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Book Two - A Gathering Storm

Written by - Ariana Page 27 Book 2

"We will see what you are capable of learning."

“Hmpf,” Mavigan thought to herself. “Cheeky bastard DOES think I’m a moron. Capable of learning? I’ll show him!”

Outwardly, Mavigan beamed him a smile, one she made as genuine as possible.

“When do we start?”

Written by - Teran

"Perhaps in the morning or perhaps sooner if you are ready sooner."

Teran glances at Jasmine, Keeryn, Sabbatine, and Crystal.

"I trust you will not get lost?" he grins wickedly at Sabbatine, who only hisses in reply.

"Mavigan and I will split off at her luxury, she wishes to receive training in the shadowy arts. We will meet up with you four in three days. Follow Sabbatine, she knows the way."

Turning back to Mavigan Teran asks "When did you want to leave, my Queen?"

Written by - Ariana

"When did you want to leave, my Queen?"

Mavigan gave an exaggerated shudder and gave him a sardonic look.

"Ya know, I REALLY wish you wouldn't call me that. I do have a name after all. You could acutally use it once in awhile."

She plopped down on her bedroll with a huff and turned her back to him. "I suspect I will need rest for the wringer you will no doubt put me through, so we will leave in the morning. Right now," she said with a yawn, "I'm going to sleep."

Her declaration made, Mavigan promptly fell asleep, knowing without a doubt that the days ahead would prove challenging.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

The elf slowly rose from the floor with a small trickle of blood coming from his nose. He began to yell at Leov "You insolent, inbred cur of a human! Do you have any idea who I am? Why, I'll have your hea..." A lightening quick punch cut the elf off in mid-sentence. "I don't give a hangman's damn who you are! I do appreciate the assistance, though," Leov said with a carefree voice as he slammed the elf's head into the bar. As he turned around towards the brawling crowd - more than ready to jump into the fight - a bright flash of light shot forth from the crowd. "Well... the guard sure didn't take long to get here," Leov said to himself. Any other time, he would have ran and not looked back, however, his pride and the bottle of whiskey he had just finished had other ideas. Raising his voice above the din of the brawl he shouted "I am Leov Klein! I am the Son of the Wind! and I'LL TAKE ALL YOU BITCHES ON!" Jumping into the melee, he moved and struck true to his self-appointed title.

Enjoying the brawl immensely, Leov turned to attack a rather tall, long-haired man who was trying to restore order. A small club hit Leov in the ribs, just under his right arm. He yelled out in pain, then collapsed to the floor, holding his side. Leov watched helplessly as the man and his companion easily subdued the fighting masses. As the he stood amid the wreckage and unconscious bodies, the long-haired man said quietly, "People these days, no respect for their elders ..." "You moron! Respect is earned... not given. If you had any experience with the real world, you'd know that," Leov said, still clutching his side. This time, it wasn't the whiskey talking either.

Written by - Turin Wallace

While Ithramir's body was broken, his mind was not. Stuck between life and death, hallucination and reality, he saw things he would only comprehend later.

Where he was once standing in a field of green, his melethril by his side, in an instant he was whisked to the outside of a great building. Looking about him, it was if he was standing upon clear and blue stones. The building was enveloped in a mist, almost fog-like in it's appearance. Looking to the doors he was standing before, they were huge and wrought of pure copper. The building itself was contructed of golden bricks, a magnificent piece of workmanship. As he admired the large structure, the doors slowly swung open and he peered inside.

Before him was a great hall, all crafted the of the same materials, and in the distance he saw something radiating light. It was then he saw figures moving about, all clad in orange-yellow armor, both male and female. Strangely, a human girl came from behind him, wearing simple yet finely made robes of green. Looking to him, she says,

"Come inside, Ithramir. He's been waiting for you."

Something about her face was familiar and honest. Nodding, he takes a step inside and says,

"Who is waiting for me and where is he?"

With a smile, she replies,

"Follow me, please."

Shrugging, Ithramir does as she asks and follows her. As he walks through the building he starts seeing the faces of those he recognizes, elves long dead to the world. Iseyll'o, his friend from when he first arrived at the Citadel stepped forward and gave him a greeting, a smile on his face. Next came Ilae, a past lover and his once teacher as a ranger. On and on, those he knew and others he did not know came and greeted him on his path. It was then it dawned on him, he was standing in the house of Avandor himself! These elves were his personal guard, the highest honor an elf could hope to achieve, though it was only granted in death.

The thought caused Ithramir to pause. "So I am truly dead, or dying at the very least, if I have been admitted into this most sacred place." Wandering forward, behind his guide, he came to a few he recognized from the battle at Minas Aure. Ithramir's heart was both happy and saddened to see these elves here. One in particular caused him to stop completely. Looking at the figure before him, he says,

"Daveon, is that you?"

The figure straightens himself, and replies,

"Yes, commander, it is."

Ithramir says,

"How?"

Daveon replies,

"I delivered your letter, sir. On the way back myself and a few others were ambushed by Orc crossbowers who had been hiding from the initial attack. We fought well, sir. We killed them all, but I'm afraid myself and two others did not make it. I caught three bolts, seems I was not fast enough, sir."

Daveon's eyes lowers when he said his last sentence. Moved, Ithramir replies,

"You performed your duties well, Daveon, and you have been rewarded. You now stand before Avandor and shall perform every duty with honor and self-sacrifice, just as you did for me. I am proud of you."

Feeling a gentle hand on his shoulder, his guide, the human woman says,

"I wish not to be rude, Ithramir, but he is waiting for you. Follow me quickly."

Ithramir was almost annoyed, did she not know how hard this was for him? Shrugging her arm off, he nods and takes a final look at Daveon, who says,

"Thank you, sir. I know I am honored here, but there was always one thing I wanted in life."

Ithramir replies,

"What was that, Daveon?"

Daveon answers,

"I wanted to be a ranger, sir. It was always my dream and now I died as just a messenger..."

Ithramir replies quickly,

"Daveon, you are a ranger. Your commission was granted after you left with my message. I had hoped to inform you myself after the battle. Your commanding officer told me of you, and once I saw you with my own eyes, I agreed at once to make you one."

The light in Daveon's eyes grew brighter, a smile crossed his face. With a bow, he says,

"Oh, sir, thank you! I can now be at peace."

Ithramir nods to him, and says,

"Be at peace, then, Daveon. I am sure we will talk more a little later."

With a nod, Ithramir hurries to catch up with his guide. He continues forward, being led to the great light eminating from the central chamber. Finally, after reaching the chamber, she looks to him and says,

"I can go no farther now. Avandor awaits you on the other side of this doorway."

Adjusting his armor, he looks to her and says,

"Can't go in looking like I just got killed, now can I?"

A smirk crosses his face as he takes a step inside.

The light was blinding, his eyes finding it hard to make out anything in the room. A voice rings out,

"Ithramir Sil-Galdur, why do you come here?"

Caught a bit off guard, he replies,

"Milord Avandor, did you not bring me here?"

A moment of silence passes, then the light dissapates. Standing in the room was the figure of Avandor. Clad in orange-red armor, he looked like an elf of impressive size. Fully two times the size of a normal elf. He radiated light and flame. His eyes were completely white-blue, seemingly filled with energy. Ithramir now stood before a god.

With a deep voice, Avandor says,

"Yes, that I did. However, you are not dead yet. Your friends are keeping you alive and are desperately working to revive you even now."

Ithramir responds,

"Wonderful, then why am I here?"

Avandor smirks, and replies,

"Oh, Ithramir, always one with a chip on his shoulder. I brought you here to tell you I still have need of you down there. Also, I wish to give you hope. You are not alone, Ithramir. Many love you, but there is one above all else. You know in your heart who she is."

Ithramir feels oddly uncomfortable at this intrusion into his personal affairs. Seeing this, Avandor says,

"Avatars, indeed all mortals, do nothing that we cannot see and feel."

Ithramir, in an attempt to change the subject, says,

"Well then, if my passions are in order, what is it you need of me?"

In response, Avandor says,

"Continue watch over Mavigan. Continue to fight for our cause. One day, our people will have a kingdom of their own again, not some little island in the middle of nowhere. You will begin that process, your children and your children's children will continue it. I have decreed it."

Ithramir's heart lept, his cause was just!

For a short time, there was more discussion between god and avatar. Of past tales and future events. Oddly, Ithramir began to feel a longing for home, to be back within the confines of the world and his physical body. Upon seeing this, Avandor says,

"Soon, Ithramir. Though many have exhausted themselves, and one was sacrificed, the road to your recovery is long."

Disturbed, Ithramir replies,

"A sacrifice? Who was sacrificed?"

Calling to the doorway, Avandor calls out,

"Enter, Tirigil."

Ithramir watches as the human girl who guided him down to Avandor comes in. Standing before them both, Avandor commands her to explain who she is and why she is here.

"Ithramir, I am the daughter of Lucant and Tempyst. I gave my life essence over to you to keep you alive. My mother fought hard to keep you alive, but even now the demon taint consumes your soul. Your light would have been extinguished if we had not found another way. I let myself, my life, slip into yours to buy you time."

The words hit Ithramir as hard as steel. The couple's unborn child sacrificed for him. It made him angry, and he replies,

"You had no right to do this thing! You should have left me to die! You had a lifetime ahead of you, and my time was over. It is the way of things."

Tirigil responds,

"My life was mine to give, Ithramir. As Avandor has told you, you are needed by many. I gave my life in free-will."

Ithramir drew quiet. Avandor filled the silence with these words,

"Nyrondis and Tempyst approved of this, Ithramir. She was not forced, or coerced, to do this thing. Now, she lives among the gods and goddesses, and we have given her the name Tirigil. Her name and place are honored for what she has done."

Looking to Tirigil, and Ithramir, Avandor finishes by saying,

"And now, Ithramir, you must leave this place. Somethings you will remember, others you will not until the proper time. Very soon my link will be established with you again. Go, now, and know there is much left to do. Tirigil will guide you back."

Giving a slight bow, Ithramir follows Tirigil out of the chamber and down the hall he came in. Upon reaching the gates, Tirigil stops and says,

"All you need to do is step outside and you will be back in your dreams. I have one thing I would like to ask of you, if you wouldn't mind Ithramir."

He replies,

"Yes, of course, what is it you would like me to do?"

As she speaks, she gently presses Ithramir out the door, saying

"Tell my mom and dad I love them!"

Returning to his dreams, Ithramir remembers nothing. His thoughts of this hidden deep within his mind, awaiting the time when they will be returned to him.

****

Tirigil - Bright Star

Written by - Rikshanthas

"You moron! Respect is earned... not given. If you had any experience with the real world, you'd know that!"

Vhar stiffened, and for a moment looked as if he would bring the Peacemaker full force down on the speaker's head; but he regained control quickly, forcing himself to relax. The rush of irrational anger had caught him by surprise. Turning toward the brash young human, he gazed down at the man from behind the dark lenses, his expression severe. "Earned through violence? Why am I not surprised," he said darkly. Noticing the seaman's garb the human wore - similar to what the two at the door had been wearing - and his obvious intoxicated state, Vhar's eyes narrowed suspiciously, and he continued, "I suppose you are going to deny you started this," his sweeping gesture taking in the damaged tavern. "You can explain yourself to me, or wait for the guards," he added, for the sounds of a patrol nearing the tavern could be heard outside, "though I would not recommend an attempt at escape." The last was delivered in a plain, matter-of-fact tone.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

Leov sat with his back against the wall as the long-haired man spoke. When he finished his self-righteous speech, Leov tilted his head back and laughed. "Listen to you! What fairy-tale world are living in, brother? The world isn't so black and white..." He stood up slowly before continuing: "And yeah... I started the the fight... I would'a finished it, too, if you hadn't shown up." Still a bit dizzy, Leov leaned back against the wall, then looked the man directly in his shaded eyes: "And why the hell should I explain myself to you? You're the one who came in here and busted up my good time... and on that top that, all I see is you standing in a wrecked tavern, bodies all around you, holding a weapon." He laughed again, then continued: "If I was you, I'd start thinking up a explanation. I... on the other hand... have this..." Leov produced the smalll token that Lithwyn had given him and flashed it with a grin before returning it to his pocket. "So... what now, Big Brother?"

Written by - Tempyst

Kaya looked up from her cage, seeing the brilliant light as the portal was being formed. From the light of the portal, she coudl see the wounded being brought down from the roof. Her heart broke as she saw Ithramir on a makeshift cot. Then she saw the glares the soldiers were giving her that had carried him down, then saw them whisper to others. So it has begun. All will know that I am to blame. I tried to be strong, I tried to defy the demon, I tried. Kaya sighed and hung her head, unable to look any of those staring at her in the eyes. Trying was not good enough. I played into the demon's hand. I played into Tahlon's and Beridane's. She looked once more, in time to see them carrying Ithramir through the portal. She whispered under her breath, "I'm sorry Commander, if the gods would take my life for yours, I would give it." She let out a long, drawn out sigh, her body and mind weary from all that had happened. Kaya then curled up in the corner of the cage, waiting for the inevitable.

Written by - Vylia

When Mavigan woke up in the morning Keeryn was sitting right next to her, staring her in the face, "I'm not going to let you go with him alone. Better for them to follow us than for me to allow you to go somewhere without me. You made me your bodyguard when you gave me this spear, and it would hardly be right for me to just let you leave," Mavigan opened her mouth to say something, but Keeryn's tone of voice changed to one that would allow no nonsense or interruption, "The OFFICIAL title your followers may use for me is the Queen's Bodyguard, but I hope you didn't forget that I never once pledged to follow you as my queen. Because you are NOT my queen, my sister is the only one I will acknowledge with that title, and she is no longer among the living. You are my friend, the only one I have left that is still alive, and I will NOT let you go into any danger without me there at your side, whether your attitude toward me changes or not. I apologize for insulting you yesterday, it was not my intention, but in this course of action I won't apologize. The only thing that will keep me from following you is my death, and I don't think you're ready to do that just yet."

Written by - Rikshanthas

Vhar was barely able to control himself through the human's tirade, though his hand tightened around the Peacemaker. What is happening to me? he asked himself, anger threatening to overcome his control. He replaced the Peacemaker on his belt in an effort to calm down, but at the man's laughter and smug grin, as if Vhar were the villain, something inside him snapped.

Vhar's fist slammed into the side of the sailor's jaw with the force of an iron ram, sending him spinning back to the floor of the tavern. The punch froze his anger instantly. Vhar stared numbly at his reddened knuckles, horrified at his complete loss of self-control. "Gods, what have I done?" he breathed.

Written by - Tempyst

Tempyst felt the weariness in her body; even breathing was an effort. She opened her eyes and saw Ceredan kneeling over her. "It's good to see you awake child." Helped her to sit up and offered her some rose nectar, knowing it would help her regain some of her energies.

"I...where..." Tempyst's mind searched through the fog to remember what had happened. Then her eyes caught site of all the wounded around her and it all came back to her. Without thinking, a hand went to her stomach and she looked up at the elder druid. "Is Lucant alright? Does Ithramir still live? I promised I tried my best, I..."

"Shhh child. Your bonded is fine, he too should be waking up soon. Ithramir, he lives but I do not know for how long, the demon taint continues to grow within him." He looked at her and placed a hand upon her cheek. "You did well child, you did well" Ceredan stood up. "Now, I need to get back to prepare for the great ritual. If you feel up to it, your help would be more than welcomed." Then the elder druid walked off.

Tempsyt looked around and saw Lucant laying at her side. She moved over and craddled his head in her lap, then brought the leftover rose nectar to his lips. Please my love, please, wake up, I need you so much. I need to know you forgive me. She brushed the hair from his face and held him close.

Written by - Archeantus

Jasmine could hear the conversation playing out between Teran and the youthful Queen, giving it’s conclusion a thought or two, but her attention was elsewhere.

Her dark brown eyes rested on the woman who had come with Mavigan. Where had she seen her? She looked familiar.

“The cell” Jasmine remembered. “My cell.”

She had tried to help her. The woman’s demeanor had suddenly changed during their initial travels away from the citadel. Her glance had often turned to view the fading Citadel in the moonlight. Jasmine knew the look, and knew it well. It was not homesickness. Nor was it fear.

It was sadness.

It grew every step they took away into the darkness of the wilderness. Jasmine’s studious gaze remained fixed on the woman. The assassin’s eyes would shift, watching, observing them all, passively studying every word, but those dark eyes would return to focus on the woman’s hidden emotion as it grew increasingly apparent.

Up to this point, she had been a silent observer, unable to accept the fact she was where she was. She did not know how to speak, to relate, to anyone. She heard Teran’s words break through, "I trust you will not get lost?" asking them if they would be fine while the two were away.

“I already am.” Jasmine whispered to herself, yet the inner turmoil that had plagued her since the night she had met Mavigan had long faded. She had come out of a long trek through a dark nightmarish wood, and found herself blind to the light of normality.

Mavigan.

“So that was her name.” Jasmine asked herself, continuing to ponder and understand; her thoughts free from any adherence she allowed them to flow listlessly.

The woman was a queen who did not want the title. In fact she was running from it. Her youth had been robbed by the mantle that she obviously didn’t want. Men like Beridane would kill for such a mantle, and did. How might those who want so badly for her to accept her responsibility feel right now with her away from their protection? Was it really protection they were offering? Did they truly have her best outcome on their minds? They knew she was with Teran, and they knew the Queen was as well? Why did they allow such a thing?

The wind slightly picked up as they rode in the night and her thoughts continued.

What sort of leader could she ever be if she didn’t crave the power that went with it? Jasmine had never considered such a question, yet she dismissed it without another thought. Jasmine had listened to the exchange between the blue creature and Teran about the Queen’s cohorts following far behind and knew immediately what needed to happen. Mavigan needed to be free of the crown’s confines, or at least think she were free from them…The young woman longed to be herself, yet, Jasmine mused, she did not appear to know exactly what that was. It was interesting; to come see the continued life of one she had intended to blindly snuff out. Was living life blind worth it as she had for so long? What was her right to silence so many without considering the lifelong ramifications? What were men and woman truly capable of if left to live their own lives? Was vengeance really so unalterable? What would they have done if she had not killed them? Perhaps she would finally see the answer to that question in Mavigan…

She continued to ask many more questions, never able to answer any of them. All she had were questions. What were the ultimate consequences of her failure? Who would Mavigan become? What would happen to her? To the world around her? What would happen in the war she’d discovered that was quickly engulfing the land? Jasmine began to become intensely interested in every one of the answers, despite herself. The world began to become alive to her again. She wanted to remain indifferent, callous, neutral, but her overwhelming curiosity pervaded her mind when she tried to silence it. It even angered her. Was her failure worth something she had not considered? She could not imagine what would happen because she had not killed the young woman who was trying to play with a master of deceit.

Her eyes shifted to view the woman with growing sadness again.

Her sadness had come to a head.

Jasmine watched as a single tear fell down the woman’s cheek in the moonlight, looking far beyond.

The feeling came to her, softening her studious eyes. It was compassion, it was empathy.

The feeling startled her. And a sudden tear, as if in reply fell slowly down the deadly assassin’s cheek. She wanted to quickly wipe it away, but decided to let it be, still gazing at the unaware woman.

Turning her gaze, again, watching Mavigan stop and quickly slip into her bed roll, announcing they were to stop for the night, Jasmine felt strangely against the idea.

They were moving, she was moving, somewhere, anywhere from where she was. She wanted to go on, and on, and on, and never stop. Watching them all from her mount, silent, she slowly looked up into the night’s sky, up to the glowing moon, and further into the stars.

She thought about them, Teran, Mavigan, the blue creature, the woman with sadness, herself, and asked a question that would linger in her mind from that moment on.

“Is He still with me? After all I’ve done?”

They paid her no attention as they each slipped into their beds; she still stood silently there upon her horse in the darkness. Each of them soon passed into sleep as she watched. After what seemed like hours had passed, an emerging thought shone in her eyes. When she knew they all slept soundly, she slowly dismounted, and carefully walked across the cold space between her and the woman with sadness. Even in sleep it reflected in her soft features.

Slowly, Jasmine bent down and softly kissed the woman gently on her calm forehead.

“I’m so sorry.” She whispered faintly in the cool breeze.

Rising, she then silently walked to a nearby decaying log, and sat, watching them all sleep in the moonlight. For the briefest of moments, her arm’s pain left her and she was able to remember times past when she loved the sun’s embrace.

Written by - Lucant Dolvan

The last thing Leov saw was the man's fist coming at his face. The last thing he felt was a battering ram hitting him. He spun around from the sheer force of the blow and fell to the ground like a dying gull crashing into the sea.

Leov rolled over onto his back and waited until the world came back into focus before standing up. "Sonuva bitch! Where'd you learn to hit like that," he said, popping his jaw back in place. The guards were now just outside the door. Leov shot a quick glance towards them, then noticed that the long-haired man had dropped his guard and was simply standing there, staring at his hand. "To hell with the guards! You're mine!" He yelled, then lunged at the man as the Elven guards poured through the door.

****

Lucant awoke to Tempyst looking down at him. Raising his hand and brushing away a tear, he simply said "Are you alright?"

Written by - Tempyst

Lucant awoke to Tempyst looking down at him. Raising his hand and brushing away a tear, he simply said "Are you alright?"

Tempyst took Lucant's hand in her own and kissed him palm. She smiled sadly. "I am now, seeing you awake. You did it Lucant. You destroyed the demon." Tempyst looked around, seeing that the druids and other priests and priestessess were getting ready for the great rite. She leaned over and kissed Lucant softly and through the kiss Lucant could tell her heart was breaking. She broke the kiss, trying to hide her pain and sorrow, but knew it was in vain. She spoke quietly, "If you have the energy my love, we need to help one more time before we can rest." She stood and held her hand out to Lucant.

Written by - Rikshanthas

The human's shout brought Vhar to his senses. Startled, he tried to draw the Peacemaker as the sailor lunged at him, but it was too late. The man's arm collided with Vhar's chest, carrying them both to the floor, the sceptre flying from Vhar's hand. The human's first punch knocked the glasses from Vhar's face, and he paused when the Loremaster's eyes fixed on him, smoldering red. Vhar shoved the sailor off himself with strength belied by his slim frame, retrieved the borrowed lenses - bent but intact - and placed them in a pocket.

By then the soldiers had restored order and were questioning the patrons who hadn't managed to escape in time; three of them interposed themselves between the two opponents, swords drawn. The captain, recognizing Vhar - he had been meeting with Lithwyn when the scholar was introduced - and surprised to find him in a tavern brawl, demanded an explanation.

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