think you'd let me rot in here!" Larseno responded with a large grin. "What did you expect? It took awhile to track down and tie up the real escorts." Larseno busied himself with the large ring of keys he produced from his belt and soon had both the door and the manacles unlocked, smirking when Jonan hit the floor with a thud. "It is a miracle we made it in here at all!" Larseno added with relish. "These two," he indicated the two assistants who were helping Jonan to his feet, "couldn't stop fidgeting with nerves! I thought for sure we would be busted."

Jonan now stood unsteadily on his feet, supported on either side. "Don't be so hard on 'em, Lar." he said. "Everyone has to start somewhere. "Hmpf," was Larseno's only reply. No further words were spoken as the group made their way up and out of the dungeons, passing the guards without remark, and into a waiting cart. Once out of sight of the guards, they picked up speed and soon disappeared into the gathering night. As soon as it was safe, Larseno settled himself into the cart beside Jonan, who was busy scarfing down food and water that had been hidden among the straw in the bottom of the cart. "Now," Larseno said, his voice filled with purpose, "Do you want to tell me how the hell you ended up in this mess?"

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

As he saw Tempyst begin to cry, Lucant stood up and began to pace about the vine entangled room. With frustration and confusion overcoming him, he began his outburst.

"I.... I just don't know what to do. You say this is meant to be, that the gods themselves have oradined our union. I wish I had that kind of faith... I just can't believe that, though," he paused for a moment as he continued to pace about, "But... still... we have been through a great deal together... there is something there between us. I don't want to end the marriage."

He finally stopped pacing and sat down in a chair at the large table where the feast had been set. He took a deep breath and spoke again with anger and resolution in his voice: "A'lanthear... I want nothing more to do with A'lanthear. I will accept Nyrondis once more, but on my own terms. I will not be used and discarded by anyone."

He then gazed down at the floor. "You... have done nothing to be forgiven for. For all my faults and all my weakness, you were there for me. I... do not deserve you Tempyst."

Written by - Tempyst

Tempyst heard his words and felt his emotions. She could sense his anger at A'lanthear, his confusion about his path with Nyrondis, his uncertainty about the two of them, even the loss of their daughter. "Faith, faith is something I have more than enough of Lucant."

She turned and walked slowly to him, then knelt in front of him, taking his hands within her own and looking up into his eyes. "You need not worry about A'lanthear, he will no longer be with us. Nyrondis is as patient as the mountains and will wait as long as you need him too." She laid her head upon his knee. "I will wait until time ends for you Lucant. And you deserve all life has to offer."

Lucant raised a hand, wanting to place it upon her soft hair, but then placed it back down, his uncertainty getting the better of him. “"I…I just can't believe that. I can't believe that I deserve someone like you. You don't need to wait for me...but...” Lucant sighed, at a loss for the right words. “You deserve far better than me."

Tempyst whispered, “I deserve who I love and I love you. Why can't you accept that? If you are so unsure, unsure of how you feel, then why do you wish to stay married to me?”

He felt his heart trying to pound out of his chest. How can I tell her, tell her that I am afraid of losing everything if I give in? He closed his eyes and took a deep breath. You can do it Lucant, you have to open up and tell her. Lucant spoke softly, his voice trembling slightly. “All my life, the only things I knew, the only things I believed, that I could believe in before, were things that I could feel, see…touch. With you, for the first time ever...” Lucant paused, so afraid af her reactions to him, but somewhere found the strength to keep talking. “But now, for the first time, I feel something beyond that, something greater. I...I don't want to lose that feeling. I don’t want to lose you."

Tempyst looked up. “That is what I feel too Lucant. When I see you, when I touch you, when I hear your voice, I feel that and so much more. And when I think that I could have lost you a while ago…” Tempyst took a deep breath, her own voice beginning to choke up. “We have been through so much in our short time, I look forward to more, both good and bad. I can handle anything as long as I am with you.” Lucant felt a tear splash down upon his hand. “I’m yours Lucant. You will never lose me, not by my choice, not by my will. It is okay to be scared, I’m scared. This is new to me as well. Open your heart to me Lucant, feel mine beating with yours. Feel the connection between us, between our souls. Reach out and know, know that what I say is true.”

Lucant felt her warm tears upon his skin. Then he once again closed his eyes and let his soul open up. He gaspsed softly at what he felt. He could feel her, as if she were inside of him, a part of him, an extension of his very being. He could feel the love, the faith she had, how strong and true it was. How much conviction was in her heart for them, for him. It overwhelmed him all that he felt. He could feel her fears, her sadness of the loss of their child, he could truly share the pain he too felt and knew he was not alone. I’m no longer alone. With a choked up voice he cupped her face in his hands. “I, I’m sorry Tempyst. I do have faith...faith in you, faith in us. I, I am so sorry for ever doubting.”

Tempyst felt Lucant open up and felt the link truly and finally complete. She kissed his hands, then looked up into his eyes, showing him her joy, letting him feel through their bond, the joy she now felt. “I love you Lucant. It will be alright now. There is no need to be sorry.” She leaned up and kissed him softly, then pulled back. “We have so much to talk about, to do, to learn, but…” Tempyst blushed deeply. “...but all I want right now is you.”

Lucant felt his heart leap from his chest. He leaned forward, his lips brushing hers, and whispered, “All I want is you.” He then kissed Tempyst deeply, wrapping his arms around her tightly. In one flowing movement, he picked her up and carried her to the bed, feeling the pain in their hearts begin to heal.

Written by - Teran

The assassin nodded his aproval at her concealed weapons, but something about his expression let her know she had one obstacle to overcome.

"Jonan was a wise man to teach you that, however what good are those weapons if you have to expose yourself to reach them?" Teran let the double meaning of "expose" hang in the air for a moment "Those would work against a distracted enemy but as the Queen you may learn that assassins are not easy to distract and you may find a blade piercing your heart even as you reach for the one in your hair."

Teran nodded to Mavigan to indicate she was doing it correctly even as he gave her his somewhat cryptic warning.

"Don't apply very much, you need hardly at all." he said neutrally, changing the subject with no thought to finesse. "Spread it over the entire blade."

When Mavigan does apply the poison she would find that it spreads very easily, she would also find that the poison dries very quickly.

Written by - Ardwen

Ardwen deftly snatched the coin in midair and nodded in appreciation to the Elf. He had no idea who Lord Dekard was, but his status as lord meant he had power, power and fame that might assist Ardwen in finishing his journey to Westgale. After the rider had sped off into the night Ardwen muttered his name once, as if he had a strange rock in his hand and was turning it over and over to inspect its every facet. “Raevyn.” He muttered once more before setting off into the night.

After a few steps he remembered to place the coin in the leather pouch that the compass and map rested in. Ardwen tried to mentally prepare the rest of the journey in his mind, mentally acting out various scenarios as if he could stumble upon some fundamental formula that only required a few basic inputs on his part to reduce his quest to a guaranteed success. But the variables were too many and too complex, complication upon complication crowded Ardwen’s mind as he vainly contemplated his choices. He had no idea how far he was from Westgale, or even if he had departed the lands belonging to the Citadel yet. He had no food or water, and the only coin he had was one given to him as a mark to see a noble.

Still, there was a sense of old familiarity about the whole predicament. There was a sense of solitary wandering and lone, furtive journeys. It reminded him of his days after the fall of Kierhaven, a soul who had no place in the world, a relic that had somehow managed to survive to a time it was not meant to behold. “Perhaps I’m back in that same position now. I’ve not felt like I belong here since I arrived. No purpose but reopening old wounds, no validation for the man I am now.”

His mind rushed over what he’d done, seen, and heard recently. Isuiln’s jesting before the assault on the Orcs, Mavigan thought he was a moron, Trinni thought he was a monster, Tempyst . . . just fainted. Ithramir had shown him respect, had given him that much needed order that had ruled his life for the past few years. Ardwen just shook his head sadly, pondering upon how much of a waste it was for Ithramir to have been born here; he would have made a fine battle-brother in Avari. Suddenly a shrill tug of wind reminded Ardwen that it was still chilly and raining, so the warrior pulled his cloak back around him again, wrapping his form in its comforting darkness.

He still had no clue on how he was to save Ariana.

Written by - Ariana

She wasn’t sure she liked this new existence. There was more discomfort, more pain, more contact associated with her new bounded life. It was too bright, too hard, and too busy, much different from what she was used to. Still, that was Then, and this is Now, and for the Void, it is only the Now that matters.

Whereas before, she had the occasional dancing light or caressing wind or faint sound to surprise and delight and distract her from the eternal night, now she was confronted by hard surfaces, faint ambient light, constant sound, and flurries of agony. She thought she could become accustomed to the light and sound, but the times when she was held fast while things were forced inside her was certainly an activity she could do without.

Sometimes the things she was forced to consume came back out and sometimes they stayed inside her. At one point, she had thought she had heard something that sounded like a word – a word she thought she should know, but for some reason could not remember.

It was after just such a session of being forced to take things inside of her that the light appeared. It pushed itself between the bars on the door and into the cell. At first, she did not notice it, but the light was undaunted. It weaved and danced in front of her eyes until her unblinking gaze focused on it.

When she saw it, something inside her shifted, much like a dislocated joint trying to reset itself into its proper place. The pain was acute and caused her to hunch over on herself, closing her eyes to shut out the source of her pain. It was trying to open doors that were better left closed, and she unconsciously willed it to stop. As she panted heavily, the pain slowly subsided, and she eventually opened her eyes and uncurled her form.

The light was still there, hovering around her head. This time when she looked at it, there was no pain. She willed it to dance, and it complied, bobbing and weaving and twirling around the dingy cell. As she watched, some unknown and unnamed emotion welled up within her. She felt lighter, almost weightless, and unbidden a small smile appeared on her face.

Her light was an omen, she decided. Darkness had not forsaken her. This was a sign that she would soon go home.

Written by - Archeantus

Whisking across great distances, through the vast deserts, forests, over large mountainous regions, over seas, he looked. It was a very difficult, tedious process, much like a panhandler searches for a spec of gold among large amounts of dirt and rock. It took incredible mental patience. The mental waves he sought had to be identified out of millions of others. It was an immense chain of elimination.

But soon he struck gold, which caused his lips to form a smile.

“Pharsalus.” He whispered coming out of his trance, ending his search for the moment.

He was suddenly exhausted and nearly fainted. Grasping the wet stone battlement in front of him hurriedly, he braced himself. When the fuzziness cleared, he looked back and to both sides of him to make sure he was alone. The rain made sure of that. And so he sat down, resting his walking stick against the battlements, and steeled himself once more. Focusing his mental energies after a brief rest, he lowered his head once more and projected a thought to his old friend, a thought that awoke a long dormant side of the old warlock-- his sense of humor.

“Pharsalus of the Southern Spine, “He began in as deep a voice as he could muster, “It is I, Thurin, your God. I see you have been hiding from me. By my word, you must, where’ ere you may be, begin digging a hole as large as your apparent faith in me consists of…”

*****

Angellus had found her, much to its own delight, which it displayed in highly erratic dancing swirls and loop-d-loops. Its master would be highly pleased. It then floated in, checking to make sure, and hovered there just above her nose, then balanced just in front of her eyes. Those clear eyes seemed muddled and confused, but they held the familiar softness so prevalent in her demeanor. It was unmistakable. It was her.

She smiled, but it was a strange smile.

The small fiery ember then rose in the air above her and began to whisk about the cell as if examining every little detail. When it was finished, it then went back and slowly suspended itself in front of those luminous eyes again. It was a small moment, perhaps a few seconds, but the little ember seemed to brighten, illuminating the darkness of the dim cell. It then suddenly, little by little, left her presence to report its findings, leaving the darkness to again set in.

Written by - Ariana

"Those would work against a distracted enemy but as the Queen you may learn that assassins are not easy to distract and you may find a blade piercing your heart even as you reach for the one in your hair."

Mavigan gave an exaggerated roll of her eyes. “I Know that,” she said, her tone indicating her disdain for his explanation of something so obvious. “But,” she drawled, her face suddenly guarded, “assassins aren’t the only danger for a girl on the streets.”

She said nothing else, sure he was intelligent enough to catch her meaning, her disgust at having to explain something so obvious to him apparent. She busied herself with applying the poison to her weapons, forestalling any further probing.

She noticed that Teran had not told her a fib. The concoction did indeed spread easily and dried quickly. It wasn’t long before all her weapons had been similarly treated and returned to their rightful places on her person.

Clearly wanting to veer the conversation to somewhere other than where she was afraid it would go, she desperately searched for something to say, something that would put them back on familiar ground.

“You know, if your undead groupie eats either my horse or my friend while we're gone, I’m gonna have to kill her.”

Written by - Agmund

He stood upon a large hill, leaning heavily upon a smooth slender staff, his eyes scanning the horizon before him. “The Plains of Falerion,” he whispered to himself, and they lay before him as far as he could see. Like one great field of the greenest green, only a rock here, or a small tree or bush there breaking the terrain. A long sigh escaped his frail lungs as his eyes fell from the scenery ahead to the dead horse that lay beside him.

“How have you come to be here?” he thought aloud. He could recall no reason to be upon the hill that he stood upon, and worse he could not remember where he was going, or for what purpose. Slowly he sank down to his knees, and then with a dull thud he fell upon his back. Long gray strands of hair splayed outwards like translucent tendrils of white upon the grass of the hill. Eyelids appearing to be made of obsidian shut upon their own accord, his eyes no longer caring to view the sky or the heavens, or the leaves above. Scenes of the past played upon his mind, dancing one by one, giving him a strange comfort as his breathing began to slow.

A little red haired girl playing in a large stone courtyard, “Watch me! Watch me!” she shouted at him with jubilant glee. A large group of men lay dying upon a field of battle, but three stood above him, looking down upon him, one reaching down as he knelt, his hand slipping behind the priests head as he offered him water. The warriors face was full of sadness, and yet he smiled. Each slowly faded away only to reveal another. As they glided before him, as if to say hello, or remember me, or farewell old friend, his heart came to a gentle stop and a cool breeze washed over the hill.

Written by - Teran

Teran shrugged at her comment, unconcerned with her horse or friend. Teran had spent a lot of time nurturing Sabbatine however, and he did not wish to see that time go to waste, nor did he wish to see her hurt. He trusted that Sabbatine would keep her hunger under control while they were gone.

"Do you really believe you could defeat her?" Teran asked simply.

He stood up and dusted himself off.

"How would you kill her? Would you stab her through the heart? Cut her throat? You might find that some creatures are not so easily slain. If we did rejoin and find that your horse and friend had been nothing more than a meal to her would you really want to fight her without knowing how to kill her?"

Written by - Ariana

Even as Teran stood up, Mavigan laid back on the ground and made herself comfortable. Feet crossed at the ankle, hands propped beneath her head, she gazed at the sky and grinned.

"I'm not a complete idiot, you know," she said. "They did make me take classes on this sort of stuff once upon a time. I paid attention some of the time."

She squirmed a bit on the ground, managing to dislodge a stray twig that had been digging into her back. "Let's see," she said, trying to recall what she could from those classes long ago. "How to kill supernatural ickies 101."

She paused for a minute to marshall her thoughts. "I think to kill a zombie you have to chop off its head, put a stake through its heart, and fill the mouth with stinkweed." Her eyes clouded with uncertainty, "Or is it cut out the heart, burn it, and scatter the ashes? Or maybe it was douse it in holy water and then do the chicken dance?"

One hand popped out from under her head and waved in air, as if to erase all the previous answers. "It doesn't really matter though," she added. "At least, not according to what folks at the Citadel would have me believe."

Mavigan took Teran's silence as an indication to continue.

"I used to be convinced that one should only enter into a fight if one had all the proper information beforehand. I used to believe that if Death caught you, it was your own damn fault for not seeing it coming in the first place," she said, warming to her theme.

"But then, all THIS happened, and I ended up where I am. And I have people telling me that when it comes to fighting, honor is the most important thing. Even as we speak, people are marching into battles, some doing so in my name, which, I have to tell you, is kinda creepy. Many of them won't come back, and they know this, yet they go anyway content in the knowledge that their death will be considered honorable because they fought for what they believed in."

Mavigan sighed and gazed up at the sky. "I don't understand it, but if they are right, then if I fought your undead friend because she killed my friend, then whether I am successful or not, whether I live or not doesn't matter. It will still be an honorable act because I went to avenge them, and to some, that is all that matters."

Written by - Teran

"Sabbatine does not have a heart, or any other spot on her body that is more vulnerable than any other part. You could cut out her eyes and leave a blade embedded in her skull and she would not slow down until you were dead at her feet... and when she fed on your body your flesh and blood would heal her wounds. Would you like to hear what would happen to your soul?" Teran spoke in a way that left Mavigan wondering if everything he said was true.

"She is a puppet for a greater being just as you are."

The assassin began stretch out as though he were preparing to strain himself physically.

"If merely avenging someone is the honorable thing to do, then why would you not wait until circumstances favored you to attack Sabbatine? Would your horse, or friend want you to die for their memory? I think they would prefer that you destroy their murderer rather than making yourself another victim. You know them better than I... maybe they do wish you dead." He grinned "but with friends like that, do you need enemies?"

"You sound like you have already given up. Perhaps you have gotten tired of thinking for yourself, we all have at one time or another. I'm sure you will make a fine ruler if you wish to do things for the sake of honor, even if they are stupid things. I think you have the potential to be more than one of his puppets. I think you have the potential to be an intelligent decisive leader who will not sacrifice her people for the sake of being honorable when it is not practical." he snickered.


Written by - Pharsalus Page 11 Book 3

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

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

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

waited...

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

Pharsalus of the Southern Spine...

Pharsalus spun, suprised, but lost his balance.

THUD!

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

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

It is I, Thurin, your God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

****

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

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

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

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

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

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

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

Written by - Tempyst

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

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

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

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

Written by - Tempyst

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

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

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

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

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

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

Written by - Tempyst

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

Written by - Tempyst

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

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

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

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

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

Written by - Ariana

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

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

Written by - Teran

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

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

Written by - Archeantus

“Archeantus!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

There was a fearful pause.

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

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

Written by - Tempyst

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

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

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

Written by - Rikshanthas

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

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

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

Written by - Agmund

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by - Ariana

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

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

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

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

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


Written by - Kiradia Afirewen Page 12 Book 3

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

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

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

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

Written by - Teran

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

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

Written by - Tempyst

*Madam Lithwyn, be wary of this one: he is a hunter, a dangerous one. His mind is guarded, I cannot sense his motives; but his prey is in this building, I felt her fear.*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by - Sycon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by - Ardwen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by - Archeantus

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

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

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

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

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

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

The answers flowed as fast as the questions came.

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

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

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

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

Suddenly he quickened his pace.

“Angellus, go, find him. Quickly!”

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

****

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

He could have sworn he’d been here before.

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

“Soon,” he told himself, “Soon.”

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

****

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

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

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

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

Written by - Sycon

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

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

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

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

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

Written by - Tempyst

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

"Garth, she's passed out."

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

Written by - Teran

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

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

She grinned showing all her perfect white teeth.

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

Sabbatine nodded enthusiastically, folding her arms across her chest.

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

"Do you love anyone?"

Written by - Ardwen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by - Archeantus

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

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

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

"Do you love anyone?"

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

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

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

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

Written by - Pharsalus

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CRUNCH

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

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

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

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

Written by - Teran

Sabbatine flashed another huge grin at Jasmine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Written by - Rikshanthas

"S#%@."

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

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

****

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

Written by - Archeantus

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

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

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

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

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


Written by - Ariana Page 13 Book 3

Mavigan stood silently for several moments, her body tense, her eyes shielded by her hair. She knew exactly why she was angry, but she wasn’t about to provide him with answers. His guesses were way off base, and the notion that someone so perceptive had not a single clue amused her greatly. Obviously, anger was not serving her purpose, and it made her feel strange. Deciding to let it go for now, she allowed her amusement to shove the anger back inside the hole in her heart where it lived, allowing her body to begin to relax. Her grip on her daggers slowly slackened and the color soon returned to her knuckles. Her shoulders straightened, her head came up and she looked him in the eye and gave him a knowing smirk.

“You bastard,” she said lightly. “You did that on purpose!” she said with a light chuckle. “If you had wanted a fight, all you had to do was ask.”

She got into an offensive stance and flashed him a cheeky grin. “Let’s try this again,” she said, “because I know I am not that #@*$ing slow!” With that declaration, she launched herself at him once again.

Written by - Teran

"I hate the cold." Sabbatine responded softly "I bet you won't end up like this, I bet Teran will get you a cure."

Sabbatine almost looked jealous, but then she started smiling at her new friend Jasmine.

"I hope he does get you a cure." She repeated, crouching even more closely to the fire as she did "Huxel does too."

****

"If I had asked would you have learned anything?" The assassin offered a thin smile to Mavigan as she attacked again.

He offered her suggestions during the sparring and complimented certain aspects of her technique. They will go at it for nearly an hour before taking a break.

Once they were finished Teran sat down against a tree appearing pretty relaxed.

"You did much better after you regained control." he said softly "If you can keep control you may become a true master of this craft... but we will have to see if you are truly capable of that."

He smiled knowingly at her.

Written by - Sycon

"It’s a paying back of sorts, no?" Sycon's mind started shifting back into himself. Logical and keen...

“I’m getting tired of teaching you.” Certain aspects were sticking out like a sore thumb in Ardwen's speech. Nothing wrong, still the gramatical elf as he had ever been, but the phrasing.

The pressure in Sycon's chest, energy pent up it seemed died down into nothingness. It left a gap inside him that felt like the strangest feeling he had ever had. It was between half tickling and half epiphany.

No matter how much Ardwen wanted to deny himself... no matter how much it seemed Ardwen was stuck in his own rage or meaninglessness of life. He was still, as humans would put it... well, human.

If Ardwen had noticed it or not, he was picking up the tongue of the humans. Speaking with redundancy in places, almost reassuring his sentences as all humans did. Arrogant as he still was, Sycon could do nothing but back away and give in to laughter. It started as a small chuckle, then rapidly escalated to a roaring laugh. Still holding onto his long blade with one hand, he stepped back several times, almost falling over from this feeling. He laughed so hard he almost fell over.

Between his small fits he managed, "Alright... alright. We'll go. Damn Ardwen, you had me worried for a minute. Ya old elf, good to see ya back Ardy," and at those words, his memories rushed back to him of the old days making the laughter spread through him like lightning once again.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

As soon as it was safe, Larseno settled himself into the cart beside Jonan, who was busy scarfing down food and water that had been hidden among the straw in the bottom of the cart. "Now," Larseno said, his voice filled with purpose, "Do you want to tell me how the hell you ended up in this mess?"

Jonan stuffed a stale hunk of bread into his mouth - he hadn't eaten in days - and looked over at Larseno. "Awww, how sweet. You been worried about me Lar?" "If only she was worried about me, too..." he mused quietly to himself. A bit disgruntled by Jonan's non-chalance, Larseno rebuked him: "Harrumphf! Not in the least! The ONLY reason I broke you out is because of the "information" you claim to have. "Ah! The information I do have, old man," he quickly corrected him, "and I will tell it to you... eventually...." Jonan finished the hunk of bread he had been chewing on as Larseno brushed the crumbs Jonan and inadvertantly spit on him from his tunic. "Well, get on with it then, before I throw you back in." "Heh heh... keep your clothes on old man... for all our sakes."

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.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

"What the hell do you want with her? Can't you see she's helpless," Leov yelled in desperation. "Stop being such an idiot and think for a moment" Garth yelled back at him: "She tried to kill our commander! She's a traitor to this army and her people! She deserves a fate far worse than death!"

Leov spit some of the blood collecting in his mouth out onto the floor. "How do you know it was her? She can't even keep her eyes open let alone kill anyone now... and your precious commander, how do you think he's gonna feel if you kill her before he does?" With a laugh, Garth replied to him, "We were there fool! We saw her! We saw what she became, what she did!"

Leov saw his chance, and moved for it: "Did it ever occur to you drunken swines that he would want to question her? Or what he would do to you after you string her up?" "And why should Lord Ithramir have to dirty his hands with traitor's blood," Garth shot back at him.

Leov gave a slight laugh: "Because he is the COMMANDER idiot! That is what he does! Damn you bastards! I know what its like to see the people you care about get hurt and killed..but he didn't die, now did he? You're the lucky ones...you're the ones that surived." He paused for a moment to collect himself, "So go ahead and kill her..but what will that get you? And what will that get your darling commander? NOTHING! If she knows anything, ANYTHING about any more demons...you better be damn sure he wants to know about it. But go ahead..take away his information, I'm sure sure he'll commend you and give every one of you promotions ..to this very same CELL!" He looked around at the entire crowd gathering around them. "Go home...sleep off your damn hangovers..be real heros and let the girl suffer her fate at Ithramir's hands."

Garth stepped towards him quickly, still clenching his jaw, "And just why the hell should we follow your orders? Who are you to us? Last I checked, you was out numbered, out armed, and out classed.

Leov said in a grave voice "I aint giving you no damn orders, just a little friendly advice. Don't listen to me, see if I care, but I bet your families will when you're locked up for what you've done. Aren't you supposed to be better than the enemy? But smart men like you would know that if you were blasted off your asses drunk. I'm sure you'd all be hailed as heroes for killing an unconscious woman. So kill her and go brag about it...see how that gets your reputations up." He looked around at everyone once more and said to Garth: "You outnumber me sure...but the gods know what goes on here, and she will make sure if you kill this elf, not one will forget the cowards you became on a day of such victory."

"He's right," someone yelled from the back, "taking a life in battle has meaning, but this is just murder." "Here here," another yelled, "we're Elves, not barbarians! She will get her just reward in time. Let her suffer until then!" Garth looked back in dismay as his support began to leave him one by one.

Written by - Ardwen

Ardwen was at a loss for words. Sycon had stopped attacking and had begun . . . laughing. Not a bitter, sardonic laugh like Ardwen might have expected, but honest laughter of mirth and relief. Ardwen let his blades dip and merely stared, one eyebrow raised in mild bewilderment.

"Alright... alright. We'll go. Damn Ardwen, you had me worried for a minute. Ya old elf, good to see ya back Ardy," Sycon choked out between fits of laughter.

"I'm . . . glad to see you've . . . come . . . to . . ." Ardwen started with long uncertain pauses between each word, "You know what? To hell with it - I don't get it. What is so gods' damn funny?"

Ardwen let out a muffled sigh and tossed a satchel at Sycon's feet, "That has a map to get us to Westgale and a compass in it. And here you thought I had rushed off with no thought. Moving onward, our primary objective is to secure the Abbess and secret her out of the city unharmed. Our secondary objective is to ensure that we ourselves do not die in accomplishing objective one. And finally, our third objective is to accomplish objective one and two whilst burning the city to the ground. Any questions?"

Ardwen took a few steps back on his path before stopping and adding, "Oh, yes, there is the matter of food and water I suppose. I guess you've noticed that we really don't have any. Just leave that to me. However, keep in mind that it's not cannibalism for me to eat a human. Also, it's technically not for you either if at the time of consumption you didn't know it was human, so whatever you do: don't ask what the meat is and we'll be fine on supplies."

Ardwen smiled a little with satisfaction, he had handled the whole situation like a pro. Sycon was on his side, he had a more accurate guide to Westgale, and the quandary of rations was now solved - all in all a brilliant outcome.

Written by - Sycon

Sycon almost choked on his own laughter. Cannabalism...

OI!

"Perhaps you had better let me worry about the food, Ardwen?" That way, we can at leasst have a filling meal... and it isn't... uhh... yeah.

Sycon stood to his full height and once again replaces the long sword on his back. He stepped forward toward Ardwen and stook out his hand in a age old gesture of faith. Bowing his head at the same time and saying, "I'm with you brother in arms." Sycon waited for the gesture to be returned.

Written by - Pharsalus

The Ancient One pushed on with the rest of the party through through the howling, swirling dark. The road on which they traveled had long disappeared beneath a skin of white that went on ahead of them uninterrupted as far as mortal eyes could see. Each of the men's faces was hidden deep within the shadow of fur-lined cloaks releasing as they walked small puffs of steam from invisible lips. The liche's eyes glowed dimly as he drudged through the knee-deep mix. While the others no doubt, save perhaps the Elf, could see no farther than the end of their frost-bitten noses, Geirik could see all, hear all, feel all. The shadows and he shared a connection that mortal men could never understand. A lifetime of magical research and the sacrifice of his own mortal frame, proceded by a thousand years of "practice" had earned him the right to move through shadow as one of them. They were his eyes, ears, and fingers. And here, in this lightless cold, he could see everything, hear everything, know everything. Even thoughts would pass his ears every now and again - a woman mourning her missing husband, an at-a-glance tabulation of a man's coinpurse by the local thief, a desire to taste power undigestable by an Elf in his present [mortal] form. They passed through his mind like the wind through the snow-bent trees.

He stopped. Something stirred in front of them. Geirik stood perfectly straight against the gale of wind and frost, nigh impervious to their chill, arms folded across his chest. From the "light" of the shadows ahead of him, Geirik saw clearing a slouching form shuffling through the snow. A taste tickled the back of his tongue - metallic and wet and warm.

Death he thought almost jokingly to himself. He smirked.

The figure continued pushing through the snow, slightly hunched, arms dangling loosely in front of him. He was clothed only in a tattered shirt and trousers. The man was dead. Geirik's eyes pulsed a brighter white as his beloved shadows whispered their information into his ears. This was an unusual place for the walking dead. But, the Liche admitted to himself, there always was something magical about this storm. Dark powers were at work here - they had been since they'd arrived at the first town now a distant spec in the tempestuous black behind them.

The walking dead stopped a dozen or so paces in front of the haulted party, staring at them with dark, hollow eyes. No steam came from his lips, no life to his cheeks, no sound from his throat. The fallen soul focused his gaze, an almost tangible stare, at each of the men. One by one, each man was left for the next...

Until they fell upon Geirik. The Liche smirked as he felt a shift in the apparition now focusing its beams into the thick of his chest. A distant force drove this husk of a man forward, and now the Liche believed it had found what it had struck out into the cold to find.

Him.

The Liche forced a smirk upon the face of his host as the form in the dark burst into an open sprint towards the group. He knew for whom it sought quandry. He knew its intended target, and he welcomed it. The corpse moaned pitifully as it engaged Geirik.

The dead man flung himself, hands bent in the shape of claws, swinging wildly at its target. SNow flew as its hands swiped air, sending it off-balance into a bank of snow. The men around Geirik simply watched. Geirik now stood opposite - and behind - his assailant. He had not moved. He was simply there, the snow around him completely undisturbed. He shouted into the whistling night, "Who is your master, oh string'ed one" He chuckled and turned his voice into the air. "Who drives this soul to attack one such as me! To claim me!"

The corpse had stood and steadied himself and turned his yellow, empty eyes around to Geirik. He advanced again, flailing wildy and grunting like the beast he now was. Again, his claws swiped only snow and shadow as Geirik's form faded and reappeared back in his original space. Who would send such a lowly thing against him? A sign, perhaps? A show that his presence is known by whoever controls this dead thing before him? The corpse stood again and turned, this time lowering his hands. Geirik's face remained stinted into a cold scowl.

"You want my attention - so you have it! Who has sent you, low one? Who would send so worthless a creature against me?"

The corpse stood silently, pitifully, for a moment before his mouth opened. It did not move as words shattered the windy whine of the storm.

"You are observant, as always, Ancient One. I am sorry I could not send more worthy a foe, but my orders were strict: you are not to be harmed."

Geirik's scowel melted. He laughed, as he had not laughed in a thousand years.

"Harmed? You think so low a sorceror as you could harm me? How little you know!" Geirik continued chuckling as the voice behind the corpse continued.

"I know more than even you understand, Tal'Aidon Korresh."

Geirik fell silent, eyes burning with a dim fury he'd not felt in many lifetimes of Men. They knew his name.

"Yes," the shrill voice continued. "I know even your name - the name of the famous Tal'Aidon Korresh, Master Wizard..."

"...Betrayer."

Geirik's face curled into a snarl.

"You tamper with powers you cannot understand, Nameless One. You have my attention - SPEAK"

"All in due time, Ancient One. We will meet...soon enough. But first, a test..."

The yellow glow of the corpse's eyes flickered, dimmed, and died. It fell forward into the snow, lifeless. Geirik's eyes burned as he turned them into the dark ahead of them. The shadow of night warped and wove to his command, stretch farther and wider and faster. His eyes widened as all around him he sensed Death's minions rise from the snow, eyes burning amber. Geirik called into the wind to his party, "If you three are to survive, we must push forward now! Arm yourselves, and don't allow them to touch you."

Geirik struck out into the driving winds, hoping his compatriots had the sense to follow. He cared nothing for their safety; however, if the Sorcerer that now drives the dead against them knows his name, then there are far greater - older - powers at work. He would need the extra help, should conflict with this power arise. The hairs on his neck stood on end. There was a power now, more evident than before, spiraling through the air with the bits of snow and ice. SNow crunched hurriedly beneath his feet.

His hand and eyes flashed in the dark. A corpse lay cleft in two as he pusehed forever forward. He felt weaker, as if he left in every footprint a bit of his power behind.

We must get out of this storm.

Within the back of his mind, the thoughts of a mortal stirred and struggled. The man wanted control of his body. Now was not the time, and Tal'Aidon would have nothing of it.

Written by - Ariana

When Teran gave her a break, she plopped down onto the ground with a sigh. He was a hard taskmaster, and although she didn’t achieve very many hits, she was pleased to note she had at least mussed his hair. Pleased with her small victory, she leaned back against a tree and sighed with contentment. Her cheeks were flushed from exertion, and although her arms felt like lead sinkers and muscles in her legs she had not used in ages were starting to complain, she felt calm and still. It was the closest thing to actual peace she had felt in ages, and she flashed him a small, contented smile.

And then he had to open his mouth.

“Hmpf,” she responded, her smile evaporating in an instant to be replaced by her customary scowl. “If my arms didn’t feel so heavy, I’d give you the rude gesture you deserve, jackass.” The statement lacked some of its regular heat. She settled herself back against the tree and closed her eyes, "Consider yourself insulted."

Written by - Tempyst

Tempyst opened her eyes, her head still spinning with love and excitement. She looked at Lucant, who stirred slightly. I am a lucky woman and I could stay here like this for the rest of our lives. She watched Lucant a bit more, then felt her stomach rumble and realized, she could not remember the last time she had eaten. “Oh, right, we have food!” She exclaimed and rushed over to the table.

“Did you say something?” She heard Lucant mumble. She turned, cheese in hand, and saw her husband setting up in bed.

“Yes, I was proclaiming how wonderful this food tastes.” She quickly put some more food upon a plate, then moved back over to the bed and sat beside her husband. The two of them ate, neither one really speaking much, the silence awkward between them. Finally, Tempyst could bear it no longer. “I love you Lucant. I..I think we need to talk some. A lot has happened to us these last days.”

Lucant felt his heart skip a beat; he was never one for talking much. “I...okay, if you want to.”

Tempyst took a deep breath, tears welling up in her blue eyes. “I do. First, I, I want you to know, I saw our daughter while I was in the elder sleep. I saw her and spoke to her...she wanted me to tell you, that she loves you.” She took Lucant’s hand in her own and squeezed it. “She is well, more than well. Her name is Tirigil, which is elven for Bright Star…”

Lucant broke in. “I know. I saw her as well. She told me that she loved me...and that you did too.”

Tempyst smiled brigtly. “Isnt she beautiful? The gods, because of her selfless act, they made her, well like one of them. She is now their messenger. So, she lives, she lives still and I…I know it is not the same as having us raise her ourselves, but at least...at least she is not completely gone. She also told me that you were hurting. She is the one who led me out of the sleep so I could get to you.”

“It is a comfort to know she is well and happy.” He brought Tempyst’s hand up to his lips and kissed her palm.

“I have a request.” Tempyst looked deep within Lucant’s eyes. “When we were married, we were told that we are now our own enclave. I, I would like to call us, the Bright Star enclave, in Tirigil’s memory. If it is alright with you.”

Lucant nodded, proud and happy for the suggestion. “Of course it is. It is only fitting, after all.” He could feel Tempyst’s joy; he knew her feelings. The link they shared, though new, was becoming easier by the moment to read. Tempyst got up from the bed and took the now empty plate to the table, then returned to the bed, a glass of wine in hand. Lucant’s eyes are glued to her, amazed at how beautiful she was. Her long hair swayed tot eh side and he saw the tattoo upon her back. It had changed. Before it had been a young fledgling oak, now, it was full grown and in full leaf. Though he did not say it, he was proud of her. Then he felt her joy turn to concern and fear. And before she could even speak he knew what she was going to speak of.

“Lucant, you, on that roof. I was so scared. But, you were amazing. I am so in awe of what you did.”

Lucant looked away and stammered. I...I don't really remember much, to be honest. Just some names from when I…” He paused a moment, “…when Nyrondis killed the demon. I remember the name Beridane, which doesn't surprise me. And someone named Tahlon.” Lucant looked up, concern now filled him. “Tempyst, she…she wasn’t responsible. That girl, that elf, she was fighting. By the gods, how she was fighting it.”

“We will have to make sure the Commander knows those names and knows of how that elf was used then. I have heard of the name Beridane, but I don’t know much of what is going on concerning him. I was, well very secluded up until a week ago.” Tempyst blushed. “We...you..and I...uhm…it feels in my heart that I have always known you. But in truth we don't know much of each other do we?”

Lucant blushed slightly himself. “We don't, do we? I was fairly pre-occuped myself until recently.” The two of them smiled, laughing just a bit nervously, then began to talk, really talk. He told her of his life before, of his family, their deaths and of how hard life had been.

Tempyst hugged him tightly. “I’m so sorry fo all you have been through Lucant.”

He shrugged. “It is what I was meant for. But do not dwell on that, tell me about you.” She told him of the Deepshadow Enclave, the only family she had ever known. She spoke of how she came to them, the ranger Coren finding her, believing both her parents to be dead, killed by orcs, then finding out, it was not true. “Not true? So your parents still live?”

“Only one of them. I learned so many thing during my Elder Sleep.” Tempyst could barely contain her excitement. “I got to see my mother. My mother! She was killed, but she told me that my father still lives. He has just learned that I live and is now on his way from the far north to find me. This medallion I wear, it was a wedding gift from my father to my mother.” Tempyst looked up from the medallion, happy tears in her eyes. “I hope that we do find each other. I want him to meet my husband.” She looked at Lucant, suddenly aware that while she had received good news, his parents were still gone. She reached up and caressed his face. “You said, it is what you were meant for, all the hardship. I want you to know, I learned from Nyrondis, that everything does happen for a reason. There is a cycle and a balance to life. And you…you were meant…it all lead up to this…to us…to who you are now and who you can and will be.”

Tempyst laid back down on the pillows and reached out to Lucant, her fingers tracing over his skin. Then she sat up and gasped. “Oh, Oh Lucant!” She nudged him, making him turn his back towards the candlelight. “The tree, your oak…it is still there!”

“It... is?” Lucant’s voice was full of surprise.

Tempyst traced the tattoo with her fingers. “Oh yes it is. This means, your link, that you are still linked with Nyrondis. You, you told me earlier that you would serve him, but on your own terms. This, this must mean, that you are still his Avatar. He wants you…he needs you Lucant. This oak on your back shows that.”

Lucant seemed a little confused, but Tempyst could feel a sense of pride and happiness within him. “If I am needed, then I will be there. For you, for Tirigil, for the rightful Queen, and for Nyrondis.”

She wrapped her arms tightly around Lucant, her face buried in his neck. “And I am here with you Lucant forever and always.”

“As am I for you, Tempyst.”

Tempyst slide around into Lucant’s lap and kissed him deeply, then ran her fingers through his hair. “I was told, that I, that we should stay here for awhile, within this city, so we may learn of each other, and of our new abilities.” She smiled playfully. “I, for one, look forward to that, to being with you. But I do wonder...” She kissed his nose. “I know that my strength lies with the earth and the plants that spring from it. I have some communication with animals, but there are some things, like stones that elude me. I can feel something there, but they just do not speak to me as other things do” Then her eyes lit up. “Oh, I can do this!” Tempyst jumped up out of bed and picked up her staff. She reached into it and pulled out a small, slender branch. Setting back down upon the bed, she held the twig between her palms, a soft green glow emitting from them. Then, the glow fades. Within her hand is a wooden ring. Tempyst took Lucant’s hand and placed the ring upon his finger. Lucant smiled; he could feel her in the ring. Her love, her strength, her energy. “There, this is my marriage gift to you. I know it is not much, but I hope you like it.”

Lucant leaned forward and kissed his wife tenderly. “It is more than I ever could have hoped for. I wish there was something I could give you, but have little more than what's in this room.” Tempyst returned his kiss, letting him know, he was all she needed.

She pulled back, once again her eyes full of longing and playfulness. “I know there is a feast going on, and though we should probably go, it has occurred to me, we never had a honeymoon. So, if it is alright with you, I choose to stay here and remedy that.” Lucant smiled back at his wife and without a word pulled her into his embrace and showed her that he was in agreement.

Written by - Vylia

Vylia was content here in this forest. It was quiet, and the only road through it was hardly ever traveled. She had found a cabin once, a few weeks ago, but there had been nobody there the few times she had checked, and she was more content outdoors anyway. As far as she knew all of her old friends were dead and gone decades ago, so all she had left was Nature and her many children. She had just slipped into a light sleep when she heard the scream and snapped awake. At first she thought it was just a dream, but then she noticed that all of the animals had gone quiet, and knew that it was real. Nightmares of such screams spurred her in the direction it had come from, hoping she was not too late.

It took her only a couple of minutes to reach the cabin she had visited before, but now it was a completely different place. There were several men charging into the house, but not all of them could fit. By their clothing, and the manner they had charged in they obviously didn't belong there, and Vylia hesitated only a moment before she drew her bow and took aim. She knew she was already too late to save anyone inside, but she would not let them go unavenged. She let loose a full volley of arrows straight at the doorway, several of the arrows piercing the two men standing right at the entryway and striking their comrades directly behind them.

Written by - Tempyst

The ledge was wet and slippery. Amara felt it beneath her feet. But it was the only way out that did not lead her into Raevyn's line of sight. It had been a couple of years since she had done any high wire acts, but she kept herself in shape so it was much like riding a horse. Once you learn, you never forget. I wonder if I remember how to fall correctly? As she edged her way to the sloped roof, the sounds of the party grew more distant. She could see the lower roof and looking at it, she knew she would be able to make that jump.

"OH shi....." Amara let out the exclamation as some of the stone beneath her feet gave wave and she found herself falling. Her reflexes were fast and she was able to grab onto a sturdy part of the ledge, but now, she was just hanging there and she knew her strength would not last forever. Amara felt her heart race and her body shake. She breathed deeply and gathered her senses. Okay Amara, look at the mess you are in now. Think girl, think. Don't panic, you can get out of this. Just stay calm, look around, see what is there that can help. Amara was greatful that it had stopped raining and the moon was peeking out from the clouds. She turned her head slowly, feeling her fingers clinging to the cold, wet stone. Okay, I am too far away from that roof to jump to it. I can't fall straight down, there is nothing there to break my fall. However... Amara twisted her body a bit more to look behind her. There, that tree. I might be able to get to it if... Amara let out a soft shriek as she felt the stone beneath her fingers shift. "Oh crap, there is not time to analyze this girl, just do it!"

Amara took a deep breath and brought both her legs up and planted her feet along the wall of the citadel, praying that the ledge would hold just a while longer. She adjusted her grip the best she could, bent her knees then pushed off with all her strength. She flew backwards towards the trees behind her, her body arching in the moonlight. She threw her hands back over her head, making her body do a back flip in the air. It was while she was turning over that she realized that she was not going to make it into the interior of the tree, to the solid branches, as she had hoped. She crashed into the outer branches hard and fell fast through the folliage. She cursed and grabbed at anything she could, but felt the leaves tear through her hands, slicing her flesh and her clothes.

Then she hit the ground with a heavy THUD. She lay there, wondering if she was dead or alive, then the pain that shot through her body, especially her left ankle reminded her she was very much alive. Well, it seems they slowed down my fall somewhat but damnit, if only I had pushed off a little harder! She sat up gingerly, feeling the stings in her hands and arms, seeing how tattered her clothing now looked. She felt her right ankle, and breathed a sigh of relief that it was not broken. Hmm, a sprain, looks like I did remember how to fall. Still, Boran would have said I could have done better. Amara stood up gingerly, testing her ankle and found she could at least hobble on it. But she could feel some of the cuts she had, and knew several of them were deep and would probably start bleeding soon. I'm also going to pay for that in the morning. Slowly, Amara started hobbling towards the city proper, leaning on walls and buildings for support. She was concentrating sohard on making it through the pain, that she did not see a dark shadow watching her from behind.

Written by - Teran

"Oh relax." he said with a smirk. "I hope your muscles mend quickly while you sleep, there is much to do tomorrow."

He stood up and began gathering dry wood so that he may build a fire. Dusk was upon them. Once he had the fire going he sat down and appeared to relax.

"There is a pond to the south-east if you wish to wash up or replenish your water, I do not know when we will have another opportunity to bathe." he said gently while peering into the sky.

He had already decided he would take advantage of the opportunity to bathe, he didn't much care whether she would or not he just didn't want to have her calling him names or making accusations later on if she felt he was keeping the existence of the pond a secret from her.

Written by - Tempyst

Raevyn placed the token in his pocket, then took his time walking out of the citadel. I know she is close. He thought to himself. Outside, as he moved to his horse, he decided to leave him there and look around outside. He knew she had unusual skills and by nature he was a curious and suspicous elf. After a bit of looking around, he smiled to himself, seeing that his hunch ws correct. There she was, heading towards town, walking, no hobbling. She has been hurt. Well, that will make the chase easier. But what fun will it be to capture her while she is wounded. No fun at all, but there is a certain pleasure in terrorizing one's prey.

Raevyn kept back, following Amara into the dark streets. He knew she was usually more careful than this; that is what made the chase so enjoyable. But still, this night would not be a total loss. Finally, he saw her lean against a wall, along the entrance to a dark alley and knew it was time to make his move. He slide used the shadows to his advantage and made his way behind her, then leaned close and whispered in her ear. "It has been far too long Amara. I have missed you."

Amara let out a soft gasp and turned, her eyes wide with fear. Raevyn put an arm up against the wall, making sure she had no place to go. "Don't look so shocked poppet, you knew I was here. Oh my, look at yourself." Raevyn took out a silk handkerchief and brought it up to her face, wiping away a smudge of blood.

"Leave me alone and go back to your master." Amara spat out.

"I have no master Amara. I do this for the joy of it." Raevyn leaned close to her, bringing his lips close to hers. "I just wanted to let you know, by the morning, all the guards here will be looking for you. Seems the officials here are very helpful when there is a dangerous criminal involved. Now, you could come with me and let me look after you. You know I will be much gentler than any jailer you may meet." Raevyn sneered, leaned closer and licked a dribble of blood from her lips.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

Allarin stepped purposefully behind his new mistress, dufifully following her into the dark chamber behind the golden throne. Numerous torches and braziers amply lit the circular chamber. Golden inlays along the obsidian floor led from behind the throne into a circular pattern around a vicious looking sword stuck in a blood red stone.

As Kiradia stepped aside to let her servant forward into the chamber, she smiled an evil smile as he placed his hand on the blade's ebon wrapped hilt and effortlessly drew it. With the sword held upright, he turned to his waiting mistress - his eyes now a blood red color - and spoke to her. "What is Terror's will, my lady?"

****

"That little bastard... when I find him, I'm gonna tear his head off..." Dom quietly cursed to himself as he continued to search the dark, winding streets for any sign of Josef.

As he exited a tavern - drink in hand - he wondered if Aloray was having any better luck. He wandered aimlessly for a bit - to the parks, to the docks, to the vast markets, even to the temples. As he came off the Temple Row, Dom's eyes where drawn to the lights in the citadel. "Son of a bitch! Why didn't I think about that sooner? I need to quit drinking..." Finishing off his stout, he tossed the mug aside and ambled towards the party he had been at earlier.

Arriving at the still opened door, he looked up to notice that the presipice had crumbled and several broken branches where on the ground from a nearby tree. Scratching his beard, Dom said aloud "Even his luck's gotta run out sometimes..." Without so much as a second glance at the party, he went to the pile of brush and noticed a small trail of blood leading towards the town. "Aw dammit!" Running as fast he could go - which wasn't very fast - he followed the trail through the winding alleyways. As he turned down a darkened corner he noticed a cloaked man standing over someone. Jumping to the conclusion that this was Josef being assaulted, Dom charged forth to protect this person.

"Seems the officials here are very helpful when there is a dangerous criminal involved. Now, you could come with me and let me look after you. You know I will be much gentler than any jailer you may meet." The cloaked figure leaned in towards the person backed against the wall. This was all the opening Dom needed, however. One of Dom's massive hands could easily - and did easily - grasp the cloaked man's head. Jerking him violently backwards from his cornered prey, Dom wrapped his free arm around the man's neck, then let him have swift, solid shot directly in the small of his back. He felt the man go limp from the shock of the blow and used the opportunity to tighten his hold on the man.

He cought a passing glance of who the man had pinned to the wall. "Who the hell are... that singer... you're the one I pushed Leov into..." Rage began to well inside his normally docile heart, and he eagerly embraced it. "You worthless excuse for a man..." he growled through clenched teeth. He quickly placed his free hand atop the man's forehead and more than willing to snap his neck. The man he had trapped made a lightening fast movement and before he knew it, Dom had released his grasp. "Son of a bitch" he screamed as he grasped the knife jutting out of his right hand and jerked it out. He took another swing at the man, but he met only air. "Run! Run far away! Because if I catch you again, you're dead!"

He swore quietly under his breath as he cut a piece of cloth from his shirt and wrapped it around his hand. He stuck the knife in his belt, then the turned toward the singer. "You okay, miss?"


Written by - Tempyst Page 14 Book 3

Amara cringed as Raevyn pressed close and licked her lips. She knew she had not the strength to even stand a chance of running away and began to think this might finally be it. Then Raevyn was jerked back and as she slid to the ground from fright, she was a large arm close around his neck. She watched the struggle then let out a gasp as Raevyn pulled a knife and stabbed through the other man's hand.

"Son of a bitch!" Amara heard the pained cry and saw Raevyn being let go. He blew a kiss at Amara and winked, then dashed off into the darkness. She looked to the man who had saved her and watched him swing at empty air. "Run! Run far away! Because if I catch you again, you're dead!"

I know this man, dont' I? Amara heard the large man swear quietly as he cut a piece of cloth from his shirt and wrapped it around his hand. He stuck the knife in his belt, then the turned toward her. "You okay, miss?"

"I...I will live, I think, but what about your hand? And thank you, thank you, he could have killed you." Amara stood shakily showing that she obviously favored on leg and her clothes were dotted with blood from her many cuts. "I, I have to go, before he decides to come back. Thank you again." She started to move but stumbled, the brief inaction had made her ankle swell up, making it impossible to walk. She sat on the ground where she fell and fought back tears of frustration.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

"I...I will live, I think, but what about your hand? And thank you, thank you, he could have killed you." The girl stood shakily showing that she obviously favored on leg and her clothes were dotted with blood from her many cuts. "I, I have to go, before he decides to come back. Thank you again." She started to move but stumbled, the brief inaction had made her ankle swell up an impossible to walk. She sat on the ground where she fell and fought back tears of frustration.

For an instant, he saw Sophie, saw his beloved daughter returned to him. Then he came to senses. He closed his eyes and chased away the past as he stepped towards her and scooped her up. "I can't let ya just wander around like this." "Josef... I'm sorry kid, but you're on your own tonight."

Dom quickly made his way to the main street so to have safety in public. "Oh... I suppose I ought to introduce myself. Dominik Laval... I'm Leov's - the guy I pushed into ya earlier - I'm his father-in-law." There was a calm, peaceful silence as they walked up the steps to the infirmiry. "He could've killed me ya say? I almost wished he had... because Mir's sure as hell going to now..."

Written by - Tempyst

Amara was surprised to feel herself lifted up into the man's arms. Instinctivley she wrapped her own around his neck and held on. "I can't let ya just wander around like this. Josef... I'm sorry kid, but you're on your own tonight." She leaned her head on his shoulder and let him craddle her. As he made his way to the main street, he spoke up. "Oh... I suppose I ought to introduce myself. Dominik Laval... I'm Leov's - the guy I pushed into ya earlier - I'm his father-in-law."

The light went on in Amara's mind. So, Leov's married! That explains it all. Nice to know his charm is not wasted on the men. She lifted her head and smiled. "Nice to meet you Dominik. I'm Amara." She laid her head back down and closed her eyes. the steady rocking of Dominik's walking was very soothing. She felt a tear slide down her cheek as she had a sudden flash of being carried by her father when she was a child.

After the calm, peaceful silence, he carried her up some steps and finally spoke again. "He could've killed me ya say? I almost wished he had... because Mir's sure as hell going to now..."

"Raevyn is very skilled and not someone to be taken lightly...but who is this Mir?" Amara did not have to wait long to find out. As they entered what looked to be an infirmary, a tall, raven haired woman, with fire in her eyes rushed towards them. I hope he sets me down before she explodes.

Written by - Ariana

She lightly dozed against the tree, the sounds of the falling dusk surrounding her. The night bugs began their serenade, and she could hear Teran rustling around establishing camp. Her breathing evened out and the tensions began to ebb from her muscles. “Ahh,” she thought sleepily, “this is nice. The only thing missing is the chance to take a bath.”

When she heard him mention the possibility of a bath as if he had read her mind, one eye spontaneously popped open and peered at him. She didn’t have all the necessary implements such as soap, nor would she be able to change clothes since her backpack was still with her horse. And, the thought of taking a bath with him so near made her uneasy, but the temptation to rinse off the activities of the day proved too tempting.

“Besides,” she rationalized to herself, “he is in his 90’s. Surely people that old have no desire to peek.” Her thoughts paused as a small voice tried to pipe in that he didn't look or act old. She conceeded the point with a sigh. "Oh well," she thought, "if he does peek, I will simply have to gouge out his eyes."

Decision made, the other eye popped open, and she was soon on her feet. “Excellent idea!” she said with feeling, and turned on her heel. She began marching in the direction he had directed without so much as a glance behind her to see if he was following.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

Mir casually turned her head towards the creaking door as she heard it open. She half excpected to see Leov stagger in - drink in hand - and pass out on the floor. She half wanted him to; then she wouldn't have to worry about him.

At seeing Dom walk in with this new girl in his arms, she stood up abruptly and stormed over to him. "What the hell is this," she shouted, pointing at the girl in his arms. "I'd except this from Leov or my brother, but I thought you knew better!" Dom put the girl down on a nearby cot, then threw his hands up to his chest. "Mir, it's not what you think..." She cut in sharply "I don't care what it is! We have enough trouble right now without you dragging in every stray you find!" Dom began unconsciously backing out the door as she stepped closer at him. "And what the hell happened to your hand!? Get a healer to look at that before you lose the damn thing!" She was shouting now - rather loudly. "You need to grow up, old man! One child is enough to deal with!"

Mir stomped back in as Dom went off to lick his wounds. She stopped directly in front of the girl Dom had brought in and turned to her: "I don't know who you are, much less do I care. Stay out of my way. I have my hands full taking care of this... situation." She turned coldly and walked back to the chair she jumped out of a moment earlier.

Written by - Tempyst

Amara watched the raven haired woman tear into the kind man who had helped her. It flabergasted her how irate this Mir was. Dominik set her down upon a cot and the woman continued her tirade, like she was an angry wife who had caught her husband cheating. Well, I'm not just some floozy miss, you better not get near me.

But then as the woman stomped back across the room, she stopped at the end of the cot Amara was on and looked directly at her. "I don't know who you are, much less do I care. Stay out of my way. I have my hands full taking care of this... situation." She turned coldly and walked away.

Oh she did not... Amara sat up; she would have stood if her ankle would have allowed it. "Listen here Mir, what right do you have to chew out that kind man for helping a stranger? I owe him my life and I will not just sit idly by while you yell at him. Try using a little more sugar honey, it will get you better results than that sour attitude of yours." Amara sat back on the cot as a healer came up and started looking at her wounds.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

"Listen here Mir, what right do you have to chew out that kind man for helping a stranger? I owe him my life and I will not just sit idly by while you yell at him. Try using a little more sugar honey, it will get you better results than that sour attitude of yours."

Mir stopped dead in her tracks and turned about with cat-like grace. Every Kassali in the room was eagerly eyeing her, waiting to see what their famed Black Queen would do next. Walking gracefully back to the girl on the cot with a smile on her face. She leaned down, inches from her face and said in a sing-song voice, each word dripping with sarcasm. "I have every right. You have no idea what we've been through. You don't know the hisory between us. You have no right to even begin to criticize me. I don't care what you owe him, to be pefectly honest, and yes, you are just that: a stranger. I'm glad you realize that." She gave the girl and quaint smile, "Oh, I don't remember giving you permission to use my name, either." then turned and walked back to a cheering crowd of her brothers and sisters.

Written by - Tempyst

Amara smiled, listened to the woman lash out in her catty style. Well, she obviously has a vested interest in all these men and she is probably not used to sharing them. I wonder if she know's her husband was dancing around at the party.

"Oh, I don't remember giving you permission to use my name, either."

"Well, as I did not seek permission, I do not think you have any business in giving it to me or not. A name is just that, a name. And as you do not have the look of a *Lady*, I doubt anyone asks for your permission." Amara could see the fire flash through Mir's eyes. "But you are right, I do not know what you and these fine gentlemen have gone through together, but then, you do not know what I have gone through either." She winced as the healer took her boot off and attended her ankle. "We all have our baggage, Mir, but taking it out on others is no way to accomplish anything. Maybe if you treated your father with more respect, treated your friends and your husband Leov with more respect, he would not have to find a little enjoyment dancing with me." She layed back down. "Oh, by the way, he tastes delightful too. Learn to take care of your man, it would be a shame to let him get away."

Written by - Teran

Teran allowed Mavigan to bathe in peace. He wasn't afraid of getting caught because he honestly didn't think it was possible, but he had legitimate respect for her privacy. He did keep his other senses open listening for any sign of other forest lurkers. While he waited he stripped down anticipating his turn (though he did leave his undergarments on).

He laid out his bed in preparation for sleep and added fuel to the fire while he waited. When Mavigan finally did return to the camp Teran took his turn, grinning at her as they pass. He was gone only ten minutes and came back looking quite refreshed and something seemed different about him though in the dark it was very difficult to notice that his hair was a little darker and some of the signs of age on his face had apparently been washed away in the cleansing waters.

Teran got dressed back up and relaxed on his "bed" and peered into the sky silently. They would re-unite with their party members the next evening which meant they had a lot to do between now and then.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

Dom opened the door to the infirmary's main room again, only to find Mir and Amara exchanging looks vicious enough to kill a dragon. "I'm starting to wish he had killed me..." he muttered to himself. When saw Mir get up again and head towards Amara, he had had enough.

As he made his way to the center of the room to intercept Mir, he placed his freshly healed hand atop Amara's snow-white head for a brief second before continuing, as if to tell her not to worry. Reaching the center of the room - his sheer presence let it be known he was in charge now - he looked down at Mir, who had instinctively stopped in front of him. "You, little miss Kade, have more important things to worry about than her. You'd do well to remember that. I'll take care of her. So go do what you have to do and let me worry about her." "Fine!" she replied stubbornly, "As long as she's outta my way!" Dom frowned to himself as he watched Mir stomp off to the corner to go sulk like a scolded child. "Now, all of ya.... shut up, get something to eat, get some rest, and stay warm. Whatever's going on, we're just now getting started with it.... no sense in tiring ourselves out early." There was a brief, awkward moment of silence in the room before everyone started talking again.

Dom let out a short sigh, then walked back over to Amara's cot and sat down beside her. He noticed a strange look about her. Scratching his mostly grey beard, he said to her "Don't let her get under your skin. She's always been a firebrand. Probably always will be, too. How her and Sophie got to be such good friends still escapes me." He yawned loudly and said to her again, "If you want to stay somewhere else tonight, I understand. Once ya get patched up, we'll go get ya a room at an inn or something. How's that sound?"

Written by - Tempyst

Amara looked at Dom. "I have a room, but..." A look of fear washed over her face. "...but Raevyn probably already knows where it is. I can't go back there. I, I don't know if i can stay here either. He said the guards would know about me by morning."

A healer came over and handed Amara a cup of tea. "You drink this miss, some wounds are better healed by a good night's sleep than by magics." Amara took the cup and sipped it slowly, her hands shaking. It seems the shock of all that had happened that night was creeping in.

"I'm sorry about upsetting your friends, upsetting Mir. So, she is not your daughter?"

"By Tiertiala no!" Dom loudly exclaimed. "Her and my daughter were good friends, though how her and Sophie got to be so close, still escapes me." he said with a puzzled look.

She noticed his use of a past tense. "Were?" She questioned softly.

"She's one with the wind now. Been about two years now, I'd say. Leov... poor bastard.... he never did get over it." Many things in Amara's sleepy mind suddenly clicked. So Leov is still mourning his wife, that is why he refused, it all makes sense now. But I bet that Mir would like to keep him company.

Amara placed a hand upon Dom's. "I'm so sorry for your loss. I, I too, lost those I called family, about two years ago as well." Amara pulled her hand back and wipes the tears that rolled down her cheek. I, I feel so protected by this man, he makes me just want to tell him everything, but I can't risk it again...can I? "I'm so tired of running Dominik. Maybe, maybe I should let him take me back." Her voice trembled as she spoke the words and her eyes became fear filled once again.

Dom took her hand in his. "Hah! There's no way that's gonna happen!"

Amara looked at him, confused. "How do you know? I....I have no place left to run."

Dom took the now empty tea cup from Amara. "How do I know? First off, there's no way I'd let that happen, and second, once Leov finds out and, Tiertiala help us, he will somehow, he'll go after him like pack of orcs on a wounded pig."

"You dont even know me Dominik. I could be a mass murderer jsut waiting to strike again, least, that is how he tells the tale. Why would you, why would anyone, risk everything for me?" Amara moved, as if trying to get up. "I can't risk your lives. You've been kind enough, I should go."

Dom, gently put a large hand on her shoulder and kept her from getting up. "And why shouldn't I? Are you not worth helping?"

Amara sat back down, the tea was kicking in and she found that her strength was giving way. "People have helped me before and they were murdered because of me, how can i risk that again?"

Dom chuckled. "Risk our lives? Hell girl, our lives are already at risk! I'm sure Beridane is looking for everyone of us right now!"

She looked up into Dom's kind eyes and a soft smile actually played across her lips. "So, are you saying that wanted, dangerous criminals should stick together then?" Amara's eyelids were beginning to drop and felt herself leaning towards Dom.

Dom pulled her close and wrapped his big arms around her. "Like Leov always says..." Dom shifted his voice, obviously mocking Leov. "If we don't look out for each other, then who will?"

Her eyes closed, no longer able to fight off the effects of the tea. As she drifted off, she mumbled a few more words. "I'm just so tired daddy, so tired..."

Dom layed Amara down upon the cot and placed a rough hand upon her head. "Get some sleep girl. Nothing's gonna happen. At least not tonight." Then, pulling close the nearest stool, he sat down next to her bed, to make sure nothing would.

Written by - Ardwen

“Perhaps you had better let me worry about the food, Ardwen? That way, we can at least have a filling meal... and it isn't... uhh... yeah.” Sycon seemed oddly uncomfortable; Ardwen decided to let Sycon figure out that he had brought no coin with him on the journey. Sycon would come around to his way of thinking, for it was only a matter of time – time and an empty stomach.

Sycon suddenly stood tall and sheathed his blade. Sticking out his hand and slightly bowing his head he intoned, “I’m with you brother in arms.” He seemed to be waiting for something. Ardwen was at a temporary loss, what could the warlock be anticipating? Ardwen’s eyes shifted from the warlock’s proffered hand to his inclined head and back again.

“Ah . . .” Ardwen began uncertainly, “Well, you see . . “ Another awkward pause as Ardwen’s thoughts dashed through his mind for an answer. Wasn’t this something he had done in the Hands? Didn’t the humans slap their hands together or something? Ardwen blew out a short sigh of frustration then gave it a shot, shooting a hand out he grasped Sycon’s hand by the wrist, taking his other hand he gave the mage’s clasped hand a soft slap on the palm, cautious of the fact he was wearing gauntlets. The sound produced was an odd amalgamation of metal on flesh, but Ardwen figured he had at least faked what he was doing well enough. Giving his best reassuring smile Ardwen once again spun around and started walking, “We’ve got some time before we reach Westgale, and I strongly suggest we make haste.”

Written by - Isuiln Fellblade

"Uhm, you need a bath. You have blood and orc guts all over you and I don't think the others would find it very nice to be eating when you smell so rank!" Isuiln laughed at Trinni's incredibly truthful statement. With the miracle and all the joy that came with it, he hadn't realized just how disgustingly grubby they both were. "I guess I need one too. So, okay then." Trinni took Isuiln's hand and shook it vigorously. "I'm going to go clean up, uhm..." Isuiln watched her fumble uncomfortably for a few moments, and he couldn't help but grin goofily. Then her eyes got their mischevious glint back in them. "Race you! First one back to the dining hall wins!" She turned and took off, leaving Isuiln in the dust. He laughed and set out for his quarters at his own sedate pace, stripping off his outer armor as he walked.

Back at his room, he found a fresh bath being prepared as he arrived, so he went out to his balcony and watched the going-ons of the Citadel until his bath was ready. Then he went in, enjoying wiping away all traces of the battle. Even the scars that he should rightly be sporting were gone without a trace. He changed into a comfortable set of casual clothes, too relaxed to worry about fashion propriety.

He wandered down to the party and glanced around for Trinni, but didn't see her. She must not be here yet. Wonder what happened to all that hustle bustle? He meandered about the room, exchanging pleasentries, until Round the Town struck up from the band. He grinned, recognizing the rambunctious tune, and began to clap along until a pretty elf-maiden grabbed him by the hand and drug him out onto the floor. He danced and whirled for a bit, but his heart wasn't in it, and he kept his watch around the room for Trinni. He spotted Tel'en, a young elf under his command, standing right near the edge of the dance floor clapping along with a small smile. Grinning, Isuiln lead the dance right over to him, then smoothly whirled the maiden into Tel'en's arms and stepped back. He stood there for a moment in shock, but the unperturbed girl soon pulled him into the dance, and Isuiln watched them spin off with a laugh. It was as he turned that he finally spotted Trinni, or at least the back of her head, darting along the food table.

He walked up behind her and tapped her on the shoulder, then grinned widely as she turned around with an expression of surprise and a nearly bursting mouthful of cream puff. She took a big swallow, then proffered a bite to him. As he leaned over, she swooped it up and got him on the nose with a dallop of cream. He looked at it cross-eyed for a moment, then mockingly made exaggerated gestures as if trying to reach it with his tongue, sending Trinni into a fit of giggles. As the room went quiet, Trinni stifled her laughter and Isuiln reached over and grabbed a napkin off the table, turning and wiping off the cream in time to see Ithrimir go to a knee and propose to Lithwyn. Wow, a bit brash, though not unexpected. It would seem coming so close to death has put him in a hurry. He grinned, recalling his own spontaneous kissing of Trinni. Next thing you know, we'll all be running around like humans, never stopping to enjoy life.

As if on cue, a human hurried in, requesting Ithrimir to accompany him to the stockades, where the was apparently trouble. As Ithrimir left, he turned back to Trinni. "Ithrimir will surely have that under control." The band struck up another tune, and Isuiln put out his hand. "Care to dance?"

Written by - Tempyst

"He's right," someone yelled from the back, "taking a life in battle has meaning, but this is just murder." "Here here," another yelled, "we're Elves, not barbarians! She will get her just reward in time. Let her suffer until then!" Garth looked back in dismay as his support began to leave him one by one.

"FINE, go ahead and leave you cowards." Garth moved over to the unconscious Kaya and slung her over his shoulder. "Let's let her sit here and rebuild her strength? Our commander might be able to go party and let her sit, but I can't! I WON"T!" Garth pushed his large frame past the other soldiers and headout out to the yard. The others looked at each other, unsure of what to do. Though their ale induced bravado was wearing thin, all of them still had their doubts about the elf woman. The two elves that had a hold of Leov, pulled him along as everyone decided to follow Garth out into the yard.

****

Kaya did not feel the soldiers moving her about. Instead, she found herself on a small grassy hill overlooking a slow moving stream, children playing in the sunshine, splashing in the shallow waters. She watched them, feeling peaceful and content, but then thoughts of darkness began to creep in. As she watched them, she could see the faces of the children she murdered. "Beautiful, aren't they?" Kaya looked up to see a young, golden haired woman, standing beside her. "They don't hate you, you know. They only saw the monster. Not you."

"But I know. I saw their faces, I heard their screams."

The woman put her hand upon Kaya's shoulder. "You need to forgive yourself my friend. They have forgiven you." Kaya looked up to see the children running over to her, laughing. When they reached her they all jumped on her, hugging her, tickling, and just being children. Kaya felt fear begin to well up, terrified that the demon would take control and destroy them once more. But there was no demon. There was only laughter and lots of hugs. Their merriment was infectious; Kaya soon found herself laughing with them, her fears melting away. Finally, the young woman interrupted. "Alright now children, run along, your parents are waiting for you. I need to take Kaya to go meet someone now." The children all got up and ran off, their laughter fading into the distance.

"Who are you?" Kaya asked, standing up. "Who are you taking me to see?"

"I am Tirigil, messenger of the gods and I am here to let you know, Avendor has heard your plea and would like to speak with you. Please, follow me Kaya." Kaya nodded and followed the young woman down a flower lined path. Soon, the two approached a large set of golden doors. Tirigil let Kaya through them, into a great hall filled with soldiers. Kaya looked around at the many faces there; most were unknown to her, but occasionally she would see a fallen friend. Finally, at the end of the hall, was another set of door. "Avendor awaits you there. I will wait here for you Kaya."

Kaya stepped up to the doors and pushed one open. A bright, glowing light encompassed her as she stepped inside. Enter child, I have heard your plea. Kaya knelt down before the tall figure. Avendor shone so brightly, she had to keep her eyes averted.

"Thank you Avendor, for hearing my prayer. I wish to no longer be a victim of that demon, but a dealer of vengence."

I see the demon plagues you still, cursing your mind and body. You are forgiven by me child, I know the horrors you were made to do were against your will. I see your strength and determination and know you fought the beast with all that you had. But still, it is not enough to be free is it? There is a way this curse can be lifted and your prayers for vengeance answered.

Kaya gulped, feeling humbled by Avendor's words and awed by his presence. "Anything my Lord, anything to be rid of this within me."

Enter my son, she awaits you. Kaya looked up at Avendor's words and saw a large antlered elf step out of the shadows. This must be Nyrondis, but why would he wish to help me?

Nyrondis stepped closer to her. I wish to help you Kaya'Talas, because you can also help us. The demons are awakening, their numbers are growing. You are not the first, nor will you be the last to be controlled by the beasts. More innocents will die. Kaya shuddered at those words, knowing she had had a hand in some of their deaths already. You are strong, Kaya, stronger than you believe you are. I see within you the potential to be a great warrior for my cause. Join with me Kaya, enter into my service as a Demonhunter. Use your grief, use your memories and hatred, your desire for vengeance to help rid our world of these beasts. Be my champion and the curse within you will be broken and never again will you feel such darkness poison you.

Kaya felt all those emotions of pain, helplessness, fear, anger, disgust, her hunger to fight that which has possessed her, all rise to the surface. She let out an anquished sob, knowing that indeed, she never wanted to feel like that again. She looked up into the face of Nyrondis, tears streaming down her face, her soul open and bared for the god to see. "Yes my lord, yes, I pledge myself to you Nyrondis. Make me into a weapon to fight this threat, give me the tools to help others and do your will."

It will be done.

Kaya felt a rush of energy rush through her, unlike anything she had ever felt before. It lifted her up off of her feet; it felt as if a huge tree had just sprouted under her and lifted her up into the heavens. Then she felt the branches and vines withint the tree pierce her body and soul. Then, there was darkness. "Kaya. You must come with me now, it is time for you to wake up now." Kaya stood on shaky legs and took Tirigil's outstretched hand. Kaya said nothing as Tirigil led her back through the hall and out to the golden doors. "Thank you, Kaya, for helping all of us. I am sure I shall see you again." The doors opened and Kaya stepped through the darkness and suddenly felt reality wash over her.

****

Garth made his way into the yard where the gallows were. The others followed, Leov still tightly in tow. "Hey Garth, uhm...she's glowing."

"What the hell!" Garth tossed Kaya down upon the ground and watched with the others as Kaya indeed, begin to glow.

Kaya opened her eyes, the pain of the coils around her still trying to squeeze the life out of her. But now, she was not afraid. She knew she was no longer alone and never would be alone again. SHe could hear the solders around her gasp, as what was causing her the pain, was now visible to all. An immense, shadowy snake was coiled time and time again around Kaya's body, from her mouth to her toes. Only the top of her head and her eyes were visible. The head of the snake writhed around, looking at all the men in the yard, its' tongue flicking out, testingthe air to see who it might get to devour next. Everytime it moved, its grip around Kaya tightened.

Then another image appeared. From the oak that stood within the yard, stepped forth an HUGE, shadowed elf, clad in antlers and vines, with a giant bear and a wolf at his side. The divine presense and power of the god of nature and balance could not be denied and brought those within his proximity down to their knees. Nyrondis pointed at the snake and both the shadowed wolf and bear charged forth, tearing at the coils that had encompassed Kaya. The head of the snake hissed in pain and lunged at Nyrondis, mouth open and poisoned fangs ready to strike. Nyrondis did not wait for the snake to reach him, he lunged towards the beast grabbing the beast around the throat, choking it within his bare hands. The bear and wolf clawed and chewed through the snakes flesh quickly, releasing the pressure around Kaya. The snakes eyes flashed a deep red and made another attempt to lunge at Nyrondis' throat. But the god's grip was too tight, his fingers dug into the snakes flesh and then with one last squeeze, tore the head from the snake. The wolf and bear bit in deeply and drug away the rest of the carcass from Kaya. Nyrondis reached down, and pulled the last bit from Kaya's mouth.

Kaya's body jerked and she drew in a deep, gasping breath. Her eyes grew wide and her body adjusted to being able to breath once again. She looked up around her, then looked up into the face of her god. "Thank you Nyrondis, I am now free of this curse. I can now tell all it was Beridane!" Kaya waited for the attack on her body to start, but when nothing happened, she grinned ear to ear. The shadowed form of Nyrondis stepped back letting Kaya get to her feet.

"Hail Nyrondis, father of our land, your will be done." The presense of a new voice gave cause for everyone to see who was speaking. Then everyone in the yard felt the ground beneath them shift and vines came up, holding them all in place. Garth and others began to struggle, shouting obscenities. "Quiet now or you will be gagged as well." The druid that spoke, as well as others who had followed him, stepped forward and bowed before their diety.

"What the he..." Another voice entered the courtyard, but then once Ithramir saw the form of Nyrondis, he too knealt and paid his respect. Gilbert saw a stunned Leov and made his way over to his friend.

"I am Dalomir, one of the elder druids of the Sacred Grove. I am here to explain that Kaya'Talas, daughter of Quen'Talas, ruler of Naur'Lith of the Eru'Erain, is innocent of all she has been accused of. She was a pawn, like many others, cursed to not speak of the demon that had possessed her, powerless to stop his will. She fought the beast from within, to the point of attempting to take her own life to save the life of Commander Ithramir. She is to be set free and no harm is to become of her."

"This is bull!" Garth shouted. He pulled at the roots that bound his legs and broke free, charging Kaya. "It is all lies! She will kill us all!" The shadowed form of Nyrondis gestured and then suddenly, a brilliantly, glowing sword appeard in Kaya's hand. A'lanthear the Demonslayer hummed as she gripped it and she stood straight and tall, unafraid any longer. Garth stumbled backward. Ithramir made a gesture and several of his guards stepped forward and took the solder away.

Indeed, Kaya'Talas is innocent and is now under my protection and my service. She is my champion, my demonhunter, may those that aid the beasts in any way fear her wrath. The form of Nyrondis, along with his wolf and bear stepped back into the tree and faded away. The vines that had held the others in place crumbled and most of the other now sober solders ran off into the night. Dalomir and the other druids stepped forward and laid hands upon Kaya, healing her of her bruises.

Ithramir stepped forward. "I should like to speak with you within the next day or two, Kaya'Talas. It is good to know you were not to blame for your actions. For now, go heal and relax. I will take your report soon." Ithramir saluted Kaya; she saluted back. "Well, it seems all is in order here. Let us hope, the rest of the night stays quiet." Ithramir and his guards then headed back towards the citadel.

So much was going through Kaya's mind. The sword in her hand felt good, felt really good. Dalomir whispered to her, telling her they needed to get to the grove so she could learn more of her duties. Kaya turned, then saw Leov. She smiled and moved to the man, then bowed deeply, her purple eyes shining in the moonlight. "Thank you Leov Klein, my friend, for helping me when no one else would. If there is anything I can do for you, please, let me know."

"Tell me everything you know about Beridane. Everything."

Kaya looked Leov square in the eyes. "I'm afraid to say, it is not much. Beridane is the one who put the curse on me to keep me from talking and who commanded the demon to possess me. The demon, he recieved from a half elf named Tahlon. Beridane wanted Ithramir dead, to create chaos."

Leov's looked stunned. "That's it?"

"Well, up until 6 months ago, I was in the elven homelands, with my troops. Then Tahlon and his lith'raug minions captured me and sent me here. I met Beridane only once. other than that. I have been an orcish prisoner."

Leov begins to pace and staggar in a small circle. "CRAP! I'm sick and tired of waiting around in this damned Elven piss-hole for something to happen! C'mon Gilbert, if we want to see home again, we're gonna have to take things into our own hands..." Leov turned and stamped off in a fury.

"Well, that was productive." Kaya looked at Dalomir. "There is a lot I need to learn, least that is what this sword is telling me." She placed a hand upon the A'lanthear. "But before we start that, could I please get a bath and food?"

Dalomir chuckled. "Of course Kaya, please, follow us to the sacred grove." Dalomir placed his cloak around the near naked Kaya, then led her and the other druids back to the grove.

Written by - Sycon

Sycon almost chuckled at Ardwen's noticable half attempt at humanism. He just nodded and smiled as Ardwen turn and started walking, professing haste already.

"Very well, haste it will be. Next stop, Westgale!"


Written by - Tempyst Page 15 Book 3

Trinni gave Isuiln a wary look, then smiled and took his hand. "Okay, as long as you don't try any of that funny stuff again!" Trinni danced lightly on her feet and on Isuiln's feet. Though she was an excellent marksmen, she was not that good a dancer. She watched others on the floor and tried to mimic what she saw, then she just gave up. Trinni pouted, then got a mischievous grin on her face. She grabbed his hand and drug him to the band. "Hey you music people. Play something fun!" The band wrapped up their song, then entered into another rendition of "Round The Town". Trinni beamed, she knew this song and it was just what was needed.

Trinni spun about the floor, stomping and yelling, he hair flying out behind her. This time, she and Isuiln, were the last one s on the floor. The crowd applauded the two then went off to catch their breath. Trinni sat down on a chair and leaned back. "Now that was fun!" She looked over to Isuiln, watching him catch his breath. He is kinda cute and he can fight! I wonder...naw, Trinni, we got stuff to kill, no time to think of stuff like that. Trinni then stretched and yawned. "I don't know about you Isuiln, but I am pooped. It is time to get some sleep so I can be all ready to march out again. I wonder what we will come up against next? More demons? Well, whatever it is, we better be rested and ready right?" Trinni stood, looked around, then leaned over and gave Isuiln a quick kiss before running out the door like a rabbit.

Written by - Pharsalus

The scene seemed to slow as the old Priest realized his position. One of these unknown bandits lay at his feet behind, his abdomen blown open and lying in red, warm heaps around the body; the dead's comrade lay petrified and frozen against the back-most wall of the small hallway of his home, and three more bandits (that he could see) had charged into the room from the front entrance and now lunged at him with weapons drawn. He had no time to think, to pity, to analyze. The girl locked in the room behind him was now, as far as Pharsalus knew, the last of her lineage, and now was the time to allow the past 200 years of his self-inflicted training and rigor to defend her.

His time was now.

All at once, the world became a blurr. The priest bolted forward to meet his first opponent. The man was about average for a human, wielding a short sword, rampant anger in every bend of his frame. The man was unskilled as bandits go, and Pharsalus had no time dispatching him. With only paces between them, the old stoneman threw forward his staff parallel to the floor and lunged. The man halted and shifted his weight to his back-most leg, sword and hand up to guard against the flying shaft of metal. Pharsalus was airborne.

CLANG!

Metal flashed as staff met sword. The man had shut his eyes - he was terribly unskilled.

CRUNCH

Small droplets of blood flew in a cone from the man's head as a stone fist implanted itself where his nose split his eyes. As he fell, Pharsalus clasped his collar and planted - violently - his feet into the man's chest.

CRUNCH

The dwarf felt his weight shatter the soft tissue and bone on which he now hunched. He flashed a look forward, eyes a brilliant bluish-white. He burst forward to the next assailant, low to the ground, arms loose for balance and reflex against any surprises thrown (literally) his way.

THWIP! THWIP!

Arrows riddled the doorway, striking down two of the now four men rushing weapons drawn across his small living room. Pharsalus squelched his puzzlement at this new entrant to the fray and pushed forward. He lunged, curling his legs beneath him and rearing back a fist as he flew. The man charging against him thrust out a short sword forward. The stone man could hear the hum of angry metal pass between the top of his thigh and the crux of his elbow.

CRUNCH!

His fist met another face, sending more blood in small spatters in a half circle behind the battered man. Battered, but not fallen. Steel flashed quickly as the man threw out a dagger from the sash around his waste. Pharsalus had no time to dodge.

CLANG!

He winced as steel dug - shallowly, but painfully - into the stone form of the back of his fist. For a moment, the man of flesh and man of stone stood and stared at the odd juxtaposition of metal and rock. Pharsalus could sense confusion as the man - and his compatriots - began to notice for the first time that their 4' tall opponent was not of flesh and blood as they were accustomed. Indeed, Pharsalus was a man of stone, born of the flesh of a forgotten world by the hands of a forgotten Creator. Forgotten to all but himself. He was alone in form and function in this world - no one here was accustomed to fighting a man made of rock. And this was an advantage the priest had every intent on using.

His eyes flashed as he dropped and spun, sweeping his leg at the ankles of the confused bandit. There was a crack, and the man cried out pitifully as he fell to the ground. Stone against flesh...Pharsalus was beginning to enjoy himself.

TWIP! THWIP! THWIP!

Another volley of arrows invaded the poorly lit space. One of the rogues turned at the sound of the first arrow upon the wooden doorframe. He fell only a moment later crying, bleeding, dead - an arrow protruded from his left eye. His comrade suffered a similar fate, falling instead to an arrow to his chest. He squirmed miserably upon a cold, uncaring floor.

Pharsalus stood silent a moment, bent, arms and legs at the ready for whatever else may decide to enter his bloodied abode. The arrows had stopped. Only the dim flutter of the fire in his hearth and the occasional gurgle from the wounded that lay in crumpled piles around him were audible to him.

Click....creeeeaaaak

He turned and met the gaze of the girl in the room, her face half concealed in the shadow of the door, half by the matted red hair that hung from her delicate crown. She looked terrified, the poor thing. Spots of red dappled her flushed face. Pharsalus knew well they were not freckles.

Movement caught his vision beyond the girl and the door form which she was now slowly emerging. Pharsalus once again allowed the grim determination of battle adjust his stance and hewn stone face. The last bandit had stepped forward from his wall and was now stepping slowly towards the blood smeared priest. Pharsalus knew how he must have looked - he was going to have to change his title from "priest" to something far less....clean. He flinched. The man burst toward him, a wild frenzy in his eyes, screaming as loud as he could. The stoneman dropped his weight and braced himself for the coming assault. He wanted the man alive. He wanted information. Information that this crazed man's comrades were no longer in a position to give.

A flash of light and spark, and a crack of thunder shattered the thick and silent air of the small assembly room. The rogue flew backwards and slammed against the very wall from which he'd just recently - foolishly - emerged. He groaned as he crumpled to the ground. He was alive, but very battered. Too battered, Pharsalus was afraid. He hadn't meant to use so much force in the spell - he was excited. He had lost himself for a moment long enough to potentially bury the reason behind this entire fiasco.

He still stood, hand out in front of him, palm forward and smoking and illuminated by a hammer and anvil encircled upon the flat of it, fingers bent ever so slightly. After a moment, when he saw the man not moving at the end of the hall, he laxed and rested his hands on what was left of the lip of his trousers. He noticed now for the first time since the fight started that his shirt had been all but cut away. No wonder the girl looked so confused - to see a man of stone with burning white eyes, stone body half exposed to innocent eyes, blood smeared all over him. She had long retreated back into his prayer room and latched the door behind. Her thoughts came out in pulses through the wood and stone that contained her. She was terrified.

Pharsalus stopped where he stood. There was movement outside, and a new presence wandering among the foliage surrounding his estate. Though he could not see the individual - he/she/it was unusually well guarded against his casual probing - and though he did not sense any want of harm or wrongdoing, he was nonetheless cautious. He eyed the door to his prayer room again. The latch, he could tell, was still secure. The girl lay curled in a ball on the floor within. She wasn't going anywhere for now.

The room darkened behind him, and the presence he sensed he knew now had entered his domain with motives unknown. He was pleased to see his small sash of "goodies" (as an old human friend had once called them) had survived the fight, though frustrated a bit that he'd not realized it sooner. He drew his hands into fists at the belt of his pants, right hand closest to the sash at his waste, ready to draw a tool of incapacitation - or, if needed, death - if need demanded.

A woman stood in the door, bow in-hand, cautious. There was something...familiar..in how she carried herself. In her eyes, her scent, her mind...everything about her brought pangs of past association to the little stone man.

"I suppose those are your arrows sticking out of these would-be assassins," he finally said coldly. "What say you, Lady Ranger? Be you friend or foe?"

Written by - Vylia

"I suppose those are your arrows sticking out of these would-be assassins," the stone man finally said coldly. "What say you, Lady Ranger? Be you friend or foe?"

"I am a friend, though not a ranger. My love of Nature does not go beyond love of her creations, I claim no mystical powers. I never thought I would hear words of such cold tone from one of your kind though, however I also did not expect to see a dwarf of stone upon this world at all to be honest. Is the child ok? I heard a scream and from your appearance I would guess it was not you." The woman waits for a moment, and then realizes she forgot something, "Where are my manners? I step into your home, and I did not even introduce myself," she puts the bow down leaned against the wall next to the door before extending her hand at the dwarf, "I am Vylia Des'Koryn, Scout of the Wild, formerly of the Hands of Providence. From your form I'm guessing you are from the same world as I, perhaps you have heard of us?"

Written by - Tempyst

Ithramir listend to Avendor as he made his way into the citadel. Then, when all was said, he listened for her. There, clear as a bell, her soft sweet thoughts were calling to him. As he reached the door of her room, he gave a short prayer that nothing else would occur that night and he could have some peace with his lady love.

Written by - Tempyst

Amara woke up to the loud snoring. She opened her eyes and saw Dominik still sitting in the chair beside her. She sat up quietly and looked around and could see msot everyone else still sleeping as well. Only a single healer was stirring, and he was attending a soldier on the other side of the infirmiry. Amara took a deep breath, then gathered her things. Thank you Dominik, for helping me, but I cannot risk endangering anyone else. My troubles are just that, mine. I hope we meet again my friend. She stood, leaned over and kissed Dominik softly upon his head, then quietly walked out of the infirmary.

Amara had only taken a few steps after closing the door, when she felt the hand come up over her mouth and an arm wrap around her from behind. "Did you really think I would let you sneak away from me poppit?" Amara's blood went cold. She had indeed hoped she would be able to escape once again. Raevyn sensed her fear and gave her cheek a nuzzle. "Now, my little one, no need to be scared, it has been a long, long chase, you were bound to slip up." Raevyn looked around and pulled her back into an alley where he had stowed his horse.

Amara opened wide and then bit into Rayven's hand. But as soon as she had done so, and tasted the bittersweet toxin on his skin, she knew it was indeed over. As she slumped into Raevyn's arms, he picked her up and slung her over the saddle of his horse, then proceeded to securely tie both her wrists and ankles. When done, he slapped her ass and smiled. "Well, let's get going before all the guards wake up poppit." Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a what looked to be a robin's egg. Looking around once again, to make sure no one could see them, he tossed it upon the ground. It emitted a small, deep thrum, then within the blnk of an eye, a horse-sized portal opened up in front of him, showing another quiet alley. Taking the horse's reins, Raevyn stepped through. Once through, the portal closed, leaving behind the remains of a blue shell upon the cobblestone.

Raevyn looked around and smiled as the portal behind them closed. Finally, I can turn this girl in, get my reward and get on with my life. Jalayn will be quite pleased this day. With a perk in his step, he led the horse and Amara down the street tothe merchant lord's home, eager to be rid of his cargo.

Written by - Tempyst

Everyone within the sacred grove was being wonderful to Kaya. She was able to bath the night before when she first arrived, but when she woke up, she asked if another bath was possible. As she sat in the tub, eating some fruit, she chuckled to herself. "It almost feels like I am back being a princess again." She said to herself. But you are a princess, mistress, thus their treatment is appropriate. Kaya looked over to her new companion, A'lanthear, where the sword was leaning up against a tree. "That may be true my new friend, but I have work to do that certainly most princesses would never consider part of their duty to the people." Tis true mistress, but you are not an ordinary princess. And you need only think to me, i can hear your thoughts.

Very well, but I sort of like speaking out loud. It lets me know I am free to do as I like once more. Eventually, Kaya pulled herself from the warm water, dressed in the new, clean clothing the druids had procured for her. She inhaled their fresh, clean scent and smiled. "IT IS GREAT TO BE FREE!" She exclaimed loudly, startling the birds that were in the nearby trees. She laughed, picked up her sword, then made her way into the main area of the grove. She found Dalomir there, waiting for her.

He smiled and bowed. "Good morning Kaya'Talas. I take it you are refreshed?"

"Aye, I feel elven again. Give me a few more days to rebuild my strength and I will be better than new. Thanks to Nyrondis, Avendor and the rest of you." She bowed deeply to Dalomir. "I take it, my training is to begin?"

"You are correct. Later this afternoon, I expect Tempyst and Lucant to arrive, then you can converse with them about their knowledge of the demon they fought any others they have encountered. I know you were possessed, but perhaps they have an insight that you do not have. I have also been told there is a wizard here, by the name of Renalis Dalamar, who has fought demons before. Perhaps he has information that could be useful for you. I will send an emissary out to find him and ask if he could come by later today."

"Thank you my friend, that sounds good. Then after I get as much knowledge as I can, I will make a report for the Commander. There is also someone else I should like to speak to more, that person being a sea captain by the name of Leov Klein. He was asking me about what I knew of Beridane and the demons, but I forgot to ask him what he knew. But, until then, I think I need to become better acquainted with my new partner. I am used to dual weilding. Now, we shall have to see if you are sword enough for me A'lanthear." Kaya pulled the blade and swung it around a few times. I think you will find me to be more than adequate mistress. Shall we? Kaya turned back to Dalomir. "Where is your practice yard? I need to work up a sweat so that I have a good excuse to bathe again." Dalomir smiled with her and lead her to the yard. Once there, she stripped down as much as she dared to, then began to work out, stretching and using her muscles once again.

Written by - Tempyst

Lucant woke up early, dressed, ate some food, then sat on the balcony watched the sun rise, lost in his thoughts. He looked over at where Tempyst was sleeping and felt his heart and soul tug, but not in a good way. Why Nyrondis, do I still feel empty? I feel a connection with her, a tie, I love her, but, yet, I feel a saddness, I feel, lost. What do I do? Who am I?

You are my avatar, my mortal body upon the earth. Through you I can manifest and do great things. Together, we are a force to deal with. Lucant felt his god's voice whisper inside his soul.

I know, I accepted you, of my own free will. My tie with you, I do not doubt, though I still do not understand it. I was born a simple man and now, it is no longer simple. Lucant stood up, then walked over and sat on the bed next to Tempyst. She has so much faith, faith I do not comprehend or understand. I want to believe blindly, but that is not who I am. I need to see, I need to feel, I need to know for myself, experience it for myself...

I can give you advice, I am here for you to lean on Lucant, but I do not force my will upon any. You accepted me, on your terms. Now, you have to decide, what your terms are. I am patient beyond belief, so have no fear about me leaving you now. I can wait as long as you need.

Lucant sighed. I know...I know. I am going to give this a little more thought, but I believe I know what I must do. But, for now, I want to spend a little more time with her. Nyrondis did not answer, which Lucant was glad for. Lucant leaned over and gave Tempyst a kiss, then watched her smile and brighten up the room as she awoke. As she dressed, they made small talk, ate some fruit, then talked over plans for the day. It was decided that they should go to the Sacred Grove to give their report, then work on some lesson and go from there.

As they entered the grove, Dalomir approached them and greeted them warmly. They sat down with the elder druid and talked of what had happened during the battle with the demon. Then the druid asked a hard question, what had attacked Lucant after he had left the sacred Grove after the healing ceremony. Tempyst looked at him, her eyes questioning him also. Lucant shook his head. "I'm sorry, I do not remember. After the healing ceremony..." He hung his head in shame at remembering what he had done. "...I felt used, I felt betrayed by A'lanthear and Nyrondis. The only thing I wanted to do, was to go where I knew who I was and where I stood. I, I went to see my best friend, someone who had known me since I was a child, and who never judged me or betrayed me. I, I found myself on her family's doorstep, ready to knock upon the door, then...then everything goes dark. The next thing I truly remember is waking up with Tempyst looking down upon me." What he said was true, he did not even recall any dreams during his injured state. All there was in his mind was darkness.

Tempyst took Lucant's hand into hers, trying to comfort him, not knowing what to say. She felt the link with him, but through it, she felt his fear, his worry, concern, his uncertainty. There was something else there, and it worried her. She knew he was contemplating something, but he would not show it to her. Tempyst tried to put it out of her mind, convincing herself it was due to him being new to all that he had agreed to.

Dalomir took all of the information in, then had a scribe take the notes and sent them off to Ithramir. "Oh," He spoke to Lucant, "I was told to let you know, that you are allowed access tothe citadel's armory, to find yourself some armor and a weapon of your choosing. I think now would be a good time for you to go, that way, tempsyt here can do some meditations. Then, when you return, she can begin to instruct you on your new life." Dalomir stood and clapped; a younger druid stepped to his side. He motioned for Lucant to stand. "Follow this young one here, he will lead you to the armory. Please return here when you are done." He bowed to Lucant then headed to the oak in the middle of the grove.

Tempyst turned and hugged Lucant tightly. SHe felt a chill run through her, but did her best to ignore it. She felt something was wrong, but could not put her finger on what it was. "Hurry back my love, we have much to do together." Lucant hugged her back, kissed her softly, then followed the young druid out of the grove. Tempyst watched him leave, and felt a saddness grip her heart. Taking a deep breath, she turned and went to Dalomir to begin her meditations.

Written by - Teran

After Teran's bath the rest of the night was uneventful. He allowed Mavigan to sleep in as late as she wished the next morning. He even slept in a little himself not waking until sunrise.

Meanwhile Sabbatine herded the two women that were with her towards the destination Teran had given her, humming and singing to herself the whole way. The two parties would meet up again a couple hours before sunset. Teran grew somewhat more withdrawn, forboding even... trapped deep in thought. He ignored most attempts at questioning him the three might have as he lead them seemingly nowhere.

They were growing closer he could sense. He would have already been there had he not brought companions but Assassin was no fool, he suspected that what waited for them might be beyond his ability to defeat alone. He hoped Wilhelm was bringing more than a few friends to help out... just in case.

"Sabbatine." he said suddenly breaking his silence "Lead us to the artifact."

Sabbatine had been day dreaming and nearly jumped out of her skin when Teran spoke to her. She sputtered for a moment and then stopped and seemed to sniff the air (without actually inhaling anything). She licked her lips... she could feel the artifact and she began leading them in a slightly different direction than Teran had. It seemed the artifact had moved a little since the last time she had sensed it.

She grumbled as she pressed forward.

Written by - Renalis

As the hush over the room reached its climax, it was broken by a man pushing his way through the crowd, “Sir Ithramir! Sir Ithramir! Are you here, I need to speak to you!”

Ithramir stood, looking slightly annoyed at the intrusion, “I’m Ithramir. Now what is the meaning…” The sailor explained the situation and then both took off toward the stockades.

"Hmmm..." Renalis thought to himself, "trouble afoot... I hope they have it under control."

“Please, everyone.” Lithwyn spoke with a calm command. “Everyone! Everything is fine, I would be saddened if you all did not continue this wonderful celebration this evening. We have much to be happy about. We all have been under much stress these last weeks and now, now we must enjoy the time we have with those we love. Keep dancing, keep eating, and have fun. I don’t want to see any food or drink left over from tonight!” The crowd cheered and the band began to play a lively jig.

Crystal hugged Renalis again, she looked up at him with a slight smile, "you hungry too?" Renalis chuckled and the two walked off toward one of the tables of food, grabbed some snacks and began to wonder the outside edge of the hall. It was then that Renalis caught sight of him... the warlock - Sycon. He saw Sycon began to leave the hall and didn't want to miss this opportunity. Quickly handing his plate over to Crystal, and kissing her on the cheek, "A moment Melamin, I must speak with him...” He turns and sprints toward the exit, catching up with him part way down the hall.

"Sycon!" Renalis shouts and he stops walking, turning to see who called his name, "Yes?" Renalis ran up to him, "I had to speak with you... you're leaving aren't you?" Sycon's response was a slight nod. "Then I'll be brief. I first must apologize for earlier today, a lesser man might have died having that much drawn from him, but you know it was necessary." Renalis extended his arm, Sycon looked down and took his hand, shaking it firmly, "Sycon, you can forever call me friend, without you, this might not have been possible..." As a small light flashes between their hands, "A gift my friend, in return for you help... I wish you the best in your journey." Sycon looked down at his hand, but Renalis served to only mystify it further, "You'll know..."

As Renalis returned to the hall, he saw his love leaning against a wall, nibbling on a sandwich and sipping at some wine. Renalis returned to her side and planted another kiss on her cheek. "Sorry to keep you waiting Melamin, but I had to thank..." She cut him off, "It's alright, it's been slow in here anyway, the songstress appears to have been scared off by him," Crystal pointed at the darkly dressed man, "Bounty hunter near as I can tell. Wonder who she pissed off..." She said almost to herself. Renalis chuckled, "Probably some rich snob "insulted" by her..." Renalis sighed, "I almost hope she gets away... would hate for the band to lose their lead."

After finishing their snacks, the two once again returned to the dance floor, the lively music continued and they shared dance after dance. Renalis made mental notes of the thinning numbers... the evening was drawing into late night, but Renalis didn't care. Living with an Elf taught him to go on just as little sleep, and with Crystal to go through all hours of the night. Recognizing the beginning of what appeared to be the last dance - another rendition of Round the Town. Renalis looked down at his love, and she up at him, "Melamin," Renalis lovingly, "Would you join me for a stroll?" giggling a little, "of course my love” and the two walked out of the hall and headed outside.

The two wandered around outside for a good while, taking in the beautiful night air, and the magnificent full moon. They both gazed up and could feel, however distant, the ever-loving presence of Elune. They stared up for a time, enraptured by the view, and then Renalis looked down at Crystal, “I love you.” Crystal looked up and stared deeply into his eyes, “Don’t ever leave me again…” Renalis sighed, “You know that’s a promise I cannot make… there are things bigger than you and I…” Crystal placed a finger upon his lips, “then next time, we go together.” Renalis knew better than to argue when her mind was set, “Together.” The two kissed deeply and then walked together arm in arm back to the citadel.

Returning to the great hall, it was nearly empty now, only servants bustling about cleaning the place. Asking for a bottle of wine, Renalis and Crystal took a seat at one of the tables, and began to drink and chat. “Remember when that felhound’s blood sprayed all over you, it was in your hair… ah, the look on your face was priceless.” Renalis chuckled. “Well, remember the look on your face as that Doom Guard was frozen mere inches from your face?” Crystal laughed deeply as Renalis’s face reddened. “And remember when we pied Kel?” Crystal couldn’t finish she was laughing already. Renalis chuckled, “Yea, I actually thought the whole forest was going to come after us on that one… never piss off a druid.” Renalis sighed, “I hope they are alright…”

Crystal took Renalis’s hand and stood up, “I’m sure they’re fine, they can handle themselves better than anyone we know, and besides, they are Dalamar as well.” Renalis got up, “Now common,” Crystal continued, “We should be off to bed…we need some rest before tomorrow.” The two left the hall, leaving a few empty bottles at the table. As a courting couple might, the two were playfully proceeding down the hall, making an attempt at being quiet, but not really trying, their hearts were elsewhere. Stopping at the door Renalis recognized as their quarters, Renalis deeply kissed his love, and as she pulled away from his lips, drew closer to his ear and whispered. Renalis pulled back slightly, and almost laughed, “I thought you wanted rest?” Crystal giggled, and pushed open the door, leading the way in. Renalis took a quick look around, then followed in, shutting the door against prying eyes.

****

*BANG BANG BANG*

Renalis rolled over on the bed, not quite fully aware of the situation. The sun was rising, its light begining to enter the room. Crystal moaned slightly and rolled over, her head on Renalis chest, and arm over him, she quietly said to him, "Just ignore them, they'll go away eventually."

*BANG BANG BANG*

Renalis rolled Crystal over with a kiss on her cheek, and in response to the bright light in the room, she promptly covered her head in a pillow. Renalis slid out of the bed and put his pants on, really being his armor, but still in the glamoured form of the clothes he wore last night.

Opening the door enough to see who was outside, he could see a servant girl waiting, who blushed at the sight of the partially dressed man. "I'm sorry to wake you, but... your presence has been... has been... requested..." Renalis could see the young woman staring at his chest, and only after looking down himself remembered the protruding saphire lodged there. "Requested where?" Renalis prompted the woman, drawing her attention to his face. "In the Sacred Grove, the new Demon hunter Kaya'Talas is to be instructed in all you know..." Renalis interjected with his own slightly irritated comment, "She is, is she? Hmmm... then I better obey..." The woman stammered slightly, "I d-didn't m-mean it like that sir, of course..." Renalis cut her off again, "I am only joking my dear lady, I will be more than happy to tell them all I know, let them know I'll be down sometime after noon." With a nod the woman quickly turned around and headed down the hall.

Returning to the bed, Renalis crawled back in. Crystal rolled over again and kissed him deeply once more, "Getting up?" she asked timidly, hoping to stay in bed as long as possible. "Not just yet," Renalis said snuggling closer to his love, "I'm going to enjoy this a little." The two lay in bed, awake and fully rested for a few hours, but eventually duty got the best of them. After a warm bath each, and a more than hearty breakfast. Renalis and Crystal got dressed, having their armors take on the appearance of very casual clothes; Renalis's still in an Azure theme, and likewise, Crystal's with a Violet theme.

Finally making his way down to the Grove Crystal followed, but sat down next to a tree as Renalis went on. He looked around and then stretched a bit, "Ok, so I'm supposed to impart my great knowledge and wisdom upon someone?"

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

The bright morning sun shone overhead as Lucant followed the young druid to Lothiel Gadith's armory. His guide seemed almost nervous in Lucant's presence, and along the way, people would stop and point then whisper among themselves, or loudly proclaim his as hero of the elven people. Lucant felt himself tense up at every occurance.

"They respect you papa! They're grateful for what you've done for them. It's not a bad thing." Tirigil whispered to him. "I'm still not comfortable with it, though. I doubt I ever will be." he responded to his daughter. "Pay them no mind then papa!" she chuckled inside his head then continued "But more importantly, you have to find it!" "Find what? he questioned. "You'll know when you see it papa!" she laughed again, then left her father to ponder her riddle.

"Here we are, my lord," the druid said. Lucant frowned at 'my lord', but thanked the young elf anyways. The druid followed behind him as Lucant walked past the well-armed guards into the armory's well-stocked halls. He looked around for a bit, marveling at the countless masterpieces of metallurgy; he suddenly realized how inadequate his own skills at the anvil were. As he continued his browsing, Lucant noticed a long red case resting on a shelf. "I wonder what's in there..." he wondered aloud. One of the guards responded "A sword that Commander Ithramir found not long ago. I'll go get the key if you'd like to see it." Without waiting for Lucant's response, the elf went to go retrieve the key he spoke of.

As he waited, Lucant turned to the opposite wall to look at several suits of armor. He walked up to a standing suit of plate armor and examined it. Who ever had forged obviously had a great deal of skill. He noticed a solid, thick metal shield at the base of the armor suit. Turning to the young druid, he said "If it's no trouble, I'd like to have this." The druid quickly responded "Yes, my lord, I'll arrange to have it taken to your quarters." At that same time, the guard came back with the key in hand. "He you go sir." He unlocked the long crimson case then picked it up and opened it so Lucant could see the magnificent blade it held. Picking up the the sword, it felt oddly familiar to Lucant, as if it was an extension of himself. "I'd... I'd really like to have this," Lucant uttered to himself. "It's yours then," the guard said casually. He closed the case and handed it Lucant along with the key. "May it serve you well young master."

As Lucant departed, he turned and thanked everyone. Then headed outside with the druid once more.

Written by - Tempyst

"Ok, so I'm supposed to impart my great knowledge and wisdom upon someone?"

A young druid came over to the mage. "You are Renalis Dalamar yes? Good. Please wait here, I will go get the new demon hunter." The young man ran off. It did not take him long to return with a sweat covered elf right behind him; one he recognized as the young elven woman who had been demon possessed just the day before.

She walked up to Renalis, smiled and held out a hand. "I am Kaya'Talas. I hear you know something about demons."

Written by - Tempyst

The child poked the large, sleeping man. "Excuse me sir...sir?"

Dom snorted and sat up suddenly. "I ain't drunk Mir!" He looked around, then saw the child beside him. "oh, uhm, ya, that's me. Whatya want?"

"An elf dressed in black asked me to give something to you. There is a spotted horse out there, that he said belongs to you. And he left you this note." The kid looked nervous and as soon Dom took the note from him, he took off out the door.

Dom unfolded the note and read: Good try old man, but she is mine now. Enjoy the stuff she left behind, she won't be needing it anymore.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

The morning sun crept across the floor of the White Raven inn until it came to rest directly in Leov's eyes. He grunted and fidgeted until he finally woke up. Dragging his head off the table and sitting up-right, he took a quick survey of his surroundings. "Huh.... where in the world....' A voice answered him from behind: "The White Raven Inn, child." Leov startled and turned around quickly to see Aelyndria sitting in a plush burgundy chair near a large bay window. "You know what we where doing here, by chance," he asked through a yawn. "You didn't want to face Mir," Gilbert said as he walked down the stairs. "Oh yeah..." Leov said, acting as if he remembered, "Well... what are we gonna do?"

Aelyndria stood up gracefully and spoke: "That is a matter for you to discuss amongst yourselves. All of you." Leov frowned: "I suppose you're right... we do have a lot to go over..." Without another word, Leov got out of his chair and walked outside into the fresh morning air. Gilbert and Aelyndria followed dutifully behind him.

****

"That son of a bitch! I'm gonna tear him to pieces," Dom yelled as he punched the door with all his strength, waking everyone in the room. "What's going on Dom," Mir asked sleepily. "He took her! The son of a bitch took her," he yelled again. "Took who? What are you talking about," she asked again as she rubbed the sleep from her eyes. "Amara! Amara's gone." Mir looked at the cot where Amara had been the night before. Only her personal items were there now in a small bag. "What happened," she asked herself "What are you gonna do? You can't go after her. You know that. There's no way to. And...we have bigger things to take care of than going after some girl you met last night."

Dom gave a deep, heavy sigh. "I know... I know... That doesn't make it any easier, though."

Written by - Vylia

When the two parties finally met up again it took all of her will not to attack Teran when he first came in sight. The only thing that truly stopped her was the fact that Mavigan was standing in front of him. Keeryn pushed past Sabbatine as she ran full tilt at Mavigan. A slew of questions followed, "Are you alright? Did he hurt you? What did he do when he took you away? He didn't try anything funny did he?" She stopped for a moment to glare coldly at the assassin for a moment, when he didn't answer she turned back to her friend, deciding just to ignore him for now. She knew she would get her chance to knock some sense into him later.

Written by - Wilhelm

Wilhelm and his squad of Queen's Elite Guard followed behind Keeryn, Jasmine and Sabbatine and made camp when they did, staying back just at the extreme edge of Wilhelm's tracking sense. Wilhelm decided that the extra factor of the deceptive heartfires and magical travel warranted magical backup. He took out the arrow that Resini had given him and twisted the arrowhead clockwise, meaning assistance requested but not an emergency. He then broke the arrow and a flash of light appeared and vanished. He proceeded to break each half again and to stick the four pieces into the ground to form a square three yards on a side. He touched each one in order, moving clockwise around the square, and saying a word at each which caused the piece to glow. He then settled down to rest and assigned watches, knowing that Resini would need some time to respond.

Just past midnight the four pieces began to hum and glowing lines appeared to link the sides of the square then grew into walls of light. With a whoosh of displaced air four figures appeared behind the walls of light inside the square. The light faded and Wilhelm saw Resini with three other mages. Wilhelm greeted them and Resini made introductions, saying,

"I have come as promised. Here are Aldeth and Danil and Hilda, three of my senior mages. I have sent a message to Ithramir about your summons, informing him that we four were answering it. Now what is the situation here?"

Wilhelm greeted the others and introduced his squad in return, pointing out Fiernum, Ethan, Gareth, Maeve, and Sandra. He then explained about the faked heartfires and Teran and Mavigan somehow vanishing, presumably for training because Keeryn did not seem alarmed nor had she summoned Wilhelm. The training aspect was confirmed by the All Father. Wilhelm was still puzzled about how Teran had carried out the deception.

"I believe I can help you there, Lord Wilhelm" replied Resini. "Form a link with me and focus your tracking sense on Mavigan's and Keeryn's heartfires." Resini and Wilhelm joined hands and linked. While Wilhelm focused his senses on the heartfires in the distance, Resini pulled a mirror out of his pouch and spoke words over it. The mirror surface glowed and then an image formed showing the campfire with Keeryn, Jasmine and Sabbatine.

"Now focus very closely on Mavigan's heartfire." said Resini. The image zoomed in towards Sabbatine and then toward's and into her belt pouch and a pair of round stones showed in the mirror, one of them pulsing with Mavigan's aura. The image remained as Resini broke the link and put down the mirror. "A nice trick, that, I will have to remember that one." said Resini. "I have set the mirror to announce the detection of a second source of Mavigan's aura in the vicinity of that stone. It will warn us when Mavigan returns to this group."

The squad, now ten in number, settled down to rest and wait. Two hours before dawn the mirror hummed. Resini looked into the mirror, causing the field of view to expand, and then silenced it with a word and the mirror went dark. He told the rest that Mavigan and Teran had returned. The group ate a very early breakfast and packed up their gear, prepared to move out when Mavigan's group broke camp.


Written by - Renalis Page 16 Book 3

A young druid walked up to Renalis, "You are Renalis Dalamar yes? Good. Please wait here, I will go get the new demon hunter." and then the young man ran off. "Joy. I get to wait..." Renalis's thought was cut off as it did not take the Elf long to return with another Elf, covered in sweat obviously from some rigorous training. Renalis recognized her as the young elven woman who had been demon possessed just the day before.

She walked up to Renalis, smiled and held out a hand. "I am Kaya'Talas. I hear you know something about demons."

Renalis took the woman's hand, shaking it gently, "Greetings Kaya, I am Renalis Dalamar, and yea, I know a few things." Renalis notioned to side, "Mind going for a walk? I always think better on the move." Seeing Kaya nod, Renalis began to walk off, seeming in a random direction. "First, was I correct in hearing that? You prefer fighting with two weapons? Because if A'lanthear there isn't too awkward to adapt to, I would recommend continueing with your prefered fighting style," Renalis paused for a second, surveying the training grounds for something. "Ah! There it is." Renalis walked over to the weapons rack, "I'm sure you can find a second weapon here, while not the demon slaying blade, it will help to maintain your style. It is important to not handicap yourself before facing a new foe."

"So what do you know already? If I may ask?"

Written by - Tempyst

She shook the human's hand and smiled, then followed him as they walked. "You are correct. I am used to using two weapons, but surprisingly enough, I am finding it quite easy to adapt to this hand and a half sword here." She gave A'lanthear a pat. "My dual weapon style, is more for flash and show and my enjoyment than for serious battle, especially with a demon. I have weilded a single weapon before and I will do so now. As to what I know..."

Kaya moved over to a pail of water and doused her head, cooling herself off from her earlier workout. "...I was trapped, with that demon inside of me for a month, maybe longer, time began to have little meaning to me. I know they care for nothing but what they want. they are not afraid to do anything to further their goal, no matter how horrific or heinous." Kaya paled some, a sick, sad look coming over her face. She took a deep breath to regain her composure. "They delight in torture and pain and trickery. Being that close to a creature such as that, can make you doubt yourself, your goals, your own morals." Kaya moved back in front of Renalis and looked him directly in the eye. "Even with it gone, I still feel it inside me, mocking me, and I wonder, was it just the monster?Or was the darkness in me all along." She paused a moment. "So, tell me, what do you know?"

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

When Lucant and his young guide made their way into the streets once more, the sun shone brightly in welcome. After a short ways, the druid spoke up: "My lord, once your armor arrives, please join us at the Grove's practice yard. I'm sure the others would love to see your skills."

Lucant tensed up again. "Yeah... my skills with a blade..." He nodded, then said "Of course, I'll be along directly." The young druid smiled and said to him "We'll all be waiting eagerly, my lord." Lucant frowned as the druid walked off towards the Temple Row.

Lucant decided to take the long way to his quarters. Along the way, he passed by Belle's family manor high on a hill at the outskirts of town. A strange feeling swept over him before he pressed onward. When he finally arrived at his and Tempyst's quarters, he found the armor already there waiting. With no small amount of effort, he put it on, took up his new sword, and then headed out for the Grove's training yard.

****

Leov quietly opened the infirmary's door, though, it's rusty hinges betrayed him. "There you are," a familiar voice yelled as soon as he had started to step through.

"Easy now, big sister..." Aloray said as he forcibly sat her back down. He reached behind him to a wall mounted shelf and took a piece of paper. As he handed it to Leov, he said to him: "This came for you earlier this morning."

Without saying a word, Leov took it and quickly glanced over it. "Hmmm... the some druid or something wants to talk to me..." "At least try to be respectful," Gilbert chimed in.

"Yeah.... Gil, Lyn... sit down and take a load off. Get something to eat or something... I'll be back soon. Real soon." He turned abruptly and headed back outside, wanting to get the meeting over with as soon as he could.

Written by - Tempyst

Tempyst smiled. The lessons with Dalomir about grounding went very well. Now, she could wander about the grove, waiting for Lucant to return. She reached out throught their link and found him to be safe, but rather tense still. She sent him soothing, loving thoughts and hoped it would help him deal with whatever he was dealing with. After wandering for a bit, she found herself by the practice yard at the grove and smiled brightly at what she saw. A'lanthear, flashing in the sunlight, spinning around from the new demon hunter's practice. Tempyst resisted the urge to reach out to the sword, not wanting to disrupt their practice or connection. I am glad he didn't give up; he will serve her well I think.

Then she saw her stop and was about to go introduce herself when a young druid came to her, spoke and lead her back into the grove. Tempyst followed suit and saw her being introduced to a man, one she recognized as being present during the fight with the demon. As the two began to walk and talk, she also noticed a beautiful, blue haired elf setting by one of the oaks. I wonder who this might be. Well, there is only one way to find out. She used her new senses and looked over her and could see the power coarsing through her. Tempyst walked over and sat down beside the elven woman. "Greetings, my name is Tempyst Dolvan, I do not believe we have met. Are you with him?" Tempyst looked towards Kaya and the human. "I was told that Kaya there is to meet with others here today, that know of demons and the like. Would you be one of them?"

Written by - Renalis

Crystal was almost daydreaming, staring off over the beautiful landscape, her thoughts occupied with her love. She was playing with the grass, letting a little magical energy pass to the plants all around her, promoting their growth. "Greetings," Crystal's mind was brought sharply back into focus, "my name is Tempyst Dolvan, I do not believe we have met. Are you with him?" Tempyst looked towards Kaya and the human. "I was told that Kaya there is to meet with others here today, that know of demons and the like. Would you be one of them?" Crystal nodded slightly, "I know enough, but he knows more..." Crystal's voice trailed off, her head lowing she touched the soulstone at the center of her shirt, she imagined the months in the void Renalis spent alone. "My appologies, where are my manners. I am Crystal Dalamar. A pleasure to make your aquaintance Tempyst." Crystal smiled as she saw Renalis draw his sword.

****

"Being that close to a creature such as that, can make you doubt yourself, your goals, your own morals." Kaya moved back in front of Renalis and looked him directly in the eye. "Even with it gone, I still feel it inside me, mocking me, and I wonder, was it just the monster?Or was the darkness in me all along." She paused a moment. "So, tell me, what do you know?"

Renalis looked down, touching the soulstone at his shirt's center, having felt the darkness touch and taint his very soul, "I know more than you might think... and there is a darkness within each of us. Thats what makes us - please forgive the euphamism - human; Choice. We all have within us the potential for good and evil and that choice is what brings us above the encarnation of evil that the lesser demons you encounter will embody."

"Now, for what I know about demons, well... let us begin." Renalis waved his hand in the air, conjuring the ghostly image of what appeared to be a demonic looking large wolf, skinned alive and having its features mutated, two large tentacles extending from its back. "This is a felhound; nastly little bastards. They hunt in packs, and can suck the magical essence out of any mage caught unprepared in less time than it takes to scream." Renalis paused for a second to let Kaya take a look, "The best way to take them out is quickly. Use speed to your advantage and strike for their tentacles first if possible. If not, a quick slice will kill them easily."

Renalis dismissed that image, and brought up another, and another, and another. Renalis had encounted a number of different demon types during his time in the void, and he brought an image of all of them, told what abilities they were capable of, and how to avoid their attacks. Seeing Kaya quickly becomeing bored however, he decided a change of pace was required. "Now, as you can see, the lesser demons have little intelligence, attacking in packs or groups, and just going all out with anything and everything they have. Those are the easiest to deal with, and are little more challenge than fighting an Orc. Greater demons however require a little more."

Renalis dismissed the last image he had displayed. "But there is little I can teach you about fighting them... most greater demons have abilities unique to them, but most have a general ability with magic, and are quite proficient with it. You only need two things to beat them; creativity, and adaptability. Be able to adapt to a changing situation because they will change how they fight based on how you fight. Be quick on your feet and ready to dodge any magic they may be throwing out, and any weapon they may be weilding. Sorry that I'm not more help, but the best thing I can offer, is some practice."

Renalis drew Azuresong from his sheath. The runeblade glowed faintly blue, a line of arcane symbols shimmering the entire length of the blade.

"Shall we?"

Written by - Tempyst

Tempyst saw Crystal smile and looked in the same direction. "Oh, looks like some more sparing is to be done. I hope Lucant makes it back soon, I think he wanted to get some in as well." Tempyst sat herself down beside the elf. Soft whispers greeted her mind, from the tree Crystal was leaning against and the plants around the both of them. So, she has some affinity, that is wonderful. She is not a druid though, but that doesnt matter, the plants like her, that is what matters. After a few moments of watching the two spar, she turned back to Crystal. "My turn to apologize now, but what is your husband's name? He is quite good."

****

Kaya listened to Renalis' tedious explainations of thes elesser demons. These are not the type I am worried about, they seem easy enough to deal with. She asked some questions here and there, but was sure Renalis could tell she was not impressed thus far with the information he was giving her. I know I should be more interested, but right now, action is what I need, I am tired of sitting and waiting.

Finally Renalis seemed to get the hint that this was not what Kaya was interested in. He drew his sword, the runeblade glowed faintly blue, a line of arcane symbols shimmering the entire length of the blade. "Shall we?"

Kaya perked and drew A'lanthear. "Practice is indeed what is in order. I appreciate your knowledge and I apologize if I did not seem grateful for your information, but you must know, I have been locked in a cage for almost half a year, and right now, sitting still is not on the top of my to do list. A'lanthear has taken in what you have taught me here today and I will go over it later, when rest is all I wish to do." She stepped back from Renalis and began to circle in a warrior's stance. "I want to know how they are captured, how they can be made to possess a person and what can be done to stop the intelligent ones. But enough talk. For now, let's dance."

Kaya rounded Renalis, showing off a little, twirling A'lanthear. She felt the sword's energy grow, flowing through the blade, through the hilt through her arms and into her. This was an entirely new dance, the one with this sword, but that did not make Kaya shy away from attack. She twirled one, then brought her sword down in a sharp, fast decent, meeting Renalis's blade. Both swords glowed as they pressed against each other, and both Renalis and Kaya got a big smile upon their face. "Aye, it is time to dance. Bring it...human."

Written by - Renalis

After a few moments of watching the two spar, Tempyst turned back to Crystal. "My turn to apologize now, but what is your husband's name? He is quite good."

Crystal smiled a little more, “His name is Renalis, and yes he is quite good…” Crystal rose to her feet and bowed slightly towards Tempyst, “If you’ll excuse me a moment…”

****

Kaya stepped back from Renalis and began to circle in a warrior's stance. "I want to know how they are captured, how they can be made to possess a person and what can be done to stop the intelligent ones. But enough talk. For now, let's dance."

Renalis looked down at his soulstone, “how they can be captured…” rang through his head. “it’s not as easy as it sounds, nor as safe…” Renalis stood motionless as Kaya rounded him, showing off a little, twirling A’lanthear.

Kaya twirled one, and then brought her sword down in a sharp, fast decent. Renalis moved quickly, bringing his sword up to meet hers and both swords glowed as they pressed against each other, Renalis got a smirk on his face as he could see the smile on Kaya’s face. "Aye, it is time to dance. Bring it...human." and she pressed the sword down, pushing Renalis back a bit and then struck again, bringing her sword in a sweeping arc Renalis deflected the blade aside and drew back a few feet.

“Excellent, you are already an accomplished warrior,” Renalis brought his sword back up, “but there is always room to improve.” Kaya drew back A’lanthear and then bolted forward, bringing A’lanthear up in a quick strike, but it too was parried. Kaya continued to press the attack, pushing Renalis farther back with every stroke, every attack being blocked or deflected but always pushing him farther back.

A quick jab forward by Kaya made Renalis twist his body suddenly, using Azurewrath to deflect A’lanthear to the side, he pushed off of Kaya to regain his stance, and then pressed forward with his own attack, “hmm… she is good, time to step it up a bit,” Renalis thought to himself as he began to escalate his intensity. “The key to defeating a demon,” Renalis was lecturing between attacks, “especially the intelligent ones is adaptation, and improvisation. You must change your tactics and strategies as the battle progresses, flowing like water and molding to the situation.” Renalis’s attacks were striking faster and truer now. Finally being on the offensive he was attacking her instead of just defending himself against her attacks. As good as Kaya was, Renalis was beginning to push her back.

Renalis could see the perspiration forming on Kaya, her reactions slowing, her blocks weaker, her strikes off a bit, “probably training all morning, no where near her best but still an amazing fighter… with some time, and some more training, the light just got another hero in their war against the darkness…” Renalis’s thoughts were thrown into chaos as he could feel the energy of another approaching quickly from behind; a familiar energy, “Crystal?”

Renalis deflected another of Kaya’s attacks to the side and then spun around, only to see his wife running towards him. He heard Kaya lunge toward him again, “don’t turn your back on me!” She yelled as she began to lay into him with renewed vigor – Renalis was once again on the defensive. As Crystal closed the distance, she leapt into the air. Seeing Crystal draw her blade, its violet aura flaring wildly, Renalis quickly reposted Kaya’s next attack to send her back, then instinctively brought Azurewrath up to defend himself, his sword was met with that of his wife’s.

Quite off balance, Renalis was quickly being overwhelmed; Kaya on one side and Crystal on the other, both pressing their attack. Finally regaining his senses, Renalis deflected Crystal’s next jab, and blocking Kaya’s horizontal swipe and rolling off it, he sprinted forward a few steps, and he spun around to once again face his foes. Crystal looked at Kaya, and nodded, who nodded in return and then lunged toward her opponent. Crystal circled around, once again pressing the pincer attack, “improvise, adapt and overcome my love,” she added, a coy grin on her face.

Quickly realizing that there was no way he could take them both, he decided it was time to end the dual. Renalis send a small pulse of energy along Azurewrath the next time he blocked Crystal’s attack, and it sent her sword back a bit. Renalis then pressed with fury on Kaya, small flashes of light being emitted with every clash of A’lanthear and the Runeblade. Finally drawing close enough to her, Renalis deflected her blade to the side and sent a quick burst of energy forth, connecting Kaya low in the stomach, she was sent back several feet and landed on her chest, a puff of smoke arising from the disturbed dirt, A’lanthear still firmly clutched in her hand.

Renalis then turned back to his wife who had regained her stance and lunged forward in the few moments Renalis had his back turned. The two traded blows, but Renalis was pushing her back. Sweat was beginning to bead on both their foreheads, and likewise, both were breathing deeply, neither holding anything back. Striking low in the hopes of drawing a high attack from Crystal, Renalis continued to push her back, and she was now only a few feet from a large oak. Crystal saw this as a lapse in his memory, always preferring herself to strike from high to low, and as such, she brought her blade down. Renalis quickly leapt up, bringing his sword in contact with hers, and pressing his body against hers, running back until they collided with the tree.

The two stood there for a short while, their swords locked high up against the tree staring deeply into each other’s eyes and breathing deeply. Using his free left hand, Renalis moved the hair away from Crystal’s face, “by the Gods you are beautiful,” and the two locked in a quick kiss. Pulling away Renalis sheathed Azurewrath, and Crystal too sheathed her blade, “and you are still a better swordsman than I,” she followed with a smile. Renalis wrapped his arm around his wife and walked back to Kaya,

Extending his arm to help her up, "You are a damn fine warrior Kaya."

Written by - Tempyst

Kaya lay there on the ground, still very exhilerated from the sparring that had just occured. But as she lay there, watching Renalis and his wife kiss, she suddenly realized she was not doing as well as she thought she was. She could feel all of her muscles suddenly begin to spasm, contracting hard. She felt herself pale, and her stomach begin to get quite queasy. Oh crap, what is going on? She found herself beginnign to weeze as Renalis came over to her, extending his arm to help her up, "You are a damn fine warrior Kaya."

"Thank you but I...I can barely move and breath...something is not right."

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

Leov came slowly striding down the winding dirt path watching the fight going on in the Sacred Grove. "What in the hell do they want with me here," he thought to himself. He waited for some tell-tale sign from the wind. Only a small breeze came to answer him.

He kept his eyes on a man in blue clothes fighting against some opponent he couldn't quite make out. It seemed an even fight with each gaining and giving ground in equal measure - at least until exhaustion set in. The man's opponent began to stumble as he turned his back on her. "Oh, c'mon now! Even I wouldn't do that..." Leov grinned to himself as he saw the man pay for his foolish action with an attacker at his front and back. He was a bit surprised, however, to see how deftly he handled the situation. "Hmm.... he's halfway decent..."

As he closed the distance with the fighters, he saw them congratulating each other and complimenting the other's abilites. "Ah... what the hell... I haven't picked a fight today." He reached into the left pocket of his coat and pulled out the pieces of the mithril palm guard he bought the day before. "Let's see if this junk is as good as everyone says..."

Walking up slowly behind the group, he yawned loudly and said to the blue man's back: "You're pretty good old son. If you ain't too tired... how's about one more go?"

Written by - Renalis

Seeing the colour drain from her face, and Kaya curling on the ground, her breathes coming in gasps, Crystal quickly rushed to her side.

"Thank you but I...I can barely move and breath...something is not right." Kaya's words were forced, between her gasps for air.

"My appologies Kaya, I meant to push your limits, not exceed them." Renalis bowed, "I hope my love can fix you up," he added with a smile and Crystal went to work.

Her hands hovering just over Kaya's body, Crystal moved them over the entire extent of her body, from head to toe. She could feel the energies in the air above her, the plants around her, and the ground benieth her. She channeled these energies together, through her and in conjunction with the distant tie to Elune and Corellon. The Soulstone acted as the focus, and added its own energy to it and the conversion was complete. The healing wave flowed over Kaya, entering her very being and began to mend the damage done by the day's intense training. She would feel her breath return to her, and the pain in her muscles lessen as the damaged tissues began to mend.

With a final deep breath, Crystal opened her eyes, "there you go... try to take it easier on yourself from now on. You do yourself no good pushing beyond your capabilities, you only end up hurting yourself." Crystal stood up, somewhat drained from her healing spell, but having drawn most of the energy from the world around, her fatigue quickly passed.

Renalis heard someone walk up slowly behind him, he yawned loudly and said, "You're pretty good old son. If you ain't too tired... how's about one more go?" Renalis turned to see who challenged him. "Yea, I'm more than able for another fight," Renalis turned back and kissed his wife lightly, "I'll be back my love," Crystal sighed softly, "kick his ass," she thought to herself.

Renalis once more faced his opponent, "Your name sir?"

Written by - Tempyst

Tempyst watched the sparring between Renalis and Kaya. She could tell Kaya was pushing her limits, but she also sensed from her, from A'lanthear, that it was something she needed to do, so she did not interfere. She knew the new demon hunter was not going to die, so all would be okay. She enjoy the show as it progressed and Crystal joined in. I should really learn how to fight some too, for there may come a time when my magics won't be enough. Perhaps Lucant can teach me. Then she miled, sensing the precense of her husband behind her. She stood and ran to him and threw her arm around his neck and hugged him tightly. It was then she felt the difference about him. She stood back and saw his new attire. "My oh my, you, you are a wonderous sight my love."

"You truly think so?" Lucant responded, though his eyes were on the fight happening just a few yards away. "What is going on there?" Tempyst explained that it was a sparring lesson and Lucant nodded. I too will need some of those lessons. He watched with interest, then he noticed the sword the female elf was using. A'lanthear. He scowled, but Tempyst put a hand on his amr, letting him know to not worry, the sword had a new mistress. He nodded and continued to watch the fight, taking in information, moves, parries, thrusts and swings.

When the sparing fight was done, Kaya lay on the ground, her body convulsing from over-exertion, but Crystal moved to her and quickly began to heal the fallen warrior. I see she can heal as well, she does have a touch of nature within her. Tempyst smiled and let the elf heal the hunter. "Lucant? Will you teach me how to fight?"

Lucant looked at his wife, then leaned down and kissed her forehead. He could hear her telling him her reasons through their link. "Why of course my love, but I have much to learn myself. You can teach me what I need to know of being close to nature and I will help you."

"Deal. Now, We will have time to meet Kaya later, but for now, let us get back to Dalomir and see what he has in store for us." Tempyst took Lucant's hand and lead him back into the Sacred Grove.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

Leov watched the blue clad man turn and kiss some strange elf looking creature. "I'll be back my love," the man said to her. Leov frowned and thought to himself "Don't make me gag..."

The man turned once more and said to him: "Your name sir?" Leov eyed the man up and down. "Hmph.... condescending son of a..." He yawned again and stretched, bringing his arms down behind him on Sulrista's hilt and scabbard. "No one special. Besides, what does it matter?" He calmly drew Sulrista - which seemed to sing with joy as it was pulled from the scabbard - then let his arms fall lifelessly to his sides.

Taking one step back, Leov threw his arms open and said to the blue man: "C'mon son... I'm waiting..."

Written by - Tempyst

"There you go... try to take it easier on yourself from now on. You do yourself no good pushing beyond your capabilities, you only end up hurting yourself." Crystal said, standing up.

"Thanks, I should have known better. I will remember that just because I feel fine mentally, my body may not have caught up from months of no activity." Kaya chuckled and stood up, shaking Crystal's hand. Then she heard a familiar voice...

"You're pretty good old son. If you ain't too tired... how's about one more go?"

Kaya turned to look and saw Leov there, drawing his sword, while Renalis stepped forward to meet him. This should be fun to watch, I look forward to see his style. But at least Leov is here so we can talk afterwards. Kaya watch the two men face off, her eyes drifting naturally to Leov, and found herself hoping the sea captain would win.

Written by - Trinni Shannon

Sunlight cheerfully streamed into the room. Normally restrained by the pair of doors leading out to the balcony, the morning finds the not-so-translucent doors absently left open and the sunshine runs free... right into Lithwyn's eyes.

Quickly clamping her eyes shut again, she groans and turns away from the offending glare. How can a little wine cause such a headache? Groaning again, she stretches her arms under the blankets, seeking warmth and comfort, hoping to slip back into sleep. Sliding across, her hands bump into a motionless form. Jerking them back to her body, her breath quickens and her mind protests the effort of frantically trying to figure out who could possibly be in her room, in her bed! Trying to move slowly, so as not to disturb the obviously sleeping person, she slides out from underneath the blanket, onto the sun dappled floor. First one foot, then the other onto the floor, a slow lowering of herself into a crouch, the smooth reaching under the mattress for the dagger kept there for just such an occasion, the steadying of her breathing, the preparation for a strike to be followed immediately by a yell for the guards...

Then the lump shifts slightly and the groan, though muffled by the heavy blanket, sounds too familiar. By the Gods... Slidding soundlessly to the floor, she turns and her back rests against the bed. Hands in lap, the dagger still clutched tightly, Lithwyn draws her knees to her chest and closes her eyes.

"Will you marry me?" What can I say to that? I love him, but that? How could he? It was hard enough... but then... in front of everyone? What's with the rush? It'd only been... what, are we humans now? Of all the crazy things... and what's with that playfulness? Did he suddenly become someone else? If I hadn't had so much wine... I never would have... well... would I?

Images flashed through Lithwyn's mind and she couldn't help but grin. It had been fun. All that tension for so long, and what a release it had been! Ithramir striding into the room... Oh! What a mess they had made in there. How will it ever get straightened again? So much work to do, and now her grin turned into a frown as she pictured the disarray of her office.

Opening her eyes again, her head not pounding quite so hard, she looks around the half of the room she's on. What a mess. The doors left open, clothes thrown everywhere, glasses on the balcony, bottles here and there, where is the gown she had on last night? As if that little bit of cleaning up wasn't enough... what about his question? She didn't think she had actually gotten around to forming an answer, he didn't exactly ask about it again when he came in. Frowning, rubbing her temples, she sighs softly.

Another rustle from the bed behind her, and she ducks down, almost gouging her eye with the blade still in her hand. Holding her breath, not making a sound, she waits. When Ithramir's breathing returns to the slow, even pace of sleep, Lithwyn slowly rises to her feet. Pushing the dagger back in its normal hidding spot, she then tip-toes around the bed to her open, of course open, wardrobe. A basic shift was pulled hastily over her head, followed quickly by an unremarkable dress. This was her "I mean business" attire.

Looking over her shoulder at the unmoving form burried beneath blankets, Lithwyn silently picks up a long toothed comb from next to the water basin and places it between her lips for safe keeping. Glancing at her image in the mirror, she turns away, apparently satisfied enough to go out in public. Making her way to the door, avoiding the obstacles of random possessions strewn everywhere, she dips towards the floor once, then twice, her hair grazing the floor. Shoes now clutched against her chest with one hand, she backs towards the door, confident nothing else is in her path. Her free hand slowly turns the handle, opens the door. Halfway through, she takes one last long look inside, still amazed, and slips out.

In the hall, she immediately drops the shoes to the floor and simultaneously works them onto her feet while wrestling the comb into her hair, pilling it snuggly against her scalp. That done, she smoothes her dress and straightens her shoulders, and sighs at the door, having escaped. Escaped what?

****

Meanwhile...

Elsewhere in the citadel, the sunlight makes its usual trek through the open window of a more humble room. Though small, enough random pieces of armor, clothing, and shiny baubles were strewn about the room that could fill most houses. Shiny bits of this and that, tied about the canopy bed posts and crossbars, threw tiny beams of light about the room as they spun merrily in the breeze. The tinkling of tiny pieces of metal and glass mingle with the soft smell of the wild flowers in various pots and vases about the room.

At a casual glance, it would seem an explosion of color befell the room. Careful inspection would reveal that the explosion, though intense, is not without some semblance of order.

Then, along with the tinkling of the chimes hanging in the window, a soft dream-filled murmur escapes from underneath a pile of blankets in the middle of the bed.

"Mmmm butterfly butter biscuits... silly silly orc-sky... mmmm lemon cream kiss... yes I ... love to dance... funny pants... my favorite bow, yes yes..."

A soft giggle, and still more murmuring. Slowly, the pile of blankets begins to move. A little at first, then more and more until one tiny hand appears, stretching towards the sunlight. The hand clenches, as if trying to grab the sun. Then, all at once, the body attached to the hand jumps out from the tangle of blankets. Landing with a loud thud, louder than you would think for such a small woman, she stretches her body up to the ceiling. Playfully batting the strips of cloth and shiny pretties hanging up there, Trinni whoops with glee.

Running to the window, she looks down at the grounds below.

"Goooooodmoooooorning!" Waving energetically, she smiles at the random gardener far beneath her window.

Looking up, hand on his hat, Balanon grins at the familiar site and waves, calling up his own cheerful "Hallloooooooo There!" before returning to work.

Pulling her head back into the window, she runs around the room in a cheerful blur. Stopping at the door, now completely changed into the clothes and leather armor for the day, she hesitates only long enough to grab her daggers and throw her beloved bow over her shoulder before bouncing out the door.

Running down the hall, easily dodging the not-so-surprised, well - not after countless mornings such as this one, people walking way too slowly, she makes her way outside, looking for mischief... of course.

Written by - Trinni Shannon

Bounding down a large staircase, Trinni could hear the sweet clang of metal on metal softly echoing off the stone walls. Jumping over the last few steps, she hits the ground running. It can't be that far off. As the oh so heavy wood door to the courtyard is pushed open, the pretty sounds of a fight grow louder. Pausing at the threshold, she holds her breath and tilts her head to the side, figuring out the direction the fun is coming from by how the echoes bounce around her.

"The grove!"

Could be some bad guys, could be someone playin' around... either way, it's sure to be more fun than a pail o' snails!

Flying around the last corner, she scans the people in the clearing and her smile of anticipation dissappears. Skidding along the paved walkway a few feet, she comes to a shocked halt. She stares for a moment in disbelief before snapping out of it. She reaches for her bow.

Renalis was fighting some strange guy, but they were obviously just play fighting. The shocking thing is that whenever they pull apart, Trinni can see a girl on the otherside. She is standing next to the mean chick that had been sobbing all over Renalis. But this new girl was not just any girl. Sure it had been dark and kinda rainy, but Trinni'll never forget what she saw up in that tower. Ithramir falling at the feet of...

"HER!"

A million thoughts flash through her head even as she moves into her firing stance.

She tried to kill Commander Ithramir! She doesn't look like that crazy evil demon thing right now, but she didn't at first, either! How'd she escape? Doesn't Renalis see her? She's right there! I'll show that demon thing she picked the wrooooong elf to mess with!!!

Biting her lip, she notches an arrow in place and pulls back the bowstring until it is lined up with her frowning lips, looking for a shot. The fighting back and forth taking place between her and that crazy person was getting to be a little annoying...

Mumbling to herself, she says, "Son of an Orc! How'm I supposed to..."

Trinni keeps her head steady, eyes locked on her target's forehead, and yells at the top of her lungs, " 'NALIS! GET DOWN!!!!"

He didn't get down, of course. Boys. But the instant the two pulled apart to look at her in surprise was all she needed. Relaxing her fingertips, the bowstring does its job and the arrow zooms away... toward one very surprised, and soon to be very dead, evil psycho demon chick.


Written by - Tempyst Page 17 Book 3

Kaya watched Renalis and Leov stand there, waiting to see who would make the first move. Then she noticed another girl, a young elf, run into the grove. After glancing at her, she turned back to see if the sparring had commenced. Then she heard a whisper inside her head. At first she jumped and stiffened, for before the voice in her head had been that of the demon, but now, it was a gentler, more re-assuring voice and she had to get used to A'lanthear's method of communication. I sense danger and anger from that elf mistress, you should be prepared. "Thank you A'lanthear." Kaya whispered under her breath. Then she heard it, the twang of an arrow being released. She pulled A'lanthear from his sheath and then counted...

"1...

2...

3..."

Kaya suddenly spun to the side and whipped A'lanthear down through the air sharp and quick, catching the arrow mid-shaft and snapping it in two. The arrow would have pierced her heart if she had not been wary of the elf.

As the arrow fell to the ground, Kaya stood straight again and looked at the girl with eyebrow raised and a slightly annoyed smirk on her lips.

Written by - Trinni Shannon

"What the...?!"

Her arrow... she had made the beautiful arrow herself... was cut in half by that girl! How'd she do it?

Narrowing her eyes as the creepy girl smirked, she muttered, "Fine, you wanna play? Let's play miss thang."

Pulling out all the stops, she reaches for her quiver and withdraws not one, not two, not even three, but four arrows. Nocking them in place in her special amazing super "Trinni-four-arrow-grip", she quickly releases them.

"Let's see you block four you she-devil."

Written by - Renalis

The man yawned again and stretched, bringing his arms down behind him on his sword's hilt and scabbard. "No one special. Besides, what does it matter?" He calmly drew his blade - which seemed to sing with joy as it was pulled from the scabbard - then let his arms fall lifelessly to his sides.

Taking one step back, The man threw his arms open and said Renalis, "C'mon son... I'm waiting..."

Renalis decided to take the man up on his offer and make the first move, bringing Azurewrath back Renalis charged in and swung low. His blade was deftly blocked by the man's quick movements, "Hmmm," Renalis thought to himself, "this guy isn't half bad" Renalis then jumped back a pace, then quickly sprung forward and renewed his assault. The two proceeded to trade blows for a few minutes, and the winds began to blow harder and harder. The man was blocking every one of Renalis's attacks and thus Renalis began to up the tempo, putting more and more into it. It was then that he began to notice it, Something wasn't quite right. He could feel that it was almost as if the winds themselves were guiding the mans blows, they were coming faster and truer than Renalis had seen out of any ordinary person, but that was not all. His blows were being pushed, and slowed, as if the wind itself was with this man. There! Something else, he could feel it...something...divine. Yes it was definitly divine energy, but on him? On this 'pirate'?

" 'NALIS! GET DOWN!!!!"

Renalis heard Trinni's voice just off to the side, "the hell? what's Trinni yelling at..." Just as Renalis pulled away from the man for a second, an arrow wizzed past his face. "Holy crap!" was the only thought that could enter his mind as he followed the arrows path toward Kaya. She moved to the side and cleaved it in twain. Looking back, Trinni was anything but finished. Loosing another 4 arrows simultaneously, Renalis knew he had to act. Renalis put his hand up, causing a small shimmer to appear in their path. As the arrows impacted it, stopping and then falling harmlessly to the ground.

"Trinni!" Renalis yelled to her, hoping that she would pause for a second to hear rational thought...

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

" 'NALIS! GET DOWN!!!!"

As the arrows flew by, Leov waited to see what would happen. The fierce wind at his back had given him more than an edge - and one he had not wanted.

The mage quickly brought his hand up, causing a small shimmer to appear in their path. As the arrows impacted it, stopping and then falling harmlessly to the ground.

Seeing that the mage's guard had dropped, Leov clenched his plated left fist and landed a solid punch on his temple - sending to the ground like a sack of hammers. "You let your guard down, son. I thought you were better than that," he said matter-of-factly. Then he replied to his unwelcome aid: "I don't need your or anyone else's help to fight my battles..."

He then turned to their convenient interruption. "What is it about this place? Can I not pick at least one decent fight without getting interrupted!" The wind was blowing even fiercer now, as if a reflection of Leov's own temper. "If it's not you, it's that glasses guy, or the damned citadel guard or a band of drunken vigilantes! The only decent action I've had around here is those lizard things out at sea!" A full gale was now howling through the trees. "If I thought you could even pick up a sword, I'd even give you a go!" He eyed the situation a moment, still making sure he was aware of everything going on. "I've had it up to here with this place. I've got much bigger things to take care of than a few over zealous children..."

Written by - Tempyst

Kaya watched as the young, foolish elf let loose another barrage of multiple arrows. She brought up A'lanthear, not afraid of taking a hit. Then Renalis turned from his fight with Leov and did some sort of magic, stopping the arrows in their tracks. I could have handled it my friend. Then she felt the wind pick up, it seemed to be coming from Leov. SHe looked back over just in time to see him land the punch on Renalis. Well my friend, you did turn away in the middle ofa fight, no one to blame but yourself.

She could see that fight had ended, but that the elven girl still had that look about her. Kaya moved from Crystal and started to make her way to Leov, knowing if anything were to go down, it was his side she would be on. After all, I owe him my life.

Written by - Renalis

Renalis caught the glint of silver in his peripheral vision, but it mattered not, he had to stop this before it started. The barrier had worked, and the arrows died in their track. Renalis then felt the contact of the Man's gauntlet again the side of his head, a slight flash of light as his armor absorbed the majority of the blow, but the blow still sent him to the ground with a resounding 'thud'. "You let your guard down, son. I thought you were better than that," he said matter-of-factly.

Renalis stood up, Crystal had rushed to his side and he say Kaya going to the side of the Man, as he took off towards Trinni."What is it about this place? Can I not pick at least one decent fight without getting interrupted!" The wind was blowing even fiercer now, as if a reflection of Leov's own temper. "If it's not you, it's that glasses guy, or the damned citadel guard or a band of drunken vigilantes! The only decent action I've had around here is those lizard things out at sea!" A full gale was now howling through the trees. "If I thought you could even pick up a sword, I'd even give you a go!" He eyed the situation a moment, still making sure he was aware of everything going on. "I've had it up to here with this place. I've got much bigger things to take care of than a few over zealous children..."

"Stop." Renalis had taken a step forward, his sword readied, his eyes blue, solid, as saphires, and glowing slightly.

"You shall not harm her."

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

Leov yawned again, unimpressed by the mage's overreaction. "See? That's exactly what I'm talking about," Leov scratched his chin calmly and continued, "Not once have I threatened her. I'm more than a bit angry, but not once have I raised my sword to her. You need to calm down a bit son." He staggered around a bit, growing restless. "Like I said, I've got much bigger and more important things on my mind than you fools. The only reason I'm here is because some druid or something wanted to see me."

Leov sheathed his sword. "There? That better now," he said to the mage, each word dripping with sarcasm. "Now, who wants what so I can get out of here?"

Written by - Tempyst

"Now, who wants what so I can get out of here?"

Kaya reached Leov as the words came from his lips. "I needed to speak with you Leov. But perhaps out here is not the right place. If you would follow me, we can talk somewhere with less interruptions."

Written by - Tempyst

Kaya smiled. "Well Leov, you left in such a hurry last evening, after asking me what I knew of demons, that I did not have a chance to ask you why you were so interested. As the new demon hunter in these parts, anything you may know, would be of a great service to me. I need to know all I can. And as a bonus, anything you tell me could help me find out more information, which in turn I would share with you." Kaya turned towards the elf chick who had tried to impale her with her arrow. "That is, if some people would not jump to conclusions and find out that I have been pardoned and am one of the good guys." She turned back to Leov. "Now, can you see why I asked if you would like to go someplace more private to discuss this matter?"

Written by - Trinni Shannon

Trinni watched the events unfold with an increasing amount of confusion, not to mention frustration, and was barely able to restrain herself from attacking the weird man who whacked Renalis. O'course, Renny can take care of himself, but still...

She lowered her bow at the snappy words Ms. more-personalities-than-you-can-shake-a-orc's-leg-at-without-runnin'-out-o'-breath said. But half the fun would be the detaching of the leg, but those suckers are so thick it'd take a fair amount of energy out of ya just doin' it. So, really, that's not a lot of personalities, but still! More than any one lady should have, honestly.

Throwing the bow over her shoulder, Trinni puts her hands on her hips and glares back and forth between the guy with a rag on his head and at her.

"Would someone tell me what in the green fields is goin' on? How'd she get out? You aren't gonna try to kill anyone else are ya? 'Cause if'n you do, it ain't gonna happen so easy missy. I mean, c'mon, you're an elf for cryin' out loud. Shouldn't you know better than to go around bein' as mean as a grizzly bear woken up in the middle o' winter? I mean, you might have a good reason, and I hope so, and if you do then I'm all sorry and stuff to have shot some arrows at you, but how was I supposed to know because no one tells me anything, and if you don't have a good reason, well, then I'm not sorry at all. And YOU, Mr. Big Shot, too naughty to be around people with some manners and common decency."

Striding over to Leov, she doesn't even take a breath as she walks right up to him, undaunted, and pokes him in the chest. "What's the big idea hittin' someone when they weren't lookin'? Didn't your momma ever tell you that's not nice? I mean, y'all weren't really fighting, you were play fighting. Do ya feel all big and bad now? That was just... just... not nice ya big meanie head! Do ya have to win by cheating? Didn't you have enough advantage with all that weird wind-stuff goin' on? Are ya afraid you can't win fair and share? I mean, I can understand your fear, you yellow stomach person. Renny here is pretty tough. And I didn't mean you really have a yellow stomach, that's just supposed to mean you are all scared and stuff. You should be ashamed of yourself. Maybe that's how humans act, but here we're taught a little better."

Nodding, she puts her hands on her hips again and takes a deep breath, finished her chastising for the moment.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

Leov turned to Kaya: "Give me just a minute here. I can't pass something like this up."

Leov glared down at the little elf girl. "Where to start... where to start... so many points to go at...." He reached up and stretched towards the bright morning sun, "Well... I suppose that's as a good a start as any..."

"There is no such thing as "fair" in fighting, little girl, "play" or not. There's only victory, regardless of how it's achieved. You either win, or you die. You can sit there and preach about "fairness" all day long until you're blue in the face, but it still won't change a damn thing. Where was the "fairness" when Beridane's dogs sailed in to our ports on the bloody wakes of our ships? Where was "fairness" when his armies slaughtered our rulers in front us? There is no such thing. It's just a myth."

His voice took on a grave seriousness. "As for how humans act... you don't know me. You don't know what I've been through. You don't know my reasons or my intentions. I think you'd do well to try and see things from a different perspective before casting your high and mighty elven judgement on others. But what do I know? I'm just some barbaric human."

Written by - Trinni Shannon

Tilting her head to the side to regard him, she looks sorry for the man in his bitterness. Then, quite softly, she replies, "If we all forgot about fairness, about what's right, about bein' good... well, I guess we'd be no better than that orc's rear-end that went and stole Queenie Mavigan's home, that kills loads of people all the time for no reason, that seems to think the rules don't apply to him. I wonder how your rulers would feel to see one o' their people turnin' out just like their murderer. That stupid man will get what he deserves one day, and one day soon, but where will that leave you?"

Written by - Turin Wallace

As the rhythmic pitter-pat of snow falls onto the roof of the abandoned inn, the once roaring fire now reduced to glowing red embers, a robed figure enters and kneels beside the old warrior. Reaching out with a slender hand, the figure gently takes him by the arm and gives it a gentle tug, enough to rouse him from slumber. Slowly, the man opens his sleepy eyes, and while his vision may still be blurred, he instantly recognizes the figure before him.

Before he can say a word, the figure quickly places a hand over his mouth, then says,

"Shhhh, do not wake the others, I would speak with you in private."

Nodding in agreement, the figure releases his mouth and says,

"Turin, it seems there is a more present need for you. I have come to tell you that your friends are arriving here, all brought here at this time, a crucial moment in this world's history. Westgale has become the den of an evil, vile man. Even more, the lady Ariana has arrived once more and is in dire need of assistance. A few of those you knew within the Hands are already in pursuit, you should try and meet them as soon as possible."

Pausing momentarily, the female figure says,

"Other than that, how fare you, my champion?"

Blinking in disbelief a moment, Turin replies,

"Siluriel, it has been a long time since I have seen an Archon of the All-Father, you in particular. A man of lesser faith would have thought he was abandoned. Other than that, I seem to be no worse for wear, though I am on a path to find my child that was snatched from me at birth. Then, now, you bring this news to me. It is a lot to consider, lady Archon."

Siluriel responds,

"If you were abandoned, dear Turin, you would have passed from this world a very long time ago. However, we both know you are not a man of so-called lesser faith, don't we?"

A smile then graced the lady Archon's face, as she continued,

"Never-the-less, you must continue your path alone. Send your guards, our sister and mother on to find your child. Westgale is not kind to elves now, since they are at war. All will be made clear in your trek, though it will have it's own danger's."

Leaning his head against the wall, Turin retorts,

"Ah, what a thing to be a pawn of a god, no? Alright, lady Archon, I will make my way to Westgale and aide Ariana in any way possible. Tell me, how has Westgale fared these last few hundred years? I remember when nothing was there, when I was unceremoniously plopped down near that bay, naked I might add. I suppose for old-times sake I should make my way back and enter the gates naked! Nay, mayhaps not, the throngs of swooning women would impeded my progress.

Throwing a serious look at her, briefly, they both burst forth into muffled laughs and snorts at the thought. Once they both compose themselves, Siluriel speaks,

"The arrival of others, including Ariana, began a building process. This was after I had placed that sleeping enchantment upon you, in that cave to the north, and were awakened only by the arrival of your family. Who, I might add, were a pain to lead there. Of course, it didn't help that those who built Westgale built a small barracks in your memory. Which reminds me, I think you may enjoy knowing what happened to it. However, a city was built by those of the Hands who arrived, including Ariana herself. It is her lineage that has ruled until recently."

Turin ponders a moment, then replies,

"Ah, well, I knew of the city, and I figured it was built by the Hands. Especially after I heard of the candle symbol emblazoned everywhere. Hmm, a barracks in my honor eh? All-Father only knows what goes on in there now, care to tell me?"

With a mischeivous grin, and a lilting laugh, she replies,

"It was a barracks, seems that it was turned into a brothel not all that long ago. Somehow, it smacks of poetic justice, no?"

Turin's face grew red, but then gave in to the temptation to laugh, saying,

"Well, it seems a sort of "sparing" or "training" still goes on, so I won't complain too much."

Winking, he continues,

"Now, as for Ariana, that's surely news to me. I never thought that girl would be, for lack of a better term, loose enough to allow room for a husband and children! Good to hear, however, she would make some young man very happy. It is bitter news about what has happened to her descendants, and if she is in need, I will answer the call. What else would an old friend, and a Crusader do, other than answer the call?"

As he finished, he beamed a smile at Siluriel, who then says,

"Then, your task is at hand, Turin. You have laid low long enough, once more you shall bear the titles "Crusader of the All-Father, Soldier of Grace." As such, I believe you will be needing these..."

Pointing to a nearby corner, an area he had not been paying attention to, his eyes brightened as he looked over the aged dwarven smithed armor. Standing, he quietly walked over, his hands picking up the gleaming, polished steel and bronze pieces. It was the armor of a Crusader, more than that, he reached into the socket that held arm to chest and found a very old, tattered piece of cloth. Though it was old, it still had a tint of yellow in it. Looking to Siluriel, he says,

"Tis my old armor, and your mark of honor still held fast after all these years. I have missed this old suit greatly, so many memories it has. Much like me, I suppose..."

Turning back to the armor, Turin slowly and quietly began to don the pieces of armor on. Finally, after some length of time, he turns around to ask the lady Archon how he looks...however, she is gone. In a whisper, he says,

"Thank you again, lady."

Moving to his spot by the door, Turin rested until morning. Once light was upon them, and everyone was awakened, Turin commands,

"Mother, take Nica and the guards and head to Lothiel-Gadith. Find my daughter for me, I will be along as soon as I can. My path leads me a different way, the Hands, or what remains of them, need my aide. If I can help, then by the All-Father, I shall."

The party had noticed the new armor, yet had said nothing all morning. After giving his orders, Deluwiel responds,

"My dear son, it seems someone either gave you a gift or you had a magic pack somewhere. Shall we assume a certain divine being had intervened in your affairs again?"

Nodding, Turin replies,

"Aye, the lady Archon has graced me with my old armor, and mission worthy of a re-born Crusader. Too long have a lived a life not meant for me. In my heart, I have always been a Crusader, and I fear I will never know another life again. However, I will find that bridge in due time, then decide to either cross or burn it."

With a smile and wink, he mounts his horse, then finishes by saying,

"Be safe, mother, sister and friends. You can be assured you will see me again, for like a bad copper piece, I always turn up!"

Spurring his horse gently, Turin moves off by himself, soon obscured by the falling snow. Then, under Deluwiel's direction, the party heads toward Lothiel-Gadith, left to wonder what fate awaits them all at their chosen destinations.

Written by - Tempyst

Kaya looked at the youngling. She is so idealistic. Boy, does she have a lot to learn about the world. "You, young one, need to learn to watch your words. You might be know how to use that pig shooter there, but that does not mean you know about everything else. But to say he didn't fight fair? HA! Life isn't fair. Sure you can play by a moral compass, but sometimes you have to take what shots you can. They were sparring sweety and Renalis let his guard down. Perfectly fair in a fight for Leov to get a shot in. YOU however, taking up arms against me and shooting me without good cause, is not fair! Just because you didn't know I had been pardoned is not excuse. Did it not occure to you that if I was dangerous, Renalis and Crystal here would be after me? Or that the fine druid of this grove would be here to watch over me?" Kaya took a deep breath, then started up again, taking a few steps towards the young elf. "Also youngling, you said something about how humans act. Well stop being so high and mighty, being an elf does not make you better than anyone else. We are all here and we are all equal. Just by having that attitude makes you as inferior as you believe a human to be. It is attitudes like that that will be an end to the elven race, and a a prejudice I fight to destroy. Now, I think you owe some people an apology, or is that beneath you as well, elfling." Kaya's eyes were flashing, and for the first time in a long time, she felt like her old self.


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."


Written by - Ardwen Page 19 Book 3

Ardwen knew. Sycon was communing with something, or someone, else. He could recognize the glazed look of those who suffered from god-taint as they drew upon and spoke with their "celestial" benefactors. Ardwen merely waited, making sure to keep his eyes and ears fixed on their surroundings. Whatever plan Sycon had concocted with the gods Ardwen wanted no part of. Soon enough, Sycon said two simple words, "She's here."

He ran off into the road, and Ardwen followed. He could already see some immense beast coming through the trees . . . was this the being Sycon seemed to adamant they wait for? Once in the clearing of the road, Ardwen could fully see what monstrosity Sycon had given his obedience to: a dragon. A shining monster that might had been termed magnificent if Ardwen had not hated it on sight. The creature could only remind him of one thing: the Field of Sorrows where The Terror had arisen on Aernyth, it's arrival killed the first Ellestor Gilliandor and the ensuing battle laid waste to his Empire, murdering untold hundreds of thousands of his kinsmen.

The Terror had become a legend since that time, many of the lesser races regarded it as a myth conjured by the Elves. Even the Holy Church, renowned for its historical archives soon pushed the memory into the dusty annals of forgotten lore. But Ardwen remembered. He remembered, and he hated. He stood there, eyeing the creature warily, waiting for the first move to be taken. It spoke finally in a tone both powerful and regal, "Shall we?"

Ardwen spoke only seven words in a hushed whisper to Sycon, "I hope you know what you're doing."

Written by - Ariana

By the time they had reached their destination, Mavigan’s mood had turned as foul as her language. She was wet, her skin had been crawling for days, and if she had to listen to that undead THING torture one more innocent creature in the pursuit of her food, Mavigan was certain she would do something drastic.

To make things worse, she was certain they were being followed, or at the very least being observed, and yet Teran made no sign he knew or cared. Mavigan could tell Keeryn was equally uneasy, though for different reasons. Although Mavigan could appreciate the sentiment, the fact that Keeryn was watching her every move and every interaction with Teran with extreme scrutiny was really grating on her nerves.

In addition, she wondered why they were taking the long way round, when even with her limited skill she had detected several openings to the shadow realm within the curiously lifeless forest. Everytime they passed one, she mentally sent a rude gesture Teran's way.

Furthermore, the closer they got to their goal, the more intense the prickly sensation became. Each time she rubbed her arms briskly in a vain attempt to dispel the sensation the Bitch would eye her curiously, as if she knew something Mavigan didn’t. Mavigan hated every minute of it.

When Teran finally pointed out their goal and then turned to ask if some nonsensical question about their level of preparedness, Mavigan gave an exaggerated roll of her eyes.

Cocking an eyebrow at him, she said archly, "Can we get the f*** on with it?"

Written by - Tempyst

Lucant felt empowered in the cave. Everything Argus told him, showed him, he soaked in like a dry sponge. This is what I have been waiting for. He thought. Never before I have felt more at home, more in power, not even at my forge. This, this is my calling. He closed his eyes and could hear the whispers of the stone. He could hear the stories they had to tell, their secret they held.

As they sat there in cave, for what seemed like days, Lucant's powers over the stone become more and more secured. He could now find minerals and ores within the stone. He could ground himself and feed from the strength and energy the earth and rocks could provide. He soon found he could draw upon the soil and plants, but he used them as a conduit to find mroe suitable areas for him to leech onto for power.

Argus was also an excellent axeman and taught Lucant how to fight with his new sword. He had left his armor behind, but that did not prove a problem, Argus helped lucant use his new powers to forge, form himself a new suit of armor...one that fit only him, lightweight but strong, made from pure metals. Argus almost suggestted a new sword, but both of them could sense the perfection and power within the sword Lucant chose from the armory.

Lucant also learned what it meant to be an avatar. Nyrondis himself visited he and Argus within the cave. Meeting the god face to face, actually helped Lucant, and took in all Nyrondis wished to teach him. This did not go on long, for Nyrondis told him, as his avatar, he would always be with him to answer any question, and to give any support needed.

After what seemed like a week within the stone with Argus, Lucant was ready to return to his wife, and to his new life. He thanked his teacher, gave a prayer Nyrondis, put on his armor, took a deep breath and made his solo journey back to the grove.

Written by - Teran

Sabbatine's grin almost defied realism it was so big. Part of her hoped Teran would strike her down for her negative attitude, she licked her lips thinking about how Mavigan's blood would taste... but then Keeryn caught her eye. Oh how Sabbatine wanted to taste Keeryn, everyone could see it in her eyes. Sabbatine broke out of her reverie though and after getting one last taste of Keeryn's lovely scent she started down the side of the valley.

Teran's smile was disheartening to say the least. He was starting to wonder if Mavigan actually did have a deathwish. He didn't speak to Mavigan, he just silently followed Sabbatine down the side of the valley. Teran could feel collective power they were near. It was more than he would have imagined the men they were chasing could posses. The thought that they had stumbled into a trap crossed his mind but the knowledge that help was not too far behind them reinforced his opinion that they had to press forward.

Sabbatine stopped them at the crypt entrance. She poked around the door and set off a trap with her spear. Had anyone been standing in the door way they would have been consumed by flames. Once they were inside Teran took the lead. He did not disarm the traps they came across but rather he marked them with the hope that Wilhelm would see his warnings at also guide his party to avoid the traps. He left one of the heartfire gems next to the first trap so that Wilhelm would know what the next warnings would look like and that he would not miss the first warning and set off the trap.

As they went deeper and deeper Sabbatine got more and more on edge. She began blinking a lot and licking her lips, her arms twitched occasionally. She was tense with excitement, the magic she could sense was so strong she half expected it to return her to life when she consumed the magic wielders. She snickered quietly at that thought.

Soon the party could see a light at the end of their tunnel. Teran indicated that they all should wait while he crept ahead to get an idea of what awaited them. He seemingly disappeared right before their eyes as he gained distance from the party and it was while Teran was away that Mavigan felt something slam into her from behind. A very startled looking man looked up at her from where he had fallen, an acolyte judging from his robes. He held up his hands and began chanting a spell!

Written by - Wilhelm

Wilhelm led his small troop to the lip of a desolate valley that reeked of corruption both physically and spiritually. He could tell that they were closer now to Mavigan's group. Looking over the floor of the valley with his eyes and his tracking sense he could tell that Mavigan's group had entered the lone crypt in the center of the valley. The three mages were now holding hands to maintain a joint shield over the party to mask the party from the growing evil power in the valley.

They moved quietly to the entrance of the crypt, which stood open with signs of a flame trap scorching the doorway. Resini bent down and picked up a small object and showed it to Wilhelm, who recognized it as one of the heartfire stones he had seen in Resini's scrying. Clearly Teran had marked the trap in a subtle way that only they would recognize.

They drew their weapons, but took care to continue to move quietly and carefully. Wilhelm and Resini spotted several more stones that marked traps, this time not disarmed. With the warning the mages were able to detect the traps and lead the party around them. The mages kept small balls of handfire moving along the ground that shed light only in a small area, sufficient to allow them to pass but maintaining their night sight.

Wilhelm could sense that they were getting close to Mavigan's group and halted his group at a turn. Mavigan was only 30 yards ahead past the turn. Peaking around the turn he could just see the outlines of the group ahead against a light at the end of the tunnel. They waited for the moment when their aid would be needed.

Written by - Ariana

Inwardly, Mavigan cringed at the expression in Teran’s eyes. She easily recognized it, as it was the same expression she had seen in nearly every pair of eyes since she had been dragged out of Westgale. She had thought herself inured to seeing evidence that she had, once again, failed to live up to expectation, so she was surprised to find unbidden words of apology welling up inside of her mouth.

Before she could speak them, however, Teran turned away without a word and followed Sabbatine down into the valley. The words evaporated before being uttered, and Mavigan felt her heart sink. Mentally, she cursed his freaky younger looking and devilishly handsome self, but the tirade held little heat.

She wasn’t given long to brood, however, since with each step they took, the sensation she had been struggling with for days intensified until her skin felt as if it burned. She clenched her teeth and tried to ignore it. By the time they entered the cave, Mavigan was struggling to keep from vomiting and her complexion was pale. Everything inside of her was pulled as taut as a bow string, and Mavigan was bewildered and ill-equipped to deal with the sensations.

The small group had hidden itself as Teran disappeared ahead. There was no conversation as they all waited for his return. Mavigan hoped they would not have to wait long. The atmosphere pressed heavily upon her, and she honestly didn’t know how much more she could stand.

When something, or rather someone, smacked into the back of her, the tension she felt suddenly released. She spun on her heel and launched a dagger at the now chanting acolyte. The dagger lodged itself in his throat with a pop and a crackle, and his chant, now incomplete, trailed off in a hiss of air. He dropped to his knees, hands clutching uselessly at the dagger, and then Keeryn was on him, dragging him away from Mavigan and finishing him off. Keeryn turned a few seconds later and handed Mavigan back her now bloody dagger with a nod of approval.

Mavigan nodded back and accepted her dagger, returning it to its place with the others. The pressure Mavigan had felt for days seemed to lessen just a little bit. She wasn’t quite sure what had just happened, but she was glad she was no longer in danger of puking on her own boots.

She returned to her place and fixed her gaze forward once again, waiting for Teran to return with news. She heard Keeryn shuffle behind her, and knew that Keeryn was now watching her back. The thought caused Mavigan to give a small smile.

Written by - Tempyst

As Lucant pulled himself from the large stone within the Sacred Grove, he was greeted by a brightly smiling Tempyst. How did I get to be so blessed to have found her and have her as my wife? Suddenly his mind thought of A'lanthear. For a moment he ws angry again, but he soothed his mind and the anger melted to ambivilance. As much as the sword had decieved him, it had helped him as well and he knew he should no longer hold such anger towards the sword. After all, it did bring Tempyst and I together.

Tempyst beamed at the sight of her husband, then let out a gasp as she saw how handsome he was in the fine armor he wore. His presence is different too, he has found himself. Oh Nyrondis, thank you for this blessing. She rushed to Lucant and hugged him tightly then kissed him deeply. He returned the affection, no caring who saw. When they finally broke their kiss (both of them obviously flushed as well), she took his hand within hers. Tempyst began to speak, but Lucant put a finger to her mouth. "You gave me a most wonderful gift, to show your love for me." He held up his hand where her ring still resided. "Now, it is my time to give you a wedding gift." He opened up his palm and showed her a rouch piece of marble, then closed his palm. He grounded himself as he had been taught, and concentrated. Tempyst could sense the change in his aura and kenw something magical was happening. Lucant opened his eyes took Tempyst's left hand into his and placed upon ehr finger a simple band of silver marble. Tempst squeals with joy and once again embraced her husband.

"Thank you Lucant, I will never take it off." Then she saw the sun begin to set low in horizon. "Oh my goodness, I almost forgot. We have been invited to dinner by Ithramir. And you have arrived just in time. Hurry Lucant, we must go!" She took his hand and pullhed him along into the citadel proper.

Written by - Sycon

Sycon remotely caught Ardwen's remark. He had figured Ardwen would hold onto the old ties of Aerynth and the concept of the dragon as it was there.

He exchanged a warm glance with her. Her name unspoken, but known between the two, and her title a Lady of the Land to those that knew of her. She would often appear in many different forms, her favorite being a young beautiful woman with silver hair and eyes as they shown in front of him now. The way they reflected the light made her a goddess in their own serenity.

Her tail waved slightly in the air moving closer to them and coming to rest on the ground gently, not to even stir the dirt. Her voice was much deeper in this form, but still feminine and elegant. Sycon moved to her front and bowed deeply. "Mi'lady, let me introduce you to my friend. He as well came from the same world as I, and as you know it, Aerynth. He is of the Elven Empire, or from what was left before the turning and its destruction." He then turned to Ardwen, "This is my lady. Most call her the Lady of the Land, but I'm sure you could get away with just lady." He inclined his head to see the expression on her face... but then again he was not adept at reading a dragon's expression.

Her voice, almost like the druid's song of the evening, greeted Ardwen formally, "Hello Ardwen, I am glad to see you as well intend to rescue this girl Ariana that is so important to you too. I hear she is a great woman, and I respect you both for your decision, even against the odds." Her head slightly bowed.

Written by - Ardwen

Ardwen just watched the loathsome beast stir its tail. Sycon took the initiative and introduced Ardwen with, "Mi'lady, let me introduce you to my friend. He as well came from the same world as I, and as you know it, Aerynth. He is of the Elven Empire, or from what was left before the turning and its destruction."

Sycon then turned towards Ardwen and introduced the dragon, "This is my lady. Most call her the Lady of the Land, but I'm sure you could get away with just lady." Sycon seemed to tilt his head as if trying to read the dragon's reactions. For a moment, Ardwen wondered if Sycon had doubts himself about the creature.

Ardwen was contemplating correcting Sycon's introduction, especially in regards to the Empire when suddenly the situation got worse . . . the dragon spoke to him, "Hello Ardwen, I am glad to see you as well intend to rescue this girl Ariana that is so important to you too. I hear she is a great woman, and I respect you both for your decision, even against the odds." The dragon dipped its head slightly then, was it a show of respect, or was it trying to hide its amusement at their seemingly vain effort to rescue Ariana?

Ardwen let an awkward silence stretch out before starting, his voice was calculatingly neutral, yet it still carried the impression of a cynical edge, like a film of oil on still water, "I'm going after Ariana for my own reasons. But I find your talk of long odds to be peculiar. Surely you do not speak of the inhabitants of Westgale? Mere insects, I will crush them . . . if I can get there. I suppose you conveniently hold the answer to my quandary? If so I would pray haste in this . . . the taste of battle is so tantalizing." "And," Ardwen seemed to add as an afterthought, "Ariana languishes in a dungeon cell for every second we waste." The warrior apparently had not moved the entire time he was speaking, but if one were to note his posture, one could clearly observe that he had his heels off the ground by a hair's breadth. He was still not relaxing his guard.

Written by - Sycon

Her words came slow, slightly showing her own amusement of the situation. "Very well Ardwen, but if you truly pray haste, then you shall have to trust me, at least for a brief time." She almost giggled as she turned back to Sycon once again, her mood seeming to be happy. "Are you ready?"

Sycon's response came quick as he stepped up to the silver dragon. "Before you were," Sycon grinned at her. She lowered herself to the ground, once again the drit did not so much as stir as she moved. Sycon moved right up to her back haunch and he hoisted himself up onto the base of her neck, between her shoulder blades. This seemed easy for him, almost as if he'd done it before. Sycon looked down upon Ardwen. "You have to admit it will be faster."

Her neck turned to Sycon, "Don't be afraid to hold onto the frills when we rise, they are quite sturdy, you can't hurt me my little fox."

Written by - Tempyst

Ithramir felt as ease among his men. He could by no means, visit all of them, the armies were just to vast, but he could venture out to those who were on the front lines with him and show them that their commander lived. He also had plans to thwart any *kill Kaya* campaigns as well, letting them know she had been purged and was pardoned by himself directly and by the gods. As he told his tale (for all wanted to hear what had happened upon the rooftop), more and more would gather round. He could see the anger in their eyes for the demon and Kaya herself, but he hoped his words of forgiveness would sink into their hearts. But he knew there would still be danger out there for the new demon hunter.

The day progressed and often his thoughts woudl drift to his beloved, and wonder how she was doing. Yes, he coudl sense her now, more so than ever before, but it did not tell him her thoughts. He knew she would need her space, for she was a pig headed, stubborn female. But that was some of the qualities he loved about her. Know that I am here for you my love, know I am here.

On his way back to the citadel, he recieved more news. His head mage had been killed in the battle and that now meant he would need to be replaced. As he road to the castle, his mind went through all possible candidates, but when it came down to it, only one fit the bill. The new mage that hade all but given his life to open the portal the night before; Renalis Dalomar. Yes, the human was new to this realm, but he had come forth and put himself in the middle of all that had been going on. Ithramir often relied on his instincts and they told him Renalis would do excellent in commanding the magical forces. Now, it was back to the office to catch up on paperwork.

Written by - Trinni Shannon

Beaming up at Renalis, still very glad to see him alive, she nods seriously when he apologizes then starts snickering when he calls her a lady. A Lady! Imagine that! No one has ever called her that, he must have hit his head or something.

Renalis then pointed to the mean lady and she suddenly had a name. His wife! Did that mean she'd have to be nice to this Crystal lady? She seemed really nice now... hmm. Trinni blushed as Renalis recited all of her names, how ever did he remember them all?

Crystal curtsied somehow, though she didn't wear a skirt. Taking a breath, Trinni smiles at her. "Is it? It is! Nice to meet you finally, now you have a name!"

Seeing Kaya leaving out of the corner of her eye, and determined to have the last word, she holds up one finger letting Renalis and Crystal know she'll be right back with them, then she turns and calls to Kaya over her shoulder. "If ya keep calling me youngling, I'm gonna have ta start calling you OLD LADY! You bein' older than me doesn't make you always right, ya know."

Harrumphing, she turns back then beams a smile at the pair. "So, have ya had your morning meal yet?"

****

In the safety of her office, Lithwyn cleans up the mess of last night. She shakes her head in disbelief, smiling now and again.

The room finally back in order, she sits behind the stack of papers on her desk and begins what is sure to be a long day. Various reports from different sectors in the citadel.

Leov had run off, taking his entire crew with him, back out to sea. A pity, that. She had seen many faces on that ship, and too few of them seemed prepared for a life at sea. Children, families, some looked more than ready to return to land. Living in a sea port is quite another thing from living on a boat. She filed the report with finished business.

A few reports later, Leov, and his ship, were brought back to Lothiel Gadith by none other than Aelyndria Val'thanis of the sea elves. How many were aboard the ship? What percentage were single, married, or with families? Did any require special accomodations? In what ways can each contribute to the citadel? All of these questions would have to be attended to. Making notes, she places the report among ongoing business.

Raevyn Treun departed in the middle of the night, having apparently found his quarry. Something still twanged out of place with her. It didn't add up. Why would a murderer be so out in the open? Why would she risk it? She made a note to follow up on him.

Kaya was pardoned after it was determined that she was possessed by a demon at the time of her attack on Ithramir. The increasing reports of demon contact was disconcerting. Apparently, she will be collaborating with the demon hunters within the citadel and the sword Alanthear has apparently chosen her as it's new wielder.

Tempyst has returned from her slumber... so soon? Lithwyn wasn't a druid, but she thought for sure that those things took time. What has brought her back?

Lucant was found in an alley, badly injured, part of some foul play. An investigation is ongoing and Lucant is not experiencing an residual physical effects.

A report from Resini states that Queen Mavigan is still under close watch by Wilhelm, apparently more than safe during her journey.

Ardwen, the night in the berserker suit if memory serves, dissappeared into the night. A witness states he was purturbed about something and ran off, shortly followed by another man, Sycon.

The situation in Minus Aure is stabilizing, any remaining orc forces are being stamped out. Within the coming days, forces will be regrouping, including those brought back for healing. Though the battle was won, the war was far from over. There is still the threat of another Orc invasion, the main force still must be dealt with.

More and more reports. Skirmishes, problems in nearby farms, blacksmiths requesting more aides and more space, a minor fire destroying part of a building, a spill in the banquet hall kitchen where stacks of platters were shattered beyond repair and a young woman broke her ankle, on and on as the sun streaked across the sky.

A rumbling in her stomach interrupted her thoughts as she poured over a document. Annoyed and not wanting to waste time, she glanced around and noticed a plate of fruits, cheese, and bread along with a pitcher and a goblet on the small table near the door. When was that brought in? She new it wasn't there earlier. Immensely grateful, she transfered the food to the one clean corner of her desk so she could munch and work.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

Jonan yawned and stretched as he ambled into the broken hovel. He wondered how the place was even still standing - the wooden walls were warped beyond any hope of repair and the thatched roof had several large holes in it.

"Well, you can't just leave it at that. What happened," one of the guards said. "Huh? What? Oh yeah, that..." Jonan said as his attention was ripped from the stars above. "Anyways... Carlyle had a few lunky looking guards wandering around the place. They looked like Larseno there on a good day," he said as a friendly jab. Larseno didn't hear him, much to his dismay. "Yeah...anyways... it wasn't hard to sneak around those "guards" of his and get to the cellar. Now, I've seen a lot of stuff in my day, but what Carlyle had down there is just plain incredible. There was more loot down there than I could carry out in a week. I swear, it's like he had gone to town on the palace vaults. BUT... I was a good little lawbreaker and didn't take any of it. It was pretty tempting, tough, especially when I figured out Morning Sun wasn't there."

The young guards where wide-eyed in anticipation, hanging on to his every word. The seemed to love the excitement. "So... I went up to the next most likely spot... which happened to be the attic. That house is enourmous, by the way, took me nearly five minutes to find the damned attic, which is probably why what happens next happened. Anyways... I finally got up there, and there the thing was sitting in a display case like it was an old trophy."

"Morning Sun is HARDLY a "thing" you miserable excuse for a thief," Larseno interjected.

"Whatever Lar. Do you want to hear the rest of the story or not?"

Taking his cue from the silence, Jonan continued. "Now then... I was hoping I could pick the thing open like a civilized thief, but I got robbed of that when the door started to creak open. I turned around in time to see Carlyle and and a couple guards there behind." Jonan then depened his voice in mockery of Duke Carlyle. "Just like I was expecting. She won't have it back." He cleared his throat, then continued, "Now at the time, I had no clue what he was talking about, but that part comes later. Anyways, I drew a knife and slung it at him just to distract him for a second. Then I punched the case in and got the sword. Not exactly how I was hoping to do it, but I got it done nonetheless. And, of course, the only viable exit was a window... so I did what I had to do. I yelled "Thank you for the kind gift, loyal Duke Carlyle." and jumped... out of a third story window. Luckily, my back broke my fall."

"Well where is Morning Sun now? Why don't you have it," Larseno asked.

"You don't know how to wait, do you old man? I'm gonna teach you to be patient if it kills both of us," Jonan said as he stood up and went outside to get some more of the food in the cart. As he opened the rickety door, he added as an afterthought: "I really liked that knife..."

****

Leov made his way back to the infirmary as if death itself was persuing him. "That damn blue boy would a better preacher than a fighter..." he thought angrily. "Oh well... we won't be here much longer anyways."

When he got back, everyone was carrying on and carousing as if the infirmary was Kassali tavern. "Hey! I'm back! Now, let's get down to business!" Everyone quickly quited down and turned towards him. Leov didn't waste any time to assert himself: "We're going back to Kassal. It's our home, our country, our lives, our families. I was wrong to abandon her when she needed me and I was even more wrong to drag all of you with me. So we're going back. And we're gonna take back what's ours."

The cheering seemed to shake the whole building.

"Only problem... is how we're gonna get back..." Leov said sheepishly.

Aelyndria gave a cold smile: "Allow me, child."

Written by - Ardwen

"You have to admit it will be faster." Was Sycon's only quip when he climbed onto the dragon's back. Ardwen merely stared, he turned slightly away and glanced into the sky as if searching for something. Briefly his thoughts had turned to home, his true home, and the Twilight that once was. In his five-thousand plus years he would have never, not once, expected to ride a dragon.

"This is a bizarre world." He announced aloud before cautiously approaching the dragon, "Still," He continued after a bit, "This Westgale has caused me more problems than any other city I've attempted to get into, and we're not even there yet! Why did they have to build the cursed city thing so far away?" The dragon had lowered itself to the ground, Ardwen crouched low and sprang as high as he could muster which - when one considers his equipment - was a great leap.

Clasping onto the beast's hide he managed to orient himself and move behind Sycon. The dragon had not even flinched when he made his crude ascent, a fleeting look of admiration passed over Ardwen's face and he let out a soft whistle. Staring at Sycon's back he said to him, "I hope I was supposed to get up here too, I'd have to be wing buffeted off . . ." He allowed the last few words to hand in the air.

Written by - Pharsalus

Pharsalus sat staring at a small campfire on the side of the road. Vylia and Ariel, the two young ladies who had so recently joined his trip to Ancora, sat and lay opposite and beside him in an easy silence. Ariel was asleep. She hadn't wanted to sleep, fighting to keep her eyes open and stuck on this strange little man of stone, fighting to stay tensed against whatever treachery these strangers would unleash upon her. But in her state, and given the dramatic events of the day, her defenses against Sleep's barrage had crumpled and burned. What a day she'd had, thought the priest! The priest turned his eyes to her sleeping form. She lay in a loose foetal position, her head resting awkwardly on the folded crook of her arm which bent back under her ear. He couldn't help but smirk as a soft whistle seeped from the girl's dirty, regal little nose as she breathed. He knew nothing about her, save what he'd plucked from her dreams the first several nights she was underh is care. And yet he fought for her, defended her, betrayed his censure of violent tendency to save her from the doom that took her family. He hoped his Father was watching from somewhere.

The priest stood, casually brushing the dirt from the rump of his tattered pants. He was still shirtless. After Vylia's all too brief introduction, he deemed it wise to flee the scene before more came, and he hadn't thought to bring a new one with him. He worried not so much for himself - more for the sanity and well-being of the girl. Even Vylia did not concern him. She proclaimed to be of Aerynth, like himself, like his kin, like Archeantus whom he now hoped to meet by the end of the next day; he believed her. Everything about her confirmed her story - he needed no idle banter or uncomfortable probing to uncover this. He noticed now that he was barefooted, too. All he had to his name anymore was his staff, his tattered, blood-spattered trousers, and a small pouch on his right hip. He was mildly embarassed in front of the females, even he was made of rock and they flesh.

He turned toward the woods behind them, toward a spot he knew not far from here with a clearing and a large, moss-covered stone as old as the forest itself, and addressed Vylia as he started to walk toward the chirping gloom.

"I trust the girl to your care. I will not be far - only through these trees - so you may call me if you need me." He paused, placing his hand on the closest tree and speaking over his shoulder. "I thank you, for myself and for the girl, for your assistance today. It is good to meet another of our world. Please, sleep - I do not expect any further interruptions tonight." He resumed his pace - if the girl had responded, he did not hear her. His resolve was turned toward the night in front of him, toward the clearing, toward his training. His fight with the bandits today had revealed a terrible weakness in himself - one he'd not realized was there until long after the rush had subsided.

"Thurin keep me," he sighed to himself, "He churns within me...awake after so many ages? He seeks my ruin. He seeks my return to servitude to him." He frowned and looked at the axe-and-anvil insignia burned into his right palm before time was time. It burned a dim crimson in the dark of the forest night. He clenched a fist and shook away these saddening thoughts as he came into the clearing.

It was a fine place - unusually quiet for a place so unmistakably in the woods. The break in the leafy canopy formed almost a perfect circle of dim, blue-ish light revealing at the clearing's center a large, bulbous, old rock. Pharsalus approached, feeling lightened in its presence, and placed his hand gently upon its lichen encrusted surface. He smiled.

"Old friend...still here I see?" He chuckled softly to himself before his smile ran away from his face. "We are so different, you and I, and yet so unequivacably similar in our solitude. I hope you do not mind me training here tonight - I will try not to make so much noise!" Patting the old lump of earth on what would be its shoulder had it the same great fortune as Pharsalus had being given life by his Father, he turned and took his place a few paces away, where the grass and underbrush and leafy carpet was not so thick, planting his feet as he'd planted them a thousand times before. He dropped his weight slightly, keeping both legs adequately bent, but firmly in place, and extended his rear-most arm forward across his chest, his fore-most arm out in front. He straightened the fingers of both hands, clasping them tightly together and bending them at the outter knuckles ever so slightly. He closed his eyes and concentrated....and concentrated....and concentrated. He did not allow his telepathic mind to wander. Instead, he kept it tight against himself, focusing inward upon his own frame like the lights of a stage. His breathing was deep, his thoughts clear, his eyes beginning to burn blue beneath their earthen lids. He allowed himself to depend only on his own senses, distracting an otherwise wandering mind inward, forever inward on himself. His breathing slowed still more as his ears and nose took in the gentle gusts of wind, pregnant with the sweet scent of jasmine and pine. He could feel the cloth of his trousers flapping, turning this way and that against his aged legs.

There! There it was, as it always was, so many times before. It fluttered from the tops of unseen trees in a gentle sway on its way to the forest floor, soft and pink and wonderful. Pharsalus on Aerynth had never imagined harboring any love of the woods - only the clank of steel on stone and the roar of forgefire stirred his ancient blood in the days of old. But while weather smoothed his rough edges from the outside, so, too, had time on the inside. He welcomed these moments, these delicate spaces in time in which all that mattered, all he cared for, fell softly down before him. A wind took leaves from their beds on the ground and cast them up into the air in a brown, raspy swirld around the old priest. By sound and feel, he counted twenty six...

WOOSH He punched. A leaf exploded and burned at the tip of his extended fingers.

SWISH....WOOSH...SHWIP....WOOSH... Again and again and again his arms and legs moved and struck and moved and struck ash e commanded with all the balance and finesse of two and a half centuries of solitary practice. All around him slowed as his war-hardened, time-tuned senses painted targets against the mind's eye. He focused his breathing to remain constant, just as it had been in his state of motionlessness.

...SWISH! WOOSH! WOOSH! GUSH! ... His body continued its assault on the leaves that now, one by one, met a fate of fire at the priest's unwavering fists and feet.

THU-THUMP

Silence ensued as Pharsalus stood re-planted, legs together, body erect, hand extended outward. He smirked as one leaf continued its flight unimpeded away from him and as a small pink flower settled into his open palm.

Twenty-seven, he chucked to himself, turning his eyes to the silent old stone, I've still more practice to do, it seems... He turned his hand on its side, letting the flower continue its journey to the ground. A warm wind drove it away and upward, back toward the whispering heights from which it had come. Pharsalus leaned against the old rock and gazed upward, still having to control his breathing from his exercize, as a figure became slowly visible at the clearing's edge.


Written by - Vylia Page 20 Book 3

Keeryn was on edge, it was easy to tell. Her ears were moving around like they were on a swivel, and her body was tensed, ready to pounce on anything that came out. She was angry at herself for not noticed that robed man wander right into Mavigan. Certainly he had managed to get past Wilhelm and his group, for her keen vision had caught a quick sight of them when they had peaked around a corner, but she should have been more alert... some bodyguard she was, her charge kidnapped right before her eyes, and then nearly attacked right next to her.

She kept eyeing Sabbatine as well, wondering when the undead was going to stop holding herself back and attack her. She knew what the beast was thinking in that rotting mind of hers, Keeryn had caught every minor glance the undead had given to her. And she still didn't trust Teran, he had spirited Mavigan away without a word to her, and now when they came back he looked younger than before. There was obviously magic involved, and Keeryn had ceased to trust their kind when one of them had destroyed her people.

She checked the whip at her belt with her left hand, making sure it was secure, but not so tight that it wouldn't come loose with a good tug. Certain it was set well she continued her surveillance of their surroundings as they moved deeper into the tunnels.

Written by - Vylia

"I trust the girl to your care. I will not be far - only through these trees - so you may call me if you need me." He paused, placing his hand on the closest tree and speaking over his shoulder. "I thank you, for myself and for the girl, for your assistance today. It is good to meet another of our world. Please, sleep - I do not expect any further interruptions tonight."

Even with the dwarf's words Vylia decided it best to be sure. Just because one does not expect interruptions does not mean they will not arrive anyway. Staying with these two meant she had to sleep on the ground, and so that meant someone keeping watch for intruders. It was obvious it was no longer completely safe in these woods. With her keen hearing she was still able to hear the dwarf, even as quietly as he walked, which in itself was unusual for his kind.

The fact she had found a dwarf from her homeworld unsettled her slightly, though she refused to show it in front of either of the others. It meant she was yet again in a time that great deeds would be performed, yet another world in need of rescue. The first time she had spent more than a hundred years looking for Pandarrion's champion, and when she had finally found the one she believed was him, he had vanished before they had left the world to it's own devices.

The fact the Hands had left had shaken her faith in the gods to a degree, but she still believed that what they had done was the right thing. There was obviously no means of saving that world, and if the gods had helped them all reach this one, which was becoming more and more likely, then this was apparently the world she herself had sought the champion for. Vylia still believed that Turin was the one, even though she had given up the powers she had gained from being one of the All-Father's paladins, to believe that when the time came he would come to them, and no amount of searching on any of their parts would make him arrive any faster.

And there she sat, prodding the fire with a nearby stick, when Pharsalus came back to the camp, followed by a second mysterious looking individual...

Written by - Aethelwulf

"AGAIN!" Alaric motioned to the drill sergeant to reposition the cohort back into the double wedge formation that they had spent a good part of the day practicing. Grimacing at the slow response of the weary soldiers, Alaric's voice rose in anger. "MOVE you sullen dogs! YOU think the ORC'S are going to allow you time to just mope along? MOVE!"

The Drill Sergeant quickly stepped up and ushered the cohort into the double wedge formation, barking orders at the troops. Alaric smiled at the renewed vigor of his men, and nodding to the Sergeant, he turned and left the training field. He had something to attend to. Something that had been a burden on his heart of late. Something that troubled his dreams.

Nodding in return of the salutes he received, he quickly made his way trough the throng of soldiers that were encamped about the citadel. Soon he found himself standing next to the field where Ithramir's elven troops were encamped.

"You there, where might I find Lord Ithramir?" Alaric's question was directed at an elven warrior who was in the process of honing the edge of his sword. A look not unlike disgust flashed across his face as he looked up at this insolent human, who had dared to speak to him. Quickly though, his countenance changed as he recognized Alaric.

"My Lord General, the Lord Ithramir can be found either at the campfire in the center of camp, or at his office" With that the warrior quickly returned to his work.

Alaric smiled and patted the warrior on the shoulder. "Thank you my friend. I think I shall try his office."

Making his way into the Citadel, Alaric soon found himself standing outside of the offices of the Lord Ithramir, and even as he returned the salute of the guard at the door, he turned to see Ithramir walking at a rapid pace down the hall.

Seeing his friend, the Elven General smiled. "Ah! Good afternoon Lord Alaric! To what do I owe the honor of your visit?" Alaric laughed as he followed Ithramir into his office.

"Tis I who am, honored old friend!" Alaric moved to take a chair near the fireplace. "I am pleased to report that my cohort's training has progressed quite well. They are now able to move quickly into a wedge formation from just about any other formation. They are still having a bit of a problem with the saw maneuver, but I think they will master that soon enough."

Ithramir smiled wanly as he poured drinks for them both. "That is good news. We will need them ready soon enough. How about a bit of Twin Oaks Brandy?" The General handed a glass of the amber liquid to Alaric. "Now then, I am certain that a report of your men's readiness is not the only reason you have come calling friend."

"Ah, you are ever the perceptive one." Alaric smiled as he took the brandy, and raising the glass in a toast, he then took a deep sip.

"Well then, there is something. I have been having these dreams of the one known as Lord Turin. In them he seeks to and fro for something dear to him. For some odd reason he seems incomplete without this item, and he is desperate to find it."

Alaric sipped quietly for a moment as he pondered his dream. "And then there is this, well, Archon"

Ithramir listened intently as his friend spoke, and raised an eyebrow slightly at the mention of the Archon.

"An Archon Alaric? Really. Did this creature speak to you?"

"Aye friend, it did, well after a manner. In my dream, I saw it talking to this Turin fellow, and then it looked up at me, and pointed to him, and then to what I perceived to be the northwest." Alaric stood. and moved to a window. "I think it means for me to find Turin, and that he is in the northwest. Which to me, means, Westgale."

Ithramir sighed, and swirled his brandy a bit in his glass. "So then, does this mean that you will be leaving your post here? And what is this item that this Turin fellow needs?"

"Aye my General." Alaric turned to look at Ithramir. "I am asking for a leave of absence, and for the relic that I know you to have in your keeping. The sword of Turin."

At the mention of the sword, Ithramir's eyes narrowed. "Ah yes. THAT relic. It was given to me by Ardwen for safe keeping." Ithramir rose and moved to a cabinet. Reaching in, he removed a long object, wrapped tightly in grey and blue cloth.

"Here friend, take this." Ithramir handed the object to Alaric, and then reached back into the cabinet for an envelope, that was sealed with wax. "Ardwen also left this letter, to be delivered along with the sword. Take them both friend, and return to me quickly. Your skill and sword will be needed sorely in the coming days."

Alaric drained his brandy, and then took the sword and the letter. "I thank you old friend. I am certain that there are forces at work here that are beyond us both, and I shall indeed hurry to complete the task they have placed before me."

Alaric saluted his General and then moved to leave the office.

"Hold friend." Ithramir spoke again. "Westgale is a good 800 miles from here, and if you are indeed to return to me quickly, you will need some help. I suggest that you seek out the Druid Dalomir in the Temple quarter of the city here. I am certain that he can help you." Ithramir then brusquely clasped his old friend in a quick embrace.

"May the God's give wings to your feet Alaric."

Alaric moved quickly to his quarters, and gathered up his woodland travel pack. He then quickly wrote out a set of orders for his cohort, and gave them to a guard to deliver them to his adjutant. Then with haste, he made his way out into the city surrounding the Citadel, and soon found himself at the door to the Druidic temple. Raising his fist, he knocked hard against the dark walnut door, and waited.

Written by - Tempyst

After Alaric left, Ithramir worked on the rest of the paperwork and various appointments that had sprung up. He made sure to send a page off to let Renalis know he was expected in the morning in his office. But now, he realized, he had to ready himself for his dinner with two of the heros of the battle, Lucant and Tempyst. He was looking forward to setting down with them, but dreading it all the same. After all, their unborn daughter had sacrificed herself to save him. He sighed, still unsure why she would do such a thing. WIth deep thoughts, went to his room, changed and made his way back to his office at which time, Lucant and Tempyst were just about upon him, coming down the other hall.

Tempyst and Lucant walked down the hall laughing but when Tempyst saw Ithramir, she turned silent, feeling a wave of emotions flowing over her. She was unsure of whether she should cry or be happy, her emotions mixed at seeing the elf her daughter sacrificed herself for. Ithramir seems a bit uncertain as well. "Tempyst, Lucant, I am so glad you could make it, please, come in, dinner should be ready for us." Ithramir opened the door to his office and waited for his guests to enter.

Lucant looked over Ithramir, his own emotions mixed as well. He too was unsure of how to act. He did not truly know his daughter, but yet, within the elf he could sense her. "It is good to see you up and about Sir, I am glad you survived." There was a thick silence in the room.

Ithramir took a deep breath. "There is no easy way to get around this. So please, let me speak now. First, I have a message for you, from Tirigil. She wanted me to tell you she loved you both very much. Now, what can I say to you two. Your daughter, Tirigil, so well named by the gods we serve, she gave up her mortal life for me. Who am I for her to save? I did not ask for her sacrifice, but I will not dishonor it. Thank you both, for creating such an amazing, amazing girl." His voice choked up as he spoke. "I can never, never repay you, or her, for the choice she made. The best I can do is make sure my life is not wasted with pettyness and dishonor. I promis you both, that I will always, always treat this gift I ahve been given as somethign precious and unique. I will not waste it. And the both of you, as well as your daughter, will always be welcomed at my home, my table, at my side, always. We are family." He held out a hand to Lucant, and the two shook hardily.

"Thank you Ithramir." Lucant responded. "Thank you for those fine words and they touch my heart. I echo your feelings and look forward to serving together as family and friends for many years to come. Our daughter is indeed, an extraoridnary individual and am honored she had the courage to share herself as she did. I am glad it was someone as fine as you that she chose to serve as well."

Tempyst said nothing at first, but walked up to Ithramir, then placed her arms around him and hugged him tightly. When she finally let go, tears filled her eyes. "Family." Was the only word she could say, then she hugged him some more. The parted only as the door opened and the servants brought in the food for dinner.

Now, all three seemed to be at ease, which was a relief for all of them. They ate and drank, then, when dinner was done, it was down to business. First they spoke of what had happened, the business of the demon, and the formation of a demon hunter team. Lucant had to interrupt and let Ithramir know that they were no longer the demon hunter team for Nyrondis, but that he, was now the Avatar for their god anda new demon hunter had been promoted. Ithrmis looked slightly embarrassed. "Ah yes, how could I have forgotten, I was there last night when it happened. Forgive me, it has been a long day. I will get together later with Kaya and speak with her." he then looked at Lucant's side. "So, if you do not carry A'lanthear now, what sword do you weild. And your armor, it did not come from my armory; I have never seen such a well fitted suit."

Lucant smiled. "The suit I made myself, during my training with Argus Stoneshaper. As for the sword..." He pulled forth his blad and let Ithrmir examine it. "I found it locked in a chest in your amory. I hope, I hope it was alright to claim."

Ithramir looked over the sword, then handed it back to Lucant. "By all means my friend. It came to be in our possession when it was offered as a gift from a village up way up north. The village had been overrun by orcs and a battallion of my elves freed the place. The Mayor gave the sword to the commander as payment.what they had. He asked the mayor where the sword had come from and was told it was found on the orc leader after the last battle. The ambassador accepted the sword graciously. The only thing they knew of the sword was that it had been found on the body of the Orc general. Then, when the battallion returned here, my ambassador that had been with them, and who had taken possession of the sword, he presented the sword to me. I sensed it's age, and its power, but it is not an elven made sword, it is human made, and thus, did not feel right in my hand or in any elf's hand. If you have found it, then you are meant to possess it. Congradulations."

They all spoke some more, including plans for Lucant and Tempyst's committment to accompany the army to the next battle. But soon, Ithramir stood. "Well, I am sorry to call this to an end, but I do have some other business to attend to before getting some rest. Thank you both for your time. I do hope we can have some more down time like this again." They said their good nights and after the two humans had left his office, Ithramir quickly gathered up an unopened bottle of wine and went off to find his beloved.

Written by - Tempyst

Alaric knocked again, impatiently. Then the sounds of footsteps could be heard. "Who is there? Who is using the temple door?" A voice spoke out as the doors opened. "Most just come to the grove proper." The druid looked the ranger over. "What can I do for you sir?"

"I am here to speak to Dalomir. Commander Ithramir said he might be able to help me with some travel plans."

"I see, well come this way. As it is, you are in luck, Dalomir is in between appointments and teachings. I dare say he has been busy as of late. But what with the battles, the demons and everything else, how can one not be busy?" The young, talkative man led Alaric through a couple of corridors into the Sacred Grove then motioned for him to wait. Within moments, a distinguished, but tired looking druid approached ALaric.

"Greetings my friend, how may I help you?" As Alaric explained his need to reach Port Westgale, Dalomir listened intently. When the young ranger was finished, he placed a hand on the ranger's shoulder. "I do believe we can help you, in fact, you can help up as well my friend. Our new demon hunter has told me of her intent to travel to the same destination you wish to go to. Perhaps, you two can travel together.

Alaric grunted with approval. "Alright then, as long as we can get there faster than normal travel. I need to get there as soon as I can."

"Well, it won't be like this portal in our grove, but it will only take a day or so, instead of weeks to get you there. Now, I am needed for a ritual at the moment, but if you would like to go meet Kaya, she is in that house over there. Please, just let yourself in, I think she may be relaxing and might not hear you knock. Besides, we are fairly infomral here." Dalomir nodded at Alaric, then walked off towards a gathering of other druids. Alaric shifted hib pack back on his shoulder and walked over to the small house Dalomir had pointed out. ANd, as the druid said, he opened the door and walked in.

As his eyes adjusted to the dimmer light, he was greeted by the site of a slender, naked woman stepping out of a bath. She looked over and smiled. "Well hello there my friend, if you are in need of the bath, the water will be changed shortly, but be my guest to sit and wait."

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

"Awaken, o Wanderer Beneath the Stars... the time is come, and you have many miles yet to go."

Owen Kastellan woke with a loud yawn as the morning sun crept across the floor. Immediately, he grasped his right hand in pain. He sat at the edge of his small bed - doubled over in pain - for a moment before rising and getting dressed. "Ho...ho...hummmm," he said yawning, "I wonder... what she meant by that. Oh well... I'm sure I'll find out... soon enough."

Trying to put the rude awakening behind him, Owen quickly got dressed and headed out to the vast fields outside the town of Banwall on the island of Kassal. The harvest season was at its peak, and the Ironskane occupiers kept a vigilant eye on the farmers of the island nation's heartland.

Owen made sure to put on a pair of tipless leather gloves before went outside into the share-cropped wheat fields. When he arrived, he was handed a scythe by one of the overseers. "Move your ass, cur!" Owen took the scythe with a pleasant, unassuming smile and went about his thankless worth.

Written by - Aethelwulf

"Well hello there my friend, if you are in need of the bath, the water will be changed shortly, but be my guest to sit and wait."

Alaric bowed deeply and kept his eyes to the ground.

"Forgive me lass, I fear I may have entered here in error. I have come seeking the one known as Kaya. Might you be this lass?"

Written by - Tempyst

Kaya reached for a towel and began to dry herself off. "Aye, I am Kaya'Talas, what can I do for you." As she waited for the man to respond she proceeded to dry, then dress.

Written by - Aethelwulf

The winsome lass moved gracefully, and out of the corner of his eye, Alaric gathered far more information about her comely form then was considered seemly. He smiled and looked up as the lady dressed.

"Ah, well then lass, I must make haste to the city of Westgale, and I have been told that you might be able to assist me. And I fear I must beg your forgiveness, as I seem to have forgotten my manners."

Alaric bowed yet again. " I am the one known as Alaric, of the Queens Army."

Written by - Tempyst

Once dressed, Kaya approached the man, holding out her hand and shook his. "I am Kaya'Talas, demon hunter for Nyrondis." She then motioned for him to follow her outside into the waning light. "Tis true I plan to go to Port Westgale. It is my desire to find Beridane and question then slay him. He ws the one who placed the demon inside of me that was sent to kill Ithramir and I intend to find out where he got it from. As for assisting you to go with me, I am in need of assistance myself. but I am told that by the morrow, there shall be one here that should be able to help us both. I hope it will not hurt your plans to be delayed until then? I am sure the druids here can put you up for the evening."

Written by - Aethelwulf

"Ah lass, I have my own quarters in the Citadel, to which I shall repair. I will need to see to some military matters in the early hours of the morning, but I shall be free and able to return to you here soon after that. And with that, I shall take my leave of you. I am honored, and indeed shall be indebted to you for your assitance. Good eve to you lass."

Alaric smiled once more, and tilted his head slightly as he turned to leave. Kaya was indeed quite winsome, and the thought occured to him that this might not be such an unpleasant journey after all.

Written by - Tempyst

Kaya smiled. "Come back about noon tomorrow and we shoudl find out about our travel arrangements Alaric." She watched the man depart and was glad she would have company on the trip. She had been alone for far too long and anyone to talk to, would be a blessing. Now, to find dinner. she thought to herself, and she wandered off to find some food.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

Owen kept a steady pace beneath the beating sun, which didn't seem to bother him at all. The other soldiers and farmers, however, were put a bit on edge by the blistering heat.

"Whaddaya mean I can't get a drink!? The river's just right over there!"

"You HAD your chance to get a drink hours ago cur! It's your own loss if you didn't take advantage of the opportunity."

"Taking advantage, huh? You Ironskane snakes are ones to talk. A few more months and this place will be nothing but scorched earth!"

Owen yawned again as he looked over to the fighting. "Oh man... I hope this isn't it... sure does look like it, though. Or at least the start of something." He walked over to the crowd gathering around the fighting men. The farmers of Banwall where one side, between the fields and the city, and the soldiers were gathering opposite of them.

He positioned himself on the right flank of the crowd and sat the head of his scythe against the ground as he leaned lazily against the long oaken handle. "I really wish she would've given me more of a warning..." he thought to himself as he watched the two men exchange shoves and harsh language.

The fighting went on for a few little while longer and the crowds grew increasingly tense. Both sides stood on the razor's edge as Owen simply sat back and watched them jump over it. He stood there in a reverie until the arguing soldier put his hand on his sword. "Hmmm... I guess that's my cue. It's really not my place to strike the first blow in matters like this, but I don't see him around anywhere, so I don't guess he'll mind," Owen said to himself.

Effortlessly, he kicked the head of the scythe up from under him and twirled it calmly before slamming it into the the lower jaw of the one of the opposing guards, straight up into the brain. He quickly removed the blade and took a readied stance.

Thus was the first blow to signal war. Thus was the first blow to signal revolution.

Written by - Tempyst

"So, do we go north?" Tempyst looked to her husband as she layed naked across the bed.

Lucant sat down by his wife and patted her bottom. "Hmm, well, you have told me that your father is coming from the north looking for you and now I find out that this sword I have hails also from the north, I think it is a good plan. Besides, fighting a few more orcs, this time without the emergency of killing a demon should be a vacation!" He laughed and pulled Tempyst to him, kissing her deeply.

Tempyst responded in kind, enjoying the laughter and feel of her husband. After the deep, heartfelt kiss, she hugged him and beamed. "Then north it is my love."

Written by - Tempyst

Ithramir knocked, then poked his head inside the door. He smiled seeing his beloved asleep at her desk. He stepped in, placing the bottle of wine on her desk softly. How beautiful you are my love. How very beautiful. He leaned over and softly kissed her eyelids in order to awaken his beauty . . . .


Written by - Aethelwulf Page 21 Book 3

Alaric walked briskly back to the Citadel, and into his chamber. Throwing his pack onto a chair, he moved to place a few bits of kindling into the rooms small fire pit. As he lit the pile and slowly fanned the embers, images flashed in his mind, images triggered by something that Kaya had said; a name she had mentioned. Beridane.

Suddenly very tired, Alaric slumped into a chair next to his desk. He poured himself a bit of brandy as the fire flickered before him. Staring into the flames as they danced about, a memory long forgotten came slowly into view.

The boar could be heard crashing through the thick underbrush, not far ahead. The hounds braying took on a strident tone as the dogs sensed that their prey was near.

"Alaric! Take the left flank! I will take the right, and the mutts can take the middle! Lets try to back the beast up against those rocks over to the east!"

Pallanon rode his charger with grace and steel. A commanding presence always, on days like today his normally stern features were lit with joy, and his eyes flashed with laughter. Pallanon dearly loved to hunt.

"Come Alaric, to the chase!"

Alaric guided his steed down a slight slope, and plunged into the thicket to the left of where the boar could be heard thrashing about. Suddenly the creature burst from out under a hedge, and charged right at Alaric's horse. His battle trained mount wheeled about and kicked at the huge beast, just as its tusks grazed Alaric's lower right calf.

Alaric leapt from his saddle and drew his sword. The boar had recovered from its charge, and was about to to turn on Alaric when a loud cry came from behind the beast.

Pallanon had dismounted as well, and had moved up behind the pig. Leaping onto its back, he grabbed the creatures snout with his left hand, as his right flashed across the pigs neck. The sharp glint of his dagger was quickly followed by the crimson life blood of the boar.

Later that evening, as they sat around the campfire, full of roasted pig, they shared a jug a wine. Pallanon clapped his friend on the shoulder, and raiseing a toast, said, "Today, was a good day my friend. A great day!"

Pallanon, his friend, his King. Dead at the hands of a murderous assassin. Dead at the request of Beridane.

Suddenly he recalled the image of Kaya, stepping from out of her bath, her lithe form nicked with scars from old wounds, her muscles supple and sure as she moved. Kaya the warrior.

Yes, this journey with her was going to be an interesting one indeed.

Written by - Tempyst

The city was in ruins. If a building was not on fire, then it was battered and crumbled into rubble and dust. Bodies lay everywhere; most were soldiers, but othere were of innocent men, women and children. Kaya inhaled the scent of blood and fire and smiled. She knew it had gone well for the commander and that she would be pleased. Then she turned upon her heels quickly for a noise was heard from the rubble of one building off to her right. She walked over, unafraid of what she would find and kicked aside a few stones. There, admist the debris was the one they had been searching for. "OVER HERE!" she yelled, making sure her commander heard her call. Soon the sounds of footsteps could be heard behind her, but she stayed still, keeping a sharp eye over the man and his family. The eyes of those found were filled with fear and begged for mercy. But Kaya knew no mercy would be given by the commander.

"Thank you Kaya, you have done well, just like I knew you would." Kaya looked at the commander, the child standing out admist the destruction. Her frilly white dress was unsoiled, her deep, red hair so striking, looking a lot like the flames that devoured other parts of Westgale. "Now, Kaya," the commander slipped her tiny hand into Kaya's own, "please, continue and I will watch." Kaya nodded.

One by one she took the children, screaming from the man they had cornered and she killed them, in horrible, horrible ways. She could hear the childlike laughter of the commander, as she watched, giggling with glee as Kaya performed her duties. Then last, was he. As she moved forward to pull him from the rubble, she felt a tug on her pants. She turned to see the commander, bright eyed and smiling. "He is for me Kaya, after all, he killed my family, so I want to kill him myself." Kaya watched as the child devoured the man in front of her eyes. When the commander was done, her white dress was no longer pristine, but covered in gore. The child's eyes shone brightly as she reached for Kaya. "Now it is time for desert." the child commander grabbed Kaya, her mouth opening beyond anything normal, rows and rows of dagger like teeth waiting ...

Kaya sat up, body covered in sweat, panting hard. Then, as the first shock of the nightmare wore off, she layed back down and sobbed herself to sleep...hoping the nightmares were done for the night.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

While the carnage continued outside, life inside the city continued as normal.

A young woman in her late twenties sat in the darkness of the old keep's library. She was reading an ancient book on the formation of the first kingdoms of man. Another girl entered the library, clearly disturbing the reading woman: "Sister, you must come quickly! There's been fighting out in the wheat fields." "Yes, yes, Nayse I'll be along shortly," the woman responded offhandly.

"Lady Dolce, please come now. This will have serious repercussions for us all," a young guard standing at the library door said.

"You, too, huh Gustave," she said closing the book, "well, let's go then."

Owen went back to his harvesting as the other farmers went about the revelry that had come from their overwhelming the guards. He tried to ignore the searing pain in his right hand, but eventually he was forced to give in to it and sat down again, doubled over in pain.

"Are you alright Owen?" He looked up, but the speaker was silhouetted by the sun. It didn't matter, as he could recognize that voice anywhere.

"Nayse! Oh, um... I'm fine. You know me, just down here hiding from the fighting."

"Somehow I doubt that," she said offering him her hand to help him up. He didn't take it, but quickly stood up as the pain in his own hand faded. "I heard what happened from the others... sister knows, too."

Owen yawned again. "Well... let's go get... this over then."

Written by - Aethelwulf

Alaric loved the silent stillness of the pre-dawn morning. There was something about the sense of peace that permeated the land, as the night fogs blanket slowly melted into the dawns soft light. Moving quickly through the city, and with the silent padding of a practiced stealthier, he soon found himself at the black walnut door of the Druidic Temple.

Knocking softly, he waited quietly for a priest to come open the door. Around him the city was slowly coming to life, its sounds muted still as its people slowly shook off their slumber. Nodding slightly to the sleepy acolyte as he entered, Alaric started to cross the Temple's outer courtyard, when something to his left caught his eye.

There, to the side, in the grassy middle of a garden, was Kaya. Clothed in loose, white cotton, Kaya worked slowly through some manner of exercise, moving from one form to another with catlike grace. Her eyes were closed in tight concentration, as her hands and feet moved. Alaric had seen his servant Lao practice this very same art, and had seen its deadly use in more then one scrape.

Moving softly to a garden bench, Alaric smiled as he noticed a slight frown furrow Kaya's brow. Even tho he had been stealthy, she knew he was there. Alaric smiled even more.

As the morning sun slowly warmed the day, Kaya practiced. Small beads of sweat formed on her forehead as she worked, and the white cotton shirt that she wore was soon almost transparent. After a bit, she ended her practice. Her eyes still closed, she bowed deeply to the north, and then turned to each compass point and did the same. She ended with her back to Alaric, her face to the west.

Softly, almost in a whisper, she spoke. "So warrior, you have come."

Written by - Tempyst

Kaya awoke feeling the stiffness in her underused body. Time to wake up Mistress, you need to see Ithramir this day.

"Yes, yes I know, but it is early yet, I have time. I must get first get back into a routine to keep my body and mine honed and ready for our fight."

Do not be concerned of your dream Mistress, it was just that, only a dream.

Kaya turned toA'lanthear, then picked up the sword. "How did you? Nevermind, I am sure you know much more than you ever let on don't you? Well, my dreams are my business, when I wish to share them with you I will, okay?" Kaya set the sword back down and dressed in an outfit of soft white fabric, then picked up A'lanthear again and made her way to the grove, then began her excersises. Cuiv'fea'quenat* is what they were called and the sword singers of the desert practied them whenever they could. It was not practical on the battlefield, but here, in the peacefulness of the grove, it was a perfect time to get herself focused.

She did not know how long she had been there, when she felt the presence of another. He was quiet, very quiet and she was impressed. [iIf i had not been so quiet myself, i would never had heard him. She knew it was the warrior Alaric, who had come to see her the night before. He had seemed very anxious to be leaving and it seemed a night of rest had not squelched that eagerness. But she kept on with her slow movments until she finished with her excersies.

She finished by bowing to each compass point, giving thanks to the spirits for helping her calm hermind and work out the kinks in her body. then, back to Alaric, she smiled, then spoke softly, almost in a whisper, "So warrior, you have come." She then turned to face the man, a big smile upon her face. "Are you ready?" Kaya swiftly dashed to the side and picked up A"lanthear, unsheathing the handsome sword. She then charged the warrior and hoped he would prove to be a good partner in this sparing match. Alaric did not dissappoint. He drew hiw own weapon quickly and silently and faced off with Kaya.

The two of them danced about the grove, twisting, lunging parrying. After a good workout, the two declared it a draw. both were sweating and a bit out of breath, but it felt good to Kaya. "Good work out my friend, I am impressed." And indeed she was, for this man did not use any tricks or magics, just his mind and training, she was impressed; more than impressed, the man intrigued her. Kaya stood and held out her hand. When Alaric took it and shook, she felt heself stir, but quickly suppressed it. Now is not the time, you have work to do. She swallowed hard then let go of his hand. "I have not heard anything of our guide yet, but am told she will be here around noon. As for now, I must go bath, then ready myself to see Ithramir. You are welcomed to wait around here if you like."

****

*To awaken spirit and body

Written by - Sycon

Ardwen hoisted himself up onto the dragon's back. The weight did not seem to shift the silver dragon at all. She merely rose up to her full height, Sycon still balancing himself as Ardwen did the same behind him.

Before Sycon could take another breath, her wings were spread as she pushed off the ground with her powerful hind legs and let her wings come down, pushing large gusts of wind to the ground, throwing dust into the air. Her wings beat harder and harder as they slowly rose, Sycon gripping on to her for what seemed dear life as he body jerked with each thrust of her wings.

They rose slowly until they were a good bit above the tree line. Her wings tilted mid-air moving them forward. She spiraled into the air, catching the wind under her wings as they beat against it, raising them farther into the sky. They rose higher and higher until they were above the clouds when the goddess of travel appeared before them, moving in sync with the dragon and her passengers.

Without a word, the goddess's hands came together and her eyes closed as a bright spark of light shone, blinding Sycon momentarily. After he regained his sight, the goddess was gone, but a bubble had formed around them. They moved through the sky, towards what he knew to be Westgale. How long would this journey take, he did not know, but considerably shorter than on foot. They passed birds in the sky, that seemed not to be moving at all. He could see them seemingly suspended in the air, not a breath entering or leaving their small bodies. Sycon bunkered himself close to his lady, turned and flashed a smile at Ardwen...

They were on their way.

Written by - Ardwen

Ardwen practically sunk his mail-clad fingers into the dragon’s hide as it rose from the ground. Each thrust of its immeasurably powerful wings carried them further aloft. They continued to rise, the dragon adjusting its wings and going into an ascending spiral that carried them above the trees, and finally above the clouds themselves.

There some deity appeared before them, moving parallel to the dragon on which Ardwen and Sycon now rode. Ardwen had never seen this goddess before, doubtless it was one that Sycon or the dragon had concluded a previous arrangement. The goddess spoke not a word, but merely brought her hands together and created a blinding flash of light. When it cleared Ardwen noticed the goddess had vanished, and that they were in a bubble of some sort though it was amazingly transparent.

The air through which they rode softly rippled as if one were to look through the clear, rising, heat of a fire. It was not a constant rippling, but seemed to shift, grow, and diminish as the dragon continued tirelessly through the air, carrying the two warriors to their long awaited destination of Westgale. Sycon reclined and even managed to turn and smile at Ardwen.

For his part Ardwen finally relaxed, allowing himself to shift into a kneeling position and truly take in the surrounding scenery. He recognized they were above the clouds, and to the ancient Elf that meant one thing: stars. Casting a glance up to the celestial heavens Ardwen was greeted with a shimmering array of starlight, it appeared as if the entire vaulted roof of the sky were but one colossal mosaic on which primal forces had painted a breathtaking display of light and splendor.

For Ardwen, it meant many things other than sublime beauty. For him, it had been the first time he had beheld a sky so unclouded in over a hundred years, not since before the Turning had he seen anything to rival it. Twilight, and by extension the stars themselves, were always held in special reverence by his people. They were viewed as the heralds of the Elves, reminders of their past dominion and a promise that glory would come again one day. For Ardwen though, the stars evoked mainly memories, old memories.

“Sycon,” Ardwen began slowly, “I can barely believe where we are going, and what’s more, what we hope to do. Rescue Ariana!” There was a pause as Ardwen struggled to put his feelings into words, “Absurd, don’t you think?”

Ardwen let out a long sigh and fixed his gaze on the night sky, “Amazing. The stars I mean. We even fought over that. The Elves say one thing about the stars and the humans say another, who made them, what they mean; things like that. Do you think the stars look down on us in turn? Do you think they remember our struggles, our triumphs, and our failures?”

Suddenly, as if painfully aware of how he was speaking Ardwen shifted his tone, “Look, I’m not losing my nerve, but it just seems all so unreal. Who am I to rescue Ariana? What do you think she’ll say to me? Once she knows . . .”

Ardwen let the rest of the passage past unspoken, but he muttered out one final elusive thought, “I’ve killed for many things. Gold, power, prestige, honor, religion, I’ve killed because I was ordered to; I’ve killed for sheer pleasure. And when the killing starts in Westgale, for what reason will it be then? Will it be for Ariana? Or will it be because I just don’t want to die?” As soon as the word “die” had escaped his lips Ardwen took his black cloak and tossed it around to his front, the wind caught it and drew it flapping to his left; his gaze never left the stars.

Written by - Aethelwulf

Alaric smiled as he removed his shirt, and leather jerkin. Sweat poured over his lean form, and he was even breathing a bit harder then he would have thought. Yes indeed, this Kaya was quite the woman. He watched her walk away. As she left the grove Her lithe form moved gracefully, sublimely. He smiled even more as he noticed how her sweat drenched cotton clothing clung tightly to her body. revealing much about the lass.

An interesting woman indeed.

Alaric then wandered off, seeking his own bath.

Here ends Book 3 Part 1 of the House Ancora saga, which is continued in Book Three - The Reckoning Pt 2.

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