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Book Two - A Gathering Storm

Written by Wilhelm - Page 11 Book 2

Wilhelm smiled and gave Mavigan a gentle hug. Then he said,

"Always remember Mavigan that I am your friend as well as your Champion. While I may often seem too serious, or harp too much on the duties of the Queen or the fate of the kingdom, I do not forget that you are still Mavigan, and I am very fond of you. Today is your day, and there will be no ceremonies other than the cutting of the cake and your birthday feast. This is a time to set our fears aside and celebrate life and your coming of age."

Wilhelm waved and several elves who had been hiding in other stalls came out bearing dishes and utensils for the cutting of the cake, along with glasses and bottles.

"This is K'lain, Head Chef, and the other Citadel cooks, and they stand ready to take your orders for the birthday feast. They will prepare for you whatever you wish. These gifts were made for you by the Master Crafters here in the Citadel. Argent is my gift to you. May she bear you as well and as faithfully as she has me. I expect we can pursuade Lithwyn to organize some dancing or whatever other activites you would like on your birthday. After the recent events we can all do with a good celebration."

Written by Ardwen

Ardwen saw Alaric move to counter his stance, “So.” He thought, “The human has eyes.”

"Steady there friend, I did not mean to incur your wrath" Alaric stepped back and waved away the two guards who were moving to Ardwen’ flank.

"I only ask because those names are a mystery in my family. There is a tome..", The human’s eyes seemed to grow distant as with long memory," an ancient tome that one of my ancestors brought with him, when he came to this land. A tome written by the very hand of one of those that you mentioned."

“Ancestors?!” Ardwen’s mind roared, “What is this one playing at? It’s not been that long . . .”

"I will tell you indeed of myself, elf. I am a warrior of a long line of warriors, direct descendant from the one known as Aethelwulf the Red, first Laird of Aedmon. His grandson was my father's father. And not much is known of him. However, our family has long served the light, and our Queen's family!" Alaric's eyes seemed to burn with an inner light as he continued. "Aethelwulf spoke of moving between worlds through the very portal that the first Mavigan traveled through. When he came to this land he brought with him a dairy, written by Turin Lord Wallace. That very diary resides now in the Ancoran Royal Library. The names that you mention are written within that book."

Alaric leaned in close then, and there was a hidden and overt threat in his words, "Know that I am no...LESSER," the human seemed to spit the word out, "And tho you may be ancient beyond human understanding, and a beserker at that, if you ever stand up to me like that again, there will be blood spilled and it won't be mine." Alaric moved to a nearby campfire and began to warm his hands. There was a drawn pause before he finished, “Now then good warrior, tell us more about these people that you knew."

Ardwen drank in this human’s words, trying to digest each one and commit them to memory. But there was one crucial detail that didn’t make sense. The berserker moved over to the fire Alaric was at and stood across from the warrior, gazing at him a minute. “Well,” he began after a strained silence, “I would like to dance the swords with you. But you’re far more valuable to me alive then dead. And . . . there’s the chance, a scant chance mind you, that your words are true. Something doesn’t fit, but we’ll get to that in a moment, yes? If, and I say if Alaric, you are not false . . . then I owe you an apology.”

Ardwen cleared his throat and thought carefully about his next words, taking care to pick them with unusual caution, a sword would be of no use in the battle that was to come, “So, what am I to do with what you’ve told me? Shall we clear a little miscommunication between us? You claim to be Aethelwulf’s descendent, which is all fine and well. The problem is though, that you mention you are removed by several generations! You make it sound as if it’s been . . . many years, “Ardwen fumbled over those two words, not wanting to consider what it meant if Alaric was true, “many years since the Hands coming to this place.”

Ardwen let his words settle; gave Alaric the time to consider well before continuing, “I may be Twilight Born, true, but I still know how humans count their years. There is simply no way, as I number the years, that enough time has passed. Why . . . I just came from Aerynth myself, and there the memory of the Hands and the betrayal is still . . . bitterly fresh.” Ardwen gave a nod to Alaric and locked eye contact with him, “I would love to tell you more, mellonamin . . . but first we must . . . resolve this minute detail. So, by all means you tell me how you can be Aethelwulf, they very architect of Ancora’s descendent, if the memory of the Hand’s end is still not cold! If you do, and your words ring true to my ears, you will have all from me, I swear it. Do we have a deal?”

Written by Lucant Dolvan

Lucant awoke from one the most peaceful sleeps he had ever had to the moon shining brightly from the balcony. He found that he was no longer tired, probably from all the naps that day, he thought. Knowing that he wouldn't be sleeping again for a while, he got up silently out of the bed so as not to wake Tempyst. He walked to the balcony, noticing the ivy and vines that seemed to creeping into the room. Looking back at Tempyst, he smiled and thought to himself: "I wonder if she knows how incredible she is?" The wind rushed over him like waves gently laping upon the shoreline.

Lucant allowed his mind to wander back to earlier. "I have loved you all my life. You asked me once to wait for you and I have. Now, we need not wait any longer." Doubt began creeping through his mind just like the ivy upon the wall. "I just met her today...it's not me she loves...it's her dream - her champion that she loves...I just happened to be there when she needed someone. Belyena, you were right...I am and forever will be but a fool." He stood there on the balcony with his peace, focus, and courage swept away by the wind.

Written by Pharsalus

Geirik - or whatever he was called now - stood perfectly erect, arms folded across his chest, floating only inches from the ground in a field of light and vapor. The temperature in the room continued to decline, small crystalline points forming on nearby overhangs. The torches in the hallway struggled to stay alight. Though the illumination of his eyes hid any sign of pupil or target, one could tell the being now examined the wretched magician before him in ways only one of his power would know. There was a long silence before he responded with the voice of a dying gale.

Free me, Necromancer, he began. You assume that I am imprisoned? Trapped in this pathetic mortal's shell...

He paused.

Your subterfuge means little to me, mortal. In a bird's breath I could wipe you from this coil as quickly and as horribly as you entered. Whatever power you think you have is as rain before the stone to me.

Once again the whaling hiss of the Liche's voice fell from the air, and for several tense moments it sat quiet and cold.

But even so, he continued, your daring intrigues me, Necromancer. To tempt commune with one willing to forsake Life itself for a simple taste of true power - you are not as you appear.

Geirik's feet sank to the floor and stabilized, his arms dropping to his side, and the brilliance of his eyes dimming slightly. The air remained a knawing cold immediately around him but warmed again at several paces out. One would dare not touch the "man" that now stood in the cell as it he would certainly die.

I will hear you now, Necromancer. But be quick! My time, though now endless, is more valuable than a hundred lifetimes of your kind.

He took the first moment to look about the cell. There was another being present - a man, mortal, wounded. An insect waiting to be devoured by forces it could not understand.

Let us...leave this place.

He turned and began to leave, the air in his wake pouring eerily cold off his shoulders.

Written by Tempyst

...it is done... Tempyst awoke with A'lanthear whispering in her head. Her eyes fluttered and adjusted to the moonlight. Reaching over, she found the bed empty and immediately sat upright in a panic.

"Lucant?" She called out and looked about the room. Seeing him standing in the window, Tempyst rushed over and held him tight, the feeling of his warm skin against hers soothing the panic away. She layed her head agaisnt his chest and closed her eyes, listening to his heart. "I thought I was dreaming...I don't want to be dreaming anymore."

Written by Archeantus

Gadianton peered at the torch just above him, and watched as the flame began to slowly flicker and die. He then peered back into the darkened cell, with a raised eyebrow. It was deathly silent, and slowly, he could feel his measured breaths come out as mist.

Kishkumen just ahead remained focused.

Free me, Necromancer, The mage finally heard.The very voice seemed to wale, dying from the grave. Forever dying. You assume that I am imprisoned? Trapped in this pathetic mortal's shell...

There was a pause, and the mage allowed the Lich to continue unabated, unhindered, and unknowing of exactly what the mage designed to do.

The lich saw through his physical illusion easily, as expected. His visage shifted and shimmered to his elven form.

He was then admired, if one could call it that, for his willingness to call a being knowingly with such power. And when the lich gave permission to speak, the mage continued smoothly.

“You are trapped endless one. One of insatiable thirst to devour all life cannot willingly exist within a mortal whose heart beat can be heard every moment, whose breath flows in and out, whose soul is still connected to his mortal body. Why do you not rise from his frame and tear his soul from his body? You can do this on but a whim.” Kishkumen paused unabashedly, inching closer to the summoned being as it stood before him outside the cell door.

“Why do you not take me, and command the armies upon armies of captured souls within my stone? You must sense it? Why do you not burst this instant through this human edifice and feed upon this world?” The mage continued, wholeheartedly aware of the starkly blank pupils of the lich’s host which seemed to fire in increasing anger.

“How does it feel to be so close to the living, and not be able to just taste it?” The mage asked in finality.

The mage could almost hear the endless tortured shouts of the other plane being called to be ready to receive him as the lich heard his little speech.

“You are trapped. It is obvious, for even I could not unlock your being from this mortal shell. It is a simple procedure.” The necromancer added, getting to his point.

“I want to know how you came to be in this man. I want you to realize I am in control of your destiny endless one, despite your limitless power, you are in my…pathetic hands.” He said the last with an edge of being a challenge to the insults thrown at him moments before.

“And if your time is so short, be quick, my master is anxious to discover your…talents...”

The lich then turned to look, inches away, into the unshaken, yet livid grey eyes of the man who was refered to as, master.

Written by Renalis

Crystal leaned on the doorway looking in, "So young to be involved in something so big, I hope she can enjoy this little piece of happiness..." Crystal looked down at the note Renalis left, its words still glowing faintly, warmly as if touched by his love for her. "I have to look out for her..." Crystal stepped forward toward Mavigan, and with a bow she asked softly, her thoughts still on Renalis, "M'lady, if you wouldn't mind a guest, I could very much use some comfort food and would like to celebrate this joyous occation."

****

Renalis was snapped out of the dreamlike trance he was in, thinking of Crystal by the loud shouting now going on only a few feet from him.

“Have you ever heard these names? Ancora, the Hands of Providence . . . these names . . . people, places, anything? Please, you must tell me if you have, you must!” Ardwen was shouting now, and drawing the attention of everyone nearby.

"So this is what is buried in that dark, scary exterior, he really did have friends, lost them maybe?" Renalis thought to himself.

Renalis listened intently to the discussion had between Alaric and Ardwen, soaking in all the word and finally coming to a conclusion.

“I may be Twilight Born, true, but I still know how humans count their years. There is simply no way, as I number the years, that enough time has passed. Why . . . I just came from Aerynth myself, and there the memory of the Hands and the betrayal is still . . . bitterly fresh.” Ardwen gave a nod to Alaric and locked eye contact with him, “I would love to tell you more, mellonamin . . . but first we must . . . resolve this minute detail. So, by all means you tell me how you can be Aethelwulf, they very architect of Ancora’s descendent, if the memory of the Hand’s end is still not cold! If you do, and your words ring true to my ears, you will have all from me, I swear it. Do we have a deal?”

"I may have an answer for you Ardwen, if you are open to the possibility." Renalis drew closer to Ardwen, finally deciding to add his piece to this discussion, "If I understand this right, you are not of these lands are you? Indeed you are not even of this world. Like myself you hail from a world not too dissimilar to this one but different in many ways; people, places, cities, countries and the like. And if I understand this right, you used a portal to leave your world and it was linked to the portal found here in this world." Renalis paused to let his words sink in then continued.

Having been only studyed the portal for the month prior to events of late, Renalis didn't have all the answers but he knew how to look like he did, "The problem with that portal - and the very reason why I created my own to come here - is that it is rather unstable." Renalis could see the look on Ardwen's face - this did not answer his question. "What this portal's instability lends to is an unstable connection to a world. I think that you Ardwen, as well as the friends that you spoke of stepped through this unstable portal, but if your timing was not exact you may have landed in very different locations - the same world, but in different places. And I think that it was not just a different location on the map... but in time!"

Written by Tempyst

Kaya awoke, the sky still dark around her, the wagon rocking uncomfortably back and forth as it traveled over the rough terrain. When is this going to stop? Kaya thought.

"No worriesssss child, we have much to do. I am sssso glad you are awake, we have much to talk about."

This time, Kaya new better than to speak aloud and just thought at the voice in her head. "Who are you? What do you want with me?"

"Who I am isss of no matter to you. Assss to what I want, that isss ssssimple. I want you to kill."

"Kill? Kill who? No, I am going going to kill anyone for you. GET OUT OF MY HEAD!" Kaya shouted in her head, her body shaking with anger. What the hell did they... she thought, but was cut off.

"...do to you?" The voice laughed. "I can hear everything you think, you can hide nothing from me. And yesss, you will kill, whoever I ssssay. And if you do not do it willingly, I will make you."

"You are just a voice in my head, you can't make me do anything!"

Again the voice chuckled, but it was a vile sound. Then Kaya heard herself shout out loud in orcish, eyes goind wide at hearing herself tell the driver to stop. The wagon creaked to a halt, as did the wagon behind them. "What are you doing, why are they listening to you, to me?" The voice did not answer her, but made her shout out again in orcish, this time, Kaya did not understand what was being said. But the driver seemed to understand and jumped down from his seat. Several other ocs that were traveling with the two wagons stepped towards Kaya'a cage as well. Her mind raced with questions about what was happening and if the voice heard her, it did not respond. The orc driver opened her cage and two others with spears poked at her to get out. She climbed out weakly, her muscles stiff and sore from the ride and cramped space. They prodded her through the darkness to the back of the other wagon. this wagon carried a larger cage, filled with human children of various ages, all of them sleeping at the moment. An orc openend the cage door and she was motioned to get inside. She hesitated, unsure of what was going on, but the spear in her back made her move forward and climb into the children's cage. The commotion made some of the children awake, their eyes wide and shining in the moonlinght. Some of them began to cry, which woke up the rest. The cage door was shut and locked behind her and the orcs stepped back, watching.

"Kill them." The voice was cold and chilled her very soul.

"What? No! They are babies, I will not..." Kaya's body shook.

"Yesss, you will."

Kaya turned and grabbed the cage door bars, shaking them hard, screaming at the orcs to let her out. But they did nothing but watch, their dark eyes cold and heartless. "I will not kill innocent children. I will not kill just because you say so!"

The laughing in her head turned to rage. "Yessss you will. Watch and ssssee my power." Kaya suddenly felt dizzy and she found herself feeling trapped inside her body, unable to move, unable to speak. Then, it all changed. Her body began to move, turning back to the children.

"What's happening? What are you doing? NO!" Kaya screamed at the voice in her head. But the voice did not listen, instead, she felt her body being controled, like a puppet, and could only watch, horrified as her own hands went around the neck of one little girl and rip out her throat with her bare hands. The children began screaming climbing on top of each other trying to get away from Kaya. Kaya sobbed inside, feeling her stomach turn with what she had just witnessed herself do. She cried out time and time again to the voice, to the one who controlled her to stop, but it paid her no heed, it just continued on its bloody rampage. Kaya did not know how long she was in that cage, she tried to shut out what was happening. Finally, her body stopped and she felt herself regaining control of her faculties. Kaya collapsed in a corner of the cage, one with the least amount of carnage. She looked around, seeing the children's dead eyes gazing up at her, still pleading with her to stop. She sobbed, bringing her hands up to her face, staring at them. She could see they were coated with blood and flesh, in fact, the rampage had been so great, she was totally covered in the blood of the children she had just murdered. "What have you done? What did you make me do?"

The voice laughed gleefully now inside her head. You are no longer in control child, I am the masssster now. And if you do not do what I sssay, then I will make you do it and make you do crimes so horendoussss you will wissssh you were dead.

"I already do." Kaya muttered. Her mind was in a fog, reeling, her world turned upside down. She barely noticed the orcs open up the door and drag her back to her own small cage. The wagons began to move again, but the one behind them turned around and headed back from where they came. "Why?" She whispered, "Why?"

The voice whispered back softly, almost seductively. Becausssse it isss what I do. Now child, do you undersssstand my power?"

"Yes." Kaya's voice was hollow and dry.

"Good. Together we can do great thingsss, your name will be on everyone'ssss lipsss. Kaya felt her hands moving up over her body to her mouth, then felt herself taste the blood and flesh on her hand. She gagged and the voice laughed once again. When I ssssay kill, you will kill who I ssssay. We have but one target child, but I have no qualmsss in killing whoever getss in our way."

Again Kaya whispered out loud, "Who is it you want me to kill?"

"All in good time child, all in good time." The voice trailed off into the night, leaving Kaya to sit there in the moving wagon alone with her thoughts. Kaya sobbed into her blood soaked hands, then, smelling the blood there, turned and vomited at what she had just been made to do. After all she could do was dry heave, she sat back down and cried, until the comforting darkness of sleep took over once again.

Written by Lucant Dolvan

She layed her head agaisnt his chest and closed her eyes, listening to his heart. "I thought I was dreaming...I don't want to be dreaming anymore."

Lucant wraped his arms around her and layed his head upon hers. "It wasn't a dream," he whispered to her. Even with all his doubts, he couldn't bring himself to part from her. After a long pause, he thought to himself "I have to ask her... or else I'll never have another moment's peace."

"Tempyst...have your dreams really come true? Am I really the one who was with you for so long? Am I... who you thought I would be?"

Written by Tempyst

"Tempyst...have your dreams really come true? Am I really the one who was with you for so long? Am I... who you thought I would be?"

Tempyst inhaled deeply, taking in his scent, then looked up into Lucant's eyes and smiled. "You are Lucant Dolvan, the man I have loved all my life. I was so afraid that everything I felt was just a dream, an illusion, but when I saw you, saw your face I knew, I knew who you were. I knew that no matter what you felt for me, I loved you. If you had turned me away, I would still love you." She paused a moment and placed her hands in his. "It is still a bit scary I suppose. I know you, yet, I do not know you, but that is the wonder of this too." She stepped back a few steps, turned and looked up at the moon. She was silent for a moment, then took a deep breath. "I know you do not know me either, but what I feel in my heart, if you feel anything like it, then you know, you know it doesn't matter. Wherever you go, I shall follow. Your path is my path." She turned back to him, the soft afternoon sunlight gleaming off of her naked form. "Have my dreams come true? No." She stepped up close to him again, and caressed his face tenderly. "No dream could ever match up to what I am feeling right here and right now for you Lucant. You are in my soul, my very being."

Written by Lucant Dolvan

Lucant gazed in to Tempyst's eyes, knowing now that her love for him was pure and unconditional. He smiled and whispered to her "It was not Nyrondis or A'lanthear or Yvesinia who led me to you. It was my heart... I will doubt it no more, I will trust it as completely as I trust you." He paused and took her in his arms, "I will always be with you Tempyst. Even after the stars have fallen from the sky and the ground has crumbled to dust."

She kissed him playfully and moved back towards the bed. The rest of the world slipped away once more.

Written by Aethelwulf

Alaric turned as the mage approached and listened intently as Renalis spoke of his theory.

"Wait now lad, if I understand you aright, you are saying that there is something about these portals that bends time? " Alaric paused a moment to collect his thoughts. If this were true, then Ardwen may well have known Aethelwulf. "The tales in the diary of Lord Wallace are bold and noble ones, but they also speak of other mysteries. There is a deity mentioned, one known as the All Father who sounds very much like our own god. And there is another item that Aethelwulf brought back with him that may have import in this time, as we fight our evil foes. An artifact that seems to be imbued with great power. "

Written by Agmund

The old priest sunk deeply into the chair of his chambers, a scowl lurking beneath his beard. In his hand was a quill, and before him upon the table a blank piece of parchment. His mind was just as blank, having looked at possible outcomes and the outcomes of those outcomes until at last he had lost his line of thought.

A cloud of darkness swirled within him, casting doubt upon him, and destroying every effort he made to decide a course of action. Like a great wave crashing upon the rocky shoreline, it crushed all that he attempted. He could see no light, no beacon, in the distance for him to follow, there simply was no path illuminated.

His hand shook, not with fury, nor with anger, but with the confusion of a mind that had lost its way, and the age of a man who should have perished long ago. Deep brown eyes grew misty with fluid, staring ahead at a painting on the wall, yet unable to make it out.

His voice suddenly boomed “I have done all that you have asked, always… do not leave me in this state, I can bear it no longer!” he shouted aloud. “If this is your will! If this is the punishment for my service, then take me now, I care not, cast me down and end my life!” and in one foul swoosh his hand thrust the quill against the wall and grabbed the parchment. In his grasp it was crumbled into shreds and dropped upon the floor.

The long silvery strands of his chin splayed outwards across the table as he collapsed down upon it in a sobbing mass. For a long while he cried, an old man, broken and alone in his sorrow, for few men lived to understand how age could torment a person. How it could in the end, be far worse than the quickness and peace of death.

Hours crept past, with not a movement of his body or a thought in his head. And then at last his face rose from the cold wooden surface of the table, and his eyes began to focus. There before him hung the answer. He had forgotten to ask about the painting, and who in the depiction was leading the host of elves from the citadel.

With a nod of his head he had risen to his feet and gathered his things, stopping only to take one last look at the picture before he departed.

Written by Pharsalus

Geirik's eyes flashed backward, burning with a cold rage that had steeped in captivity for untold centuries.

DO NOT CHALLENGE ME, NECROMANCER!

The shadows around the Necromancer cast by dying torchlight and the dim illumination of the old Bounty Hunter's eyes warped and realed, wrapping themselves like tethers about the Mage's neck and hands. The liche watched and burned as the old Elf was pulled backward and held firm against the damp wall behind him.

Geirik advanced on him slowly, seeming to have regained his cool - his face loosened, and the sudden burst of light from his eyes slipped back to their usualglow.

Do not pretend to know me, Kishkumen, the being continued, the whine and hiss of his voice carried forever down the darkened hallway. The great medallion about the Necromancer's neck slowly lifted - clumsily, as a child would hoist a pale of water - from his neck. It rose close to Geirik's face, the light of his eyes contrasting the pendant's carvings. The shadows about the Elf's neck and hands tightened, causing him to choke and gasp.

You believe yourself greater than me, Necromancer? Because of your... trinket? A sardonic grin splintered across Geirik's face, and he chuckled terribly, as Death might at any man seeking to defy it. Geirik truned his back on the Elf.

You know nothing, Elf. I am bound by no man's flesh or mortal's bars. This man's situation is... he paused, almost sarcastically, complicated. If one weren't pre-occupied at the gnawing cold that had once again fallen across the room, one would almost hear the smile in the being's voice.

No - your trinket means little to me, Necromancer. The old Elf's shackles loosened and evaporated as quickly as they had formed. The Liche continued as he walked away, I know its power - its secrets. You are simply a caretaker, as many have been before you. Cross me again...

He stopped, his head lowered, his voice becoming almost omnipresent.

...and you will know suffering as no mortal ever has.

The thick of the air dissipated, and Geirik continued walking down the narrow hall. Within the walls of his own mind, a desperate man fought the losing end of a battle against the Beyond. He would not surrender himself - the Liche would regret his trespasses, and it would be Geirik landing the final blow.

But, for now, he could only wait.

Written by Teran

Teran nodded to Mavigan's back as she walked away from him.

"You could have left the door open" he heard Crystal state....

It was true, Teran could have left the door open when he slipped out, but that would have cost him time. He simply shrugged at Crystal. After she explained the nature of the curse to him he shrugged again.

"Jasmine knows who cursed her, and perhaps where I might find him."

The assassin disappears into the prison without another word and hands the keys off to a guard... He peers into Jasmine's cell.

"I will find you at midnight this evening." He was gone as soon as he had finished speaking, retreating out of the prison.

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