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Book Three Pt 2 - The Reckoning

Written by - Aethelwulf Page 22 Book 3

"Ah there you are Kaya!" Alaric had just spent almost an hour searching the Druid Temple for the lass, and here she was, in the place he should have sought out first; the grove.

"Well then, shall we be off?"

Written by - Tempyst

Kaya smile warmly. "Well, once our guide is here, then yes, I think we shall be off. I am anxious to deal with this as soon as possible." Just as Kaya finished her sentence, Dalomir stepped into the grove.

"Greetings my friends, I thought I would come and see our new demon hunter off on her expedition." His voice was filled with excitement.

Kaya actually lbushed a little at his words. "Well thank you Dalomir. Uhm, my new friend and I are anxious to go, who might this guide be?"

"Well, a demon hunter is usually part of a team, specifcally, one who can heal the hunter when needed. Since you have no healer at this time, we had to find one for you. Now, Dorve*, she wasa bit reluctant due to the fact you are an elf, but she follows Nyrondis' call and goes where she is needed."

"What does me being an elf have anything to do with..."

"It is because ye elves are stuck up arrogant picklebottoms, that's why." Everyone turned towards the new voice. Standing there, was a shortk stout, well bearded female dwarf. "I have yet to meet one woh doesn't have their panties in a bunch, thinking they are better than everyone else. And that included yer precious commander Ithramir."

Dalomir let out a small cough. "As you can see, Dorve enjoys expressing her thoughts and letting everyone know what they are, but she is a first class healer nd can hold her own in battle."

"Damn straight I can little man. Now, if you be through chawin, introduce me."

"Dorve, this is Kaya'Talas, demon hunter for our god Nyrondis, and your new charge. This other fellow is Alaric and is seeking passage with Kaya."

"Ya didn't tell me there would be two of them." Dorve grumbled. "Oh well, it's not like i cannot handle it, I have transported many more than this. It's just a bother don't you know and daorned impolite to be suprised like this."

Kaya stepped forward and held out her hand. "Tis a pleasure to meet you Dorve and I hope I can change your opinion about elves. Not all of us are arrogant pricks."

Dorve chortled. "Aye, we shall see shant we? SO, you both ready or do you need time? I am ready to head out whenever you two are."

"I be ready and i believe Alaric is too."

"Fine, so be it. Now, Kaya, have you learned how to enter the tree realm? Ya know, where ya walk into the tree and train and commune?"

"Aye, I have learned thought it is still quite foreign to me."

Dorve sighed. "Well at least you've done it. And you human, I will assume you don't even have a clue you know what I am talking about. It's alright, I have taken folks like you through the realm, just make sure that when ye be inside ya don't wander off and git lost. It could take years to find ya!" The dwarf stroked her beard and took a deep breath. "Okay, so here is what we do. We all will hold hands and I will lead you into a tree. Now, your first instinct will be to balk, i mean it is a tree right? Well, close your eyes and have faith and follow and DON"T let go of the hands ye be holding until I say so. Alaric. Since you ahve no experience at all you will be in the middle, Kaya, you will be last. Now, once inside, it will feel a bit thick. No, I cannot explain it any better than that. Time is different in there. We will still be walking, but for every hour, even a day out here, will be only moments, barely an hour in there if that. depends on how badly I want to get you through this. To rest, we will have to come out into this realm agian. Then, to travel, we will head back in.

Now, I hear you are going to Port Westgale. Once upon a time, I would be able to take you into the grove there, but since Beridane has taken over, he cut down all the oaks there..." Dorve let out a soft soft sob and Dalomir shuddered. SHe took a deep breath. "Because of that, I will only be abot to get you to a small grove just outside teh village, about an hour's walk in the normal realm. that is the closest travel oak there is there. IF Beridane finds it, he will cut it down as well, but for now, it is well protected." Dorve looked at both of them. "Any questions? None? Good then, let's go."

Dorve took Alaric's hand and Kaya took the other. "Close your eyes Alaric and just follow me." He did as the dwarf told him and felt her move. Kaya watched Dorve slip into the tree, then with a hesitant tug, Alaric followed. kaya took a deep breath and entered the oak.

They were off.

****

*Pronounced Door-Vay

Written by - Pharsalus

The old Priest's mind lit up.

Pharsalus...

He smiled like he hadn't in what felt like a thousand years as he embraced his young counterpart. It was an awkward hug, given their height difference, especially as that difference had only grown as the Dwarf's stoney bulk had worn away considerably since the days of Aerynth.

There was a pregnant silence. Pharsalus didn't know how long they'd been standing there greeting and laughing and patting each other's shoulders. It had been so long...too long. He finally let go and took a step back, giving the lad's new look a once-over.

Arch, my boy, you've finally done it! You've become a grizzled old wretch, just like the rest of us! And blind to boot! He laughed at himself. Being in the Warlock's presence was the greatest feeling he'd had in a very long time. He looked down at his own half-naked form and suddenly remembered his embarassment from before.

"You'll pardon me, lad. You've caught me a tad disheveled. What a day!" He laughed again. "Thurin keep me, I've had to walk around like this in front of the ladies all afternoon! It's just not proper!"

He turned and nodded towards the small camp where the two women were. A soft, orange light shown faintly visible through the countless softwood trees and shrubs that surrounded the re-united duo.

"Come - we've much to discuss, and I have met another from the Old World who is interested in joining us. We will camp tonight and set out at first light."

The two disappeared into the chirping, croaking cloud of leaves and brush, leaving the clearing quiet and alone as it always had been. They pushed through in silence, allowing the events of the day to move between them in invisible beams. Sounds, emotions, fears, feelings, tears, laughter - all passed nigh-instantly between the two comrades in perfect secrecy. Pharsalus was glad to have someone to share his mental talent with. He feared losing it at one time, though now the muscle of his mind was as limber as it ever was.

A few more minutes of ducking and pushing brought the two men to the outter fringes of light from the campfire. It had dimmed some as dry wood became more scarce. Vylia was still awake, sitting loose but alert across from the sleeping Ariel. Vylia's eyes shot in the duo's direction.

"It is only I, and an old friend." the Priest said with a grin. "This is Archeantus, another wanderer from the Old World." Pharsalus allowed time for introductions, turning his attentions quickly to Ariel, who had stirred slightly. The priest's face turned solemn as he plucked her dreams like pedals from the air - they were horrible dreams. The girl's mind was battered, her sanity nearing exhaustion. The next few weeks, provided she stayed that long, would be difficult for her. Content she was still sleeping as soundly as an assailed mind would allow, he turned back around to Vylia and Archeantus.

"Vylia, you should sleep. We've much ground to cover, and I need sleep only seldomly. I can stay awake and keep watch. Archeantus can brief us as we walk tomorrow. I expect no drama, but should it arise, I will need you at your sharpest."

Written by - Vylia

Vylia was hardly surprised that they had picked up another traveller, she had heard the laughing as soon as it began. What caused her eyes to dart at them so suddenly was that she hadn't picked up on the fact they were approaching until they had come within a few feet of the clearing. When Pharsalus introduced the newcomer as Archeantus something in her mind sparked, but she couldn't quite place it. "I feel I should know that name..." she mumbled to herself.

When the dwarf suggested she get some sleep, she realized he was probably right, she was obviously tired or they wouldn't have gotten so close unnoticed. She nodded with a slight smile on her lips, "Of course, but it would hardly be prudent of me to not stay alert when you were out of sight. I've lived long because I am cautious after all." With that she laid back down and stared at the sky a moment before drifting off into sleep.

Written by - Tempyst

Ithramir looked over all the paperwork upon his desk. By the gods does it never end? He sighed, then went to the amoir in the office, pulled a bottle of brandy and poured himself a glass, then sat down to enjoy it. The day had been long, the easiest part had been his appointment with Kaya. Renalis did not even show for his appointment, sent no note nothing. That did not please Ithramir, and he began thinking twice of the offer he had been planning to make to the young wizard. That meant more paperwork, to find another wizards to take over leading the war wizards of his army. He sat back, sipped the fine brandy and let his mind drift off to Lithwyn. Even she had ignored him this day. Where are you my love? I know you are in the castle. I know you are well. I sense you, I send my love to you, yet you leave me here. Ah, I will never understand you yet, I understand you completely. I had hoped the cleansing would have helped...oh well, I told you I would be patient, and patient I shall be. I love you.

Ithramir finished his drink, then set out to find himself a wizard. I give Renalis 24 hours, if I have not heard from him, then another will get the job and I will take us into battle soon after.

Written by - Ariana

Beridane leisurely sprawled in one of the chairs in his chambers dressed in nothing but a robe that had formerly belonged to his brother. He had only recently been thoroughly enjoying the attentions of his most recent pair of bedwarmers, and was not at all pleased to have been pulled away from such enjoyable activities. As it was, Beridane had been startled when the heavy doors to his chamber had been shoved open and his Chancellor scurried into the room.

Beridane had barely contained a look of disgust at the picture his Chancellor made as he scurried into the room. Damon was a rotund man whose height did not warrant his girth. He was dressed in the rich robes of his station, but they were ill-fitting. Too long in some places and stretched too tightly in others, his thinning hair hung low in his eyes, but did little to hide his rounded and reddened cheeks.

He watched with an unimpressed eye as Damon obsequiously hastened in the room, genuflecting and bowing with respect as he did so, but recognized the signs that there was important business to discuss. Motioning to everyone in the room to vacate the premises, bodyguards and companions alike, Beridane turned a critical eye on his Chancellor. Ever since Damon had brought him the news that the demon he had summoned to kill Ithramir had been slain, Beridane’s opinion of the man had diminished, despite the fact that Damon had come to him highly recommended.

Looking at the fawning image before him, Beridane again wondered why he had ever believed the man was made of stern enough stuff to successfully complete the missions he set him. Rolling his eyes, Beridane said in a bored tone, “What is it now, Damon?”

“My Lord,” the chubby little man began, rubbing his hands together with excitement, “I have consulted with the Oracles. They have stated that reason our last attempt failed was because the sacrifice we used to summon the demon was too weak resulting in a weak demon being brought forth.” Damon interjected a little bow. “They indicate that if we use a strong sacrifice, we can summon forth a demon with enough power to accomplish the task.”

“Too weak, eh?” said Beridane. Heaving a sigh, he righted himself in his seat and scratched his chin lightly with the gleaming hook extending from the place where a hand should be. “And what sort of sacrifice do they suggest?” he asked, gazing fiercely at his Chancellor.

Damon bowed and scraped again. “My Lord, the Oracles suggest we use a servant of Tinorb this time.”

Beridane gave a bark of dry laughter that held no amusement. “A servant of Tinorb?” he said hotly. “They are either dead or in hiding. Where do the Oracles suggest we find such a sacrifice?”

“Actually, my Lord,” said Damon, “one such servant currently resides in your dungeon.”

“What?!!” Beridane yelled, jumping out of his chair to bear down on the little man, brandishing his hook meancingly. “Why was I not informed?”

The closer Beridane got to Damon, the lower his bow became. “It appears, my Lord, that the jailers intended to hold her for ransom. They have been… dealt with.”

Beridane listened to the news with a fierce expression on his face. Fire burned in his eyes at the thought that someone in his own court would betray him, but the blaze died down to a heated smolder upon hearing the problem had already been dealt with.

Turning from Damon, he walked over to the window and stared out the glass, idly noting the gleam of armor as the sun began to rise. Waving his good hand as if he was swatting at a fly he said, “Very well. Proceed with your sacrifice.”

Damon glared at Beridane’s back and his image fluttered once hinting at things unseen before returning him to the pudgy little man the King despised. With his back turned Beridane failed to see the change in Damon’s countenance.

“As you wish, my Lord,” said Damon. “We will set up outside the manor house. We should be ready by nightfall.” Giving Beridane a parting glare, Damon hurriedly left the room. He had things to prepare.

Written by - Archeantus

Resting his hand on Pharsalus’ cold, firm stone shoulder, he allowed himself to be guided through the darkened path.

“Do you see her Pharsalus?” Archeantus whispered in the Dwarf’s mind as they slipped back into the darkening forest. The warlock’s mind had opened and the two merged their most recent experiences, feelings, wisdom, things far exceeding what language could convey. At the heart of what the Dwarf saw, blazoned in the Dwarf’s mind, he beheld the Abbess lying upon the cold sandstone floor of a darkened cell, a dim light shining upon her huddled figure.

“It is her.” He projected firmly skipping the old priest’s response. “By the Gods, we found her.”

It was then the Dwarf began to sense there was something of vast importance that had yet to be revealed in his old friend’s mind. They reached the camp in silence and came upon the ranger and a small curled figure sleeping by the dying fire.

Archeantus turned warmly to a life force he knew long ago.

“You have come, Lady Vylia of the Repentant.” He said expectantly, bowing his hooded face only slightly, respectfully. He reached out his aged hand and waited for the soft elven hand of the lady ranger. She stepped across somewhat confusedly and took him by the hand. He clasped her hand, seeming to want to be able to look upon her with his eyes, and gently smiled a strange sort of sad smile.

His attention then quickly shifted to the small sleeping figure near the fire. He turned back toward the Dwarf, who only nodded as if confirming something they both already knew. Archeantus turned back toward the small girl, his face shifted into one of quiet knowing sadness. Then he turned toward Vylia once more, hand still clasped and asked, “If you could, show me where I might rest my weary frame. I have something I need to relate to the both of you.”

Vylia helped him sit down near the fire, still appearing to be slightly confused. He looked toward Pharsalus, “Take a seat old friend. I am about to answer the question that is on your mind.”

It was then that a small spark of light appeared down through the trees flying out of the darkness, coming to whisk excitedly around the warlock’s grim face, and then in turn to Pharsalus and finally to Vylia, seeming to be saying hello once more. The warlock’s lightened only slightly sensing his pet’s excitement. But the moment was short lived, for he had grave news.

By the flickering light of the fire, the old warlock continued, speaking in an urgent, controlled voice, relaying a message that had waited thousands of years. “Our time has come. Dashed apart in the wake of the foreknowledge of the Gods, some of us into the deepest reaches of the multiverse, it is now we have been reserved and gathered to heed the desperate need that lies before us here. It is on this world that the fate of more than we can ever comprehend lies on the edge of a knife. Many others have come to decide, from many worlds, by the Hands of many Gods, but for us, who hail from Aerynth, we have been called to gather on the morrow by the light of the moon that shines upon us now, to save our dear Abbess from certain destruction. And it is there, that our long road together will begin again. And by the All-Father, and Saint Lorne of old, we will succeed in doing what must be done…” The warlock’s voice seemed to trail off, knowing something that could not be spoken.

He looked up to the skies, and spoke once more, “We’ll have little rest tonight, and many nights hence…”

He could feel the many questions that suddenly rose in each of their minds, and he spoke before they could speak them. “Please, all shall be explained in time. It is sleep we’ll need for now. All that matters is we are there in New Ancora on the morrow…”

With that, the old warlock sat back and slowly, the fire died, and those that needed sleep, slept.

Written by - Vylia

Vylia felt like she had just barely fallen asleep when her memory clicked and she snapped awake, sitting up suddenly and whispering, "I KNOW him..." She slid quietly from her resting place to move closer to Archeantus to get a better look at his face. "It has been a long time my old friend. I had forgotten how much humans changed over the years," she continued in a whisper as she pushed a lock of hair out of his face, "It has been a long time since I have seen any of the Hands, it is a miracle unto itself that any are even still alive. How I wish Turin were here to lead us once more," she finished with a smile.

Moving back to her things she gathered up her bow and quiver and slipped into the forest with as much sound as a leaf falling. With the return of Archeantus she figured things had gotten serious enough that it was necessary to gather her twin T'lnarion blades, and if speed was of the essence then a pack of her rations would certainly come in handy as they wouldn't get much chance to hunt.

Written by - Teran

Two minutes after leaving his companions Teran returned and beckoned them to follow. He led them into the room which was lit by candles lining the walls and a single brighter candle on the table near the middle of a room. A woman dressed like the acolyte they had slain in the hallway lay slumped in her chair, her face planted in the book she had been studying, blood from her brutally slit throat soaking the pages.

There were three men laying on pads up against the walls, none of them were breathing though their cause of death was a mystery as there were no visible marks on their body. Teran slipped through the door opposite the group and stood guard outside for a moment considering their next course of action. They had committed now, they could not leave for if they did their enemy would know they had been here and would be much more alert to future infiltration attempts.

Sabbatine sniffed the corpses and stuck out her tongue at each one until she checked the one at the table. Her eyes got wide and she bent down even closer, pulling the dead woman's head back by the hair and licked some of the blood off her neck. Sabbatine grinned from ear to ear.

"This one was a healer!" she proclaimed.

Sabbatine shoved the woman out of her chair and onto the ground, she sat awkwardly in the chair and began flipping through the bloody book, reading its pages curiously. After a moment she stood up and looked over at Jasmine and approached her looking a little nervous. After a moment of hesitation Sabbatine held out the gruesome book for Jasmine to take.

"Maybe this will help you." Sabby said in a tiny voice.

Teran stepped back into the room for a moment and beckoned Mavigan to follow him.

"Keep this room secure." Teran told the other three women... well one woman, one undead construct, and the strange catlike creature.

Teran sped up once he and Mavigan were in the darkness of the passage, he knew there more acolyte's nearby and he wanted to eliminate them before they discovered their presence and were able to set off some sort of alarm.

They soon came across the people Teran had detected but these were noy acolytes. They were not dressed like the ones in the room these people had well crafted armor and weapons in hand. For a moment Teran feared they had been detected and this group was looking for them but they were in no hurry and walked in such a way that suggested this was routine.

Teran moved closer and closer to the patrol. When they were only a few steps behind he slipped one of his daggers into Mavigan's hand. Though his weapons looked plain they had many secrets. He was not sure of the quality of Mavigan's weapons so he offered her one of his own.

His blade was surprisingly light and slightly warm to the touch, it felt fragile as if it would shatter if it ever pierced anything tougher than flesh. Once Mavigan had his blade he swiftly moved forward and caught the rear guard just as the woman in front of him rounded a corner. He clamped his hand over the guard's mouth and pressed his blade through the man's back, his armor did not slow the assassin's dagger even a little and he went limp immediatly and began bleeding out on the floor.

Teran was up and moving before the guard was resting on the ground, the kill had been silent enough that the other guards heard nothing over the clatter of their weapons and armor. The next guard in line was much closer to the guard in front of her, she would not be as easy a kill. Teran approached her the same way he approached the man who had been in the rear and when they were approaching a four-way cross intersection. Teran brought his hand around just as he did with the last guard but his hand stopped short in front of her mouth and some sort of magical barrier briefly flickered to life. His blade's own enchantment dispelled the shield but it was an extra second for her to call out first in surprise and then in pain as the blade slipped into her back. The other two guards whirled around, swinging their weapons wildly hoping to halt any attack but they were not met with any attack. Teran let the corpse of the second guard fall to the ground and prepared to rush the remaining two.

The guards glanced at each other and nodded, one of them turned and ran down the hall deciding that they were no match for a pair who had slain two of their own without a fight. The remaining guard stepped into the middle of the passage, intent on delaying them as long as possible.

"Get the runner." Teran murmured quietly in such a way that only Mavigan would hear.

He stepped into the remaining guard and drove him back into the passage on his left, leaving the path clear for Mavigan to give chance.

Written by - Vylia

Teran stepped back into the room for a moment and beckoned Mavigan to follow him.

"Keep this room secure," he said, right before him and Mavigan slipped down the passage leading out of the room. Yea, right... Keeryn thought to herself. She wasn't stupid though, and didn't want to endanger the group by having an argument with him so she waited a few seconds before quickly and quietly slipping into the passage after them, ignoring any protests from the other two.

Keeryn had no intention of leaving Mavigan alone with Teran again, and she certainly didn't want to spend any more time alone with that THING called Sabbatine. She didn't trust it at all, and trusted Teran only slightly more. She slid quietly down the tunnel, her cat-like senses aiding her in making sure she didn't get too close while still keeping them within range of her hearing. It took her a moment, but she realized she was hearing another set of footsteps further ahead then Mavigan, and she knew it wasn't Teran since she hadn't been able to hear him moving even when she was right next to him. She crept forward as close to the ground as she could manage without dragging the spear, which she held close to the head to keep it from giving away her position around corners.

It didn't take long for her to find the first body, and then she heard a muffled cry for help around the corner. She sped up slightly until she reached the corner itself, and peaked around cautiously just in time to see Mavigan rushing off past Teran, chasing a guard while the assassin appeared to be pushing another down a side passage. Since stealth was no longer necessary she came around the corner before unleashing a burst of speed that sent her past Teran quickly enough for him to feel a breeze on his back, "Fool," she growled as she ran past, hurrying to catch up to Mavigan.

Written by - Wilhelm

Wilhelm and his squad followed behind Mavigan's group with Wilhelm tracking nearby heartfires and Resini scanning by magic. Mage/Warrior pairs were sent out to dispatch any enemy that came close on either side or from the rear. All was done with stealth and nondetect ward to avoid alarm. Bodies were dragged into empty rooms. Wilhelm and Resini both detected Mavigan's group enter a large room ahead and then split up. Wilhelm detected Keeryn moving up to join Mavigan and Teran, fulfilling her role of bodyguard. Teran was like a faint shadow to Wilhelm's tracking sense and would not have been apparent at all if Wilhelm had not known he was there and was watching closely for that specific shadow. Mavigan was almost as good and Wilhelm was impressed at her progress.

Wilhelm divided his team into three groups when they reached the large room, one Mage/Warrior team holding rearguard while he and Resini each took a pair, Wilhelm to the left and Resini to the right, to cover the side passages that wrapped around the room. Resini kept the three groups in telepathic contact. Mavigan's mission, whatever it was, lay ahead with Teran and now Keeryn, but their rear was secure.

Written by - Archeantus

As the five of them, led by Teran entered the candle-lit room through the dim hallway, Jasmine’s dark eyes beheld the scene like so many she had created, so many times before.

There in the middle sat an eternal slouching figure in a chair, a woman, her face firmly planted into the bloody pages of a book. Three men lie dead, unmarked. The scene brought back so many vivid memories, memories that at the time had brought her deep satisfaction. She had exulted in the very creation of such a scene, the blood smattered walls, the finality of their eyes, the horror in their lifeless faces, the smell, the blood caked on her blade days later. Though now, she viewed the scene before her from a different vantage point. She stood there lingering in the darkness from where they came in the entrance to the room, slightly illuminated from the candlelight, and watched in morbid fascination as the undead woman toyed with the limp figure of the woman as if she were now meaningless object. Jasmine forgot all else, and her mind centered on that one thing. She did not see Teran leave them and return, she did not see Mavigan followed shortly by Keeryn leave the room. She only beheld the dead woman’s livid eyes suddenly staring at her, her head had been turned sideways across the table, the book had disappeared.

Her body began to tremble. Her heart began to beat rapidly. And she grew cold. Distantly she heard a timid voice, and her hands suddenly possessed a book, but she did not realize much of what was happening around her. She only stared into those lifeless eyes and began to feel apart of that eternal darkness that called to her.

Then came the silent pain once more. The curse spread down her leg, up her neck, across the half of her beautiful face. The same face that had been used to cause so much damage, now was powerless, dying. In the sheer pain of the continued death that spread through her, her eyes had closed tightly, and her face contorted in agony. She could barely stand and her hand clutched the cold stone wall beside her to keep from falling. When she could bare it no longer, her voice about to scream wildly into the darkness of the crypt ahead, it suddenly ended. And she opened her eyes…

…and her vision had changed…her face was now half frozen in death, one eye had become black as pitch, the other alive and fervent.

She now viewed the world with death’s gaze, and life’s hope and fear, and in her hands she held an old leather bound book, blood soaked and unadorned. She did not comprehend anything about it, only that it was the first image she had seen with her strange vision. Colors were skewed with nothingness and grays. Everything was on the verge of death and decay, light and darkness. The candle’s flame, resting on the small table in the middle of the room was extinguishing and flickering at the same time. She could hear something as she slowly stood again. It began to grow faster and faster. It was a beat, and she realized it was her. It was her beating heart. And suddenly the tension of the moment invaded her consciousness. Years of the excitement of the chase, the limitless drive to survive, to evade her captures, to beat the ever growing amount of justice that stacked against her, awoke her out of her reverie. Her instincts kicked in, and she felt the familiar tinge of danger.

It was her lifeblood.

She found she was alone, save the undead woman who was rummaging about the room. She could feel the presence of others, seeming to come on all sides, others that were not those she’d journeyed with. There was a look of desperation and confusion flashing in her life’s eye as she quickly surveyed her surroundings. Her hand instantly went toward her side, and stayed, her cursed hand hovering above her blade. She looked as it seemed to tremble in anticipation, but she lowered it with great exertion, and her other hand suddenly took the blade and unsheathed it.

Her breaths came out in quick bursts, as the effort to change the throbbing temptation to end her life nearly overtook her.

“No…” She whispered shakingly. Closing her eyes, and shaking her head, she regained her senses and quickly took up a defensive position in the room in a dark corner.

Survival in its very base form took hold, and she stood there, waiting, her long dagger pointed outward toward whatever came through the entrance of the room.

The book that was in her hands moments ago had been dropped where it was given.

Forgotten.

Written by - Tempyst

They traveled through the milky landscape for hours, hiking through the forest of this alternate space. It was after dark that Dorve finally brought the out of that eiry landscape and back into the normal world. Kaya took a deep breath, feeling that she could finally breath normally again. Her body, her very soul felt tired after that journey. "I am glad we are coming out here to rest Dorve. Thank you for you guidance."

"Ye be welcomed lass, you two are not such bad folk. Now, lets get a camp going so we can rest and getstarted in the morning again. We shoudl be where we need to go by tomorrow dusk if we travel quickly on the morrow." Dorve stopped talking and set about making a fire and preparing food.

Kaya looked over to Alaric with tired eyes. "So, my new friend, how do you fare after today's journey? I look forward to it being done and being able to get down to business. SO, Why do you seek out Port Westgale? Oh, and I know why I am after Beridane, but why do others seems to be after him? I mean, back at the citadel, the very mention of his name really got people hot under the collar. DO you know?"

Written by - Tempyst

Lithwyn finished up her paperwork, then headed to the infirmary to check on any wounded that were left. A few hours went by, but her mind was not on her work, but on the one she loved; Ithramir. SHe could feel his thoughts, his love for her. Yet, why I am so hesitant? He, is not like the other, Ithramir is...he is Ithramir. Suddenly everything became clear. He is who he is, no one else and he loves me. He, loves me and that is all that matters. I have been over thinking, over analyzing, and it is I who has the doubts, not him. But no more, I don't want to live like that anymore. Oh Ithramir...I love you. I Love You. She let out a squeal that caused those in the infirmary to look at her strangely, but she did not care. She used her magics, her connection with Ithramir to find him. I have to tell him, I have to tell him now. SHe gathered up her skirts and ran out of the infirmary, going after the one thing she finally knew she wanted.

Written by - Turin Wallace

For some days Turin traveled in the pure white world of the snowy north. Slowly, he was progressing to the south, ever closer to Westgale.

In his path he found few populated villages, most were devoid of all life, while the few that had habitation were odd affairs. People would lock their doors, run away, fleeing at just his glance. No amount of cajoling would coax them out to speak with him. Something very odd was stirring within these mountains, but now was not the time to investigate. His purpose was to reach Ariana, if he could, and to get her to safety.

As he was pondering this and the thoughts of how many, if any, of his friends from Aerynth were still alive, he finally crossed over into the lush green valley of Kilas. He was now in Westgalian lands.

Off in the distance he could see a farming village. Spurring his horse lightly forward, he was curious to see what he would find here.

After a short ride, he was close enough to see that this village was not as peaceful as he thought it was. For in the fields, along with the workers, was a garrison of soldiers. What struck him the most odd was that the workers were not adults, but rather children, from the ages of five to eighteen or nineteen he estimated.

Continuing forward, for by now he was spotted, he wanted a word with those in charge to see for himself what was happening here. Then, too, so did the soldiers who saw him coming.

"Who in the blazing hells is that?", yelled the sergeant.

"Not sure, boss. Whoever it is, he ain't welcome here if he comes for rest or trouble," is the reply of one of the soldiers.

In the meanwhile, one of the younger girls had stopped working to stare at the visitor, only to get a crack across the back with a whip. The soldier who struck her, saying,

"Back to work you filthy daughter of a dead rebel. Maybe if your parents were smart you children wouldn't be here, but now they are dead and your ours to do with as we please. Don't forget it."

To further instill the thought he kicked her behind her knees, only to strike her once again with the whip to make her stand up and get to work once more.

This, Turin did not fail to see or take note of. As he slowly closed in, he looked about and saw their poor condition. Starved, beaten, and demoralized, these children were no doubt orphans being used as cheap labor...or worse. Anger arose from within the depth of his soul. His riding cloak hid his face, more importantly it hid the sword strapped to his back.

Assessing the situation as his mount steadily carried him forward, Turin knew he was well outnumbered. His only advantage is that they did not know him, or that he was armed. Although, by their posture, he figured they would be ready for anything.

Muttering an old Ranger Knight prayer, taught to him years ago when he was a fledgling Crusader, he says quietly,

"Mighty All-Father, hear a humble servants plea.
Let me be like the mountains, strong and immovable.
Let me be like the water, fluid and graceful.
Let me be like the wind, swift and powerful.
Let me be like the great oak, bowed but never broken.
Father, grant me victory."

It had been a long time since he had prayed to the All-Father, and as he got within hailing distance, he hoped he heard him.

"You! Stop! Come no closer!" The soldier screamed.

Turin said nothing, but kept moving forward.

"I said stop!!" The soldier grabbed Turin's horse and tried to peer into the face of the cloaked man in front of him.

In a slow, calm tone, Turin says,

"Pray tell, what is this town and who are these people?"

The soldier replies,

"It's none of your goddamn business stranger, if you value your own life you will ride back from where you came from and leave these children to us."

Turin replies,

"Ah, I see, I have been lost for quite some time. I was told Westgalian hosptiality was warm. I see from this visit it is quite warm, seeing as they don't feed children and grow fat while working them to death."

The words got the desired effect, the soldier grabbed Turin and attempted to pull him from the horse. It would have succeeded, if it hadn't been for a long sword being stuck into his brain at the same moment.

Jumping down, he grabs the mini-crossbow located just inside his horse pack. Rolling to the right, he dives into the rows of wheat as crossbow bolts begin to land all around him. Luckily, he watches the children scatter as the soldiers are focused on him.

"Did we get him?!" One soldier yells.

"That bastard killed Hatagan!" Yells another.

"You two, go into that field and see if we hit him. If he's alive or wounded, bring him here so we can have some fun before we finish him. We'll cover you." The sargeant yells to two footmen.

Crouching, Turin waits. He can hear the two soldiers approaching, but he stirs not. One move now and he will either be a pincushion or ran through. He waits.

Then, finally, he can see the tops of their helms. With a lunge he sticks one guard through the leg, with his five shot mini-crossbow he levels it and fires into the face of the female soldier. As she groans her last, he takes her weapon and removes the other soldiers head.

Dropping down with the lifeless body, Turin can feel the bolts whirring and whizzing by his body. Propping the headless corpse in front of him, he can hear the dull thuds of bolts striking flesh.

"That no good son of a whore! Did you see that?! Nela and Jern...dead!" A shaken soldier yells.

"It's one man, you idiots! Those two made too much noise and were too close together. You three, go get him! Now!" Yells the sargeant.

Turin breathes deeply and thinks,

"Well, old boy, this is sure one fine mess I got myself into. Feel too much like the old times again!"

He chuckles lightly at the thought, but not much, because he can hear the three soldiers closing in. A quick inventory check produces a hand axe (courtesy of Nela), his sword, and a mini-crossbow with only four bolts left. He knows he can get two for sure, the third may pose a problem, as will the remaining soldiers with crossbows.

No time left to think, the soldiers are on top of him. Taking his helm, he hurls it into the air. The bolts fly all around, thus distracted, Turin buries the axe into the nearest soldiers chest, and hurls his sword into the stomach of another before rolling away from the mace strike of the other soldier. Pulling up, he aims the crossbow and hits the soldier in the chest, dropping them.

"Fuck this, Yurio! I am out of here! If you want this guy so bad, you kill him yourself you son of a bitch! One soldier yells, as he turns to leave as fast as he can.

"Yeah, screw this place. I won't die for wheat or for bastard children. If he wants this place so bad, let him have it. I'm outta here! A second soldier yells, followed by the remaing three soldiers who decide to leave.

Yurio stands, crossbow pointed at the stalks of wheat, for one long moment. Yelling out, he says,

"Before I leave, let me know your name, so I may pass it along to those who will be interested in meeting you. For, mark my words, you will pay dearly for this day!"

The stalks stir gently, the sargeant lets loose his bolt, only to miss a groundhog scurrying away. An uneasy silence last for a few seconds, then an arm reaches around the sargeants chest and pulls him back onto the waiting sword. Pierced through the heart, the last thing Yurio hears is,

"My name is Turin. Send my regards to whoever runs the hell you are going to."

Sitting down on a tree stump, Turin looks himself over. His new armor held up well. He notices a few deep dents where bolts had hit him and bounced harmlessly away. He lives to fight another day.

Now, to his charge, the children. Watching through cracks and crevices, here and there, they had seen the whole event. Calling out to them, the children are unsure of this stranger, for if he could do that to their captors whose to say he would not kill them?

Deciding it was best to speak to their appetites, for when he saw them at first it must indeed be great, he began cooking some fine deer meat along with loaves of wheat and rye bread. Setting a table seperate from him, he lays the food out, then sits down at his own table and begins to eat.

Eventually, slowly, one by one the children emerge from houses, woods, and underbrush. Smiling, Turin points at the food and allows them to eat as they pleased. He watches as the older children tend the younger, until finally all have had their fill, though all sat and ate in relative silence.

Starting a fire for warmth, for the nights grow cold even here, so close to the mountains, he sits down and turns to them saying,

"Children, I am called Turin. I would wish to call you friends of mine. You have suffered long and cruelly, that ended today. I beg you sit, tell me your names, and tell me of the events that led you here."

Not one said a word, not one stirred from the table, until at long last the eldest girl stood and replied,

"Sir, how can we trust you? Yes, you freed us from those soldiers of Beridane, but how can we know whether or not you'll abuse us just the same? Or worse? Or even take us to be sold as slaves?"

Turin's heart was heavy at these words, for they had right to be suspicious. Their suffering had been great. Freedom was still a dream to them and too much to ask for. He replies then this way,

"A master does not cook and start fires for those he owns, an abuser does not allow his life to be put in jeopardy for those he abuses, and a slaver does not care to know of the names and lives of those he sells. I am a Crusader of the All-Father, to which I am heard you people call Tinorb. I will neither harm or abuse you, for I am sworn to protect, to heal not hurt."

Finally, the eldest boy stands and says,

"Crusaders carry a symbol of their faith, where is yours? Until then, how do we know that your armor is not stolen and you masquerade as one of their order?"

Turin says nothing but takes the symbol from around his neck and throws it into the hands of the boy. The children gather and look at it intently, then the boy throws it back, saying,

"It's not good enough. Again, it could be stolen, just like that armor. We need more proof!"

Turin, not known as a pinnacle of patience, replies,

"I have offered my life, fed you, given my word, and showed you more proof than you need and yet you ask for more! Very well then, let there be no doubt now!"

Chanting lightly, he calls forth the blessing of the Holy Mantle, and is esconced in a light blue glow for a moment.

Finally, in a moment, the children rush over and tackle their hero.

After much rejoicing, the eldest boy says,

"My name is Edoric, I beg your forgiveness for testing you so hard. We have trusted no one but ourselves for a very long time now. We doubt you no more, sir Turin."

Patting the boy on the back, Turin replies,

"Understandable, lad. I am not offended. Now, tell me about how all of you came to be here."

Edoric began and told him everything. How many good men and women resisted Beridane's soldiers, only to be cut down, their lands taken and the children killed or forced into laboring to feed and "entertain" these men. Further, Turin found that there were thirteen children in all that had been freed this day. From oldest to youngest male were: Edoric, Hugo, Kalven, Lorien, and Belnan. From oldest to youngest female were: Selae, Frela, Ione, Vola, Melie, Helga, Leley, and Caety. After talking of more things before deep night fell, which consisted of them assaulting him with questions about himself, they went to sleep.

In the morning, Turin found two of the dead soldiers horses and tied them to a wagon. Having the children inside and secure, he gave them directions away from Westgale, upon the path his sister and mother were on and in the direction of the citadel. Giving them his triune symbol, he says,

"Edoric, Salae, keep to the route I have told you. After a few days, you will find a small town, look for a red-haired half-elf and a red-cloaked elven lady. Their names are Nica and Deluwiel, tell them I have sent you. All will be well, and if anyone bars your path, show the symbol and they will let you pass."

As he started to leave, he heard Caety say,

"Why can' we go wif you?"

Turin wheeled his horse around and replied,

"Young lady, I am going where no sane man would go. I go to rescue an old friend from the port city. Plus, I have made no friends here from yesterdays actions. But trust me, little lady, I will see you again."

Giving them all a reassuring smile and wave, he rides off, knowing that the injustices will only become worse the longer the madman stays in power. He will rescue Ariana, or die in the attempt.

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