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Book Three Pt 2 - The Reckoning

Written by - Ariana Page 43 Book 3

Mavigan rolled her eyes at Teran and his supposedly sarcastic wit. But when he had the gall to assume she was content to leave behind innocent folks, her response could not be contained.

“You,” she said with an imperious air, “are a Moron." He could hear the capital letter. "When I said “here”, I meant here.” She further emphasized her statement by gesturing to their present confines. “I didn’t mean here!” With that she moved her hands to convey the entirety of the cavern and their situation.

Mimicking his action, she too poked her head out of the doorway, muttering as she did so. “There is a beastie down here, I heard it. I would rather go around the cursed thing than straight into it.” As Teran looked one way, she looked the other and to her delight saw Keeryn with Sabbatine standing there. Flashing Keeryn a smile, she added haughtily, as if her next statement would settle the matter. “And Keeryn agrees with me!”

Written by - Ariana

The dream came, as it often did.

Dressed all in white, she stood on the frozen surface of a black lake in bare feet. The surface was so shiny and smooth it could have been obsidian, but she wasn’t fooled. She had, after all, done this before.

As though thought dictated action, the glimmering surface of the lake ruffled slightly, as if from a breeze. The ruffles turned to small waves that began to lap at her feet as two large sheets of darkness rose from beneath the surface. She watched them with wary eyes, wondering what they would show her this time.

Once the blocks reached a level even with her eyes, they stopped and hovered over the surface of the lake. As she watched, images began to form on the surface, first outlines, then bit by bit, color was added. When the process was complete, she gasped at what she saw.

The pane on the left showed a woman, dressed in white as she was, with features that exhibited a deep and soul-wrenching sadness. There were bags under the woman’s eyes from many sleepless nights, and worry lines had etched themselves into the creases of her face. In one hand she held a candle that burned brightly, but cast deep shadows across the woman’s face, as if even the presence of light could not lift this woman’s burden.

The pane on the right showed the same woman, dressed in the leather garb of a warrior stained the color of dried blood. Her face showed no sadness, only cruelty and dark determination which was emphasized by the jagged scar that ran across one cheek. Where the other woman held a candle that burned brightly and banished the darkness, this one held a pike upon which rested the head of her most recent kill. Blood, so dark it appeared black made a slow trail of gore down the pike and onto the hand and arm of the woman who bore it proudly.

She took a step back, away from these images, the black surface upon which she stood squelching with each step. These were very different from the images she had been shown before and she fidgeted with indecision.

And then, from one breath to the next, her dream became a nightmare. The semi-solid surface upon which she stood turned to sludge and she began to sink. Looking down at her feet to try and pull herself loose, she saw that she wasn’t just sinking, she was being pulled under. A dark hand clutched her leg tightly, the black nails shaped into fine points that pierced her skin as it drug her slowly, inexorably down into the sludge.

As she was being pulled under, there was a ripple of movement from the inky sludge around her, followed by an explosion as thousands of bubbles burst from the black swamp to hover in mid-air, far from her reach. She could see movement within each of them, and she knew that somehow this could save her. She reached as high as she could desperate to take hold of one, but though she stretched forth her arms, they remained frustratingly out of reach.

Tears of frustration poured down her cheeks to mix with the viscous liquid that was enveloping her, but it wasn’t until the suffocating blackness closed over her head that she screamed.

Written by - Rikshanthas

It was all a nightmare. Just a crazy, stress-induced nightmare, and Leinad was convinced that any minute now, he would wake up in his bed and laugh it off.

He had been on the deck of the 'Call, sailing toward the inevitable confrontation with destiny, when it seemed as if his sanity decided to go on strike. The deck, the whole ship, the entire harbour, washed away as an angry painter smears his hand across a work which displeases him, to be replaced by what Leinad could only rationalize as a waking dream. Old wounds he had thought healed with time, were torn open once more as he was forced to relive the worst memories he had ever tried to forget, every moment in agonizing detail. First the expedition with his mother in his youth, which became a massacre as they had stumbled into an orc ambush. Their party, many of whom were like family, was decimated in minutes. He was once again forced to watch one of the orc lieutenants send his mother's head sailing across the battlefield, and over twenty years of reflection still did not allow him to overcome the conviction that he could have saved her, had he been just a little faster, just a little stronger ... and a lot braver. It was the first time in his life his resolve had failed, the shock of his mother's death petrifying him until a blow to the head brought blackness.

He had spent the next eight months as an orc prisoner, so numb that he had been mostly spared the lash, meekly following orders without a sound, or so it seemed. For unbeknownst to the orcs, and to Leinad's own regret, he gave into the darkness that day. Fear left him, as did care for pain and concern for others, all that remained was black hatred, and the rage he contained had fueled him through every grueling task the orcs had put to him. So it was that when he made his escape, his savagery took the orcs completely by surprise - he had literally torn a few of them apart with his bare hands and teeth, and mutilated several more when he found a weapon. The search parties they sent to recapture him suffered heavy losses, for he had taken his mother's lessons concerning guile and stealth tactics to heart, and he wasted no time taking his revenge, sometimes using the same kind of trap and ambush as had cornered his party. The orcs consistently underestimated him, for they believed him only human. But Leinad's mother had been a half-elf, and she had passed on many traits which Leinad used to the fullest - his hearing was keener, his vision clearer, and he was exceptionally agile and fleet of foot for a human. He continued to harass the orc camp for a full month, using their search parties for practice and leaving their mutilated and decapitated remains to be found by their companions. Eventually the orcs sent out a large force to raze the forest around the camp and get rid of the 'pest' (Leinad chuckled viciously at this memory, that he, a lone human boy, had been able to so stir up an orc clan, but it had worked in his favor). They were forced to return the next morning when they sighted smoke rising from the camp; their chieftain's head greeted them at the door, mounted on the same pike as his wife. Another pike held the heads of the search party commanders from the past month. He had entered the camp under cover of night and assassinated the chief and his woman while they slept, going on to eliminate every other orc in the camp in utter silence, so that the camp was emptied without a whisper of an alarm. The women were not spared Leinad's bloodthirst that night, but upon finding children in the camp, he paused, something in him staying his hand. But only for a moment, and he quickly and efficiently made sure there would be no one to raise an alarm. He released the other prisoners as a matter of incident, to further hurt the orcs; one of them, who had been like an uncle to him, took one look at the blood-soaked boy and shook his head, whispering a prayer to the All-Father as he left, for he had seen the darkness in his eyes. When Leinad was fairly certain the camp had been cleared of all life, he set fire to the buildings, using whatever accelerants he could find to hasten the process. The smoke drew the attention of a passing cavalry troop, who made short work of the remainder of the orc marauders, but were surprised when they saw the state of the camp, believing it a barbarian attack until one of the former prisoners told them the truth. They returned to civilization, two ice-blue eyes watching them coldly from the trees as they went. He didn't know who they were, nor did he care at the time, but he could still remember the troop as an azure sea, both envying and hating their gleaming, perfect appearance.

With the orcs dead, his hate had turned to those who had effectively sent his company to their deaths. He became an accomplished assassin; no one knew his name, but his methods became infamous, after he paid several prominent individuals a visit. His victims were found decapitated with a black dagger through the heart and a white lotus resting on the stump; the heads were always found 9 feet from the bodies. No one would ever know the significance of this signature, for Leinad could never speak of those dark years of his life. A simple twist of chance in his twentieth year changed him forever. The incident had been burned into his memory, for it had revealed to him how far he had fallen, and for the nearly two decades since, it continued to haunt him.

History would record the death of a wealthy merchant of Westgale named Valdaine as the last known case of the Lotus Assassin's presence in Greyshire. The man's body was found with a dagger wound to the heart, but his head was still attached, and in his hands was the signature lotus, the petals stained red. Authorities were baffled by the seeming change in pattern, and even more so by the abrupt end to the murders. In truth, Leinad had stabbed the merchant in the darkness, and when the man fell into the lamplight, he saw he had murdered his own estranged father. The realization that he had been so blinded by hate and anger as to destroy the closest thing to family he had left, cracked the shell he had become, leaving only emptiness. Unable to bring himself to continue his pattern and behead the man, Leinad instead set him in a state of repose, placing his hands over the wound in his heart and setting upon them the lotus which had been his mother's favorite flower. He then took the dagger which had ended his father's life and stumbled out into the night, a deep depression seizing him.

The memory faded, but the feeling of empty, crushing despair remained. Leinad stood in darkness, everything around him shrouded from view. He still held the black iron dagger which would eternally symbolize pain and loss for him, though it had grown since his memory, for it now had the length of a sword. It also felt uncomfortably hot in his hand, but he could not throw it away. He saw himself, a fading, middle-aged mercenary who had nothing behind him but death and misery, and nothing to look forward to but more of the same. He saw the harm he had brought to those around him, how he frequently hindered those he wished to help. The blade in his hand seemed welcoming; a quick slice would bring an end to the regrets, the fears, the pain. He looked at it for a long moment, a single tear rolling down his cheek, over the scar that ever served as a reminder of his shadowed youth.

He was about to put the blade to his neck when he felt a hand come to rest on his shoulder. The darkness all around him brightened to natural night; he stood once more on the deck of the Far Sea's Call. Leinad realized what he had been about to do, and why ... and what would have happened to his soul had he done so. He looked down at the black blade in his hand, shuddering inwardly; the weapon burned like the sun, yet he felt no pain. As he focused on the sword, it began to glow molten orange, warping and brightening into the familiar golden dragon's wing of Astalder as the sword threw off the demonic illusion. Leinad's resolve hardened; he recalled his last despairing thoughts with open laughter. Death he had behind him in plenty, and misery; but ahead of him lay death and misery to those who would oppose him, not for himself. Such he swore loudly, raising the enchanted blade high with an old elven oath of valour. Middle-aged? Fading? Hah! He was a quarter elven and not even forty, he could look forward to sixty years or more as hale and hearty as he was at that moment. He did not need to turn to know whose hand now squeezed his shoulder reassuringly before sliding off, who always seemed to be there just when he needed her the most. With her at his side he could face anything.

Which was just as well, because at that point things actually got weird.

There were fiends, and strange shark-squid-eel-man-things, an Arch-Demon and a harpy, storms and fireballs. A flying blind man and an elf druid who seemed somehow older than the sea itself. The priestess they had rescued nearly blasting the fiends with far more power than any simple acolyte. The crusader he had met during the rescue all but ordering the shark-things off their ship, and being obeyed. And that was what Leinad had been able to follow.

The battle ended somewhat abruptly; the three ships sailed abreast toward the morning. And life goes on, Leinad thought to himself, turning away from where he stood at the 'Call's prow to find a quiet cabin to think. Silently he vowed that at the first opportunity he would find out who the hell these people were, and why his life had gone crazy ever since he'd met them.

Written by - Agmund

“Eadarolus…” the aged sorcerer said under his breath, but loud enough to be heard, “will soon be covered in chaos. Too the south,” he pointed to the faded tapestry hanging in front of him, “the witch Kiradia emerges… but where shall she strike next? And whom is she working with, if anyone? What strength of numbers does she bring with her? So many questions yet unanswered… Too the north the orc horde has marched,” his finger slowly traces upwards, “and beyond the eastern range Beredaine wages war against Westgale.”

Pulling his hand away from the tapestry, the sorcerer Agmond crossed his arms, and his brow wrinkled in thought. Then he began to speak again, as if he were giving himself counsel. “If it is as we believe, and Beredaine is in league with Durok. Then Durok will focus on Harathad-Dor as Beredaine slowly breaks Westgale. In order to aid Beredaine, Durok will be forced to either breach the southern or northern pass, both of which continue to elude him.”

“But then,” his hand went to his bearded chin and began to draw strands of gray straight down thru his fingers, “How aware is he of the danger to his west? He has to be aware that the Ellenshauer and the people of the Five Kings are united under one banner… surely,” he nodded in agreement. “Is his force large enough to fight those of both the east and west?” his eyebrow raised in question.

“And… what will happen when his forces and those of the witch collide. Will they join together or will one try and force the other aside and merely wait to tackle the victor… while they are weak,” he stepped away from the tapestry and then exited the room altogether; now he stood upon a small balcony, mountain walls extended out in front of it, but then gradually gave way. Beyond them, one could only see clouds of mist and hear the crashing waves of the sea and the squelching sound of seagulls.

Agmond’s hands slide down to the stone railing and he held it tightly as he looked outwards. The railing was patched with moss in places, but an expanse upon its top was kept free by his roaming hands. Most of the tower and the balcony itself were carved directly from the mountainside. Only a very small visible portion was built of rock, and covered with a wooden roof, and that was at its pinnacle. Nestled within two great arms of the mountain, and at its height, the tower was nigh invisible.

This was the place that Agmond did his best thinking, but today his thinking was clouded with doubts seemingly from all directions, and as his hands glided back and forth upon the railing, he only grew more restless. “That balcony is certainly not going to give us the answers we need,” a voice came from the study and brought the sorcerer back to reality, “what word of Throrgrum and his mission.”

“None,” Agmond said, stepping back into the room and slipping into a tall wooden chair. It was the only chair in the circular room, and it sat slightly to one side of a low table of similar dark brown color. Beneath the chair and table, stretched a circular red rug that extended to within a few feet of bookcase covered walls. Following in line with the bookcases were a host of cluttered up wooden stands of all kinds, and with their own unique assortment of oddities.

A few merely maintained an oddly stacked arrangement of books, while others had the singular pleasure of displaying stuffed animals, or jars of ghastly parts. Although the table itself was small in comparison to the room, it was not nearly as disheveled. One might even think it out of place, with a just a small stone bowl in its center. Rather plain next to the wealth of books, framed leaves and bugs, stuffed animals, jarred things of all types, and even a few strange rocks and tree branches that adorned the remainder.

However, the bowl had more to reveil than at first glance one might see. It was lined with unarranged fall leaves, and had a shallow layer of water. The water is what the sorcerer looked into as he spoke again, “At this point we can only assume that Throrgrum and Morthand are dead. In which case we must either assign this task to someone else, or one of us must do it… that is if we wish to truly know how strong Durok’s forces are.”

“What word of the Queen?” Agmond pushed a roaming leaf aside and peered into the water. The ripples created caused a voice to break off, but then quickly the water calmed and he could once more make out the voice and face. It was that of his brother, and the priest looked back at him from a shrouded room, since the only thing Agmond could make out was his face and the ceiling, that being at a peculiar angle as well.

“Its about time… I was beginning to think I was going to be looking at that leaf for the entire conversation,” Agmund muttered. “I have no news of her as yet, however, I feel in my heart she is well,” his face came more into focus as he leaned over what seemed to be a bowl filled likewise with fall leaves, “I think it would be wise for you to travel to Dagafeln and for me to make my way to Tuscrin.”

“While I agree that I should journey to Dagafeln, with great haste, yet equal caution, I believe you should stay put for the time being,” Agmond replied and then continued, “You have yet to give counsel, let alone learn what we may not know, or even search for someone to travel south in your stead… someone far younger and more cunning than you prerrably.”

Agmund was about to defend himself, or perhaps offer rebuttal, but his brother saw the scowl upon his face and gave him pause, “I am merely saying that a modicum of patience is in order. You have after all only just arrived at Lothiel-Gadith after long and difficult travel, and though you still have energy in those bones of yours, it is apparent you are weary. Now is the time for you to rest. Speak with Lord Ithramir, and perhaps even wait for the return of the Queen.”

Both were silent for a moment, as if they took an interlude to compose their thoughts, and arrange the many facets of complex past, present, and future events. Agmund finally broke the silence, and his face and voice filled the bowl as he did “Very well… I will remain here for the time being, and see if I can offer counsel. During this time I will likewise search for someone to send south, possibly by sea, since the pass will be too treacherous. That will naturally require someone with youth and cunning,” he added with sarcasm.

“If you are able and time permits contact me by way of Eirfalcon when you reach Dun-Amulk,” the priest leaned further in, whispering low and under his breath, “Be wary brother, my guess is that many goblin eyes still permeate the Eirwood… and beyond.” Father agmund pointed to a slowly spinning leaf within the water, and then his lungs bellowed a stream of air between perched lips. The leaf’s spin gave way, and the water vibrated in tiny white ripples… and then the candle lit ceiling of the tower study faded into nothingness.

The elder brother and priest of the All-Father slumped back into the elven chair of Lothiel-Gadith, and briefly he began to close his eyes. Though, just as they began to shut, they fell upon a painting on the wall, and as quickly as he had begun to fall asleep he awakened. “The colors are vibrant but dull,” he spoke aloud, “and the detail is fine, but not overly so.”

Of course the painting was of the citadel of Lothiel-Gadith, albeit at a great distance, and there standing on a grass covered hill in the forefront was a host of elves riding towards the viewer. “The riders appear stern as if the task that lay ahead is grim, yet the artist reflects a sort of determination, indeed he makes it appear,” the priest stood up and moved to stand in front of the painting. Taking his spectacles out he leaned in for a better view, “that they already succeeded.”

The tone of his voice at the end hinted at his curiosity: questioning his own interpretation. Then his voice echoed in the chamber as he cried out, “Ohhh! The great battle for Minas-Uial in the first elven age of Eadarolus! It was the armor that gave you away,” he chuckled with pride and held up a finger; tapping his bald head, “I may be old but let it not be said that I am not learned.”

After turning around and stretching for a few minutes, he erupted in an animated yawn, with brows curling inward and eyes clinched closed. But the yawn changed, and his brows switched direction, one looming high above the other as if in a contest to see who could climb his mountainous forehead. “But who is the artist,” he muttered with a glance over his shoulder. Turning he began to renew life within the seat cushions with rapid chops from his hands.

“Elven artists,” he snorted, “Why cant you be like any other artist and put your name where I can see it. Spinning around he scooted the table with his hands and rear end until it was just the right distance for him to perch his feet upon the table; and prevent his feet from falling asleep. “What? You think I can’t see it because I am old?” he continued to mutter, “hell I couldn’t have made it out fifty years ago.”

Now his eyes had already shut, his breath had slowed, and a slow methodical snore had been initiated, but still he spat out, “and don’t think I am going to keep scanning the entire painting to look for it.” And one could barely hear him say that, however, he spoke up again with a grumpier attitude, “At least try and make it a little more obvious. Adding, “signatures detract from the canvas my ass” as he rolled over just a hair, and lastly “hiding them draws the subject further into the creation,” in a near taunting manner as he began to snore.

Written by - Sycon

She flew close to the edges of the city, flying high over the buildings just as twilight broke into the sky. It was still night and the crickets giving a cadence to the wing beats. Her wings turned, slowly circling down. The city spun below, almost nausating as the windows glowed slightly. Sycon looked back, watching as Ardwen seemlingly calculating his fall to a safe position. A spell was being laid as the air was almost stiff with energy. For a dragon to land in the city, even the guards that were half asleep would notice. Stealth was the objective, but the fatal flaw was the drop from at least ten stories high. This particular spell was one to make an object fall like a feather.

Her head hung low to utter a few last words, but they were lost to Sycon in the roar of the wind. A quick shrug of his shoulders and Ardwen was aloft in the air, taking a nose dive towards the ground. Sycon would allow several seconds to space between the two, ensuring a mid air collision would not occur.

This is not your fight. Her head was turned toward him as the thought appeared in his head. It was her voice, but something was not right. Remember our pact, your gease and my worry. Mavigan is the key I search for. I am sorry, but I have already done too much and will not allow you to delay my plans any longer. Her eyes flashed a bright white light. The light enveloped Sycon's vision. He could not look away. He could feel his muscles jerk, but he could not see himself nor control it.

Cold... aching cold. As the light grew stronger, the more heat was leeched from his body. It was as if he was falling into an abyess. His body continued convulsing but it was just a waning tone compared to the coldness that seemed penetrate his soul. He could feel his heart beat slow.

Awww, the cold. It deepened as his vision was completely lost to the abyess of the light. The cold deepened until it became almost warm, compelling him to pull away, but there was no escaping. His heart beat grew faster, harder. The body, his body, began accepting the intensity. It filled with energy and forced him to thrash about, screaming, but unable to control any of it. It felt as if he was watching his writhing body being tortured, yet there was nothing he could do.

My little hero. Why do you resist my love? The pain of his body folded back into his mind. Once, twice, three times it folded back in waves. Pain, the cold, the heat... INSANITY. Blackness...

Present Time

Sycon's body flailed through the air quickly gaining ground on the Fair Seas Call. Unbeknown to Sycon, twilight began to glisten on the horizon. No thought ran through Sycon's head, no inclination of conscience or perception of reality. The wind ran through Sycon's unruly pure silver hair, his eyes closed as his body moved closer to the Fair Seas Call as his body picked up speed.

Pain shot through his back. His downward angle towards the ship had slammed him into the main mast as he bounced to the deck of the ship. It was hard and smelled of salt. His eyes opened, shining brightly of mercury orbs rotating where his iris and pupils once were. A blank stare on his face as he rose to his feet and moved aft on the ship. He was not aware of any of his surroundings except what was in front of him. One tall creature, human thing and two short. Sycon did not care for their race or culture, nor did he even consider the fact of what they were. Only fire in his veins, only energy as he felt every nerve in his body spark in never ending pain and ecstacy.

Two of three turned to look into his eyes, and two of three reared back in fear. Sycon grabbed one and threw him off to the side, a mighty barbaric throw that slammed the short one into the railings. He turned, hitting the second, knocking him to the ground several feet away. The third ducked under Sycon and ran forward on the ship. Sycon ran wildly toward the man, easily catching him and tackling him to the ground beating his back several times until the man fell unconcious. Sycon stood and turned to where the healers had been kneeling. A prostate form lay where the men had knelt. Raising his fists to shatter the form below him as he looked into the tranquil face of his prey.

"Ari...ana..." the words wispered from Sycon's lips. His eyes faded from the mercury to that of a pale grey. His eyes watered as his fists lowered, droping to his sides. "I... I..." His knees gave out and hit the deck hard. Tears rolled down his cheeks, his head hung low over Ariana's docile form. He slumped to the side, and his head found the comfort of his hands, weeping uncontrollably... without shame.

Written by - Euralia

My little hero. Why do you resist my love?

From below, anyone with a sharp eye would have noticed a bright flash of light from a star that hadn't been there before. Anyone resting on the cloud nearby would have seen the silver dragon slide the man off of her back and catch him in her front arms, arms?, holding on to him surely, but gently, as she poured her power into him. The pair glowed as the power bled from her into him. Had you been on that cloud, you would have seen the tear slide from her eye as his body convulsed in her arms. Slowly, the white light shifted to the man away from the woman. Woman? The lady held the unconscious man in her arms tears streaming down her face. Had you been watching from that cloud, you would have noticed the slight bump under the dragonwoman's dress as she floated away beneath the clouds, carrying the man to safety.

She looked down at the man in her arms as she tried to convince herself she was doing the right thing. He is needed elsewhere. Everything I've worked for, I am working for, will be ruined if he is killed. He goes to rescue his dearest Ariana, but she has other saviors. No, Sycon is meant for other tasks. How many times have I tried to tell him, Mavigan is the key. She sighed, but could not stop the tears streaming down her face. She had given him much of her power, enough to drive a sane man over the edge. She would not need much in the weeks to come, she could not return to dragon form safely. Sycon would not gain consciousness for days, possibly weeks. But when he woke, he would not be what he once was, the power raging in his veins is more than his mind can handle. I will have to keep him under tight control after he wakes. If I don't, he will hurt someone, and who knows who that might be.

The dragonwoman carried her lover's body to a place on the beach, away from all others, so that his body and mind would have time to adapt to the power. As she cared for him over the next day, she did much to convince herself that she had done the right thing. Finally, she walked to a pool of water not disturbed by the tide. She studied her reflection and, placing a hand on her stomach, she knew she was right.

That night, the dragonwoman awoke frantic after a dream where the man had disappeared. She rolled over on the sand to look at his face, and reassure herself, but his face was not there. Sycon was gone.

She searched the rest of the night for him without luck. His body had taken the power too well. It had only been a day! She could only hope that his mind had taken it just as well, because if not, someone was in trouble.

At sunset, she began her search for Ariana, and, she knew, Sycon would be there.

Written by - Tempyst

Dorve paced back and forth along the deck, stroking her beard. "When are we to reach shore? I canna stand being on this boat any longer, it tisn't natural!"

Kaya smiled at the dwarf. "It will be alright Dorve, just be patient, we will arrive to solid ground soon enough, then you can transport us to the citadel to rest."

"I hope so, because allthis water is making me crazy!" Dorve plunked herself down beside Kaya. "ANd to top it off, do we even get a thanks from anyone for helping out. That woman is not my Queen."

"She not be mine either, but I am sure your thanks will come in due time my friend. There is something going on with her though, for the demons to be so interested. It may be Nyrondis will wish us to stick close to her and fight any more that may try to come to take her."

Dorve sighed. "You may be right, and I won't mind that as long as we can all get off this ship soon!" Kaya patted Dorve's shoulder. Let me inform the others that once we reach land we can get them to the citadel, 10 at a time, for those who wish to go." Dorve nodded and set about braiding some tiny braids into her beard. Kaya stood, stretched and looked about to see who was up on deck.

Suddenly a man appeared from the sky and began to assault the crew, but before he could be stopped, he fell to his knees aside the woman on the deck, the queen, and began to sob. Dorve stood and went over to the young man, along with Kaya, both to make sure he did not do anymore harm to anyone. Seeing that he was all but incapacitated Dorve went to attend to those who had been wounded in the tirade. Kaya looked to Vylia and Ardwen and others. "Is he one of yours or shall we dispence with him?" Kaya placed her hand upon A'lanthear and waited for a response.

"That is Sycon," replied Ardwen, "a member of the Hands of Providence and my friend. He seems to have come out of some sort of madness or spell, as he now recognizes the Abbess. I will take him below so the healers can treat him, along with those he knocked aside."

With that Ardwen reached down and gathered Sycon into his arms. Sycon made no resistance and seemed to accept Ardwen's action. Ardwen carried him below, and the healers on the deck followed along with those who had been hurt during Sycon's arrival. Kaya looked at Dorve and showed her confusion with a shrug. Dorve replied that they may as well go below and get some rest themselves, so they too went below decks.

The small fleet continued sailing south towards the islands known at the Hand.

Here ends Book 3 of the House Ancora saga, which is continued in Book Four - The Eastern Pass Pt 1.

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