RPG #9 - The Five Dragons

Discussion in 'RPG #9 - The Five Dragons' started by Nienor, Apr 8, 2005.

  1. Senekha

    Senekha <a href="http://photobucket.com" target="_blank"><

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    As Casano’or rode ahead of her newly acquired army of some 30,000, her horse pranced and snorted at the surrounding excitement and fear. She had taken the late king’s horse, a huge black warhorse, which suited her perfectly. When nor riding Krian, she would ride this fearsome and magnificent horse.

    Obtaining this army had been simple, and an old routine for Casano’or. She was now queen of Ravasdes, and planned on creating an empire of fear to use against the Sentinels.

    She did not fear her enemies in the oncoming battles – Cy’dath and Ki’dasva had already eliminated those who had been the next most powerful gods in the last war – all their energies could now be spent in defeating the lesser gods, in which Casano’or would help, and seizing the Well of Stars, with which Cy’dath would rule the universe.

    As they neared the camp, Casano’or spotted Arikha. Casano’or spoke mentally to Cy’dath. “Is this your doing?”

    He returned her thought. “Yes, and she is to obey you – much to her disgruntlement.” Casano’or felt him chuckle.

    She had reestablished her bond with Cy’dath the night before visiting the Twisted Branch. She was thrilled with the constant presence of her beloved.

    She grinned, and from the corner of her eye caught Tavius studying her. She ignored him, instead continuing her conversation with Cy’dath.

    “You have punished her?”

    “Yes, love – she begged for mercy at the end.”

    Casano’or now chuckled. It was quite a scene to imagine.

    “How much longer, my lord?” she queried.

    “My strength returns rapidly, but it will be some time ere we begin our assault. There are things that require my attention, and yours as well.”

    “What would you have me do?”

    “For now, continue as you are. I will instruct you when the time is proper.”

    “Yes, lord.” She paused. “What of Ki’dasva?”

    “She, too, begins to gain power, but it will be long ere she is powerful once more. Her state is yet weak.”

    Casano’or was pleased. Ki’dasva could stay in her state of impotency, for all she cared. The god was jealous of Cy’dath attention, and she and Casano’or disliked each other’s company.

    When Casano’or rode near a brooding Arikha, the sorceress said, “Nice rabble you have there.”

    “Sorceress, I thirst. Bring me some drink – and not too hot, mind you.”

    She hated speaking to the sorceress, but could not resist taunting her.

    Casano’or turned to Tavius and instructed him to have the Illyran army assemble their camp, and to rise at first light. There would be little rest in the coming days.

    When Arikha shoved a mug of drink before her, Casano’or put it down without a glance and walked off. At the edge of the mercenary camp Krian waited. She mounted, and took to the sky.

    After circling the camp, she spotted several soldiers creeping away. She unslung her bow and shot them down in rapid succession. When she landed to retrieve her arrows, she found one man still barely alive. After cleaning the bloodied arrows, she strapped the nearly unconscious man onto Krian, and brought him back to camp.

    Krian followed Casano’or’s instructions and swooped over the Illyran encampment, screeching a battle cry. She turned back and landed in their midst, next to the officers’ tents.

    The soldiers backed away, forming a hesitant circle around Casano’or. Several gasped as they recognized the wounded man upon Krian.

    Casano’or unstrapped the man and tossed him effortlessly to the ground.

    “This man is a deserter. He attempted to abandon you to sneak back to his whore of a mother.” Her voice resounded with ethereal quality, sounding like the roaring wind itself.

    She turned to a nearby soldier. “Tell me, good sir: what is the penalty of desertion in your lands?”

    He trembled, then said, “Death, your highness.” His eyes were wide, and he looked ready to bolt.

    “Ah.” Casano’or grasped the wounded soldier’s shirt and with one hand lifted him into the air. The crowd gasped at the display of strength.

    “Then let this young man be an example.” She flung him into the air, and he rose until he hovered twenty cubits above the ground.

    She turned without a word and took Krian again into the air. As she gained altitude, Cy’dath said, “Impressive. But will fear force obedience again?”

    “It has worked before.”

    “Then let them know you are as just as you are ruthless.”

    She bowed her head in acquiescence. “Yes, lord.”

    She landed Krian where they had started, and after sending Krian off to hunt, she built a fire. She had shot a rabbit on her way back, and now roasted it over her small fire.

    Casano’or had begun to create a chain of command within the growing army. After herself, she chose Tavius and an Illyran officer named Miriko as seconds. Directly beneath them she chose several captains, one of which was Alanna the mercenary. The officers of the Illyran army still commanded the same squadrons as they always had, to uphold order.

    They army was composed of four major components: infantry, light and heavy cavalry, archers, and war engines. There were also scouts, who were woodsmen and were constantly on the move. The mercenaries together formed a company. The war engines would slow travel, but they were necessary. There were trebuchets, siege towers, and heavy missiles, which shot large crossbow bolts.

    Casano’or rose after her meal to inspect the army. As she walked through their ranks, soldiers jumped to attention, to which Casano’or replied with a nod. They were most diligent after her most recent display of severity.

    The war engines were in superb shape, having been heavily maintained throughout the past years. Those who manned them knew well their craft. The infantry was extremely organized and sectioned off. Each alon consisted of 10 closely-knit soldiers; each annon had ten alyn, each maron have four annyn, and each massen had five maryn. Each massen trained together, as did the subgroups.

    The encampment was organized in orderly lines, each massen together. Each soldier in the infantry was armed with short swords and a bundle of small spears, as well as any personal daggers or other miscellany. The archers had each a longbow and crossbow, carried in an efficient rig on their back with two full quivers of 50 arrows each, one long arrows for the yew bows, one with shorter bolts for the crossbows. Each cavalryman had a small crossbow that strapped onto his left arm, a bundle of spears, and a long, leaf-shaped and weighted sword ideal for lopping off heads. All in all, the Illyran army was one of the finest in the human kingdoms.

    As she rode back towards her own fire, Tavius rode up, reining in only half a pace from Casano’or.

    “WE have a visitor.” He motioned behind him, and Casano’or saw soldiers standing aside for a figure garbed in gold and riding a large warhorse.

    As the visitor neared, Casano’or gasped in astonishment.

    “Rho’stri?” she whispered.

    When Rho’stri reined in, she drew down her hood, and Casano’or heard Tavius gasp. Rho’stri, in her natural form, was unlike any other now living. She was of the ancient race of the Maradi, a race that had thrived in the time of the Kortiri. Casano’or’s mother had been Maradi.

    Rho’stri greeted Casano’or in the native tongue of the Kortiri, which was similar to that of the Maradi.

    “Ala’haidan, shoren ath.” Greetins, o favoured one. She held up a milk-white hand in salutation. Her black nails glinted in the fading light.

    “Ala’haidan, crilohn ath,” Casano’or replied. Greetings, o trusted one.

    Rho’stri blinked her pupil-less eyes. Her bone-white hair swirled around her face in the soft breeze. The Maradi and the Kortiri were similar races. Rho’stri’s face was adorned with intricate symbols in black and red. She, like Casano’or, was ancient. Casano’or had though her old friend dead a millenia past.

    “Casano’or, amman me rohrlon dhrona.” Casano’or, you tread on perilous ground.

    Casano’or replied in the same tongue. “Has it ever been elsewise?”

    “Perilous not for yourself, but for the entire world.”

    “It is not I who resists Cy’dath,” Casano’or shot back.

    “But it is you who resists the Well of Stars.”

    Casano’or stared at Rho’stri. “The Well is a power source – I seek only to put it in the right hands.”

    Rho’stri gave Casano’or a thoughtful look. “Would is surprise you to know that the Well is sentient – and has chosen a conduit to oppose you?”

    Casano’or blinked in surprise. “Yes, I suspected it was sentient, but…who is this conduit?”

    “It is one who will fight you in the end.” When Casano’or continued to stare are Rho’stri, the Maradi continued. “To divulge the identity of the conduit would be to disrupt the Pattern. I am sorry, old friend.” The Maradi had held a belief based around what they called the Pattern, which was the balance of the universe.

    Casano’or cried out in rage and stepped threateningly towards Rho’stri. Tavius scrambled backwards.

    “Curse your Pattern! Rho, I will have the name!” She shifted to her ethereal form, her voice once again taking on the qualities of a raging storm, her fingernails morphing into talons, and strange markings appearing on her skin. She had inherited some of the shapeshifting abilities of her mother’s race.

    “When the time is proper, perhaps.” Casano’or hurled a ball of flame, but Rho’stri had already shifted to the form of a golden eagle and was taking to the air. She screeched, and flew off. The warhorse she had been riding wheeled and galloped out of the camp, doubtless returning to her lair.

    Casano’or trembled with rage. It was not that Rho’stri jeopardized her safety, but that should she fall, Cy’dath also would fall. For he had given her a part of his life force, so that through her he might strengthen. If she died, so too would Cy’dath.
     
  2. Morgan_of_Salerone

    Morgan_of_Salerone New Member

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    “Do you not understand?! Cy’dath is back!” Arikha spat, her face dark as she regarded her son with flashing eyes.

    “Cy’dath…has returned?…” the prince whispered, his face white from shock and fear.

    Arikha turned from him, her face pained as she gazed out the tall, elegant window.

    “I need to take Adhia.” She said quietly.

    “No! You cannot!” her son snarled viciously. “I will not let you use my daughter as a pawn for you and your god!”

    “He is not my god!” Arikha snapped, turning round on her son. Servants scuttled away, fearful of being in the presence of two raging royals.

    “Then swear to me!” her son continued. “Swear to me on your soul that you are not playing tricks, and that my daughter will be of no service to him.”

    “You know I cannot swear.”

    “Then you know I cannot trust you, mother. You did terrible things, and show no remorse for them. You killed my grandparents and destroyed my land. It is through your actions that my people were decimated, and even now after all these years, they are distrusted and hated by all other nations! You wholly and without hesitation gave everything to your god. You sold your soul for power, and in doing so you forfeited any trust that you could ever have again. And now, you wish to ask me to give up what is most precious to me, and you cannot even swear that it will not help your god.” The prince stood, his jaw set resolutely and his dark eyes staring into Arikha’s own. Arikha stood tall, teeth clenched and back painfully straight, desperately trying to suppress the sting of the truth from her own son’s words.

    “He is not my g-“

    “Swear it.” Her son cut in, facing her with his dark, accusing eyes. Arikha gazed back at him for a moment, her throat tight and her hands clenched, then turned and swept from the room.


    ----------------------------------------------------


    Arikha waited in the cool shade of small, spindly tree, watching through the heat waves as the two riders approached. It had been a great risk, calling for the Sentinel to come, even greater now that her son refused her company. Avaenonn might soon be unsafe for her. Arikha was sure Casano’or was already suspicious of her betrayal, and since Cy’dath had put her under Casano’or’s command, Casano’or would be able to tell where Arikha was. If she could no longer go to Avaenonn, then she would no way of safely contacting the Sentinel, or any other allies. Mind to mind was fast becoming dangerous, with Cy’dath’s increasing ability to know the sorceress’ mind.

    As the two riders pulled up, Arikha stood and strode towards them, stopping a respectful distance away.

    “My greetings.” She called, head held high and back straight.

    “My greetings to you, too.” The Sentinel replied, dismounting. Her companion stayed on his horse, a detail that greatly irked Arikha. The sorceress bowed her head for a moment as sign of respect, then locked eyes with the Sentinel, ignoring the man.

    “I am Arikha Kalohmdoniel, ruler of Avaenonn. However, I am afraid that my land holds few comforts, if you are weary from your journey.” She said, gesturing at the land behind her, a small, humourless smile on her face. The Sentinel’s gaze shifted to behind Arikha, taking in the flat, sunburnt land and breathing in the harsh, dusty air.

    “It used to be a fertile valley, covered with miles and miles of lush, green forest.” The fallen queen began, noting the sceptical look of the Sentinel. “In the distance one could often see the tops of majestic snow-capped mountains and hear the calls of birds and beasts, but this was before the land ever heard of Casano’or, or felt the searing pain of Cy’dath’s touch.” Arikha watched with satisfaction as the eyes of both elves widened, shocked by destruction they were seeing. “That is why I have called for you.” She said, recapturing the Sentinel’s attention. “If this is what Cy’dath does to his allies, imagine what he will do to you, if you are not prepared.”

    “I didn’t come here to be threatened or frightened.” The Sentinel said sharply, her face darkening she stared at the sorceress. “You claimed to be in need of help and were willing to offer your services in return for it. I don’t have time for your games, Arikha, what is it that you wanted?”

    Arikha crossed her arms and closed her eyes, chuckling to herself.

    “Impudent, are you not?” Opening her eyes, the sorceress looked up at the Sentinel. “May I at least your name, and that of your companion, before I go answering your demands?” The Sentinel seem a bit aggravated by her smug manner, but hid it behind a quick introduction.

    “I am Sentinel Sharana, and this is my companion, Jadrix.”

    “I am glad you have come.” Said Arikha, suddenly serious. “My situation is quite grave.” When Sharana said nothing, Arikha continued. “You remember the conditions for my services, do you not?”

    “Yes.” Replied Sharana. “But what exactly would those services be? Your being sworn to Cy’dath does nothing to relieve my conscience.” Arikha stiffened at her words.

    “If you destroy Cy’dath and give me your word that I will see the end of this war alive, then I will give you information as to the movements and plans of Casano’or and her god, as well as any other information about them you may wish to know. You see the sense in this, do you not? We both want Cy’dath destroyed, there is no reason we should not be allies.”

    Sharana paused, glancing back at Jadrix who was impertinently leaning on the horn of his saddle, impatiently tapping his fingers on the smooth leather.

    “How can I trust you?” Sharana said quietly. “I see that your grandchild isn’t here. Breaking your word the first time we meet isn’t really something that makes me want to trust you.”

    “There were some minor… difficulties. I was unable to bring her.” Arikha replied, lifting her chin and clenching her jaw. A snort from Jadrix caused the two women to turn to him.

    “You’re Arikha Kalohmdoniel, the master of deception and double-crossing. You controlled hundreds of people with your dark magic in the war, made thousands of alliances and dissolved just as many and seemed to make promises just to break them. How can we know that you’re sincere?”

    Arikha paused, searching for an answer.

    You are needed with the army. Return at once. Casono’or’s voice rang in Arikha’s head.

    I need more time. There are still things I need to do. Arikha called back mentally. A wave a pain, tainted with Casano’or’s touch, slammed into her like a kick in the gut. She tensed, stifling a gasp. Casano’or’s annoyance with her flowed into her mind.

    “My patience grows short. Take my offer now, or leave!” the sorceress snapped, trying to hide her pain. The Sentinel remained silent, still unsure. “Take it or go!” Arikha cried, her face contorting as the pain intensified. Arikha dropped to her knees, clutching her stomach as she whimpered through clenched teeth.

    Enough of your insolence. You will do I command. Casano’or’s voice echoed through Arikha’s mind.

    I will do as you command. I will return. Arikha let her jaw unclench and sighed as the pain ebbed. The sorceress looked up at Sharana. Her face was unreadable, her expression mirrored by Jadrix’s own.

    “This is the last time I will say it,” Arikha panted. “Take my offer, or go.”
     
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2005
  3. Crusader

    Crusader Disturber of the Peace

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    He had no great desire to start killing anyone, but it was a matter of principal, if someone tried to kill him, or if someone even wanted to kill him, he had no quams with returning the favour, especially since they'd likely keep hunting him after. There had been plenty of bounty hunters to test that theory in the past, Jak had angered a lot of people, most he didnt know a thing about, the ones he did he could only laugh at their helplessness.

    As the sentinel left with his would-be assassin he felt a stab of regret, it could only cause trouble. What in all of liandrah would she need him for? If he's one of the Chaos gods' followers best kill him now, he obviously wont talk. And if he isnt with anybody he still tried to kill me, Me! He shook his head and turned back to those still assembled there, milling around with a combined sense of unease, about whether they were ready to go or where. Jak only laughed quietly to himself, all this talk and they hadnt got anywhere with this damned meeting, Jak took no small pleasure in being right.

    He shrugged his coat purposfully, feeling set and strode over to the table to take another bottle of wine for the road, travelling was lonely. As he stopped to undo the seal and take a gulp he turned to the others.

    "Well, Unless any of you want to accompany my charming self I'll be going" ..and not a moment too soon.

    To began a slow trot to the great doors leaving the library, only too glad to be gone from the place, it still gave him the creeps what with the ghosts and not one cobweb. Jak hated spiders but it seemed so unnatural for a place so old to be so empty of anything but books. Brushing of the thought he stepped back outside into the cool air.

    Rum was waiting, chewing on a few bits of old dried grass around a nearby boulder, the tall horse waiting obediently without need to be tied, it was the only face he had been glad to see all day. Closing the distance between them, Jak put a hand out and rubbed his mane to ease the horse before climbing into the saddle and getting comfortable.

    "Whaddya say Rum? shall we find the nearest Tavern?" The horse whickered and Jak laughed at the same time, taking a gulp from the wine bottle in his hand. He made sure his sword was fixed on firmly beside him in easy reach and with a bit of effort locked the arms of his crossbow back in their closed positions for easy concealment. When he was all ready to set out he heeled Rum into a slow walk south, a direction chosen at random aside from the resolution not to go back in the direction of Starhaven.

    For the next hour or so the going was smooth, not much of anything but grass, trees and a few rocks here and there, perhaps the odd bird and a fox or two. It was simple and calm, Jak almost began to think he was free of his recent troubled until the late afternoon, when he found his old aquaintance sitting on a rock with a book in her hand as if the middle of nowhere was her own private garden, it was only the fact that she was right in his path that made it seem any different.

    Jak groaned and she appeared to notice, marking her place with the ribbon and setting the book down before rising to her feet and taking a few steps towards him, her green dress merging with the grass at her feet. Her smile was evident. "Did you have fun at the council?"

    "Fun? apart for almost dying of boredom, I almost died when some two bit thug tried to put an arrow in me."

    "Well, I hope you at least got the message, you seem to be a little slow on the uptake but you should have it by now, trouble is coming, and you may be needed"

    With visible annoyance Jak frowned and looked into her eyes. "For the last time. I-Dont-Care, Will you leave me alone now? will you go bother someone else? Im sure there's a thousand people eager to jump off on some pointless quest out there, people stupid enough to want to be used as your puppet"

    "Out of a thousand people, not one would have your potential, and not one of them is the one I chose, I chose you, and you are mine." She laughed to herself. "I do remember a small boy eager to do his part, to help the people, to be a hero, what happened to him?"

    "He grew up, and decided being a puppet wasnt the dream he wanted"

    Shaking her head, she dismissed the memories. "Yet that child had more maturity, he was willing to make sacrifices for a cause, you seem to have become more arrogant and petulant, more of a.....brat" She smiled when she caught the hint of rage in his eyes. "It is time I taught you a lesson I did not think you needed, but one just as vital as all the others, perhaps moreso."

    "I thought you were done with teaching, you and your lackeys, I dont want anymore of your crap, leave me alone!"

    "This will be the last thing I teach you, you know enough already no matter what you repress, but it is time you were taught to have a sense of dedication. Call it a lesson in commitment if you will, but its time you learnt that running away and galavanting about the world is no better than cowardice. The war is coming, it has perhaps already started, and it is high tide you learned no matter how far or fast you run, sooner or later you will have to take a stand and do your part. Otherwise, you will die"

    There was no room in what she said for error, she meant it as firm as if she intended to do the killing herself, maybe she did, Jak took a gulp and spoke up. "But.."

    He was not allowed to finish, the woman shooker her head and spoke over him. "No more, no more wriggling, it is time, your lesson begins."

    There was a flash, and a feeling of air rushing past him, like standing in a waterfall without getting wet. Jak felt something pressing against his entire left side and shook himself as he the sensation of what had happened subsided and then he opened his eyes. At first all he saw was light but then slowly it resolved, to his left was hard dirt, and dust with a crack here and there a few bumps in the distance, and to the right blue sky. When he realised what was pressing his left side was the ground he sat up and his head rushed as if he had not moved for two weeks.

    He was somewhere, he could tell that, but where he hadnt a clue, as far as he could tell there were no landmarks, just uneven wastes as far as the eye could see, somewhere he thought he saw a wisp of smoke but couldnt be sure. He found Rum standing next to him, not bothered by the...whatever had happened, Jak placed a hand on the horse's harness and took another look around.

    "A desert? hardily any provisions and no water, nowhere to go. A great lesson dying will be!" Anger bubbled up inside him "Gah! the only way this could get worse would......" He stopped speaking just then, the last time he had though like that it had gotten that much worse, he hated to think what would happen this time.

    There was a low bestial growl, echoed again by others. Demons.

    ......Damn
     
  4. Liadan

    Liadan Insert Title Here

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    Sharana stared at Arikha, wondering at the woman’s impertinence. How dare she demand things of her and set conditions? The only problem was that Sharana was aware that she could not set conditions herself. But she had to admire this renegade who stood there as cool as she could be, ordering Sharana like a queen.

    But she was a Sentinel, and she could not be intimidated so easily.

    “What are you hiding?” she asked. “You gasp as if in pain. You will tell me, or else our truce is at an end.”

    “Damn you,” Arikha snarled. “Very well. Casano’or is… amusing… herself by causing me pain. Now will you trust me?”

    She did not answer the renegade’s question. I can’t afford to help her. It may be cruel, but I cannot risk her giving the alarm if I offer myself as a conduit.

    Sharana was almost as surprised with Jadrix. Had he decided to take an interest in things as well? But she could not stop to answer that thought.

    I can’t probe her, not without letting her know of your existence. But is there a way I can see what she is doing, perhaps by setting something within her mind?

    Not without her knowing, Winter said reluctantly. But it can be done. Before the spirit could say anything more, Sharana had already spoken.

    “Trust is earned, Arikha Kalohmdoniel. You have not earned mine as of yet… but there is a way I can enter your mind to see what you see and hear what you hear.”

    Arikha nodded. “I know that trick. It is dangerous. If you enter too deeply, you may not be able to return to your own body, and if Cy’dath discovers you, you will have an eternity to regret opposing him,” she stated baldly.

    Sharana shrugged. “Perhaps. And perhaps not. Will you let me enter your mind?”

    A geas, Zephyr whispered. Ask to set a geas as well.

    “And a geas,” she said before Arikha had a chance to reply. The volatile Forest Elf’s eyes flashed in rage.

    “I can always betray you to Cy’dath,” she said.

    “Oh? Then why don’t you? If you do, there will be no way for you to ever be free of his touch. You would not bring your granddaughter. Accept the geas instead.”

    “I told you that there were… problems.”

    “Fish dung,” she said pleasantly. “I’ll believe that you had problems if you let me set a geas on you. And believe me, I will know if Cy’dath breaks it… and if he does, I will kill you.”

    That calm, almost conversational tone had always convinced people that she meant what she said. It did not prove any different with Arikha.

    “You’re being a fool,” she said, bitterness laced in her tone. “If Cy’dath discovers the geas, he’ll kill me first. Then he’ll kill you.”

    “Death is a risk we all have to take.” Am I doomed to repeat every single conversation in life? People have already told me that I am a fool, and I tell them that we all die eventually. This only proves that life is nothing but repetition.

    But her words had another impact on Arikha. While Sharana had effaced herself at the Council while Arikha had been there, the woman obviously hadn’t been very impressed with her, even if she had called on her for help. But her nonchalant attitude had given Sharana an air of confidence that Arikha had drawn upon, which was something the rogue Forest Elf obviously needed.

    “And as for mind-entering, it’s difficult,” Arikha said, breaking in on her thoughts. “We don’t have a close bond, or even a bond at all.”

    “Yes we do. I’m descended from old blood, and you are an Elf as well, even if you are of Avaenonn, kinswoman, and I from Zasalyn, land of the Sky Elves.”

    She saw anger flash in her eyes again and almost laughed out loud. Was Arikha too proud to admit kinship of blood – distant, true, but still present – to a lowly Sentinel?

    “What, too proud to admit our shared blood of the Elves, kinswoman?” she asked, deliberately taunting her. “Keep acting like I’m the dung on your shoe and you won’t last very long at all. The only question will be whether Cy’dath, Casano’or, or I kill you first.”

    That gibe seemed to take away some of her arrogance, replacing it with terror. But Arikha was very brave. She definitely had to admire her.

    “Very well then. Are you saying that you will not aid me?” she said, lifting her head.

    “I never said that. And by all the gods, I must be a fool to do this… but I will help you. But never, ever think that I trust you. Trust is earned,” she repeated. “But I set my own conditions. You did not bring the child. Therefore you will submit to the geas and allow me to enter your mind when I wish. Do you accept?”
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2005
  5. Morgan_of_Salerone

    Morgan_of_Salerone New Member

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    Arikha gazed at the Sentinel for a long moment, her face emotionless. With a sigh, Arikha closed her eyes, a look of weariness passing over her features.

    “I…cannot accept your conditions. It would be suicidal, for the both of us.”

    Sharana’s eyes narrowed.

    “Explain.” she said sourly, clearly displeased by this answer.

    “My mind is not my own.” Arikha answered. “That is the precise reason I am forced to call upon your aid. I am sworn Cy’dath, I must obey him. Once he gains his full power, he will be able to see my every intention, thought, desire and fear. If I allowed you to enter my mind whenever you chose, Cy’dath would find out. And,” the sorceress chuckled, “knowing my luck, you would happen to enter at the same time Cy’dath was there. Do you think you can escape an angry god on his territory?” Arikha raised her dark eyes to meet the Sentinel’s own. “You may think I have no heart,” she whispered, “but I would not wish the darkness of Cy’dath upon any other creature of this world. I live in his darkness and I know that the Void itself would be hard put to make it more unbearable. But if I can turn this hellish life of mine into an asset of his enemies…If I could turn his evil from others, I could redeem myself, and I could save the people I love from a fate worse than mine.”

    Sharana said nothing, seeming to take a moment to digest what the sorceress said. Arikha put a hand to her head and sighed; a fierce headache was beginning to replace the vivid pain Casano’or had given her earlier.

    “I am going now.” she stated. “If I remain here much longer, Casano’or will take note of it. She hardly trusts me as it is.” Refusing to meet Sharana’s eyes, the rogue elf gazed past her, watching a small cloud scuttle across the sky. “If you will not help me, so be it. Regardless of what you choose, I will assist you in any way I can. I wish to know…trust. I do not wish to be hated anymore.”

    Arikha closed her eyes, calling her magic about her. Pulling what little magic she could from the earth, she sent her body careening through the place between here and there, appearing with difficulty in her tent in the middle of Casano’or’s camp. Falling to her knees, Arikha struggled to hold back desolate tears. Everyone hated her. The Sentinel, her son… It would be so easy to give in to Cy’dath, to listen and obey his every whim. She had done it before, and look at the power it had gained her. She was one of the most powerful magicians of the age. If she obeyed Cy’dath, she wouldn’t have to gain their trust, she wouldn’t have to waste her energies manipulating others. They would follow her every command out of fear.

    ______________________________

    Arikha stood before Casano’or, relaying all her plans. She could barely keep the fury from her voice as she explained her presence in Avaenonn.

    “I was not simply there to be there Casano’or! I had a plan. Not everyone is as simple-minded as you are.”

    “You are as impudent as you are immature, Arikha.” Casano’or said, watching with amusement as Arikha flinched. These newfound powers Cy’dath had granted her were entertaining; it was satisfying to have such control over the impertinent sorceress, especially knowing it only served anger her more. Arikha growled under her breath and continued.

    “I was gaining the trust of the Sentinel. If I play my cards right, then Cy’dath’s reign will be complete even sooner than it is already destined to be. There is something about the Sentinel….I cannot quite understand it…” the sorceress banished her thoughtful look as she returned her gaze to Casano’or. “If I can gain her trust, I will have access to all her plans. Crushing them will be as easy as snuffing out a candle.” To add to the effect, Arikha snapped her fingers, causing the candle nearest to her to wink out of existence. Casano’or seemed unimpressed. “Even you can see the advantage of eliminating a powerful enemy quickly. If we strike before the people can unite, as you have done with the human kingdoms, their moral will crumble and they will submit to Cy’dath’s rule with little resistance. Why waste our resources if we do not have to?” The sorceress surveyed Casano’or with her usual small, smug, smile. Inside, she was writhing with anxiety. She could only hope that Casano’or would buy her pathetic excuse.
     
  6. Liadan

    Liadan Insert Title Here

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    Sharana barely repressed a snarl as Arikha disappeared. How could she trust her? No doubt the woman had worn this pathetic mask when murdering her kin.

    But the benefits outweighed the risks. Knowing Cy’dath’s plans, having information on Casano’or and on other possible opponents… she would simply have to watch Arikha like a hawk. And the mind-trick had shown something else – an image of a strong man, worry lines engraved in his face and bearing a certain resemblance to Arikha. The image was ringed in gray, the color she had come to associate with despair, hopelessness, and sorrow.

    Well, she called silently. She had not bothered to contact the Well for a while. Can you burn Cy’dath’s taint from the sorceress?

    Not without letting him know that you are my conduit, it replied. But it is your choice to risk it, or not.

    And we will probably die if he knows, correct?

    Maybe. Maybe not.

    A chance I need to take, perhaps. Is there a way to let her know to tell her to meet me again, this time south of Avaenonn?

    A pause. Again, maybe. I will try when I feel that his presence is not so close.

    She nodded, ignoring Jadrix’s puzzled glance. It will have to serve.

    “Get up. We travel south for now.”

    With a sullen glare, he rose from the ground. “What kind of stupid reason do you have now?” he asked.

    “I don’t recall telling you to open your mouth. Now, will you come with me willingly or do I need to use the geas?”

    “Stop worrying, Sentinel,” he said calmly. “You won’t need to worry about a thing with Jadrix beside you.”

    Definitely worse than Jak. She found herself wondering about how long she could make him scream.

    She flexed her wings experimentally and noticed that the assassin still hadn’t mounted. “Why haven’t you gotten on your horse, you idiot?”

    “I don’t suppose bandits are a good reason?” he drawled as he swung himself on his horse with effortless grace. “If you want to run, Sentinel, I can cover you.”

    That was the final blow. She was furious and enraged with everything. Jak and Jadrix for a start, the Well itself, Casano’or, Arikha, and Cy’dath. Rage bubbled out of her as she screamed.

    “Don’t wet your pants,” he said. “You’ve got me with you.”

    Sharana strung the Starwolf and beat her wings into the air, two arrows between her teeth and another on the string. She saw the bandits before they saw her, and three arrows were speeding towards them unnoticed. They were a ragged group of perhaps sixteen or so, ill-fitting armor but sharp weapons showing signs of hard use.

    Two fell with arrows through their throats, another clutching his ear where the dart had missed. She loosed another five arrows at them, but only two hit, and only one was a mortal wound. She tossed the bow and quiver to Jadrix, who caught it but did not try to use it. With a howl, she drew her sword and slashed a man from his head to his navel before rising back into the air, blood dripping onto the ground.

    By then, three of the bandits had their own bows out. Jadrix was loosing arrows into their midst as she beat her wings frantically, trying to regain her height. Another was down, leaving eleven still alive, but two were wounded.

    “Get the archers!” she shouted as she circled above the bandits, the sword dragging at her. Jadrix only nodded before putting another arrow to his string and Sharana dove downwards.

    Another archer died, his head split open, but Sharana received a wound to her legs. Thankfully, the bandits were so ignorant that they didn’t even try to aim a blow at her wings. By the time she had flown back up, the other archer had fallen victim to Jadrix.

    Sharana made one last dive before grounding, killing another man in the process. She pulled a dagger from her belt and threw it at the man she had wounded with the Starwolf.

    She fought like a whirlwind, her sword flickering in her hands this way and that, seeking blood. And it got it. The bandits weren’t very well protected at their throats, and that was where Sharana aimed. Jadrix had already lowered his bow, perhaps fearing what would happen if she died while he was still bound by the geas. Friendly fire could kill her as surely as those sharp swords.

    In the end, the other eight fell to her sword. She stood with a ring of bodies about her as she smiled in satisfaction.

    “Fourteen kills,” she said with a laugh. She never felt so alive as when she was fighting or communing with the Well… or even intriguing against Casano’or. “But thank you, Jadrix.”

    Her captive handed over the bow and quiver without comment. Sharana retrieved her arrows and cleaned the points before returning them to her quiver. Then she wiped her sword and dagger on a spare rag she found on one of the bandits.

    Jadrix was looting the corpses when she returned. For a moment, revulsion warred with practicality, and then she shrugged. The bandits weren’t going to need the stuff now.

    Later, when they had begun travelling, Jadrix riding and she walking beside him, she asked something that was troubling her. “However did you know who Arikha was? And how did you know enough to not try and use the Starwolf? I saw you back there,” she said, blue eyes suddenly flinty. “You looked at it, and then you carefully laid it aside before you strung your own. Who are you, you who call yourself Jadrix? How do you know of things that only Sentinels know?”
     
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2005
  7. Senekha

    Senekha <a href="http://photobucket.com" target="_blank"><

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    Casano’or regarded Arikha coolly, deciding how she would answer Arikha’s excuses. Were it solely up to her, she would have punished her – as suited all treacherous elves and humans – but Cy’dath had advised her to exercise lenience. So it would be.

    “You are not to decide what is beneficial to our cause. You will approach me before leaving this camp again. If I find you have left again without my permission, I will not be so forgiving.”

    Arikha glared, her eyes flashing. So…she had struck a nerve. Casano’or held back a grin.

    “And if you do think to sneak off, I will hear of it, have no doubt. Your uses are what I deem them, no more. Your Sentinel can wait.

    “Did you really think that you could win the trust of the Sentinel? You, the notorious Queen of the Blasted, have no good relationship with the order of Sentinels, and this one especially does not hand out trust. She requires that one earns her trust – and to earn her trust would undoubtedly be treason against Cy’dath.” She smiled a falsely sweet smile. “And if you ever committed treason, Cy’dath would leave you to my tender mercies.”

    Arikha replied haughtily, her head high. “How do you come to know so much about this Sentinel? Have you had dealings with her before?”

    “I have met this Sentinel, and there was no love between us. Do you think that I can not discern one’s personality, after thousands of years of practice?”

    “Old age does not earn talent.”

    “Impudent beggar!” Casano’or roared. Then, in a deathly quiet, menacing voice, she said, “Nothing would please me more than to eradicate each and every elf and human in this fallen world. Do not tempt me to finish you and your meddling.”

    “Try it. See how pleased Cy’dath is when you destroy a powerful ally. I can and will earn the trust of the Sentinel.”

    “You will do nothing. Do you really think that Cy’dath would care if I got rid of you? You are nothing to him.” She paused, then snarled, “Perhaps I should let you go to the Sentinel. Then I could destroy you when I kill the Sentinels, as I destroyed your parents.”

    Arikha screamed in rage and lunged for Casano’or. Casano’or held out a finger, and Arikha froze, unable to move. Casano’or shifted to her natural form, half caressing, half scratching Arikha’s face with a black nail. She spoke, her voice barely discernible against the howling wind.

    “I am the Avenger of the Firstborn, and the Avatar of Cy’dath. Remember that.” Her white hair flowed around her face in an unnatural wind.

    She turned and stalked to the rear of the tent, then turned. Arikha thought she could see a hint of tears welling in Casano’or’s eyes. The bonds of air suddenly released around her, and Arikha quickly regained her balance.

    The Avenger whispered, “Now leave me.”


    The army of Illyran soldiers and mercenaries marched south, through the mountains, on a course to the human country of Alenion. After Ravasdes, Alenion was the most powerful human country. As Ravasdes was north of the [ ] mountains. Alenion was just south, straight across from Ravasdes.

    As Casano’or had marched the army out of Ravasdes, she had left the guards at the outposts around the country in place, to keep the throne of Ravasdes for Casano’or.

    The previous night a brawl had broken out among several mercenaries and legionnaires. Casano’or arrived to find a mercenary sitting on a soldier with a knife to his throat, a female soldier with her bow fixed upon another mercenary who gripped a wicked looking throwing knife, and many on either side shooting threats at each other.

    As Casano’or arrived, everyone froze. She walked into the midst of them, stopping next to the mercenary with his knife on the soldier. Both looked up fearfully at her.

    The mercenaries’ brother-like relationship with Siobhann Klairé caused mixed emotions for the mercenaries over Casano’or. Most recoiled with fear, but some could not let go of the feelings they had for their former comrade.

    She spoke quietly, but her voice carried to all. “What is the cause of this dispute?”

    No one immediately moved forward, but one mercenary finally spoke out. “The legionnaires,” he glared at the assembled soldiers, “claim that we are not fit to fight alongside them.”

    “The mercenaries don’t know how to fight in formation. They fight by themselves, and only for themselves. In formation, we must fight for those around us.” This came from the woman with the bow.

    People from both sides began muttering, but all quieted when Casano’or spoke.

    “You are no longer soldiers of Ravasdes.” She looked at the Illyrans, then turned to the mercenaries. “And you are no longer simple mercenaries. This is my army, the army that shall secure the lands for he who shall reign. You will all be paid handsomely. And you will all fight together.”

    She addressed the soldiers once again. “While we march, and while we camp, you shall train with the mercenaries and accustom them to your formations. They are hardy fighters, and will conform easily; I can vouch for them myself.” This brought smiles from many of the mercenaries, for they heard Siobhann speaking.

    “There will be no future brawls among my army. The next offenders will not be so lucky as you.” She gave them all a hard look. “Return now to your tents and rest, for tomorrow we begin a hard march.”

    --

    Casano’or soared high above the army, the cold mountain wind whipping through her hair. The mountains were high and snow covered, treacherous to cross. This was only the first day, and Casano’or knew the mountains well enough to know that nearly a sennight, if not more, of mountain travel awaited them before they say the foothills of Alenion. There was a road, but it was narrow, and the army, with the pack animals, healers, blacksmiths, war engines, and other necessary needs, it was slow travel.

    “You did well last night.” Cy’dath said. “The mercenaries are now more loyal than before, and the soldiers see that you can also be merciful.”

    “Thank you.”

    “You must keep a vigil for sources of power that might oppose us. That sorceress, Arikha, was but one who would prevent our reign.”

    “Yes, my lord.” She paused, then said slowly, “What of Rho’stri?”

    Cy’dath was silent, then finally answered, “She has not yet done us harm. We will do nothing unless she becomes a threat.”

    Casano’or hoped their old friend would not do anything that would force her to act.

    As Casano’or began her descent to the long column of the army, a huge golden eagle screeched and cut across her path, barely missing Krian. Krian cried back, her muscles tensing in anticipation of a chase. Casano’or held Krian back, and watched the eagle soar away.

    “Be cautious, my friend,” Casano’or whispered, he voice snatched up by the wind.
     
  8. Liadan

    Liadan Insert Title Here

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    Lendoril felt nonplussed as Sharana effectively took charge of the assassin and left without him. Hadn’t he made it clear that he wanted to become a Sentinel?

    Then he remembered that he had to warn his king. Even if he was no longer a royal guard, it was still his duty to protect Idaryn as best he could. He could join her later. He also suspected that she hadn’t wanted him for a few days so she could take care of her own affairs. Well, that was fair enough; maybe she needed to warn the Sky Elves and didn’t want a Forest Elf with her. The Elven kingdoms did not interfere with each other.

    All the same, I’ll ask my king to send a message to the Sky Elves and the other human kingdoms, he decided. Surely it can’t hurt.

    With his decision made, he bowed to the remaining members of the Council. “Thank you,” he said with grave courtesy. “I am leaving to inform my king of what happened at this Council.” Without waiting for a reply, he made his way to the stairs to pack.

    He left the Library quietly, his few belongings slung over his shoulder. Sharana had taken the horse, it seemed; well, his two feet had lasted from Idaryn to West Point. He would manage again, and if he really had to, he could buy a mount.

    As he walked along, he felt a presence surrounding him. He attempted to ignore it, but the sheer pressure of the presence – or perhaps presences – annoyed him for several days. As he camped each night, he could feel them pressing into him.

    But on the fifth day, as he prepared to set out, the hair on the back of his neck stood up and he felt a chill running up his spine as he heard the whispering.

    …we fade… Fade, fade, fade, the wind whispered back, indeed fading away.

    …ah… they sighed. …woe… woe… woe… The word echoed in the air about them.

    Lendoril wanted to hide as he never had in his life. He was perfectly comfortable with magic, but this was different. This sounded like ghosts.

    “Excuse me?” he asked tentatively, repressing the urge to scream, jump up and down, and generally go insane. He tried to think of what a Sentinel would do. Surely they would not act as cowardly. “Do you want something?”

    A stillness, then more sighing. …we fade… Fade, fade, fade. Again they paused, then continued. …how come you here… Here, here, here.

    “What?”

    …so young… The last word of each sigh seemed to echo until Lendoril thought he would go mad.

    …why does he intrude…

    …intruder…

    …so vital…

    …so powerful…

    …ah!… The hairs on the back of his neck attempted to pick him up and carry him away, but his feet were rooted to the ground. That sentence had felt as if they were savoring his youth and power. It was also the first sentence that actually showed some sign of life, but it, too, echoed and faded.

    …why is he here…

    …the Pattern…

    …we are not Maradi…

    …no… No, no, no.

    …their belief is warped…

    Lendoril was shivering madly, and his hand kept convulsing on his sword hilt. He wanted to draw his katana and attack beings that weren’t there.

    He wanted to howl with terror.

    But more than that, he was also annoyed. Besides that one brief question, now they behaved as if he couldn’t hear or even exist.

    Regardless of his wishes, the conversation was still echoing about him.

    …they do not understand…

    …the Pattern cannot be understood…

    …or even defined…

    …by such as they…

    …only the deathless ones have seen the Pattern in truth…

    …for what it is, without illusions, rather than what we want to see…

    Lendoril thought that he could distinguish between different voices now. There were three that seemed stronger than others, but there were dozens, hundreds more floating in the air about him. The phrases were also getting longer, as if they were gaining strength with every passing moment. Some small part of his brain that hadn’t been frozen wondered if he shouldn’t be running. But he was also fascinated. Who were these deathless ones? And what was this Pattern?

    …is he part of the part of the Pattern…

    …all things are part of the Pattern…

    …why is he here…

    …child of the earth…

    …marked by Dhelian…

    …marked by the Well of Stars…

    …ah!…

    “Excuse me?” he tried to say, but the wind snatched his words away.

    …who are you…

    “Lendoril, but why do you want to know?” But again the wind snatched his words away except for his name, Lendoril.

    …do not speak…

    …save to answer…

    …mortal child…

    …woe, woe, woe to Liandrah, if only such as you remain…

    …the Chaos Lords will conquer and leave only death behind…

    …despair… The word was weighted with such grief that his knees buckled and he fell to the earth. Only his hands supported him as he gasped wildly, trying to breathe. He felt only despair.

    …useless… He was useless. He was the scum of the earth. He could not help. He should just kill himself.

    But why should I? a tiny voice from somewhere inside his benumbed mind asked. The demons attacked my home for years and I did not give in.

    …despair!… The word had a sharp bite of command this time. And Lendoril despaired. His hands fumbled with the hilt of his sword. At last he pulled it out, but fingers robbed of strength dropped it. He cut his finger, but he did not notice.

    Stupid! the voice screamed, but Lendoril was no longer paying attention.

    He scrabbled in the earth for the sword when another voice spoke.

    What in hell do you think you’re doing? it thundered. He recognized the voice as Kasalin, his instructor in weaponscraft and former Royal Guard. Pick up that sword, boy, and be quick about it! The life of your king is in danger every moment you are not alert. And clean it up! What have the Guards come to? You are a disgrace!

    He almost, almost obeyed… but the command bit in once more. …despair!…

    Pick up that sword, boy! If you aren’t going to obey, we are going to see why I am the instructor and you are still the student, a wet-behind-the-ears green pup! Prove yourself!

    …despair!… The word was definitely more desperate this time. He had to fight the urge to disobey.

    GET ON YOUR FEET! NOW! Kasalin roared. Somehow the sword was in his hand and somehow he was on his feet. There was a brief shimmering in the air, and there was another sword waiting for him. But his head still felt muzzy.

    The sword that was not his snaked out to tap his head, and he automatically countered the blow. The command to despair could not erase his instincts.
    At the clash of sword on sword, the clouds in his mind faded and he gasped in terrified amazement as Lendoril realized what he had almost done.

    “Kasalin?” he whispered, hoping against hope that the ghost was real, but most of his mind told him that it couldn’t possibly be true.

    The small voice told him it was.

    I’m here, boy, the old man said in a gruff voice. Not like you, perhaps, but I’m still here.

    “How? I mean, sir, but really – ”

    Stop babbling. Yes, I’m here. As for how, an old man must keep a few secrets. No one knows how I died. I simply disappeared, and that was what they were supposed to think. I was existing in quiet obscurity until I sensed some activity here. These idiots, Kasalin said in a scathing voice, are only what could have been. Old, useless ghosts ridden down only by despair. The Sentinels wouldn’t be so proud of their champions if they knew what had happened here.

    “Sir… who are these people?” he asked in dread. But he knew. Sharana had told him something of this, once.

    Only ghosts, his instructor said after a long pause. Only ghosts.

    “The ghosts of those who failed,” Lendoril said quietly. “Those who failed the test of the Sentinels.”

    Some, yes. But only some. Others are ghosts of Sentinels who felt they didn’t do enough. Others are Dragon-blessed. Some are mages. The list goes on and on. But did you notice that three sounded stronger than the others?

    “Yes, sir.”

    That’s my boy, Kasalin said with affection, and he felt a surge of pride. And those… they are Kynon, Yanae, and Liliana.

    His eyes widened as he shook his head. “It can’t possibly be true,” he said frantically. “Surely the champions can’t be consigned to such a pitiful existence like this.”

    Unfortunately, they can. I’ve been alive longer than you have, boy. I know better.

    Why?” He could force out only the one word, but Kasalin seemed to understand.

    Weighed down by guilt. They think they could have done better. They couldn’t move through beyond death. Me, now. I chose to stay here, guard and fight as well as I could. Conscious choice. But them… they wanted to move on, but they couldn’t. And the thing is, they’ll help anyone if he promises release. Kasalin’s voice, such as it was, was carefully neutral. Even Cy’dath.

    “But what if I offer to help them? Will they fight against Cy’dath?”

    They can’t provide swords, Kasalin said warningly. And as individuals, they’re pathetically weak. But in terms of magic, and once they’re in a band… nowhere as near strong as Cy’dath and Ki’dasva or the Well, but they might be enough to help, at least. Thing is, can you help them?

    “I don’t know. I do know a necromancer named Raythe.”

    She’s very wise, Kasalin said with approval. I’ve seen her around. She’s powerful in her own way, but there’s thousands of these ghosts. It’s going to take a lot of strength.

    “Or maybe Sentinel Sharana –”

    I’ve seen her too. Smart girl, brave, and utterly loyal to the Well. She’s agreed to take you on as a Sentinel, has she?

    “Yes.”

    Don’t worry, you’ll find her in time. Sentinels can always find people.

    “Sir, if you don’t mind a question…?”

    Out with it.

    “You seem to know a great deal more than you did before.”

    Knowledge gained by walking in the threshold between worlds. I’m in several worlds simultaneously. I walk on this earth, and in the land of the dead as well. I could stretch myself into the world of the Well if I felt like it, or even where the gods came from. But it doesn’t make me any more powerful.

    “Knowledge is power,” Lendoril quoted.

    Which is why I’ll be sticking by you. And don’t worry if the ghosts follow you. I’ll explain things to them. Now run along. The King will need to know of what happened.

    Which is how Lendoril found himself in the grounds of the palace several days later.
     
    Last edited: Sep 1, 2005
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  9. Morgan_of_Salerone

    Morgan_of_Salerone New Member

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    Arikha stormed through the camp, ignoring the jeering looks and roguish winks given by the human men she walked by. Had so many years passed that these pitiful humans could no longer recollect who she was? She, who slaughtered thousands of their kind, was foreign and unknown to them?

    With a frustrated growl, Arikha threw open the flap to her tent and charged in. Casano’or said she could not leave the camp, so she wouldn’t. She could no longer depend on her own skills; Cy’dath and Casano’or’s restrictions had taken care of that. She needed the aid of the Sentinel.

    Sitting in the middle of her tent, Arikha closed her eyes and prepared to send her mind once again across the distances separating her and the Sentinel. The sorceress paused for a moment. Even if Casano’or did not notice her pulling the magic from the area, with magic itself slipping from the land the power she could glean from it’s dying expanses would no longer suffice. She would have to pull nearly all her power from her own resources. It would be suicide to do so.

    Jumping up from her seat, Arikha rushed out of her tent, hoping to meet her elven eyes with eyes not so elven. After an hour of frustrated searching, Arikha found what she was looking for.

    “Tavius.”

    The half-breed turned from his warm drink to face the delicate elven queen.

    “So you decided to see me, after all this time,” he said bitterly. Arikha’s heart plummeted to see such hurt on his face.

    “The less you see of me, the better it will be for you.” She said. Pausing for a moment and looking away, Arikha continued. “I need a favour.” The words were softly spoken. Tavius sighed.

    “That’s all people are to you, aren’t they, Arikha? Just things to be used.”

    Her face showing pain for only a moment, Arikha knelt down beside Tavius.

    “Do you fear Casano’or?” she asked quietly. There was a moment’s pause.

    “Yes.”

    “Then you do not wish for Cy’dath’s rule?”

    “I will not be a part of this treason.” Tavius said forcefully. Then quickly glancing around, he spoke in a rough whisper. “If Casano’or hears of your words, you will be killed. Part from this suicidal path, Arikha, it isn’t worth it.”

    “I have already committed crimes for which I shall be punished eternally,” the elf said, almost to herself. “Unless,” she continued looking up, “you give me you aid. Tavius, Cy’dath’s rule is darker than the darkest of nights; you do not wish for his reign. Please, Tavius, give me your aid now as you once did when we were younger.” Arikha gazed pleadingly into her old friend’s face.

    “We were much more foolish when we were younger,” he grumbled, “but I cannot refuse a friend. What would you have me do?” he asked.

    “I need to perform a spell.”

    -----------------------------------------------

    Sitting in the middle of her tent, Arikha clasped hands with Tavius, her eyes closed. In her mind, she thanked the gods profoundly for the one friend they had granted her, and the trust that was included. Readying herself with a small sigh, Arikha began to pull the needed energy from herself and Tavius, sending her mind flying over the expanses of Liandrah.

    “Sharana!” she called. There was only silence. “Sharana!!” Arikha cried, desperation creeping into her ‘voice’. She was about to call again when the Sentinel’s voice sounded in her mind.

    “What is it, Arikha?” she sounded slightly annoyed.

    “I have called you to ask for your assurance.”

    There was a pause.

    “My assurance?” Sharana questioned.

    “I need your word that I am not chancing eternal torture for no benefit of mine. Will you, or will you not, give me aid?”

    “My help is yours to take Arikha, if your motives can be secured.”

    “I will do anything you wish of me; though I fear I cannot defy Cy’dath for much longer.” The sorceress replied.

    “If you meet me south of Avaenonn, I will give you my aid.”

    Arikha almost cried aloud, choking back tears of despair.

    “I can no longer leave Casano’or’s camp without her permission. If I did so, Cy’dath would know of my treason, and Casano’or would not be long in waiting to know as well.”

    There was silence from the Sentinel for several moments.

    “If you come to me, I can guarantee your freedom from Cy’dath’s will.”

    Freedom…The word echoed in Arikha’s mind. She could be free, forever. Breaking off her contact with Sharana, Arikha gazed at Tavius sitting across from her.

    “Let us escape from Casano’or. Let us resist Cy’dath. Please, Tavius, escape with me. I beg you, do not fight on the side of evil in a war such as this.” The passion in Arikha’s voice seemed to capture Tavius’ attention. Never had he heard her, in all his long years of knowing her, speak of things other than power with such words. Still, he had seen what had happened to others who had deserted; he did not wish the same fate.

    “We both know escape is impossible.” He said. Arikha looked upon him with pain in her eyes; her grip upon his hands tightened, and Tavius felt the life in his body begin to weaken. Attempting to pull away, Tavius was troubled to find he was unable to break the slender elf’s hold. The world began to spin; suddenly Tavius felt as if he was being stretched, then he was reeling through the air. Nausea gripped him, his eyes rolled back into his head. Then, as suddenly as it began, everything stopped.

    Arikha gasped, her cheek pressed roughly into the uncaring ground. Her body twitched; she taken too much of her own energy while trying to spell-jump herself and Tavius this far. Nauseated, the sorceress rolled over and vomited, curling up into a ball, shivering violently. Feeling a shadow on her battered body, Arikha choked out words in a rusty voice,

    “I have come, Sharana.”
     
  10. Crusader

    Crusader Disturber of the Peace

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    Bringing his left foot to the ground brought a sharp wincing pain. But he walked anyway, the stink of blood and death forced him to move on. The heat drying his throat wasnt enough to stifle his boredom so he sang as he walked.

    "Too many pockets on the pipers coat, dancing in the meadows like the farmer's goat. Down in the inn where the strangers sleep, We drink till we sing and drink till we weep..."

    the words choked out past tiredness and woe. he had been walking for a good three hours in the hot desert sun with no sign of anyhting anywhere. When first he had chosen a direction he based his decision on which way looked better than the others, whichever ti was he was wrong and tried to decide who was more to blame for this. He had made a shortlist of the sentinal, that damn woman, casiobhan or whatever she was called, there was even that assassin too. Mostly he blamed his father, but most problems could be attributed to that bastard.

    He wondered how the gash on his leg and the scratches over his chest could be blamed on the old man too but gave up when he heard someone behind him. Easing the sword from its scabbard at his side he turned baring steel to his attackers and jumped as Rum trotted up and whinied.

    Jak turned and started walking again, refusing to look the horse in the eyes. "Miserable coward" he muttered and didnt turn back as he slid the blade back in its place "Where have you been? running to safety? and leaving be surrounded by demons, flaming demons! why should i forgive you, hmn?........thought not." When Jak spotted the demons back there Rum had reared up knocking him from the saddle before galloping away, the numbness of landing on his behind had almost gotten him killed, but luckily Jak was Jak, and no one got the better of him. "no one" he muttered.

    He took one more look back at the pitiful horse and his eye caught on something shiny, a glint from the edge of his saddlebags, it was only then he realised the bottle of wine he had stashed there before his run in with that damn woman. He stopped dead and looked Rum in the eye. "How could i stay angry at you" he pleaded and climbed into the saddle, slipping the sun heated glass bottle from its place and taking a drink. At last.

    "You there! halt!" a gruff voice came from behind him making Jak splutter as he coughed out the alcohol from his lungs. he turned round in the saddel and saw the speaker.

    There was the man who must have spoken, perched on a tall horse on the left, armed with two swords on his shoulders and a worn breasplate. Next to him were five more like him, men and women in odd pieces of armour and different weapons all on tall looking horses lines in a round fashion. Jak wasnt sure if they were here to help or something worse, he took anothet gulp of the bottle and wheeled Rum round to face them. "Can I do somehting for you?"

    They started laughing. the man who had originally spoken looked across the others and becan to address him again. "Do you know you're heading into vast demon filled deserts, so deep none have seen their end? and that the nearest hospitable place is leagues to the north?" Jak looked at the sun a few lengths above the horizon which had been on his left wher he was alone, if they were right he would have found no one where he headed. After the short pause the man spoke again. "So its no good acting as if you're out on a stroll, by now you should have been long dead, if we hadnt let your horse drag us out here youd be dead for sure."

    It was Jak's turn to laugh. "So you came all the way out here to help me out on the insistance of a horse, a cowardly horse at that." He laughed again to himself before one of the women heeled her horse forward and looked him in the eyes.

    "Not really, an animal like that is worth tracking down, a good horse in a place like this can mean life or death, its a pity its yours, then again theres six of us, and one of you." A wicked smile bloomed on her lips.

    Before it could fade Jak's sword was in his hand, the blade shining golden in the setting sun. "Just try it, I'll make you work for it". he stood there with the hilt tight in his fist, none of the others moved but he felt the tension growing. he looked from one to the other measuring his chances.

    The woman who was out ahead of the others put here hand up, palm facing him as a sign of peace. "If we wanted that we could have shot you while you were yelling at yourself, or when you were coughing up your guts, and by the mess you made back there its not worth the risk. Out here you only do whats absolutely neccesary, you cant spare the effort."

    "So what then?"

    Jak looked at those before him as he slowly sheathed his sword, still making sure it was loose enough to draw when ready. this time the gruff man spoke as the woman turned around and started in the other direction. "We've decided to take you back to civilisation, come on" they all turned and joined the woman leaving Jak stood there for a moment in silence.

    "What the hell" he thought and followed, keeping his distance.
     
  11. Liadan

    Liadan Insert Title Here

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    Jadrix refused to answer her on the long road south, and Sharana did not press him. She had other things to worry about, and suspected that one of the elemental forces residing in her was making her path south of Avaenonn faster than normal.

    Yet several hours later, she knew she was approaching the south. For one thing, it was getting warmer. For another, she could see the mountains bordering Avaenonn behind her – mountains that hadn’t been there before and would have taken her at least weeks to travel.

    She worried about Arikha as well. Was she doing the right thing or making a mistake? She wanted to help Arikha; surely the desperation wasn’t feigned. But the sorceress was probably a good actor as well.

    It was too late to worry now. The Well had informed her a few moments ago that it had nudged Arikha into contacting her. The touch would come soon.

    Yet even so, she was startled when Arikha touched her mind, another stranger in tow. Sharana told her to meet her south of Avaenonn, allowing her presence to serve as an anchor, but she worried desperately. What would this entail? Would she bring an army?

    The air around her hummed with magic and her eyes widened. Arikha was going to spell-jump here, an ancient form of magic thought lost for decades. But would she be able to make it without Casano’or knowing?

    Her question was answered a moment later. Two bodies appeared in front of her, hands clenched tightly together. She recognized Arikha, but not the man.

    Sharana was profoundly relieved. Thank the stars that Arikha wasn’t lying to me. I can help her at last.

    The sorceress was vomiting as she curled into a ball, shuddering. Somehow, she managed to croak out a greeting. “I have come, Sharana.”

    So you have. Now let the balance be restored. But she did not say it aloud.

    “Who is this man?”

    “Tavius. A good friend.”

    “Is he bound as well?” Cleansing two of them might well kill her, but she would do it. Whatever happened, she knew that cleansing the taint was going to prove very, very difficult, and she might die from cleansing Arikha alone. But she would not leave her to face Cy’dath and Casano’or without ever tasting freedom once more.

    “No.”

    “Then, Arikha Kalohmdoniel, do you freely accept the healing I offer, the cleansing, and swear to renounce all evil?”

    “I do,” the sorceress whispered, one tear trickling down her cheek.

    Sharana knelt in front of Arikha and took her head in her hands. Then she delved deep, deep inside her and reached for the power.

    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

    She is standing there once more, waiting for the presence to reach her. But she stands in the night sky with stars all about her, and she is crowned with light.

    The song is inside her and she weeps at its beauty. But she cannot linger here, not when there is work to be done.

    Arikha’s limp body is floating through the stars, and she walks to where the sorceress lies. She lets herself become a bridge into Arikha’s mind, and she snarls when she senses Cy’dath’s presence. It would be too much to hope that she could keep the Well’s presence a secret.

    “You again,” the Lord of Untamed Fire says with amusement. Sharana moves so that she stands between Cy’dath and Arikha. “For a weakling Sentinel, scion of a dying people, you are proving to be an annoyance. But no matter.” She senses him gathering his power to himself, to smash this tiny, insignificant creature into pieces.

    She lets the Well tell her what to do, until she constructs a weak-seeming shield that Cy’dath would break through easily.

    The power roars through her to kill her, obliterating the weak shield – and instead meeting another.

    Cy’dath howls in fury and pain as the bite of his own power is reflected back at him. It is not enough to kill him, but he is wounded.

    “Conduit!” he manages to scream as she smiles.

    “Conduit,” she agrees serenely. “How do you like it, Cy’dath, to feel your own power turned against you and forced to suffer the tiniest fraction of the pain you caused to others? How does it feel? Do you want more?”

    He roars in anger, and then the Well strikes once more, strikes at the bond that Cy’dath had made to Arikha. In this place, it is a physical bond, a magical line of roiling darkness and fire connecting them both. She is nauseated when she sees it. How has Arikha borne this so long?

    It is difficult to break it, but Sharana knows she can do it. Unlike Casano’or, Arikha had never tied herself to her master with bonds of loyalty and love. Her cooperation had been either coerced or bribed. And unlike Casano’or, she had Arikha’s permission.

    Cy’dath digs in, trying to repair the damage that the Well is creating. Sharana is tempted to simply use the power of the elemental spirits, but they forbid her to do so.
    Their presence, at least, must remain a secret.

    But the Well is beginning to win. Slowly, ever so slowly, it forces Cy’dath back step by painful step until the Well has reached the core of the bond, the core of the darkness and fire. Then, gathering all of its power, it strikes instead at the wounded Cy’dath. Now, it is no longer a simple wound, but severe. Sharana knows that Cy’dath will die if he is not given strength soon.

    “This isn’t finished,” he snarls as he prepares to leave.

    “I never expected it to be. But I will stand against you to the end. Now, run along to your Casano’or and be a good child,” she taunts. “You are naught but a powerless fool, condemned to die by your betters. You are
    nothing, and you know it. Is that why you seek to control Arikha? Does it reassure you of your impotent godhood to cause her pain? Ah, but how pitiful that a mere Sentinel can break your bond.”

    She can sense his hesitation, his raging urge to attack her. But he has very little time left if he wants to save himself. He flickers out and disappears.

    She takes control of the power and breaks through the core of the bond. She is aware that she, too, has very little power left. “Be cleansed and whole once more under the light of the stars, Arikha Kalohmdoniel,” she whispers as she touches her and releases the Well inside Arikha, burning away every last bit of darkness and shadow inside the sorceress. There would be no way for Cy’dath to take over her mind again. “It is finished.”


    And then she felt her body rushing to meet the earth as she sank into soft, welcoming darkness.
     
  12. Senekha

    Senekha <a href="http://photobucket.com" target="_blank"><

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    Casano’or jolted awake as an enormous amount of energy was used as someone enacted a transporting spell. In an instant, Casano’or flew from her tent to that of Arikha, for only she could know the nearly forgotten spell of transport.

    Casano’or arrived at Arikha’s tent to find Arikha gone, and a large residual stain of magic. Cold with fury, she stalked out of the tent, her mind letting go of her assumed form and slipping into her natural one. Soldiers gaped as she stormed past.

    Without warning, a flood of pain shot through Casano’or, and she stumbled and fell to her knees. Cy’dath screamed in rage and pain, and for the first time since Cy’dath’s presumed death, Casano’or felt fear. If a strike on Cy’dath could hurt her so, the effect on him would be disastrous.

    It must be the Well.

    Casano’or stumbled to her tent, sat down, and began pouring her life force through her bond, draining herself of all energy. As she slipped into unconsciousness, Cy’dath gasped, “Thank you. I am coming.”

    Then she knew darkness.


    As Casano’or slowly regained consciousness, a strong hand gripped her own, squeezing it lightly. She opened her eyes, bewildered, but her vision was black, her eyes unable to focus.

    A thousand thoughts raced through her mind. Who would comfort her, the loathed Avatar? Who would sit by her side while she lay defenseless, and not take advantage of her weakness? How long had she been unconscious?

    As if in reply to her very thoughts, the person said quietly, “You have been gone for nearly a fortnight.” The voice was gentle and powerful, melodic and unearthly, much like her natural voice. She gasped as she recognized the source.

    “Cy’dath?” she whispered.

    His hand squeezed hers again. “Of course, love.”

    “But…how?”

    “The force you sent me was no mean thing. You gave me enough strength to easily come into earthly form. You sent an enormous amount of force, one I could never have expected.”

    Casano’or wished she could see – her lack of vision was frustrating her. “I’ll kill her,” she growled.

    “Yes, but not yet. We must wait.”

    Casano’or stifled a sigh of irritation. Why must everything wait?

    “She is the conduit.”

    “I’ll defeat the Well along with her.”

    Casano’or paused. “I shall use the Arahín Symbols.”

    Cy’dath froze. “No. I forbid it.”

    “I must! Cy’dath, if I use the ancient lore, I can fight the Well. Without it, I will take fortnights to recover.”

    Cy’dath was long in replying. Finally, he said, “How can you do this without your sight?”

    “I still remember well the Works of the Ancients. Remember, I am an Ancient. I cannot forget. The Symbols are as familiar to me as the day I first learnt them.”

    “You would risk both our lives?”

    “For our cause? So that we might live on without the Well and it’s followers? Of course.”

    “Then I shall aid you. I would do it myself, if I was able” The Ancients’ Lore could only be used by the Kortiri – any other who tried would be destroyed. Even for the Kortiri, t was a dangerous process, one that took power from nature, but would kill the invoker should he or she err. It was not a pleasant death.

    Casano’or began an intricate chant, moving her hands in complex patterns in the air before her. Cy’dath fed her power, allowing her to keep consciousness while working. After nearly an hour, thunder rumbled, and Casano’or snapped her eyes open.

    “It is done.”

    She rose, and strode outside. The army had passed through the mountains in the time she had slept, and now stood in the foothills of Alenion. Many soldier were standing outside their tents, gaping at the sky.

    Clouds rolled unnaturally fast, the bright day darkening into a roiling storm. Thunder clashed in ten places at a time, lightning smashing the peaks of the nearby mountains.

    Casano’or held her arms upwards, her eyes glowing a bright golden, flashing with the lightning. Winds swirled around her until a small tornado spun, with Casano’or rooted in the center. Light flashed down the tornado, the earth trembled, and fountains of rock flew upwards as the ground took its toll.

    Casano’or shouted, “Llor’hnan!”, and the fierce wind and other elements died down. Only moments later, nothing stirred. The ground was ripped open in many places, some tents destroyed, and not even the grass moved. There was no wind, as if the wind itself had been sucked out of existence. The surrounding forests would take fortnights to recover.

    The light in Casano’or’s eyes faded, and she looked as she had before. The nearby soldiers and mercenaries cowered, thinking that her wrath was about to transcend upon them.

    To their amazement, the Avenger turned and strode back to her tent.


    “What shall we do?”

    Casano’or regarded Cy’dath. He looked the same as he had when he had walked with her hundreds of years before. His long hair was ebony black, his skin darkly tanned, and his eyes were shades of black, green, grey, gold, and white, no one color dominant above the others. He was tall and powerful, menacing yet comforting.

    “Take the army into Alena, and seize the city. Once you have taken control of the Alenian army, we shall join the armies and move westward.”

    “It will be as you say.”

    When Cy’dath left to rouse the army for the march, Casano’or looked at the edge of the encampment for Krian, who had followed the army in her absence. When she found her, the roc cried in delight, and rushed towards Casano’or. She stroked Krian’s neck, and the bird cooed.

    “Wait here for a moment,” she told the bird. She had another task to do before the night was gone.

    Closing her eyes, Casano’or concentrated on the place Arikha had gone. When she found the destination, she let her mind follow their path, for the powers of the Sentinel and Arikha combined left a small trail of power that she could follow. When she reached their present location, she spoke several words and was gone.

    Moments later, Casano’or opened her eyes to find an astonished Sentinel, Arikha, and Tavius. They were readying a campfire, and froze in their tasks as Casano’or appeared before them.

    “You!” Arikha snapped. Her confidence was solid, for she was sure that Casano’or could not harm both her and Sharana.

    Casano’or curled her mouth in a sardonic smile. “Yes, sorceress.” She turned a baleful glare at Tavius.

    “I had so much hope in you.” He gave her a quizzical look, and she continued. “You could have become great, under my command. Instead, you waste your talent and bloodlines to die for them.” She nearly spat out the last word.

    “Bloodlines?” The question came from Arikha, who now looked equally puzzled.

    “Yes, fool. His mother was descended from my race.”

    “Which race?”

    “The Kortiri, you ignorant girl.”

    “Avatar!” The Sentinel shouted, breaking up the increasing volume. Casano’or glared at her.

    Tavius stood, stunned by the revelation, Arikha fumed, and the Sentinel looked calmly at Casano’or.

    “Why have you followed us?”

    “Answer that yourself. You attacked my lord. I came to forewarn you, for now I shall stop at nothing to destroy you.”

    The winged elf sneered. “Destroy us? You could never stand up to the Well. Nothing can. Even your pathetic master could not stop me from freeing Arikha.”

    Casano’or glowered. “Then you shall be rudely surprised. I shall take my leave now, for I have other Sentinels to kill before you, as I killed that one in Ravasdes. He was pathetic,” she added with a sneer. “And to think that you deem yourselves worthy of the Well.”

    Sharana shot a huge amount of power at Casano’or, directly from the Well. Casano’or didn’t move, and the magic diverted around her. Thunder boomed eerily in the cloudless sky. Sharana looked shocked, clearly sensing that Casano’or was feeding off the power of the elements and nature itself. She knew what disastrous effects such magic could cause.

    “What black magic have you employed?” she whispered.
     
  13. Liadan

    Liadan Insert Title Here

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    The Guardian facing her across the gaming table frowned and bit her lower lip. With a slight smile, Irawyn slid her wolf-piece three squares forward, and the Guardian shifted her knight four squares to the left. Irawyn’s face never changed as her raven moved diagonally to capture the lord, which the knight had been blocking.

    “Surrender?” Irawyn queried. She tucked a strand of her nightkissed hair behind her ear.

    “Surrender,” the other Guardian agreed with more than a touch of resentment. She toppled her king so that it lay on its side. “I don’t know how you do it, Winterheart, but you win every time. And the forest is supposed to be weaker than the lords.”

    “Strategy,” she said with a slight shrug. “It was easy enough to maneuver you into where I wanted you to be. You have a tendency to attack when you can, so I let you attack until you were trapped.”

    “Huh,” was all the other Guardian said as she stalked off.

    Irawyn began to set the table up for another game, but a runner approached, clearly looking for her.

    “Lady Arizia requests your presence, Guardian Irawyn,” the boy said, not even out of breath. “She’s within the Council Hall.”

    “Has a Council been called?”

    “I believe that there will be one in an hour. Return message?”

    “Tell the Lady that I will be there in a few moments. My thanks.”

    The boy shot off again as Irawyn finished setting up the table, then set off for the Council Hall.

    Although Arizia was the Azah’s equivalent of a queen, she resided in a small house within the Azah’s only town. Most of Arizia’s business was conducted within the Hall, a simple enough replica of most village halls in the human kingdoms.

    She saw Arizia waiting for her at the head of the table and inclined her head to the Lady. “Irawyn.”

    “My lady Arizia.”

    “Sit down, Guardian, if it pleases you. Your grandmother will be here soon, and then we can begin.”

    She felt Saryn entering a moment later. “Grandmother,” she greeted.

    “Granddaughter.”

    “Guardian Irawyn,” Arizia said formally, “you are my personal Seer. Will you consent to look about the land of Liandrah as we have not done in decades and show us what transpires?”

    She heard Saryn whisper a name underneath her breath, but she did not try to listen. “In a pool of water, or in a mirror, Lady?”

    “Not so fast, Irawyn. We must wait for the rest of the Council.”

    For a wonder, Saryn did not try to talk with her granddaughter, with whom she had always maintained a close relationship. Her hands were clenched together and her cat’s eyes were very cold as she stared straight ahead.

    At length, the other Council members began trickling in, bowing to Arizia and Saryn. Even if Saryn had passed on her rule thousands of years ago, they still respected her. She was the oldest surviving Azah, and also the wisest.

    “Thank you for coming, Azah. Today, Guardian Irawyn Winterheart will cast her Sight about the land and reflect it here.” Arizia waved one hand at the huge bronze plate, scrubbed to a polished sheen and hanging on the wall. “We need to see what goes on in the lands outside of Saile Hasrin.”

    Irawyn bent her magic to her will and cast it about the land, seeking for what Arizia wanted. At length, she was able to reflect what was going on.

    Her mind was lost in the struggle to harness the huge amount of power she was employing, an amount that no other Guardian could hope to control. Yet she heard screams and shouts as the Councilors stared at the plate.

    Arizia did not shout for silence, but neither did she command Irawyn to stop. So she continued to reflect images that she could not see onto the bronze plate until she was exhausted. Then she slumped into her chair as Saryn supported her.

    “Casano’or,” Saryn whispered, and Irawyn’s head jerked up. Oh, she knew of Casano’or. Saryn had told her tales, and Saryn had been one of the few survivors of the Chaos War, when Casano’or had poured her magic into Saile Hasrin and converted it into a barren wasteland. That had also been when the Azah were Changed. “Casano’or, and Cy’dath with her. I knew it. I sensed something evil moving within the land. The Well moves.”

    That last, seemingly random sentence confused Irawyn, but she knew that Saryn would not say something that was not pertinent to this catastrophe, for catastrophe it was.

    “Silence!” Arizia shouted at last. “We will not be frightened into a pack of mindless rabble. Saryn, if you could speak of the scenes of death and destruction Guardian Irawyn showed us?”

    “Casano’or has returned, and Cy’dath with her,” Saryn said into the silence. “She has begun to feed off the elements and its powers. Evil moves apace.”

    The Councilors were babbling again, and Saryn spoke once more to Irawyn.

    “They won’t do anything,” she said quietly. “They will let Liandrah burn, and there will be nothing left. They think that Cy’dath will not come after them, and they will hide here until they die. Not unless I do something.”

    Again, that last sentence confused Irawyn, and she prickled with foreboding. But Saryn was speaking to the Council.

    “Azah, I must counsel war. We cannot stay here and let Cy’dath ravage our land.”

    What followed was a pointless discussion, that, in the end, decreed that the Azah would stay in Saile Hasrin and not go the Elves’ aid. Saryn only gave Irawyn a mocking smile, so similar to her own.

    Arizia frowned. Obviously, she had hoped for something more. “We must send envoys, at least.”

    But they stamped on that suggestion too. The Azah were frightened.

    “Then I will send Irawyn Winterheart from Saile Hasrin in disguise to the Sentinels to offer what help may be needed. She is the most powerful of our Guardians, and surely she will be able to aid the light. Or did you intend to stand here and aid the dark?”

    The Council members shuffled their feet, but the Senior Guardian spoke.

    “You would send a girl barely past her first century?” he asked coolly.

    “I did not intend to send a man who is, by all accounts, six times her age and half as powerful,” Arizia answered.

    The Senior flushed, but his dark eyes remained on Arizia. “Then I will have no part in this folly. If Irawyn Winterheart wishes to leave, she will do so without my permission or blessing.”

    “I will go.” Perhaps this mission would give her the hint of adventure she had always craved for. After all, she was powerful enough to defend herself, and surely the Sentinels would want to have her on their side. Irawyn Winterheart’s potential in both Azah and Elf magic was unmatched in Saile Hasrin.

    “The Silent One has chosen her own way,” the Senior said. “We will welcome her if she chooses to return to us, but until then, she will be given neither blessing nor aid. Let it be so.” With those words, the Senior had effectively ensured that no Guardian would help her unless she admitted her fault – something that she would never do.

    “Thank you, Senior,” Irawyn said mockingly. “But I don’t think I need your blessing or aid. What need does Irawyn Winterheart the Silent have for other Guardians?”

    The Senior did not reply, but only turned his eyes on her. She raised her chin and stared back arrogantly. She was as good as he was, if not better.

    “Irawyn.” She blinked as both of them turned to face Arizia; the rest of the Councilors had departed without her noticing. The Senior bowed to Arizia then left.

    Only Saryn, Arizia, and Irawyn remained. As Saryn rose to depart, Irawyn heard a murmured, “I only serve as best I may” from her grandmother. Arizia had tears glittering in her eyes, but she blinked them away.

    What is going on? Irawyn wondered. Then she dismissed the thought. It did not concern her, but it bothered her that she hadn’t heard Arizia’s whispered conversation with Saryn. Were her instincts going down? Once, no matter what, she would have been able to pay attention and hear. This time, all of her concentration had been occupied with facing down the Senior. Or perhaps Saryn had employed her own magic to ensure that Irawyn could not listen.

    In either case, it was time for her to leave. “Lady Arizia,” she said, inclining her head in farewell, and then she was gone like a shadow.
     
  14. Liadan

    Liadan Insert Title Here

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    Lendoril knelt before his king, keeping his gaze to the green floor tiles. “Your Grace,” he greeted. “I ask the favor that you grant me an audience.”

    “Arise, Lendoril of the Blade, former Royal Guard, now Hunter of Idaryn.” The Forest Elf rose to his feet. “Your favor is granted.”

    “You Grace,” he began, “I bring grave tidings of war. Much has occurred in the days I have been gone, and I would warn you, my king, of what transpires in all Liandrah.”

    “And I, too, have received my own news,” King Selavan said, “but let us first hear yours. You may speak.”

    “As you know, your Grace, I left Idaryn some days past to seek out a Sentinel of the Stars. I found one in West Point, a noble Sentinel named Sharana Ylavra Wingheart of the Winged Elves. The lady most graciously permitted me to join her company, and I have traveled about with her. Eventually, we wound up in a place called the Lost Library of Thayas, and there, we met with several others: Cheerful Jak, Raythe the necromancer, Ayakier, a mage of her people, and a mercenary named Siobhann Klairé.”

    “Cheerful Jak I know,” Selavan interjected rather dryly. “Hardly a week goes by without complaints of that bandit. The others I do not, but perhaps that is to be expected.”

    “Then, my king, perhaps you have heard of Casano’or, commander of demons and dark servant of Cy’dath and Ki’dasva?”

    Selavan frowned. “I have, although knowledge of her is very limited. Only the heads of the kingdoms and the Sentinels have heard of her, and perhaps a few scholars. But what does she have to do with this tale? She is dead and gone.”

    Lendoril took a deep breath. “Your Grace, I hesitate to contradict you, but Casano’or is returned.”

    A very, very long pause. “Oh? I do not believe that you would bring me wild news with no proof. What makes you think so?”

    “This Siobhann Klairé has admitted herself to be Casano’or, your Grace. In fact, she summoned Cy’dath to her in the Library. It was only through Sentinel Sharana’s intervention that we survived.” Well, that wasn’t quite true, but it could only be to the better if Selavan was impressed with Sharana.

    “I see.” Now the king sighed. “Unfortunately, this only matches up with the news I have received. Did you know that some madwoman has already conquered Illyra and Ravasdes and now marches on Alenion? I would guess her to be Casano’or.”

    Lendoril quickly stifled an oath. “Your Grace, what are we to do?”

    “I have contacted Alenion through mages, informing them of the attack, but I fear it is too late. I’ve offered alliances with the remaining human kingdoms, as well as Zasalyn and Avaenonn. The Elves have accepted, as have the kingdoms of Kedra, Hestan, Gorumma, and Falise, but the others still waver. Once Alenion falls, however, I have no doubt that they will join the Alliance of the Stars.

    “Edrin and Vyrian of Zasalyn have offered to send some of their soldiers to Alenion, but I fear it is too little too late. What we intend to do is raise armies among our people, contact the Sentinels, and find whatever other allies we can, perhaps in the south. Anything else?”

    “Arikha has reappeared as well, Your Grace.”

    Selavan hissed through his teeth. “Now that I had not heard. So. You have done your duty and informed me of what is to come. Will you stay in Idaryn to fight, or will you go elsewhere?”

    “It was my intention to seek out Sharana Wingheart once more, my king. There is little I can do in Alenion, but perhaps I will find out where to go next if I travel with Sharana. If I find something, I will send news as fast as possible.”

    “If you need to, ask Sentinel Sharana to relay a message to the one here in my court – his name’s Damion Brightstar. Do you require provisions?”

    “A horse, perhaps. Food, waterskins. Not much else, your Grace.”

    “Take what you will from my stores.”

    Later, when he had ridden out of the palace mounted on a fine chestnut war-horse, Kasalin spoke to him again.

    Boy! The ghosts have agreed to help you, as long as you keep your word about freeing them.

    “Done,” he said aloud, ignoring the puzzled glances around him. “What can they do?”

    What’s the best part is that they’re indestructible. Kasalin sounded gleeful. Weapons can’t kill them, because they’re dead. Even the Starwolf would be useless against them. As for magic… magic’s just as useless. That Casano’or won’t be able to kill them, because they have no connection to the physical world. The only thing that might be able to kill them is Cy’dath and Ki’dasva, and the Well can beat Cy’dath, now that it has a conduit. The bad part is that they can’t do much, except inspire fear, and even that’s limited. If every spirit linked together into a circle, they could influence five hundred people at most, maybe, and then it won’t be nearly as strong as the despair they placed on you.

    “So they can create emotions?”

    They can cause fear, despair, horror, hatred… the nasty side of emotions, I must say. The best use they can be put to is causing fear in Casano’or armies and influence them to attack their comrades.

    “Hmm. Well, we’ve got the Alliance for the Stars to counter her armies as well, and the Sentinels for the magic.”

    Learn more about the Game, Kasalin advised. Lendoril blinked. How had his mentor known of the Game? It’s probably the only thing that can defeat the Arahín Symbols.

    “Oh?”

    You’ll learn what that is, soon enough. I’ve disrupted the Pattern enough already, as Liliana is telling me. The “presence” in his mind that he had identified as Kasalin blinked out, and another stranger took his place.

    …Lendoril…

    “Who is it?” he asked guardedly as he rode past the gates of the city. “Don’t play any of your tricks on me again.”

    …Liliana. That was not me. It was Kynon who wanted to kill you. He despairs the most of us all… She echoed less than she had before. …sanity is relative, but I am the most sane of us all…

    “What do you want?”

    …only to help you. You are the first to stretch out a hand in friendship, and I would not lose it…

    “Well, that’s not surprising, seeing how you kill everyone who talks with you!” Lendoril said with some heat.

    …I apologize…

    He only snorted.

    I am here to teach you. Kasalin told you of how the ghost-spirits wish to move on, did he not?

    “Yes.”

    I do not wish to move on. Kasalin is teaching me how to keep the despair at bay. I will stay in Liandrah with him, helping the land as best I may. So for now, I am here to teach you, and advise you. Kasalin cannot always manifest himself as a voice. It is difficult for the powerless.

    “Could you explain that a little further?”

    Kasalin is not a mage. What he accomplished is amazing. But I was… am, she corrected herself fiercely, a Sentinel. I have access to power. We often take the form of wisps of mist, but Kasalin finds it difficult to do even that. So he must remain silent and hidden for most of the time. During those periods, you will not be able to speak to him, although I can with some difficulty. This is why I am your adviser.

    Lendoril noticed something interesting. “You’re not echoing anymore. You’re talking the way Kasalin does, actually.”

    Liliana seemed pleased. Kasalin has been teaching me. Is there anything else you want to know?

    “The Game. Something called the… Arani Symbols or something like that.”

    I can tell you of the Game, but to speak of the Arahín Symbols will disturb the Pattern, and I will not allow that. As for the Game…

    Lendoril leaned back in his saddle, listening, as Liliana began to speak.
     
  15. Crusader

    Crusader Disturber of the Peace

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    It had been at least an hours ride into the night, the sun fleeing from the direction they went and sitting low as a blood red halo on the horizon behind them. All through the ride Jak had kept his eyes on everyone there, they seemed simple enough on the surface, a group of armed travelers, but there were pockets of doubt growing.

    Wherever they were, it was a long way from anywhere, and there were only a few reason to bring men out to deaths domain, running, chasing and greed. He reminded himself of his own situation but resolved not to add another category before returning to his watch of the group. At first he thought their leader was the man, who appeared to be called Ferrid, that had addressed him at first, but there were inconsistencies, looks for approval he had almost missed, stances, placement, incremental points of judgement that formed his conclusion. It appeared at last that their leader was the woman riding in the midst of the group, she seemed no different in dress or armament, but she carried herself with an air of superiority just a little more than most women did. It would be important to remember that later.

    Just before the last light of the sun disappeared from the world they came upon their destination, a camp hidden in the hills of the sand. The whole camp was surrounded by sets of hide screens stretched across wicker. At an angle so sand caught on their front they looked as it they would cover the occupants from both sight and the environment, in passing he noticed they wouldnt be useless in a fight too the loose canvas tents withing were of similar desing, to protect from unwanted eyes. Jak laughed to himself, which caught more than one eye, they must fit into one of his categories, if they had need to hide.

    He coughed and took a look aroud "This is civilisation? Ive seen goats with more shelter." He slid dwon from Rums saddle and gave him a pat on his neck before turning to survey his companions. They hadnt taken his remarks to kindly, but they dispersed after a short time leaving Jak alone with the woman who lead them.

    "You may stay with our camp for tonight, tomorrow we move on to the river and we will take you to Lohridea, then you may do as you wish. But untill then you are here at the expense of our hospitality, and we would not look kindly on disruption. Adhere to our bidding and you will find no trouble"

    Putting on his best mocking smile Jak gave a bow. "At your service mistress?..."

    She gave a smirk back "You may call me Maesa, but alas, I do not know yours?" There was too much.....something in what she said, she knew who he wa,s it was difficult for people not to with his famous scar, but better safe than sorry.

    "Jaerik, Master Jaerik of Alena, once again at your service."

    "So be it...Jaerik."
     
  16. NightChaser89

    NightChaser89 Order of the Nine Souls..

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    Night awoke in a farely dim room... He set up quickly looking aroudn trying to figure out where he was... Trying to figure out what had happened to him... He seen a door at one end of the room... He rose, grabbed his whips off the table near him, then headed toward the door... When he got to the door he asked the nearest person to him what had happened, and how he got here...

    After the lady told him the story he asked her where to find this "Lartazh" and she pointed toward a room... She called it the 'training room'... Night turned and walked to the door, and opend it slowly... He saw a man inside...

    "Lartazh???" He called and waited for a responce...
     
  17. Liadan

    Liadan Insert Title Here

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    Irawyn soared through the skies as a magnificent peregrine falcon, slate-grey wings spread to catch the wind. It was, she thought, a good thing that her weapons seemed to meld with her into her form. It would have been very cumbersome carrying a flail in her talons.

    She resisted the urge to swoop down and strike the pigeon flying far below her. Irawyn enjoyed hunting as a falcon, but she couldn’t spare the time to do so right now. Her vast stores of magic would have to keep her going until she was past the desert and into the human kingdoms. When she had reached there, she could employ one of her favorite forms, that of a shadow.

    The Maradi might be shape-shifters, but they haven’t mastered the amount of secrets the Azah have, she thought to herself. On the other hand, the Maradi were always shape-shifters. We weren’t until the Chaos Wars, and the magic probably Changed a great deal more things than just our ability to shape-shift. Like our Sight, for example.

    She smiled – or tried to, anyway, giving the closest approximation of a smile she could in her peregrine form. The Sight could see the past, present, and sometimes even the future, although the “range” varied from Seer to Seer. And as for elf-magic, the Guardians had mastered that too. Some had been sent on to become Sentinels.

    Maybe I can contact one of the brethren in that Sentinel city and ask for news. That would work well enough.

    The sun was beginning to set, and Irawyn realized that she couldn’t go on much longer without sleep. She spiraled downwards and alighted upon the sand, as there were no trees in this waterless waste.

    Just as she was about to switch to her human form, she cried out, feeling something grabbing at her mind, something dragging her into vision.


    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


    Saryn smiles to herself in satisfaction as she spell-jumps herself to where she senses Cy’dath’s presence. Spell-jumping; now that is a spell long forgotten to everyone, perhaps except for herself, Casano’or, and Arikha. They are the last few remnants of the Chaos Wars.

    Casano’or is not here, she realizes, and she sends out her mind across the land. Irawyn might be the most powerful Guardian, but Saryn has had millennia to hone her skills, and she quickly discovers what she wants.

    Casano’or is standing in front of three people – a man she does not recognize, the Sentinel she has seen before in other visions, and here her breath catches as she sees the sorceress Arikha.

    But it does not seem that Arikha and Casano’or are allies anymore. Indeed, the Sentinel is trying to defend the sorceress, and Saryn is puzzled. Doesn’t she understand that Arikha needed to be destroyed?

    Yet her attention is captured by something even more horrifying. She identifies the power Casano’or has invoked as the Arahín Symbols. What madness has she been caught in? What black magic has she employed?

    Saryn hears her own voice echo in the land about them, and she realizes that she has spoken aloud. Casano’or seems puzzled, for she has not seen Sharana’s lips move, nor even Arikha’s or the man’s. “Who said that?” Casano’or demands. “Why do you speak in the old tongue?” Evidently, Arikha, the man, and the Sentinel all understand the old tongue as well, for their eyes widen in surprise. “Who are you to chastise me?”

    “You do not understand the forces you meddle with,” Saryn hisses. “You do not understand the hideous price the Arahín Symbols extract. Once, twice, maybe even thrice, you will be able to withstand it. But you have invoked it too often and too widely. Fear, Kortiri witch.”

    “Who are you?” There is a trace of fear in Casano'or's voice this time, perhaps because she cannot sense Saryn. Saryn knows that there is no way for Casano’or to detect her magic; Azah magic is untraceable. “Show yourself!”

    “I am not bound to your will or cause, Casano’or.”

    “Answer me!”

    Saryn only laughs at her, her song-like voice echoing in the air about her. “Do you begin to fear, Casano’or, as once you made others fear?
    Do you remember me?

    “Who are you?” she repeats. “How is it that you know the old tongue, that which they call the elf tongue today?”

    “Who am I?” Mocking laughter rings out over the land. “Naught but a scion of a dead people, or so you thought, last daughter of the Kortiri. They called my land the kingdom of laughter, and you thought that only I was left of all my people. We call it Saile Hasrin, now, the land of weeping, and we are the Azah. Do you know who I am now, Casano’or, dark witch of Cy’dath?”

    “You are
    dead,” Casano’or says, trying to deny what she knows as truth. “Your people are dead.”

    “Who am I?” she asks. “Say my name.”

    “Saryn,” the ancient woman whispers. “Saryn, once of the Laughing Kingdom – “

    “Now of Saile Hasrin and the Azah,” Saryn finishes. “We will meet once more, I think, and we will fight again. Will you dance with me?”

    Casano’or snarls in rage. That had been the phrase the Sentinels had used when they had finally defeated Cy’dath, taunting him, “Will you dance with me?”

    “We will dance, Azah witch, and we will do it now. You are going to die today, and I will laugh over your grave.” She flickers out and disappears.

    Saryn smiles very slightly and speaks to herself. “You don’t understand, do you, my ancient enemy. My death will be only the stepping stone of a war.”
    Tell the Azah what happens here, Irawyn, she says to her granddaughter. The Azah will march to war once more.

    And then she waits, waits for a death that she knows is coming.
     
    Last edited: Sep 18, 2005
  18. Senekha

    Senekha <a href="http://photobucket.com" target="_blank"><

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    Casano’or winked out from the others’ vision, casting her being throughout the surrounding area. She became one with the trees, the freshly chipped rock, the newly-cropped grass. She felt the others’ every emotion: fear, uncertainty, anger, wariness. Every presence was known to her, from the smallest insect to a hare hiding in its hole…to the slightly shifting shadow that lay mere paces away.

    She could not feel or see the magic used by the Azah – ironic, as it had been she who had bestowed it upon that weak race, that race who deserved the name “The Laughing People”. While the world fought, they laughed, making the world’s affairs no concern of their own. While kings rose and fell, they laughed. While the Chaos War raged, they laughed, and those who did not ignore the world joined the accursed Sentinels.

    Them.

    But while she could not directly see the magic, she could see the effect it had on the surroundings. For example, that particular shadow darkened a patch on which sunlight shone directly, and the elements touching it shimmered to a magical perspective. Casano’or could feel the Azah’s tainted presence.

    Calling forth a burst of searing energy, Casano’or called back her dispersed self and materialized, morphing into a form not truly seen since the Chaos Wars. She changed not only to her natural form, which she had assumed for the past few fortnights, but also took on bloodcurdling effects. Three-inch, ebony talons appeared on her fingers, her eyes shone with a sun-like light, her face became a myriad of magical tattoos, and when she parted her lips in a snarl, black fangs gleamed in the fading light.

    The Sentinel, sorceress, and Tavius gaped, for never had they seen a sight more demonic or lethal.

    The wind howled, much like the night she had evoked the Symbols, and lightning struck trees in a circle around the group, creating a fiery circle from which they could not hope to escape. Casano’or’s eyes flashed shades of silver, gold, and white, a storm contained within.

    As she fed off the power of the Symbols, her own strength began to return. She pulled every scrap of energy from Cy’dath and her own power. She rose ten feet from the ground, hovering, her black robes swirling in the maelstrom, her white hair floating about her.

    With a small cry, Casano’or sent a bolt of energy down at the fleeing shadow, striking it with a crash. In a flash of blinding light, the Azah was ripped from her shadow form and to her natural form, and she crouched on the ground, gasping. To be torn from an assumed shape was more than dangerous to a shapeshifter.

    Casano’or waited, still hovering, and Saryn rose, still attempting to look regal, despite the pain it caused her. Her hair was singed, and her face bore marks of burning and scrapes. She raised a hand, and a shaft of blue light shot towards Casano’or. Casano’or made no move, but the light shattered a pace in front of her.

    The wind became more violent.

    Trees began to uproot, and debris flew through the air. Casano’or chuckled, but it was a sound bereft of emotion, save for black hate.

    “We shall dance. We have but barely begun.”

    Casano’or screeched, a sound of angry wind and rushing water that echoes throughout the evening. She dove towards the Azah, one clawed hand reaching out. Saryn put up barriers and sent powerful energies at her attacker, but Casano’or brushed them aside like a fly and came on, crashing into the Azah and slamming her into the ground. Casano’or pinned Saryn’s arms back with air, and her legs were trapped beneath her as the Avatar sat upon her.

    Casano’or reached one talon out and ran it softly down Saryn’s face, drawing a red line. Saryn did not flinch, but stared back at Casano’or with outwardly calm eyes. Sharana and her companions were crouched low, shielding themselves from the flaying elements. Sharana’s eyes were wide with apprehension, fearing for the ravaged land. Would it ever recover?

    Casano’or spoke in the old tongue, and when she spoke, it sounded as though the wind itself was speaking. “I could kill you with a single thought, but you do not deserve so swift a death.”

    Saryn spat on Casano’or’s face, but the Kortiri half-breed ignored it. “You have already given me what I sought, witch.”

    Annoyed at the Azah’s frequent use of ‘witch’, Casano’or smashed Saryn’s face with a backhanded blow. Saryn winced this time, but brought her head back about to stare Casano’or in her depthless eyes once more.

    “What you sought? Most do not wish for death until I have dealt with them. Or do you hope to spark some rebellion within your sleeping clan with your death? Would they risk so much for the thought of retribution?”

    A bold of light flashed towards Casano’or from Arikha’s outstretched hand. With a flick of her hand, Casano’or deflected the blow and sent Arikha sprawling. Perhaps she and the Sentinel had thought to attack her whilst she was occupied.

    Saryn smiled through her pain. She was already mortally wounded, but would take hours yet to expire, without further harm. Casano’or contemplated leaving the Azah there to die, but decided against it.

    “One day, when your race is reminded that insurgence is permitted, Cy’dath with rule, as he was meant to, and who do you think will be at his side, for all eternity? When your race is long forgotten in the sands of time, we will live on. Your lore will be forgotten, your children will grow old under the yoke of slavery. You, who once thought to destroy the First Races, will be duly repaid.

    “Yes, swift death is far too kind. Learn, then die.”

    Casano’or held a clawed hand over Saryn’s face, and with a flash, Saryn’s world went white. Slowely, images began to form, and soon she was seeing an eagle’s view of a thriving people. The lived, hunted, loved, and died with satisfaction, for theirs was a life of relative harmony. There were tribal rivalries, she saw, but they were accepted as a way of life. They were lithely built, with white or golden hair and tanned skin.

    Her vision changed, and she flew above a village with similar people, though with different garb. There were lore masters, scribes, singers. They practiced old arts of shapeshifting, and Saryn knew they must be the ancient Maradi.

    Suddenly, blood red filled her vision. She stared across a barren landscape, and saw that what had once been a thriving forest and grasslands was not torn and dying. Human and Elf-like people galloped across the plains, killing any they came across, whether it be man, child, or woman. It was not war – it was extermination.

    Again, new scenes appeared before her. A man of Kortiri bloos stood at the head of a ragged and small army, a young girl at his side. She had piercing golden eyes, and her eyes were filled with sorrow. In one hand she clutched the remnants of a leather dress, clearly made for a fully-grown, Maradi woman.

    The man was rallying his people, speaking in the old tongue. From his words, Saryn knew that this ragged group was the last of the once thriving race.

    Change. It was night, and a large group of horsemen thundered into the Kortiri camp, setting fire to the makeshift tents and trampling many. Amidst the screams and shouts, Saryn saw the Kortiri leaded waving twin scimitars, the girl standing at his side, a sword far too large for her held in her tiny hands. Both wore identical masks of hate and fear.

    Five riders surrounded the man, obviously knowing that he was the leader. They circled, slashing at the Kortiri as he tried to shelter his daughter. His garb was in tatters, his body covered in blood, but still he stood, wavering, yet unwilling to fall. Beneath him, the girl slashed at the soldiers, hate shining in her golden eyes.

    A human threw a spear at the Kortiri, knocking him off his feet and pinning him to the ground. The girl screamed, and the humans covered their ears in pain, for it sounded as if the wind and rain itself was giving voice to that scream.

    Saryn knew that scream.

    Her vision suddenly flashed white again, and Saryn once more stared up at Casano’or. A tear trickled its way down Casano’or’s face, and she rose, unbinding Saryn.

    The wind abruptly stopped, leaving an unearthly quiet. The clouds rolled away, and the sun peeked from behind distant mountains. Sharana, Arikha, and Tavius slowly rose, and watched in stunned silence as Casano’or turned, walked a short way, then disappeared.
     
  19. Liadan

    Liadan Insert Title Here

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    Dearest gods… That was all she could think as the elements began screaming, shrieking that Casano’or was feeding off them. Then Casano’or had appeared, the mysterious woman almost right after. The stranger had named herself Saryn and attacked Casano’or.

    Coward, coward, coward. You don’t deserve to be called a Sentinel. Why aren’t you helping this Saryn?

    And Sharana knew why. It was because she was utterly, completely terrified of Casano’or. So she remained silent as Casano’or began to kill Saryn, waiting… although for what, she did not know.

    Will you dance with me?

    She quailed as the words rang hauntingly in her mind. You don’t even have the courage to attack Casano’or because the Well is useless against the Arahín Symbols, she thought bitterly. Coward.

    Saryn did not make a sound as Casano’or began killing her, slowly, painfully. And then, for some reason Sharana didn’t understand, Casano’or was silent for long moments, then disappeared with tears on her face.

    She was finally able to make herself run to Saryn, who had dragged herself to her knees. “You. Sentinel. Name.”

    “Sharana Wingheart, Sentinel Starflight. Let me heal you, the power of the Well can save you –”

    “No. Too late,” the strange woman rasped. “Must die. Only way to – ” she broke off into coughing as flecks of blood spotted the dust. “Please. Lend strength – must tell you and Irawyn – ”

    Sharana poured energy into the dying woman, and tried once more. “The Well can heal you. I have enough power to save you.”

    A strange smile touched Saryn’s face. “Good. You, you are the one I sensed. Conduit.

    Sharana nodded, and she opened her mouth to speak, then remembered that this Saryn had very little time left.

    “Listen to me. I am old, girl, very old. Lots of knowledge. Do you understand?”

    “Yes, but – ”

    “You must know what I know to defeat Cy’dath and Casano’or. You and Irawyn both. I will share what I have, but first you must listen. Irawyn is my granddaughter. You must find her somehow, work with her, tell her what happens. You, conduit, will lead the Sentinels. She will lead the Azah, now that I am dying.”

    Sharana now understood her desperate insistence that Saryn must die. “Your death… you think to make Irawyn the leader, so that they follow you.”

    “Just so. I am too old. She must lead, the younger, the stronger. What she lacks is wisdom, and that I can share. And if I die, the Azah will go to war. The Elves and the Azah, at least, can make their old alliance. Other pawns and peoples will emerge to fight, but you all must stand strong. Especially you.”

    “But why?”

    Conduit,” Saryn said, impatience in her song-like voice. “Now be quiet. I will share everything I have with you and my granddaughter. Are you ready?” Without waiting for an answer, she seized Sharana’s hand and squeezed, plunging her into memory.

    Sharana did not fall unconscious this time; she was still aware of the world around her, but it seemed as if she was standing outside of her body. Time slowed and then came to a stop, as Saryn flooded knowledge gained from before the Chaos War into her. She sensed someone linked to her, perhaps this Irawyn Saryn had spoken of, both of them receiving Saryn’s gift.

    When it was finished, Saryn was panting raggedly. “My final gift to Liandrah,” she breathed. Sharana was startled to see blue eyes bright with tears change into green. Color-changing eyes… “And a gift for me, if you will, child of the stars,” the dying woman said. Her eyes were on Sharana, and she felt that Saryn was examining her… and she hadn’t found her wanting.

    Sharana knew what Saryn wanted. “Peace,” she whispered, tears in her own eyes. Although she had known Saryn for only short moments, she felt as if she knew Saryn intimately – which she did, having all of her life’s memories inside her mind.

    “Go well.” Sharana was unsure whether Saryn meant Liandrah, Irawyn, or even herself. Saryn murmured some last words of benediction, lips moving without a sound, and then Sharana drew the breath from Saryn’s body, gently, quietly, letting her rest.

    Except she knew exactly what she had just done.

    She had murdered Saryn, even if it had been her wish.

    “Go,” she said, her voice ragged with a maelstrom of emotions. She knew exactly who she meant. “You. Jadrix. I release you from your geas to follow me, although you are still bound not to lift weapons against any at this Council.”

    Conduit, Saryn had named her, and she was. She could no longer afford to allow personal concerns to interfere with her. For the Well. Always for the Well.

    Then she wiped the tears from her face, leaving the agony and sorrow and despair behind her as she began walking towards the south, to Saile Hasrin.
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2005
  20. Morgan_of_Salerone

    Morgan_of_Salerone New Member

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    Arikha raised her head from earth, closing her eye to the thin trickle of blood that wandered down her cheek. She was sore and exhausted. What little energy she had recovered from the spell-jump had been wasted on her futile attack against Casano'or.

    “Listen to me. I am old, girl, very old. Lots of knowledge. Do you understand?” rasped an old woman's voice.

    “Yes, but – ” Sharana's voice trembled. Was the old woman hurt? Arikha painfully raised herself to her hands and knees, wiping blood off her face. Sitting back, she listened in a daze to the conversation being held. The old woman was speaking again.

    “You must know what I know to defeat Cy’dath and Casano’or. You and Irawyn both. I will share what I have, but first you must listen. Irawyn is my granddaughter. You must find her somehow, work with her, tell her what happens. You, conduit, will lead the Sentinels. She will lead the Azah, now that I am dying.”

    “Your death…" Sharana choked. "You think to make Irawyn the leader, so that they follow you.”

    “Just so. I am too old. She must lead, the younger, the stronger. What she lacks is wisdom, and that I can share. And if I die, the Azah will go to war. The Elves and the Azah, at least, can make their old alliance." Elves and Azah? Allied? Such a thing had not happened in decades. Arikha thought. "Other pawns and peoples will emerge to fight," Angry pride swelled in the sorceress at those words. She would not be a pawn. "But you all must stand strong. Especially you.”

    “But why?”

    “Conduit,” the old woman said, impatience in her song-like voice. “Now be quiet. I will share everything I have with you and my granddaughter. Are you ready?” Without waiting for an answer, she seized Sharana’s hand and squeezed it.

    Arikha felt a rush of magic around her, as both the old woman and the Sentinel sat still and quiet. The sorceress started to lurch to her feet, stumbling nearer to the two, when suddenly they began to move again, Sharana clutching the trembling hand of the woman as her breathing grew more laborious. She was dying...everything became clear to Arikha as her daze began to lift. The woman had sacrificed herself in hopes of rallying her people. For the first time in many, many years, Arikha felt sorrow at the death of another.

    “My final gift to Liandrah. And a gift for me, if you will, child of the stars,” The dying woman's eyes were on Sharana.

    “Peace,” whispered Sharana, tears in her eyes.

    "Peace," whispered Arikha, her voice making barely a sound.

    The woman murmured some last words of benediction, lips moving without a sound, and then Sharana gently lay the woman down upon the torn, broken earth. Arikha watched with sadness in her heart. The woman had been as old as she said, older than the sorceress herself. A survivor of the War. Were she and Casano'or the only ones left? Were they the only ones who dared to remember that terrible time?

    “Go,” the Sentinel said, her voice ragged with a maelstrom of emotions. “You. Jadrix. I release you from your geas to follow me, although you are still bound not to lift weapons against any at this Council.” Then she wiped the tears from her face as she began walking towards the south.

    “Sharana!” Arikha called. The Sentinel turned at the sound of her name. “Where do you go?” The sorceress asked, slowly rising to her feet. She did not like the look in Sharana’s eye.

    “To Saile Hasrin.” She replied, turning to resume her walking.

    “Wait!” The sorceress cried. Stumbling over, Arikha rested her hands on Sharana’s shoulders, forcing the Sentinel to face her. “You will win.” she said. Sharana looked at her with mild confusion. “You will win.” Arikha repeated firmly. “Not because you are the conduit, not because you are a Sentinel, but because you are strong, Sharana. Not strong in power, but strong in here.” Taking a hand off the Sentinel’s shoulder, Arikha tapped herself over her heart. “That is where true power comes from, and that is why you will win. You had less incentive to save a deceitful, foolish woman from Cy’dath’s grasp than you do to save all the innocents of this world; I know when the time comes, you will save us from his clutches.

    Do not despair, Sharana. You are not alone in this fight. Your friends are with you. When it comes time for the final battle, we shall be at your side.” Dropping her hands from the Sentinel’s shoulders, Arikha turned and began to walk, calling to her friend. “Come Tavius, we gather the troops!” Raising her voice so Sharana could hear her easily, Arikha lifted her head proudly. “This time, Avaenonn will fight on the right side.”
    -----------------------------------------------------

    Arikha burst through the gates of the courtyard, robes billowing around her. Servants scuttled about, frantically trying to ready everything before the queen arrived at the prince’s private chambers. Tavius trotted at her heel, watching the servants with amusement.

    “My lady, the prince does not know of your arrival. Please, let us go to him and announce you -” begged one of Arikha’s advisors. Arikha did not even pause in her stride for a moment.

    “If you so wish for my son to know of my arrival, then why do you not go and tell him yourself now, instead of wasting time pestering me with your pitiful excuses?” The elf look surprised for a moment, then quickly and without dignity dashed up ahead to alert the prince.

    Two sets of stairs, several stuttering servants and five hallways later, Arikha burst through the doors of her son’s chambers. He was sitting in his desk, looking solemn as the queen burst in, and rose with dignity as she strode purposely to him.

    “I swear on my soul for now and forever, that I shall always put the good of my people first and serve the nation of Avaenonn to the best of my abilities. I swear that I shall fight for the greater good. I swear that I shall never abandon my people and family ever again, and I swear,” Arikha looked deep into her son’s eyes, “that I shall never serve the god Cy’dath ever again, for he holds no sway over me anymore.”

    There was a moment when the two royals regarded each other silently, then they collapsed into a heartfelt embrace, tears of relief and happiness flowing down their cheeks.

    --------------------------------------------------------

    It was the grandest feast held in Avaenonn in over a hundred years. Not because the food was exquisite, or because the entertainment was good, but because once again the people could rejoice in their nation and throw off their heavy cloak of worries.

    The next day, Avaenonn began to muster it’s army.
     
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