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Book Two - A Gathering Storm

Written by - Turin Wallace Page 21 Book 2

The afternoon gave way to the slow and steady approach of evening. The sky and clouds emitted a strong orange glow, cast by the ever sinking sun. Smoke still billowed from parts of the city, but fireteams were taking them out as fast as they could amid the secured parts of it. Ithramir continued to watch as the dwarves continued pounding, pounding, pounding on the last door.

Not too long ago, a runner had reported Isuiln's and Alaric's troops had taken their objectives and started mopping up scattered pockets of resistance. Isuiln had arrived, his eyes full of rage and hate, and he now awaited the fall of the gate along with Ithramir and his company. The company that seemed to grow more each time he looked around, why they added Lucant, Rikshanthas, and Renalis today. What may take an ordinary elven soldier decades to accomplish, they did so in one day. All over some demonic business, or so they say.

*BOOM*

Hearing a dwarf utter something about "damned elves and their bloody ironwood doors", Ithramir chuckles. These keeps were made millenia ago by elves, dwarves, and humans. It was more likely dwarves secured these doors and had a hand in why it was so tough to breach. Plus, the center keep was the nerve center of the city, as well as a last holdout position, it was meant to be damn tough.

*BOOM*

Ithramir's eyes turn to Ardwen, or whatever he was now, as he continued to pound against the door like an animal. Ithramir knew that feeling all too well, of nothing by tearing into your enemies, releasing everything into the maelstrom of battle. What made them different is that Ithramir did not have a suit to amplify those feelings, nor does he ever want one, for there are other things in life than battle.

*BOOM*

It is now his thoughts finally turn to Lithwyn. If he were a lesser elf he would turn and run back to her, ask forgiveness for his pride, and for leaving her. The thoughts of his own mortality, coupled with so many warnings, even from the gods themselves, cause him to pause. Maybe he won't make it out of here and he'll be another casualty in this war, to only be a footnote in the annals of some history book, or worse, be forgotten entirely. There's one thing he has to do while he has time.

*BOOM*

Quickly, he scribbles a handwritten note to Lithwyn. He tells her he is alright, that he is in the best of company, and that he thinks of her and misses her greatly. He also writes he will return home with the army once they are done with their mission, which they all hope will be mercifully soon. He finishes by telling her he loves her and wants to be with her again, and if he should never return to her, then she would be his last thought and her name the last sound that passes his lips.

*BOOM* *CRACK*

Finally! The doors are beginning to give way! Grabbing a runner, he hands the sealed letter to him and tells him to put it with the reports heading back to the Citadel.

*BOOM* *CRACK* *CREAK*

Not long now! Ithramir shouts,

"Prepare yourselves! Charge them when the doors give way!"

He watches as they all prepare, faces become hardened, knuckles turn white, muscles tense. Yes, they are ready.

*BOOM* *CREAK* *SHATTER*

Leading a blind charge to the gate, he shouts,

"Death to all Orcs!"

Elves, humans, and dwarves all converge on the fallen doorway. The Orcs have been waiting for them all day, but they are not ready for the ferocity of the invaders.

The final stand of the Orcs in Minas Aure begins.

Ithramir, and the rest, show no mercy. All Orcs that are foolish enough to stand in their way are cut down. Some even throw down their weapons in a foolish bid for mercy, but they are hacked into pieces. The center keep itself becomes their last bastion, as the courtyard no longer belongs to them.

Rushing into the doors of the keep, battle is engaged on the first floor. It is a hard fight, Orc archers and fighters working to keep the allies off the stairs, but they begin to fall as elven and human archers pluck them off. Reaching the staircases, the allies quickly move to the second level of the keep. More of the same, the Orcs slowly give ground until they are overwhelmed.

"They die well, I'll give them that," Ithramir thinks.

Reaching another set of stairs, the allies begin the rush to the third level. Here, they encounter tougher seasoned troops and even a cadre of orc shamans. This wasn't what they were expecting, but they press forward onto them.

It is here that the scene becomes horrible, magics flash through the air, huge thuggish orcs swing mercilessly into the troops, rending limbs and life from the attackers, until finally after two unsuccessful attempts Ithramir orders the army to regroup on the second floor.

Opening a link to Avandor, Ithramir speaks,

"I will not waste more lives in this vain attack, but the only way to face the lesser avatar on the roof is to take this third level. Your servant asks for guidance."

In his mind, the answer comes swiftly,

"I have seen your plight and I will assist. Call out for a company of ten soldiers, all volunteers, and I will lend all of you proof against the magics thrown at you, as well as speed to avoid the blows of your attackers. However, I warn you know, be swift! For these blessings will only be a few moments, then they will cease to be."

Shouting out into the mass before him, Ithramir says,

"I need ten volunteers for an assault on the third floor, who will join me? Avandor himself will bless us all and give us our chance at glory. So I ask again, who shall answer this call?"

Ithramir's eyes scan the room as he waits for those to step forward. Almost immediately he see's Catherin step forward, saying,

"By you, live or die, I shall go. You are my commander, I would be shamed if I did not stay with you."

Nodding, Ithramir says,

"Very well, Catherin, stand with me. Now, who else shall go?"

Ithramir listens and waits for others who would join them.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

"Just so we're clear, kid, I do care what happens to the girl. Nobody deserves that kind of torment. I just don't hold any illusions of getting her out in one piece; for all we know, by the time we find her a quick death might be the best thing we could give her." His words were leaden with the weight of far too much experience with similar situations. Before Lucant could respond, the massive gate shattered to pieces with a fitting death groan.

Snapping around to the gate just in time to Ithramir's cry of "Death to all Orcs!", he draws A'lanthear and rushes forth to join the fray. It was first battle, yet he felt as if he had been on the field for years. Losing himself to the warrior aspect, he slaughtered Orcs one after another. As he fought onward towards the keep, Lucant kept telling himself: "I cannot fall here. I have to live. For her."

Busting through into the central keep, the party was greeted by the Shamaness' elite guard. The magnificent foyer of the keep errupted into a killing field as the shamans fired off their spells and Orc warriors hurled themselves against the allied advance in a last effort to thwart the allied advance.

Lucant locked A'lanthear against one of the suicidal warriors' axes and stood resolute as the Orc let out a beastial roar in his face. With a strength clearly not his own, Lucant pushed the Orc away before thrusting A'lanthear through his exposed chest. Wresting A'lanthear from the corpse, Lucant backed into the man who called himself Rikshanthas. Lucant was glad to have such a man at his back, but quickly went back on the offensive, lest the allies be overrun.

After pushing the fight for the keep to a standstill, Ithramir stood before the assembled troops. Lucant felt a stong divine aura surround Ithramir before he spoke: "I need ten volunteers for an assault on the third floor, who will join me? Avandor himself will bless us all and give us our chance at glory. So I ask again, who shall answer this call?" Ithramir's lieutenant, Catherin steps forward and says "By you, live or die, I shall go. You are my commander, I would be shamed if I did not stay with you." With a nod, Ithramir continued: "Very well, Catherin, stand with me. Now, who else shall go?" Emboldened, Lucant thrust A'lanthear into the air and shouted decisively: "I shall stand with you! I shall be your shield, Lord Ithramir!"

Written by - Isuiln Fellblade

Isuiln had made his way blindly to the keep, following the pounding of the battering ram echoing the pounding of his heart, forcing boiling blood through his veins and into his brain, any clear thought burned to cinders and fueling his rage. Wherever he found orcs along the way, death found them. As he crossed a courtyard, main keep within sight, he leaped and dodged several arrows hailing towards him. He turned and sprinted at the orcish archers, barely avoiding a collosion with a message runner who had been weaving through the hail of arrows, and had stopped to stare in wonder, before coming back to his senses and hurrying along as an arrow whizzes past his face. Isuiln continues his mad dash, batting arrows out of the air with inhuman speed. As he gets nearer, the archers fire off a few more desperate arrows as they turn to run, and there was no time for even Isuiln to react. One glanced off his helmet, another burying itself into his upper arm, several others flying uselessly past. But they couldn't match his unnatural speed, and he hacked them down mercilessly, striking in strategic places for the slowest and most painful deaths. As he turned to go back to the keep, he barely brought a sword up in time to deflect a dagger from one archer who had remained hidden. The other sword came in low, sweeping across the orcs knees, leaving him suddenly almost 2 feet shorter. The orc rolled on the ground, clutching his bleeding stumps. Isuiln sheathed his swords and picked up the orcs dropped bow. He kicked the orc over on his stomach, and holding the grip of the bow, placed the string on the front of the orc's neck. Stepping on the back of the orc's head, he pulled. The orc's scream became a gurgle, and Isuiln pulled harder, trying to pass the excruitiating pain in his heart to the orc by inflicting it upon him. Through his tears, he didn't see the orc's body go limp, and he kept pulling for several minutes. Then he dropped the bow, and continued towards the main keep. He didn't feel any better. He must need to kill more.

Shortly after he arrived at the gate, oblivious to anyone he might recognize's presence, the gates ripped asunder. "Death to all orcs!" Ithramir screamed, and Isuiln's mind grasped that thought, echoing over and over, the only piece of reality he could hold on to. And death he dealt. He ripped through orc after orc, climbing through the levels of the keep, rending flesh, using the hilts of his swords as steel boxing gloves when he could, inflicting as much pain as possible. When they reached the third floor, they faced more seasoned gaurds, and magic wielders. They fought to a stalemate, allies dying as fast as the orcs. Ithramir, not wanting to waste any more lives in this bedlam, called for a retreat. But Isuiln couldn't retreat. There were orcs here, orcs that had wrenched his heart out of his chest, and he intended to return the favor. Yet he was being pressed back, nearly overwhelmed, then one of his attackers would make a mistake, slipping a bit on the blood-soaked stone, mistiming a parry, and he would have them, and he killed without mercy, without mistakes. Then he felt a hand on the back of his tunic, at the collar, pulling him back.

"Come on Isuiln! Ithramir called the retreat!" Trinni kept pulling insistantly, and a nearby orc, who had been moving back to regroup with the rest of the orcs, saw oppertunity. He dashed forward with a war call, raised his massive and jagged claymore over his head, and brought it whistling down on the two rather offbalance elves. Isuiln had seen him coming, and positioned his feet to look like he was still slipping and struggling against Trinni, but had full control of his motion. As the sword began it's downward arc, he set his feet and gave Trinni a sudden and tremendous pull, moving in the only direction the orc wasn't expecting: towards it. The claymore hit the ground just behind and to their left, and Isuiln leaned back against Trinny, who had stumbled into him and provided the perfect brace he needed. Placing one foot on the orc's forearm, he got the rest of the leverage he needed, and wrapped both his legs around it's head. As Trinni gave way beneath him, he twisted his body, vicously snapping it's neck and barely avoiding landing on her. But she was up before he'd barely hit the ground, grabbing his armor at the shoulder joint, and physically dragging him back to everyone else. He managed to stand before they reached the rest of the allies, but was still stumbling as she drug him along. She let go, and he stood straight, then rounded on her to yell at her when Ithramir began to speak.

"I need ten volunteers for an assault on the third floor, who will join me? Avandor himself will bless us all and give us our chance at glory. So I ask again, who shall answer this call?" First an elf named Catherin stepped forward and pledged to go, then some human raised his sword and volounteered as well. Isuiln went to step forward, then grabbed Trinni's wrist and jerked her forward beside him.

"I've not had my share of orc blood either. We'll go to."

Written by - Sycon

Sycon felt the bite before he knew what had happened. His immediate reaction was to quickly draw back his hand and let out a slight yip.

A numbing sensation started with his hand and quickly spread through his system. Was she a witch? No, she couldn't be. They did not heal the sick. A priest, perhaps, but they did not use snakes. ...Druid? It had to be. Or at least he hoped. If not, it meant he was on his deathbed from the venom, but she had said something. She had told him to relax, maybe? He had missed it. His nerves calmed a bit.

He had not realized it, but his other hand had wrenched itself out of hers when the first was bitten. Sycon focused some of his mana, trying not to alert anyone of his doing so. It wasn't too hard since he would be keeping it inside his body...and he was a mage. Nothing unusual there. His uninjured hand slid over the one with the bite as he went to lay it on the cot beside him. As the uninjured hand passed over, the small wound closed, unscarred, and was painless. He hoped she would not notice.

Sycon could heal small injuries. It was part of being a warlock, the ability heal one self. While his mana reserves would never last on this realm to heal himself from near death, small bites did not take too much.

The venom in his veins was making him light headed though. Sycon was sure his words would slur if he tried them. Now was not the time to be discovered, being this vulnerable. Quick thinking...well, as quick as the venom would let him...is what he needed.

Sycon concentrated, surpassing his normal limits. This always hurt him in some way, there was always a small trade of health involved when he did this. His body stated to ache, beginning with his fingertips and moving up his arms. When it had stopped, he felt like he had been fighting all day, but his mind was clear and he was back in control of his words and actions. Perhaps he could catch her off guard. She would not expect him to be able to think quickly or charming.

She had started to untie the linen around his eyes. His guess was once she would look at him, she would know there was nothing wrong with him and then it would be the end of his temporary guise.

"Please, Tempyst," as he began, his hand came up to meet hers again, stopping her progress with his bandage, "let the bandages be. While they might not be fastened that neatly or well, they are sufficient for now. Thank you."

Maybe if he tried a more subtle but polite approach. The almost mocking smile disappeared from his face to be replaced with a more compassionate smile.

"Temp...Tempyst. I am ashamed of myself. I...I know you are a healer. I'm guessing a very good one at that..." except for the snake he thought grudgingly, "and I know your time is pressing. But...I need to tell this to someone. I need to relieve myself of this burden, of my pain." He paused to see if she had anything to say. When she did not, he continued. "I don't want to speak of it here, and I cannot see where I am. Can you lead me somewhere where we can talk alone. I do not wish for all these noble soldiers to here my injustice. Just for a minute, I promise. Can you help me? Will you listen? I feel I can trust you... Please?" His words trailed off a bit and became softer as he spoke them. He was getting rather good at this, possibly on the brink of being clever.

Written by - Tempyst

"Can you help me? Will you listen? I feel I can trust you... Please?" His words trailed off a bit and became softer as he spoke them. Tempyst watched his reactions, the way he protested the removal of his bandages and now, this request to speak to her alone. This soldier was scared, the battle, the fighting had been too much for him and he was afraid. And now, it was her duty to make sure the fear did not take control of him. He could truly be hurt under there, but I do suspect the injuries are more emotional and he does not want his condition revealed to the others for fear of ridicule.

Tempyst took the man's hand and placed another on his shoulder, lifting slightly, indicating that she was helping him up. "Alright, let me help you and I can tak eyou inside where there is more privacy. Now, you will be feeling a bit woozy, the bite was to help you relax and take away any pain you may have." Tempyst helped the man stand and placed his arm about her shoulders, pressing close to him, her rich, earthen scent very strong to him now. She walked slowly, making sure they did not bump into any cots or run over any injured. After a minute of maneuvering and walking, the noises from the battle quieted and the shade of a enclosed building could be felt.

"Here, sit down here." Tempyst helped him sit down on a scarred wooden chair, then sat down opposite him, but close, knees almost touching. "Now, we are alone and safe, and you can tell me whatever you need to." She paused, then placed a hand upon his knee. "Though I hope the first thing you'll tell me is your name."

Written by - Rikshanthas

Lucant seemed about to say something when the loud cracking of the breaching keep gates turned all attention to the front. "Prepare yourselves! Charge them when the doors give way!" Lienad heard the commander shout. Instantly he whipped Khelek'urya from its hilt, the sturdy Orc Poker in his off hand, his preferred dual style. He felt the chill of the enchanted blade, steeling himself against it.

The gate fell with a loud cracking groan. Ithramir led the charge, shouting, "Death to all Orcs!" as the combined army of elves, dwarves and humans smashed into the orcs' defensive line like a giant hammer. Lienad quickly was forced to resheath his shortblade, lacking the free space for dual combat and not wishing to injure his allies, and concentrated on beating the orcs back with Khelek'urya. Fortunately this posed little difficulty, as the orcs they were fighting were a far cry from the grizzled veterans he had trained and fought with for nearly two decades - and he hadn't even had Khelek'urya then.

He almost started to feel guilty about cutting them down so easily, as they fought through to the second level of the keep. Then they reached the third level, and his opinion changed. Now they were facing elite, battle-hardened warriors, with weapons whose superior workmanship resisted Khelek'urya's shattering frost. He was forced to fight for his life, spells crackling around him, the dragonblade protecting him from the occasional near-miss though he didn't want to test Khelek'urya's protection against a direct hit.

He was battling a particularly determined mace-wielding orc when someone bumped into him, in effect saving his life as the orc was in the middle of a swing that would have taken his head off otherwise. Instead the orc's mace collided with his collar, the force of impact lessened by Lienad's sideways motion, carrying him to the floor. Khelek'urya came up in a quick jab beneath the orc's chin, and Lienad was able to stumble back at Ithramir's order, pulling off the dented collar which was putting pressure on his windpipe and feeling for injury. Fortunately, other than the mother of a bruise he would have there didn't seem to have been any permanent damage: the mithril-reinforced collar had done its job.

To Lienad's surprise Khelek'urya seemed to hum, its tip lowering to the ground of its own volition as he approached Ithramir. The commander seemed to be speaking to some unseen companion, after which he raised his voice and shouted, "I need ten volunteers for an assault on the third floor, who will join me? Avandor himself will bless us all and give us our chance at glory. So I ask again, who shall answer this call?" An elven woman Lienad vaguely recognized volunteered, followed to Lienad's slight surprise by young Lucant, and another pair of elves. Not willing to be outshone by a kid who's probably never seen a battle in his life, Lienad stepped forward, drawing Khelek'urya's crossguard to his lips and lowering it in an old knights' salute. "Count me in."

Written by - Renalis

*BOOM*

"Doors of Ironwood... damn near impenetrable..." Renalis thinks to himself, finally having a moment to think.

*BOOM*

Looking at Ardwen, Renalis feels what is almost like pity "Has he nothing left?"

*BOOM*

Renalis can see the look of concern in Ithramir's eyes, he is thinking the same thing that Renalis himself is thinking.

*BOOM*

Seeing Ithramir writing a note, Renalis wonders if he should do the same, "No, she knows..." he thinks as he touches the soulstone.

*BOOM* *CRACK*

Renalis leaps to his feet and draws his sword, "We will end this..."

*BOOM* *CRACK* *CREAK*

Ithramir shouts, "Prepare yourselves! Charge them when the doors give way!" Taking a position just to the side of Ithramir, Renalis readies himself.

*BOOM* *CREAK* *SHATTER*

Leading a blind charge to the gate, Ithramir shouts, "Death to all Orcs!" Following close behind, Renalis makes short work of the first Orc to cross his path with a quick upward slash. Rushing through the doors of the keep, Renalis is surprised to see a few of the Orcs actually drop their weapons, in some vain attempt to surrender. "The same mercy you showed the Elves..." Renalis mutters as he cleaves one of them in half, a small bolt of lightning charring another two behind that one.

Taking the second floor was a little harder than the first, "The Orcs seem to want us to pay for every inch of ground... so be it, they will pay for it with their blood, and by the gallon." Renalis continues to carve his way alongside the Elven commander as they make for the staircase to the third level.

Seeing the Orc shamans begin Renalis had little concern for his own life, but he knew what powerful magic could do against the unprepared. He shielded himself and those nearby but that wasn't enough, they were too many and Renalis was just one. To add to the mayhem, the biggest and toughest Orcs seemed to block the way, destroying those that got too close.

After two unsucessful pushes, Ithramir calls for a regrouping on the second level.

"I need ten volunteers for an assault on the third floor, who will join me? Avandor himself will bless us all and give us our chance at glory. So I ask again, who shall answer this call?" Almost immediately Catherin steps forward, saying, "By you, live or die, I shall go. You are my commander, I would be shamed if I did not stay with you." Nodding, Ithramir says, "Very well, Catherin, stand with me. Now, who else shall go?"

Lucant thrust A'lanthear into the air and shouted decisively: "I shall stand with you! I shall be your shield, Lord Ithramir!"

Isuiln went to step forward, then grabbed Trinni's wrist and jerked her forward beside him. "I've not had my share of orc blood either. We'll go to."

Another man stepped forward, drawing his blade's crossguard to his lips and lowering it in an old knights' salute. "Count me in."

"You need not even ask M'lord," Renalis steps forward, "You know my magic and my sword stand with you."

Renalis looks at Trinni and gives her a coy smile, worried for her safety but not showing it, he pats his friend on the back.

Written by - Sycon

Tempyst led them into a more private area where they both could sit.

Tempyst helped him sit down on a scarred wooden chair, then sat down opposite him, but close, knees almost touching. "Now, we are alone and safe, and you can tell me whatever you need to." She paused, then placed a hand upon his knee. "Though I hope the first thing you'll tell me is your name."

"I am sorry. I hadn't realized I did not tell you my name. I am Sycon. Not very well known to this area, but here to lend a hand, none the less. I do my part, though I sometimes feel insignificant." He spoke without inflection. Trying to sound as morbid as he could for the time being.

He had still not seen this woman's face, though she was surely a druid. The earthy smell about her had gotten stronger to where he could easily recognize it. She was probably quite the beauty then. He had always heard the druidesses were.

His thoughts shifted back to his speech, "I came here through a gate a good while ago. Exactly how long I'm not too sure of that myself. I was battered up pretty bad when I came through. But nevermind that...I am here...and I've brought you here to tell you something."

Sycon listened for people, either in the room or close by. This room was empty, and as he would guess, it would stay that way until Tempyst would make it known otherwise. He slowly reached up to his bandage and scrathced it. Feeling truly blind, though he wasn't if he would just take it off.

There was a long pause which Tempyst said nothing. Sycon started again, "I could hear their screams. Their footsteps, their last breathes. Even in the darkness that I've been cast into, I could hear it all. I was all alone in a world of chaos and death, crawling on my hands and knees trying to find a way out. I couldn't even help those who would never take another breath if only I had been able to find them and save them." He was really getting into this story. "We lost so many good men out there," Doh! That was really cliche, "I just couldn't...I just don't...I...i..." He stood up and rushed toward what he thought might be a wall. He stumbled over another chair and fell face first on the floor, blind as a bat.

Written by - Tempyst

"I came here through a gate a good while ago. Exactly how long I'm not too sure of that myself. I was battered up pretty bad when I came through. But nevermind that...I am here...and I've brought you here to tell you something." A gate, that would explain some of the oddness I feel about him and perhaps his reluctance to let others see him. She listened intently as he continued his story.

"I could hear their screams. Their footsteps, their last breathes. Even in the darkness that I've been cast into, I could hear it all. I was all alone in a world of chaos and death, crawling on my hands and knees trying to find a way out. I couldn't even help those who would never take another breath if only I had been able to find them and save them. We lost so many good men out there, I just couldn't...I just don't...I...i..." He stood up and moved quickly, but stumbled over another chair and fell face first on the floor.

Tempyst got up quickly and went over to Sycon. Setting down beside him she pulled him into her arms and held him. Poor thing, to feel so alone and helpless. She rocked him a little, trying to settle him down, letting him know he was no longer alone. "Sycon, Sycon," she almost whispered, "you did what you could. No one person can do everything or save everyone. All we can do, is to live and fight with honor, do our best by our friends and family and keep going, for one day, it will all get better." Tempyst reached up and stroked his hair, then trailed her fingers over to the bandage around his eyes. "Now, let's take this off, we both know you don't need it." Tempyst pulled the cloth off and as she stretched to put the bandage down, she twisted in such a way, her medallion swung and bumped Sycon in the nose. "Oh, I'm so sorry, I usually wear that tucked away." She smiled down at him, eyes filled with genuine concern. "There is no need to hide, there is no one here to judge you."

*BOOM* *CREAK* *SHATTER*

It was then the sound of the splintering gate reached the ears of everyone close by. She turned towards the sound, her thoughts once again going out to her husband and all who would be entering the new stage of battle.

Written by - Ariana

Mavigan slowly tromped through the woods in the direction she hoped she would find Teran. In retrospect, she was rather glad she did not meet up with him right away. The brief respite under the trees provided her with an opportunity to determine if an alarm would be raised at her absence and if she would be followed. The relative quiet of the night, with only the sounds of chirping insects and the footfalls of her companions reaching her ears, led her to believe that no alarm would be raised.

Whether or not she was being followed was a different matter entirely.

Mavigan had not detected any presence shadowing her movements, but she was still uneasy, and she continued to send penetrating glances into the dark night surrounding her. She was sure that if Keeryn had detected something, the alert would have been raised. Mavigan held little doubt that if she were caught she would be promptly frog-marched back into the citadel and incarcerated in a jail cell next to Teran’s until Ithramir came home.

The thought hurried her footsteps, and Mavigan soon spotted a glow in the night – the beacon of a campfire – and she found herself drawn to it like a moth to a flame, sure she had found Teran. As she approached the ring of firelight, though, she paused. The scene before was certainly not what she had been expecting. Of course Teran was there, as was the Bitch, but there was a third party and the knot of uneasiness Mavigan had felt earlier bloomed into full alarm.

Crouched in front of the campfire was one of the undead, her skin glinting sickly in the flickering fire, her black aura churning violently around her sucking in every speck of light. Mavigan had never actually seen one of the undead before, though she had heard stories passed around campfires as easily as mead, and read accounts of encounters with such creatures in the dusty tomes in the castle. All of the stories had indicated that the undead should be slain on sight. At the very least, the stories indicated that having conversations with them in the dead of night was a sure-fire way to get yourself consumed, or possessed, or damned for all eternity. Mavigan was pretty sure she wouldn’t like any of those options.

And here was her “Hero”, standing as if he had not a care in the world, holding a good-natured conversation with one.

Mavigan was on unfamiliar territory, and she was acutely aware of that fact. Her fingers tightened on Argent’s reigns as she reached within herself to find something solid to stand on. Reaching deep, she rediscovered her own strength courage and the promise she had made to herself so long ago. Forcing her grip to relax, she held her head high and took that last step into the circle of light.

“Interesting friends you keep, Teran,” she said, keeping her tone light while resting wary eyes upon the unfamiliar.

Written by - Renalis

“Of course, our guide neglected to tell us exactly where to meet him, and I, for one, am no longer inclined to wait for him to find us.” Mavigan rose to her feet, dusting off the back of her clothes with absent pats. “So let’s go find him!”

Crystal took this as a good sign and too went to her horse and followed.

Coming upon a campfire, Crystal could see those around it being familiar, all but one. This creature was undead... and this did somewhat worry Crystal. But seeing no look of fear on Teran, not even one of concern, she decided all that was required was to keep an eye on the monster.

“Interesting friends you keep, Teran,” Mavigan said lightly.

"Interesting indeed," Crystal thought to herself, "This is going to get very interesting before this is situation is resolved."

Written by - Sycon

Tempyst had come over to him. She was now cradling him, telling him everything was all right. Sycon felt the warmth of her affection toward him. He was starting to believe the story. She truly cared for him, and he was a nothing but a stranger.

No matter what she looked like, Tempyst was now beautiful no matter what he would see. She reached down and pulled off his bandage, and as she did...a triskillion medallion fell out. His eyes were still closed, but a flash of the symbol crossed his thoughts as it brushed him. It was the same symbol of the All-Father from his realm. Where had she gotten it? He knew she would not steal it. A druid with a triskillion of the All-Father...hmmm.

*BOOM* *CREAK* *SHATTER*

The air was full of thoughts. Rushing from everyone around, fear, confusion, courage, unrestless now come to an end. The doors were open. He did not have to see it to know. He could almost breath in the thoughts that filled everyone's mind. It was one of those rare moments everyone wears what they think on the sleeve of their cuff. The thoughts were almost projected into his mind.

His sword! Back in the room with the cot. There would be death soon, possibly even worse would be the humans, elves, and dwarves would not last. The orcs were still calm, he could not sense any thoughts from them at all, and agression was always easy to read. Something was a bit off...

Tempyst. He had never opened his eyes since she had removed the bandages and she would not know what was wrong with him. Her attention was not with him at this instance. She concentrated on the door just as everyone else's was. He quickly got to this feet. A smile still on his face, but he did not know why.

This quick movement startled Tempyst and she stood up at the same time. Sycon's eyes opened and he took view of her in full. She was a druidess, he was now sure. And she did meet the standards of the druidesses he had heard about. Beauty, he was not sure why, but beautiful for some unexplained reason to him. Before she had time to even respond, or even catch her full balance on her feet from standing so quickly, he stepped in closer to her than he already was.

The image of the snake flashed across his mind. He would soon be in battle anyway. He raised his psychic shield. It did not last very long, as most of his spells did, but it was always a necessary prep for battle. It would only last for a couple of blows, but it would protect him for at least that long. This spell he had to learn a long time ago when he found that mage robes did not protect that well. The snake could bite him now if he wished, but it would not penetrate the skin.

Without pause, he leaned in and kissed her on the lips. Just letting his lips brush past hers before he backed one step and said, "You are radiant, you know that?"

He turned and headed almost ran out the door. He found the cot where his sword lay and picked it up without losing his pace. His pace became faster and faster as he moved. He thought he heard something behind him as he ran out of the tent, but he was not sure if it was directed at him or not.

The direction of the gate was up ahead. Sycon needed to get there quickly or he would miss the most crucial part of the battle. Now was his chance to introduce himself to these people, but did he want to come out of the shadows yet?

He managed to find the gate, it was shattered open and trampled. They had already broken into and fully made their way in. It seemed they were on the second floor. He rushed up, hearing, what had to be Ithramir's words,

"I need ten volunteers for an assault on the third floor, who will join me? Avandor himself will bless us all and give us our chance at glory. So I ask again, who shall answer this call?"

A few answered, but not ten all at once. Sycon stood in the back, hiding himself among the soldiers there. He would join the ten no matter what, whether if they knew it or not. If he had to be the 11th, so be it. He backed up to a darker corner, out of main view and close to the way that led up to the third landing. His sword, already in his hands, he concentrated on preparation for the battle up ahead. He shielded himself as best as possibe, he focused on the speed and accuracy of the sword he would need, and he prepared his mind for a crucial few blasts he would need to knock any orcs away that got too close. He was ready.

Written by - Tempyst

*BOOM* *CREAK* *SHATTER*

The sound of the splintering gate reached her ears and she turned towards the sound. Lucant, I can't let you go in alone. Tempyst felt Sycon's body give a shake, then to her surprise, felt him rise quickly to his feet. Rising to her feet, she reached out to him to make sure he was alright, but before she caught her own balance, he had closed the distance between them. Before she could even say a word, she felt his kiss and heard his words "You are radiant, you know that?" His actions left her speechless and stunned.

"Don't be reckless." She called out after him, watching him run out as she regained her composure and followed. Tempyst gave a wry smile, knowing she had been right, that he had not been truly blind, but was slightly puzzled as to why he seemed in a hurry to rush off to battle. She lost sight of him quickly as he ran towards the sounds of fighting. I should go too, my place is by my husband's side. She moved to get her staff when she felt A'lanthear's familiar whisper inside her mind. You are with him Mistress, in spirit. If you go to him now, you will put the three of you in more danger than is necessary. I am with him and when you are needed, you will be called. Save your energy for after the battle, for it will truly be needed.

Tempyst sighed, You are right A'lanthear, if he knew I was there, he would put himself in danger to protect us. I trust you A'lanthear, bring him back to me. She knew the sword was commited to all of them and that she had nothing to fear, but yet, she still worried. "Well," she said aloud, "where there is battle there are wounded, I will follow behind and do what I can." She went back to the tents and began to gather up supplies for battlefield medicine.

Everytime the battle moved forward, the medics moved as well and the day wore long for them all. There were so many injured from the fighting but most that she knew needed help, would not allow her to touch them and ran off to be at their brethren's side. She could hear the sounds of battle in the distance, but tried to not let it distract her from those that needed her.

"MEDIC! WE NEED HELP HERE!" Tempyst heard the all too familiar call, and turned from the soldier she had just finished caring for. With every cry like that, her stomach tightened, worried that it might be Lucant they were carrying in. But once again, her fear was unfounded and it was not her husband, but someone else. Two older soldiers brought the younger one in, laying him on a cot then turned and ran out, seemingly eager to join the fray again. Tempyst turned and looked at the soldier, seeing a young elf there battered and bleeding. She looked him over well; his aura was grey and fading, his injuries too severe to even attempt to heal. She let out a soft sigh and knelt down beside him. His eyes opened slowly and he reached out a hand. Tempyst took his hand into her own and brought it up to her face, leaning into the touch.

"Sshhh, it's going to be alright, here, this will help with the pain." She reached back and pulled a larger snake from her cloak, whispered to it, and had it bite the elf's arm. The young man was in so much pain, he did not even realize he had been bitten, but within moments, she could see his face relaxe and his eyes focus a little more.

He turned his head slowly, looked at her and smiled. "Thank you ma'am, that does feel better." His breathing was labored and his voice barely above a whisper. "May I know your name?"

She reached up with a wet cloth and wiped some of the blood from his handsome young face. "Tempyst, my name is Tempyst and I am here to do what I can for you."

He coughed, grimaced and spit up some blood. "I may be young, but I am no fool Tempyst, Avandor is calling me home. You know that too." Tempyst nodded, her heart breaking for this brave soul. "It's okay, I'm ready, I've done my duty." He coughed again.

"Shh, there is no need to talk, do not waist your energy." Tempyst caressed the elve's brow. "I'm sorry young one, I wish there was more I could do for you."

His hand gently squeezed hers, "My name is Daveon and please, just be with me, I don't want to die alone." He grimmaced again and let out a soft cry, once again coughing.

"I'm right here Daveon, I won't leave your side." Tempyst reached for a cup of water and holding his head up with one hand, offered him a drink. He drank a little; blood flowed from his lips into the cup, making the water pink.

"Thank you Tempyst. I...don't mean to sound like a coward."

"You are no coward Daveon, you are brave and strong, and have done your duty well, you have nothing to be sorry for." Tempyst could see his aura fading and knew it would not be long before it would go out like a snuffed candle. She knew it was necessary, but never before had she witnessed death like this. It had always been clean, pleasent, even with celebration when an elder passed on, but this was different. There was nothing clean about death here, nothing pleasent, no celebrations of joy at one's passing. Only death was here. She thought about how many soldiers were out there in the battlegrounds, dying alone, scared, not knowing any comfort in their last breaths. Death is death child, it is a part of life. There cannot be one without the other, you know this. You save who you can, the others, help them pass without fear, that is the best gift you can give them. Nyrondis whispered the words of truth to her heart.

Tempyst stood and moved to the head of his cot and lifting him carefully up, sat down so his head would rest in her lap. She fought back the tears as she looked down upon this stranger and opened her heart and soul to him. A soft, warm breeze picked up and washed over them, a soft glow encompassed them both. Daveon opened his eyes again, his face almost serene. She smiled down at him and her tears fell, unable to hold them back any longer. Daveon smiled back, "Thank you for not leaving me Tempyst, having you here, all the pain, it's going away." He took in a deep labored breath; Tempyst could hear the death rattle filling his lungs, but she kept on smiling, caressing Daveon's hair and holding him close. "Tempyst, please, could you deliver a message for me?"

"Of course Daveon, of course I will."

"Tell Commander Ithramir that..." Daveon paused, his chest still, then he gasped another breath of air, "tell him it was my honor to serve under him and give my life for him." Daveon's body convulsed, but Tempyst held on tightly, making sure he knew she was there. then, with no fanfare or great fuss, his aura went out, his body lifeless in her arms. Tempyst just sat there, holding onto him, crying, hopeing she had given him the peace he needed.

She did not know how long she sat there, but was brought back to the moment by a tap on her shoulder. "Miss, we have more wounded coming in, we need your help." Tempyst stood up, laying Daveon's body gently back down upon the cot. She leaned over and kissed his forehead softly, making sure his eyes were closed.

"Sleep well young friend, I hope to see you in the beyond." Tempyst took a deep breath, gathering her composure and went towards the new wounded that had arrived, smiliing and making sure all she came in contact with had hope and someone to lean on.

Finally, the flow of wounded slowed and the sound of battle was diminished. She heard talk that they were at the inner tier of the city, and a new plan had to be made to breach it. She looked towards the center of the city, her heart calling out to Lucant, hoping he would hear her words.

I love you.

Written by - Renalis

Renalis knew he had only a few moments before the next advance... the final advance up the tower would begin. He looked around at those he would fight beside and based on the events of today he could think of no better allies to fight with.

There was Lord Ithramir, commander of the forces here. He had seen few people with the Charisma and Leadership that this man displayed. He had gained great respect for him in the short time here. Knowing full well that the defense of those lands branded him an outcast, he stayed anyway. Then there was the man he had learned to be Isuiln. Also forsaking his homeland to help defend, truely a noble man. Trinni's simple innocence made her a great friend, and although only knowing her a few days, it felt like months. He was proud to fight alongside her. The others Renalis knew the names of, but other than seeing their battle prowess, he knew nothing of them, save that they are willing to fight and die for this cause, and thats all that mattered.

Renalis was concentrating on the task at hand, he knew it would not be easy, but at least with Avandor on their side, it would be easier. It was then that he noticed it. Subtle at first, almost not there at all, but then he recognised it. A powerful magic presence masking itself. He eyed the man for but a moment, but thats all it took. He could see he was like no normal mage (but then Renalis wondered if he was any different himself) Sleeveless and with the bottoms of his robes also split and tucked into his black cuffed boots he was not new to this at all. Renalis could sense that there more than just a small reserve of power there, and by the look on his face and the way he held his sword...

"That one M'lord," Renalis says outloud, singling the strange mage out "He will aid us, and is more than capable of doing it."

Written by - Tempyst

*BOOM* *CREAK* *SHATTER*

The massive sound of shattered wood woke Kaya up abruptly, making her set upright in her cot. Then the roar of soldiers heading into battle made her realize where she was again. She looked around and saw Nohlani setting beside her, looking towards the sound as well. She threw her legs over the side and stood, then smiled. She felt almost like her normal self. She was sore, and knew she would be until her body got used to moving and fighting again, but it would be a good soreness. She felt the demon stir within her, crawling under her skin, but she was determined to do what she wanted to. If you wish to stop me, be my guest, but I am not going to sit around doing nothing! She nudged Nohlani's leg with her foot and elf quickly stood, concern still in his eyes.

She gave him an almost cross look. "I am not some wilted flower that is going to fall apart. I feel fine now. You heard that sound and you know as well as I do that they need every able bodies soldier they can get."

Nohlani nodded. "But Kaya, you are my charge for now, I must make sure you stay safe. Commander's orders."

"Commander's orders huh? Well, then I guess you have two options. You can help me find some gear and follow me into battle, or tie me up like the orcs did and let everyone fight without us." Nohlani winced at the orc comment; she knew that that would get to him. She also could see but his body language, that he wanted to get in there and fight just as much as she did. Nohlani paused, looking at her, then back towards the battle, then back at her. Then a glint came into his eyes and he gave her a wry smile.

"You are indeed the Kaya'Talas I have heard about. It will be an honor to fight along side of you!" Nohlani's voice was filled with excitement. He began to scrounge around the infirmary tent, talking to those he knew would not make it back into battle. When he came back, his arms were full of equipment. Kaya finished tying her dirty hair back, and seached through the gear he had brought. After a few minutes and a few more searches, Kaya outfitted herself to her satisfaction. Not perfect, but this is war and you make due with what you have.

When she finished fastening the armor upon her, she stood andstretched, making sure everything was tight as as fitted as it could be. Then she turned and saw Nohlani standing there, holding out two lond swords. "I know these are not your usual style, but I hope they will make do for now Kaya." Kaya took the two swords, then stepped back and swung them about, getting used to their balance and weight. It was true, they were not the glist'linnon* she was used to, but they would work.

She gave Nohlani a smile of approval. "They are a magnificent pair, thank you Nohlani." She then gave Nohlani a salute; he saluted her in return. "Shall we go join our brothers in battle mellonamin?"

"Follow me, but we will stay in the back, I don't need Commander Ithramir to have my head just yet.!" Nohlani smiled, then turned and started to run towards the sounds of battle. Kaya chuckled and followed the elf, knowing he was right. Until she knew how well she was, there was no reason to die foolishly.

There was enough fighting to go around, even in the back. Orcs who had stayed hidden, jumped out weapons swinging, ambushing any who had lagged behind. The first one that tried to catch Kaya off guard found it's weapon arm severed from his body and then both of her swords plunged between his ribs into his lungs and heart. The orc fell, a surprised loon on his face. But Kaya just put her foot on his belly and pulled the swords from the body. She looked over to Nohlani and saw him expertly disarm then disembowel an orc that was nearly twice his size. She smiled in approval. Very good mellonamin, if all the soldiers fight half as well, the orcs we face will have drawn their last breath today.

The fighting continued throughout the day. Kaya found herself tiring, but not in a bad way. She felt the stiffness in her arms and legs ease out into a well known tingling, her lungs burning, aching for air at times, but never letting giving out. They progressed further inside the city, leaving bodies in their wake. SHe could hear the cries of the dying from both sides and though it pained her to hear it, she knew it was all a part of war. Back in the Naur'Lith, she had faced foes as mighty as these orcs, the Lith'Raug, but never in these numbers. But being outnumbered did not daunt her, the cause kept her going, as did the growing need for more and more death.

Every orc she killed, she felt a release of her anger of being imprissoned all those months. Every orc that fell, had Tahlon's face imprinted upon it. But every time her blade struck true and she heard their last choking breath, she heard every child the demon had her kill screaming for mercy. The pain of those memories made Kaya feel vulnerable, made her feel used and she hated every moment of it. And that made her angry and more determined to kill those that were the enemy.

Kaya heard a startled cry behind her. She turned, only to see an Orc that had been laying they thought dead on teh ground, jump up and cleave it's axe down through Nohlani's shoulder in deep into his torso. She screamed in rage, seeing the light flicker out from his eyes. The orc brought his foot up and pushed the dead elf from his blade, then he looked at her and laughed. He held out a hand and motioned for her to come to him. Kaya decided she was not going to dissapoint him. She brought both blades down, points touching the ground and she crouched. Taking a deep breath she let out a serieis of trill notes, then stood, and sprinted forward, the sword tips shooting up sparks as she ran towards the orc. The orc smiled, letting out a battlecry, gripped his axe tightly and rushed forward to meet her.

As the orc approached her, she stumbled, or so she let the orc think. As she swung to take advantage of what he thought was an opening, she tucked herself up tight and rolled between his legs, just as the massive axe came crushing down, burying in the ground. Kaya heard the grunt of surprise from the orc and rolled to her feet, spinning around, swords swinging. The first blows cunt into the side of the orc's armor, slicing the straps that held his armor on, then she spun around, dancing, swords flashing in the light. The orc jerked, feeling his side become vulnerable, and pulled his axe from the dirt with a heavy grunt. He steadied himself and kept his open side away from the dancing elf. She smiled and began to chant, building up her energy and her determination to avenge her fallen friend. The orc swung, swung well and Kaya had to duck and roll to avoid being struck. The orc pressed his attack upon her, trying to keep her off balance, but with every spin, every wafting breeze from the massive axe, put more power into her form. She knew, if she had her own blades, that by now they would be humming, accompanying her voice, deafenig and confusing the orc, but she had to make do with just her chanting. Several time the orc nearly struck home; Kaya had to bring her swords about to deflict and one time, even catch the axe between them. The orc was strong, but Kaya was not going to fall now. Then she let the orc get in a glancing blow, and she dropped, letting the orc believe he had wounded her severely. When he approached for the final blow, she rolled quickly to the side and with a angry shout, thrust her blades up from under him into his open side, feeling the blades knicking the ribs and sliding through finding the soft organs beneath them.

The Orc stood motionless for a moment, then fell forward. Kaya rose, pulled her swords from the body and sliced the orcs throat, to make sure the beast was truly dead this time. Then she ran over to Nohlani, but she already knew that he was dead. She closed his eyes and said a small prayer to Avendor, asking that he take this brave elf home. Then, the picked up his personal sword and dagger and moved forward. It was not long before she heard a commanding voice rise aboe the crowds of soldiers. "I need ten volunteers for an assault on the third floor, who will join me? Avandor himself will bless us all and give us our chance at glory. So I ask again, who shall answer this call?"

As Kaya moved forward through masses she heard one voice call out. "By you, live or die, I shall go. You are my commander, I would be shamed if I did not stay with you."

The elf who had shouted his need nodded, "Very well, Catherin, stand with me. Now, who else shall go?"

"I shall stand with you! I shall be your shield, Lord Ithramir!"

"I've not had my share of orc blood either. We'll go to."

"Count me in."

"You need not even ask M'lord, you know my magic and my sword stand with you." There was a pause then the same voice shouted out, "That one M'lord, He will aid us, and is more than capable of doing it." She was finally to the front and could that the man who had just spoke was pointing towards a man in the back.

Kaya stepped forward from the crowd and looking up she saw who was asking for volunteers. It was Commander Ithramir, an elf she always dreamt of fighting for. "Amin khiluva lle a' gurtha ar' thar!"** Kaya shouted, holding her sword up high. "If you will have me, my blades are yours."

The demon inside her chuckled, it was hard to contain himself. It had gorged today on the death and anguish of those who were fighting and dying. Kaya's own anger fueled him to a strength he had never known before. She is a strong one, this one is, but not strong enough, when the time is right, I will consume her and all will be mine. He also knew the hunters were about, that the slayer was probably close enough to touch; he was not foolish enough to jepardize his plan yet, though he truly wanted to lash out and destroy all these people here and now. The time will come, their time will come.

*singing blades

**I will follow you to death and beyond

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