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Sightseeing, Suffering and Separation

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#1 Vithar-133


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Posted 18 January 2009 - 08:16 PM

Vithar's Sojourn

Vithar had been riding for close to two days, stopping only to rest and relieve himself and the horse, and then only for a small amount of time. He had a general bad feeling about the way things were going in Arsencia. It'd take him the rest of the week to reach the mountains.


The rest of the week had been almost as eventless as the the first two, and had passed quite quickly. Vithar, dismounted, stared up at the Mountains before him. Grey against the sky's blue, the Mountains looked uncivilized, but, somewhere, there was a place where practitioners of mental magic and bladeskill resided, away from the prying eyes of the common people. Vithar headed towards an odd-looking area in the mountains, guiding the horse. The path he was on appeared in ancient and unsafe, disguised by a spell that alter appearance, but not shape.

An hour's walk brought Vithar to a simple gate, not unlike those in many towns. The gate opened silently, and Vithar walked quickly, greeting some people he knew. He was soon at the main doors of the Hall of the Council, where he'd report his mission a complete and successful. The guards admitted him without taking his weapon, as he was on of the Order's most renowned warriors, exempt from having to leave his weapons.

As Vithar walked into the long hall, dark, even for the many torches, he was greeted by a strong voice, "Vithar, I see you have returned, your mission complete according to Laegiol."

Vithar genuflected before the armoured figure, saying, "I have, Lord Damas. As you requested, I retrieved Winter Vayu's brooch."

"Hand it to me, then," commanded Damas, accepting the brooch, "This is it. Very well. I have one...inquiry."

"Ask, and I will answer as best I can, milord."

"Why is it, that when the party you were with had trouble with the enemy, that you did not arrive when they needed you most?"

"I...I...I don't know."

"You have improved, against the various enemies you fought before joining the party. That shows me that your Musha-shugyo was not a complete waste. Never again. I will raise your rank to grandmastery, but you will give me an oath."

"Yes sir."

"Very well, I assume you will continue with the same path you've been on?"

"I will."

"Very well, Master of Battle. Now, your oath: You will put forth everything you can, barring your life, to protect the party."

"The party, but I thought--"

"You will return, on a Takeru-Michi, to the party, although, your path will not lead you directly there. For now, you will be practicing the skills which set you apart from your peers until you can blend mind and blade artfully. Rise."

When Vithar rose, Damas had Vithar's old equipment removed, leaving Nyrsavai at Vithar's feet, and Vithar in grey and blue reinforced robes. Initiates flowed in and out, measuring Vithar up and bring in various pieces of armour. Soon, they had Vithar re-equipped in scale mail of the same metal as Nyrsavai, with a simple spell woven into the materials to reduce the sound and weight of the armour. Vithar got a new long bow, and an elaborate shield. He put Nyrsavai on his back, along with the bow and then the shield. Over his hands where gauntlets, and new boots protected his shins.

* * * * * * * * *

Two weeks passed, and Vithar had been doing various exercises around the Castle in the Mountains to improve his skills. At the moment, he was doing such an exercise, to enhance his blend of blade and mind.

"So, you still remain, despite the fact that you've been allowed leave two weeks past," said Laegiol, from within a spar-circle.

"I don't not yet feel that I am done here. I feel that there is something more to learn here," replied Vithar.

"Ah yes. So, you have put yourself on a quest for knowledge and skill, and not just strength then? Wise indeed, much like your mother..." said Laegiol.

"Is there anything to learn this day?" inquired Vithar.

"Oh, there is quite the large amount of content to the art of binding the blade and the mind, boy," said Laegiol, "All of which you know about. Today, you shall not be learning, but doing. And beginning to master."

"Yes, master."

"Good. Enter the spar-circle," commanded Laegiol, "Now: Attend!"

Battle commenced. Vithar drew Nyrsavai, and instantly shifted to a battle-trance. Laegiol struck, fast as a serpent. Vithar raised his shield, as though he planned the attack. Laegiol's longswords rang off of Vithar's shield. Vithar sidestepped to the right and struck, but Laegiol's blades intercepted Nyrsavai. The duel continued likewise, Vithar moving to parry and block with expert precision, Laegiol striking faster than any human. An hour passed, and Laegiol's strength began to flag, whereas Vithar's own strength didn't seem to be even lessened. Vithar struck, pulling the would-be killing blow before it hit. Laegiol dropped his blade in surrender.

"Good, very good. It seems that battle-trance or not, you can claim victory with ease," said Laegiol, panting,"Now go and rest, though you do not seem to need it. I don't think that you can fight me and improve your skill. It might be time that you go about finding harder battles and the like. Most of us can not hope to challenge you, though the honor of dueling you would be great."

"I see. Thank you master."

"No, than you, Vithar, No, go and rest."

* * * * * * * * *

Vithar had stayed a month longer in the Castle in the Mountains. Despite the rest the ancient citadel provided, Vithar was feeling restless. At the moment, though, Vithar was sitting in a solar with Laegiol, recounting recent events for the Order's Archives.

"You have been quite the wanderer, Vithar. But you are again restless, I see."

"It seems that if I am not...forcibly removed from a place, I'll remain until wanderlust takes me..."

"It is probably far past time you leave. Fare thee well, Vithar."

"Same to you, master."

Vithar left the solar and made his way to the Castle's armoury. He looked for a particular sabre, mainly as a decorative sword, but also functional. He found one with a perfect balance and a unique basket hilt. Tying it to his belt, Vithar left the armoury, and heard his name called.


Vithar scanned with his mind while he spun around, seeking the source of the voice. The person who called him, turned out to be Sehlys, whom he had left behind last in Elmharrow.

"Sehlys? How did you get here?"

"I was brought here by Laegiol for my safety, he said."

"Who gave him the order to even find you?"

"Lord Commandant Damas, I believe."

"Ah...Then you were brought here for good reason. I seem to have a good reason not to leave yet."

"No. You should leave. Last time you spent too much time in one place, it didn't do you much good."

"I can stay another week."

"Are you sure?"

"Yes. Perhaps I can take some time to unwind before heading out again."

"I'm glad that your back, at least for now, Vithar."

* * * * * * * * *

Despite the wanderlust, Vithar's last week in Vyl'Daer, the "Castle in the Mountains", was enjoyable, but all good things must come to an end, and so he left, knowing that he'd come upon the party eventually.


Vithar spent most of the next few months roaming around, sometimes participating in arena battles and fights, most of which he got through every tier unscathed. More often than not, though, Vithar was out in the open, riding, sometimes fighting off the occasional bandit troupe. One such day, Vithar was riding through a forest, enchantments upon his cloak rendering him near invisible. He saw a group of bandits attacking travelers who had the misfortune of being in the open road at the wrong time. Vithar weighed his options. The bandits were far too close to the travelers for Vithar to safely attack normally, so Vithar tricked them. The bandits walked toward the forest, unknowingly to their deaths.

Vithar quietly slew each bandit, using his sabre, which had no glow, to cut them down one at a time. He mounted and left, deciding that going to a town wasn't a bad idea after all.

* * * * * * * * *

A week after defeating the bandits, Vithar found himself in a town, resting. A week later saw Vithar roaming the plains, with no intended destination. Vithar began thinking about the party. It had been quite some months since then, but he still wished he didn't leave them so...unceremoniously. He probably could've been more courteous, but the past was done with. Now he was curious though. What had the party done is his absence? Had they too gone their own ways? Or had they stuck together? He seriously doubted the latter. They didn't seem...woven tightly enough. There was trust enough, but nothing truly held them together. Perhaps there was something he wasn't seeing, though. All Vithar knew was that, as a member of the group, he wasn't exactly the most trusted.

<I think it would be wise to change that perception of me. Of course, assuming that we ever meet again.>

Vithar's thoughts where broken when he had to dodge an arrow.

<Apparently, I'm not alone.>

Vithar looked and saw where the arrow had come from...And saw what must have been a band of mercenaries off duty. Some where on horseback, some were on foot. Those on horseback had lances and shields. Those on foot, numbering about twice to the men on horseback, where preparing another shot.

<Not the most accurate...,> noted Vithar, seeing the arrows lying around him.

Drawing Nyrsavai, Vithar brought the horse to a gallop, faster than the archers could aim and shoot. Arming his shield, Vithar met the first horseman, Nyrsavai cutting a red line across the man's side. He fell screaming. Two of the archers had the fortune of standing in front of Vithar's horse, and didn't live to see sunset. Vithar turned the horse at full gallop around and charge back at the mercenaries. One of the horsemen charged, losing his lance to Vithar, who grabbed it as he passed by. More archers were trampled. Vithar spun his horse, and charged again, this time with Nyrsavai in it's sheath and the lance ready. The horseman whose lance Vithar carried soon found that death was swift. It wasn't long before Vithar had slain every mercenary, both on foot and mounted. The horses ran off, though to where, Vithar didn't know. He looked upon the mercenaries.

"Mayhap you'll find the eternal rest welcome..." Vithar muttered, and threw the lance down. He could probably get a lance if he wanted in a town. He rode off again, with no clear direction. Soon, he found himself heading east. He didn't know why, just that something drew him that way.

* * * * * * * * *

Vithar had come across a rather large town, straddling a river. The walls were quite high, enough so that a fall would would be painful. Vithar joined a road leading to the town, figuring to get supplies and possible some arrows and a lance.

<Although, I'd class this with a small city, not a town...>

Vithar rode to a fine looking inn, and checked out a room, intending to stay for a few days. He dropped most of his gear into the room, except for Nyrsavai and few knives. He ordered a meal and sat down at a corner table, hoping not to attract attention. As he was looking at a hand-drawn map, his meal came. Putting away the map, Vithar began to eat, not removing his gauntlets. People walked by, usually staying away, except for one. Obviously a noble, He sat down, without asking Vithar if he'd mind.

"Greetings, traveler. I am Lord Telgris."

"Greetings, lord. I am Vithar."

"An odd name...Do you come from the north?

"Yes...Why did you approach me, sir? Certainly not for small talk?"

"You must be a warrior. I would like to know if you'd champion me."

<Champion a stranger? For what? A quest? Or something else...?> wondered Vithar, then said, "Perhaps, if I know the details, first."

"You are a most curious person. A tournament. I need a champion, but I need someone different. I am known for doing...odd things. So, I want to recruit you, whom know one knows."

"A tournament, you say...With jousting?"

"Yes...I will provide you with everything you may need, and you can rest at my manor until you wish to leave."

<This isn't such a bad deal. Assuming I don't get killed, I might walk away with more than I've ever had before...> Vithar thought, then replied, "When is the tournament?"

"Tomorrow. That should give you time to get ready, no?"

"It should. Well, let me get everything I need, and I'll follow you to your manor."

"Thank you, traveler. I'll pay for you meal and room, while you get ready to go."

<Most odd, for a noble. But I can't pass this up...>


The next day, Vithar looked out through the visor of an elaborate suit of armour. The heralds blew their horns, and the joust began. Vithar and the knight crashed. Vithar easily unhorsed the knight, and rounded again. He didn't need another pass. Another knight, and Vithar was ready. The first pass, both Vithar and the knight missed, but Vithar unhorsed the knight on the second pass. The next joust, Vithar was resting. a few hours later, Vithar sat his horse, facing the knight that was known for his skill with lance and horse. Vithar had managed to unhorse every knight that he challenged, usually in one pass. Vithar could tell that this knight wasn't to be toyed with. The call came and the knight charged, and Vithar mirrored him. They crashed in the middle, and, oddly enough, both were dismounted.

Drawing swords, Vithar was using his sabre. He and the knight fought. Despite the knight's skill on a horse with a lance, his swordsmanship was horrid, almost making Vithar cringe. The knight's form was sloppy, and hits that could have been fatal, missed completely. This knight was a horseman; he probably never trained to fight on foot. Vithar attacked, forcing the knight to backstep. The knight attempted to parry, but stumbled, falling backwards. Vithar brought the point of his sword right above the knight's throat. Something beckoned at Vithar to kill the knight, but Vithar held back. He stepped back, and the crowed cheered; apparently, reserving this knight's life wasn't a bad idea. He helped the knight back to his feet.

"Thank you warrior...You are the victor. I know the rules of victory. My armour and horse are yours."

"Well fought, sir knight. Keep or armour, I have no need of it. Although, if i do have some advice, you might want to train on foot sometimes. You know, in case someone knocks you off your horse."

"I think I will, warrior. Thank you for sparing my life, despite the fact that killing me was perfectly legal."

Vithar walked off the field, leading both his horse and his opponent's horse. Lord Telgris met him outside the field.

"Well fought, Vithar. As I promised, you can stay at my manor. Please do stay a few days. I would like you to rest, perhaps give you time to prepare for your journey?"

"I appreciate the offer, milord. I think I will stay, if until three days hence."

"Thank you again."


Three days later, Vithar was riding his newly acquired horse, with his horse from Vyl'Daer carrying the armour and a pair of lances, as well as provisions and whatever else Vithar might need in the wilderness.

<Not only am I leaving richer than before, but now I have more than enough provisions to last until...wherever I'm headed.>

Unknowingly, Vithar was still heading east, although a little more south than before.

* * * * * * * * *

Vithar looked at the town. The place looked desolate and gritty, somewhat like some of the fringe settlements that Vithar had seen. He took out the hand-drawn map and looked. If his cartography was right, then he was near a place called Temora. Definitely not a fringe settlement, but it certainly didn't look like a good place to stay. Especially if certain rumors were true.

<Looks like a camp should be fine. I'm not too keen on going in there,> Vithar thought, and set about setting up a quick camp.

He left his camp, face covered except for his eyes. He would take a few days to learn the layout of the town, and perhaps another few to learn any possible ways of escape. He didn't want to be caught here at night.


As the sun set Vithar made his way back to his campsite. Once there, and making sure that nothing was disturbed, he set about drawing a quick map of the streets he'd seen so far. So, the rumors were more than right. There were quite few "Slave Warehouses" along one street. Vithar made a mental note to avoid that street at night. There was a large circular structure near the middle.

<Probably this slave coliseum that I've heard tell about...Seems significant...>

Edited by Vortigern, 15 February 2009 - 02:43 PM.

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#2 some_weirdGuy


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Posted 19 January 2009 - 01:27 AM

A Return To Solitude

And so it was that the members of the group set out on their separate paths, and as Zhar stepped out onto his road the voices in his head all seemed to be glad to be rid of all company.

Good riddance to them Zhar, why did we ever join those pests?
Yesss, gonesss goood sssss
Thank fuck!

"Language, please," he said out loud.

I Dont Give A Damn, I'm Glad Those Bastards Are Gone!
That Demon!
A shame really... now I will not get a chance to kill them.

"You would have done no such thing... I wouldn't have let you."

Even as he spoke he had traced a circle into the ground; now he began to chant a little, slowly, deliberately. What would you do to stop me, you filthy yellow-bellied wretch? He ignored himself, and completed the chant. With a flash Zhar was gone.

After a moment his eyes began to adjust and he found himself exactly where he had intended to be: outside his tower, looking at the looming structure with a curious amalgamation of pride and embarrassment.

The decayed ruin looked like a tombstone, in the middle of this putrescent, stagnant, swamp land. Everthing looked dead or dying, and bones were scattered around the place. A crow flew down to perch on an overgrown vine, and was snapped up as the living plant's cavernous, serrated mouth engulfed it.

"Ah yes. Home sweet ruin."

He had not been back to his tower in years... A hundred or so if he remembered right. Everything was looking a bit shabby and overgrown and Zhar was dismayed to see that the swamp had incurred on his territory. The absence of malevolent magic radiating from the moody building had essentially granted nature free rein to take back the land dark magics had stolen from it well over a century before. Of course, the tower itself was in no great shape, but that was to be expected after a century of neglect and disregard. No doubt the few locals still believed it haunted.

"Oh well,"he said to himself as he floated up to the only doorway, located at the top of the tower. "You have some work to do." Zhar took a cursory glance up and down the tower, and realised he need not be levitating all the way to the top. There were several wounds in the masonry that were more than large enough to admit his emaciated frame.

* * * * * * * *

Time passed; the repairs to the tower were completed, the swamp was pushed back, stabilising the foundation, and Zhar's lofty chamber became a home once more. Of course, when aided by magic as powerful as the dark mage handled every day for his own amusement, moving colossal boulders takes really very little effort at all. The rocks were animated, brought to life as golems, only to walk straight to their future home and slot themselves into position. Dead wood slithered across the ground and into the tower, replacing the floorboards and the furniture before becoming inanimate once more. Though the tower still carried with it an air of grim foreboding and deathly decay, at least the innards were no longer visible from the sky and it was become habitable.

Zhar made his way up to the burnt-out tower studio, the blackened walls bringing back agonising memories of his chaotic flight all those years ago. He was pleased to find his old desk, an heirloom of some value, both financial and sentimental, though it was of course in quite a state these days, having been left in the damp and humid atmosphere for nigh on a century, almost open to the elements. Upon the old desk sat a book, one which Zhar recognised instantly. How could he forget?

Yesssss... chimed in a voice from the back of his skull. How could we forget all the lives, the blood that was shared to help write this masterpiece? Zhar silenced himself angrily. He had no time for reminiscence. Well, that may not have strictly been true, but he was unwilling to let the darker sides of himself resurface, especially given what had happened the last time he had visited this locale.

Most of what had been written in the journal was now gone, the paper withered and disintegrated or burnt in the fire that had raged up and down the tower for nearly thirty seconds before Zhar had been able to spare the power to save his beloved possessions. There were still a few snippets of information left visible in the remains of the book, here or there, but now was not the time. Besides, Zhar knew everything the journal had ever had to offer. He had written it, after all.

The bits of dead wood and vines that Zhar had talked in out of the swamp now decorated his chamber. Zhar completed the refurbishment with the addition of the artefacts he had 'discovered' in Winter Vayu's sanctum, and over the weeks he stayed there he brought the tower slowly back to life, returning the once-glorious building to its former state of desirability. Around him he could feel the stone thanking him, the wood finally letting up, relenting, after so long left alone; the trees had gone almost insane.

As Zhar sat in his chair and stared into the eerie blue flames in his fire place, watching the small, swirling, sadistic spirits, he felt ill at ease. He researched and dug further into his books, searching for his answers, trying to find a way to save that which he held most dear yet had thrown away for naught so many years hence: his soul.

The information Zhar could gather from what survived of his old library was already known to him, of little use. Vayu's books, too, yielded little positive result, though they were crammed from cover to cover with interesting theories, spells and designs. He was briefly amused to find one of his own works in amongst Vayu's collection, part of his series of published journals.

Sooner or later, Zhar knew, he would develop cabin fever. Company had come to mean more to him than the voices had been willing to admit. He summoned a few minor guardians to keep the place in order and made his farewells. He had come to be extremely fond of this place again, despite not having been here for too long, but it was still too much to ask of him to let it simply drop into disrepair once more. Nonetheless, the summoning complete, Zhar floated away from the tower without a backward glance.

He made a short stopover in the closest town, listening briefly to some of the townsfolk speak of the return of the 'demon of the tower'. The recollections made Zhar chuckle. He claimed himself a victim that night, the kriss biting deep into flesh, the blood flowing into the cursed blade like sunlight into the dusk, fading, growing ever weaker and eventually dying altogether. The life-force of the drained victim revitalised Zhar more than a little, much as he had come to loathe the process.

Zhar set off on his way.

Edited by Vortigern, 15 February 2009 - 03:32 PM.

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#3 Vortigern


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Posted 19 January 2009 - 02:16 PM

The Ranger Of The West

Theria Moriarty, elven warrior and famed troubadour of a century past, left Askalon alone, hood raised against the biting wind that blew in from the sea, probably a hundred miles distant to the west. She turned south at the first possible opportunity, heading down towards Anvar and, less obviously to those not of elven origin, towards Oakharrow, her ancient home. She sought her ancestral domain not through some desire to rekindle lost friendships or establish relationships anew, but merely to seek knowledge and counsel. The events of the past couple of months had drained Theria of all she considered to be herself; her courage, her strength, her desire for solitude, and above all her love.

Alone now as she was, Theria quickly found herself missing her friends. Illyriel, her oldest real friend, indeed, her former lover and ardent companion through so many years of trial and tribulation; Tom, the dark and mysterious Deathknelf, hiding some great weight from the world, waiting for the right moment to reveal how he felt about so many things; Rom, the brooding Minotaur, taciturn though quick-witted and sharp-tongued at times, unable though he was to transmit this to the human language, loyal and true, a pillar of strength to rely upon at all times; Thaos, the smooth-talking, light-fingered thief, humorous whenever the situation required it, intelligent and serious too; Shava, the bouncy little gnomess, always open to new things, always smiling; Bazric, the pipe-smoking, heavily-armoured Paladin, always quick to offer comfort and to take a blow for a friend; even Zhar, a dark mage hellbent on murder and destruction, had proven to have a good side, however hard he tried to hide it. Without them Theria felt she would struggle, but she had been alone before, for a long time. Loneliness was a blessing and a curse, she found.

* * * * * * * * *

Two weeks of walking carried Theria to the far western reaches of Anvar, right to the sea. The fresh, salty air wormed its way through her nostrils and into her mind, cleansing her in mind, body and spirit. She found a rocky spur overlooking the empty vastness of the great ocean and sat down to watch the waves as she ate her midday meal.

Oakharrow was now but two days' walk further south, along the coast. Looking back along her life, Theria realised just how far she had travelled in her four centuries of life. Minotaur lands lay more than a thousand miles north and east from here.

A discordant sound woke her from her reverie: the clash of steel upon steel, dimly ringing out in the distance, nearly drowned into oblivion by the crash of the waves, but Theria's elven senses were strong enough to pick out the unnatural sound. She rose swiftly, stashing her staff in the sling on her backpack, carefully designed so the staff would not swing about as she ran or used her bow, or both. With that bow in her hand now, she headed for the sound, fleet of foot and stirred by righteous anger. This was a beautiful scene, not one that should be marred by man's petty disagreements. She crested a rise and saw the scene before her: a cottage by the beach, a little fishing boat moored to the jetty that stuck out from the well-tended garden, and eight men with swords doing battle on the marram. Six of them wore leather breastplates in various states of disrepair, though they were clearly a uniformed troop of some variety, most likely mercenaries growing desperate in this time of relative peace. Stealing a cottage with a fishing capabilities already sorted was doubtless easier than building one of their own, though the two fishermen were proving worthy opponents.

Nocking an arrow to her bowstring, Theria let fly. Even at this distance, and taking into account the sea winds and the rise and fall of the landscape, Theria was a perfect shot. The arrow rose and fell, hitting home in the side of an unprotected neck. From where she stood Theria could barely hear the death-rattle of the dying soldier, but she was unrepentant. Her conscience told her how to live and how to protect the weak and the worthy, and that was what she did now. The five soldiers looked up, trying to determine from where the arrow had come. One of them saw Theria and they began to run towards her. Theria remained supremely unconcerned, her mind locked in the realm of otherness that allowed her such perfect fluency with her bow. Four shots, four men down. The lone survivor of the group looked around, yelped, and ran for the cover of the trees. He did not get far.

The sixth arrow punched through the reverse of his leather armour, then through the front, such was the force behind the projectile. He keeled over without a sound.

Theria lifted a hand in salute to the two men who stood, dumbstruck, at their front door, unable to believe that a stranger had come to their rescue at just the right moment. She turned, cloak swirling in the breeze, and descended the hill, back to where she had been eating her lunch. The irony of the situation did not escape her; to have come so close to Oakharrow in search of guidance, only to find her calling mere hours from her old home.

Theria Moriarty, defender of the weak, ranger of the west.

* * * * * * * * *

Theria strode alone through the wilderness and the driving rain, hood raised, seeking out her target. A sheltered location, a cave maybe, or a clearing with a thick canopy, would be what she most expected. A cave would be better, though, so that was what she would look for. Marching on, the Ranger of the West spied a low rock wall through the trees, several holes burrowing down into the ground, more than large enough for a man to be comfortably ensconced within. She picked one out at random and, knife drawn, proceeded inside. The cave turned a corner a few yards in, so she crept up to the edge, keeping silent and hidden. Knife carefully gripped, tightly and firmly, she leapt around the corner. Nothing.

"Perfect," she said to herself, and sat down, pulling her breakfast out from her pack. Hiding from the rain was key to a good breakfast. Outside the rain would have made her bread go all soggy. "I hate it when that happens," Theria said. It was at that moment that she realised she was talking to herself again, something that always happened when she spent enough time alone. "If there aren't any people around, who else am I going to talk to?" she wondered, speaking without realising. She shook her head, and drops of water flew off the ends of her long, lustrous hair.

She chewed slowly on the bread and cheese, remembering her time with the party she had briefly led. Illyriel and Tom she missed most. "What I wouldn't give to get that group back together again," she murmured. "We had fun." Thinking harder, she could barely recall the fun parts, which were mostly overshadowed by the several epic fights which had happened around them.

Suddenly a thought occured to her. Had the group been brought together by the gods, or the fates, or whatever, simply to kill Winter Vayu? That seemed a little low-brow for the gods... Theria got the distinct impression that something more was soon to be demanded of her and her friends, but quite what remained a mystery.

She gathered up a few sticks and leaves that lay around the cave, damp but not too wet to make a fire. She piled them together, delicately arranging them to let the most heat out. She struck up a flame with her tinderbox and applied it to the dryest of the leaves, holding it for a moment before the fire caught. She held out her hands, warming and drying them. She let out a contented sigh. Even alone as she was, this was happiness. Shelter, food, warmth... What else did one really need?

She stared into the fire, gazing at the flames as they flickered back and forth, lighting the shadows of the cave momentarily before subsiding back into darkness. In the very heart of the fire, though, the flames burned white. Surprised, Theria leaned closer, pushing her hair back behind her shoulders to stop it falling too close to the fire. The white patch began to spread. Theria leaned back again, away from the brightness, but it grew, grew ever larger, engulfing the fire, washing out the shadows and replacing them with pure blankness, a clean canvas on which the world could be drawn again. The cave vanished, consumed by the white light.


"Where am I?" she wondered.

YOU ARE OUTSIDE EXISTENCE, rumbled the world around her. There was no source to the voice, as far as Theria could tell, just expression. YOU ARE CORRECT, ELF. THERE IS YET MORE TO YOUR QUEST.

"What more? Will I have company?"


"Anyone I know?"




"The Bull? You mean Rom?"


"What will he need me for?"


"Who are you?" demanded Theria as the white light around her began to fade. Dimly, as if through a veil, she could make out the cave, and the fire, and the shadows flickering to and fro, and her pack, and her cloak, and her body, lying still on the ground. "Am I alright?" There came no reply from the voice. Suddenly everything went black. After a moment of panic Theria realised her eyes were screwed tightly shut. She opened them, and the light came flooding back, the cave illuminated by the firelight. She sat up, head spinning and mind racing. Had that been real?


Theria heard the voice again, whispered this time, like the wind passing through a million reeds, a thousand flutes and pipes all harmonising with the music of the universe itself. A mighty voice indeed, and not one to be trifled with. Theria determined to set off east by north east as soon as the rain eased.

Just north of sunrise.

* * * * * * * * *

Theria rose with the sun each morning, planning her route by the location of the sun in the morning. Every day she travelled east by north east, eventually coming to the western shore of the Gulf of Envael, the body of water bounded on three sides by Minotaur plains to the east, Envael to the north and now Anvar to the west. When she reached the coast, Theria travelled north along the shoreline until she began to bear east again. Some days she would come to a town at around nightfall and decide to stay at an inn, and whenever she did she would ask whether anyone knew how far Temora lay from her current abode.

One night, in the fortified hillside town of Helmsvale, Theria struck lucky with her questioning. The barman frowned at the name, stretching his memory, recalling it from some distant past tale told, and promised to get back to her on it. When he came less than five minutes later bearing her hot meal for the night, he sat down opposite Theria and spoke to her, fast and in a low voice so as not to be overheard.

"Temora is nearly two hundred miles from here, just north of east, but I would advise a lady like you to leave a place like Temora well alone."

"Why?" she asked, leaving it open so the innkeeper would not restrict his answer. The man leaned in close, lowering his voice yet further.

"It's a slave town. Slaves get shipped in up the river and sold on to work in the fields. It's all highly illegal. Rumour has it some of them are kept for..." He paused, a blush tinging his ruddy cheeks. "For other purposes." Theria smiled and touched a hand to the man's cheek.

"Thank you for your concern, my friend, but I must go there regardless. A friend of mine will be in need."

"He's a lucky man to have a friend like you," replied the innkeeper. Theria smiled again. Most men would compliment her, but here she felt the compliment was sincere.

"He's a Minotaur, actually," she revealed. The man raised an eyebrow, surprised.

"How does a lady come across a Bull for company?"

"There is always more to a situation than meets the eye," said Theria, enjoying the element of mystery such a companion leant her. "He and I came across each other while searching for different things. We fell in together for convenience's sake, and enjoyed our time together. Now the gods have sent me to find him once more."

"Then I wish you luck. I hope for your sake you know how to look after yourself." The innkeeper returned to his tavern, eyes roaming the room for a fresh customer to serve. Much as he had hoped to keep Theria's company a little longer, business was business.

Theria sat in silence, contemplating the news. Temora was a slave town. Rom was in Temora and soon to be in need of her help. She hoped she could get to him before he was sold on out of the town. No doubt a Minotaur would be a handy slave, with the strength of ten healthy men in one compact bundle of muscle. Another angle struck Theria suddenly; she pitied the man who thought he could enslave Rom. The more she thought about it, the more she realised that for Rom to be kept in slavery would require some very strong shackles indeed.
I hope I am a good enough writer that some day dwarves kill me and drink my blood for wisdom.

#4 Taralom


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Posted 19 January 2009 - 02:52 PM

The Journey Of Varin

Time passed by, as both of them lay in ambush, anxiously awaiting the arrival of the nobleman and his escort. Gaurr was taking a small nap, while Varin tried to get control of a small flame he had summoned between his hands. With much trouble he had managed to keep it from burning it’s flesh, but the flame remained unpredictable. Behind him was a small road, made by travelling farmers with their carts, and surrounded on both sides by trees. Varin could not be seen from the road, but he was able to see oncoming travelers from afar.
Gaurr woke up, in the middle of a snore. ‘They are coming.’ He stood up and jumped upon the road. Varin cut the energy he gave to the flame, and watched how it suddenly died, before he did the same.
He unsheathed his sword, and stared down the road. He could see something coming to them, but they were to far to see any detail. He looked at his master, and saw how the old man stood still, almost like a statue. He was too young, too energetic to be able to do the same, so he closed his eyes and focused upon the flows of energy all around him.
Taking energy from their surroundings is almost like breathing to mages. Without it, they weren’t able to cast their magic spells. Of course, some of the higher mages had an endless reserve within their own bodies, but the students like Varin had to rely upon the flows of energy that surrounded them.
He was disturbed by the pounding of hooves into the dirt. The student opened his eyes, and saw how the group stopped before him. There was a man, mounted upon a great, white horse. He wore a white armor, and a white cape. The only thing that was out of line was his long, black hair. His face had something noble, perhaps even royal, but the odds that this was a prince were too small to be true. On his side was a worn out man. He looked at them with a tired, surprised face. He seemed poor, but he forgot to take off the silver medallion that almost seemed to scream his status. They were escorted by a small band of eight men and a hooded man in a brown cloak.
One of the escorting soldiers stepped forward and spoke to them. ‘You, peasants, get of the road before we’ll cut off your legs!’ He spat on the ground, and awaited their answer.
Gaurr smiled as he turned towards his student. ‘I’ll get the paladin,’ he said.
‘Yes, master, I’ll take the ugly one who was stupid enough to threaten us.’
It took the man in the white armor, obviously the paladin, one moment to realize that they were preparing to attack. Immediately he urged his mount forward and attacked, with his sword held next to his body.
Gaurr was surprised to see the paladin do this action. The order of the Paladinate normally attack with magic, and not charge in a reckless try to kill their opponents. Nonetheless, he created a dark blast with a few gestures of his hands, and send the dark energy soaring towards his opponent. The Paladin’s mount was hit, and threw it’s rider of his back. The Paladin broke his neck in the fall, killing him instantly.
Varin summoned a small barrier of fire, and pushed it with some effort in the direction of the man who had just tried to get them out of the way. The man avoided the attack, but one of the soldiers behind him got hit, and was set on fire. His dying screams held on for a few seconds, before they were cut off by the sword of one of his mates.
Gaurr quickly yelled to his student. ‘The one on the beast wasn’t the Paladin! Watch your back!’ He turned his attention back to the soldiers, who were rushing to them. The old mage jumped to the side, and an instant later an arrow soared through the spot he just stood.
Gaurr’s suspicion was correct. A light flashed in the right corner of Varin’s eye, and a second later he was hit with incredible force. For an instant, he lost consciousness, but he woke up and managed to break his fall with his hands. He heard how Gaurr roared, and unleashed a dazzling storm of dark, magical projectiles. Men screamed. A horse whinnied.
Varin stood up, dizzy. He turned around and saw how most of the escort was stuck. The men were bleeding to death, or had suffered an instant death. Amid the destruction stood two men, dueling each other.
Gaurr sent a volley of fire bolts towards his opponent, attacking him from all directions. The blazing flames hit the Paladin, but the light mage was still standing. A wall of blinding light formed before the man, and flew towards Gaurr, who dived away to avoid it.
Varin wasted no time. Gaurr was still trying to get up, and if the Paladin would attack him now, he would certainly kill the man. ‘No!’ he yelled angrily. It took Varin less than a moment to touch his magical potential, and with a loud roar flames surrounded him. He took aim with his hands, and unleashed the fireball with a loud bang.
The ball soared over the path, burning the flesh of the wounded, and leaving a dark trail of smoke in it’s wake. It clashed into the overwhelmed body of the white mage, burning his skin and charring his bones. By the time the smoke cleared, there was nothing left of the man.

Gaurr coughed. ‘Well done, lad. You make us proud. Now let’s get that nobleman.’
Varin nodded. He was surprised by his own power, and could not speak a word. He was cold. Cold and tired. With a sigh he fell down to his knees. Gaurr had already picked up the fainted nobleman, and was dragging him to his mount. He looked down to Varin. ‘Come, boy, we need some time to travel back.’
‘Yes, master, I’ll follow in an instant.’ The student looked at the scene before him. Some of the corpses were still burning, but most of them were wiped away from the face of the earth. Serves them right. They never should have come here in the first place. The student stood up, and unsteadily walked to his mount. This would not be the last time he would be so worn out by the usage of magic.

* * * * * * * * *

'Well done! Well done!' The Supreme master stood up and gave them a small applause. They were in the great hall. Behind the Supreme master stood the other high masters, cloaked and waiting for the end of this little tradition. The highest of them took his seat again and continued. ‘Not only have you brought me the nobleman, but Varin has also proved his worth as a member of the Umbar mages. He has slain a paladin! Formidable, young one.’
Varin blushed, and nodded, before turning his head away.
Gaurr noticed, and spoke for his student. ‘I’m certain he has passed his exams with this feat?’
The Supreme master shook his head, and turned to the master. ‘I’m sorry, Gaurr, but the rules of Umbar must be obeyed at all times. Varin must defeat you in a duel to become a master himself. And now, I’ve got some bad news… Varin?’
Varin, who had been looking at the marble paved floor, heard his name and turned to the Supreme master. ‘Yes?’
‘I’m sorry to tell you, but your parents… they… died. There has been a raid upon Gorndale, your hometown.’
Varin couldn’t believe what he just heard. His parents? Dead? ‘Impossible, master, you must have heard wrong. My father…’
He was cut off by the sharp voice of the Supreme master. ‘We just heard the news, and it’s already confirmed. Your father defended his family with outstanding bravery, but fell. The raiders had some extraordinary archers with them.’
Varin felt strange. His world just fell apart. Every weekend he had returned to his parents, talking with them and helping them with his magic. He couldn’t believe that they were gone. ‘Can I go?’ he asked.
The supreme master shook his head. ‘I’m sorry, but Gaurr has received orders. He must leave as soon as possible. And you must pass your exams, or you’ll not be allowed to leave, and take revenge.’
Varin stood up. ‘What? This is impossible! You just told me my parents are dead, and now you’re telling me I can’t go to see for myself? How on earth?’
‘Young Varin Rax!’ The voice of the Fourth master shook the earth, and silenced Varin at once.
‘Varin,’ the Supreme master continued, ‘we have arranged that your exam will be held tomorrow. This is all we could do for you now. As soon as you’ve defeated Gaurr and passed your test, you’ll be free to go and stand where ever you want. Now go. There are other important matters at hand. Gaurr, please remain here. I need to talk to you.’
Varin stood up, trying to control his anger. He bowed to the high masters, nodded to his own master, and left the hall. He stormed up the circular stairways, until he reached his own quarters. With a shout of rage he entered his room, an threw himself upon his bed. The stone ceiling gave him no comfort, and felt like a prison. Every piece of furniture was made of stone, crudely carved out in rock. The only thing that was soft, were the pieces of cloth that were supposed to be his bed.
‘Why?’ His question wasn’t answered, since there was no one to talk to. He was alone. His parents were murdered. He would have his revenge. He swore that upon all the gods that ruled over these lands. He would slay those responsible for the pain in his heart.

Someone had entered the room. ‘Varin? Are you awake?’
‘No.’ His mutter didn’t have the effect he wanted.
‘What’s wrong?’
‘Just leave.’
‘Tell me, Varin!’
He opened his eyes, and saw a girl. She had short hair, tied behind her neck in a ponytail. Her soft, blue eyes stood caring. With a snap of her fingers, she lighted a candle that stood upon his table. ‘I don’t want to talk about it now, Drani.’
‘It’s important, isn’t it?’
‘How do you know?’
‘Why would they reschedule your exams, then? Surely something important.’
‘Just let me sleep. I need to rest.’
‘Sure, no problem. Sorry I woke you up. Sleep well.’ Drani left the room, but Varin noted her disappointment. He gave an uncaring shrug, turned around and went back to sleep.
‘Big day tomorrow,’ he muttered just before he closed his eyes.

* * * * * * * * *

He was alone, and not just because he was alone on top of the mesa, surrounded by one of the druidic circles of stones, of which some had already broken, tortured by endless gales of wind and sand. He felt alone, lonelier than ever before. That sickening feeling in his stomach pained him, as the thought once more about the fact that he had lost his parents. There was no comfort in his thoughts about them. They had always loved him, and supported him with what ever he wanted to do. Thinking about them being gone made him weak. It was like someone had torn a hole in his body, and kept pouring salt in it. A constant torture of both body and mind.
‘There you are, young one.’ Varin turned around and saw Gaurr stepping up the plateau. The master kept looking at him while he came closer.
‘Stop with calling me ‘’young one’’, Gaurr.’ Varin spoke softly. He couldn’t hide the undertone caused by the pain he felt.
‘I’m sorry about your loss.’ Gaurr bowed his head.
‘No you don’t!’ Varin yelled. ‘You don’t know how it feels to lose your parents, your home and your life! You do not know how it feels!’ Varin turned his head away in agony. A tear welled up in his eye, and he swiftly wiped it away.
‘Very well then... Shall we get started?’
Varin nodded, not capable of saying anything. It felt as if a switch was turned inside his head. He forgot about the pain and the loss of his parents, and focused upon battling his master. He walked away, knowing that he’d have more time to react if the distance between them was greater. He turned around, and saw how Gaurr took off his robe. He wore a brown robe, reinforced with leather shoulder pads. Varin took of his shirt, to get all the freedom of movement he would need.
‘Ready?’ Gaurr asked.
Varin nodded again, and prepared for anything his master could throw at him, even a possible death.
Gaurr shouted and rushed off, surrounded by a dark cloud of dark dust. In an instant the man gained enormous speed, and flew towards his student.
Varin’s eyes widened as he got what was happening. He jumped away, and felt the wind as Gaurr passed through the spot he just stood. He turned around in the air and unsheathed his sword. He pointed the weapon towards his master. With some grace he landed on both feet, and prepared for a second attack. He wasn’t capable of reacting when Gaurr shot a blast of fire in his way. The only thing he could do, was fall on his knees and make himself as tiny as possible. He heard the flames roar over his head.
Now! Something in his head yelled at him, and urged him to attack. He aimed with his free hand at his master, and instinctively unleashed a small barrage of purple blasts. He saw his attack break through the flames, feeding on the energy within the fire, and soaring forward, in search of his master. Right before they were to crash into him, Gaurr disappeared, and with him the flames that he created.
Varin stood up, confused. Where did he go? Varin looked around, in search of any sign of his master. He quickly checked every stone, every bush. What just happened, he wondered.
‘Over here!’ He heard Gaurr taunt him, and immediately checked where it came from. On top of one stones was his master. Gaurr smiled.
A thousand thoughts went through Varin’s mind. In an instant he came to the conclusion that he’d be having the disadvantage if he would stay down. He let flows of dark magic reinforce the muscles in his leg, and jumped. He took off to a huge, inhuman height, and landed with a soft thud on top of one of the rocks. He almost lost balance. How does he do these things, Varin thought angrily. Those were the things you wouldn’t be thought.
He found his balance, and looked towards his master. Gaurr grinned in satanic matter, amused by the clumsy tries of his student. ‘Let us end this,’ he said. Before Varin had time to respond, Gaurr enshrouded himself in a dark cloud of magic, and suddenly rushed forward.
Time seemed to go slower as Gaurr approached with amazing velocity. Varin’s mind worked faster than it ever did before. He had to react! Way slower than he’d like he raised his free hand, and muttered a spell. From in between his fingers came a dozen of strings, all forming a magical barrier right before his nose. He saw how Gaurr’s eyes widened, and he knew a collision was imminent. He prepared for the clash, and was only just ready before Gaurr crashed into his shield. Jolts of lightning shot everywhere, as Gaurr bounced off the shield. He lost his control, and fell. Varin was pushed back by the blast, and felt how his foot lost contact with the rough surface of the stone. He fell back, and everything turned black.

He woke up, dizzy. His back hurt, but he couldn’t find any wounds as he quickly checked with his hands. With some effort, he stood up, and looked around. Gaurr was trying to get up, but shook to much. This was his chance to end this!
Varin ran forward, shouting a sealing spell. ‘Moraq kol Aviran!’ Gaurr froze in place, he was trapped in the same spell he had taught his student in his first year. Together, they had perfected it, making it a valuable asset to Varin’s inventory of spells. It was a spell that only master knew, but Gaurr had tried to test Varin with it.
Varin opened his hand, and from the palm of his hand, he unleashed several balls of pure, black magic. They soared forward, and stopped in a circle around Gaurr. There, they floated, feeding on Gaurr’s energy. A simple trick, and easily blocked, but combined with the first spell, it was a devastating combination.
By now, Varin was close enough to end this duel. He waved both spells away with his free hand, and laid the point of his sword on his master’s neck. A feeling of euphoria came over him. He won.
‘Do you surrender?’ he asked.
‘Very… very well done,’ Gaurr breathed.
‘Do you surrender?’ Varin repeated his question.
‘Yes… Yes, I surrender.’
Varin withdrew his sword and grinned. ‘Well, let me help you, then.’ He grabbed his master’s hand, and helped him stand up. ‘How’d I do?’ He looked his master in the eyes.
‘I’m not allowed to tell you just yet.’
Varin bowed down his head, knowing that he’d be summoned soon by the high masters, who would tell him if he had passed or not. Together, they walked away from the plateau.

Edited by Vortigern, 15 February 2009 - 03:40 PM.

If the above post offended you in any way,
please take note that, until further notice, I don't care, so get lost.

#5 Copaman



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Posted 19 January 2009 - 06:29 PM

The Return Of The King

About midday, Tom found himself leaving the group almost as quickly as he had joined it. He debated giving farewells, but talked himself out of it - once again, short-changing himself on accord of his reserved manners. He left the town on the road he had come in on, heading once more to the Maughold so that he could find the high priestess of Feruilen and the council of the Higher Gods and, hopefully with their help, round up the scattered former inhabitants of Shadowfang Keep.

After three day's worth of travel, Tom had reached the main gates of the city he despised so. After passing through, he immediately made his way to the district where he knew the temple of Vala'ai stood; hopefully he would find the temple of Feruilen close by. After having no luck, he entered the temple of Vala'ai and went to the altar room, in hopes of finding the priestess he had visited before his group slew Vayu. Upon the altar he found a note hastily scrawled, addressed to him.

Tom, it read, Feruilen is south three and west one. It is decrepit and grey. We have gathered there, and await you. We know what you have come for, and we will give it to you. Please make haste. Once you leave the temple it will burn - Vala'ai wished it. Our temples will all burn in this city once we leave, and we shall build with a splendor worthy of our gods once we are home. You are the blood right heir, and we shall back you as such.

It was the only thing Tom needed to see. He left the temple, and almost on queue a corner of the foundation began to burn. He made his way to the dilapidated building which he read to be the temple of Feruilen, and was shocked by what he saw waiting for him in the main cloister of the temple...

* * * * * * * * *

Tom had never been inside the temple of Feruilen at Maughold before; this doubled his surprise. As he looked around the main cloister of the temple he found it hard to believe such a vast expanse could exist inside such a small building, and harder still that nearly the entire population of deathknelve who had sought refuge in the Maughold had gathered here. The high priestess, blond hair and white robe flowing, greeted him once he had closed the door.

"You feel your eyes fool you. Vayu was not the only one who knew how to bend space, and Vayu was not the only one with artifacts to aid him. Feruilen wished this temple to be large, yet we had neither the money nor workforce to build it thus. She, upon seeing out strife, blessed us with a tear of Jegdia, her daughter and goddess of beauty. The massive droplet had hardened to stone by the time we received it, but we were able to use it nonetheless. It resides here, with us."

"And I see there are far more of you than I previously expected."

"You have been away from your people long enough that you can no longer tell a shifted one from the ranks of any species? Word got out that the true heir had shown his face in the Maughold and word travels fast. We managed to confirm the rumors and have everyone ready to assemble at a moment's notice, as you find us now."

"I am afraid your remark is true. And what do you mean, true heir?"

"The son of Morgana Deathbringer and Atheil Shadowblade, Carai Deathbringer, has begun his corrupted reconstruction of Shadowfang Keep, remaking it as he pleases. We have received refugees who tell us he rules with an iron fist, spreading his lies that you are dead and enslaving those who had returned when they heard our magnificent city was being rebuilt. Grave news indeed."

The last bit of news angered Tom - he had dealt with the Deathbringers before and they were, from his experience, a rotten group, prone to corruption and brutality. The fact that one had stolen his throne and spread falsities regarding Tom's mortality bothered Tom more than anything.

"I will dispose of this Carai figure and denounce his corrupted reign and reconstruction."

"And we will march behind you."

"No. I will walk among you and I expect my clergy to do the same."

"Your will be done."

And with that, the small army which had amassed itself began to exit the temple and disperse itself throughout the crowds of the Maughold, eventually exiting the city and beginning their march towards the darkened throne of Shadowfang Keep.

* * * * * * * * *

Tom and the citizens which he marched with eventually came to a town known as Enery; a known haven for the deathknelve. In the town he found that runners had been sent ahead to tell of his arrival - he was greeted by friendly faces and stunning accomodations, not to mention a throng of beautiful women to do with what he pleased.

Once he was sure that his people had settled in proper, he retired to the quarters he had been given - and was at once pleased and suprised to find a very high end suit of leather armor waiting for him. He thought it would be courteous to be sure the suit, with its gilded edges, fit properly; he liked the fact that it fit him skin tight, allowing him to wear it underneath his traditional civilian tunics. Furthermore, he was pleased to find a small layer of chainmail sandwiched between the two layers of hardened leather, silenced by a weaving of wool between each ring. He felt the metal between his fingers, and was shocked to find it was nearly identical to the swords his carried, and their durability was unquestionable. Good. About time I got some protection. Very quickly, he made the most complex and intricate maneuvers he could think up, relying on a combination of whisperblade techniques and Daggerweave speed to produce what was, in his opinion, the most beautiful yet useless combination of attacks and defenses ever devised. The leather-mail sandwich did not seem to impair his movement at all.

He was about to take the suit off and climb into the bed which had been prepared, when a man who he did not recognize knocked on his door. "Enter," Tom responded.
"My liege, I bear terrible news for you."
"Go ahead..."
"It seems that one of your fellow-students of the grandmaster has been enslaved."
Is that really possible? A whisperblade forcibly enslaved, let alone an apprentice of the grandmaster?
"And who was this whisperblade who was forced into labor against his will?"
"His name, from what I can gather, is Halii."
Tom lost his breath for a moment. Halii? Enslaved? It's not possible... he was the only apprentice who could ever match me in duels...
"Where is he being held and what is he doing?"
"I've seen him with my own eyes. He's in Temora, being forced to fight others from all kinds of different species. While his technique is quite impressive, I fear they are starving him in order to weaken him"
"So he is a gladiator-slave? How was he captured?"
"Nobody knows. He was helping the reconstruction one day, and the next, was gone."
Tom decided he needed to consult with the council on this issue... for it was grave indeed. If any kind of force was able to force Halii into a slave-gladiator ring, it was tremendous indeed.
"I will need to consult the Council of the Higher Gods, blessed are their names, on this issue. Thank you for bringing this to my attention."
"Yes, my lord."


Tom immediately made his way out of his room and down the hall to the door of the high priestess of Feruilen. He had no doubt he would find the seductive priestess of Vala'ai in the room as well, and he did.

"Halii, the only whisperblade I have known to be an equal match to myself has been captured," he said as he barged into the room.
"And who is this Halii," inquired the priestess of Feruilen. Vala'ai's representative threw in a side comment along the lines of "sexy armor."
"He was an apprentice of the grandmaster around the same time I was. He was of the Shadowblades, and was a close friend of mine. As I said before, he was the only student that could effectively render our spars a draw, time and time again."
"Grave. Grave indeed. We will debate this matter, and we will consult the gods. By the way, I take it you approve of the armor we had crafted for you?"
"Yes, absolutely I do. I am incredibly gracious for the gift although it was completely unnecessary."
"Vala'ai herself wished you to have it. She was honored by your visit to her temple as your first stop in the Maughold. Apparently my consort was told this, and managed to get your measurments, although I am not quite sure how..."

Tom blushed slightly. While it was not considered blasphemous for a priestess to elope with men, it was an honor on her part to bed with the future king.

"And I as well," Tom managed to fumble from his mouth, although it was apparent that the secret had already gotten out. "Thank you," he said at last, and he returned to his quarters to sleep.


The next morning, the preistess of Vala'ai woke him early by sneaking into his room. As Tom drew his swords in defense, he felt the warm touch of her hands on his, and his arms melted away. "We have decided," she whispered in his ear, "that you should go and free this Halii, and that you should leave just after dawn. But before you go, I must take your measurments -" she put particular emphasis on the last five words, "once more."

As soon as the two finished, Tom suited up into his new armor and tunic, gathered what few things he had, strapped on his swords and bow, and left town, headed towards the small town where he would find his friend Halii, and rescue him from those who had captured him - even if it cost Tom his life.

* * * * * * * * *

Tom, aided by his map, made it to Temora in just a few days - he had not slept for more than two hours a night, and ran the entire way. Before entering the village formally, he scouted about the perimeter looking to see where it was that Halii could be held. After finding nothing out of the ordinary, Tom made his way into Temora around sunset and sought the filthiest, dirtiest, dive of a tavern he could find.

As he pushed through the swinging doors at the front of the decaying building, he could feel the stares of the patrons fall upon him; rare was it that they saw a deathknelve in this town, and even rarer would it be willing to enter the shithole that the patrons called home. He made his way to the bar, grabbed a seat, and demanded some ale from the barkeep. His plan was to drink at a pace which would get a human drunk quickly, but not so fast that he became drunk himself - with the rest of the bargoers fooled into thinking that Tom was drunk, their lips would get looser. He hoped that at some point, he would be able to catch something about Halii and this underground fighter's ring.

Edited by Vortigern, 15 February 2009 - 02:37 PM.

Posted Image


If you meet me:

Have some courtesy,

Have some sympathy,

And some taste.

Use all your well-learned politesse,

Or I'll lay your soul to waste.

#6 Dauth


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Posted 20 January 2009 - 11:56 AM

Thaos's Travels

Thaos' departure was less noticeable than most others, with no heavy armour to pack or incantations to perform he saddled a horse and left following the largest road he could find. Travel was uneventful as was his diet, by the time Thaos reached a large town he hadn't eaten properly for two days. He found an Inn and paid well over the odds for a meal and a bed but was rewarded with a large cut of fine steak and a tankard of ale. He also proceed to buy up several small gems with his loot, they were easier to carry and valuable anywhere. Despite the generous offers Thaos still managed to pocket a few extra gems, that could easily keep him financially stable for months to come.

Enjoying a new city, Thaos had also purchased a well fitting suit of leather armour, while it wouldn't turn aside a thorough attack any glancing blows were more than like to be ineffective. His argumentation to armed bandit was completed with the addition of eight knives of varying lengths strapped to his armour, with two kept below it on the inside of his calves, the most noticeable change however was the heavy crossbow across his back, while the two smaller hand crossbows were swapped for the heaviest model he could still load without needing a winch.

Now armed to the teeth and possessing a couple of other semi-legal items Thaos left the town with the minimum of fuss.

Never straying from civilisation, Thoas was hired on several occasions as an extra guard for caravans, under the name of Mr Thomas Weaver. Mr Weaver lost his memory at the age of 15 and has no childhood, he rarely speaks unless in battle or drunk, when sometimes he cries to himself just repeating the name "Laura" again and again. Despite this, Mr Weaver was constantly hired for his uncanny ability to turn raiders and beasts into mobile kebabs.

* * * * * * * * *

Mr Weaver's prowess with the bow, while useful for the caravans he protected came at a price for others in the area. Bandits were now attacking with more ranged weapons and larger numbers. Mr Weaver's price had doubled and still he was in demand, the third trip after buying heavier studded leather armour the unthinkable happened. After a long hot day in the sun everyone was tired, the stifling heat draining all energy, under a new moon bandits attacked. Mr Weaver assumed his position standing not far from the most expensive of goods, but with his inflated price, the melee cover he relied on was unavailable. Firing faster than ever, incapacitating four men in under a minute he nevertheless was closed down.

Finally it was seen, why he carried all those knives, throwing his bow onto the cart Mr Weaver charged at the darkness. Reports vary from the night; some say two men were found with knives in them, others claim three and some say as many as seven. What is known for certain is that when Mr Weaver was next seen in the torchlight he was wielding two straight sharp knives with incredible speed, each slash doing little but the rate was so high that the brute in front of him fled with a dozen wounds to the face alone. Mr Weaver was unharmed.

Thaos arrived at his destination, collected the remainder of his fee and left without a word. Once alone in the forest he shaved and moved to a town he had only visited once under his previous name. Now significantly wealthier and somewhat more battle hardened Thaos took to a bar.

* * * * * * * * *

Moving from bar to bar and town to town Thaos ended up not far from the old stomping grounds of his youth. One night while he was wandering around looking for a restaurant he was set on by three assailants. Winded by the first punch, he had little choice but to back down a dark alley.

"Now we've got you, you bastard," growled one, and Thaos finally remembered what had been nagging him for the last hour. He last left this town naked. He drew his knives and smiled. The first two fell back with knives twisted in the guts, the third became the first victim of Thaos' cheesewire loop around a set of the studs on his armour.

Dusting himself off, Thaos made the decision to leave, and very quickly. If thugs knew of him then several more people, possibly those with proper weapons would be after him. Alone, wanted and running low on resources, Thaos headed straight into the centre of his old 'empire' and waited for the trouble to find him.

* * * * * * * * *

Thaos no longer disguised himself, but instead spent some coin and set up a stage pretty much in the centre of the trouble, he erected a banner proclaiming that he will stand to be prosecuted by any man willing to risk a verbal duel with him. After news had got around about the three thugs, mercenary attacks were looking out of favour as Thaos kept projecting the image of, "You may arrest me but will it be worth the effort?" to everyone around.

Eventually three Elders came forward each having been robbed blind, defrauded or in one case found naked in a fountain. Each man went on a long speech about how Thaos was a menace to society and how he should be hung, drawn, quartered, burned and otherwise put to death.

Thaos invited Lord Charles to the stage first.
"Sir, is that lady your wife?"
"So when I robbed you, why were you in bed with that young lady?" Thaos replied pointing to a well known lady of the night, "You called her Ruby, if I recall, your mother's own name."

Sensing theatre the crowd responded and booed Lord Charles off the stage, the other two Elders suddenly looked far more panicky; seizing the moment, Thaos acted.

"You see, I may be a criminal, but unlike these 'good men' I don't take from those who have nothing, I take what can be spared and then spend it, bringing the money back to the poor." In the resulting uproar Thaos made good his escape.

<Perhaps pastures new, somewhere warmer?>

#7 mike_


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Posted 23 January 2009 - 01:33 AM

The Year Of The Bull

Rom had left the town roughly around the same time as everyone else, opting out of any goodbyes - he felt pretty sure they'd be meeting again.

Now, three score weeks and two days later, he was almost to his destination. He hadn't met many fellow travelers on the road - apparently brigand raids and other, fouler things had been prowling the road. Rom had not seen any - and any paths he crossed were quick to diverge... a lone Minotaur of his size and appearance was a strange occurrence, even this far from the Plains. However, this day he had found a most unexpected guest.

A Man and his horse were sitting by the roadside in an open glade in the woods. The Man wore an ancient, many-pocketed leather trenchcoat with no visible weapons other than a nondescript longsword on his horse's saddle. The horse was grazing and the Man himself propped up against a lone boulder, relaxing under the waning sunlight. A strangle, black-leather hat obscured his face.

Taking note of Rom's approach, he leaned up slightly to see what was shaking the ground. Lifting up his hat, he revealed a myriad of scars, dark complexion, and surprisingly well-groomed facial hair. His grey eyes focused on Rom's lone form, then brightened in recognition.

Rom also saw the Man, and thundered over to him. The horse didn't budge from it's grazing; it was used to his presence.

The Man laughed, then said, "Rom! Of all the places and persons... ah, where are my manners?" He stood straight, arms by his side, and stuck his head up as far as it would go - baring his neck, the traditional Minotaur sign of good faith. He then asked, with little difficult, "Tervehdys, ystävä! Mitä olet enintään?" Greetings, my friend! What have you been up to?

Rom laughed in his low voice, then answered, "Kyllä. Rom on matkustanut paljon, kuten Morion. Sinun nenä oli ... Täydellisempi, viimeksi tapasimme." Yes. Rom have travelled far, as have Morion. Your nose was... more complete, last we met.

Morion replied, " Voi sulkea se vähän sarvet. Rom tiedä miten oli-sudet ovat. Nopea paskiaiset. Missä ovat Rom otsikko?" Oh, shut it little horns. Rom know how were-wolves are. Fast bastards. Where are Rom headed?

At this Rom's gaze darkened a little, and he said, "Takaisin helvettiin-rengas. Rom on palannut veridirektiivin-Vala, se on saatava päätökseen. Morion tietävät tämän. Rom ensimmäinen täyttää Garik; sieltä Sal. Sal on tietoa. Tai väittää." Back to hell-ring. Rom has returned to the Blood-Oath; it must be completed. Morion know this. Rom first meet Garik; then Sal. Sal has information. Or claims to.

Morion swore loudly in Dwarvish; then descended into a short tirade composed of similar words in Elfkin, Mannish tongues, and closing out with a Drow death-prayer. His horse did not react to this, either; another occurrence of it's masters' that it was accustomed to. Breathing heavily, he then questioned, "Miksi? Onko se todella tarpeen? Rom tiedä mitä Sal tekee. Mitä Rom menevät läpi. Just tappaa Sal ja tehdä sen kanssa. Tai keskeytti hänet pois. Rom tiedä Morion on -" Why? Is it really necessary? Rom know what Sal will do. What Rom will go through. Just kill Sal and be done with it. Or just cut him out altogether. Rom know Morion have- He stopped; Morion was close to breaking one of the - many - rules of Minotaur etiquette; 'borrowing' something made the borrower a servant, property, of the borrow-ee. It was something only low-level scum did, not friends made brothers by battle. Rom pawed the ground idly while Morion fumed silently.

He then said, "Hieno. Mutta muista, kuka olet, Rom. Rom ei Man's lelu - ala unohda sita. Morion seuraa. Ja odottaa." Fine. But remember who you are, Rom. Rom is not a Man's toy - do not forget that. Morion will be watching. And waiting.

With that he bowed low to the ground, just as Rom did. The pair then parted, each going their separate ways. Morion mounted his horse and then trotted South; Rom stomped North.

* * * * * * * * *

Rom had finally reached the town of Temora. He ignored the glares and wary glances of the populous; he was used to them, and knew where to go by memory. Several minutes later he had found his destination.

A nondescript stone-and-mortar building was nestled in between a pair of massive, elaborate hostels. Entering the surprisingly-large doorway, Rom surveyed the interior of the well-known Dwarven forgery. The waiting room was filled with all kinds of smithwork; black iron grates of magnificent make graced smokeless fires, a stained-glass mosaic embedded in brilliant steel was scrawled on the ceiling, and hundreds of weapons of every kind imaginable rested above the multiple, roaring fireplaces, hung on the walls, and were in crystal display cabinets.

Behind the counter a pleasant-looking Dwarf was haggling casually with a well-dressed customer over a new set of silver-ware in Mannish. The Man departed happily shortly after bearing a lighter purse and heavier eating utensils. Pocketing the gold and silver, as well as a polished globe of onyx, the Dwarf smiled merrily towards Rom and beckoned him to come to the front.

Rom thundered forward, careful not to step on anything in the large room. The ceiling was comfortably high enough for him, and there was plenty of elbow room; but the copious amounts of Dwarven smithwork made it slightly difficult to traverse. Reaching the desk, he crouched down a little to speak to the unsurprised Dwarf. Rob then rumbled, "Rom walk far. Speak Garik?"

The unabashed Dwarf looked him up and down, then replied, "Rom? Rom is your name? Are you a friend, or did you make an appointment?"

Rom was about to say he was an old friend, when an immensely fat figure with an almost-ridiculously huge beard stumbled out of the back room. Looking straight at Rom, the Dwarf smiled with a mouthful of broken teeth and said, "Rom! My friend! How good of you to show up again. It has been so long." The younger Dwarf, stroking his finely-braided facial hair, looked on complacently.

Moving around the counter, Garik peered up at Rom through his one good eye (the other being obscured behind an eyepatch, having been taken decades earlier in a bar-fight). He then said, "So, what'll it be? I see you still have that axe o' mine. 's many notches as 're on it, I believe you've put it to good use," eying the metal studs on Rom's knuckles, he smiled and said, "and those too."

Rom nodded his agreement. Garik continued, "But an axe won't do much for you on it's own. No, it won't indeed. As I still owe you for that one time at the place with the Man, 'n all, I reckon I can make some... adjustments. If you're willing, of course." He then looked up expectantly at Rom's towering form.

Unlimbering his axe, Rom lowered it down to Garik's level. The talented smith grasped it by the butt bend, and whistled to his servant. The younger Dwarf floated over and, lifting the massive weapon without complaint, carried it off to the smithery.

Clapping his hands to rid the grime of travel, Garik half-shouted up to the Minotaur, "Right. It 'oughta be two, three, eight days. I'll have you one 'ell of blunderbuss when we're done, my friend. You tell Morion g'day for me next time you see me. 'n stay 'outta trouble!"

With that Garik rubbed his small hands on his rather-filthy apron, then trotted happily back to his anvil. He had work to do.

Rom, however, turned around and stalked out of the door. He also had business to attend to.

* * * * * * * * *

The Mannish warrior ran headlong at Rom, claymore raised above his head and jaws agape in a barbaric scream.

Rom waited patiently for the stupid Man to close the gap - then kicked out with a straightened leg. The base of his hoof caught the warrior full in the chest - Rom swung the limb down, crushing the idiot and killing him instantly.

The crowd's bloodlust appeased, hundreds of jubilant cat-calls, curses, and praises soared down onto Rom's broad shoulders. He ignored them, crossed his arms, and waited for the next challenger.

This was the third day in a row that he'd fought as a gladiator for the fat Man known as Sal. The arena-boss had promised to give Rom information on the whereabouts of the Drow he was hunting.

So far, little luck.


Morion reclined back in his carved-oak chair. He had left his hat, sword, and crossbow (as well as his horse) in the keeping of Garik, along with his trenchcoat. In place of this he wore a travel-worn cloak, the hood obscuring his face. A curiously-crafted pipe rested in his teeth, a mixture of herbs (among them a very smoky variant of tobacco, and a rare vanilla-scented leaf) aflame in the pot.

He'd followed Rom back to Temora to make sure he'd stay out of trouble. Well, too much trouble. Rom was a big.. bull. He could take care of himself.

Morion had noticed multiple strange characters in the crowd; including what appeared to be a Deathknelve, of all things.

Figuring this situation could get very interesting, very fast, he was ready to camp out for a bit.


Four days later, Rom was almost ready to leave. He'd slain several more warriors under the "employment" of Sal, including a rather vicious claw-beast; a massive crustacean-like monster. It had been starved into seeming-tameness; Rom had ended it's suffering swiftly.

Sal was running out of time; Rom's axe would be fully repaired and, apparently, modified like Garik had hinted at.

Stomping out of the entrance tunnel, Rom ignored the halberd-wielding guards as usual. However; they seemed more 'on-edge' today than before.

Having reached the middle of the sand-pit, Rom stood tall, waiting to see who would emerge for the day's bloodbath. Instead, Sal prowled out onto his observation balcony, and called out,

"Good evening, Temora! You've seen both of our champions climb the ladders of my little tournament; and tonight, they have but one more foe to slay; each other! I give you the barbarian of the plains, the Minotaur!"

He pointed haughtily at Rom, and the crowd roared it's anticipation.

"And the second, the long-time champion, the last of a vanished race; a Death-elf!"

Rom thought that was rather ignorant of the fat Man; even he knew that the correct phrase was Deathknelve. But the crowd ate it up anyway; and from the tunnel opposite Rom stalked out a borderline-anorexic Deathknelve. He had formerly been a prime specimen; but severe lack of food and too much physical use had turned him into a shadow of his former self.

Eying the wasted remains of a once-proud fighter, Rom snorted and pondered the situation for a moment. Then he spoke, loud and deep;

"Rom refuse."

The crowd murmured; several old swords loosened their weapons in their respective sheaths, grinning. A wide smile grew over Sal's face; he then shouted above the concourse,

"Very well. Ten thousand gold on either of their heads; let the best Man win!"

The crowd of people of all kinds erupted into a frenzy and leaped down into the sand pit, thirsty for Rom's blood. It was a melee; already some were fighting the others, each wanting his fifteen minutes of fame.


Morion jumped out of his chair, pocketing his pipe and drawing a knife in each hand simultaneously. Cutting a massive, obese Man's throat from behind, he shoved the now-crimson corpse down the steps, clearing the way for his killer.

Morion sped down the steps to the aid of his friend.

#8 Rafv Nin IV

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Posted 24 January 2009 - 06:10 AM

Arap Datrebil

The dusty warehouse on the outskirts of the Maughold was a ramshackle affair. The shingles it had originally been outfitted with had long since split and fallen, and its doors had rusted at the hinges to the point that any attempt to open them evoked sharp, earsplitting creaks—not that it would be necessary to release the latch, as the dilapidated building had a hole in the south wall that a determined human could crawl through. Although the fortress's government no longer used the structure as a stockpile location, vagabonds often slept there. Tonight, however, its usual residents all had other things on their mind; some truly had a better place to rest, and some had been driven away by the lone gnomish sentry who guarded the gap in the wall.

On the inside, some two hundred individuals stood, gazing up at a stack of boxes and the miniature chairs surrounding it in a semi-circle facing the crowd. The eight seats remained empty. Gradually, the crowd arranged itself into a more uniform arrangement, with the shortest gnomes up front and those at the towering height of four feet far behind. From the midst of the crowd, seven gnomes emerged and placed themselves in their spaces behind the makeshift podium. Shava examined them. On the left-hand side, three old gnomes huddled with an ancient and thoughtful leader. Opposing them sat two gnomesses and a male counterpart who gazed around anxiously like lost sheep seeking out their collie. These people were, under typical conditions, decisive and brilliant guides, but the assassination of Winter Vayu had thrown their carefully plotted policies into disarray.

A twitch of his left eyebrow and a brief touch upon her mind let Kasav communicate to Shava. The rest of the Assembly have convened. I cannot linger here. I’ll talk to you after the meeting. With that, the gnome rushed forward and threw himself into the last remaining chair.

The aged geezer lifted himself out of the seat with the rasping of over-worked joints. Mounting the crate, he began to speak in proper Gnomish, instead of the thought-speak common among his kind. “I speak to you today en masse, using the language of our barbaric cousins to convey that which I cannot communicate to you all simultaneously in any other fashion. Let this Assembly of Arap Datrebil commence!

“You know, by now, of the death of Lord Winter Vayu, leader of the Paladinae, at the hands of a separate and unconnected resistance group, doubtless with its own nefarious schemes. While the human government has been momentarily distracted, their strength has only slightly weakened. I urge all of you--my fellow members of Arap Datrebil--to heed the voice of caution and not to fall victim to rash arguments and irresponsible actions.

“The number of Paladin residing in this fortress is incredible. This is the home and origin of the ruthless campaign of extermination which you have combated for the last two-and-a-half decades under my leadership! Though the prime perpetrator of these crimes has been slain, the streets of this city are infested with the vile scum who we struggle so valiantly against! Competent leaders still exist and thrive within the ranks of the Paladinae; we have removed but one of them. We must resist as we have done the last twenty-five years: from the shadows, biding our time, increasing our strength, and sabotaging the efforts of the humans at the grassroots level. Should we, even in this enticing time, expose our efforts, the more formidable of our enemies will track us down and slaughter us like cattle! It is an easy thing to overwhelm a Paladin initiate--many of you have done this yourselves--but it is quite another to defend your family from a host of holy knights. Do not let your eagerness to end their regime stab your children in their beds.

“Some certain persons in this crowd or seated behind me have suggested the enlistment of the actual killers of Vayu in our struggle. This is idiocy. We do not know these people. I trust them less than I trust a Paladin who I have pinned under the grasp of my mind! The enemies of our enemies are not our friends. How many selfish factions in Arsencia could I name without pondering the question! How many of them wished death to Winter Vayu! But more importantly, how many of them can we hand the lives of our children and the fate of our Assembly and know, completely and entirely, that they would not go to waste?

“Thousands wish to bring the Paladinae to the ground. Only those in this warehouse wish to raise our people to the heights of Safety and Liberty!

“I lead by the will of my people. Should the time come for my removal for the fresh taste of young and fervent blood, I shall be the first to abandon my seat at the Assembly. But I hope desperately that your resolve stays with the wise and wary until the moment when our triumph can be seen on the horizon.”

The old gnome ceased to speak. A hush fell over the Assembly, and the Representatives on the in the left-hand chairs sat smug and relaxed, while those on the right-hand side still twitched nervously. After several seconds, a gnome stood up from the fretful bunch, the lone calm and sure one of the lot. “Thank you, Chairman. May I say a few words?”

“Of course, Representative Kasav.”

* * * * * * * * *

The Chairman dismounted from the stack of boxes, and returned to the half-ring of chairs. Kasav, in contrast, left his seat and took his position at the head of the Assembly. Tentatively, the crowd, Shava among them, watched for his response to the Chairman’s speech. Kasav stared down at the gnomes. Softly, he spoke.

“There once lived a mouse inside a human house. The family who inhabited the house owned a cat, and the mouse never left his hole in the wall for fear of the feline’s appetite. He lived his days in anxiety and dread, and became gaunt and malnourished. In his middle age, he died of disease.

“Another mouse, another house. This rodent left his den early every morning before the cat woke up and stole some cheese. He emerged later each evening to test his wits against the cat. One day, the feline fell sick, and the humans put a bowl of food by its bedside. The mouse ate the food, and the cat became more ill. After a week, the cat died. The mouse lived to a ripe old age, becoming ever more daring and eating the most cheese of any rodent in the city.”

Kasav’s voice rose, asserting its authority. “Do not cower, my friends! Do not shy away from Destiny! The cat has been slain!

Arap Datrebil! Listen and peer through the roof! Can you not see them, perched on the clouds and the rafters of the heavens? The Better Angels of our Future soar above us! We have but to grow the wings to meet them.

“Yes, the peril is mortal! But victory is sweetest when snatched from the teeth of the opponent. Chaos and disarray consume the Paladinae. Yes, Vayu was not the only competent sorcerer among their ranks, but many of his posse were slaughtered in the same raid that he fell in. The power-hungry Vayu exiled his peers when he came to power. With his death, they shall return to the Maughold, and our work will begin again, but without the progress of the last ten years in which we have plotted Vayu’s demise!

“Bleak night suffocates our kind, and the grasping arms of the Paladinae reach ever closer to our necks. The Holy Knights seek the destruction of our race, from the most daring of Arap Datrebil to the meekest gnomish child hidden in a pit in a hill. The only single member of the Representatives, I have not chosen a mate for fear that my children will gaze blankly into the pitch-black of midnight. My offspring will, if my life or death may attain it, grow up under the blazing sun! I would see a new dawn for them: a light that shines so brightly that their faces burn and peel with the glory of Freedom!

“Hiding in the shadows will only encourage the regrouping and recovering of the Paladinae. While their backs are turned, we must scatter them so that when their leaders return from exile, they find nothing but a charred heap of ashes remaining of their order. Every last Paladin will clutch his head in pain as his mind is overwhelmed. Do not allow our enemies to recoup from the blow they have suffered. It is an easy thing for a host of holy knights to slaughter your family, but it would be quite another for a strewn and dejected order to rally when the full force of Arap Datrebil keeps them separate and divided, unraveling and cutting their threads of existence one by one!

“The Paladins cannot continue their rampage of destruction. We can do little to stop them from the sidelines. Our people must assault the Knights in full force. So far we have pecked at the inexperienced and untrained. It is time that Arap Datrebil walk the streets of the Maughold tall and proud! I see the tinges of yellow light far on the horizon. The sun has taken enough Godsdamned time emerging! The clock has its hands stuck at the minute before sunrise, and the race to move those hands will be engaged in between our people and the Paladinae. Through Winter Vayu’s timely ruin, we have been granted the head start. But a gnome’s legs are short, and we cannot flounder and waste time. Move the hands motionless on the dial! Drag the glorious day from its hiding place behind the hill! The Better Angels have swooped down to aid us, but only those that desire it most receive their assistance. The Insurrection has passed its due date! When each of you leave this Assembly tonight, I expect you to rove in bands of four or five and destroy the Paladins that still stride arrogantly down the streets of our city! Take back our ancestral home and bring respect back to the name of Gnomekind!

“The actions of the individual members of this Assembly will sort the cowards and the traitors from the determined warriors of Liberty. For all intents and purposes, this meeting is no longer called. The future wastes away as we debate pointlessly! A better occasion will not arrive; should Arap Datrebil falter tonight, we shall fade away into the annals of the unknown. I, for one, would not squander my time, whether it sees the collapse of the human conquistadors or dies in a back alley by a Paladin’s sword tonight!”

* * * * * * * * *

The Assembly erupted into a conflagration of competing voices, over which no single party made headway. Shava slipped out of the warehouse. The Chairman has led Arap Datrebil well, keeping its existence secret for so long, thought the gnomess, but Kasav is right: if we do not act now, we will never again see a chance. I hope the rest of the Assembly realizes this as well.

Shava crept through the night-black streets, scanning with her mind for fellow gnomes and any Paladins. This was common practice among the people of Arap Datrebil, of which she had become one during the month and a half since she had split with the party. If one felt the presence of a group of Paladins, it was necessary to escape into the numerous safehouses around the city before being noticed. If, however, one could also sense the consciousnesses of members of the resistance group, it was common practice to meet and determine whether the combined force would be enough to overwhelm the Paladins, in which case an ambush would be placed for the holy knights. Occasionally, a single Paladin's presence might be noticed, and this triggered a flight reaction in the gnomes because only the strongest of Paladinae dared to walk alone in the months following Winter Vayu's death. Shava pondered what to do--she knew, as the Chairman did, what Kasav chose to ignore: that the force of Arap Datrebil might defeat the Paladinae presence in the Maughold itself, but it could never destroy the order or its allies without outside aid. She thought about the politics of the situation; three factions had developed within the gnomish society, of which two had voiced their opinions at the Assembly. The third, whom the Chairman had alluded to, contained no Representatives in its ranks--this faction, of whom Shava was one, wished to ally itself with other resistance groups to wipe the Paladin's order from the face of the map.

The order, in their genocidal rage, had slaughtered members of most every race save its own. This had involved from the start the decimation of the gnomish population that had long lived in the area surrounding the Maughold, and few of the once-dominant people remained. The gnomes had coexisted under a common banner; the only such sort of gnomish cooperation in the whole of Aresencia; due to a talented group of leaders that had great empathetic abilities. When the Paladins began massacreing the gnomes by the hundreds, a few of these leaders managed to escape--the Chairman had been one of them--and founded Arap Datrebil, which meant "For Freedom" in Gnomish. The organization had at first only intended to arm individual gnomes with a weapon that could help them escape from Paladin raids, but for the last two decades had grown and actively resisted the Paladins, even though the flame of gnomish civilization near the Maughold had since been extinguished. In the time since Vayu's assassination, Arap Datrebil had become increasingly bold, and the less skilled of Paladins often vanished without a trace from the streets of the Maughold.

Shava simultaneously noticed a few gnomish adolescents and a lone Paladin returning from his shift guarding the outer walls of the city. The fact that this knight felt comfortable alone meant that he knew any attack on his would be futile--it also meant he would have significant arcane powers, and undoubtedly had noticed the gnomes. Retreating to a safehouse would lead to disastrous results: the Paladin would locate the safehouse and return with a large force of knights, burning it to the ground. This exact occurence had happened to a hideout in the inner Maughold outside the entrance to the Paladinae order's sector. Uncertain what to do, Shava made her way to a flea market, noting both the Paladin and the gnomes converging on her location.

The Paladin reached the marketplace first, and Shava shrunk behind a stall so he would not see her diminutive form. The markings on his armour established his high rank among the order. Shava had hoped the strips of cotton cloth and mats of burlap in front of her would disguise her, but, from far across the open square, the Paladin strode towards her, and loosened the sword in its sheath. He senses my mind: that's how he knows where I am. Suddenly, she felt a tap on her shoulder, and whirled around.

A trio of teenaged gnomes confronted her, and they communicated briefly through mind-speech. The four insurgents formulated a plan. Shava slinked off behind a nearby pottery stand.

The Paladin approached, and muttered under his breath, preparing a spell that would incinerate the three adolescents, leaving him free to deal with the adult. The crowd scattered. As soon as they saw him chanting their death warrant, the trio assaulted with their minds. Interrupted, the Paladin cut off his spell and fought the three in his mind, slowly gaining ground. Once he took control of his own consciousness back, he would undoubtedly press forward to stun the three, and then attack with the pious magic typical of his kind. However, the gnomes bought Shava the distraction she needed to approach the Paladin unnoticed. His eyes closed and his mind occupied, the knight could not track the gnomess as she picked the dagger from its holding on his thigh. Rearing with all her might, Shava plunged the long knife deep into the Paladin's leg. He grimaced in pain, and whipped around to chop the gnomess in two with his sword, but the three young gnomes furthered their advance into his mind. Unable to aptly respond to either attack, the Paladin futilely resisted the members of Arap Datrebil as Shava repeated her motions. The Paladin sank to his knees, allowing Shava to stab his chest. After several minutes, the Paladin ceased his defense. Eyes glossed over, the knight's torso slapped on the ground.

Stained with blood, the gnomes rushed to the nearest safehouse. They left the body twisted on the street.

* * * * * * * * *

Several weeks later, Shava strode proud and unmolested through the streets of the outer Maughold. Deeper in the city, however, the significant Paladin presence still retained control, and the members of Arap Datrebil knew that reinforcements marched upon the fortress. It was only a matter of time until the Assembly would have more on its hands than it could easily handle. The insurrection swung in full force, and it would never recede; more gnomes from other communities streamed in for training each day, and some had to be turned back for lack of a mentor. With the realm of Anvar, the Minotaur, and still more enemies, the human empire had bitten more than it could chew, just as Arap Datrebil had. No, what Shava, Kasav, and the Representatives feared was not defeat, but a perpertual stalemate that would consume the lives of gnomes and humans for a century.

Shava had, over the past few months, gained reknown. She had not the skill and empathetic capabilities of many of her peers, but she had daring and cunning, and innovative tactics. If gnomes faced an incredible force of Paladin might, they tended to break and flee in the hope that a few might escape. With Shava on their side, the Paladins who chased them, without exception, fell victim to well-placed ambushes and faced reassembled bands--under Shava's command, retreat was but a tool to make the enemy believe he had won. She had also risen in the politics of the organization, on par with the Chairman and Kasav--the gnomess no longer was the stooge and stunt of an ambitious Representative. Her faction had gained a seat at the Assembly, and was not doomed to stand watching the figures on the podium without having a say.

Still, Shava knew that her place was not imperative to the survival of Arap Datrebil. She felt that winning the struggle against the Paladinae swiftly would be crucial to her standing among the gnomes--and that would require outside assistance. Shava had already sent as many of her friends with ties to the "outside" to recruit aid, but results had been sketchy. Reluctantly, she had resolved to leave the Maughold to seek out the members of the party who she had slain Winter Vayu with. Perhaps she could bring them into the insurgency in exchange for the future aid of Arap Datrebil; then again, she figured that some of them might have sufficient hatred of the human realm to help her cause simply to bring Man's empire down. Regardless, on this day, Shava had packed her bags and set about to track her former companions.


Eight days later, a runt pony carried a peculiar gnomess outside the dusty slave-town of Temora. The creature apparently knew where to go; its rider made no movements to direct its path. Shava dismounted. Strangely, she had found that several of her friends had, although they had left to go their separate ways, converged on this single location. Coincidence? Or the intervention of the Gods? I hope that they do not have the arrogance to use me as a pawn after the horrors their mingling has given me as a life.

Sensing that the city was filled with raucous and unruly civilians, Shava determined it would be safer to spend the night outside the place. Sighing, Shava slipped onto the ground; the pony lay down, and Shava snuggled next to it. After months of only missing the comfort of a bed for a midnight raid on the Paladins, this week of hard ground did not please the gnomess.

Edited by Vortigern, 15 February 2009 - 02:57 PM.

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