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Book Two - A Gathering Storm

Written by - Archeantus Page 2 Book 2

“Master.”

It was Kishkumen.

Quickly arising, Gadianton peered upon their surroundings, still slightly disoriented. They were in a jail cell, the cold of the dungeon bit deep, and he shivered. His anger was mounting.

“Do not be alarmed.” Kishkumen calmly said.

“What have you done?” Gadianton fired back, throwing the ragged blanket from his lying form and standing vehemently.

“When you lost consciousness, there were shouts out in the wood, a patrol; they had seen the light of the portal.” Kishkumen explained concisely, eyeing his master as he paced around the jail cell.

“And you…?” Gadianton whispered through his teeth.

“Killed and raised them as my own. They served us well.” The necromancer whispered with a slight smile, his ancient elven eyes remained cool and deadly.

“They carried us.” Gadianton stated referring to the bounty hunter and himself. He was peering through the rusty steel bars of the cell thoughtfully.

Kishkumen said nothing, choosing not to compliment his master’s perception, acknowledging his presumption that he would have quickly understood.

“They did not take too kindly to their patrols being turned into undead minions.” Gadianton continued, and actually chuckled.

He then turned and faced the dark robed mage.

“And the bounty hunter?”

“I do not know what became of him. They took us quickly once we came within the gate. They took him elsewhere. I do know the one we captured is in the cell next to us.” Kishkumen meekly said. “I surmised the best course of action was not to further agitate the bees in the hive.”

Gadianton nodded in thought and quickly turned to the door to the cell.

“Guard!” He called out.

Slowly a guard came, drunkenly.

Gadianton revealed the seal of the kingdom underneath his elven cloak. “Release me at once.” He commanded.

The guard laughed.

Gadianton’s expression shifted, his face cleared of any emotion. His steel grey eyes looked upon the guard as one might look upon an ant.

“Are you ready to rile the hive?” He asked the mage behind him, still staring morbidly at the guard.

“As you wish, master.” Kishkumen said, and quickly began to chant.

The guard had begun to wipe his eyes from his drunken induced laughter, still unaware of what was just about to happen. “That…seal, won’t s-save yoo---“ He stopped mid sentence as he beheld a large bright green circle of light appear just over the two inmate’s heads. One of them continued to look at him strangely; the other looked up to the portal.

Suddenly a large monstrosity fell through the green circle and down with a loud thud.

At one sight of the huge grotesque figure in the darkness, the guard changed his tune and screamed in horror.

He ran as the cell door flew from its rusty hinges.

Out of the cell, they emerged. The summoned brother of the mage, the same that Gadianton and Vermigard had faced high up in the mage’s tower to the north, stood fully erect once he stepped from the cell. He stood nearly twelve feet high. He was bare-chested, half his body seemed to be alive with a sort of pink membrane that pulsed and shifted inwardly. He seemed to be constantly growing, changing, morphing. In his hand he held the massive sword, twice as tall as a normal man. He heaved in breaths as if it gave him strength. Spittle spewed from his teeth clenched mouth.

“Brother, hold a moment.” The mage whispered, placing his hood over his head. “I must check on my captive before we…have a little fun.”

The monstrosity actually smiled.

Turning to Gadianton, upon seeing his captive was still sound asleep, the mage whispered quickly, “I placed a sleeping spell upon him. I do not know when he’ll awake, but I suspect any moment. I was unable to secure the lich within my hold. The key to unlock him involves something beyond my own power. We must discover why he has such a being trapped in his soul. Such a being, coupled with my collection of souls, under my control could lay waste to towns, cities, nations, and this very world.”

Gadianton then understood the man’s, importance. “Is he secure here, if he should come to?”

“I do not know what powers he possesses, or whom is in control of whom.” The mage whispered from the dark recesses of his hood.

“Then you must stay here and make sure he does nothing to free himself.” Gadianton replied, and then added. “Will your brother follow my every command?”

Kishkumen’s brother answered before the mage could speak. His voice seemed to come from the grave.

“I would follow the chosen one to the depths of the abyss.”

Gadianton raising an eyebrow turned and started forward.

“Come then, Beridane will pay for such insolence.”

Watching the two walk down the dimly lit dank corridor, the mage finally turned his attention back to the sleeping man in the cell, and waited . . .

Written by - Pharsalus

THUMP thump...

All is black in the mind of a father whose lost a son. Not just lost him - lost him to darkness.

THUMP thump...

Not to the gods, or to peace, or to some great end and purpose.

THUMP thump...

Only to Nothing.

******

"Dad!"

Where Geirik was once suspended in the dreamless black of slumber, now he stood in a shaded wood, leaves blowing in carefree swirls at his feet.

"Dad? Where are you?"

The old man, still blinking against the onslaught of a mid-day sun, allowed his eyes to scan the surroundings. Trees as tall as they were old stretched thick as far as Geirik's weary eyes could see. He took a step, unsure of where he was or how he got there.

"Dad!," the voice said again. Geirik looked about, more focused at determining the voice's source.

"Dad! Come to me!"

As his foot fell excitedly against the soft forest floor, the scenery swirled and faded away. The light, the tickle of leaves caught in the warm summer wind against his face, the voice - all of it seemed to fade away like the retreating waves of the morning tide. The old bounty hunter found himself once again in blackness...

But now there was another. Standing irradiated before him was a young man, his eyes and face concealed in a shadow cast from his deep forehead and fiery red hair. He stood with his arms loose at his side, almost hunched, like a child disappointed in its parents.

"Dad" the figure echoed. "You have forgotten me."

Geirik tensed, and his mouth shown agape. He fought to keep his composure, to keep his hands steady, but the force of memory was a powerful thing. He took a nervous step forward, outstretching a gloved hand while trying to force an answer to his tongue. None came - he could only stair in wonder through moistened eyes. In the figure's eyes, Geirik saw himself and another, younger man, laughing, talking, fighting, crying, laughing again - then nothing. The blackness around the two figures throbbed with whispers and voices, conversations, beginning first as a distant hum and growing into a dull roar. The nothing.

"Dad," the figure said again. Geirik's eyes began to tear. "You have failed me. You have forgotten me."

Geirik took another step forward, now outstretching his other hand. This couldn't be real. This man before him could not exist. His mind burned with memories - memories he'd not had in so many years, their presence was almost an agony.

He forced a response through a tight throat. "N..no..! Before Geirik could finish, the man's outline disintegrated, becoming vaprous and seeming to grow to inhuman heights. The voice deepened and scraped across the air now seething with black and purple energy. The form now before him was all too familiar - a Liche.

"YOU HAVE FORGOTTEN ME!"

"NO....

..OOOO!!" Geirik sat up, his hands still shaking, his heart still struggling to absorb it all. The emotions, the memories - things he'd worked a lifetime to forget - all still flashed before him. What was this? Some game? Some trick by that damnable being trapped within him? No - it was not the Liche's doing. Geirik fought for control over his mind and tried to calm himself. He hadn't realized it before, but his hands were clenched as upturned fists before him, the leather of his gloves pulled tight over his nuckles. He remembered these gloves now - they were...

He looked away, realising that things were not as they should have been. Memories of the present - of the fortress, his journey north, the strange men in the sewer - came crashing back into the foreground of his mind. He was surrounded by dark, hewn stone - a prison cell - lit faintly by a wall sconce situated across a narrow hallway. The sconce itself was obscured by wide metal bars, and the outline of a man. Geirik fought for focus in his eyes, but it would not come. As he tried to move, his body burned and ached, and the back of his head throbbed. He fell back reclined, unable to will a response out of his racked form. Every fiber of his being ached, as if some sordid hand had torn out his innards and then stuck them back in again...dirty, tangled, torn.

Though he could not see the man's eyes through the darkness now overcoming him, Geirik knew he was being watched. His eyes slowly blurred and faded, his lids falling slowly, heavily, back into place.

And he slept.

Written by - Archeantus

As Gadianton and Kishkumen’s brother reached the end of the corridor, Gadianton turned to the weapon holding cell and regained his elven sword and bow and his blade he’d taken from Teran. By this time the large behemoth beside him began to paw at the ground ready to charge, eyeing the stairs that led upward across from them.

“Follow me; we’re going straight for Beridane.” Gadianton said, his eyes, too were fixed on the darkness of the stairs upward.

Kishkumen’s brother nodded menacingly.

“You’ll head up there first, show them how mean you can be, and I’ll clean up the mess.” Gadianton added.

“Go. Now.”

Without a second thought, the large monstrosity bolted up the stairs with an agonizing cry that reverberated shrilly up to those who obviously were waiting on them. Gadianton was right at his back as they cleared the top of the stairs and plowed right into a legion of guards who carried pikes, all pointed trepidly toward the entrance of the dungeon. The Giant skidded to a halt and swung his mighty sword nearly horizontally across the pikes, crushing a few of them, and knocking a couple out of their master’s trembling hands. Upon seeing the colossal visage of a man, the pulsating membrane, the wild fiery eyes, a few in the back turned and ran for their lives. Once there was an opening, another wide sweeping sword swing cut into the mass of guards. After that, it was a slaughter. Gadianton appeared out of nowhere behind the giant and picked off the last few. The moment the last guard fell, Gadianton continued forward down a long corridor, down a large stairs and through a door. There they met a couple guards who would never be able to explain how they had died. The two then ran through an expansive and decorated room with large stained glass windows that portrayed the royal family. Gadianton noticed their portraits had been marred and desecrated. They burst into another large room, obviously the dining room and to the utter surprise of the drunken guests inside who were celebrating everywhere, on top of the enormous long oak table, dancing off to the sides, pulling down tapestries that had hung there for centuries, suddenly they found themselves in their worst nightmare. Off duty guards, harlots, merchants, all feeding on the spoils of Ancora were cut down in wide mouthed shock.

Gadianton slowed at this point going through the next door carefully. With a quick peek through the other side, they passed into a balcony that led down to the courtyard where many of Ancora’s mixed citizenry spent the day. It was morning and many of the merchants were out setting up shop.

“Keep with me. Don’t attack unless I do.” Gadianton commanded as they passed through the doorway across the balcony.

The two ran down the stairs and straight through the courtyard to the huge royal doors that led to the inner castle, and the throne room. They didn’t harm any down in the courtyard, most simply screamed, or ran, and most had no idea what they had just seen. Yet word had caught with the local guards that there had been a jailbreak. A few up on the battlement armed with bows aimed down on them. Gadianton was quick and dropped one, the other fired at the giant. The arrow bounced off his tough hide. Another arrow from Gadianton sent him to his death down to the courtyard below. By this time they ran past the large double doors and straight into the large doors that led to the royal chamber.

They burst in, swords dripping with blood.

******

The man in the cell suddenly sat upright with a slight cry, his fists rose and held clenched. A wash of fear spread through Kishkumen and he took one step back from the bars, preparing for anything. The sudden movement had actually startled him. He knew, he was intimidated by the liche. No mortal could stand up straight in the presence of one, especially if they knew the power one possessed. The elven necromancer had spent his whole life, thousands of years to prepare to face a being as powerful as the one that was locked deep in the soul of this….man. Yet the fear quickly faded as he saw the man peer around his cell, finally resting his disoriented gaze upon him through the steel bars and then the man’s head drooped, his eyes slowly closed again, and he again rested.

The necromancer’s mind went at ease once more and began to race through the many questions he had. First was he had no idea how to approach discovering the answers. How could a liche be within a simple human? How did such a thing happen? Despite these questions, he knew one thing, no liche would stay within a human; it had to be trapped. The human was it’s prison.

The mage smiled at this thought. And then an idea crossed his mind. Perhaps he could establish communication with the liche through the soul stone; perhaps he could tempt it to reveal how it could be set free. Perhaps if the liche was as desperate to free itself as he assumed he could dive to the bottom of the mystery and lay his trap. It was a dangerous course of action, the necromancer did not know the extent of the powers of the liche, if he established a link, would the liche be able to enter his mind, and take control. Kishkumen closed his eyes suddenly and shook those indecisive thoughts out of his mind. He was incredibly powerful; he commanded hundreds and thousands of spirits. He would discover what he sought, and show the liche he was not to be trifled with.

And so with an air of excitement and apprehension, a moment he’d prepared for, since the moment he’d turned to the dark arts, was upon him. Taking the soul stone in his spidery grasp, he whispered the incantations that would open a magical channel between his mind…and the liche’s…

Written by - Agmund

A hint of trepidation crept into his mind as he approached the bedside. He was fairly sure that she wouldn’t remember him. She was far too young when he had left so many years ago. The fear that hit him was a mixture of uncertainty in his own abilities and to an extent he worried that she would simply reject him. After all why would she want the aid of a man as old and feebleminded as himself, let alone his friendship.

As he came to stand by the bedside, doubts slipped over and over again thru his brain. Standing there, his eyes buried beneath bushy gray brows, he remained motionless, saying nothing, doing nothing. He was awash with internal struggle.

Yet a single clear voice of reason rang true in his thoughts, and its firm tone forced back his age, pushed aside his doubts, and cast out his worry. “This is the same smiling little girl that you once held in your arms, and the same little girl that needed your friendship then needs it more so now,” the voice spoke to him and as it did a smile stretched out across his lips.

“She certainly doesn’t look like the same little girl that I remember from so long ago. The little girl has been replaced with a young woman, but the hair and eyes remain the same,” he said out loud but in near response to his own thoughts. “Queen Mavigan?”

Slowly he looked her over as he waited for her to speak, scanning her for injury. His hand all the while was sorting thru the belt pouch at his side, fingers leathery thick with age pushing thru various portions of root and herb. His massive weathered frame towered over the bed as he noted her condition. Her feet would need attending to, and she would most likely have a pain behind her eyes he thought. Her breathing sounded somewhat ragged to his ears as well. Before she had a chance to speak he smiled over to Clarise “M’lady would you be so kind as to fetch me a luke warm bowl of water and some washcloths, and my thanks to you in advance.” With that he turned back to the Queen and one large hand slowly slipped towards her forehead.

Written by - Kiradia Afirewen

Alulael Sadrilil dodged the thrown pellow in a swirl of skirts and cloak as she looked inside suprise at her first look at the Queen in many years. Not caring over much about the strange cat-like creature that had moved infront of her. She looks so much older, where did that temper come from? Her thoughts began working like a wind mill until a short sharp pain made her muscles tense across her whole body. Turning to Wilhelm she spoke quickly.

“Sir Wilhelm... I am commanded by my Goddess to reveal the truth about why I am here.”

Alulael took a deep breath and continued, “I am a Priestess of Nargarren, I came with the dwarves after I learned of what had happened in Westgale. I can help her, if you will let me.”

She turned back to look at the Queen while she waited for Wilhelm's answer, thinking of how else the Queen has changed in the years she's been gone It really had been a long time.

Written by - Wilhelm

"The Gods provide again! You are the answer to my prayers and a most welcome sight. I am very pleased to see another survivor from Beridane's sack of the temples in Ancora."

Wilhelm bowed formally, and then gazed deeply at her inner heartfire. The silver glow of Nargarren's bond was clear and her name came to him. He vaguely remembered seeing her years ago. He touched the All Father's symbols on his helm and hauberk and then gestured towards her.

"The Blessing of the All Father be upon thee, Alulael, Priestess of Nagarren. Ever has my temple been the shield from harm of your temple, as yours has been the healer of harms for us. In the name of Tinorb be welcome in this place. My shield shall defend you and my hammer shall confront your foes.

"You are most needed. Mavigan has begun to manifest as Avatar of Nagarren without having her channels prepared for it through proper initiation. The Goddess has apparently chosen her as the next High Priestess, succeeding her mother, and is apparently most insistent on completing the unity. Like many who eventually reach the full Avatar unity, Mavigan has unconciously resisted the unity and thus has until now remained a novice. That is now changing, but she desperately needs you to guide her through her initiation ito priestess and then to High Priestess. Her channels are no doubt still sore from the partial manifestation of the Goddess that occurred last night after an attempted assassination. She fortunately suffered only some cuts and bruises from the failed attempt. Father Agmund, itinerant Priest of the All Father, has just gone in to treat those. She was far too sensitive last night to endure magical healing.

Mavigan must soon rise, dress, and go bid formal farewell as Queen to the army Ithramir is leading out to relieve the orcish siege of an elven border fortress. The Grand Alliance of Elves, Dwarves and Humans is beginning to reform, it seems, and she will no doubt need your support to carry that off. After the army leaves you can begin her initiation. I will aid you however I may. You have only to ask. I warn you that she will likely be a difficult patient and student but there is true greatness in her. The Gods of Light have apparently chosen her to play a major role in their future plans.

You may go in and aid Father Agmund in treating Mavigan's hurts, both physical and magical."

Wilhelm gestured towards the door with a bow.

Written by - Ariana

After shouting at Ardwen, Mavigan tried to push herself as far into the bed as she would go. She had a headache that would rival Ithramir’s ego, and she wanted nothing more than to go back to sleep.

Alas, it appeared she would not be granted that luxury. Over the pounding of blood in her ears, she heard the rustling of cloth and then a soft voice inquire “Queen Mavigan?”

“What?” she demanded in a growl, though it was muffled by the fact her face was currently smashed into the blankets. There was little response, but Mavigan did hear the man, for it was a man’s voice, ask for some water and washcloths. Slightly curious, she turned her head and popped one eye open. She was greeted with the sight of a really old and bald man stretching a hand out towards her. Instinctually she moved back away from him on the bed and gave him an evil glare.

Written by - Agmund

Seeing her evil glare and watching her move further away in the confines of the covers, he chuckled slightly. He recognized that glare, he called it her “mean look” when she was little. It was the look she gave when something wasn’t going as she wanted or intended.

“Perhaps introductions of a sort are what is needed, or reintroductions I should say,” he says with a gentle smile drawn in the aged lines of his face. “I am Agmund, some call me Father Agmund, for I am a Priest of the All Father, but there was a time you merely called me Ag. You weren’t very good with my full name so you shortened it… somewhat. I of course already know you, although it has been some years since I have seen you last. When I departed from Ancora you were perhaps three maybe four if my memory serves me correct… which it rarely does,” he adds with the same gentle smile.

His hand slides away and turning somewhat he pulls a chair in behind him from against the wall and sinks down into it. Very tall by the standards of men, his knees end up higher than his backside as he settles in.

“Now… let’s have a look at your head. There is a pain behind your eyes I take it?”

Clarise appears beside him, handing him a small wash basin full of water and then laying in front of him and off to the side of the Queen several wash clothes. Nodding a thank you to her he fumbles about in his belt pouch for the herb he couldn’t seem to find earlier.

Written by - Vylia

Keeryn puts on a pouting face as she pokes Wilhelm in the shoulder for ignoring her.

Written by - Wilhelm

Turning towards Keeryn, Wilhelm apologized for being too busy to acknowledge Keeryn.

"Let us go over to this bench and let the Queen;s attendants do their work. You seem to have slept through the events of the night. Let me fill you in."

Sitting down on the bench, Wilhelm then launched into a summary of the eventful night, starting with the arrival at the banquet of Isuiln and his company followed by the arrival of the messenger about the orcish siege and the declaration that Ithramir would lead out a relief force this morning. Then came the attempted assassination, aided by sorcery and necromancy, the unexpected defender, the confrontation of Avatars, Mavigan's collapse in Ardwen's room, and the arrival of Father Agmund, the alien Loremaster, and then Priestess Alulael and Diosr and his Dwarven Company.

Written by - Vylia

Keeryn just sits quietly where she is, stunned by everything that happened during her short nap... "I don't really know what to say to all that. I just hope she's doing ok, I know I'd be very confused if all that had happened to me, and probably want to just be left alone to think about it for awhile." Stops to think a bit more before continuing, "I don't know about that lady in the pink dress though... all that bright color has got to hurt someones eyes, I can hardly stand to look at her without wincing." Keeryn makes a scrunched face as she says this last bit.

"Well, I guess I'll just stay here in case anything else happens, or if she decides she wants to talk to someone that isn't concerned about her rank or that goddess mumbo jumbo." Straightens her arms out underneath her as she grasps the end of the bench and just starts swinging her legs back and forth.

Written by - Kiradia Afirewen

Giving a brief nod to Wilhelm, deciding to leave pleasantries for later Alulael swept into the room in a fast pace and swiftly knelt besides Father Agmund and spoke in a whisper.

“Father Agmund... I am Alulael Sadrilil... I am a Priestess of Nargarren, if you would let me move to where you are, I can treat her injuries.”

Alulael took a quick assessment of the injuries on the Queen's body before looking up at the Queen directly in front of her she smiled as unthreatening as she could, trying to emulate her teachers when they took care of other people and put them at ease.

“You will feel much better soon, Your Majesty.”

Focusing her mind she softly spread her thoughts out, searching for the pattern of the Queen. Finding it she attempted to enter her mind and was met by the mental equivalent of a brick wall.

Goddess, such hate... such anger, Alulael gave up trying to read the Queen's mind for now, knowing she would need her full concentration to heal the Queen using her abilities without causing a backlash of energy into herself.

Noticing that Agmund had moved she quickly took his place and moved her hand over the Queen's, gently but firmly keeping hold as she pushed her thoughts beyond her own again. However, unlike the last time she did not try to enter her Queen's mind. Instead she traveled across the Queen's body, speeding up the healing process across her battered body, closing the open woulds and getting rid of the bruised places.

Before finally returning to herself she alleviated the headache Queen Mavigan most definitely had and stood up, looking down at Queen Mavigan.

“Your Majesty... I am done.” Taking one last look she waited for the Queen to respond.

Written by - Archeantus

Clothed and shrouded in deep elven green, Gadianton swooped in behind Kishkumen’s brother who shattered the massive throne room doors open with an ear splitting crack.

There they were met with another stalwart legion of guards who stood with weapons drawn in ready resolve. These were Beridane’s best and they were the last line of defense. Beridane sat upon the throne casually, inquisitively, looking onward through the steel line of his men. He did not recognize the two assailants upon first inspection. Beside him were two figures draped in black, hoods hid their identity.

Three of Beridane’s royal guard charged with a cry, large swords in their hands. Most awaited the outcome of the initial clash. Royal archers stood back from the group and notched arrows of peculiar make.

The three joined the monstrosity with equal ferocity. Beridane’s personal guards were hardened men, life long mercenaries. They had been bought with the spoils of the Ancorian vaults, and they had been promised riches untold.

Gadianton surveyed the situation and drew a quick smile. The group would be a challenge. The two archers fired their arrows at the giant before them who found himself in league with calculating swordsmen. The arrows bounced off his thick hide and they attracted the attention of Gadianton who was biding his time. Appearing into the fray, his curved elven sword flashing smoothly against one of the royal guard, he overtook him quickly, pulling his sword from his gut and swiped one of the fallen arrows from the ground. Another guard fell forcefully to his knees off to the side of Gadianton seeking to block a downward thrust, and found his own sword bit into his neck. He screamed in pain, as the giant finished him off. Gadianton ran across the red carpet to capture the other arrow, narrowly dodging a spear which whizzed past his head. Five more guards rushed the two. Two of them threw spears at the giant, one of which cut into his shoulder, and clung on slightly. The other fell to the ground. Gadianton ran around in an arc to cut across the back of the fight, both of the strange arrows in his hand. Biting part of the back of one of the arrows, he notched them both, holding his bow sideways, and swung around to fire them at the two archers standing on opposite sides of the throne room. Both suddenly fell, one mortally wounded, the other cringed on the ground, the arrow protruding through his side. Then in an instant they burst into flames, quickly turning to ash. Gadianton raised an eyebrow at this, but continued to fight.

Beridane finally knew who had appeared in his throne room again. His eyes narrowed in disbelief. He turned to one of the figures beside him and whispered. The figure whispered back, and suddenly turned and disappeared in a cloud of smoke. The other stood silently and watched the fight unfold.

Gadianton pulled his small blade from his sheath and stabbed one who was preoccupied with the giant in the back. Defending himself from two who appeared behind him with his sword, he retreated around one of the great columns, using it to his advantage. One guard fell, and then another. Kishkumen’s brother brought his massive sword around with a wild cry and impaled one of the guards, and then with great strength he twisted around, pulling the sword free, he hammered it down upon another. Suddenly, there were only four guards left. One of them, who had waited, eyed Gadianton knowingly. He wore a black cloth around his face, only his cold eyes peered through two slits in the material. He wore dark mail, and was clothed in the royal cape; Beridane’s seal was etched upon the chest piece of the armor. Wielding two curved blades, he was about to attack, Gadianton about to face him when Beridane’s voice called above the clashing of steel and cries of pain.

“I’ve seen enough. Seraph stand down.”

The man stopped his advance with great effort. Gadianton stood coolly upright, awaiting him, his dripping sword held down.

“I see I made the wrong decision to imprison you again.” Beridane called out, with more than a tinge of mock in his voice.

Kishkumen’s brother did not stop his onslaught and cut the final guards near him down brutally who had stood down.

Gadianton eyed the self appointed King studiously. There was something different about him. He had a strange gleam in his eyes, a knowing look that held a secret. Taking the hood from his head, Gadianton walked forward never taking his eyes off Beridane.

“Kill him if he moves.” Gadianton said, pointing his sword at the masked man who was seething.

Vermigard’s brother, his membrane pulsating, turned toward Seraph and headed toward him, stopping just behind him, his gigantic sword raised to swing eagerly.

The shrouded black figure watched as Gadianton rose up to the stairs, coming within a few feet of the King. Without a moment’s hesitation, the hooded figure saw the man raise his sword, there was a burst of light and in a quick motion, sever the King’s hand. The figure gasped in apparent disbelief and let out a hiss. Something had happened that was not supposed to happen. Beridane cried out in shocked pain, gripping his arm.

“You were supposed to protect me!”

Gadianton turned toward the robed figure finally, stepping down toward it with an obvious purpose. Pausing a slight moment, suddenly it turned and vanished in a blast of wind and light. Gadianton narrowed his eyes. The figure’s presence was strange. Turning back toward the Beridane once more, who was cowering in front of the throne, his arm seeped in blood, Gadianton stood above him ominously.

“Please, forgive me! I’ll give you anything, just name it!”

“Fool.” Gadianton finally said with disgust. He suddenly reached forward and pulled a medallion from Beridane’s neck. Its make was dark, nearly black, and held within a circular encasing was a bright green shard, with strange markings upon it.

“What is this?” He demanded; his sword rose slightly.

“It …is…none of your concern.” Beridane said through clenched teeth. His face shook with rage.

Gadianton shot a look at his employer considering something and then again looked at the medallion.

“It will be if it becomes a problem.” Gadianton whispered, then turning to look at Beridane again. “Where is Vermigard?”

Beridane heaved in shaky breaths as he spoke. “He is alive; he is housed in the upper tower.”

“You are lucky you did not make the mistake of killing him.”

“What are you planning with those that are called Orcs?” He continued.

Beridane tried to stand, and finally wobbled to his feet, he then sat down on the throne. Beads of sweat poured down his face.

“I have…made a pact with…them. They will be crushing…my enemies…in the outer fronts to prepare for the invasion.” Beridane mustered out, trying to gain his authority back. “What of you? Is she dead?”

“She still lives.” Gadianton answered.

“Then you have failed!” Beridane spat in anger.

A sword point appeared at Beridane’s neck.

“You are not in the position to claim such a thing are you?”

Beridane swallowed bitterly and turned his gaze away.

“I know what I came to know. You face a growing alliance of what you know to be Elves, the remnants of the human kingdom, and a large army of small creatures I have learned to be called Dwarves.” Gadianton added.

At this news Beridane shot a sudden glace back at Gadianton, the sword point was right where he left it.

“You know this for sure?” He asked hesitantly but excitedly.

“Don’t ever question me. You face a war whether you kill the Queen or not. It is the strongest that will survive now. The winner shall sit here.” Gadianton said, shifting the sword’s direction to the throne Beridane sat upon.

“They go to meet your Orcish army as we speak.” Gadianton continued.

Beridane spat.

“They have no idea what they face…”

“They are worthy foes.” Gadianton interrupted. “It is only a matter of time before this world is plunged into war.”

“And what part do you wish to play?” Beridane winced.

“Our contract is ended for now.” Gadianton declared, disregarding the question. “Never cross me again or I’ll take more than your hand. You shall see me again if the war turns in their favor. I have other matters to attend to.” Gadianton said, turning suddenly, the medallion still dangling in his hand. Stopping he turned back around.

“Give me your crown.”

“What? Never!” Beridane cried out.

“Your crown, or your head. Decide now.”

Gadianton was upon him in an instant, sword drawn.

With great reluctance and anger, Beridane took the crown from his head and handed it over. He shook with sheer rage. Gadianton looked at the crown, and then turned again and walked down the white marble steps.

“Seraph?” Gadianton stopped, regarding the masked man. The man turned, his dark eyes waiting.

“You serve a fool. You will see me soon if I find you are worthy.”

With that Gadianton turned and along with Kishkumen’s brother, walked out of the throne room, headed toward the dungeon once more.

Beridane watched him go; his good hand gripped the arm of the throne tighter and tighter.

“He will pay…”

Written by - Agmund

“If’n it’s a fight yer wantin’ then it’s a fight yer going ta’ have!” his fist shook with fury at the barkeep. “Now fetch me another tankard o’ barley manling fore ye really make me angry,” his eyes narrow as he leans forward speaking in an evil snarl.

For a moment the barkeep appeared to hold his ground, but suddenly he relented producing a tall tankard spilling over with barley beer. “Fine have it your way, but mark my words this is the last time you get served here.”

The dwarf seemed to pay him no mind, his eyes fixed upon the tankard as one hand wraps around either side of it, pulling it before him. “I suppose tha’ jus’ dunt matter right now manling… since after all I was barred from yer fine stablahment… err eblament… establement years ago!” he exclaimed with glee.

With that he flung the tankard in the air in a drunken salute and wasting no time he begins to empty it. As the tankard goes ever upward the dwarfs neck tilts further backwards, and a small stream of the beer sets a course into the salt and pepper hair of his beard. “WHAM,” the tankard slams down fast and furious onto the bar sending little droplets every which way into the air.

A grin of pure glee marks the gnarled dwarfs face as he views the look of anger from the barkeep. “Ye know manling, I wouldn’t bother comin’ here and drinkin’ like I do, stirrin’ up trouble and in general being a pain in yer arse, if’n ye didn’t have the finest barley beer in all of Dun-Algur. And did I mention what fine service ye have here as well,” he adds with a loud burp.

“Now be a kind lad and fetch me jus’ one more fer tha,” his words were cut off. “THORGRUM ICEHAMMER?” a voice shouted out from the tavern door. “Ahhh, I should have known you would be in the one tavern you’re not supposed to be in,” the dwarf rolled his head to the side as the voice came into view.

Two heavily armed and armored men appeared beside him. Upon their tunics of black a single mountain spire is outlined in white, at the base a large single stone tower completes the livery of Dun-Algur. The mail that protected both of the men seemed to shimmer with a silvery blue hue in the flickering torches of the tavern.

Each wore a helm of the same silvery blue metal which extended down over their nose, and had rounded circles of metal covering their eyes. Runes of Kazukthul, the ancient mix of runes both dwarvish and human were engraved around the rims of both helms and the same pattern was visible around upon the various plates they wore.

Written by - Wilhelm

"Well, I guess I'll just stay here in case anything else happens, or if she decides she wants to talk to someone that isn't concerned about her rank or that goddess mumbo jumbo." Keeryn straightens her arms out underneath her as she grasps the end of the bench and just starts swinging her legs back and forth.

"I think that is a good idea, Keeryn. Mavigan may well need such a friend to talk to after Father Agmund and Priestess Alulael are done. She will need to get dressed as Queen soon to go bade farewell to the departing army. Her maid has her clothing ready and can handle that, but perhaps you can help and provide some welcome break from duty and responsibility. You might even offer to teach her some of your combat and wilderness skills. I'm going to go see the army form up and make sure Alaric has the Queen's Own Regiment ready. If Mavigan or anyone else needs me I can be found there."

Wilhelm bowed to those in the hallway, exchainging salutes with the Queen's Guards, and then walked down the corridor and eventually out to the martialling area. He saw Ithramir busy with his officers and then located Alaric. Alaric and his deputies seemed to have matters under control, and the newly formed and trained Queen's Own Regiment snapped to attention when he and Alaric held inspection. All looked well, and Wilhelm gave them a short speech telling them so and bading them uphold the honor of Ancora and Queen Mavigan. After discussing the remaining trainee force and the needs of the growing Ancora Quarter with Alaric, Wilhelm left Alaric to handle the final preparations and went in search of Ithramir to discuss security concerns and communications.

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