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Book Two - A Gathering Storm

Written by Lucant Dolvan Page 4 Book 2

"Here at last..." The young farrier thought to himself as he approarched the Citadel's gate. His mind raced back over the events that led him to this place.

Three days were all that had passed, though it seemed much longer, since the local magistrate of southern Greyshire had sent his tax man to collect the annual dues.

"Master Dolvan!? Are you present?" the tax collector shouted as he pounded on the workshop's old wooden door. Opening the door, the young man responded "I am Lucant Dolvan. What, may I ask, brings you to my shop this evening, sir." "The payment of your taxes, boy, or rather, the lack there of." the surley tax man said. "Work has been scarce of late, sir, but I am nearly finished with a commission and I will pay my taxes in full the moment I recieve my payment." Lucant said, anxiously trying to buy himself some time. Growing angrier by the moment, the tax man yelled "What do you take me for, boy? A fool? One commission won't be able to pay all your debts, and besides, this isn't the first time you've been late on debt payments! For your current and past failures to pay your taxes on time, this property is hereby seized by order of the magistrate of Greyshire. I shall return tomorrow with surveyors and assessors...I expect you to be gone, boy."

After the tax collector had left, Lucant sat and pondered over how to proceed. After much thought, he decided to travel to the Citadel and offer his services to the armies garrisoned there."After all, a large army is in constant need of new horseshoes." is how he rationalized the decision to himself.

Now after three long days, his future awaited him with open arms.

Written by Turin Wallace

Looking at Tempyst, Ithramir replies,

"That depends, young lady, can you fight? Ever face a bloodthirsty, charging Orc who is demanding your blood? More to the point, have you ever killed? For if you ride with us this day, you must learn to kill or you will be killed, for even those who are healers must learn the arts of war."

Letting his words sink in a moment, he concludes,

"You are welcome to join us, lady druid, if not then you may stay as long as you wish. I must take my place at the head of this army, Renalis may guide you to where you choose to be. Good day, Tempyst."

With a slight bow of the head, Ithramir remounts his steed, and rides back to the gates awaiting the final assembly of troops to finish their preparations. It won't be long and then they will all be thrown into the furnace of war...

Written by Tempyst

Tempyst heard the elf's words, the gravity and purpose in his voice. Though she had never faced war or killed another being, she knew the design of the world, the balance of life and death, the reason for it.

"No Sir, I have not, I have been isolated within the Deepshadows since birth. But I understand your need and perhaps later, I may join, I may not, I go where my path lies, even though I may not see it clearly. I am in search of someone, a champion and I know not where he is, excpet that he is close. Fair thee well in your journies Ithramir, may your sword strike true and may the arms of your men be strong." Tempyst bows before Ithramir and watches as he rides off, not sure if she was glad or not the A'lanthear had passed this man up.

Turning to Renalis, she smiled warmly at the man before her. "Renalis was it, I am again, pleased to meet you. I am afraid I am a bit out of my element at the moment. All these people, all this stone..." Tempyst's eyes looked around and settled back upon the face of Renalis, and she sighed. "I am not sure where I should go or be Sir." All the bravado she had bostered up while speaking to Ithramir washed away from her and she suddenly looked very small, scared and alone.

Written by Renalis

"...you must learn to kill or you will be killed, for even those who are healers must learn the arts of war."

Ithramir's words struck a cord with Renalis, "Crystal..." he thought, "I am sorry you too had to walk this path, how I dragged you from your peaceful home, healing and helping, to a life knowing little else from destruction, true we kill evil wherever it lay, but you should have known a life better..." Renalis sighed inwardly.

Renalis salutes Ithramir as he remounts and rides away. Hearing Tempyst's words, Renalis turns to her.

"Renalis was it, I am again, pleased to meet you. I am afraid I am a bit out of my element at the moment. All these people, all this stone..." Tempyst's eyes looked around and settled back upon the face of Renalis, and she sighed. "I am not sure where I should go or be Sir."

Seeing her feeling somewhat lost and alone Renalis places a comforting hand on her shoulder, "First, let me assure you that you have nothing to fear from these people. I know this may seem like a culture shock, having little exposure to artifical creations of stone and metal like we have here but we mean no harm to those of peaceful nature such as yourself. Second, while I don't mean to sound foolish or arogant, but I do not know what to tell you, I am unsure as to you should go either."

Looking back towards the Citadel and troops Renalis continues, "Think about what Ithramir has told you, decide whether or not you wish to aid this army directly by coming with us or indirectly by remaining here. I know the powers you wield, my Brother Kel'Thalas too is a being of the land but he, like myself uses his abilities to fight the darkness directly. If you feel you wish to walk that road then ride with us. But if you wish to remain safe then remain here, help out where you can, mend the land and aid the wounded, find somewhere to be of help - I am sure you will not have to look far."

Pointing at Lord Wilhelm, Renalis finishes off, "That is Lord Wilhelm, he is the Queen's champion and defender, as he is staying here he would be one of the people you can look to for guidence as I must alas be leaving with this army for my place is in the front." Renalis turns and begins to walk back to where Ithramir is, but stoping after a few paces he turns back and faces Tempyst once more, "Good to have met you M'lady and it is good to know that another person wishes to help, sorry we could not talk further."

Written by Vylia

After the old man walked out of the room and Wilhelm left to go talk to ithramir, Keeryn began to get really bored. Mavigan didn't seem to be coming out of her room, and Keeryn didn't hear anything from inside, so, being the curious person she is, she decided to go take a peak at what was going on. Pushing off the bench she lands lightly on her feet and walks over Mavigan's door, opening it just enough to get her head inside and look around.

Keeryn sees Mavigan staring daggers at the lady in pink, "Ummm... I hope I'm not interrupting, I just wanted to see if you were feeling any better, Mavigan. Thought maybe we could go for a walk after you got dressed, before Wilhelm comes back to bug you about talking to the soldiers."

Written by Wilhelm

Seeing Ithramir ride twards the gate, Wilhelm concluded that the departure time was nearing. He took his leave of Diosr, who left to go to his own troop and turned to a nearby Queen's Guard.

"Sir Johann, please convey my compliments to Her Majesty and inform her that I will arrive presently at the keep's front door with Argent, so that she may ride down to bid farewell to and bless her loyal subjects marching off to war. Please stress to her attendents that time is short. Escort her outside to meet me. If there is a problem come out and tell me."

Sir Johann saluted and ran off to the keep. Wilhelm strode off to the stables, where he had Argent and Sable saddled and decked out with full royal display. He then mounted Sable and rode to the keep's front door, Argent following behind. There he waited for Mavigan to appear, hoping he did not have to go in to fetch her out, as she needed to be there when the army marched out.

Written by Tempyst

"...If you feel you wish to walk that road then ride with us. But if you wish to remain safe then remain here, help out where you can, mend the land and aid the wounded, find somewhere to be of help - I am sure you will not have to look far."

If I wish to remain safe...if I had wanted to remain safe, I would have stayed in the conclave. Tempyst thought to herself. To find a champion, I must be where champions are formed.

She nodded and thanked Renalis for his time, then watched him walk off, his words still in her mind. She turned towards the one he called Lord Wilhelm and made her way over to him. Renalis called him the Queen's champion, could he be the one A'lanthear?" But the sword did not anser, not even the lowest of whispers. Tempyst sighed, wondering why she ever thought this would be easy and quick.

Tempyst began walking to where Lord Wilhelm stood, then watched as he made his way someplace and lost him admist the throngs of people. She looked around, trying to find someone who might be in charge and could give her direction. She noticed the elf in the black armor, and decided he looked to be a man who would know what to do with her.

She walked to the elf, determined to not be pushed aside or intimidated. "Excuse me Sir, perhaps you could help me. I am seeking someone to speak to, to find out where I should go if I am to help out here." As the man turned and looked upon her, a very strong and strange feeling washed over her and for the first time in her life, she fainted.

Written by Lucant Dolvan

Upon seeing the weatherbeaten figure of a young man approaching, the gate guards asserted the full authority of their postion: "Who goes there? Declare yourself sir!" "I am Lucant Dolvan, sir, a humble farrier from Greyshire." Lucant responded, hoping to avoid further trouble.

"A farrier you say? And from Greyshire no less! Do you have any actual proof that you are who say you are? Any travel papers, a journeyman's certificate... or... perhaps a horseshoe?" The guards burst into laughter at the last question as Lucant came to the startling realization that he had no such thing with him, just the clothes on his back, a bit of food and what few tools he could carry. "Well...I... uh... seem to have...misplaced my papers," he said, nervously grasping at straws, "I'm...sure that I can get a...uh...copy of my new business permit...if you will allow me entry, sirs."

"You have no proof of identification, no business permits, not even a friend who will vouch for your identity and you expect us to just let you enter without question? For all we know, you could be a spy for Beridane," the lead guard said. "I assure you, sir, am no spy, merely a craftsman trying to make a living. I mean no harm to the people inside." Lucant pleaded. "Oh, we'll let you in the Citadel, and we'll make sure that you don't harm anyone as well..." Almost on cue, the gate guards converged on Lucant and promptly escorted him to the Citadel's brig.

The old iron cell door slammed shut behind him as Lucant cursed his luck. Lucant sat down on the wooden bench chained to the wall and heard one of the exiting guards speaking to the bailiffs: "I don't care if it's Commander Deltheron, Lord Wilhelm, or one of those priests that have been around lately, just get somebody- anybody- down here to interogate this "farrier". We can't afford to be lax with security while Her Majesty is here, especially after what happened last night." "Yes sir, right away," one of the bailiffs said as he went to fetch a messenger. Lucant leaned back against the cold stone wall of his cell, cursed his luck once more, and wondered to himself what exactly was going on in this Citadel.

Written by Isuiln Fellblade

Isuiln rode down the streets of the citadel towards the front gate at a walk; anything faster and his steed would surely step on someone. Finally, as he neared the gate, he spotted Ithramir, and turned to head in that direction. As he was heading that way, he spotted a familiar and unmistakable figure whom he had seen at the banquet the night before. An elf, dressed in full black armor, with a massive sword on his back, and two smaller ones at his side.

Thank Avandor he's on our side, Isuiln mused. When he was near passing the dark-clad elf, he noticed a human woman walking up to him.

"Excuse me Sir, perhaps you could help me. I am seeking someone to speak to, to find out where I should go if I am to help out here," she said to him. But as he turned and looked at her, she went suddenly very pale, and dropped into a dead feint, right into the elf's arms. Isuiln leaped down off his horse, and saw the look of utter shock on the mysterious elf's face as he stared at the comatose woman in his arms.

"By the gods," Isuiln started jokingly. "I do believe you've scared the poor girl to death!"

The other elf just looked up at him in a dark stare.

"Here, let me help you with her. We'd best take her up to Lithwyn. She'll be able to look after her and let her know how she can be of help. Hopefully this human will find her a bit less frightful." They lifted each of her arms across their shoulders, and began walking her back toward the citadel. "By the way, I don't believe we've been introduced. I'm Isuiln Fellblade, Captain of Avandorho Hyanda."

"Ardwen," was the short reply he recieved.

As they were nearing the tower, Isuiln saw Aylan, his second in command, coming from the opposite direction, along with several of his men. He shouted to them, and they hurried over. "Aylan, you and the men take this lady to Lithwyn. I need to get back to my horse and check in with Ithramir." Aylan and the others gently took over the carrying and headed toward the Temple, where Lithwyn would likely be. Isuiln turned back to Ardwen. "I must hurry and report to Ithramir now, but I hope we may speak again before we go to battle. Oh, and until then, try not to sweep any more girls off their feet." With a chuckle, Isuiln hurried back down the street. He found his horse where he had left it, as one of the rangers had seen him help carry the woman, and had grabbed his horse. Isuiln thanked him, and set off once again in search of Ithramir.

Written by Trinni Shannon

Running, the ground a blur at her feet, the furious thump of her heart filling her ears, she races outside of the citadel. "I'm late! Please still be there, I have to... I need to... I haven't ever said... never said nearly enough. Please still be there, Ithramir!" Shoeless, the slapping sounds of her passing echo before her down the hall. Oddly, she passes not a soul as she runs but is so preoccuppied she doesn't notice the lack of people or the red glow of the stone walls or the monstrous red sun high in the sky. She stops suddenly at the sight beyond the walls, her heart stopping, completely crushed. The low growing grasses have been flattened, trampled, and now mock her. "Too late" the small field says to her, joyful in its taunting. She is too late, the troops have already left.

Looking up at the sky, the sun seems to grow larger, brighter. The sky is on fire, the ground, the trees, everything is red.

She blinks, a moment of blackness, and then...

She is running again, but there are people all around. Friends long since dead, yet somehow here fighting. Ehlonna is there! Pausing a moment, she nearly reaches out to touch her. But the pull suddenly grows weaker and she knows she doesn't have time to worry about that, HE needs her now. Turning away from her former teacher, she runs. Reaching the forest line, she dissappears beneath the branches, following the trail her heart beats. The warmth of her heart, her love, fills her. She is very close now, very close.

Turning the corner, she sees him. Slumped against a large tree, his breath in spastic bursts, he slowly lifts his head as she approaches. Falling to her knees, tears running down her cheeks, she reaches her hands out to his chest. Her fingers sliding over the large gaping wound, his warm blood trickles down her arm. Beginning to pray, she looks into his eyes, immediately knowing she has forgiven him. His heart beat is slow and weak, but not too far gone. She has healed worse, saved those closer to the edge. Leaning his head back, his eyes go out of focus. His voice raw with emotion and yearning, he only says "Genna."

Jerking back, her body cold as ice, she stares down at him. Her hands clench to her chest, as she stands completely still, shock taking away even the thought to breathe. Transfixed in horror and sorrow, she can only stare. His heart beating slower and slower, she still does not move. The ties made between them so long ago snap, causing her body to shake. In that instant, there is no love, no hope, no joy, no heart, no soul in the young priestess' body. As a shell she stands over him, the rejection taking away all meaning of life or death.

Slower and slower his heart beats, his eyes are closed now. Blood covers his chest, dripping down into the soft grass, creating a small river of red. Slower and slower it beats.

THUMP thump... thump thump... thump thump... ... thump

She feels his life force rise from his body, leave the wood, she knows it is gone, beyond returning. Finally, she jerks out of the trance at the sudden silence of her heart. Blinking, shaking her head, she looks down again and finally breathes in on a scream.

Blackness. Cold, empty blackness. Sound returns, there is fighting, but this is different somehow. This isn't the sound of the battle from so long ago. Openning her eyes, she walks amongst the fighting. Blue light falls on everything, and she feels as if she is walking through water. Everything is moving slowly, every parry, every shout extended impossibly long. No one sees her, pays her any attention. Not even the monstrous orc standing within a foot of her notices as she glides past him. Dwarves and elves alike are fighting, in no battle she has ever seen before. A break in the fighting draws her attention and she walks towards it.

Stepping over the body of an orc already cooling, she is beyond the battle now. Bodies lie everywhere she turns. The battle shifted from this area, people were fighting here not very long ago. She stops to look around but something pulls her a little further. Stumbling, she looks down at her feet and into the blank stare of an elf. In death, his expression is cold and his eyes are glazed over. It takes her a moment to recognize who it is. Collapsing to her knees, she cries out in anguish and disbelief...

"ITHRAMIR!" Jerking upright in bed, the blanket twisted around her body, sweat pouring down her face and back, Lithwyn looks around frantically. Slowly, the realization of her surroundings brings her back. Her cloak on the floor next to the bed where she left it, her bow and daggers on the chair in the corner, light streaming in the window of her room: it is morning and she slept far too long. Still panting as her heart slows, a soft knock on the door startles her for a moment. Calling out "Enter" she takes a deep breath and swallows hard.

****

"Grrrr... I said cut it OUT!" The elf, purple faced and high on his horse, turns this way and that, searching the ground around him. Soft snickering from behind him and to his right make him turn quickly in his saddle, almost toppling him out of it. Sighing with exhasperation, he leans lightly forward and pats his mare's neck, cursing under his breath. He feels a jab in his ribs. Quickly turning, he swats his arm out only to hit nothing.

"Son-of-an-Orc~! TRIIIIINIIIII if you do that again, I'll... I'll..." another jab on his other side makes him stop. Looking as if he is about to explode with anger he suddenly breaks down into a fit of laughter. A tear sliding down his face, his laughter roars as he slaps his thigh.

A small elf woman, looking mighty pleased with herself, comes out from around the horse and looks up at her friend. "Now, isn't that better? Just because we are about to go kick some orc butt, we don't have to be all serious." Standing with her hands on her hips, her head tilted nearly all the way back, she looks up with a grin. Her white hair pulled back tightly, various leaves and small flowers are intertwined around her head. Wearing basic leather armor, several dagger hilts protrude from around her body. Twin short swords strapped to either side of her waist and an enormous bow against her back make her seem as if she is rather just a little girl playing dress up than the experienced ranger she is.

"Trinni, Trinni, what am I going to do with you?" he says grinning down at her. Trinni merely shrugs with a smirk. Looking around her, she taps her lip as she decides what other form of mischief she can get into while waiting to leave the citadel.

Written by Pharsalus

The wind grew deafening within the confines of Geirik's unconcious mind. The old man stood in a chamber of inpenetrable black next to the very being he'd containned for so long - the being which, until now, was forced to look at him when ordered, talk to him when ordered, and (more recently) lend his power when ordered.

But not now. Geirik had lost control, and ever inch of him knew it. He watched with his mind's eye as the chain that bound the cackling, vaprous form to his thoughts crackled, flickered, and vanished. He stood powerless before it, unable to control it or himself. The liche towered over him, his voice pouring from vile and ancient lips as rain upon the trees.

Poor, poor Geirik! it began mockingly. So much to lose. So much to gain. And now have you none of the power necessary for either!

Geirik fell to his knees. The beast was right. What happened now Geirik could only guess. The Liche was, as far as the old man knew, free to do whatever it wished. He could now only watch and hope the gods would offer him his chance for revenge some other time, as now he lacked the will and strength to contain the being any longer.

Geeeiiiriiikk.. it moaned, like the bellow of a storm. Do not fear...

Geirik looked up - Fear? The expression confused him - why would the Liche care for Geirik's feelings? It was free. Free to move about as it willed in Geirik's mortal shell, free to exact its power on the world any way it chosed. And yet here it stood, almost compassionate for the broken old man.

Remain in silenccccee, and all will go as planned... Geirik knew of no such plan, but he wasn't in a position of negotiation. He went to stand, but the Liche's hand shot outward, and Geirik's mind went dark. He collapsed on the cold floor of his own beatened mind and slept...

****

His eyes opened, but it was not Geirik using them. They burned and seethed with blue light and vapor. A haggered old man stood over him, magic gathered about his head and hands.

You, his voice echoed, addressing the old magician. You seek audience with me, Necromancer? Geirik's body lifted off the ground in a standing position, and the air about him began to chill to deathly temperatures. The breath of the men in the room sooned burst from their mouths in excited puffs.

SPEAK! the Liche exploded suddenly. Why have you awakened me, human?

The Liche stood, arms crossed, suspended in a column of light, a scowl across his borrowed face as he awaited the old man's response.

Written by Trinni Shannon

Sitting in bed, she stares at the door waiting expectantly. "You may enter!" raising her voice, she hopes they heard her this time. After a beat, she gives up and untangles herself from the blanket, climbing off the bed. Scooping up her cloak as she walks she throws it around her shoulders and ties it hurredly. Just before reaching the door she fixes her hair with a flick of her wrist, replacing the stick to hold it all together.

Throwing open the door even as a knock comes again, she smiles amusedly as she catches the man with his arm hanging in the air and a surprised look on his face.

"Yes, yes. Goodmorning. What can I do for you?" still smiling, she looks behind him and sees another man carrying a woman's slack body in his arms. At this, without giving the knocker the opportunity to state his request, she pulls them inside while firing questions at the two men.

"What happened? Who is this woman? Bring her in, please... don't just stand there. Lie her down here, yes, that's it. Thank you. Step back, she's still breathing but looming over her isn't going to help." Pulling the second man out of the way, Lithwyn moves to the woman's side. Reaching to remove the sword from its sheath on the woman's back, one of the men stop her.

"Uh, I wouldn't do that if I were you my lady."

Turning, she looks at him skeptically. "Whatever do you mean? It is just a sword. She can't very well lay on it, can she?"

"Well, the sword sort of... attacked someone outside. A man reached for it and when his fingers touched it he collapsed."

"What?! Are you off your rocker? Inanimate objects cannot attack people on their own. Bah. There may be some sort of spell imbued into it. I'll just have to leave it there for now." Turning back to her charge, Lithwyn looks over the woman with renewed interest.

Her eyes scanning over her face and body, looking for injury, she holds up a hand as she senses the two men retreating. "I don't think so, please wait for a moment. I have no idea who you are or who she is, and until I do I would like everyone to remain here."

"My lady, I am Aylan. I am second in command to Captain Isuiln Fellblade. We only arrived last night and have not had the chance to meet."

Sizing up the man who spoke, she nods curtly before turning back to face the woman. "Just the same, I'd feel much better if you remained here for a moment."

Stretched out on the bed, the human woman lies peacefully. Her hair is fanned out, framing her face in its rich brown softness. Reaching a hand out, Lithwyn moves the hair away from the woman's forehead and gently rests her fingertips against it.

Noticing the pleasing scent carried by the woman, Lithwyn closes her eyes with a smile and calls out to Kaia'hanas for healing. The sudden contact with the Goddess unnerves her for a moment and she almost pulls her hand away from the unconsious woman. Hearing Kaia'hanas speaking in her mind, Lithwyn purses her lips and focuses her energy on healing, trying not to close herself off, fighting old habits.

"She is a good woman with an important purpose, this one. You must see that she does not come to harm. She carries A'lanthear and will no doubt need help, though she is largely on her own in this. You will do what you can, help how you can. Helping her in her charge is to help you in yours."

Grimacing slightly at the stream of dialogue in her mind, she murmurs a prayer as light begins to glow beneath her fingertips. Feeling the woman returning to the realm of conciousness, she withdraws her hand. Openning her eyes to look down at the woman, her gaze is met by twin portals to the sky as the woman's eyes are now open.

Written by Tempyst

...he is here...

The whispers fled from her mind as opened her eyes and saw the beautiful elven woman standing above her, her greens eyes gazing into her soul.

"What happened? Where...where am I?" Tempyst sat up slowly, taking in her surroundings.

The elf smiled, making Tempyst feel warm and welcomed. "I am Lithwyn and you are safe. Apparently you had some sort of a spell." The woman turned to the two men that were standing behind her. "Go and tell your captain that the young woman is awake and no worse for wear." One of the men nodded and the two abruptly turned and left. Lithwyn looked back upon the druid in her bed. "Now, who might you be and what happened that you were brought to me unconscious?"

Tempyst took a few deep breaths, still looking about the room. It had a rish, familiar warmth to it, the colors reminded her of the forest in the fall. She started to speak, but then quickly turned her attention to the sword upon her back. As she unstrapped it, she craddled it in her arms and let out a sigh of relief. "No one tried to remove it from me did they?"

"No, I was warned that it had already caused someone a problem. It seems you have quit a tale to tell. You and your charge are both fine and as I said, safe here. Please, what is your name?"

"I am the druid Whisperling, from the Deepshadows, but you, please call me Tempyst. Whisperling is what I use for formal affairs and great rites." Tempyst relaxed a little, swinging her feet over the side of the bed and setting her self on the edge. "I..." She looked around again, suddenly feeling very lost and alone, the comforting walla around her reminding her so much of the earth she loved. All of the morning's stress and excitement suddenly washed over her. Without realizing it, she lept up and wrapped her arms around Lithwyn and began to cry. Lithwyn, held the girl, letting her get it all out of her system, knowing a good cry often calms the nerves and makes one more reasonable to deal with.

After several minutes of body wracking sobs, Tempyst realized what she had done and stepped back, sniffling some, suddenly embarassed by her actions. "My...my deepest apologies M'lady, I don't know what came over me." Tempyst sat back down on the bed and placed her hand upon the sword that had fallen to the side. "It has indeed been a trying day, I never thought that leaving the conclave, would, would be so hard. I thought I knew my path, A'lanthear wanted me to go, the elders wanted me to go, I was the only one who would have been happy to stay." Tempyst reached out to take the hanky Lithwyn handed to her. After blowing her nose and dabbing her eyes, she smiled her first true smile since reaching this place. "Thank you for your kindness, I do not mean to be a bother, I am but a traveler, searching for someone I do not even know." He smile then turned to a thoughtful look as she continued. "I was trying to find somone to help me; people kept telling me to talk to someone else. Then I saw this elf, tall and bold, dressed all in black armor. He had a presence of being in charge so I went to him to inquire and when he turned to me and looked upon me...it was as if the world fell out from below me and I was engulfed by darkness." Tempyst looked into the woman's eyes. "Then I awoke and found myself here. I truly am sorry for any trouble."

Tempyst stood, and picked up the sword. "I should be on my way."

Written by Turin Wallace

Ithramir stood at the head of this mass of troops. He could see each of his own divisions fully prepared and ready to march out, he could see the sturdy dwarves led by Diosr formed up and ready, lastly he could see the human soldiers standing rank and file, ready to move. Those who weren't ready were hurrying to and fro, finding their regiments, and taking their place.

Spying Ardwen looking about, a bit out of place, Ithramir calls to a guard to have his horse brought up immediately. When the horse arrives, he calls out,

"Ardwen, saddle up and ride with me in the command company. We will be the first into battle when we arrive, someone of your skill should not have to wait in the back. Plus, as often is the case, our people will be bearing the weight of the counter-attack. Our allies will follow and consolidate in our wake. What say you, Ardwen? Ready to ride into our enemies?"

Just then, as Ardwen made his reply, the sun rose over the horizon. Big, blazing orange-yellow, and bathing the entire Avenue of Assembly into it's light. The glinting mail and armor caused him to close his eyes just a little, his thoughts reaching back and wondering how many times has the ancient place seen such a display in it's storied past. For millenia, only elves trod here, but there had been a time in ages past that alliance troops assembled here to do battle against the Orcs. Today, Lothiel-Gadith was blessed, and the sight of such a host raised even Ithramir's spirits.

Raising one hand, he motions for a guard holding a horn to sound the call to ride. As the the guard blows the horn, others stationed around the citadel pick up the call, until the place reverberates with the sound. Looking toward the fortress, his eyes scan it, looking for her. From this distance, he would not be able to see her, but she could see him. For Ithramir, it's all that mattered, for he would never turn his back and ride out without one last goodbye.

After a moment, turning his horse to face the gate, Ithramir waits until the horn's sound to battle slowly fades. At last, the massive doors that guard the causeway over the chasm strain and creek open. Motioning the troops behind him forward, he says to the commanders who are riding with him,

"We ride for three days to relieve the garrison at Minas Aure. May Avandor give us the strength to fight well, friends. We now ride into an unknown future. Let us meet it head on."

Gently nudging the great black steed under him, Ithramir and the other commanders move out of the gates, the army following behind. It would be three hard days of riding before them, a battle at the end, and an outcome that was uncertain. Those who survived the war would remember this day, the day the world changed forever.

Written by Lucant Dolvan

Lucant awoke suddenly, startled by the clarion sound of a warhorn and the creaking of ancient gates.

"I must have dozed off..." he said to himself as he noticed the first rays of sunlight creeping across the cell's floor. Intrigued by the sounds he quickly stood up on the edge of the wooden bench and leaned forward towards the barred window on the opposing wall to see what had disturbed his sleep. He was amazed by the ocean of soldiers that greated his gaze. He could barely make out a gleaming figure atop a large black steed as he gestured for the massive army to move out.

Lucant sat back down on his bench and said aloud to himself "What a lucky man, to have the trust and support of so many..." He leaned back against the wall once more and tried to get back to sleep, despite an un-nerving feeling that was only getting stronger.

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