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Book Two - A Gathering Storm

Written by Trinni Shannon - Page 12 Book 2

Trinni, sitting just outside the light of the central camp fire, laughed as Isuiln joked with the man called Ardwen. Her peals of laughter rang out in their high pitch. Suddenly concious of her eavesdropping, she clamps a hand over her mouth to quiet the sound. Tears of laughter flow over her fingers as another hand wraps around her belly. The pain in her stomach nearly unbearable, a motion out of the corner of her eye captures her attention.

Oh snap... who was that? I know I've been heard fer sure. Shoot! Where is Catherin?!?!

Glancing around, worriedly, she senses motion just behind her and lurches forward. Looking back, Catherin's hand where her ear had just been, Trinni's eyes widen and all she can say is "Eep" before quickly getting her feet under her and taking off. Blindly running, trying to get away from Catherin's wrath, she darts in between officers and doesn't even realize it as she stumbles past Commander Ithramir Sil-Galdur, nearly colliding with her own captain, Isuiln Fellblade.

Quickly turning to avoid such an accident, trying not to giggle, she changes her path on her escape from incoming torture as Catherin barrels behind her.

****

Standing in the sunlight, surveying the area around her, she watches the back of Tempyst and a young man as they walk towards the gardens. Quite in love, are they, she mused. Turning back to the courtyard, she notices as one of the newly arrived guests heads into the prisons she had just left.

He was the man protecting Mavigan last night, wasn't he? Teran was his name, I think. What could he want with the prisons?

Frowning for a moment, she decides to make sure all is well and follows after him. Reaching the bottom of the stairs as he is on his way back to the entrance, she holds out her hand, pausing him.

"Hello, Teran, wasn't it? I am Lady Lithwyn Deltheron of this citadel, can I help you with something? These are Lothiel-Gadith's prisons, not exactly a suitable place for guests to visit. After all, you might see some of our dirty secrets here." Smiling warmly, she winks to emphasize the joke, and glances past him to see that workers have already begun on the decimated wall.

Written by Teran

"...After all, you might see some of our dirty secrets here."

Teran was stirred from his internal thoughts and schemes by a woman's voice...he glanced up and smiled innocently at the woman.

"I would hate to think there are secrets I do not yet know down there." he half-jokes "Good day Lady Lithwyn, how may I be of service to you?" he asked warmly.

Written by Trinni Shannon

"... how may I be of service to you?"

Pausing a beat, Lithwyn answers him. "Well, I was wondering what was so intriguing down here. Can I answer something for you? Did you need help finding anything? Not that I can imagine what you seek in the prisons of a citadel you only just arrived at. Mostly, the people here are involved in petty crimes of thievery. Why, the only other person..."

Her eyes narrow as she realizes Jasmine is still in a cell.

"Tell me, Teran, you would not be so bold as to try to finish what you began last night? Surely you would not try to kill a prisoner of Lothiel-Gadith, when we may still have use for her?" Tilting her head to the side, she smiles broadly, feigning innocence, watching his reaction.

Written by Teran

"Jasmine is no longer a threat to the Queen and has nothing to fear from me." He almost purrs "I was simply discussing our plans for the coming months."

Teran doesn't explain anymore, perhaps wanting to see if Lithwyn would ask a more in depth question.

Written by Trinni Shannon

"Jasmine is no longer a threat to the Queen and has nothing to fear from me. I was simply discussing our plans for the coming months." His voice, so coated with honey, Lithwyn has to stop herself from checking for a bee hive. Curious. Then, right before dismissing his tone as her own heightened senses playing tricks on her, she realizes what he had said.

Discussing our plans??

Tilting her head to the side, her right arm across her waist with the left elbow resting on her right hand, she taps her lip with her free hand.

"Hmmm. I do have a question for you, Teran, defender of the young and oh so beautiful Queen Mavigan. You see, your statement has given me cause to wonder. What I would like to know," pausing just a moment to make sure she has his full attention, she continues, "is just who do you mean by "our" in this plan formulation discussion of yours?"

Written by Teran

"I mean my plans. And the plans of any of those who choose to follow me." He states flatly.

"Do you have any further questions for me Lady Lithwyn? Perhaps you would like to cast a spell or two to reveal my true loyalties? I will submit to whatever tests you desire to satisfy your suspicions."

Written by Rikshanthas

They had ridden in almost complete silence for hours before her love's reticence drove Sharanya to frustration. Lienad had never been overly talkative by nature, but he had always been able to talk to her about anything. Yet now he was completely clammed up; her attempts to get him to explain his abrupt change of direction had been consistently ignored or rebuffed until she was ready to knock him off the horse. Which she did.

"What the -- " Years of training couldn't prevent him from landing flat on his rear end, leaving him covered in mud. Lienad glared up at the elven woman, who now wore a satisfied smirk. He knew better than to ask why she had done it. He stood up with a loud sigh, spreading his arms in surrender.

"All right, all right, I suppose I do owe you an explanation --"

"Indeed you do, and you'll not be getting back on this horse until I get one," she said, crossing her arms defiantly. The mare knickered and looked at him as if supporting her completely.

"It's just that I don't understand it myself. I've been going over it in my head and it still doesn't make sense. Ok, so I fell asleep in the saddle, guess I've been pushing myself a little too much. I had a strange dream, though it's all a little foggy now. I can't for the life of me remember ever having such a vivid dream. But when I woke up I just felt this ... this sense of danger, that we can't go there, that we must get to the elven Citadel. I don't expect you to understand --"

"That you were given a vision? I'm surprised, but I do believe you. These things happen among my people, but for a human ..." Then she remembered that his mother's father had been an elf; only quarter-blood, but still ... "The gods must indeed want you for something, and I'll not stand in their way," she said quietly, holding out her hand to pull him back into the saddle. To her complete surprise, he gave a sudden yank, hauling her into the dirt next to him. She gave a startled yelp as she hit the muddy ground, then looked up at him with an expression of sheer astonishment that smoldered into anger when she heard him chuckle. Her mouth worked inarticulately, unable to form the thoughts racing through her head. Her hands balled into fists at her sides.

"There, that'll do nicely," he said with some degree of amused satisfaction as he looked over her now-filthy clothing appraisingly. "Won't do to have you all neat and ladylike when we reach the Citadel," he explained more seriously, tugging at a few loose threads and small tears to give her a suitably ragged appearance. "This way, we should get by without too much notice, and if you keep your hood up, and your hair forward," he pulled her riding hood over her head, tugging it down almost to her chin, "and make sure to use that particular drawl of Common I've been teaching you - it covers the elven accent quite nicely - all anyone will see is a poor, travel-weary refugee, possibly even mistaking you for a human girl -- all the more to our advantage when I 'pledge my sword for your protection'," he said, placing a hand on the hilt of Khelek'urya with a dramatic flair.

"My protection?" she began indignantly, but quieted under Lienad's level gaze. "Yes, I know you are quite able to take care of yourself," he said with respect, "and I'm happy for it. But right now we're trying to lay low; a display of your familiarity with elven swordplay would be asking for trouble. For both of us." He held out his hand to help her back into the saddle. "Let's just get going."

They rode on until nightfall, pausing occasionally to rest and water Nightwind yet still keeping to a pace that would have broken a lesser steed. Lienad patted the mare's coal-black neck appreciatively. She had been a miracle, for nondescript sire and dam to produce an animal that was surefooted even in the darkness, fearless and intelligent, with reserves of stamina he had yet to strain. He thought back on the numerous instances he owed his life to the sturdy mare. Once she may have been a pet, a tool; now she was family.

He was fondly recalling the races Nightwind had handily won him a small fortune in (and the looks on his opponent's faces, though he would never admit that) when a gasp from Sharanya brought him sharply back to reality. Gods, demons and minor deities, I'm getting distracted, he swore to himself as he looked around for the cause of his companion's reaction. They had reached the top of a hill, high enough to grant an impressive if night-blurred view of their surroundings. Including the moonlit plume of smoke ahead to their right, rising up from a dull orange glow. "Not good," he said flatly, looking up toward the moon and stars to judge their position. Roughly northeast, and if he guessed their location right ...

"Minas Aure is burning," Sharanya whispered. Lienad nodded slowly, his attention turning northwest to the flickers of many campfires under the moon's glow. He dismounted and led Nightwind to the shade of a few trees. "We'll camp here for now." He gestured toward the campfires. "When they move, we move."

Written by Wilhelm

As Wilhelm and Mavigan exchanged hugs, the others gathered round and expressed their own congratulations and best wishes on her coming of age. The stables began to grow rather crowded. The cake was cut and pieces passed around. Mavigan was introduced to an elven treat, flavored iced cream, to go with the cake. Bottles of elven honeymead were opened and poured and several toasts were made to Mavigan's health and long life and happiness.

Then, to Mavigan's growing delight, each Craftmaster came forward and presented Mavigan with their gift from the display. The Armorer showed off the features of the green leather armor with the leaf-shaped scales, which flexed with almost no sound owing to the special oil that had been applied to it. Mavigan was informed that the scent of pine and flowers it gave off would help mask her own scent in the woods and fields. The Seamstress showed off the green riding outfit that was designed to be worn over the armor, hiding its presence, or under it or alone, with adjustments made by an ingenious series of straps and buckles. The Cloakmaker described how the hooded cloak blended well into natural surroundings and demonstrated how it was waterproof.

The Swordsmith came forward and presented her with the elven short sword, which displayed the waving watermarks of a hundred-folded blade. Mavigan found the balance to be perfect, like an extension of her arm, and the hilt fit snugly in her hand. The Spearsmith presented her with the ironwood-shafted spear with its gleaming mithril spearhead. Keeryn fell into rapture over the spear. The Bowyer presented her with the beautifully laminated composite horse bow, sized to her, along with two quivers of arrows, spare strings, and wristguard. The Apothecary presented her with an engraved box of ointments, including both cosmetics and medicinals. The Leathercrafter presented her with the engraved side saddle, saddle bags, and fancy bridle and armorial bardings. The Flagmaker presented her with the new Royal Ancoran Banner, complete with banner pole. The Jeweler gave her a silver ring with a blue stone and explained that the Citadel Mage Resini had enchanted the stone to turn red if the ring was placed close to any poison.

The Chief Chef and the Chief Musician announced that their gifts would come in the form of a banquet and dance in Mavigan's honor that evening, and Mavigan was encouraged to describe all of her favorite foods, drinks, and dances. Then Willhelm stepped forward and led Argent, decked out in finery, over to Mavigan and handed her the reins and an apple and suggested that she try out her new gifts. A cheer arose from the crowd. As Wilhelm released the reins, he looked meaningfully at Keeryn, still admiring the spear, and then leaned forward and whispered to Mavigan,

"A royal bodyguard is traditionally given a weapon by her liege."

Written by Tempyst

Tempyst stretched, and felt Lucant's warm body next to hers. The sun was beginning to set, the last rays dancing admist the vines that were creeping into the room. She turned to look at Lucant and ran her finger over his back, then noticed something had changed. She sat up, pulling the blanket back from him and saw the mark. That was not there earlier, Nyrondis has truly made his choice. Tempyst's finger traced the image of the oak tree that had grown across Lucant'c back, almost feeling the leaves brushing up against her skin.

They are coming... Alanthear whispered.

"Who is coming?" She questioned aloud.

They, they are coming. Hurry and go meet them. Tempyst stopped, then suddenly her mind exploded with what she had done.

"Lucant! Lucant!" Tempyst shook Lucant's shoulder almost violently. Lucant began to stir and Tempyst jumped out of bed and began searching for her clothing, her voice almost panicked. "Lucant please, wake up now! I can't believe this! How could I forget the protocal?" Lucant sat up and looked quizzically at her as she flew about the room like a mad woman. Tempyst found her clothes and began to dress. "Do you realize what I have done Lucant? No, of course not, but you will. The conclave here, the druids who ward over this area, i forgot to announce my presence and I communed without permission! We must hurry, Alanthear says they are coming. We must hurry and find them before they find us!"

Tempyst grabbed Lucant's shirt and handed it to him. Then rushed forward and kissed him deeply. Finally breaking the kiss she smiled. "Now, hurry up and dress, we need to leave now.!

Written by Lucant Dolvan

An enormous black shadow stood before Lucant, threatening to consume him and all he held dear. As the shadow began to move, Lucant was roused from his sleep by Tempyst shaking his arm in a panic.

Unsettled and still half-asleep, he sat up. "Do you realize what I have done Lucant? No, of course not, but you will. The conclave here, the druids who ward over this area, i forgot to announce my presence and I communed without permission! We must hurry, Alanthear says they are coming. We must hurry and find them before they find us!" He did indeed have no idea what she meant. He was pleasntly surprised by her kiss and more than a little annoyed by A'lanthear's interruption. "Your love for her will only grow, master."

Finally breaking the kiss she smiled. "Now, hurry up and dress, we need to leave now.!" Lucant began to dress as he responded to his intrusive companion: "Beyond all shadow, A'lanthear...beyond all shadow." "We must hurry," came Tempyst's cry from the door. Lucant picked up A'lanthear and hurried to her side, then the two were on their way.

Lucant took her hand in his and began to run. He didn't care what anyone thought about the two of them running throughout the Citadel. He didn't care about the past; he didn't care what future he was running towards. He was with her, and that was the most important thing to him.

Hand in hand, the two moved down the Avenue of Assembly in the slowly setting sun, turning a corner onto the famed Temple Row. A short ways in front of them stood a harsh-looking man - clearly an important druid - flanked on either side by two young initiates.

Written by Tempyst

Tempyst clutched Lucant's hand tightly as they stood before the druids. Immediately she knelt before older man and held out her staff for him to sense. "My sincerest apologies Elder, it was not my intention to be rude, much has happened on this day and there was just not time to find you first." Tempyst paused, letting the Elder Druid learn about her from her staff, an obejct that was more than what it appeared to be to all druids. After a few moments of feeling her heart trying to bust out ofher chest she spoke again. "As you will learn, I was reborn with the sword A'lanthear cradled in my arms. And now, this day, A'lanthear has found its champion."

Written by Turin Wallace

Ithramir closed his eyes and rested himself for the days ride. Before long, he heard one of Isuiln’s aides come running by with his own Catherin in hot pursuit. He studied the distinct footfalls for a moment and then taking a deep breath, he emptied his mind of all thoughts except for her, letting the night take him into her embrace.

A few hours passed.

Rousing himself from his reveries, Ithramir looked up into Menelmîr and gazed upon it’s beauty. Slowly, he moved his eyes downward unto the sight of the great fortress of Minas Aure, still burning, thick clouds of smoke still billowing high into the air.

There was no more time to waste.

Standing up, Ithramir gently nudged Catherin, who had returned some while ago and sat under a tree close to him. Rubbing her emerald eyes awake, Ithramir waits for her to stand up, then quietly says,

“Wake those not already up. We ride, and by Avandor’s might, we reach Minas Aure by sunset.”

Catherin, half-awake, responds,

“We are riding at full gallop, no rests?”

Ithramir responds,

“Yes, the only stop we will have is before we dart across the plains of Vernais and into the city. That is, if our garrison still holds the fortress and opens the gate for us.”

Nodding, Catherin walks off to relay the order he has given.

Left alone, Ithramir kicks dirt upon the fire of the night before and mounts his steed. One by one, those riding with him arrive. Nodding and giving polite greetings, they assemble, and their forces are soon mounted and ready to move.

With a wave of his arm, Ithramir says,

“Forward!”

A horn sounds, and in a flash, they are off.

****

Far off to the north, a man walks the battlements of a small-fortified city. Snow, falling gently, can be heard hitting the cold ground in the silence of the night. As he walks by the guards of the watch, they all snap to attention, saluting back he also clasps each guard on the back as he walks by. The slight clattering of his armor gives his position away as he makes his way to his favorite spot.

There, standing alone in the darkness, the moon so very large in these mountains seems to be looking back at him. Exhaling deeply, his breathe escapes in a cloud from his mouth, releasing himself for the moment. It is his way to take these walks; he has done so ever since he was a little boy in his own father’s castle. The moon and stars, the eternals, are his friends and comforters in times of need.

For many years, he has needed their friendship and twinkling ears as he has bared his soul to them. It wasn’t always so, but then, sometimes fate intervenes and thrusts ordinary people into extraordinary situations. A man, born far from here, who cannot die so long as he remains a champion in an Archons service, who also remains in service to their god. A man who died countless times, on fields far, far from here. A man who has ended the lives of thousands, his hands stained with the blood of both those guilty and those who were innocent. A man who has witnessed and partook in some of the worst fighting imaginable in a land torn apart by strife and abandoned by the gods. A man who has loved and lost, many a time, and yet continues on.

Leaning on the battlement, he relaxes, letting his head hang down in silence. He feels the cool, wet snow dropping onto his head. His hair, peppered black and white, hangs smartly on him. His eyes closed, he let’s go of his thoughts and becomes one with his surroundings. He doesn’t want to think tonight, he just wants to feel, something he has not truly allowed himself since the day his wife and child were killed. Or were they? The elven ranger Corren had told him about a girl he found some nineteen years ago, found on the same field where his Brinna was slaughtered, the field where he found her and saw that the child she bore was no longer there.

He will never forgive the Orcs for what they did to her and their family that day. Until the end of his days, if he should ever see them, Orcs will loathe and whisper his name in hate, for he will never stop seeking vengeance for his loss.

But, the news that this ranger brought, has given him something he lost a long time ago: hope. Something that, at one time, he had given to so many others He had lost his for a time, but it is now rekindled inside him. Like a fire that is rekindled after burning low, so this is how he feels.

In the soft patter of gently falling snowflakes, he can hear his sister’s feet softly tapping upon the stone battlement. Feeling her arm wrap around him, he can feel her lean in to whisper,

“Turin, everything has been made ready. We will leave in the morning, and furthermore, you know I will come with you.”

Smiling, despite himself, he says,

“Of course, dear Nica, how can I refuse my own sister?”

Illuminated by the moon, both can see the small smiles they both wear. Straightening himself up, Turin offers his arm to his sister Nica, and they both walk down from the battlements. Tomorrow will start a journey he doesn’t know how will end, but he is glad he will not be alone for it.

Written by Ardwen

"I may have an answer for you Ardwen, if you are open to the possibility." Renalis moved closer to Ardwen. The Elven berserker moved his head in a small nod, at this point he was open to just about any explanation.

"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." There was a short pause before Renalis continued.

"The problem with that portal - and the very reason why I created my own to come here - is that it is rather unstable." Ardwen raised an eyebrow in question. While he would not openly admit it, he had failed horribly at magical training when he first tested to enter the Deathless Empire's host. Renalis though, seemed intent on elucidating his point and continued, "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!"

Ardwen’s face went blank. His mind slowly churned over what Renalis had just said. “Instability?” He pondered slowly, “What in the gods’ damned hells is this man talking about? A different location . . . I can believe that, yes, so a different world obviously.” Ardwen was not totally foreign to the concept of planar travel, after all, had not the Aracoix come to Aerynth by means of the runegate from another world? “But another time? In time? He couldn’t possibly be suggesting that I . . . stepped . . . not only into another world but into the . . . future . . . or present of the world the Hands stepped into?”

Ardwen ticked a few more things off in his head, “Alaric mentioned being of Aethelwulf’s descent? What was it now? He went back quite a bit . . . if the humans here live as long as they do on Aerynth then that means that it’s been perhaps . . . 150 years.” Ardwen felt something then, something strange. “Over one hundred years.” He choked out in a hoarse whisper directed at no one. Ardwen spun around then quickly, putting his back to Alaric and Renalis. He remained erect, motionless, and immovable; he didn’t want them to see his face now.

A single tear traced its way down the Elf’s right cheek. “I thought I was so close,” Ardwen wailed mentally, “I thought the gods might be merciful. But why would they to a monster like me? Perhaps Trinni was right, I am a monster. Aethelwulf, by the Ellestor . . . they’re really all dead.” Ardwen cleared his throat; he wanted no clue of his grief to show on the outside. “Renalis,” He began, and his voice was stilted and rigid, “I thank you for your explanation. I know little of magic and the arcane. Upon examining the . . . facts in conjunction with your theory I do think you hit upon the mark. Well done.”

Ardwen cleared his throat again, his damned voice kept wanting to waver, “Alaric,” another muffled cough escaped the warrior as he again cleared his throat, “I owe you an apology for naming you a lesser. As you are Aethelwulf’s bloodline you indeed owe me whatever recriminations you can conjure. I thank you for helping me in turn shed some light on the enigma of my lost life. You were also right,” Ardwen paused slightly, “I am ancient beyond human reckoning. I am too ancient, I have lived for too long. I have beheld a warrior’s era and a warrior’s world pass me by, and the only thing left to me is a warrior’s death. So be it. But there is one final thing I would know: where are my friends buried? Where did they inter their remains? I want to see them, one last time . . . ere I die.”

Ardwen did not really give them a chance to answer though, almost like a man stricken dumb he stumbled outside the outermost of the campfires. Walking in slow methodical steps Ardwen reached a great tree that reached upward toward the heavens. Wearily the Elf turned his back to the tree, leaned against it . . . and stared upward at the stark night sky. Time passed; how long Ardwen could not tell. Someone shook him; it was a fellow Elf. Ardwen noted the way he stood on the balls of his feet, and stretched out his hand. His own kin were nervous around him. Ardwen walked to his mount, he swung up roughly into the saddle and moved to where he saw Ithramir rallying the host.

“Forward!” Came the commanding sound of Ithramir’s voice, a horn called a clarion note out in the distance. Ardwen spurred his mount to keep match with the company Ithramir was riding in. Inside the Elf was hollow, the coming battle was the only possible release he could foresee.

Written by Archeantus

The lich’s eyes flared in fury. His form swarmed with limitless power, dark light tethered about him, and suddenly the mage was lifted back against the dank wall.

The mage watched in quiet envy, a faint smile played across his pale, wizened, smooth face, a face hidden in the recesses of his hood. His accumulated power, his soul stone was pitied. He was insulted, humbled, knowing full well such things were to be expected when communing with a being whose power reached far into the fell clutches of the very pitch of the abyss.

He again allowed the lich to display the extent, and threat of his power. Kishkumen then knew, yet still doubted, that the lich was not bound by the mortal that stood before him in blazen ferocity. Kishkuman grew puzzled at this, his vast lust for power shuddered in thought. There was still a mystery to be discovered. That much was plainly evident. Yet there was no time for such puzzles, his time was short. He had brought the lich to the surface of the man before him for a purpose. And so he spoke smoothly, smartly, fearlessly, unaffected by the perfect threats of one that held more power than he could ever possess.

“Forgive me Deathless One.” His long spidery hands wrapped around his fallen staff. His veiled face bowed slightly. “I am prone to mortality’s weaknesses.”

The mage followed the lich down the dripping corridor, and then continued in his soft raspy voice, “Do not presume however to think me a fool. And do not let your timeless mind waver on the thought that I do not know whom I speak to. Never has my mind settled on the thought that I could ever compare to one such as yourself. I would welcome the unspeakable torment at your hands, if only for my inherent respect for your every whim.”

The necromancer paused, choosing his words carefully. “However, I did not call you forth to speak adorations. Nor did I call you forth to hear just how insignificant I am compared to your dominion. These are things I know, and know well.” Kishkumen turned slightly, his face lowered even further down into the recesses of his black cloak.

“I have called you forth to ask but a question.”

The lich barely gave the mage his attention, but slowed ever so slightly.

“How might I, if possible, secure your greatest desire?”

The lich turned and beheld the mage a few feet away bathed in darkness, yet, again mere inches away, the human, the one the mage had called master, stood before the lich, his sword drawn, its razor sharp point lifted to the being’s radiant eyes.

“Speak, servant.”

Written by Ariana

Mavigan brushed cake crumbs from her mouth, her new ring glimmering from its new spot on her finger, and happily accepted the apple to feed to Argent. As the horse munched, she heard Wilhelm whisper in her ear…

"A royal bodyguard is traditionally given a weapon by her liege."

Following his gaze, she noticed her friend practically drooling over herself as she eyed the spear the Spearsmith had presented. Immediately taking his meaning, she left Argent with her apple, grabbed the spear and plunked it into Keeryn’s hands.

“Here ya go,” Mavigan said cheerily. “Be sure to poke things with it for me,” she added, and then gave a friendly pat on Keeryn’s shoulder.

At Wilhelm’s suggestion she go try out her new gifts, she said, “I will… but AFTER we party!”

With that declaration she patted Argent, then picked up a goblet and another rather large slice of cake, and proceeded to lead the march towards the kitchens.

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