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Book Two - A Gathering Storm

Written by - Lucant Dolvan Page 30 Book 2

Leov laughed at Kaya's prodding into his life. "It's more... a... well, I don't suppose She's really a who... more like a "what". Anyways... Tiertiala doesn't seem to want to let me leave this place, and frankly, right now I'm too tired to push back the wind." He paused for a moment to gather his thoughts, "As for failing my people... Lohenheim burned because of me. I can't ever erase that fact, but I can at least try to make amends for it. Right now, though... I shouldn't even be allowed to speak Kassal's name." He looked outside and noticed that the moon was high in the sky. "How long have I been talking to this woman," he wondered to himself, a bit amazed.

Leov stood up and yawned as he took off his coat. Leaning against the bars, he offered it to Kaya: "Here. I heard it gets pretty cold down here at night. Just try to stay warm and - Tiertiala willing - I'll see you in the morning."

Written by - Tempyst

Kaya reached through the bars and took the coat. Wrapping it around herself she smiled tiredly and sat back down. "Thanks for the coat, I was getting a bit chilled, but well, I can be warm for the first time in months now." Looking up at the sky and seeing the moon high above, she too was surprised. "I didn't know it was so late, I guess I had missed having someone to talk to." Kaya layed down and curled up, feeling the warmth of the coat around her. "Sleep well Leov Klein."

Written by - Vylia

By the time Keeryn realized the words Teran was mumbling were an encantation she had time to do nothing but swing at empty air as he and Mavigan disappeared right in front of her. She felt a jumble of emotions hit her at once, from shock at their disappearance, to anger at Teran for not even having the nerve to tell her what he was doing, to a mixture of grief and worry that her friend had been taken so abruptly.

She picked up her spear and stood, turning toward Sabbatine with a look that could kill, had she not already been dead. "Where did he take her?!" She grabbed the undead's shirt roughly, "No tricks, no lies... WHERE?!" Keeryn didn't even wait for an answer before she shoved her back,"Take me to Mavigan creature, your friend Teran needs to be taught some manners."

Written by - Teran

Sabbatine hisses at Keeryn, then glanced over at Jasmine before looking back at Keeryn with a sneer on her face.

"We will meet up with Teran and Mavigan in three days." she coos, taunting Keeryn.

Sabbatine will quickly pack up what Teran and Mavigan left behind and will lead the two women towards where the odd couple already waited.

"If he kills you, I get to eat your body." Sabbatine called over her shoulder to Keeryn "Tery told me I couldn't hurt you... but if he does..." she smiles licking her lips at that thought.

Written by - Vylia

Keeryn ignores Sabbatine's prodding, noting she is just another pawn in Teran's little game. She does however notice Sabbatine's glance at Jasmine, having forgotten the woman was even there, she turns to vent some of her anger there instead, stalking up to Jasmine with a sneer on her lips, "Did you know he was going to do this? What exactly is your purpose on this trip anyway?! I thought you were the one that had tried to kill Mavigan, why are you not dead yet?! Answer me, before I decide to change that fact!"

Written by - Wilhelm

After Crystal rode off, Wilhelm and the band of Queen's Guards maintained their vigil. Wilhelm's tracking sense confirmed that the heartfires of Teran, Mavigan, Keeryn and Jasmine remained at their camp, along with Argent and the other horses. After a time Wilhelm sensed them leaving the campsite and his droup followed along behind. There was something odd about Mavigan's heartfire, but Wilhelm couldn't place it. She seemed healthy and very calm. Perhaps Teran was training her to be calm, something she certainly needed.

Written by - Trinni Shannon

Lithwyn stood within the circle, the sun bathing her skin though its warmth did little to comfort her. Shivering, she glances up at the sky, then at the portal beginning to grow, the edges forming and becoming more clear. As the large disk forms, growing larger and larger, she can see beyond to Minus Aure. The bodies lying on the ground capture her attention for a moment, until she realizes what has transpired. All mages. Their energies must have been tapped to undertake such a feat. Could they have been mistaken? So many people to open this portal, they could be wrong still, couldn't they? Ithramir could only be mildly harmed.

As the makeshift stretcher is brought through the portal, a lump rises within her throat. Unconsciously she reaches out a hand as they slowly lower the bundle to the ground. It won’t be him, it can’t be. It was just a dream, not reality. They made a mistake. More wounded poor through the openning, a sea that has no end.

****

Trinni sits on her heels in the sacred grove. Renalis on one side, Isuiln on the other, both beneath her protective hands. Looking around her, she stares in curiosity and awe. Never before has she seen such a gathering. The immense circle nearly encompasses the entire grove, so many injured around her. It feels as if the Gods are walking amongst them. Noticing Lithwyn across the clearing, she sees her torment and refrains from calling out to her. Trinni's musing is interrupted by a bitter voice and she glances in the direction it is coming from.

“I’ll bear my wounds and scars as honor rather than bury them in the filth the gods offer.” Who would… Ardwen. Grr. Biting her lip, she can’t help but call out to him.

“Who are you to say such things? If my friends didn’t need me… I’d… I’d… I’d get up and pop ya one on your smart mouth. You think you are so much better than those who follow the Gods? Yet you depend on them to help your friend? YOU are the arse, Mister Ardwen. There are evil baddies in this world and if’n it weren’t for Kaia’hanas and Avandor and other Gods and their followers we’d all be in a sore state. What’d ya think we were doin’ at Minus Aure if not preventing a bad bad God from doing bad things to good people? Weren't you there? We couldn'ta done it ourselves, ya brat!” Paying him no more attention, she looks back down at her friends and notices her small hands clenched over their chests. Taking a deep breath she relaxes her grip and grumbles down at them once again.

“You two BETTER not die. If you do I’ll have ta off m’self just to come after ya and kick your arses! Ya hear me down there?! Do ya?! Sheesh. What made you run up there and try to fight that evil witch? An’ without me by your side Isuiln! Ya can’t drag a girl into a fight then leave her behind. Commander Ithramir even said ta stay back, but did you two listen? Nooooo. I had to run all up there and get whacked aroun’ like a little rag doll. I hope you’re proud of yourselves!! Fighting a demon, what nerve! Are ya guys crazy, or somethin’?? Do you hear me down there?! Do ya?! Isuiln! Renalis! I'm talkin to ya!”

Sighing deeply, she grimaces as she feels the huge purply bruise forming on her cheek and the pain in her back where she was slammed into the wall. Shaking her head she continues grumbling something about silly boys and a well placed kick to places not to be mentioned in front of small children.

****

At Ceredan’s call, Lithwyn slowly approaches the body on the ground, not looking until she is right next it. Tempyst and Lucant kneel down across from her, the body between them. With no other choice, she looks down and her nightmare flashes behind her eyes. Ithramir. It was real. Just like her dream… he will die this day. Her hand moves to her mouth and she moans softly behind it, sinking to her knees even as a tear falls down her cheek. Placing her hands on his chest, she sees his wounds are not merely of the flesh but of his very soul. Any hope she had carried disappears in a flash of panic.

"Ithramir, Chosen Son of Avandor, this is not your time. Let the strength of your soul shine through beyond all shadow of evil." Lucant’s voice, filled with the divine, causes her to look up at him. His aura brightens with the power of Nyrondis, meshes with Ithramir’s, making him stronger somehow. But its not enough, not enough.

"Please my god, please, give me the strength to heal his body. Let not our child's life have been in vain." Tempyst's plee shocks her. Staring in surprise, Lithwyn reaches out with her heart and feels Tempyst’s sorrow surge through her as fresh tears roll down both women’s cheeks. “Tempyst, no, not your baby. Please no.” Reaching out, she places a hand over Tempyst’s, adding what she can to the prayer, trying to ease her pain. "No more pain little one, no more pain. Let me help you, please, let me help you." Looking from Tempyst to Ithramir, she can see his wounds closing as Tempyst poors her strength into the man between them.

But… he is still dying!

Focused on Ithramir’s still form, she searches his soul. Where his normal radiance burned bright as the sun, she can only see a dim haze surrounding him. The cold talons of fear grip her heart as she is unsure if even Kaia’hanas’ can heal him now. As she watches, his light dims more and more, barely a glow now.

“My daughter, open yourself to me. Your love will die if you cannot move beyond what has past. Accept who you are, embrace what is your destiny. You have withheld yourself for far too long, precious one. Let me help you bring him back.”

Crying softly, she feels a moment of release at the truth of Kaia’hanas’ words. Looking at Ithramir anew, she smiles around her tears and whispers. “Amin mela lle, mela en' coiamin.**” Leaning down, her lips by his ear, her tear-streaked cheek presses against his skin.

She whispers ancient words just for him, the Gods as the only witness she needs:

“Ithramir, your heart has spoken to my soul, and now it sings only for you.
Yours will be the name I cry aloud in the night and the eyes into which I smile in the morning.
I pledge to you my living and my dying, each equally in your care.
I shall be a shield for your back and you for mine.
You are my melfea, my true love, now and forever more.

Now, come back to me."

Closing her eyes, she straightens and finally gives in to the compelling call of her Goddess. As Kaia’hanas’ power consumes her, warmth spreads throughout her body. Starting from her center, her aura flares with tongue-like flames flowing down her body, over and into Ithramir, expanding out to all reaches of the sacred circle creating a glow to rival that of the sun. The power of the two Gods mingling, the entire citadel is overcome with a feeling of joy as mother and son are united, Kaia’hanas and Nyrondis together.

As the contact with her Goddess deepens, Lithwyn can only watch as she relinquishes control. Lithwyn’s eyes are open, but she sees only within Ithramir, only through Kaia’hanas’ as they search his soul. Riding Ithramir’s time shadow, with the help of her son, Nyrondis, the Goddess mends tears, fills gaps caused by the demon’s poison, and straightens kinks and the unnatural twists. Feeling a gentle pull, Lithwyn lets her love flow into Ithramir, giving him strength, renewing his spirit, calling him back from the world beyond. Stretching out herself, she can feel the ties to every person in the grove. She senses Tempyst and her new-old husband, Lucant. Cerenos, Catherine, the dark spirit of Ardwen, Mathell. Elves she has known for ages like Trinni and Nysden, those she has known for a very short time like Renalis and Isuiln. Then there are those she does not yet know, but is nonetheless comforted by their presence.

Feeling the brightness of Ithramir’s spirit returning, Lithwyn’s head tilts back as she is still consumed by the Goddess. A voice not quite hers, not quite Kaia’hanas’ calls out at an impossible volume, “Avandor, my husband, my mate, come to me. Join your wife and your son, rejoin Ithramir as he needs you, your followers need you.” Even as the words die from her lips, she is drawn inward, through Ithramir, as Kaia’hanas tries to bring him back and join him with Avandor.

****

** I love you, love of my life.

Written by - Ariana

"If you cheat on your next test I'll strip you of all your toys."

Mavigan rolled her eyes even as she appreciates the sudden warmth. “Y-y-you s-s-should be g-glad I am r-r-resourcef-f-ul,” she replied through chattering teeth. As he began whispering words she could not understand, she inched closer to his warmth and hoped he did not notice.

And suddenly, the world shifted. The dizziness overtook her making her stomach lurch. Vaguely aware of Teran sitting close to her, but not liking the feeling in her stomach, she roughly pushed away from him and proceeded to empty the contents of her stomach in the nearest bush.

Eventually the heaving ceasing and her vision returned to her. She could begin to hear sounds now that her heart was no longer pumping in her eardrums, and became aware of the sound of water. Rising unsteadily to her feet, she made her way to the water and proceeded to rinse out her mouth.

She sat there for several minutes, breathing deeply and trying to regain her equilibrium. After a time, the cold started to leave and her teeth ceased to chatter. She was still not as warm as she wished to be, but things were improving.

When she felt she could stand without tipping over, she rose slowly to her feet, taking note of the few scratches and slight aches that were present due to her falls. Satisfied there was nothing life-threatening wrong with her, she returned to Teran and stretched out on the ground near him. Wrapping her cloak around her for warmth, she was quiet for several minutes. When she finally spoke, the tone was soft, curious, and somewhat subdued.

“So, that is how you walk through walls,” she began. “How do you get in and out? And how can you tell where that world intersects with this one?” She cast him a very confused glance. “How the hell do you figure out where you are going in that hell hole?”

Written by - Rikshanthas

Vhar stood near the edge of the grove, examining the scene before him. He saw Lithwyn beside the still form of Ithramir, who had obviously been gravely wounded; Vhar knew he would have to speak with them later, but, as he knew the rogue ship captain who had defrauded his way out of his cell would not get far, he did not intrude on what seemed to be a ritual of some importance. Instead he took in the grove as a whole; the now open Gate to Minas Aure, the priests and druids still helping injured soldiers through to the soft earth of the grove, those laying on cloaks, bedrolls, cots around the Gate. His mind quickly tallied the number of dead or wounded, comparing with the number who rode out from the Citadel a few days before.

The results were disturbing; there was no way the allied army could sustain the conflict with such losses. Vhar wanted to help, to see this war won, but did he dare interfere so openly in the course of this world's history? The choice tore at him as he watched the wounded continue to pour in.

Written by - Renalis

Dawn came and went but Crystal's pace never slowed. Normally the mid-day sun would have been tiring as she had not slept fully when Mavigan made camp, but her mind was set, and there was little her body could do to deter her. Something was wrong though - she could feel the normal fluxuations in her husbands energy, that was to be expected from a battle of this scale, but something was changing. It had spiked to an enourmous level and now lingered dangerously close..."No... you wouldn't... you couldn't... you" Crystal's thoughts trailed off as the thought of what was to come fully hit her.

She remembered vividly the dream she had last night, she rememebered that day as well. She remembered her husband's sacrifice so that their world would remain safe from harm, safe from the demons. She realized this spiking of his mana and then the sharp drop was the execution of a powerful spell. "You are going to do it..." Finally realizing the final outcome of the spell.

*FLASH*

She stood in an empty white room wearing now the dress Renalis gave her as a gift for their last anniversary. She saw him standing a few feet from him and she walked towards him. Opening his mouth as if to speak, Crystal quickly brings her finger to his lips "Shhh... Be silent now, it's alright, I know..." They embrace for mear moments but what seems to Crystal as eternity. As her lips leave his, he speaks softly, "I'm sorry my love". Crystal retreats backward into the white expanse, knowing what is to follow...

*FLASH*

Crystal awoke from the vision with a quick jerk up. Looking ahead, she can finally see the citadel. She can feel the portal that is opening as she spurs the steed to go faster. Then, suddenly, she can feel the portal reach its completion... but she can no longer sense Renalis.

"No...NO!" Crystal screams as she leaps from the saddle of the horse, magic flowing over her in a bright violet flame as she flew towards the citadel with fury in her violet eyes. "You cannot... I will not lose you again!" Seeing the bright light approaching, the guards are weary as to what to do, but their fear lasts only seconds as Crystal blasts past them, knocking them over. Flying toward the grove where she can sense the portal, looking like a large comet, flying too close for comfort. Landing in the grove, she has the attention of everyone there, showing the same glow as the Avatars seen previously this day. The glow dims from her, and her visage returns to that of the battle, no longer under the guise of her travelling cloths, her Indigo armor glistens glightly in the midday sun. Finally seeing the body of her husband she runs over to him and falls to his side. Pushing the woman out of the way who was looming over her, she picks him up slightly, laying his head upon her chest and moved the hair from his eyes. Unnoticing and uncaring of the world around her, Crystal kneels there, her husband's body in her arms, and weeps, tears streaming from her eyes.

Written by - Teran

“So, that is how you walk through walls,” she began. “How do you get in and out? And how can you tell where that world intersects with this one?” She cast him a very confused glance. “How the hell do you figure out where you are going in that hell hole?”

Teran watched Mavigan while she recovered, admiring more than just her tenacity.

"Novices can only enter where the planar bindings are weakest. This location here is one such place and your next test will be crossing over without my help. Only someone truly gifted would be able to do it." He taunts "If you ever master it like I have you will be able to force your way across anywhere at anytime you wish."

Teran pauses for a moment gauging her reaction carefully.

"Once you know how to access the dark plane I will teach you how to travel within it."

Over the next hour Teran will teach mavigan the words and thoughts that would allow her to exploit the thin planar barrier and allow her passage to the dark plane.

"Don't get lost Mavigan. I'll wait for you here." he smiles wickedly as he sits down up against a large tree.

Written by - Trinni Shannon

Trinni, sitting all patiently, which is a feat in itself, is watching over her friends. Then out of NOWHERE, she is roughly pushed out of the way. Only her superb reflexes save her from falling right on top of Isuiln.

Who the...?! Looking back towards Renalis, a loud complaint dies on her lips before a sound is uttered. The glowing slowly fades as she watches, leaving behind just a woman. But, the woman... her armor looks a lot like Renalis' and she has one of those stone-thing-a-lings too! And she's... she's... crying! She obviously loves him very very much. Embarased by the woman's grief, she looks away.

Biting her lip, she moves back over to Isuiln's side, making sure to keep out of whacking range of the lady. Looking down at Isuiln's peaceful face, the sound of the woman's sobs draws out a tear from Trinni. The tear rolls down her face, drops off her chin, and lands on Isuiln's cheek. Then, all at once, the sadness is burried as Trinni gets very very angry. Her cheeks redden and she glances towards the pair a few feet away, her eyes flashing.

Renalis had someone who loved him that much and he risked it all?! He was so careless with his life?! Grrr... When he wakes up, he is seriously dead meat. And Isuiln? Running up those stairs without anyone by his side, not even me! Wake up Isuiln, wake up so I can smack ya!

Leaning down, she flicks Isuiln on the cheek, then on a sigh, she absentmindedly wipes away the tear on his face before looking around.

Suddenly, the grove looks like it is on fire, even her! But, she's not on fire.

More magical-ness. Sheesh. It's coming from Commander Lithwyn, who knew she could do such a trick? She's very sad too. Silly woman, she likes Commander Ithramir. And wouldn't they look so cute together?

Trinni's random thoughts are interrupted by the events that unfold before her eyes and she can only stare in awe.

Written by - Ardwen

Ardwen leaned against one of the trees of the Sacred Grove, trying to suppress a frown that was threatening to overtake his countenance. He could tell a great feat was to be here performed, some manner of ritual invoking the power of multiple gods. And he had no desire to be anywhere near it. Briefly he though about exiting the grove before more of the god-taint began spilling in. Even though he was firmly fixed in his denial, he could still feel the divine presence, like an oily sickness that crept just below the surface of his skin.

Before he could decide one way or the other a voice piped up near him, ““Who are you to say such things? If my friends didn’t need me… I’d… I’d… I’d get up and pop ya one on your smart mouth. You think you are so much better than those who follow the Gods? Yet you depend on them to help your friend? YOU are the arse, Mister Ardwen. There are evil baddies in this world and if’n it weren’t for Kaia’hanas and Avandor and other Gods and their followers we’d all be in a sore state. What’d ya think we were doin’ at Minus Aure if not preventing a bad bad God from doing bad things to good people? Weren't you there? We couldn'ta done it ourselves, ya brat!” Ardwen glanced at the source of the voice and saw the Elf who had earlier named herself everything from “Trinni” to “Great White”.

“Could such a pitiful creature really be an Elf?” Ardwen thought, “So reliant on the gods, so helpless, so blind to the truth. I know this is not my world, I’ve been distracting myself from my real duty. It doesn’t matter. Nothing matters compared to what I now must do. I must be as hard as iron, as unrelenting as the bitter north. I’ll break ere I bend.”

Ardwen knew Trinni wasn’t paying attention to him, but he spoke to her distracted form anyhow. His tone was casual, it held no heat or vehemence, and it merely conveyed his words, “Never speak to me in that way again girl. You do not threaten a warrior of Avari lightly, such things have lead to trials by combat, and only one man may walk away – though it would do me no honor in proving myself right against a mere child. What you were doing at Minas Aure and what I was doing are two entirely different things, try not to be so myopic in your viewpoint in the future. If it weren’t for this “Kaeanass” or “Avandoor” or whatever the hell you want to call them we’d all live in a better world! Your brave commander lies wounded because his gods failed him; these days a man cannot cross honorable steel with another without some deranged priest butting in.”

Ardwen rocked himself upright from his leaning position on the tree and continued, “A ‘bad bad god from doing things to good people?’” He continued on, his voice now clearly turning to mocking, “Bad things happen to good people everyday, and vice versa. I’ve killed men, women, and children for no other reason than I was told to. But no god gave the order; it was other ‘mere mortal’ just like you and me. A real Elf can do anything! Did I not lay low the Orc’s precious Avatar? Here’s what I say to all gods!” With that Ardwen make a rough sound with his throat and spat on the grounds of the Sacred Grove. With a superior smirk he resumed his leaning against the tree, deciding to stay but to pay no heed to the tainted ritual going on in front of him.

Written by - Turin Wallace

In Ithramir's mind, there was nothing. The landscape of his dreams were bleak, he stood upon broken and blood-soaked ground, the air above him swirled and formed blackened clouds that cracked and arc's with lightning. He stood alone in his dream, a wasteland void of anything living. It is here he see's the object of his pain.

Standing off in the distance was a dark robed figure. Moving toward this...thing...he could feel the hate and evil moving through him. As he walked, the figure stood and waited, until at last they were face to face. Ithramir says,

"Who are you to invade my body and mind, demon?"

The faceless figure responds,

"My name...is not your concern, son of Avandor. But know this, no matter how hard your friends try, they will not save you. Your death is assured."

Snorting, Ithramir replies,

"Nothing is assured, other then we all die at some point demon. However, indulge me before I meet mine. How did I come to your attention, and why?"

A vile laughter echoed out from the figure, who paused and answered him,

"Very well, Ithramir, you shall have your answers, not because you have a right to now but because I want you to know who sold you out. Beridane of the newly acquired Westgale brokered a deal with the Orcs of the wastelands to cause much grief to you and your people. Slaktor bid me personally to come on both his and Beridane's behalf, as insurance."

Ithramir's face hardened, he knew this to be true, but he had wanted to hear the demon say it to his face. Calmly, he says,

"So I can assume you used Kaya as the perfect disguise, correct? You knew her skill and you used it well, I applaud your work."

If this thing had a smile, it undoubtedly had one now, and responded,

"Yes, but she did fight me, although the enchantment I laid on her was strong. She could do nothing to disobey me, she was my puppet and tool, to be used for my enjoyment and easily disposed of once my purpose was complete."

Ithramir detested the demon, doubly so for killing him. Tired of wasting time, he says.

"You know, for wanting me dead you sure are taking your time. I would not be so generous to an enemy, as it has a way of paying you back two-fold."

The robed figure replies,

"Oh no, I am enjoying this, Ithramir. And so is Slaktor, I can assure you. What better way to kill an elf of your reputation but slowly, letting your people and your lover watch you linger and die. Oh, if you could only see and feel the sadness, anger, and despair!

Save them the trouble, Ithramir. Give in to me and die quickly."

Ithramir's face registered disgust at the thought, quickly he says,

"Go back to whatever hell spawned you and fuck your ideas about what I should do!"

****

Meanwhile...

Lucant stood before the wounded body of Ithramir unsure of what to do. He knew that the elf's life was litterally in his hands and he felt the full weight of the importance of what he had to do. Again, he sought for strengh and his seeking was answered by Nyrondis. Once more, the strength of the world flowed freely through him and he knelt down next to Ithramir, unafraid. Placing his hand on Ithramir's brow, Lucant spoke: "Ithramir, Chosen Son of Avandor, this is not your time. Let the strength of your soul shine through beyond all shadow of evil." To all present both Ithramir's and Lucant's divine aura seemed to surge with power as the taint began to lose its hold.

****

The demon felt the power of Nyrondis surging through Ithramir body, the energy fighting the dark taint. Still, the demon had control and he used it. With a wave of his dark robed hand, Ithramir fell to the ground in his mind. Pain washed over him, again and again. The demon just said,

"Hurts, does it not? Come, Ithramir, it can all be over in but a moment. Give your soul to me and I will let you rest in death, where you will feel no more pain!"

Ithramir said nothing and the demon punished him. The landscape, save for the dark cloud, changed. He was now laid out on a bed of spikes, a top piece moving toward him. All the while the top bed of spikes descended, the demon taunted him,

"Save yourself the pain, son of Avandor. Why do you want to suffer? Give in to me, I will make your passing painless."

Ithramir watched as both the top and bottom met each other, his body pierced a thousand times by cold, hard spikes. Tears ran in stream down his cheeks, his teeth clenched together. In one moment of clarity among the pain, Ithramir says,

"Never. I will never give you the pleasure. This...is....nothing...do your....worst!"

****

Meanwhile...

Tempyst knelt beside Ithramir, just as she had done not long before. She could see his wound taht she had repaired, beginning to open up again. She felt the power of Nyrondis fill her husband once again; this time, she was able to bask some in his presence. She whispered under her breath as she put her hands upon Ithramir once again. "Please my god, please, give me the strength to heal his body. Let not my our child's life have been in vain." I know you are weary child. My strength is pouring through my avatar to help contain the taint within him. Do what you must to heal his body. And remember, you are not alone.

As Tempyst's skin touched Ithramir's, she could feel the pain his body was going through. She choked back a sob, knowing it was her child's life that was also in pain. Tempyst then took a deep breath reaching once more into the earth feeling the life there within the sacred grove. Then she felt her connection to Ithramir solidify and began to draw forth his pain, his wounds into herself. Then, without thinking, or even without realizing it, Tempyst began to give her own life energies to Ithramir, exchanging life for pain. She felt his wound begin to close, while one on her own chest began to open up.

Again she whispered softly, "No more pain little one, no more pain. Let me help you, please, let me help you."

****

The demon could feel new power surging through Ithramir's body. The taint, his taint, was barely able to keep control. But he still held sway and continued to punish Ithramir. He would have his prize, his name known as the demon who killed a great elf and brought the elven people low! He would not be stopped now.

For a moment, Ithramir was thankful that he was not pierced through still. But that only last until he saw what the demon planned for him next.

Laid out across a great stone, Ithramir was tied up. Small, dark figures move around him, each carrying something small...and shiny. He watched them for a small time until he realized what they were going to do to him.

He was to undergo the Orc-ish sacrifice to Slaktor. He would be cut open, his innards removed by hand, with his heart being the last thing they tore from his body. All while being alive.

Without warning, the demon said something and the dark figures began their gruesome work. Ithramir felt his chest and abdomen sliced open. He could feel their hands inside, ripping and tearing him apart from the inside out. He could feel his life slipping from him now, it was inevitable.

This was the moment of weakness the demon wanted. Sliding close to his ear, the demon whispers,

"Renounce Avandor and die quickly, Ithramir. The pain can stop all with a few words. All this suffering can stop."

Ithramir pondered the thought. If he was lost, then this pain was all for nothing. His answer to the demon came in short, pained bursts,

"Go...to...hell..."

The demon raged at Ithramir and the torment was doubled. Ithramir screamed in his mind, the pain almost beyond coping, but he knew he would die with his honor intact. It was worth the awful price.

****

Meanwhile...

Focused on Ithramir’s still form, she searches his soul. Where his normal radiance burned bright as the sun, she can only see a dim haze surrounding him. The cold talons of fear grip her heart as she is unsure if even Kaia’hanas’ can heal him now. As she watches, his light dims more and more, barely a glow now.

“My daughter, open yourself to me. Your love will die if you cannot move beyond what has past. Accept who you are, embrace what is your destiny. You have withheld yourself for far too long, precious one. Let me help you bring him back.”

Crying softly, she feels a moment of release at the truth of Kaia’hanas’ words. Looking at Ithramir anew, she smiles around her tears and whispers. “Amin mela lle, mela en' coiamin.**” Leaning down, her lips by his ear, her tear-streaked cheek presses against his skin.

She whispers ancient words just for him, the Gods as the only witness she needs:

“Ithramir, your heart has spoken to my soul, and now it sings only for you.
Yours will be the name I cry aloud in the night and the eyes into which I smile in the morning.
I pledge to you my living and my dying, each equally in your care.
I shall be a shield for your back and you for mine.
You are my melfea, my true love, now and forever more.

Now, come back to me."

Closing her eyes, she straightens and finally gives in to the compelling call of her Goddess. As Kaia’hanas’ power consumes her, warmth spreads throughout her body. Starting from her center, her aura flares with tongue-like flames flowing down her body, over and into Ithramir, expanding out to all reaches of the sacred circle creating a glow to rival that of the sun. The power of the two Gods mingling, the entire citadel is overcome with a feeling of joy as mother and son are united, Kaia’hanas and Nyrondis together.

As the contact with her Goddess deepens, Lithwyn can only watch as she relinquishes control. Lithwyn’s eyes are open, but she sees only within Ithramir, only through Kaia’hanas’ as they search his soul. Riding Ithramir’s time shadow, with the help of her son, Nyrondis, the Goddess mends tears, fills gaps caused by the demon’s poison, and straightens kinks and the unnatural twists. Feeling a gentle pull, Lithwyn lets her love flow into Ithramir, giving him strength, renewing his spirit, calling him back from the world beyond. Stretching out herself, she can feel the ties to every person in the grove. She senses Tempyst and her new-old husband, Lucant. Cerenos, Catherine, the dark spirit of Ardwen, Mathell. Elves she has known for ages like Trinni and Nysden, those she has known for a very short time like Renalis and Isuiln. Then there are those she does not yet know, but is nonetheless comforted by their presence.

Feeling the brightness of Ithramir’s spirit returning, Lithwyn’s head tilts back as she is still consumed by the Goddess. A voice not quite hers, not quite Kaia’hanas’ calls out at an impossible volume, “Avandor, my husband, my mate, come to me. Join your wife and your son, rejoin Ithramir as he needs you, your followers need you.” Even as the words die from her lips, she is drawn inward, through Ithramir, as Kaia’hanas tries to bring him back and join him with Avandor.

****

Finally, the demon can not withstand this assualt by the servants of Nyrondis and Kaia'hanas...but there is also another, something he hadn't noticed before...Avandor was here! A girl, a servant of Avandor had been inside Ithramir, her soul granting him strength quietly throughout the ordeal. The demon could not withstand the combined assault!

It was the demon's turn to cry out in pain as the energy of the three coursed and surged through his body, healing and mending the taint the demon had put inside Ithramir.

For his part, Ithramir could feel it to, he could feel and hear their words to him for the first time. Avandor came to him, smiling, and told him thusly,

"Your pain is at an end, my son. Soon, very soon, you will be well and you shall be rewarded. But for now, let us be rid of this thing!"

Collapsing into sleep, Ithramir never knows what happens next.

****

In the grove, everyone watched with apprehension as the energy flowed into Ithramir. Then, in one brief moment, a brilliant flash of energy was released.

Here ends Book 2 of the House Ancora saga, which is continued in Book Three - The Reckoning Pt 1.

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