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Book Three Pt 2 - The Reckoning

Written by - Tempyst

Ithramir waited a bit, seeing if his kisses would awaken Lithwyn. He could tell she was sleeping, but how deeply he did not know. He smiled softly and kissed the top of her head. Placing the bottle of wine on the desk he sat down in one of the chairs nearby.

"My dear sweet mate, I know my proposal last night was a bit out of form for me, but you should know by now, how much i do love you and how long I have waited for you. But, even being healed and finally one together, I know you are still fearful, still pensive, so I will not push. I ahve waited this long, I can wait a hundred times longer for you. I will be leaving in a short while with the army again. I hope to see you again before I leave, but I know how work can keep us both very busy. Be well my melommin, nad come to me when you are ready."

Ithramir stood and gazed once more upon her beauty, then left, needing to get some sleep then to ready himself for a return to war.

Written by - Tempyst

Kaya glanced back once at Alaric and admired what she saw. Now Kaya, get a grip, you have business to attend to. She smiled softly to herself. She dressed, then headed over to Ithramir's office, getting there, just as Ithramir was.

"Ah Kaya, good to see you please come in." Ithramir held the door open and after Kaya and he both entered his office, closed the door behind them. "How are things going for you now Kaya?"

"Kaya took a deep breath, things are going fast, but quite well. I do not mean to rush, but I know you are busy and so lets get to business." Kaya paused, then continued. "I am planning on going west, to Port Westgale and confronting Beridane. He is the one who placed the demon inside of me, to assassinate you. If i am to hunt demons and find out what is going on, I need to see what he knows about the demons. And frankly, I have no other clue where to start."

"And a little vengence is a good thing too, isn't it?" Ithrmir chuckled.

Kaya blushed, "Aye, it is." Then took another deep breath. "Once I have word, I will get a message back to you, somehow."

"That would be appreciated. Now, was there anything else?"

"No Sir, except...It is indeed an honor to meet you and serve with you. You are the reason I am here. I mean, the reason I lead the rebel groups in our homeland, and tried to get the elders to see things in a new light. I grew up with stories of your accomplishements and victories. And well, Thank you for leading the way for the rest of us." Kaya saluted Ithramir, and he returned the salute.

"Thank you Kaya, for believing." There did not seem to be much more to say and Kaya walked back out and headed to the grove while Itramir waited for his next appointment with Renalis Dalomar.

Once at the grove, Kaya headed to the kitchen they had there and grabbed some food, then headed back out to wait for Alaric and her guide.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

Owen strolled lazily towards the crowd gathered near the city's main gate and Nayse quietly kept pace beside him as they made their way through the golden oceans of wheat.

As she saw the pair approaching, Dolce cut a path though the crowd towards them. "YOU! I should have known you'd be involved in this. I swear, you're worse than the late Chancellor Klein's son!"

Owen just smiled. "It's nice to see you, Dolce."

"Do you have ANY idea what you've done," she kept yelling at him, and he stood there smiling as Nayse looked on, "Do you have ANY idea what's going to happen now?

"I'm doing fine, thank you for asking. How have you been these days?"

"Owen..." Nayse said quietly from the sidelines.

"Oh, fine. Dolce, I did nothing but protect my fellow countrymen. They started it, I just struck first. And... if I had to guess, I'd say that Magistrate Grady is going to send some of His Majesty's loyal soldiers to put down the heinous farmers' rebellion at squalid little Banwall."

"Exactly," Dolce yelled at him. "This is squarely on your shoulders, and since you started it, you're going to finish it." Dolce abruptly turned and stormed off towards the keep.

"Hah! Modeka would be proud!"

"Well... we should be going. Sister will be expecting us shortly," Nayse said, starting off towards the gate. Owen followed quietly behind her.

Written by - Agmund

"Condemn me to a life in hell, cast me down, I care not," he quivered with anger.

“You're upset, and understandably so… I cannot fault you for it, indeed perhaps in your place I would be as well,” she lowered her head slightly as he turned to face her, causing her long lochs to slide downwards over her body. “The people still have need of you, and there is still much life left within you, will you now turn aside from who you are? Are you so weary as to forget the counsel that set you upon this path?”

Her voice had sunk to a low whisper, and while she had spoken his eyes had searched her over, not with the same look of awe as they had previously, but with a look of dismayed familiarity.

“If I despair, it is not because I no longer wish to aid those who are in need, but rather because my mind and body can no longer lend themselves to do so,” there eyes met as he raised her head gently. “I have not forgotten you, nor can I trade the past for what could have been… or might have been. We both did what we felt was best, and now… especially now, we can have no regrets in our decisions,” his head shook with sorrow as they embraced.

“Hmph,” he muttered into her ear “The All-Father chose wisely…

“I asked to be here, in fact I begged that I be allowed to speak with you,” her eyes began searching the ruins of their surroundings as she interjected, and broke free of his arms. “Not because I thought I could convince you, but so that I could look upon you once more, and offer you at least some hope.” Her eyes turned back to him “That day upon the hilltop of Anaris, I prayed that it would be you that would find me… but you never came, hours and hours past… I…” her voice cracked as she tried to compose herself.

“I have regretted that day always, and now I, the person who has the least right to ask anything of you, stand before you to beg you to return,” she feel to his feet and wept “please go back, go back I beg you, if not for me for my people, if not for them for yours.”

A long sigh erupted from him as he saw her there and in that state. He tried to weigh the decision facing him, but there was no scale he could place it upon that had not already burst. He was trapped, and although it was something he was accustomed to, this time it was much more personal. In the past he could force lamented decisions from his mind, now the one that haunted him the most was at his feet.

“Very well, I will return and venture into the east,” his words held resolve, but his heart held little. “Now stand up and counsel me as you have done in the past,” they smiled at one another as he helped her to her feet.

Written by - Tempyst

"Will Amara be joining us this evening?" Raevyn asked the eleborately dressed, rotund elf.

Jalayn smiled and took a sip from his glass. "I do believe she will my friend. Again, I cannot thank you enough for bringing me back my treasure."

Raevyn smiled. "No, thank you for your generosity m'Lord. I am only sorry that the drug I used put her under for so long. I do look forward to hearing her sing. From what you tell me, it is beautiful beyond compare."

"Aye it is, which is why I had to have her as my own. Nothing but the best I always say..."

****

"No! Tell him I will NOT be joining him!" Amara threw her chamber pot at the servant, causing the woman to quickly depart the room and lock the door behind her. Amara paced back and forth. The grey cat that lay on the foot of her bed let out a small growl, then stretched and yawned. "What are you complaining about? And how in the devil did you get in here again?" She stormed over to the cat, with the intentionof tossing it out between the bars in her window again. but when she reached the bed she changed her mind, knowing full well the beast would just find its way back inside." She sat down beside beast and without thinking, patted the cat's head. She had woken up the evening before, her head throbbing, with the cat sitting on her chest. Jalayn had been there too, smiling at her. SHe knew he said something about being home at last, but the drugs had given her such a headache she didn't care what he had said.

Now, a day later, he sent word though his servant that she was expected to dress for dinner and sing for guests. Like hell I will. "I just wish this would all go away."

As she spoke those words, the cat seemed to smile, stood and stretched. "As you wish." Amara looked at the cat, hearing it speak, but before she could say a word the cat pounced on her chest pinning her to the bed. Amara tried to pull the cat from her, but it wsa growing in size and shifting, changing. The tail and whiskers changed to tentacles andthe mouth grew large and salivating. "I have been waiting to hear those words child, and now, I can continue on with my work." Amara screams as the monster dug its claws into her, the tail tentacle wrappeing around her feet and the whisker tentacles piercing various parts of her body. The dark grey apendaged began to pulsate, and sickly sucking sounds could be heard.

A short while later, Amara dressed, then walked over to the door and knocked, signaling the servant she was ready.

****

"Ah, here she is Raevyn, now doesn't she look lovely?" Jalayn spoke proudly of Amara.

"Indeed she does m'lord, you are in deed a lucky man." Raevyn watched Amara, but seemed puzzled by her movements and actions. Perhaps he is keeping her drugged; seems logical. I doubt she would be down here willingly. "Good evening Amara, how are you?"

Amara turned to Raevyn and smiled, then sat down between him and Jalayn. "I am fine sir, thank you for retrieving me and bringing me back to where I belong." Yup, she's drugged, such a pity though, to lose that fire she had.

The three sat and ate, small talk wafting over the table between Raevyn and Jalayn, with Amara being the quiet, the perfect companion, as Jalayn referred to her as now. After desert had been served, Jalayn asked Raevyn if he wished to share a brandy before bed. Raevyn shook his head no. "I would rather be going m'lord, as I have many other patrons to see to. And though I hate to be rude there is the manner of my, compensation?"

"Ah yes, I am sure you thought I forgot or was hoping you would. Amara, over on the desk there, in the silver box, please bring my guest the contents." Amara nodded, got up and went to the desk setting behind Raevyn. Raevyn could hear her fiddle with the box, then her soft steps as she approached him. Then there was sickly sound of flesh being pierced.

Raevyn looked down and saw a writhing tentacle had pierced his torso. Blood poured from the wound and as he tried to speak, bubbled from his mouth. The light faded from his eyes and as the tentacle was pulled from his body he slumped over, face falling onto the dirty plate before him. "Very good my precious, I do so hate to pay for anything that was always mine to begin with. Now, shall we go to the parlor and have you sing for me?" Jalayn did not even hear the many tentacles lash forward with lightning speed and wrap around his limbs. All he felt was a quick tug then all went black for the merchant guild leader.

The grey cat took it's time licking its fur, cleaning itself up before wandering out into the night.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

As Owen and Nayse made their way back through town towards the keep, it seemed as if the entire town was gossiping about what had happened. As the pair approached the keep's main gate, Owen noticed the smiles the guards wore in place of their usual grimace. "Young Lady Quintale... and Owen, too. What brings you two here," one of the guards said to them jovially.

"Oh, sister is demanding our presence. If we may beg your leave sirs, she really does need to see us immediately."

"Then, by all means, my lady, please proceed," the guard said with a sincere bow. Nayse hurried into the keep's foyer as Owen followed listlessly behind her. The guard held him up, though: "Hold on a minute there. Is it true you, I'm mean this can't really be true, but I just have to hear ya say it, did you really..."

"Owen..." Nayse called from the staircase.

"Sorry guys, I'll tell you later. I know better than to keep her waiting," Owen said ginning.

"Which one? Nayse or Dolce?"

"Heh heh... which one do you think," Owen smiled as he walked away. The guards had a good laugh at the truth he spoke.

****

The two entered Dolce's office and she immediately jumped out of her chair to greet them with a barrage of yelling. In her wake, she sent a large leather bound tome crashing to the floor from the endtable next to the chair.

"It's about time you got here you fool! There's precious little time already and you just keep WASTING IT!"

Nayse stood to the side and frowned. "What are you so upset about Dolce," Owen asked as he picked up the book and placed it back on the table.

"What am I upset about? What am I upset about!!? Do you know what you've done to those people? Do you know? Do you even care? You've put a death sentence on all their heads!!" Dolce didn't care who heard her anymore. Her fear had overtaken her.

Owen sighed and sat down on the edge of the massive desk in the center room. "Look out the window there, Dolce. Do those look like people who are trembling in fear of their deaths? Do they hide in their homes cowering like little field mice? They SURE look scared to me."

"What he says is true, sister. The people are talking about what happened. Most seemed rather pleased. Even though it was small, it was still a victory," Nayse said quietly, trying to calm her sister's frayed nerves.

"Do NOT take his side Nayse! It's my duty as Banwall's leader..." Dolce said sharply.

Owen quickly butted in: "I don't remember you being appointed Countess?"

"Shut up you hayseed! I should have you drawn and quartered! I HAVE to protect these people.... I HAVE to... for Mother and Father... If I don't, then who will?"

Owen stood up and walked to Nayse's side. As he moved, the flames of the small silver candelebra on the desk seemed to follow him. "They will, of course. You should've seen them Dolce. Your little farmers fought like giants. There ARE other options besides laying down, you know."

"Hah! You think we can fight them! You're insane Owen! You've been out under the sun a bit too long!"

You have no idea.

"We'll be slaughtered! I'm sure just as soon as one of the survivors gets back to Lohenheim we'll have an entire legion bearing down on us!"

"We don't have to fight alone, Dolce." Nayse spoke up.

"Oh we don't? And just WHO in the nine hells would be foolish enough to stand with us!!? Who's foolish enough to die for our mistake?" Owen's face grew stern as Dolce turned her anger and confusion on her sister.

"Hey now, don't yell at her. I'm the one you're mad at, remember? And you know, for someone who spends so much time with her nose buried in a book, you sure are dumb," he paused then went to the window again and looked out over Banwall's golden oceans, "It's easy to get people to die for you. Anyone can do that. If you really want to succeed... if you really want to win, then get people to live for you."

"Enough of your philosophical rambling! Do you have an answer or not!?"

Owen sighed, then smiled again as he turned to Dolce. "Bryce, Eli, and Elliot."

"That's... that just might work..." Dolce said - quietly, "Dolaart has been calling for war since this started, and Lungard certainly has no love for occupation... Plans are well and good, but how do you think we're actually going to win them over?"

"That's the easy part. I'll just go piss Bryce and Eli off until they think they've got a chance of getting even for the tournament; and it's not like anyone from Dolaart to be shown up by anyone from another city. And Elliot's your cousin, I figured he'd come along if you just asked him to."

"You make it sound so simple..." Nayse said.

"It's just that simple. We have to take things one at a time... and not lose our heads panicing." Owen said as he glanced over at Dolce.

"Fine then. If it's really so simple, then prove it. I'll send Elliot a letter, but had better bring the ENTIRE Dolaart army back with you!"

"Heh, count on me! I'll be leaving here directly," Owen said as he turned around and headed towards the door. Before he exited the keep, Nayse cought him at the foyer again.

"Please be careful Owen. And come back safe," she said, almost pleading.

"Of course Nayse. I'll tell Bryce and Eli you said hello" he said smiling.

****

A few hours later, Owen was on the road east out of Banwall. He carried a small weather-beaten pack with some salted meat, apples, and a few loaves of Banwall's famous bread. The thick green cloak he wore blew in the strong wind that seemed to sing though the trees.

"What are you so happy about?"

No reply came, only the wind sang in response.

"Yes, I AM enjoying myself," he said laughing.

Owen continued on down the fine cobblestone road towards Dolaart with only the wind and the clear blue sky for company.

Written by - Archeantus

Cresting the hill, the towering trees looming over him, amidst the dimming light, the blind warlock sensed he had finally come to a moment he had longed for, for what seemed like eons. Perhaps it truly had been eons, he was not sure. But at long last, the time was finally at hand. Lowering his sightless eyes down the clearing, he felt his old friend’s presence warm in his mind, like a fond memory of a time so far distant that it seemed to come from a dream. Reaching out mentally, he found the Dwarf’s location.

“Pharsalus” A far older voice than the dwarf had recalled, called out down the forested clearing. Through the mist, Archeantus levitated down the clearing to stand before his long time friend. He gave the dwarf a moment to take his appearance in, for he was far different, but it was as brief as moments can be. Archeantus let a smile shine in the soft light of the canopied forest.

“It has been far too long old friend.”

And with that, he wasted no more time, and hugged the dwarf as a brother.

****

At the reappearance of the others, Jasmine once more regained her silent demeanor. Teran went to teach the young Queen, and the young queen seemed to have learned more than a few things. Mavigan seemed more confident, more capable, and yet more prone to misuse her knowledge. Her eyes spoke so much to those who were truly looking. So much to prove, and so much to escape, thought Jasmine.

They stayed the night there, and in the morning they set off early. From that point on they traveled near unceasingly. There were long days of silence. Within the group, there wasn’t much conversation, only things that must be said were spoken. It was a grueling schedule. Every now and then, she would exchange glances with Sabbatine. She would receive a sickly sort of smile every time, a smile that seemed more alive to her than Jasmine had ever seen by any living. Perhaps it was her perspective of one who had seen the best and the worst of life. Or perhaps she had forgotten what it was to smile. Either way, Jasmine always found herself stealing a very faint smile when she knew none were looking. It was a smile born of pain. Her whole arm had transformed to become a strange pale grey, like ashes born of fire. It was a terrible feeling, to slowly be dying. It was a hurt unlike anything she could have imagined. It took all she had to restrain her screams periodically through most of the day, and especially at night as the curse spread through her veins. The need for sleep slowly left her. Some nights she was able to sleep, others, she didn’t. Those nights, her and Sabbatine would look at the night sky slowly darken, and in turn, slowly lighten as the first crack of light appeared on the horizon. They would then repeat the process over again, another day of travel and silence and thought.

During this long journey, Jasmine had watched the queen incessantly, secretly. She was surprised the young woman had endured what many weathered soldiers would have begun to complain about. There was a grim determination that boiled in her fiery heart, Jasmine thought. But finally the complaints came. Yet with each step, Jasmine became more and more intrigued by the young queen. Not because of anything identifiable, the intrigue defied logic, but it was there nonetheless. There was something about her that was unmistakable. And that something was far dormant, whatever it was.

One morning, it was announced they would leave their horses and from that point on they were to now journey on foot. It rained that day.

The landscape began to change. It slowly became a grey waste. A rocky land of death. It was far cooler as well. They were far north now. A strange chill wind bit into their huddled figures as they made their way toward wherever it was they were headed. A fog became more and more prominent. It increasingly became surreal. There was a strange feeling about the place. There were unearthly sounds at night far out into the dark fog.

And finally, after days of walking through the fog and rain, midday, Teran pointed down to a small valley, down to a shadowed edifice. Immediately Jasmine felt an odd sense of power rise in her right arm. The curse spread once more, creeping its way over her shoulder and down her waist. She stifled a cry of searing deathly pain. Looking down into the dark crypt below through tear filled eyes, she wanted nothing more than to leave. Down there was something she could not face. Something she could not kill.

Her destiny. Her life, and her death, all out of her control.

*****

Gadianton, sword drawn, watched the undead figure through the biting wind and snow as it encountered the lich ahead of them. The lich evaded an attack, but soon appeared to be communing with something in the howling wind, for the undead stopped and stood motionless. There was a dread silence, only the howl of the wind sounded, and then the lich ran forward, beckoning them to follow.

Something was amiss, there was danger. Gadianton could feel it. He knew it well. And so he followed, his elven sword at the ready, and his followers were short at his heels.

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