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Book Two - A Gathering Storm

Written by Renalis - Page 5 Book 2

Renalis walked up to where Ithramir sat upon his horse. The others in the command company looked as the human walked up near the front. Renalis thought, "Leading from the front, this is where every leader belongs and I respect Ithramir for it. This is where I belong, I should help in the most direct way possible... this isn't going to be easy but I will give it my all, for these lands, for these people..." Renalis's thoughts trailed off as Ithramir calls for the horns to sound. Renalis turns and faces the Citadel, taking one last look, feeling her presence, "I will return my love..." His view returns to face the gates as they begin to open.

Those all around Renalis begin to snicker and talk amungst themselves as the march begins. At first just a trot, and Renalis walks, then as the Horses pick up speed Renalis too picks up speed. One of the commanders leans down as the horses begin to reach speeds that a human could not hope to match, "Are you sure you can keep up?" He says and then begins to laugh. As the distance from the gate approaches what Renalis deems acceptable, his azure mana gem flares up once more. The elven commander quickly withdraws back to his seat, slighty startled. His eyes becoming like saphires Renalis leaps into they air. Flying at the speed of the horses, Renalis turns back to the commander, and with a very serious tone in his voice says, "I think I'll manage."

****

Hearing the horn even from within the walls Crystal puts a hand to her chest, whispering "be safe my love...".

Written by Ariana

Mavigan glared daggers at the woman in pink, silently willing her to answer her question. No response was forthcoming. In fact, the woman appeared to be slightly shell shocked – no doubt taken aback by Mavigan’s mastery of the foulest of language. “Well,” Mavigan mentally shrugged, “I shouldn’t have any problems from her, at least,” and then glared at her a bit more to emphasize the point that she was not to be manhandled without permission.

As she was busy communicating her disdain with her eyes, Keeryn, the strange creature with a tail, walked up to Mavigan.

“Umm… I hope I’m not interrupting, I just wanted to see if you were feeling any better, Mavigan. Thought maybe we could for a walk after you got dressed, before Wilhelm comes back to bug you about talking to the soldiers.”

Mavigan turned her attention to Keeryn, a moment of confusion in her features. “Talking to the solders?” she asked quietly. After a momentary pause, the reference came to her, “Oh! I suppose he wants me to say something inspiring to people about to die. What could possibly be inspiring about war, I have no idea.”

Fumbling around on the bed as she spoke, she located a pile of clothes. Bringing them to her lap for inspection, she frowned. “Of course Wilhelm would expect me to dress like a lady to make this farcical appearance.” She paused for a moment and shot Keeryn a conspiratorial grin. Showing her new compatriot the fabric, she said in a slightly louder voice, “At least it isn’t pink!”

When Keeryn flashed a grin in return, Mavigan was certain she had an ally. Her grin changed from mischievous to a full blown smile, and she hurriedly changed her clothes. The maids thronged upon her, helping her into the blue and white creation Mavigan had not seen before. She had no doubt this was one of those things Wilhelm commissioned for her without asking if she liked that particular shade of blue. He was just lucky that he chose a shade she would not vehemently object to.

Her ablutions took a little longer than usual since it took her a moment to realize that she was not in her room and things were not where she expected them to be. The maids kept trying to help, but Mavigan waved them off. She could plainly see the sky was beginning to lighten and she remembered how her Father had never liked to leave late when riding off to kill people. Personally, she did not understand how it could matter much if you killed someone early instead of later, but chalked it up to an odd quirk of men. Deciding she did not have time for her usual braids, she grabbed a leather tie off the nearest table that surely belonged to someone else and quickly pulled all her hair back into a tail.

“Come on Keeryn,” she said, waving urgently, “I SO don’t want to listen to a lecture today about how bad I am for being late!”

With that, Mavigan rushed out of the room, Keeryn close on her heels. Once in the hallway, however, she found herself with a dilemma. She had no idea where she was or where she was supposed to go. Standing in the hallway, shifting from one foot to another, she fretted slightly trying to pick one direction or the other.

The guards by the door obviously sensed her problem, and one of them made a discreet motion down the proper hallway. Mavigan flashed him a quick nod of thank you, and tore down the hallway, running as fast as she could, brushing by the Elven lady she vaguely remembered from last night. As she continued to run, she flashed another grin at Keeryn who was effortlessly keeping pace with her. Apparently, Mavigan had picked up a security detail, for she could hear the stomp of boots behind her, trying desperately to keep up. This served to make Mavigan run faster, and soon, she and Keeryn had outpaced everyone else.

If Mavigan were to tell the truth, she would admit that she wasn’t quite sure where she was going, but she knew damned sure she wouldn’t ask. As luck would have it, it wasn’t long before they came to rather huge door. Mavigan supposed this door was as good as any other and pulled it open with Keeryn’s help.

Once the door was open, Mavigan charged through and ran smack into the side of Argent.

“Ooof,” she said as she less than gracefully toppled to the ground. As she scrambled to her feet, an amazing feat considering the lengths of fabric she was encased in, Argent turned his head to look at her. Taking offense, she immediately went on the defensive. “I’m sorry! I didn’t know you would be standing right in front of the door!”

Argent appeared to be somewhat mollified since he gave her a huff and then turned his head back to the front. Assuming she now had permission to mount, she grabbed the reins and stuck a foot into the stirrup – only to discover a new problem. The dress she had been stuffed in did not have a divided skirt. How the hell was she supposed to get on the horse? She knew her Mother had been excellent at riding side saddle, but Mavigan had never quite gotten the hang of it. It seemed much to difficult to stay on a horse when both legs were on the same side of it.

Huffing her frustration, and trying to ignore the fact that Wilhelm was openly laughing at her and her growing certainty that Ithramir would never let her live this down, she glanced over at Keeryn and said, “Any ideas?” Unfortunately, Keeryn looked as perplexed as she herself felt, and Mavigan knew she would get no assistance from that quarter.

Turning her attention back to the horse, and absently noting that Argent was again looking at her with a clear question in his eyes about what exactly she was doing, Mavigan began to formulate a plan of attack. After a quiet moment of figuring out the logistics, she put her other foot into the stirrup and pushed herself up. Once seated, it took another few moments for her to settle enough in the saddle to be sure she wouldn’t fall off. Hopefully, there would be no need for Argent to actually move. Her confidence restored, she shot a triumphant look at Wilhelm.

Of course, by this point, her appearance was a bit disheveled. There was a splotch of dirt on the back of her dress from where she had hit the ground and many tell tale strands of hair had escaped their entrapment and were now flapping freely in the breeze. She hardly appeared royal, and the glare Ithramir sent her direction made sure that she knew it.

Just to hammer the point home, he did not ask her to say anything. Instead, he raised his arm calling for the sound of the horn. Mavigan could feel the deep, soulful note ring out clearly. For some reason she did not understand, the sound causes goosebumps to rise along her arms and neck.

Following the dying of the note, Ithramir urged his steed forward signaling the rest of the army to move. He did not cast so much as a glance in her direction. Left without any more options, and not wanting to seem bested, Mavigan did the only thing she could do as she watched people she knew begin to stream through the gate and out of the citadel. She waved them farewell.

Written by Ardwen

Ithramir was riding off, but Ardwen was chewing on the words the Elven woman had shouted to him while he was walking out to the muster. For all his thinking though he was still confused by them. She had made a request by her right as blood, but for the first time in his long years of service Ardwen was faced with an order he could not comply with.

She had asked him to remember why he was fighting, to remember his honor under the order of Avari. “The woman simply did not know,” Ardwen thought, “I fight the way I do because of Avari. The oath I took when I joined bade me obey those of the blood, kill the lesser races, and forsake all lands, titles, and inheritances.” She had said that his death would bring lose and suffering to those he left behind, but who did he leave behind? Behind was the way to the ruined city of Ancora, behind was the way to his friends’ graves, and behind was the way to what he considered his true death as he was caught choking and bleeding inside of the abbey as it burned down around him.

No, there was nothing for him in the past. That way was as dead as his friends, never to return. Ardwen shoved the thoughts aside as the woman called Tempyst walked toward him. Ardwen began clutching and relaxing his sword-arm again as he remembered the girl’s curt attitude with Ithramir. She reeked of god-taint to Ardwen, and she was a lesser – worse still she was hardly cowed if the way she spoke to Ithramir was any indication!

Ardwen could not reach out with his thoughts though like the warlocks and Aracoix of his world though, so the woman kept approaching, oblivious. She walked closer, and closer, and finally stood before him. She opened her mouth, words came out, "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." Ardwen looked at her, starting straight into her eyes. A sneer was forming on his lips but before he could speak the girl fainted. Fainted!

Ardwen’s quip turned into slack-jawed shock as she fell over onto him. Her slight weight was no problem to bear but still, the indignity! This girl was a human! A man hopped off a nearby horse and strode over to them, "By the gods," he jested "I do believe you've scared the poor girl to death!" The man speaking to him was Elven at least. He saw the man loop one of the human’s arms around his shoulder.

“Here.” the man began, “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." Ardwen looped the human’s other arm across a black-clad shoulder, it felt undignified and unworthy, but if this Elf could bear the burden so would he. "By the way,” the Elf began, “I don't believe we've been introduced. I'm Isuiln Fellblade, Captain of Avandorho Hyanda."

Ardwen paused shortly and looked once more at this Isuiln. Who was he really – he who cared so much for lessers? Still it would be rude . . . “Ardwen.” Was the reply he gave in kind.

As they were nearing the tower, Ardwen saw another Elf, with several in his entourage, approaching. Isuiln called out to them, and they rushed to his command. "Aylan, you and the men take this lady to Lithwyn. I need to get back to my horse and check in with Ithramir." The one called Aylan and those with him took Tempyst from his shoulder and then hurried off. Ardwen noticed Isuiln looking at him, "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." Isuiln chuckled and then walked off down the street, leaving Ardwen alone. He sighed wearily and walked quickly back to the rally, he stood there feeling somewhat out of place, “Do they know what to do with me?” He thought.

Finally another Elf approached him holding a mount by the reins, “Here.” He said briskly, “It will be a three day ride to the battle, time is of the essence, we have to put as many of us on horseback as possible.” Ardwen thanked the man and swung into the saddle, the Elf handed him the reins when he was done. Ardwen sucked in a gasp of air as the other soldier who brought him the steed walked back to his own mount. It had, after all, been one hundred years since Ardwen had last ridden. The Turning had seen the end of all cavalry save the Centaur cohorts.

He saw Mavigan, she had Elven blood in her, though how much remained uncertain to Ardwen. Mavigan appeared disheveled as if her journey to see the soldiers off was more eventful than he could have imagined. A clarion horn rang out, as if a challenge to fate itself. Ardwen saw Ithramir looking at Mavigan, his mouth was in a tight line, for her part Mavigan raised a hand to wave as the column of soldiers began to stream out through the Citadel gates. Ardwen shook his head and put his heels to his mount which began to follow the accelerating trickle of warriors.

Written by Rikshanthas

The forests flew by as they ran blindly through the night, branches whipping their thinly-clad bodies as they fled. Yet terror bore them onward, never slowing, despite injury and fatigue threatening to overwhelm them. He could hear their pursuers growing nearer, far closer already than he would have expected, or feared. He grasped her wrist tighter, pulling her on when she faltered.

"We're almost there, we can make it," he said with more confidence than he felt, trying to urge her on. "Ancora will protect us, we will be safe there!"

She managed to pull herself up, and wrapped her arm around him for support. "I'll be alright," she said weakly, and he heard in her voice his own flagging spirit. If they could only reach the castle, the king would surely protect them ... they pressed onward until he could finally see the city just ahead, the safety it promised giving him renewed hope. He threw his arm about her waist, ready to drag her the rest of the way if he had to, but she managed to keep pace as they stumbled toward the fortified gates.

They had nearly reached the castle itself when he stopped abruptly, dragging her to a halt and silencing her protest with a warning gesture. He looked through narrowed eyes at the gate and its guards, then his gaze wandered in a full circle, taking in the city as a whole. Something wasn't right, he could feel it. There seemed to be more guards than he remembered, and they were all armed as if for battle. The banners waving lazily in the predawn breeze bore a different emblem. Had the King died while he was away? That would explain the new coat of arms, but why so many soldiers? Suddenly reluctant to approach the palace, he ushered his companion toward a small, seemingly abandoned hovel instead.

A shout made him turn just in time to avoid an arrow intended for his skull. Throwing his arm about her, he pulled her into the building and barred the door, knowing as he did so that it would not hold for long. With a few broken shelves and other debris, he was able to reinforce the door, buying him time to think, to plan. He could hear them outside, shouting at her, of all the people in the world why did they want her? And then he knew.

She was elven. Pureborn, if a runaway. And the men were human. Bandits apparently operating with the full consent of whoever now ruled, for their shouts would surely have drawn the attention of the guards. Knowing what would happen to her were she captured, he vowed silently that he would kill her himself before he allowed her to be taken, praying to whatever deity might be listening that it would never come to that.

The smell of smoke startled him. So they mean to burn us out, he thought. Glancing quickly around him, he saw there was nowhere to go. As the walls about them burst into flame he realized in his attempt to escape he had doomed them both. He turned to her, his despair mirrored in her deep green eyes. He heard the crack, saw the beam fall toward her, yet he could not move as she was struck down, her unconscious body engulfed by the flames.

"SHARRAAH!"

He was all but oblivious to the heat as the flames swept toward him. He only saw her still form through the haze of smoke, and as the fire hid her from his sight he longed for death to take him ...

A'maelamin ...

"Lienad?"

He started at the sound of her voice. He was in the saddle atop his trusty coal-black mare, the sun just clearing the treetops to the east. Yet it had been pre-dawn ... he chuckled softly to himself, shaking off the last vestiges of slumber. He had fallen asleep in the saddle; it had only been a dream.

He turned in the saddle slightly and raised an eyebrow. "Hm?"

"You were mumbling something ..." She seemed concerned.

"Oh, it was nothing, just a bad dream. I guess I was a little more worn out than I thought," he said with a reassuring laugh that failed to reach his own heart. Why did he feel so uneasy? It was only a dream ...

He abruptly wheeled the mare about, nearly knocking Sharanya from the saddle. "What are you doing?" she asked with some heat, mostly from the sudden change in direction.

"Change of plans. We're going to Lothiel-Gadith."

"But -"

"I have made up my mind. And I have a feeling the Citadel will be much friendlier than Westgale would be." His tone left no room for argument.

Written by Vylia

After the initial confusion and amusement of Mavigan trying to mount the horse Keeryn noticed the large crowd of people just past Argent. It was all she could do not to stare open-mouthed at all of them. She had never seen so many people in one place in her entire life. When she noticed Mavigan waving them off she did the same, but the thought of a battle with so many was even more shocking than just the sight.

"I wonder how big the army is that they'll be fighting that it's necessary to have so many. And if they all go, who is left to protect those that stay behind? Wouldn't that mean we were left open to someone attacking us?" pausing a moment to think, "even if nobody attacks us, I wonder how many will be coming back."

Written by Trinni Shannon

The girl called Tempyst lept up and wrapped her arms around Lithwyn and began to cry. Completely surprised, Lithwyn nevertheless held her tightly and stroked her hair. Murmuring words meant to comfort, she also reached out with the help of her Goddess to soothe her heart. Standing like that for several moments, an odd feeling passed over her. Though many have been in her care before, she never felt such a need to protect and comfort.

Tempyst stepped back suddenly, appearing quite embarassed. "My...my deepest apologies M'lady, I don't know what came over me." Tempyst sat back down on the bed. Shaking her head at the unneeded apology, Lithwyn quietly sits down next to her and lets her get it all out. "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." Reaching within the folds of her cloak, Lithwyn pulls out a handkerchief and hands it to the young girl and gently says, "Whisperling, Tempyst, sometimes we all must do things we would rather not do. We don't always know why we are chosen a path, sometimes we never find out, even in the end. Though it may seem hard right now, the Gods have a plan. They help you though you may not see it."

"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. 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. Then I awoke and found myself here. I truly am sorry for any trouble. I should be on my way."

Rising as Tempyst does, Lithwyn looks deep in thought for a moment, trying to figure something out. "Oh, you must have meant Ardwen. Curious fellow, no doubt he looked quite frightful to you in the berserker suit." Grimacing at the thought of the horrid suit, she looks around her room and notices that the two men had slipped out. Sighing at her own innatentiveness, she turns back to Tempyst and shakes her head.

"You have been no trouble at all, my dear. I'm just glad you are alright and that you had merely fainted. Now, who is this man you are searching for? I will do what I can to help you, as it has been requested of me, as it were. There are many people here, in the citadel, though a large portion are marching off... this... By the Gods! I completely forgot it is this-" her voice is cut off by the loud sound of a horn. Paling, visions from her dream flashing through her mind, she says, more to herself than to Tempyst, "I have to warn him." Apologizing to Tempyst, she then runs from the room.

Nearly colliding with Fiernum, she jumps to the side and begins running anew. The sound of footsteps echo behind her, as she is now being followed. Rounding a corner, she has to stop abruptly to avoid tackling a guard. Recognizing him to be one of those usually stationed in the prisoner holding area, she pushes past the flare of worry and moves around him. Any news of a prisoner escape can wait for just a few more moments...

"My Lady Lithwyn..." the guard calls after her. Motioning he follow, she continues to run. Turning left, she bursts through a doorway to find herself on a balcony. Squinting in the morning light, the front of the march is already a blur. Moaning in despair, she turns on her heel and quickly leaves the balcony, headed down the stairs. As the various people following her try to get her attention, she moves past and shakes her head.

"Not right this minute, I have to get down there." Flying down the stairs, she curses the size of the citadel and the fate that places her quarters so far from the entrance. Running through the courtyard, knowing too much time has passed, she crosses the large threshold and finds herself in the field. Though, gratefully, different from her dream as most of the army still marches past, she realizes Ithramir would be in the front, far ahead. Panting, looking back to the citadel, she knows she cannot leave. By duty she is bound to remain. Wringing her hands, helpless, she watches the sea of faces pass.

It was just a dream, wasn't it? What if it wasn't? I still need to tell him, but I can't go. I need someone to go for me. Who can I tell? Someone who will take it seriously, someone trusted...

Searching those who pass, she bites her lip to keep from crying in frustration and fear.

****

Just as the small ranger was about to sneak up on someone, the large horn rang out and she had to cover her ears. A huge smile spreading across her face, she shouts, "Woohoo!" Forgetting her prey for the moment, she runs over to F'non and jumps onto him, throwing her leg over his back. Hugging her horse with glee, he moves around beneath her, also full of excitement. Leaning back slightly and pulling on the reins a bit, F'non's front legs kick the air. Horse and rider take off, both sorely needing the time out of doors.

Riding near the front, Trinni smirks at the human jogging nearby. Thelis, her commander, leans forward and says to the human, "Are you sure you can keep up?" Grinning, she is looking up at the sky when she hears the human's response. "I think I'll manage." Thinking the poor man daft, she gives a mental shrug. Glancing back, she would have stopped in her tracks if it weren't for the fact that F'non was doing all the running. The man was flying!

"Holy moly!" Her exclamation causes the human to look at her, and she blushes as she realizes she had said it out loud. "I... uh... uhm... good show then! Seems like that'd make travel easier. Just the same, though, I think I'll stick with F'non." Patting her beloved horse, she shakes her head. Chagrined, she thinks that no one is as simple as they seem.

Written by Tempyst

Tempyst took the handkerchief gratefully and listened to the elf's soothing words, that was abrubtly cut off by the loud sound of horns. Watching as the one called Lithwyn paled, hearing her panicked words, then seeing her run from the room, Tempyst gathered thw sword A'lanthear and followed briefly.

Tempyst murmured under her breath as she followed, "Yes, dear lady, I know there are many men here, but it is my charge to find him..." Tempyst closed her eyes and stopped for a moment, the sounds of the sword's whispers louder than ever before in her mind. He is HERE...

Stopping, she watched Lithwyn run off to wherever she had to go. When the elven woman was out of sight, Tempyst looked around, trying to get her bearings in this large, cold building. Where is he A'lanthear? Where in this tower of sleeping stone is he? The sword was silent once again, seemingly satisfied at the nudging it had given its bearer.

Tempyst took a deep breath and turned around and began running down the hallway in the opposite direction Lithwyn had gone, A'lanthear clutched in her arms like a long lost child. She traveled for what seemed like hours (but was only moments), wandering about, going up and down stairs, in and out of corridors. As she approached a seemingly more elaborate corridor, Tempyst heard sounds of many footsteps behind her. She hesitated for a moment, not liking the look of the corridor ahead of her, but not wanting to be confronted by more men in steel, she rushed ahead anyways. But it was not quick enough.

"HALT - You there, what are you doing in the Queen's corridor!" Hard, angry voices welled up behind her, as did the sound of clanking metal and drawn weapons. Tempyst glanced behind her, eyes widening as she was the approaching patrol. She clutched the sword tighter to her body and began to run, the men behind her making much noise as they ran after her.

I must get out of here, I can't let them get me, I have to find the one, I have to join that army... Tempyst turned a corner and saw an open door off to the side. Without giving it much though, Tempyst ducked into the room, hoping it would give her sanctuary. But as she ran through the door, she suddenly found herself on the floor, along with a young woman dressed in pink who was obviously on her way out. A'lanthear flew out of Tempyst's arms and slide under the large, ornate bed. The woman on the floor with Tempyst looked dumbfounded at what had just happened, but before any words could be mustered, the guard patrol burst through the door and grabbed Tempyst by her arms.

"See here missy, what you trying to do? Trying to hide in the Queen's chambers so you can slit her throat during hte night. I don't think so." One of the gaurds sneared.

"No, no, I am not here to..."

"Shut your mouth wench! You can tell your sorry story to the constable!"

Tempystlooked around, eyes pleading, but there was no one there to help her. She felt their grip tighten as they drug her out of the room, then her thoughts suddenly realized A'lanthear was not with her. "NO!" She yelled, "I can't leave it behind, you don't understand...let me GO" With a sudden burst of strength, Tempyst wrenched herself out of the guards grasp and dove under the bed to grab her charge. As her fingers tightened around the sheat she fell herself being pulled back out.

"YOU are NOT going anywhere but to the DUNGEON!" The guard yelled. "Give me that weapon NOW!" This time, Tempyst did not give this man a warning about the swords peculuarities as the man grabbed the sword from her. She smiled slightly when the guard let out a scream and put his hands to his ears, dropping A'lanthear. Tempyst reached out to grab the sword but was yanked back by the other guards.

"What witchery is this!" Another one shouted. "You won't need that where you are going!" The woman in pink attended to the still screaming guard, while the other three escorted Tempyst out the door. Tempyst struggled, she was not going togo without a fight.

They cannot do this to me, I cannot be without A'lanthear. "I'm it's guardian, you can't do this!" Tempyst thrashed her head about, and her mouth found one of the men's hand upon her shoulder, without hesitation she clamped down, her teeth penetrating his skin. The guard let out a yel and let go of her. The other guard, shocked at the yell, loosened his grip, enabling Tempyst to get loose. Tempyst lurched forward, searching for something to help her. I wish I had my staff... She thought, realizing she had forgotten it in Lithwyn's room. But then her eyes and her senses noticed the plants along the balcony of the nearby stairs. Tempyst immediately ran past the greenery and focused her energy, feleing the plants life force mingling with her own. She heard the guards behind her, catching up to her once again and she let forth a burst of energy to the small viney plants. She turned to watch the vines leap out and entangle the guards legs, tripping them up. She could not help but let out a little laugh. But her joy was cut short as she heard the woosh behind her and then the sharp pain in the back of her head. For the second time that day, everything went dark.

The guard look down at the woman he had just knocked out, then over at the guards who were now getting themselves loosed from the attacking ivy. "Git yerselves up and take her down to a cell, she will be dealt with later." The embarrassed guards got themselves up, grabbed Tempyst and took her to a place they knew she could not cause anyone any harm.

"What about her blasted sword?" One ofthe guards said while picking the unconscious Tempyst up off the floor. "It keeps attacking anyone who touches it!" The guard who had taken Tempyst down muttered something, then sighed. "You'll have to leave it where it lies and keep watch, make sure no one touches it and we can get someone up here more qualified to deal with the mess." The guard with Tempyst over his shoulder nodded and headed down the stairs.

Written by Wilhelm

"I'm glad you could make it in time, my Queen. However, you will want to practice a somewhat better approach to mounting your royal steed. Argent is not used to her rider running into her. But rest assured that Argent will not let her rider fall off." Wilhelm smiled at the disheveled Mavigan and turned to also wave farewell to the troops ridding past at a slow walk. It had been rather funny to watch the mounting.

Just then the door opened behind them and a distraught looking Lithwyn dashed out and then sottd, panting, looking franticly towards the distant front and then back at the keep, wringing her hands. Wilhelm could guess that she had some vital message for Ithramir but wasn't sure if she could leave her charge.

"If you are looking for Ithramir he is at the front of the march, but the army will be awhile reaching and passing the outermost of the three gates at this slow walk. Likely it would take too long for you to pass on your message. Your charge extends to the land beyond that gate as well, where Ithramir is likely watching the army emerge. Sable can get you there before the army finishes passing the outermost gate. I will hold the fort for you until you return."

Wilhelm dismounted quickly and lifted Lithwyn effortlessly into the saddle. Sable stood motionless, but signaled his readiness to ride like the wind by lowering his ears and staring ahead.

Written by Lucant Dolvan

Lucant heard the dungeon's door open again and casually opened one eye, expecting a burly constable to present himself shortly and demand a confession. Instead of what he expected, he was greated by the smell of fresh rain and the sight of a guard with a young girl laid over his shoulder.

Lucant slowly rose to his feet and went to the cell door. He watched curiously as the guard carried the girl farther down the long hallway of cells. He stood there in a daze, watching the girl be carried down the hall, as his anxiety faded and was replaced by a feeling of serenity.

The slamming cell door awoke him from his stupor and he went back to his bench. He sat down calmly, tried to clear his mind of the haunting image he had just seen, and resumed his wait for the constable.

Written by Archeantus

The magical link struck true.

The man’s eyes shot open, flaring blue, the air about the dank chamber cell grew intensely chill. Kishkumen channeled his energies, preparing himself for the communion.

You. The deathly whisper sounded in the mage’s focused mind. You seek audience with me, Necromancer?

Kishkumen remained silent, the answer was already obvious.

Then suddenly, dreadfully slow, the man lifted from his cold bed and hovered upright, his eyes continuing to flare, his breaths came in short bursts of vapor and mist. Kishkumen could feel the chill of death spread like wildfire from the man in the cell. It was a feeling he lived for. He closed his eyes in elation, allowing himself to flow with the dark energy. Gadianton standing slightly behind him watched in concentrated interest. Vermigard stood casually, puffing his pipe, eyeing the magical happenings as if he were viewing someone reading.

The Lich’s raspy voice then boomed in sweeping power within the mage.

SPEAK! Why have you awakened me, human?

The elven necromancer smiled inwardly. His illusion had played its part, and he was already at an advantage. In the form of a very old human, dark gnarled skin, wispy wild hair, he responded in a feign of awe and fear,

“I wish to release you, ancient one.”

****

Jasmine awoke alone, chained to the wall, to a loud bang in the opposite cell across the way. When the guards had parted, a small figure of a woman sat huddled on the floor.

Written by Tempyst

Outside, a strong, cold, bitter wind picked up, flowing around the citadel and the army. Strong gusts made the standards whip about and caused those seeing the army off to rush back into their homes, where it was safe and warm. The wind was strong enough to make it difficult for some to walk about, as it overturned baskets and even tore one person's cloak from their body. Murmers were heard about bad omens and put a little fear into the public.

****

Tempyst openend her eyes, the pain in her head almost unbearable. She felt a chill run over her as she realized A'lanthear was no where to be found and she was in the smallest room she had ever seen. Quickly she stood up, panic in her eyes, and tried to push the door open, but she soon found that it was not going to budge.

"Hello? Is anyone out there? You must help me! You must let me get my sword before anyone gets hurt!" But there was no answer. Tempyst shook the door once more, then went back to sit on the straw mat. Her mind raced but she tried to concentrate on the stone that surrounded her. But she heard no whispers, and she knew that the stone here, had been asleep far too long to be responsive, as was the way of most large chunks of stone.

Tempyst sighed and brought her legs up, hugging them tightly and tried to focus on where A'lanthear was and perhaps to even reach out to the sword, to reaasure it that she was okay, and their search was not over.

Written by Agmund

The white robe he was wearing flowed gently behind him, revealing his tall frame against the backdrop of a light blue sky. It was a cool gentle breeze that careened its way thru his long silvery grey beard. A sun of the purest yellow was just beginning to climb its way into the sky above, its rise sending rays of light shining down over the top of his head, escaping the slow sway of the azure cloak adorning his shoulders. The rays pierced the courtyard below sharply, causing spear tips to sparkle, helms of metal to glimmer, and greaves of armor to shine before his eyes.

There too were raised the banners of elves, men and dwarves, decorated in a myriad of designs and colors ranging the entire spectrum, each weaving with the slow movement of a trotting horse. The sound was a crescendo to the ear, filling it with a neigh, a nicker, or a snort from the steeds, only to crash into the shouting of a command and the clash of metal upon metal, and hoof upon stone.

From a battlement Father Agmund watched the situation unfold, a splendid grin stretching wide and unseen across his lips. It wasn’t a grin of contempt, but one of heartfelt joy. She was a fiery terror upon the eye, and yet he still saw the little girl within her. He knew what needed to be done, and for the first time in many years he felt profound happiness at the task ahead.

His aged eyes had spied her pearched upon horseback waving to the army as it advanced into the distance. They could barely make out the dishevelment of her dress. “Wilhelm’s creation,” he said aloud and with a chuckle. “Your going the wrong direction with her my old friend. The challenge will be to channel her molten spirit into something constructive,” with that his mind bursts into activity mirroring the seen before him.

“Yes,” he thinks to himself “she must be taught weapons, she must be able to defend herself very, very well. That is where you should begin, and from there you progress into tactics. She must know how to lead the army, and to do that she must command respect. Not only must the men have respect for her as a queen, but they must respect her ability to take them in battle. Wilhelm will, however, not likely agree with your assessment,” he thought to himself.

“Father Agmund correct?” the guard appeared beside him. His concentration broken but his heart lifted high, he turned to the guard with a sheer smile writtin in the very lines of his face. “Yes? I am Father Agmund and what can I do for you good sir?”

The guard appeared somewhat puzzled at the smile upon the priests face as he replied “Your presence is needed in the dungeon, there is a prisoner we would like you to question… and from my understanding you can discern truth from lies.”

“Ahh well you seem to have me at a slight disadvantage… your name is?” Father Agmund looked somewhat amused as he responded.

The elf smiled as he heard the priests question “I am Audun.”

“Audun, a pleasure to meet you, I am at your service,” and with that the old priest fell into the tow of the young elf. Auduns path meandered thru the corridors of the citadel, which was not an unpleasant walk even with the throng of activity. What seemed like an hour of walking, leaving the old priest somewhat panting for breath finally ended in the dungeon, leaving both the priest and elf looking into the dim light of a prison cell.

“I seem to be going from one extreme to the other this morning,” Father Agmund said with a chuckle as he peered thru bars at the man within. He was about to say something else, namely who he was, but Audun turned to another elven guard who fell in beside him, whispering something into his ear. Audun merely nodded as the guard finished what he had to say and moved back down the hallway. “Father Agmund there is also another prisoner we will need your assistance with after this one is dealt with, if you would be so kind that is.”

Written by Lucant Dolvan

Lucant looked towards the cell door as he heard footsteps approaching. He was a bit confused to see a kindly old man where he had expected a much sterner individual to be.

"Father Agmund there is also another prisoner we will need your assistance with after this one is dealt with, if you would be so kind that is." Lucant looked on apprehensively as the old man nodded and the guards went on about their duties. The man called Agmund turned towards Lucant and said in a warm voice "Well my boy, as you already know, I am Agmund, a priest of the All-Father, and your interrogator as well, it seems. If I may trouble you for a bit, please tell me your story."

Lucant responded to the priest "I am Lucant Dolvan, Father. I am, or rather, I was a farrier from the village of Almurad. I have lost my shop, my tools, nearly everything I owned in this world to... financial difficulties. I came to this place hoping to find work and a new life. I was accused of being one of Beridane's spies, but I assure you, I have no love for Beridane and I mean no harm to these people. I seek only a second chance at my life."

Lucant looked onwards as the priest considered his words.

Written by Renalis

"Holy moly!" Trinni's exclamation causes Renalis to look at her, and she blushes, "I... uh... uhm... good show then! Seems like that'd make travel easier. Just the same, though, I think I'll stick with F'non."

"Having a horse makes travel to other realms difficult as the void can be... well, interesting to traverse." Renalis said looking over his shoulder at the woman, "My name is Renalis, and to whom do I have the pleasure of making blush?"

****

Walking away from Renalis's old room with his note in hand, reading it over again she thinks to herself, "You're damn right I would have tried to stop you, but I also know how important this is, this is the fate of this world rolled up into one battle." Crystal folds up the letter and places it in a small belt pouch, "Now to find Mavigan, hopefully she is as willing to learn as Renalis is to want me to teach. I don't know anything about being royalty but I can show her how to handle herself at least. Free-spiritied? Well, I guess I do tend to..." Crystal's thoughts are disrupted as an elven woman runs out of the nearby room in a serious hurry. Continuing down the hall Crystal continues to wonder, "Will she trust me? What if she..." Crystal's thoughts are again scattered as she catches the most curious sight, A human woman with a sword clutched in her hands like a security blanket and wondering about like a child, pass her. "Everyone seems to have to be somewhere to be..."

Crystal continues down the hall and around the corner, "Be safe my love, take few risks, and above all..." Crystal's thoughts are once again muddled as a huge comotion begins on the floor above her.

Being as close to the stairs as she is she can hear the shouting, "HALT - You there, what are you doing in the Queen's corridor!" Crystal spins around, "Blast! Another assassin?"

As she moves toward the stairwell she hears a loud struggle, "YOU are NOT going anywhere but to the DUNGEON!" The guard yelled. "Give me that weapon NOW!", then Crystal could hear screams as she headed to the stairs full sprint.

As she approached the stairs she could hear more struggling and more yelling, "What the hell is going on up there?" Crystal wondered to herself. "What about her blasted sword?" One of the guards said, "It keeps attacking anyone who touches it!" Another guard spoke up, "You'll have to leave it where it lies and keep watch, make sure no one touches it and we can get someone up here more qualified to deal with the mess."

As she got to the top of the stairs she could see a guard walking out with an unconcious woman on his back. "I can sense no ill will from this woman, her heart is pure" Crystal could feel the spirit witihin the unconcious woman, "she was of the land - like Kel'Thalas, and he would never attack unless it was absolutely necessary."

Crystal approached the guard remaining at the room, presumably protecting this "haunted" sword, she recognized him as one of the guards she had seen the night before and was relieved that he would be one of the few that may trust her, "I believe I am qualified enough to deal with this, I am a skilled Sorcerer, and priestess of Elune." Crystal could see the puzzled look on the guard's face as she finished.

"Look lady," The Guard says, "I know you pledged yourself to serve us, but who is this "Elune" you speak of?"

Crystal could only sigh as she thought "I forget that they do not know Elune's love" Crystal continued, "Elune is a Goddess that watches over another world, the world I come from, but that is unimportant, we came here to help and help we shall. My husband and I have been trusted to solve some of the more "magical" mysteries of late and I believe I can help with this one, at the very least with the transport of the weapon to a better location so the Queen can return to a non-hostile environment when she wishes to sleep."

"Well, if you can take care of this, that would be greatly appreciated, the damn thing does nothing but hurt any of us that try to touch it and we just don't know what to do now." The guard moves aside and Crystal aproaches the blade resting on the ground.

She can hear the whispers of the blade within her mind, "My guardian..." Crystal projects back to it, "Worry not, I will return you to your guardian" The whispers in her mind quite and she projects a small force with her magic, causeing the blade to float upright about a foot in front of her.

Rising again, she leaves the room, "I have the situation under control, I'll leave you to guard this room and I shall bring the weapon to the prison to be locked up with the rest of the prisoner's gear."

On the way to the prison, Crystal can feel the weather changing. She can feel the intence magical eminations from the prison linked to nature, the winds reacting to her and picking up. "Such power in one so young," Crystal thinks to herself, "Poor girl is probably just scared."

Approaching the doorway, Crystal can hear voices within and could sense the presence of powerful priest within. Opening the door, Crystal enters the dungeon and is stopped by the guards there. "I have brought the enchanted blade, the one belonging to that girl" Crystal points at the woman in the cell now awake. "Think fast!" Crystal yells causing the woman to look up. Crystal sends the blade flying past the guards, through the bars and into the womans hands.

The guards draw their weapons, "What are you doing!?"

Crystal didn't have a look of worry on her, she calmly responds, "She is harmless, a mere druid out of her element and on a quest to find the champion to that blade, not on a quest to kill the queen." Pointing at the priest, Crystal finishes, "He can tell you that as easily as I can."

Written by Teran

Teran took leave of his cage once he was done considering his next move. The mysterious Gadianton (though teran does not yet know his name) threatened the assassin in a way no one had ever before. He had to be killed Teran knew, there was no other alternative.

When killing a man one had to take many factors into consideration. Location, ability, companions, and of course identity.

Location.... the assassin didn't know Gadianton's current location but he suspected that Jasmine would be able to shed some light on the situation... he would know the stranger's location soon enough.

Ability.... Teran knew the stranger was a capable fighter, perhaps even Teran's equal though the assassin had some trouble accepting that as fact.

Companions.... at least two people travelled with the stranger, one of which was somewhat skilled with necromancy, the other being Vermigard a bounty hunter Teran knew well enough. The companions were but a nuisance to Teran, Vermigard was good at what he did but he was not in the same league as Teran, the necromancer was an unknown but magic (especially necromantic in nature) did little to intimidate the assassin.

Identity.... this was the most troubling aspect of the stranger. Teran had never seen or heard of him before, and surely a man with his skill would have trouble remaining a secret. Even Teran (one of the most secretive people alive) was well known through his alternate identities and various aliases due to his feats. The assassin had asked just about all his information sources for information and they all came back dry... there was only two people left to ask. Beridane and Jasmine though he doubted Jasmine would have any useful information about who the man is.

The assassin chided himself for not recalling Beridane sooner, the evil king could be quite useful with the right motivation. Teran knew he would meet Beridane in the near future, but first there was business to take care of.

Teran found himself in front of Jasmine's cell. He knocked politely (giving her time to compose herself) before he had a guard let him into the room.

"Greetings Jasmine" he says in his smoothest voice "My name is Teran. I trust you have been treated hospitably?"

The door clicked shut behind Teran and they were alone together.

The man Jasmine faces now is kind and gentle, seemingly genuinely concerned for her well being... not at all the cold eyed man she had faced in Mavigan's room.

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