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Book Three Pt 2 - The Reckoning

Written by - Ardwen Page 23 Book 3

“We’re slowing down.” Ardwen said to the rapidly cooling air around him. His breath was already forming wisps of grey tendrils that spiraled quickly away.

The dragon’s voice was deep but fluid, as if a river had decided to speak, “Yes and no. The spell that enabled us to traverse such a great distance is dissipating as we’re almost at Westgale. I will have you to the city proper soon.”

Ardwen let out a pensive hum before responding, “To the city, yes? And then? How are we to enter? Surely you don’t intend to land inside the city.”

The dragon craned its massive head backward to look at the Elven warrior, Ardwen could swear that it had a grin on its lipless mouth, “Oh, I thought you knew? You’re going to be jumping in.”

“Jumping.” Ardwen said bluntly, the word escaping from his mouth with a thick puff of grey mist.

The dragon was grinning now, of that Ardwen had no doubt, “Jumping,” it confirmed, “of course I’ll weave a spell to soften your fall.” With that it turned its head forward again into the sky before continuing, “But it’s no sure thing. Slowing your descent is one thing, but it will not be flying. As I’m sure our friend Sycon can tell you, flying takes an enormous amount of energy – you don’t know any magical arts do you?”

Ardwen scrunched his face in confusion and frustration at the prospect of magic, “Spells? No, not me, I tried once – made a mess of it.”

“Just once?” The dragon intoned, “You never thought it important enough to try more than once? You’ve got the potential, it shouldn’t be hard for you.”

Ardwen snorted, “What should be and what actually is are two different things. But now is not the time for this discussion, when will you be ready for us to jump?”

The dragon sighed, and to Ardwen it felt as if the whole beast rose and then gently fell, “I’ll start winging circles, we’re over the city of Westgale now.” The magical bubble that had surrounded them, the ward that had made their transport so easy finally popped with their arrival. Air seemed to rush in, and Ardwen took a deep breath of the fresh night wind.

“Sycon,” Ardwen began, returning his mind to the task at hand, “I think it best if we go to separate points in the city. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover, and it is imperative that we find Ariana before anything . . . unfortunate should befall her. And, if you’re silver friend here speaks truly it would be a damn waste to have you drift down when you can direct your own path.”

The dragon on which the two would be liberators were flying suddenly raised a huge claw, and with a gesture that looked to Ardwen like a flex the warrior noted a white sheen traverse across his being. It disappeared quickly, but the air rung slightly with the aftershock of unleashed magic.

“I suppose,” started Ardwen, “that was a ready signal?”

“Go forth warrior, may you find that which you seek.” The dragon said levelly, turning its head once more to lock eyes with Ardwen.

Ardwen stood unsteadily, balancing on the rippling hide of the great beast’s back. He cast a glance over its side and saw nothing but a rolling bank of clouds. He was meant to jump from above the cloud line? This was insane! What if this elaborate “float” trip of his saw him drift into a barracks? Insane, stupid, ridiculous . . .

“Ariana,” Ardwen said in a breathed whisper that had cooling mist streaming from his face like smoke, “the first words out of your mouth better be, ‘Ardwen, you would have been a much better Priest of Battle than Turin. Also, you were right, Aethelwulf does smell of cucumbers.”

He grinned slightly, the memory of his old companions filling him at once with resolution and sadness. With a final glance to Sycon and a reassuring smile (as reassuring as he could make it anyhow) he said, “I’ll see you in Westgale Sycon, don’t do anything stupid and die before I do!” And with that he leapt.

And hung in midair.

“Huh.” Ardwen said aloud to the empty air, watching the dragon spiral away to begin another circle to keep itself aligned with the city below, “Well, this was far more gentle than I – OH SHIT!”

The last part was spoken in a near scream as he suddenly plummeted downward, cutting through the night darkened clouds like a crossbow bolt through black cloth. He couldn’t see a thing, his eyes stung with chilling water and he could hear plinks as ice and droplets connected with his form, this was of course, nearly drowned out by the growing scream of wind in his ears.

And then he was through the clouds, and could see, and he wished that he couldn’t.

He was falling headlong toward the city, the earth below seemed to rush up to meet him, as if he was not traveling fast enough to meet it! Ardwen desperately tried to right himself, if the spell had failed he was doomed, if not he might still live – but almost certainly not if he landed on his head. Twisting and turning Ardwen noticed a peculiar dragging sensation on his back, it was his large blade, its side was causing resistance as he fell. Thinking quickly he drew it and thrust it down, using the flat of the blade almost as a giant fan. This did two things: it ripped the blade out of his grasp, leaving it spinning dangerously before it fell below him, cutting through the air like . . . a blade through air.

The second, and more merciful thing, was it let him right himself. Almost immediately Ardwen noticed his fall was slowing. “Son of a bitch.” He cursed aloud, the wind taking his words as he spoke them, “If I lost my favorite sword for nothing . . .” He let the sentence hang unfinished in the air. He noted his descent was slowing, but it was still too fast for comfort, and probably for living through the arrival part.

As he came closer to the city Ardwen saw where he was going to land, and hopefully live. It looked like some manner of slum, the houses were mostly wood and stacked one on top of the other. The streets were dark and poorly lit, but it made sense to Ardwen, why would they waste tallow and wax on the poor?

The ground streaked ever closer, but his descent continued to slow, and Ardwen breathed out a long sigh of relief, laced with a few choice words of course. It appears his sword’s sacrifice was not in vain, though he was falling slower, landing on his head would’ve killed him still. He at last could judge which house, or to be more accurate which roof, he was going to land on. Curiously he had noted it fairly early, as the house he was going to land on was one of the only two-story structures in the area, the roof was flat – a sign of poor construction for a wooden building. Even more curious was the fact that the house was directly across from a three-story wooden building that looked as if it carried some importance as a (rather poor) whitewash job had been administered to it recently.

Ardwen grunted as his feet slammed down on the building, he let his legs crumple and rolled to absorb as much of the impact as possible. He realized how smooth the roll was, and reflected briefly that he would not have been able to do it with the large blade strapped to his back. Righting himself Ardwen looked around only to see a confusing mass of structures and edifices spiraling away in all directions. He could’ve kicked himself for not getting a better view of the city as he fell, but then again, had he not corrected his fall he probably wouldn’t be alive to kick himself.

Deciding to turn his attention to more immediate matters Ardwen looked at the building on which he had landed. Sure enough, it was a case study in shoddy construction: holes in the roof were often covered with no more than scrap collections of wood. It seemed unusually thin too, and Ardwen wondered how it did not collapse when winter snow piled on it, likely no one cared if it did.

“Did you hear that?” A faint voice cried out from below. Ardwen froze, crouching, he rested his left hand on the hilt of the longer of the two blades at his hip, and he strained his ears to listen.

“Something’s on the roof brother! I’m scared!” Another voice called out.

Ardwen blinked, comprehension dawning on his face, the voices were coming from inside the house, from the people that lived there. His fall and subsequent roll must have awakened them. The Elf silently hoped that he would be able to make it off the roof without drawing any more attention to himself, he had been fortunate not to land in a guard patrol, and he did not want to squander the advantage of surprise.

Ardwen took a step, the roof below him groaned in protest, almost simultaneously a piteous whimper and shaking voice called up from below the warrior, “Brother! Brother!”

Another voiced soothed back, “Quiet Tancred, I hear it too. It’s just the wind, go back to sleep.”

Ardwen let a smile cross his face, “Just the wind.” He willed silently, “no one is up here on your roof planing homicide on a massive level or anything.” He almost laughed at his own train of thought, and took another step, and the smile disappeared from his face.

The roof creaked alarmingly, a sharp wooden snap rang through the air, and Ardwen’s eyes widened as the floor simply gave way under him. His reflexes kicked in and Ardwen sidestepped the widening hole, his right foot touching down behind his left as he spun out of the way. Another wooden pop sounded through the air, and Ardwen realized his right foot had gouged through the roof as well. With a last, pitiful groan, the old timbers gave up the fight and the section of roof Ardwen was standing on gave way.

He plunged into the room below, but the fall was not far, shorter than Ardwen had expected. Dust and splinters filled the air as Ardwen’s feet stomped on the ground, he had managed to keep his footing despite the fall. He glanced around in the room, his Elven eyesight granting him superior vision in the dim lighting. He saw sleeping pallets on the floor, two of them, one stirred – the thin sheet rising up like a lump from the bedding.

In a blur Ardwen moved toward it, blade drawn . . . and then stopped. The lump was small it was . . .a child.

“Tough luck kid.” Ardwen hissed, “Don’t blame me. Blame yourself or god.” He drew back his blade to strike, it was a pity almost, but he could afford no witnesses. This was a mission of dire importance, and he could afford no mistakes.

“Terror . . .T-t-” The shape beneath the sheet squeaked out.

Ardwen’s sword arm froze, “What did you say?” He hissed.

“Terror of terrors.” The shape said softly, Ardwen could hear something very much like tears obstructing the words.

Ardwen took a few hasty steps back, the words ringing in his ears. It was a coincidence, it had to be a coincidence! “How do you know that name?” Ardwen barked, causing a pitiful sob to escape from the figure beneath the blanket.

“Leave him alone!” A voice, the other one Ardwen had heard called out. Spinning to look at its source Ardwen saw the second pallet had another child in it, this one was not cowering beneath the covers, but stood in some manner of bizarre half-crouch half-kneel. The boy couldn’t have been much older than eight years as they numbered them on Aerynth.

“Your brother?” Ardwen inquired, sweeping a hand toward the other form, which still remained obscured beneath the sheet.

Ardwen turned quickly, detecting motion at the far end of the room right before a man called out, “My sons!” In a defiant roar. The newcomer charged toward Ardwen, armed with an old hoe that looked about as poorly made as the erstwhile roof. The man swung wide, he had strength, Ardwen could see muscles ripple in his arms, a farmer no doubt. Ardwen let the blow connect with his right arm, the hoe gave a metallic screech of protest and the man pulled it back – a large chunk missing out of it where it had hit Ardwen’s plate armor.

“Hey.” Ardwen called softly.

The man ignored him, swung again, this time Ardwen caught it, “Hey.” He called again, louder. The man merely tried to yank his makeshift weapon away, and Ardwen finally roared out, “Tel’hi!*” Ardwen doubted the man could understand Elven, but the warrior’s raised voice did the trick. The man locked eyes with the Elf.

“Why,” he started, grunted as he tried to pull the hoe away, Ardwen let go of it and the man continued, “why aren’t you fighting back?”

Ardwen paused, why indeed? What was this man to him? What were all the lives in this city? He had murdered before, men, women, and children. Why should this time be any different? Ardwen sucked in a breath, he had to find some clarity here regardless of if he got by with talking or killing he was wasting time.

“Look,” Ardwen began, “I’m not here to fight you or anyone more than I have to. I’m after a lady very dear to me, she’s been taken prisoner by the false king of these lands and I intend to win her back. The figure beneath that sheet there said . . . something . . . I . . .”

The man raised an eyebrow and his chipped weapon, “That ‘figure’ is my youngest son Tancred. I’d heard the shouting and noise up here, damn my eyes if I didn’t find you bearing steel against them.”

Ardwen grimaced, “Look, I’m not a nice person, it’s not in the job description where I come from. But no one here has to die. Hey, this may be a chance for me to turn over a new leaf. Maybe even not murder so many people as I originally intended. I’m here to oppose Beridane at the least, isn’t that worth something?”

The man spat, “True enough that man is no true king, times have been hard, and they’ve only gotten harder. But you don’t’ look like a hero to me, I’ve got my two sons to care for, and a family that needs me besides.”

Ardwen raised an eyebrow as if positing the obvious unasked question.

“Wife died last winter.” The man said flatly.

“Oh gods,” Ardwen groaned, “how typical of the All-Father to land me right in the middle of a damn sob-story.”

The man barked a laugh, and it was as bitter as one Ardwen had ever mustered, “I just want you out of here and my boys safe. I’m not asking for help from the likes of you.”

Ardwen paused, he titled his head to one side, “You’re not asking for my help, but you’re going to get it anyhow.” The warrior mussed aloud.

“What the hell are you mumbling about?” The farmer retorted.

“Tell me your name.” Ardwen asked.

“Why?” The man said, a confrontational tone edging into his voice once more.

Ardwen sighed, “I am Ardwen, I have no last name. There. Your turn.”

“Renild,” the man began, “Renild Capet.”

A loud knock suddenly reverberated from downstairs, and a booming voice split the air, “Damnit Renild open up! Waking us up at this ungodly hour to check on your worthless hide, damn you! We heard the noise all the way across the god damn street, now open up!”

“And that would be?” Ardwen said simply.

“Shit,” Renild cursed, “You’ve got to get out of here. If the city guards find you here we’re all dead!”

Ardwen looked around him. The child who had stood up had huddled close to his father. The man, Renild, stood motionless, his face was creased and he had placed one arm around his son. The other boy was still under the flimsy protection of his covers, but Ardwen now heard soft sobs escaping from under them.

Ardwen felt something in him loosen, he felt detached from the present situation, as if he was suddenly watching it from someone else’s viewpoint. He let his body relax, he rolled his shoulders, and then he let out a long breath that he was not aware he was holding. Renlid looked at him curiously and said softly, “What the hell was that for?”

Ardwen simply nodded slowly and looked at the man, a smile not born of happiness crossed his face, “I’ll deal with this.” With that Ardwen began to walk to the narrow stairwell. Renild walked over to a narrow window, it had no glass but rather a sheer sheet covering it, motioning his son to stand still he swept the cloth aside and looked below.

“Stop,” Renild hissed, “There’s five of them down there. You don’t understand Ardwen, they’ll kill you for just being in the city. And then, they’ll kill me and my boys for coming into contact with you. They don’t care for us, they’re hired muscle – thugs, murderers; men lured here by the promises of Beridane’s lawless rule.”

Ardwen stopped at the threshold of the narrow staircase and said, “I’m sorry for troubling you and your family. I owe you one, and this is the least I can do. Do me just one favor, OK?”

“What?” Renild asked.

“Keep your boy there away from the window. Don’t let him see what I’m going to do to these men. It’s not good for them, you see, at such a young age.” Ardwen’s voice was emotionless, and he finished walking down the steps without looking back.

Renild looked out the window again, at the five guards below, another hammering knock and curse rang out from the guard on point. He watched on, he had to, whatever this warrior thought he could do his life and his two sons’ lives hung in the balance.

Under the sheets, Renild’s youngest boy dried his tears. He was turning something in his hands, an old gift from his departed mother. He smiled at her memory, and then sniffed again to dry his tears. The little object was a necklace, and on it hung a symbol made of three interlocking rings*. The boy looked at it again, and thanked the voice that had told him what to say.

****

“Pig-headed old fool.” Derick muttered to himself. He had gathered four other men from the barracks across the road to go and check on Renild’s house. It’s not that he cared about Renild, it was to save his own ass. If something should go wrong and he was reported as having not even bothered to check, well . . . his life could become much more uncomfortable.

“I’ve had it, if that asshole won’t open the door I’m busting it down. Lon, come up here and help me.” Derick’s tone was sullen and resentful, why did he always have to get stuck on these slum assignments? He’d report Renild as a traitor, throw him in jail to die, he could drum up some evidence surely. He just wanted the bastard out of his hair, making him stand out in the middle of the street when some ale and a warm bed waited for him was too much. As Derick watched Lon begin to move toward the obstinate door it finally swung open. Not bothering to look who or what had opened it Derick blurted out in anger, “Disobeying the king’s guards is treason! You can either come along, or we can execute you here.”

“I think,” a voice responded that was definitely not Renild’s, “I’ll rip you open and write with your innards on the wall.”

“The he-“ Derick started saying, but he was unable to finish. He was also unable to see whatever took his life, for all he got was a sensation of something moving fast, and a sharp pain in his throat. Then there was only darkness.

Upstairs, still glancing from through the little window, Renild let out a sharp gasp. Ardwen, had just killed a guard in one fluid motion. Renild’s mouth was slightly ajar, and he thought his eyes were lying to him. The warrior had two blades in his hands; the blade in his left hand looked longer, but Renild was having trouble telling. The soldier had not remained still, with one of the guards dead he circled to the left side of the other four, for their part the guards were cussing and shouting, but they had enough presence of mind to fan out. Two of them had spears, and the other two had longswords, and in the street they would need room to use their weapons without hacking each other apart.

Ardwen had not waited for them though, he dashed toward one of the guards holding a longsword, with one blade he swept the sword out wide, twisted, and brought the other blade down on the man’s wrist. The blade clattered to the ground, and Renild could see a hand still attached to it. The guard was screaming, and blood was pumping from the severed stump at the end of his right arm, but Ardwen paid him no further heed. He was already rotating, using the motion of severing the man’s hand to meet the other blade wielder. Ardwen now stood sideways to him, the shorter of the two blades picked off parry after parry, and then Ardwen twisted the blade around in his hands, bringing it up behind him. The man dashed forward, Ardwen used his other sword, not to parry, but to impede the path of his opponent’s blade.

Then he did something Renild wished he had not seen. He brought the other blade he had readied, and he brought it in swift and low toward the man’s midsection. He did not drive it directly in, rather he drove it up, the warrior’s sword exploded from his back with a wet gasp. The man Ardwen had impaled had stopped twitching by this point. The warrior turned, and used the man’s body as a shield against the two spear users. They both scored striking blows against their own friend’s corpse. Ardwen lowered the blade he had sheathed in the dead man’s body and with one foot slid the man’s corpse off, one of the spear users jumped back, from surprise or disgust Renild could not tell, but it was all the opening Ardwen needed.

Ardwen burst forward, his body did not seem to move so much as it looked like he fell in the direction of the man, but this was no fall. The man flicked forward with his spear, desperately trying to keep this armored monster away from him. Ardwen smacked the side of the shaft with a blade, and cut the head of the spear off, and then he was in range to kill. He brought a knee up, smashing it into the gut of the unfortunate guard, he pushed off with the other foot, and it seemed to Renild like he rolled over the back of the hunched guardsmen. Ardwen had gotten out of the way just in time, for the spearhead of the other remaining guard dashed forward. The guard was no fool, nor was he inexperienced, he managed to correct his thrust and avoided impaling his ally. Of course, the other guard could not voice his appreciation, Ardwen had already logged a sword into the base of his skull, and the man simply slid off the blood red blade.

This was seemingly too much for the last remaining guard, he turned and begin to run. He did not get far. Ardwen took one leg, stepped in front with it, brought the guards right leg back, and with one hand still clinching a blade he toppled the guardsman forward. The man fell facedown into the dirt and gravel of the street. He started to voice some curse or plea, but he had no time to give it words as Ardwen stepped on his knees and twirled his two blades so that they faced downward. He had reversed his grip on them. Renild let the cloth slip back in front of the curtain, he did not want to see what was coming next. But the thin window covering could not block out a few gurgling screams.

“Come on,” he spoke to his two sons, his voice quavering with equal parts amazement and fear, “we’ve got to get out of here. They’ll be more guards, and when they see what happened, they’ll be questions. Brom, take your brother Tancred and get whatever food you can from the pantry, pack light and quick. Then you go and warn the neighbors.”

“Dad,” his son Brom responded, looking confused and on the verge of tears, “what’s happening?”

“I don’t know son,” his father said, he tried to strain a smile but it came out as a sad, resigned look, “but we’ve not got any time to waste, hurry!”

“Aren’t you coming?” His boy said.

“I’ll be right behind you son, there’s something I need to see to first. Now, no more questions, go.” He ordered.

Brom nodded his head, went over and roused his brother from his pallet, and in a few moments they were out of the room. Letting out a relieved sigh, Renild hesitantly grasped the cloth obscuring his view to the recent fight. His hand twitched there for a few seconds, as if debating if he really wanted to see how the bloody job below had finished. He decided he could take no chances, what if more guards had arrived? He flicked aside the cloth, and nearly expelled bile into the street below.

Of Ardwen there was no sight, the warrior had apparently moved on. The street was empty save for the corpses off the five dead guards. The last one to die had met his end gruesomely, his back had been ripped open, with so many punctures and slashes that they ran together in a macabre river of red blood, torn flesh, and gore covered bone. Renild felt sickness rising in his throat again but he willed himself to look on. He noticed something on the side of the house across the street.

He strained his eyes, perhaps Ardwen had written something on it? It was a large three-story structure that had been commandeered by the city guard early on, but they rarely used it, the best house in the area or no it was still in the slums. Renild leaned forward from the window, trying to get a better look. It was dark, and he had to narrow his eyes some more. He muttered the letters aloud to himself, one at a time, “A-R-I-A-N-A” the script read. “Why is it so difficult to read?” Renild asked himself. The letters were runny, the writing hasty, and the color was a deep red. Then Renild realized what Ardwen had used to write on the wall. This time he did vomit.

****

*Elven – “Put an end to this. Lit. “To end this”

*The symbol is of course a Triskelion, one of the sacred signs of Tinorb, who Ardwen would better know as the All-Father.

Written by - Turin Wallace

After leaving the children to make their own way, Turin rode further south. After a few days, for he kept off the beaten paths, he arrived at Galville.

Galville was just another township on the way to Westgale, except it was the first town one would reach if you left from the northen gate of the city. A few hours ride, to be sure, but for Turin this was the last stop before the city. Entering the local inn, he finds a table, noticing that the place was very quiet for this time of day, which was evening. Propping his legs up on the table, he waits for the serving lady to arrive.

It was then that he noticed the stares of the few local patrons who were there. However, they were levelled at himself per se. They were staring at the golden triskellion upon his chest. After a few moments of silence, Turin had enough, and says,

"Pardon me, but what strikes ye all most odd about my appearance, or rather my current coat of arms?"

Silence followed for a moment more, then the landlady finally walked over to where Turin was sitting and in a whispered tone, replies,

"You are a Crusader, are you not? Do you not know the tragedies that befell the king and queen here? Or that your order has been officially disbanded by the current king? If you are found, you will be imprisoned, or executed on the spot...as well as anyone who aided you."

Removing his feet from the table, Turin replies to her,

"These are indeed black days, lady. Under such circumstances, I will not cause you undue stress. All I require is a mere bottle of wine, some dried meat, and a few loaves of bread. Here is payment, I am sure it will cover said items and any anguish I have caused."

As he said his last words, he dropped a tightly stretched, but small, bag of coins upon the table. The lady picked it up, peeked inside, and nodded to him. Hurrying off to get his items, Turin made his way to a window and noticed the villagers beginning to gather outside. With a sigh, he turned back to the sounds of the lady rushing back to him with the items he requested. As she hands over the items, she says,

"Milord, where do you travel, if I may inquire?"

Turin's reply was simply,

"Westgale."

He saw her wince at the name, he had seen it many times since he arrived in these lands. It seems as if people believe it to be the seat of all evil on this world. Who knows, maybe it is? It doesn't really matter now anymore, a friend has need of him, that is what matters. He'll find a way in, somehow.

Recovering from the silence, she says,

"Whatever for?! Are you mad? Or maybe an idiot? I said you will be imprisoned or executed on sight!"

Raising one eye at the show of emotion, and irritated by being called an idiot, Turin sharply replies,

"Lady, I need no more opinion or advice from ye. I have paid for your services and I will take my leave, and quickly. However, to answer your direct question, a friend of mine is already imprisoned and I am going to her aide."

A half-hearted smile graced her lips, as she says,

"Risking death for love? Even more a fool than I thought, though it is a noble task."

In reply, Turin says,

"No, it isn't for that love that I go, for that type can be fickle and fleeting. I am going because of a love of friendship and of family. No other reason, but then, is that not reason enough?"

Corrected, the lady says,

"I did not mean to offend, sir. I understand your task now, foolhardy though it is. I will pray for you, but if I am to do so, what name will I use?"

Turin replies,

"Turin is the name, and yours?"

The landlady responds,

"Devora."

Turin says,

"Devora, save your prayers for those more worthy than myself. I thank you for the warning and help, now I must go before someone outside lets on that you have helped me. Perchance, is there a back door I may use?"

Grabbing him by his arm, she leads him through the kitchen, to the only other outside door in the place. Opening it, he slips through and she pays a kitchen hand to bring his horse to him. As he mounts his horse, he gives her a nod and smile, saying,

"My thanks, lady Devora, may your kindess be repaid a thousand times over."

Spurring his horse, he turns and rides off. Turning away, she mutters,

"The coin will do that, you poor fool."

Just before dawn, Turin crests a hill and sees the city of Westgale for the first time. Sitting for a moment, he views it in it's immensity. Well defended, large and thick walls, it's back to the sea. It is a design he is familiar with and knows that it will be hard to get in and out not noticed.

Looking to the sky, he mutters a quick prayer as he throws a travellers robe over his shoulders and pulls the hood close about his face. With a slight tap of the spurs, he makes his way to the main gate.

Fortune, fickle as she is, gave him a nod this day. There was a caravan of merchants entering the city this day, and he slipped in and through the gates pretending to be one of their guards.

Unfortunately, getting in was the easy part. The city was foreign to him and now he must not get himself caught while poking about, here are there. He figures the poor section is the best place to start, and it isn't soon before he finds it. Not like it is hard to find, one need only follows one's nose and look for the most delapidated buildings.

Sure enough, the poor sections tavern and inn, the Wounded Lion was soon before him. Dismounting, he swears he sees a figure in an alley close by. Glancing back, he see's nothing but shadows. Cautiously, Turin enters the inn and takes a seat in the back. At least there will be few questions here, for gold will do much to close and open mouths when it is in short supply.

After getting a decent meal and a weak red wine, Turin sits back and ponders for awhile. To relieve his thoughts for awhile and remembers his friends. How many times did they sit like this and recount stories or make battle plans? A sad smile graces his face as the memories of his friends race through his mind. If only a few were here now, he muses...

Thus reposed, Turin consigns himself to wait for dark and then to venture out to see what he can find.

Written by - Wilhelm

Wilhelm crouched in the shadows in the hallway to the left of the large room, scanning the area and awaiting either Mavigan's return or the need to go to her aid. His two companions Danil and Sandra quietly took out yet another wandering acolyte, stashing the body in a side room. Through his tracking sense, and the mind links between the three mages, Wilhelm monitored the actions of Fiernum and Aldeth as rearguard and Resini, Ethan and Maeve on the other side doing the same. So far they had avoided any alarm or outcry from the dark cultists here.

The undead Saabbatine and the assassin Jasmine remained in the large room while Teran, Mavigan and Keeryn were up ahead. Wilhelm noted that Jasmine's heartfire was changing, a darkness slowly spreading outwards across it. She must bear some sort of curse, he decided, as he could sense layers of pain. Deep inside he could sense a tiny core of light remaining, so she was not lost entirely to the darkness. An undead warrior and a cursed assassin were odd companions for Mavigan's training mission, and he would continue to watch them closely.

Written by - Tempyst

Kaya listend as Alaric explained what had been happening in this land while she was a prisoner of the orcs and the demon. Everyword boiled her blood and made her more determined to see that this man Beridane got what he deserved. Then while still on edge, she and Alaric worked out sparing, getting the anger out of their systems, or at least under control. Then the sweet lure of sleep. But it was not enough, for it seemed as soon as they drifted off, Dorve awoke them, saying it was time to head out once more. Dorve said she had been exploring a little and found an oak, close to the northern gate of the city; a young sappling that had escaped Beridane's eye.

As they walked, they tried to formulate a plan, but because none of them knew exactly what lie ahead, plans were not very helpful. It was decided that their first objective was to get inside the gates and find someplace to lay low. Kaya suggested heading to a poor section of the city, for there would probably be less guards and fewer eyes looking out for something amiss. Alaric and Dorve agreed.

Finally, Dorve stopped, announcing they had arrived at the sappling. WIth great care she pulled them out one at a time into a dark, dank, and dreary afternoon. Kaya inhaled deeply, feeling the heavy hair all around her. SHe wished for a moment to go back into Nyrondis' realm, but quickly stopped those thoughts, for she had a mission ahead of her. "We all set for this you two?" Kaya asked. "You know neither of you need go with me."

Alaric just let out a snort and Dorve glared. "I will not be letting you down Kaya, I am here for the long haul. Beridane does not scare me."

"Thank you, both of you. Now..." She took another deep breath, "...let's get going, be careful, keep your ears and eyes open and pray that fate and luck are with us on this journey."

They traveled for about an hour before they found the road to the city. There was some traffic, mostly weary looking farmer types bringing goods to the new ruler. All three of them dirtied themselves up and gathered up stacks of twigs and limbs, to look like they were bringing firewood back to their homes and fell into line with another group of weary folks. Soon the gates of Port Westgale rose before them and the salt air reached their nostrils. Kaya breathed deeply, enjoying what sea air she could make out. It has been far too long since i smelled the sea. SHe thought.

Luck was with them, as the guards at the gate paid little attention to a few more dirty, wood carrying peasants. The three of them stayed slumped under the burden of the twigs they carried, and worked their way into the city, looking around for a place to hole up. Soon, the sign of a place called the Wounded Lion cught Kaya's eye. SHe watched it for a bit, making sure no guards entered the place. THen when the coast was clear, she made her way to the back of the tavern, having the others follow her. When she reached the back door she knocked on it loudly. "What do you want, no beggars allowed!"

"We are not beggars sir, just poor farmers looking for a place to hole up. We have wood we can give you for your fires if you will give us a meal and a room."

The door opened and a gruff, greasy man looked out. "HOw much wood?"

"Three backs full sir."

He looked them over with a weary eye, then let out a heavy sigh. "Alright, but only one room for the three of you to share, and one meal, no more. Leave the wood here and get to the front."

"Thank you sir." Kaya and the others dropped their bundles and headed to the front of THe Wounded Lion and they headed in. It was just as dark and dank inside as it was outside, but they found a table and a tired looking barmaid brought them over some stew and weak ale.

"Okay you two, this is it, lets try to make a plan."

Written by - Ariana

At Teran’s directive, Mavigan took off with the speed of an arrow, pursuing the remaining guard. Clutching Teran’s dagger in one hand, she pulled one of her own into her other with a quick flick of her wrist, and focused all of her attention on catching the runner.

The fleeing guard was wiley, however, and had the distinct advantage of knowing the layout of the labyrinth of tunnels. As soon as he sensed Mavigan getting into range, he ducked into a branching tunnel. Mavigan, thinking only that he was attempting to get away, charged forward around the bend. Once in range, she leapt at him, bearing him to the ground face first, and lodging Teran’s dagger into the base of his neck.

Exhilarated with her success and panting with exertion, it was only as she withdrew the dagger that she became aware of the other sounds around her – the scraping of wood on stone, the sound of metal clanking, the slide of metal on metal. Looking up, she found 7 well equipped men freeing their weapons and moving to surround her.

Blindly, she had followed her quarry right to the entrance of a small barracks.

“Uh,” she said, faking a large smile, “Hi?” The warriors around her did not seem to be impressed. With a quick bound, she gained her feet and started to back out into the tunnel she had just come through.

Written by - Vylia

Keeryn was no fool, she knew what this guard was doing. Her people used the same ploy on some of the prey they hunted, and sometimes the prey used it on them. The last time she had been in such a situation she had nearly lost her life, that would not be the case this time. This time she was ready. As she rounded the last bend she saw Mavigan atop their quarry, but she also saw the men behind her.

Keeryn was just far enough behind that they didn't notice her behind Mavigan, and as they moved to surround her Keeryn threw her spear, narrowly missing the bounding Mavigan and impaling the guard in the middle. She then shoved Mavigan to the dirt as she caught up to her and used her momentum to flip into the impaled guard's chest, yanking her spear from him as the body hits the floor, and spinning to face the remainder of the men a fierce roar leaving her lips as she readies her spear.

Written by - Ariana

Mavigan backed up slowly, attempting to keep her eyes on all 7 of the men advancing on her at once. It wasn’t working all that well, and she had just about decided to turn tail and run when she was abruptly shoved out of the way, her face landing in the dirt. Her daggers went skidding from her hand to rest against the opposite wall, partially buried in the dirt.

Righting herself and spitting out a mouthful of dirt, she saw the cause for her fall was Keeryn, who had already dispatched one enemy and was now roaring at the rest of them. Three of the enemy focused their attention on the new foe, while two others turned toward Mavigan. The last enemy went towards the back of the room and started fiddling with something in an alcove that Mavigan could not see.

Not having time to ponder to his actions, Mavigan quickly withdrew several throwing daggers and sent them flying. Managing to hamper one of her attackers with a hit to the shoulder, the elbow, and the thigh, she dived out of the way of the second attacker and made a mad scramble to retrieve her main weapons.

Her searching hand located one dagger, Teran’s dagger, and she rolled onto her back swinging upward as the blade of a sword came down. The shock of the parry traveled up her entire arm and she uttered a long stream of curses as she tried to get out of the way of the next blow.

Out of nowhere came a loud clanging noise, the sound not unlike that of a lot of large bells all being rung at once. Everyone seemed to pause as the sound reverberated and echoed throughout the chamber they were in and then was carried down the tunnel where another loud clanging rang out in response. The noise was deafening and Mavigan thought she felt the floor tremble in response.

As the sound died down, but continued to echo from farther and farther off Mavigan figured out what that man had been fiddling with in the alcove. He had triggered their security system and their cover was now blown.

As motion returned to everyone and Mavigan renewed her efforts to regain her feet, there was only one thing running through her mind…

“Teran is going to be furious with me!”

Written by - Turin Wallace

How long did he stare out the window, remembering times long ago, and watching the faces of the people who moved by? He sure as hell didn't know, maybe a minute, maybe an hour or more. Rousing himself to another glass of wine, he looks at the bottle and finds it half full! As he raises the full glass to his lips, he jokes with himself that he is losing his touch. Downing his glass and refilling it, he can see that the mid-morning crowd is starting to arrive.

Looking about the fair-sized main room of the inn, he can see little groups here and there, with a few solitary individuals like himself lost in thought, or downing a quick breakfast before hurrying off to some task or another.

It was just then that he felt it.

Almost subconciously, he clenches his fists, as if trying to grab hold of something. His hands had a slight tingle to them, not much, but enough to make him wonder why he felt that way. Looking at the bottle in front of him, he now really starts thinking he has lost his touch! Shaking the feeling off, and rubbing his hands, Turin goes back to pensively watching the window.

It isn't long before he is interrupted by some newcomers, who are rather excited both in manner and speach. At first, Turin attempted to mind his own business, but since these men were rather loud he decided to listen in as they spoke.

"Gods, did ye hear that Strom? They say they were killed horribly."

"Aye, ye best be sure I managed a peak before being ran off by them new mercenaries that came to look at their friends. Horrible sight, t'be sure. Whoever did them in, Jerg, I tell ya they pissed them off something fierce!"

"Look ye two stop jabbering on about that! We see the dead everyday, shouldn't surprise us to see a few more. Plus, the only good mercenary is a dead one." Spits in disgust.

"Aye, Gern, that be the truth of it. Still, what makes the whole scene odd was that name scrawled on the wall. Jerg, what did they say it was written in?"

"Blood. It was written in blood. I hope I never see something like that again."

"You know, boys, methinks that could be the reason for the deaths. Maybe those low-life mercenaries raped or killed a man's wife, lover, or relation by that name. I tell you what, anyone who saw the sight will never forget that name!"

"Aye, Gern, it does make you wonder who this Ariana is."

"Aye, thats fer sure boys."

Ah, the game is on then. It looks like he isn't the only one here to send a message, although someone added a more dramatic flair then he would have. At least he hoped it was just a random coincidence, some other woman with the same name, it should be possible in a city this size to have a few hundred Ariana's running about. Somehow, though, he knew this not to be the case.

Leaning back in his chair, Turin made no attempt to move and glanced out of the window now and then. There wasn't much to do now anyway, as the building these men talked about would by now be swarmed looking for clues or anything else that may lead to the culprit being caught. More importantly, it gives the guards time to get the corpses out of there before the poor strip their bodies of coin, armor, and weapons. Late afternoon, at the earliest, he may stir to look at this place. It isn't much of a trail to follow, but then, anything is better than nothing.

Written by - Vylia

Only three of the men decided to focus on her, so Keeryn decided to give the others a reason to pay more attention. She saw the man in the back messing with something on the wall, but she had no idea what he was doing, maybe looking for a way out, it wasn't really her concern. One of the men made a motion toward her and she focused her attention on the grim task at hand.

The guard made a wide swing at her, Keeryn ducked beneath it and kicked out with one leg. The man blocked with his shield, but she shoved against it, at the same time shoving off the ground with her other foot pushing the man off balance, and sending her toward the back wall of the room in a smooth backflip. The moment her feet contacted the wall, she crunched up and pushed off the wall to send herself off of it in a spin, her spear swinging out wide. The blade caught one of the other guards unprepared and slashed across his face, leaving a deep gash across both eyes. The guard she had shoved off of had gone staggering back into one of the ones that had stayed focused on Mavigan, while the third managed to block the spear. Keeryn used the stop to drop herself to the ground, lifting her spear straight in the air, with a sweeping kick that left the man on his back as Keeryn finished the spin, twirling the spear around, coming to stand over the man as she stabs him in the gut. Keeryn pulls the spear out of the side of his gut as the spear slices through his armor, leaving a huge gash across his midsection as she turns to face the third guard that finally got his balance back.

Keeryn didn't give him another chance to attack. She attacked his left side where his shield was, forcing him to block blow after quick blow. He tried to attack her with an overhead attack this time, but she just used the butt of the spear to block the blow by shoving it into his hand and pushing it back up and spun around again bring her spear across his chest in an upward slice, continuing the spin and leveling the spear to slice across his throat. Keeryn finished the spin facing the man who had been messing with the back wall just as a loud clanging reverberated through the room.

The noise was loud... VERY loud. The shock of it sent Keeryn to her knee with a scream, it hurt her ears so much. She was grasping one of her ears with her left hand, spear on the ground next to her clasped by her right.

Written by - Wilhelm

There was a quiet period after the last acolyte was dealt with, during which Wilhelm's tracking sense noted that Mavigan and Keeryn had encountered a group of enemies up ahead. From the agitation of their heartfires he concluded that they were fighting, but there was no sign of either being injured, nor was there any divine prompting, so Wilhelm continued to guard the escape route while scanning nearby heartfires.

Wilhelm wondered if Mavigan and Keeryn, skilled as they were, could deal with those they had met without an alarm going out. The answer came when loud bell sounds were heard from up ahead, followed by other repeats further on. Clearly an alarm system had been triggered to warn the complex. Wilhelm turned to the mage next to him and said,

"That's done it. Pass the word to the others to prepare to deal with a rush of folks responding to that alarm. We WILL hold this escape route open!"

Shortly after the mage passed the mental warning to the other two groups, all three groups became intensely busy dealing with cultists rushing up from various directions. The sounds and flashes of fighting and spells could no longer be kept inaudible to the pair within the main room.

Written by - Tempyst

Kaya sat with Alaric and Dorve and ate the food that was set before them and found the stew was actually quite good. The ale on the other hand; the mometn it touched her lips, Dorve spat out a rant of dwarvish that would have made anyone hearing it blush. She immediately stood and headed straight to the bar, still speaking. When she arrived back she had three full mugs of a dark, thick ale. "Now, this is a proper drink to go with stew. Hell, it is a proper drink to go with anything at anytime. Now, enjoy, my treat." Both Alaric and Kaya took a mug and a deep swig if the thick dwarven ale. Now this was a drink. Kaya thought, but her thoughts were interrupted by a couple of exited individuals.

"Gods, did ye hear that Strom? They say they were killed horribly."

"Aye, ye best be sure I managed a peak before being ran off by them new mercenaries that came to look at their friends. Horrible sight, t'be sure. Whoever did them in, Jerg, I tell ya they pissed them off something fierce!"

"Look ye two stop jabbering on about that! We see the dead everyday, shouldn't surprise us to see a few more. Plus, the only good mercenary is a dead one." Spits in disgust.

"Aye, Gern, that be the truth of it. Still, what makes the whole scene odd was that name scrawled on the wall. Jerg, what did they say it was written in?"

"Blood. It was written in blood. I hope I never see something like that again."

"You know, boys, methinks that could be the reason for the deaths. Maybe those low-life mercenaries raped or killed a man's wife, lover, or relation by that name. I tell you what, anyone who saw the sight will never forget that name!"

"Aye, Gern, it does make you wonder who this Ariana is."

"Aye, thats fer sure boys."

Written in blood, hmm...now that does not sound like normal activity. It sounds like it could be something demonic, I mean , what kind of individual would write a name in blood on a wall. But who is Ariana? But as she comptemplated this, Alaric turned around, mug in hand and addressed the men who had been speaking.

“Ariana? Ariana! Tis a noble and fine name of the greatest woman in history. She was abbess, queen and high priestess and on top of all that she founded this kingdom. She is mother of this place, and you should know that, if you be educated right. And there are probably hundreds of citizens throughout the kingdom named after her. Shame on you for forgetting where such a name comes from. As to why it would be written in blood, seems there be foul play afoot for someone of that name.” Alaric sat back and took another swig of his ale.

Kaya leaned over, her hood falling off her head revealing her long, slender ears and long black hair. “Alaric,” she whispered, “keep it down, we are supposed to be keeping a low profile.” She sat up, and looked around, glad to see that most had turned a deaf ear to his rhetoric. “Maybe they will just think you were an old teacher longing for your days in a classroom.” Her violet eyes looked about again, hoping things would remain quiet. “I need to see what this is. Perhaps it is nothing, but it could be demonic activity. We all know that Beridane consorts with the like, so something could be on the loose, and I need to check it out.”

Dorve sighed. “Aye, sounds like plan, but first, let us finish our ale. We dare not let it grow warm, and, we would do better to be under cover of darkness. If there is demon taint there, it will be there still.” Kaya nodded in agreement and sat back, drinking the stout ale and watching the room.

Written by - Ardwen

“Not a good night.” Ardwen muttered to himself as he tensed his muscles to spring to another rooftop. Moving around like this had been the only way to avoid detection since his slaughter of the five mercenary guardsmen the previous night. As a consequence of his actions Ardwen had spent the night on the run, ducking from ally to ally, building to building, and of course fighting when he got the chance.

He had killed again, but to his great chagrin only two more corpses could be added to his count so far. Ardwen had his reasons, foremost being that a dead body was a beacon to the men hunting for him. Worse still, the guards had switched their tactics: they were organizing searches of buildings in the area from the ground up including the rooftop levels. In the dead of the night this had not concerned Ardwen, his sable armor blended in perfectly with the darkness, and his superior night vision ensured he could remain a step ahead of the patrols.

But now there was another problem, a big one. A problem that was even now working its way over the city roofs and walls, shedding light down onto everything it touched. Ardwen glanced into the sky, and squinted his eyes at the source of his worry, “Why couldn’t you just not rise for one day?” He muttered at the impassive sun. Ardwen knew, logically, that his time was running short. Every minute on the rooftop increased his chances of being detected, and when the sun reached its zenith not even the dark alleys would provide much cover.

The warrior’s stomach rumbled. That too, he grimaced, was another concern. He had not had anything to drink or eat since setting out from the Citadel. The journey via dragon had allowed them to reach Westgale at an amazing rate, but it did not ease his body’s need to eat and drink. Leaping to another rooftop Ardwen looked up and guessed it to be about mid-morning. He had to make a decision soon, if he was caught this whole trip would be for naught, it was time to take a gamble.

He followed his nose, his empty stomach lent its urgency to the task as well, and soon Ardwen found himself looking at a modest inn. Ardwen pressed himself flat to the roof he was on and clambered over to the edge. He dared a quick glance down the ally and found it empty save for a few huddling figures who did not seem intent on going to the inn. “Alright, can’t just burst down there and start hacking,” Ardwen muttered to himself, “I’ve got to play this smart, very smart. Now, what do I have to work with?”

Ardwen closed his eyes and focused his mind to the task at hand. First and most troubling he had no coin, not for the first time he cursed himself for not bringing any gold with him from the Citadel, gold could so often make things go smoothly. Second in his list of concerns, he was covered in blood. True, none of it was his, but his fights had lent a good amount of sanguine coloring to his armor – his blades were clean though. “Allll . . . right,” Ardwen sighed to himself, “not much to go on. But I think I can wing it.”

Ardwen rolled over onto his back and then lifted his torso off the ground as if he were doing a crunch; that brought his field of vision back to the interspersed rooftops he had hopped on to bring him to this point. The elf crouched low and dashed to edge of the building, dropping down as softly as he could he found himself in a narrow walkway in between the two buildings. Working frantically he brushed off his black cloak and flicked off as much dried blood as he could, tossing the cowl of his cloak over his head, and making sure his two swords were hidden as well as he might, he strode out into the alleyway next to the inn.

Mercifully, not too many more people had arrived, but Ardwen knew he had not a moment to spare. He walked over to the inn, taking a minute to note its name, “The Wounded Lion,” Ardwen whispered as he walked over to it, “what a strange name.” The warrior walked up to the door of the establishment and pounded on it. Almost immediately a small port at eye level opened up and a pair of gruff eyes stared out.

“Yeah? Name your business. And you’d best not be a damn beggar! I know times are tough but we’re not running a charity here.” Spoke the voice, which sounded just as rough as the eyes looked.

“I am no beggar good sir.” Ardwen said, adopting a soft tone, “I am merely a thirsty man looking for a little respite from the day’s heat, and perhaps a good drink to drown the dust of a long road.”

There was an awkward pause and the voice from behind the door suddenly said, “You aren’t from around here are you?”

“Damnit.” Ardwen thought, perhaps he had overdone it. Still, he could play off this, “No sir, I’m in the city to find a dear friend of mine. A member of my family, as it were, that I have not seen in some time.”

“Touching.” The voice snorted, “Now, you got something to pay for entrance besides pretty words?”

“P-p-pay for entrance?” Ardwen stammered.

Ardwen saw the pair of eyes roll, “I knew you were a beggar.” And the little viewing port began to close-and then stopped.

“What the-“ The man exclaimed before seeing a hand gripping the bottom of the little viewing window’s frame. Whoever the fool was outside the door had stuck his hand in to prevent him from closing the wooden slat. It was not the first time someone had attempted this, sticking there hand in, their . . . armor-clad hand . . .

“Now,” Ardwen hissed, “you have a choice before you. Let me in, all nice and quiet, and you’ll get no trouble from me. Resist me in any way and I swear I’ll bust down this feeble door, gut you like the corpulent human pig you are, and then I’ll write her name again using your damn entrails!” With that the armored figure outside the door presented his left hand, it too was clad in metal – metal coated in blood.

Ardwen saw the eyes behind the little window grow wide, and in an instant he could hear a lock being undone and the door swung open. Ardwen hurried inside, the cool air and the sense of relief causing him to sigh. He glanced only once at the man who had stood bouncer at the door, his face was averted and he was studying the floor as if his eyes could cut a hole in the wood.

Taking no further notice of him, Ardwen quickly slid into a table. A few eyes turned to him, but one more patron entering did not garner that much attention. Ardwen kept his cloak wrapped around him and his face downcast. Suddenly a voice slurred out, “Why the hell does it smell like bloo-“

“Drinks barkeep!” Ardwen roared out, cutting the man off.

“I’m coming! I’m coming! No need to shout.” A woman called out as she wove her way from table to table.

The drunk who had moments before attempted to make a comment about Ardwen’s peculiar scent stumbled closer to the elf. “Keep calm,” Ardwen cautioned himself mentally, “remember! Play it smart! Don’t kill him, don’t kill him, don’t kill him . . .”

The inebriated man leaned in closer, sniffed and said two things, “Ya even have t’shave yet lad? See, back in,” here the man burped, and Ardwen smelled alcohol on his breath, “back in my day, a man wore a beard! Why’s ya smell like blo-“

“Barkeep!” Ardwen called out again, and suddenly he couldn’t help from laughing. It was a laugh born of desperation. He felt that his situation would have been hilarious if only he were not in it! Here he was on another world trying to save Ariana. He was awash in a sea of humanity, he had no clue how or if he could get home, and now he was trying to fend off incriminating statements from an old drunk. “I-“ Ardwen let out another hoarse laugh which caught his sentence in his throat.

“I don’t think you understand,” the elf tried once more, “to keep me waiting any more would be . . . murder.” Ardwen chortled at his own private joke. “Why,” He began again, “with better service I can almost guarantee you’d make a killing!” Ardwen bowed his head almost to the table; his laughter coming in short chuckles.

Ardwen raised his head up and looked at the drunk who had accosted him. The man’s eyes were grainy, his scruffy beard was solid grey, and his face was a mixture of wrinkles and paunchiness from too much drink. “No I don’t have to shave. Now, we’re going to play a little game, OK?”

“Ah, yeah, sure.” The man replied lazily.

Ardwen practically growled in reply, “It’s called ‘shut up or I kill you’. There’s only one rule to the game, I’ll be very curious to see if you can figure it out.”

Even the old man was not so drunk to realize he had come very close to crossing a dangerous line and as he backed away he was finally silent. Ardwen mentally congratulated the man on figuring out the rule. As he looked around though, he saw a goodly number of eyes turned toward him. Almost imperceptibly Ardwen shifted in his chair to better position himself in case he had to fight, and he also scanned the room: not for faces, but rather for potential exits.

“Not a good morning.” He sighed.

Written by - Tempyst

Alaric, along with the others, had turned to watch this large, new stranger. But when he heard the voice, it all fell into place. He turned his head to Kaya and whispered. "By the gods I do bleieve that is our friend Ardwen, you know, the big elf in all that black armor."

Kaya looked the elf over and it too fell into place. It is the berserker. At least he is not chomping on anyone's leg. "You are right Alaric, it is he; I wonder why he is here."

"As do I and I intend to find out. I had charged him once, with this sword here, then he left it behind. Now I have to find the rightful owner of it, here somewhere in this city, and then here, who shows up but the elf who had left it behind. I need to talk with him, it surely cannot be chance that we are meeting up here." Alaric stood, clutching a wrapped and tied bundle tightly. WIth a firm step, he made his way to the elf's table then sat down opposite him, placing the bundle upon the table. Kaya stood and followed Alaric, standing behind him protectively.

"So Ardwen my friend, what brings you all the way out here?" Alaric said. "And may I treat you to another drink?"

Written by - Ardwen Part II of Page 23 Book 3

Ardwen saw two people begin to approach his table, “Oh great,” he thought, “here we go.” But as the two got closer he recognized them: Alaric and Kaya. As Ardwen looked them over he noticed the parcel Alaric placed on the table as he sat down; it was Turin’s blade. Still wrapped in its colors of mourning, Ardwen flinched at the sight, as it was it was still a poignant reminder of his former Priest of Battle. A reminder he did not need at this juncture.

"So Ardwen my friend, what brings you all the way out here?" Alaric began. "And may I treat you to another drink?"

Ardwen didn’t respond immediately, he took a second to note Kaya’s position behind Alaric. She was standing slightly behind him. Ardwen took one more brief glance which told him that if it came to a fight Kaya would most likely move to the side while Alaric engaged directly, there was a table in between them, and besides from the side they could press him in two directions at once. Ardwen shook his head slightly, trying to clear such thoughts that had become automatic after a lifetime of war. He finally looked up at Alaric and said, “Water please,” seeing Alaric raise an eyebrow Ardwen continued, “I want to keep sharp. Alcohol clouds the mind and dulls the body. And if you’re buying I’d like some food as well – stew if possible.” Even if the water here was unclean (as Ardwen had little doubt it would be) he had drunk far worse on Aerynth, his body would shrug it off.

Pausing for a second Ardwen continued, “Not bothering to conceal names Alaric? Bravo, I hate such cringing cowardice.” Ardwen stopped and held his left hand out across the wrapped parcel on the table. He did not touch it, but the elf passed his hand over its length.

“Strange,” Ardwen started again, still staring reverently at the wrapped sword, “so strange you’d bother to carry around the sword of a dead man. You said he was a revered figure here?” Ardwen let out a laugh that was equal parts humor and amazement, “I wonder what he’d say to that?” Ardwen put on an official “scholarly” gloss and raised his voice to better annunciate his words, “Saint Turin Wallace, saint of fine red wines and playing boardgames while besieging cities!” Ardwen let out another snort of laughter before shaking his head at how ridiculous it sounded even to him.

“Ah, and to get to my purpose,” Ardwen started, he looked up and locked eyes with first Kaya and then Alaric in turn, a slight smile touched his lips and he said emotionlessly, “didn’t you get my message? I wrote her name all over a wall not too far from here. She’s here Alaric . . . I know it. And I intend to find her.”

“So,” Ardwen finished, “your turn to tale your tales.”

Written by - Tempyst

Kaya relaxed her stance and sat down at the table. "So you are the one who wrote that name on the wall, and knowing that, not surprised it was in blood. What? You didnt have enough body parts left to spell it out with?"

"Now, now Kaya, there is more here than meets the eye." Dorve interrupted them and put down a new bowl of stew in front of Ardwen. She snorted at the site of him, then went back to the other table to finish her ale. "So, you believe her to be here, after all this time? Amazing! That would make some sense too I suppose, with the dreams I have been having. I've been seeing Turin in my dreams, 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. Then there is an Archon, who pointed to Turin, then pointed in the direction I was to go and here I am. Ithramir sent the sword with me so I could return it. Do you know what this means Ardwen? Turin Wallace is here!"

Kaya listened to them spout names and wished they could just get onto business here.

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