The Chronicles Of Reist

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The Chronicles Of Reist

Postby ElvenWanderer » Wed Dec 15, 2004 3:33 pm

“In ancient times, the land of Reist was under siege from the Sadēs or Shades. The humans who lived on the island-country were no match for the demons, who poured forth from the belly of the earth like dark waves. The dragons who lived high in the mountains of Reist saw the danger that threatened to engulf the whole country. They allied themselves with the humans, teaching them the ancient art of magic. Some even went as far as to allow their human companions to ride upon their back into battle. These few humans were known as the Dragon Riders. Together, they drove back the forces of the Sadēs and imprisoned them, sealing the entrance with powerful magic. After the war, the dragons went back to their mountain caves and were never seen again. The humans had learned all types of magic from the dragons. Each type of mage built their own city and taught their brand of magic to others.”


The white spiraling towers of the city of Brahna glistened in the early morning light. The sky was filled with the new rays of sun. The air was thick with salt, and the smell hung heavily. The deep blue banners of the city floated dreamily above the high ramparts. The enormous white marble doors were gilded in gold, depicting the epic battles of the dragon riders of long ago.

Lian stepped onto the long-faded wooden planks of the dock. They were slightly warped from the large amounts of water they were constantly being assaulted by, but they held fast. He scanned the area, surveying his surroundings. While standing near enough to the gates to see the great detail and care used in making them, Lian had to crane his neck back until he felt like he would fall backwards before he could see the top of the gate. Two gigantic towers, one at either side of the gate, loomed higher still. It was all so amazing. “Is all of Reist like this?” he wondered aloud. No one heard him over the screeching of seagulls and the gay laughter and avid chatter of the people around him who gathered on the white and black cobblestone area around the gate.

A shrill whistle blew, and then one clear note from a trumpet from high above, most likely from one of the nearby watch towers. The gates shuddered and slowly crept open, making a slight scraping sound as it brushed the cobblestone walkway. Once opened, they revealed small houses and the same white and black cobblestone roads.

Merchants were calling out to passerby, attempting to coax them into purchasing some of their wares. Their voices mingled with those of the other townspeople in the street. Lian stood in line, waiting to hand the guard his papers. When it was his turn, he hesitantly approached the armed guard who seemed to be wearing the standard uniform; black boots and pants, white tunic, and deep blue cloak that matched the color of the city banners. “Name, age, purpose…” the man droned without looking up from his scroll, the contents of which were hidden from Lian.

“L-Lian R-Rangzor. Nineteen. Here to…” he paused. “S-study.” he stammered, silently cursing himself for it. The guard scribbled something on the parchment and glanced up at the boy for the first time.

“Papers.” The guard said while clenching his outstretched hand. Lian handed him the tattered scroll from his satchel, which was rolled and sealed with a red wax crest. The guard opened it, read its contents, and stamped it.

“You’re free to go.” The guard said to him as he handed the scroll back to Lian.

“Thanks.” Lian mumbled as he walked past the gate and into the hustle and bustle of Brahna’s market place. The square he entered was very big, with a flowing fountain in the middle. The water was crystal clear and upon impact made a musical sound. The statue, which spouted water from its mouth, was that of a fierce looking dragon who reared upwards, as if to challenge the heavens. Though weathered, it still held the remnants of the glistening gold on its scales. Seated atop the dragon’s back was a man clad in armor. In the pool beneath the statue was a small amount of water which held a few miniscule fish that numerous children were attempting to capture.

On one side of the square was a large building with a sturdy wooden sign out front reading “Traveler’s Inn.” The establishment had a small set of stairs leading up to the front door. The place looked very well kept, and on either side of the stairs, a small flower bed was located. The flowers that grew within them were of a color and variety Lian had never seen before.

Across the square was located a large pub. Even from this distance the faint smell of the many ales filled his nostrils. The lattice windows ran most of the length of the building on either side of the door. Through the lattice work Lian could make out the shapes of a few men milling about and enjoying themselves.

Beyond the square was a large main street whose store fronts were cluttered with carts, barrels, and display cases. From here Lian noticed that the city was on a slight hill, the roads winding up to a great white citadel at the city’s center. The frosty white color of the citadel contrasted greatly to the deep blue banners on which a white design of a sun, and a sprinkling of stars could be found. The pointed roofs of the towers were the same shade as the banners. It all looked very magical. Very fitting for the city of mages. That, after all, was why Lian was here. Brahna was historically known as the magic capital of the world. Every great mage began his training here. Reist itself was rumored to be a land of mystery and enchantment. Lian couldn’t wait to explore every nook and cranny of it.

He made his way across the square to the Inn. While going up the stairs he caught the aroma of the exotic flowers. The smell seemed to be a blend of honey and freshly picked blueberries. The colors were a shade of tiger striped orange and pink. Each and every petal was unique, it was like they had a fingerprint of their own. Inside the Inn Lian came upon a polished wooden desk behind which sat a balding old man wearing glasses. Lian approached the old man, who squinted and pushed his bifocals up onto the bridge of his nose. “May I help you?” the man wheezed in a tired voice.

“I’m sorry to bother you, but do you have any rooms available for tonight?” Lian questioned.

“I’m sorry, but all of our rooms are filled for this evening… but we do have openings in two days.” Was the reply. Disheartened, Lian turned to leave. “Wait” the old man called out huskily. “There are a few inns further into the city that should have openings. You might want to try the Silver Dragon Inn.”

“Thank you.” Lian replied gratefully as he stepped once more into the bright sunshine.
Last edited by ElvenWanderer on Sat Jan 15, 2005 1:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby feaguire » Thu Dec 16, 2004 4:37 am

Sorry guys! :blush:

Ignore this!

Fea :)
Last edited by feaguire on Wed Jan 05, 2005 12:21 am, edited 1 time in total.
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The Story

Postby ElvenWanderer » Sun Dec 19, 2004 3:25 pm

Lian proceeded down the street, looking around in wonder at everything. The streets were immaculate, and the smells of spices and baked goods permeated the air. There lay before him a great shadow. He looked up at the enormous white gleaming citadel. From the huge blue cone-tipped spires were the deep blue and white banners floating lazily in the early morning breeze.

Lian waded through the crowded streets. Around mid-morning, he reached a large establishment. There was a sign over the door that read “The Silver Dragon Inn” with a carved dragon, with a polished door that glinted in the light. Carved on he edges were what appeared to be teeth. It seemed as though the whole town had an obsession with dragons. However, if they did exist at one time, they had long ago disappeared. There was much speculation in Lian’s homeland, Corusca, and as a matter of fact, in the majority of Reist as well, whether or not dragons had existed at all. But either way, they lived on now only in stories.

Lian opened the door, the cool metal of the knob in his hand. There was no one else in the small lobby. Round tables were situated around the room. Fireplaces stood, embers glowing, at each end of the square room. There was a set of stairs in the back left corner. There were tapestries covering the walls. They seemed to fit together, depicting a forest scene. In it, there were dragons ranging in color and size. As Lian’s eyes traveled around the room, men came to life in the pictures. Then, on the next few tapestries, the forest darkened and there seemed to be an everlasting shadow in the midst of the trees. The shadow darkened, and started to form into barely recognizable shapes. From them flew dark mists, which seemed to choke the forest. And then… nothing. There was an empty space on the wall. On the other side of the space was a serene forest. But somehow, it was different from the others. It was all rather odd. The enchanted tapestries had progressed steadily… but then they simply cut off.

“May I help you?" said a woman’s voice. Lian, startled, turned and saw a woman behind the counter at the back of the room. Behind it was not another tapestry, but a painting. It showed a beautiful, sparkling pool in the middle of a forest, sun beaming down through the space in the treetops. And at the back right side of the painting was a huge, white-blue dragon laying atop a flat grey stone, sunning itself. It appeared to be sleeping, but had one great golden eye open, watching…

“Hello?” The woman’s voice snapped Lian back to reality.

“Hmm, what? Oh, yes… do you have any rooms for the night?” Lian asked hopefully, trying to tear his eyes away from the painting.

“Yes, as a matter of fact, we do. Will that be just for the night, or extended stay?”

“Extended, most likely.” Lian paid for the room, and his gaze wandered back yet again to the painting.

“His name is Tannin-wyver.”

“Whose is?” Lian asked quizzically.

“The woman turned around and looked up at the scene behind her. “It was painted by a man named Sir Dakot. He was a knight of our country long ago, before he disappeared.

“Thank you, for the room.”

“Of course. I’m Neera, by the way.” She had long blonde hair, and brown eyes. Lian introduced himself and then went up to his room.
It was nicely decorated, with polished wood flooring. There were brass light fixtures on the wall. They glowed with a white light that emanated from the center behind the glass case. There was a large four-poster bed. On it was a massive amount of pillows and a burgundy bedspread with a dragon embroidered on it. Lian tossed his bag on a small chair across the room and laid down. He was suddenly very tired, and quickly fell asleep.
Last edited by ElvenWanderer on Sat Jan 15, 2005 1:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby erinhue » Tue Dec 21, 2004 10:01 pm

The azure blue of Yalek’s autumn sky was dotted with dozens upon dozens of tiny winged silhouettes. Calista birds, flying before the coming winter, completed the last leg of their journey to the dark slopes of Mount Tedra. Every seventh year the birds came in from all over Riest to make their winter home in the foot hills of the sleeping volcano.

The twittering caw of the migrating birds were harbinger of more than the chill season. Their seven year cycle was the timepiece of Yalek’s tradition steeped culture. Their call trilled in the heart of every young child who had reached Divining age in the seven years since the last appearance of the jewel colored birds. This would be their year of Choice.

All the candidate youth of the township called out the different colored Calista birds they spotted as they passed through the orchards. The birds would stop to rest there in the fruit trees, confident that the goal of their long journey was in sight. The children shouted out the shades of oranges and yellows and the more seldom seen blues and iridescent black. but each one hoped to spot a bird with scarlet feathers. On such a day as this, that would be an auspicious sign indeed.

Bandar made his best attempt at putting on a dignified demeanor. He was not as successful at it as he would have liked but he considered that he was doing better than Weena, who was crying, or Arthos who kept fidgeting and looking nervously about. Magus Elar would soon arrive with the Jewel of the Ages and their destiny would be decided.

There was much mystic mystery surrounding the Jewel its signs were always of great portent. The colors that surfaced from its depths held the secrets of past present and future and pointed out the path one’s life should take if that life was to achieve its greatest worth and fulfill its greatest calling.

That was what Magus Elar always said when asked about the Choosing. More common folk in Yarlek took a more simple, practical view. The color reveled in the Jewel on ones Day of Choice was in clear correlation to the Guild based structure of Yarlek society.

The hushed chatter of the anxiously awaiting candidates evaporated to silence and all heads turned towards the sound of tinkling bells. The silver bells attached to his staff announced the mage’s approach. All the young people snapped to attention and tried to looked as dignified as the occasion seemed to warrant.

Elar slowed his approach. It added to the drama and gave him a chance for one last reflective look at the eager young faces beaming, or trying hard not to, from the doubled line stretching from the century’s old Quercus tree in the wild wood beyond the cultured fields. For most of them the jewel would show the same colors as it had for their fathers. Tovar, short stout and well built would surely invoke a 12 tone green, and become a carpenter like his father.

The old mage began the chant that began the Chosing ceremony. He remembered his own Choosing Day and had no need of his magic to know what thoughts were going through each young mind. When the chant and its response were finished, Elar produced the Jewel of the Ages from a deep fold in his cloak to the gasps of awe that usually greeted its appearance. He looked into the waiting faces as one by one he presented the Jewel for them to touch.

As expected the Jewel took on a lime green tint when young Tovar laid his hand upon it. Elar smiled and nodded and then moved on. One by one the young men and women laid their open palm upon the stone. For each of them the Jewel took on a different pastel shade within its depths.

For many an amber glow colored the stone guiding them to follow in their father’s footsteps as tillers of the soil and tender of the orchard trees. The Jewel glowed orange at the touch of Var, youngest son of the township’s wealthiest merchant. Elar nearly laughed aloud at the thought of Halek’s reaction to his son being Chosen as one of The Riders. The Dragon Riders was an ancinet guild, older even than Yarlek itself, or so its waining membership claimed.

Var was Halek’s fifth son and Elar was certain he could soothe the merchant’s outrage, if Var chose to take the life path shown to him by the Jewel. Most folk in Yarlek thought of the Riders as layabouts and yarnspinners, and that was being charitable. Elar knew this and with some it was more true than with others, but there was important knowledge there that should not be lost. The time would once day come when all the ancient knowledge would be called to the fore.

Ezreah laid her fingers next upon the piece of stone. It glowed a blue as true and clear as the sky above. If the girl chose not to marry, or at least to delay it beyond the accustomed time, she could be trained in the magic arts. Elar smiled at her and moved on.

Next in line was Bandar, the youngest of this season’s group. He had just barely qualified for this season’s Choosing. The prayers for his 10th birthday had been read out only a month ago. Elar stood before him and ever so slightly lowered the Jewel to accommodate his shorter stature.

The boy put his hand on the Jewel. At first there seemed to be no reaction at all. Confused, the boy looked up but Elar smiled and did not withdraw the stone. In a few seconds the stone began to take on a pinkish tinge. The shade deepened and darkened until the Jewel glowed a vibrant scarlet color.

Elar lost his composure for the smallest of moments. He had made note of the signs at this particular child’s birth. He had expected something out of the ordinary but this exceeded all possible expectations. Fire Mage red had not been seen at a Choosing in more than a hundred years. This one, Elar decided, he would teach himself.
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Postby Eltirwen » Wed Dec 22, 2004 9:03 am

Odunar looked at his young ward with amusement. They were nearing the great city of Brahna, and she seemed completely oblivious to how strange she looked. The number of fellow travelers on the road had picked up, and the small cavalcade of the mage and his apprentice was receiving quite a few curious glances. He supposed many of them had seen two people in the robes of Spirit mages before, but never one completely covered by those robes being followed by a large golden dog, a falcon, and with a white cat on the rump of her horse. The barking of the dog had led him to the young child two decades ago, lost and lonely in the forest far from any village. She had obviously been abandoned by some superstitious villagers, and it was no wonder. It was not often that a child with red hair was born in Reist, let alone one with amber eyes. Dragon eyes, some called them, fearing the gentle girl he had raised as his own. The fact that she had to remain completely covered during the daytime certainly did not help, but it was that or the sun would terribly blister her pale skin. Fortunately, it had been easy to modify the traditional navy blue robes of a Spirit mage to completely cover the child, and she had gained more acceptance among the elders after proving to be an adept student of the spiritual arts. He wondered briefly how she would fare while they were in Brahna, then his attention was caught by something else.
“Shaya,” he softly called, using her nickname, “Look. We can see the great city now.”

Eltirwen’s ears immediately pricked up when Odunar used her nickname. He’d been worrying about her again. She shook her head, and then turned her attention to where he pointed. The city was an incredible sight. Nothing like Baeret, where she had grown up, its tall white spires seemed to reach up forever into the sky, even taller than the mountains. It looked gigantic, and on the road she was seeing people from places she could not even imagine. A few of them had given her curious looks, but she was so used to strange looks in Baeret she hardly noticed it. The looks usually bothered Odunar more than they did her, anyhow.
“Oh, Odunar, it’s lovely! Will we be there before nightfall? I think Naral’s wings and Onu’s paws are getting tired of all this traveling.”
As if to reinforce her point, the falcon glided down to the leather perch on her shoulder, digging her claws in as if she never meant to leave the spot. Onu kept his place beside the horse, padding along with his tongue hanging out, but turned his large brown eyes mournfully towards Odunar as if to beg for a break.
“Well, Shaya, we should be there in another hour or so. And those two pets certainly do look like they need a break, although that spoiled cat of yours has done nothing but languish behind you the whole trip. Why not let her run for a while?”
“You know her legs aren’t a quarter of the size of Onu’s. Minya couldn’t possibly keep up.”
Odunar laughed, and Eltirwen secretly smiled. His teasing her was a good sign, since it meant they were not on a dangerous or unhappy errand to the Council. They continued their happy banter as they rode, trading teases and jokes while laughing together.

They reached the gates of Brahna as the sun was declining towards the horizon. The guards recognized Odunar’s name immediately, and moved aside immediately for the mage and his apprentice. Eltirwen was pleasantly surprised by this, but Odunar did seem to be an important personage back home in Baeret, too. The city itself was filled with a bustle that Baeret had never shown. They rode into the city a little, and Eltirwen drew a quick breath. There was salt on the air, something that could only mean they were close to the sea.
“This city, besides being the largest city of Reist, holds the only decent port. I’ll take you to see it one day while we’re here.”
Odunar had noticed her reaction. She sometimes wondered how he did that, since her face was covered by a veil that allowed her to see but protected her skin, but he was a very powerful mage. Odunar stopped a man in the livery of the city and said something in low tones to him, and the man ran off while they continued riding.
“I just sent a message informing the Council I am here. We will not go there today, since it is so late in the day. We’re going to my favorite inn here in Brahna. It’s called the Silver Dragon Inn. They shouldn’t mind your menagerie, unlike most inns here.”
She sighed in relief. She always had the three animals in her room at night to keep her company as she slept, and had been afraid that would have to change here. They were the only thing that could help her through the nightmares. Odunar had tried many times to determine the cause of her dreams, but had never succeeded, and so tried to keep her always with her friends.
They arrived in the courtyard of the inn, which seemed rather large but homey. Odunar dismounted, so Eltirwen did too, careful not to jolt Naral, who had fallen asleep in place on her shoulder. Minya jumped down, seeming grateful the horse had stopped, and Eltirwen turned to look at the inn. The sign had a dragon on it, and the door was oddly carved. They led the horses to the stable, brushing them and making them comfortable, and paid the stable attendant to feed them oats. Odunar knew the man by name, which amazed Eltirwen. She hoisted her baggage carefully, glad she had packed lightly, and followed her guardian inside.
“Hello, Neera. I’d like two rooms, if possible with a connecting door. We’ll be here for a while.”
“Odunar! This must be that foster daughter I’ve heard so much about. Welcome! I know just the rooms, close to your usual. Will you need any extra cushions for the pets?”
“They like to sleep on her bed, if you don’t mind. We’ll pay extra for laundry if that would help.”
“No need for that, it’s fine. I hope you enjoy your-”
The nice clerk was cut off by the sudden sound of Minya hissing at the large painting of a dragon behind the desk. Eltirwen bent down and picked her up, embarrassed.
“Minya, that’s not very nice. Shh!”
Naral woke up and stared at the painting, then gave the cat a glare as if to reinforce Eltirwen’s plea for peace. The cat meekly became silent, and almost looked sheepish.
“That is a beautiful cat. She obeys well. Enjoy your stay!”
Odunar and Eltirwen made their way upstairs.
“I wonder what about that painting made Minya react like that. She’s usually so friendly.”
”I have no idea. At least she stopped. Miss Neera was certainly nice about it.”
“Here we are. You may have the corner room, since you’ll need the larger bed for Onu’s enormous paws. That dog will eat us out of house and home some day.”
Eltirwen giggled, knowing Onu would do nothing of the kind.
“I’m going to retire for the night. Lock your door securely – the one between us will be fine, but remember the people in this city are not all as nice as Neera.”
“Sleep well, Odunar.”
“You too, Shaya. Call me if you need anything.”
The room seemed lavish to Eltirwen, with brass fixtures, thick curtains, and a huge bed swimming in pillows. She smiled, then laughed as Minya and Onu jumped up on the bed and flopped down with a sigh. Naral spotted a nice perch on the headboard, covered in soft cloth and close to the window, and settled there. Eltirwen made sure the door and window were secure, and prepared for the night. She was tired, too. Five weeks on the back of a horse was a very long time. She dove into the pillows, feeling Onu and Minya snuggle against her, and fell fast asleep, hoping for quiet sleep without dreams.
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Postby The_pointy_hat_trick » Thu Dec 23, 2004 1:55 pm

Pointy lay curled up under a thin blanket trying to sleep, she felt unnerved, the night noises were different and she felt afraid. Her brother Mearyn was not at home and Pointy longed for him to return. She got up an dressed and made her way to the kitchen where the remains of a loaf of bread lay, without thinking she wrapped it in a cloth and put it in her pocket. She sat in a chair by the door with the idea of waiting up for Mearyn. Her head began to nod and soon she was in a fretful sleep.

Pointy shifted uncomfortably, the room was getting hotter and muffled noises floated through her mind. A shrill whinny from the stables woke her and she stumbled to her feet. Her eyes widened with terror and she backed against the wall, the room was full of smoke and flames where licking the timber. A section of the flaming thatched roof fell in to the kitchen and scattered sparks. "Not again" she thought desperately "it can't be happening again". A second flaming section fell, she gave a scream and stumbled chocking in the direction of the door. As she ran out she grabbed her bow and dagger and on entering the street saw that several houses were on fire, people where panicking running, suddenly a hand was placed on her shoulder, "Come with me, I’ll get you out of her" said a voice. The voice was cold but the hand was colder, she pulled away and ran towards the stables. "Daeglow, Daeglow" She whinnied and he answered. Snatching a bridal she pushed open his stall and mounted him.

Footsteps at the door told her she had been followed, "Just give me another chance" the voice continued.
Pointy urged the gelding forward and he broke into a canter, streaking past the figure at the entrance. His hooves added to the racket in the burning street as he galloped towards the gate of the town, people fell back as the horse charged on.

The night was pitch black as the horse and rider left the town and galloped unstintingly into the wilderness and a harsh wind whipped at Pointy's face, seeming chill after the heat of the fire. She drew Daeglow to a walk, and listened. "Nothing but the wind now, old boy" she whispered.
Why had she run like that she asked herself? Well that was simple enough, the cold voice had been that of her father. He had taken the same frame of thought as her mother, that the ability to converse with beasts denoted evil. Believing that this 'evil' could be extracted like poison from a wound he had burnt her. This, failing, he estranged himself from her.
Pointy shivered and urged Daeglow on again. She was leaving that place, where she was going she had no idea. She would make for one of the cities, Brahna or Calet but she was not sure of the direction she was going in. She pulled her cloak around her and choked back tears as she thought of Mearyn, her brother, he would be so worried, and she would miss him dreadfully. But she had always been a burden on him, she thought, now he'd be able to be free.
She rode on into the night. Dawn broke and still the pair trotted on, the horse showing no weariness.
Pointy could see no signs of civilisation and she had lost her sense of direction. She was exhausted, miserable, and hungry having shared the little bread with Daeglow.
The day wore on and her condition deteriorated. Daeglow nickered nervously sensing something was wrong, as the reins slipped from her fingers and she fell unconscious to the floor. The gelding stayed at her side, nuzzling her anxiously, not understanding why she would not answer him.
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Revenge

Postby ElvenWanderer » Fri Dec 24, 2004 6:57 pm

It was twilight, and Rhavara walked past the wooden stake on the ledge, on top of which was a skull. Strung from it were various feathers and stones. She moved aside the grey and black woven cloth in front of the cave, hauling a stag carcass behind her. The cave was dry and a fair length back into the mountain. The ceiling was two feet above her head, and the walls were fairly smooth. It was sparsely decorated. Near the entrance was a square wooden table and chair. There was a bowl made of a bear skull on the table, and more stacked next to the table. The floor was covered in animal furs. There were metal rings stuck eye-level in the wall, and in each was a lit torch. Because of them, there were deep shadows cast everywhere. To the back of the cave was a bed made of animal furs There were shelves of clay pots above the bed. On the walls were carvings and paintings. There were tally marks on one wall. And on the other were dragons painted in blood.

Rhavara took something from the wooden chest at the foot of the bed. She laid down and snuggled up to the ratty doll, exhausted from the day’s labor. Upon waking, she yawned and got up. She walked barefoot to the front of the cave and sat down at the table. She hauled the deer’s body onto the table. Grabbing a knife from the pouch from the back of the chair, and stuck it in the soft flesh of the animal’s body and gutted it. She placed all the organs except the heart in bear skull bowls. She drained the blood into empty water skins and cut the meat from the body, laying it out on the table. The skin she left as intact as possible. This Rhavara strung up, poking tiny holes into the edges with a needle made of animal bone and threaded sinew through the holes, tying it taught to a square wooden frame that she placed outside on the ledge. The bones of the deer went into the knapsack and put under the table. She washed the meat off and took a red clay jar from one of the shelves above her bed. She rubbed the salt into the meat. She then cut it into strips and tied the pieces into small bundles. She strung them up by threading sinew through small metal hoops in the ceiling.

She took the heart of the deer and brought it outside. She descended the short way to the base of the mountain and buried it at the edge of the forest. She went back up and washed the blood off of her hands. She cleaned up the leftover blood and removed the organs from the bowls and bound then in leather after washing them off. She picked up a bundle of leather off the floor near the wooden chest. She used a bone-knife to cut the leather. She took sinew and the needle and began to sew. A few hours later, she had made moccasins. By this time it was nearing dusk. The deer skin was ready by this point, so she took her knife and scraped the fur off of the hide and left it out to dry completely.

Rhavara went back inside and put her knives back in the pouch and leaned her spear against the wall near the entrance. She turned around and heard a growl from outside the cave. She cautiously opened the flap, grabbing a knife from her boot simultaneously. Out on the ledge, next to the rack where the deer hide was, a wolf stood shaking. It had grey ad black fur, and blood was dripping down its left side from an arrow. It was in its hind leg. She rushed toward it, picked it up, and brought it into the cave. She laid it down on the soft fur of the floor. Sheathing her knife, she went to the wooden shelf and got another clay jar. She kneeled next to the wolf and set the jar down. “Don’t move.” She thought. Rhavara grabbed the arrow shaft firmly and pulled. The wolf whimpered, but stayed still. The arrowhead would not come out, she cut the skin around it to make room for it to come out. She tried not to damage the muscle too much.

Once it was out, she opened the jar and smeared a bit of its contents- a think dark green herb paste- on the animal’s wound. Soon after, the wound started to emit green smoke that clung to its fur and began to creep across the floor. Rhavara took a wooden rattle filled with various animals’ teeth and began to speak the Ancient Language- the language of the rocks and trees, the sun and moon, the water and of fire. Black smoke plumed forth from the wound, rising up and leaving the cave. Slowly, the green smoke began to seep back into the wolf through its nose and mouth. When it was completely gone, she put away the rattle and the jar. Rhavara sat down next to the wolf and pet it, running her hands over its coarse fur.

She ran her hand over the red spot that used to be the arrow wound. Rage filled her. She stood up and grabbed a mask hanging on the wall. It was made of red clay and had black lines under the eye holes. Attached to this from the top and sides was a black fur from the back of a bear. It reached down to her lower back. There were ears of a black fox sewed on where the holes from the bear’s ears were. She put on a necklace of bear claws that matched the necklace. She pushed the mask up and grabbed a piece of charcoal from the dead fire and painted a black smudge under each eye. Finally, she grabbed her spear and left the cave.

She followed the wolf’s blood and prints to where it had come from. There, she found traces of another animal- a human. It was not hard to follow the tracks. Humans had a distinct smell, and not many came through that part of the forest. There were rumors of a forest demon. This human hadn’t bathed in a while. She hunted him down like an animal would. Further into the forest, she began to pick up on more humans. There were three of them. She pulled the mask down over her face and crept into the clearing. She heard their thoughts screaming in her ears. She lost focus and trod on a twig. The snap alerted them to her presence and they spun around, bows at the ready. “It’s the forest demon!” one of them shouted. They drew back their bows, ready to fire at her. She reached into two of their minds and pulled forward thoughts of sleep. They fell like stones to the ground. The third one, the one who had injured the wolf, turned and ran. Rhavara bounded after him. Before he had gone two hundred yards, she caught up to him and lunged herself onto his back, her left hand holding the spear and wrapping around his neck. The force of the attack caused him to fall forward on his face. Rhavara reached into her boot and grabbed her knife and stuck it in his back. She got up and dragged him over to the trees.

When she returned to the cave, the wolf was awake waiting on its haunches for her return. She patted it on the head as she passed and returned her spear to its place on the wall.

“What did you do to that human?” the voice broke the silence in her mind and startled her. She attempted to ignore it as she dropped a leather pouch into the basket with the animal organs. The wolf eyed it and then looked at her. “I know you heard me.”

“I gave him what he deserved.” Rhavara said finally, eating a strip of dried meat and giving the wolf a couple.

The next morning, the two men woke up and searched for their friend. They finally found him. He was dead, his heart ripped out of his chest, and he was hung from a tree by his intestines.
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Postby The_Fool » Mon Dec 27, 2004 4:42 pm

Cadell was suffering silently. He appreciated Garia’s company, but by the Goddess the man could talk! Cadell often wondered how on earth they ever managed to keep abreast of bandits on the roads, it was the exile’s firm opinion that they must be heard for at least a good number of miles up ahead. He shifted in his saddle, moving the reigns from one well-calloused hand to the next and turning confronted the ‘chattering magpie.’

“Garia, please, I have had enough. Yes it was a marvelous feint, and you certainly did take that thief by surprise. I know. I was there.”

“Ha! And did you see his face Cadell? He looked like he was about to soil himself when he felt my blade next to his ribs,” Garia grinned and made a mimic stab with one hand.

“Aye, that he did,” Cadell agreed, “but you’d best remember Garia, a cornered thief is like a cornered wolf. You were lucky, I think, this time.”

“Lucky?” Garia gave a derisive snort. “Luck had nothing to do with it. It was skill, pure and simple.”

“Very well,” Cadell said, relenting to his companion with a silent appeal to the heavens, “have it your way. Just tell me next time you decide to draw in the middle of the red district. We could have been killed.”

“Aye aye C’apn!” Garia gave a mock salute which brought a smile to Cadell’s lips.

“I’m not your damn Captain,” he growled back in good-humoured anger, then turned to face the road ahead.

“Well thank the heavens for that,” Garia replied, grinning still. “You’d make a piss-poor leader if you ask me. Up at the crack of dawn, cooking, cleaning...”

Cadell rolled his eyes. It was a comfortably cool afternoon, a light wind taking the heat off the sun’s rays and rippling the leaves of the trees that lined the dirt road. The trees on the right were beginning to thin, showing glimpses of a grassy plain, the grass beneath those trees dappled with sun and shade. Cadell’s warhorse, who had been walking easily along, it’s neck stretched out to take advantage of the long reign its rider had given it, suddenly raised its broad head. Its long ears flicked curiously back and forth; then it gave a rough snort and ever so slightly quickened its pace. Shortening the reigns, Cadell passed them to one hand, his right moving to lay across his sword, buckled to the saddle. Behind him Garia had fallen silent, noting the exile’s alert manner.

The soft thud of his mare’s large hoofs on the ground sounded too loud in Cadell’s ears. Turning his head this way and that he sought to hear anything unfamiliar, but the absence of silence, the continuing whistle of the birds, caused him to wonder if what his mare was sensing was a danger or a curiousity. They rounded a slow bend in the road, and as they did his mount raised her nose and let out a long whinny. Cadell saw the other horse then, standing amongst the final scattering of beeches. It was riderless, but it held a blanket on its back and a bridal upon its fine head. Upon hearing his warhorse it let out a whinny of its own.

“What in the world...” Garia frowned, pulling up beside Cadell and shielding his eyes from the sun. “Where’s its rider?”

“That’s what I’d like to know,” Cadell said, urging his horse off the road and into the long grass that swayed and nodded about the trunks of the beech trees. A patch of grass near the horse’s legs had been flattened, and though he could not see what had caused it, Cadell could see the shadow of a form through the rippling greenery. It was highly probable that the horse’s rider was not very far at all.

The riderless horse did not move as they drew closer. Instead it lowered its head to the ground, whickering softly, its ears pricked forward in interest. Narrowing his eyes Cadell stared at the space where the dark form lay unmoving in the grass. The horse whickered again and using its velvety nose it nudged the form on the ground, causing it to rock. A black hood fell back to reveal a mass of blonde hair, and then a young woman’s face. Cadell swore viciously and in one fluid movement he dismounted, tossing the reigns to Garia.

“Hey!” Garia snapped, “what am I? Your page?”

Cadell ignored him, trudging through the long grass as quickly as he could, using his arms to push the green blades aside. The horse tossed its head as he came closer, and the mercenary raised his hands palm upwards, murmuring soft nothings at the beast. “Shush, shush. I’m not going to hurt her my fine fellow. It’s a pity you can’t talk, I’d dearly like to know what happened here.”

Kneeling down in the dirt Cadell lifted the young woman up, cradling her with one arm as he brushed a smear of dirt from her cheek. Glancing down at her gown Cadell noted its worn look, the discoloured repair patch hear the hem. “You’re not a noblewoman then lass,” Cadell said quietly, “and I’ll be damned if I know why you’re out here all alone.”

Behind Cadell, Garia looked around more out of reflex than hope to see an explanation. The clump of beeches they had wandered into successfully obscured any view of the surroundings. Nothing could be heard but the chirrup of the birds; not the sound of a distant smithy or a crowing cock.

"I don't think there's any manner of village around for at least five miles,” Garia said as he approached Cadell through the grass, their horses in tow. “Haven't seen any smoke. Haven't seen any farmers. Haven't seen any farmlands, actually. Cadell, she must have ridden hard. Which way do you reckon she came from?"

Cadell shifted his hold on the woman, resting her head on his shoulder. “She could have some from any direction. She’s almost ridden that horse to ground. I’d say she hasn’t stopped moving since she left. She’s at least one good day’s ride from where ever it is she rode from. More likely two. In any case, wherever she was riding from, she left in a hurry. That horse still has a stall blanket on.”

“And no saddle,” Garia finished, scratching his shin thoughtfully. “Well I suppose we’ll just have to wait for our sleeping lady to wake up then. She’s not hurt is she?”

“I haven’t had a chance to look,” Cadell said. “Ground tie those horses and take a look around will you? See if there’s anything the lass has dropped.”

“Yes ‘Sir,’” Garia snorted, flipping the horses’ reigns over their heads and dropping them so that they hung down below their noses. He strode off through the grass, pacing out a slowly widening circle.

Cadell tilted the maid’s chin, unclasping her cloak at the neck then shifting her to the other arm so that the black measure of cloth fell to the ground. Struggling to keep her upright the mercenary ran a well-practiced eye over her limp form. There were no rips in her dress or tunic, and no blood. An old yellow bruise stained her throat, but apart from that Cadell could see nothing external that would explain her affliction. Still, if the horse was anything to go by, Cadell could place a good guess that the only thing wrong with her was sheer exhaustion.

“Well look here, Cadell,” Garia called out from across the clearing. Cadell raised his head as his companion lifted a bow from the grassy tangle. “What’s the bet it’s hers?”

“A copper,” Cadell grinned lifting up the dagger he had just found belted to the woman’s side.

Garia whistled. “I don’t know about this Cadell. It doesn’t smell right. Maybe we should leave her be. We don’t need any trouble.” Cadell fixed Garia with his disapproving look, his cornflower blue eyes reproachful. “Oh fine!” Garia threw his arms heavenward. “Have it your way. I suppose we’re setting up camp here then?”

“No,” Cadell grunted as he struggled to his feet, lifting the woman with him. “There’s no water for the horses. We need to carry on for a few more miles. There’s a river that comes parallel with the road. We can camp there.”

“Alright,” Garia nodded his agreement as he tucked the woman’s bow under one arm. “Are we taking her horse?” He jerked a thumb at the animal, which was hovering nearby, swishing its tail absently.

“I don’t think she’d appreciate us leaving it behind after all the trouble she went to get it,” Cadell grinned. “Now get over here and help me lift her onto Rhan. We’ll lead her horse after ours.”

When Garia reached him and had placed the bow onto the ground, Cadell carefully deposited the unconscious woman into his arms. Then, taking up the reigns of his mare, he mounted. “Lift her up.”

Garia steadied himself and hoisted the woman up as Cadell leaned down to pull her up in front of him in the saddle. Using his arms to support her, he made a firmer contact with Rhan’s mouth as the horse tossed its head at the extra weight.

“I’ll take the other horse then shall I?” Garia smirked, leaning on the bow.

“Shut up,” Cadell growled, grinning. “By the Goddess you have a one track mind.”

“I’m not the one sitting on the horse with a woman leaning against my chest.”

“Go get the damn horse,” Cadell said, rolling his eyes in exasperation.

“Right you are,” Garia replied, his tone smug. “I’ll just go get the horse then shall I, and we can be on our merry way.”

Cadell shook his head in mild amusement as Garia strode across to grab the black horse’s bridal, then lead it back to his own mount. After strapping the woman’s bow to his saddle, Garia took up his own horse’s reigns and mounted. Clicking his tongue at Rhan, Cadell urged her out of the stand of beeches at a brisk walk, Garia on his left, the black following behind.
Last edited by The_Fool on Tue Dec 28, 2004 3:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Spirit_of_the_Willow » Mon Dec 27, 2004 9:06 pm

The sun lowered beneath the distant mountains and twilight began to fade into night. In the gathering darkness Caedmon looked up from the heavy tome he had been reading. Ruefully he rubbed his eyes, aware that yet again he had lost himself in his research, unfortunately, again it had been futile.

He unbent his lanky frame from the hard bench, and stretched his stiff muscles, painfully aware of the discomfort which comes from sitting for hours on a bench designed for someone with much shorter legs. Not that any of the furniture really fit his height, but it was worse here because the benches and tables were designed for the younger apprentices, since they were not allowed to remove the books from the library.

He himself had intended to bring the books he had selected into the greater comfort and privacy of his own room. It was safer that way.

With this in mind he closed the heavy leather-bound book, and added to it a few scrolls and another book he had pulled from the shelves earlier. All were coated in dust, their pages brittle and yellow with age. It was only within the oldest records that he could hope to find the information he sought. Unfortunately, thus far even those records seemed to be bare of any concrete details.

His loose white robe billowed around him as his long legs moved swiftly down the aisles, avoiding the areas where he might encounter initiates, and hopefully even other Mages. There was some muted talking, and even occasionally a burst of laughter from the area designated to allow the older initiates somewhere to study away from the younger.

As he neared the old wooden door he relaxed. Old Penos, the Master in charge of the library was not pleased with him these days. Indeed, none of the Masters were. It was an attitude that Caedmon could not understand. It was as though they wished him to cease his search for greater knowledge. At least, they wished him to cease as long as that search led him towards the legendary dragons, he thought bitterly. So far they had not openly tried to stop his research, but their disapproval was clear even to Caedmon, and he knew it was only a matter of time before he was commanded to stop. After all, there was nothing more he really needed to learn to achieve his Mastership, except for time and experience he had all that was required.

“Why in such a hurry my Son?” an unfamiliar voice asked with amusement. Caedmon looked up in surprise, or rather down, for the white-robed stranger was considerably shorter than he. Caedmon scanned the stranger’s slight form. His close cropped hair was pure white, whiter than his travel stained robes. Obviously he was a Wanderer.

Meeting the stranger’s piercing blue gaze, Caedmon immediately dismissed the common belief that the Wanderers were weaker than the Masters. His face might show plain amusement, which deepened at Caedmon’s scrutiny, but there was nothing weak in his eyes.

“Do you require something of me Master?” he asked politely, giving the stranger the title of Master, though no Wanderer had been granted it officially. He bowed slightly, mindful of the precious books in his arms.

“I might,” the Wanderer said in a low voice, so that Caedmon had to strain to hear, “But not just now.” He laughed as Caedmon continued to scrutinize him. “I’m not used to such close observation. Usually when I return everyone tries to ignore my presence. But you always were too curious for your own good.”

“I beg your pardon?” Caedmon asked, feeling stupid for being surprised again.

“You would not remember me I’m certain, for you always had your nose in one book or another. I don’t suppose you’ve changed much,” the Wanderer continued, eyeing the books in Caedmon’s arms. “That’s pretty risky reading, my Son,” he finished quietly, one thin white eyebrow lifting slightly.

“The books of the library are open to all to read,” Caedmon began with false confidence. He knew he ought to temper his choice of study if he wished to remain in good standing and achieve his Mastership, but he simply could not abandon his research. Dragons had become an obsession with him.

“You needn’t be defensive with me, Caedmon,” the old Master said looking up at him intently, “I think it is about time someone began asking some questions about the past.”

“Is that why you left? You and the other wanderers?” Caedmon asked, feeling like the veriest novice in his eagerness. “You were seeking more information about the dragons?”

“Hardly,” the Wanderer laughed, “I was never bookish myself, though I cannot speak for my fellows. I left because I felt I was needed,” he said quietly, then his gaze narrowed, and he looked at Caedmon keenly, “However I can tell you that you’ll find little more here than you already have.” He gestured at the library door behind Caedmon, “The ancients saw little need to record on paper the source of the things they learned. Perhaps they thought the source, whatever it was, would always be near, or perhaps that source forbade them. Whatever the reason, we have precious little knowledge of the time of legends. Only the magic that proves something happened somewhere.”

Caedmon’s heart fell. He could not have reached a dead end. There were answers out there, there had to be.

The Wanderer seemed to read his mind, “Aye, the answers are there, but they cannot be found here.”

A chill fell over Caedmon. He should have guessed that a Wanderer would encourage him to leave Calet at first chance.

“Now, don’t get all stiff with me, my Son,” the Wanderer said, amusement lightening his tone again, “I can tell that my fellows have little good to say of us. But if you wish to continue your quest for knowledge, you will not be able to remain here. You are what, three and twenty? All you require for your Mastership then is experience. Experience can be gotten outside Calet as easily as within, or easier. But knowledge, ah, knowledge such as you seek, that can only be found without.”

Caedmon looked down at the books in his arms. He had decided years ago that if the dragons were the source of all magical knowledge, that finding them was the only way to increase that knowledge. He thought of the little information that he had found in his years of study: hints of hidden temples, of lost gems which held the keys to the knowledge of the ages. All were now dismissed as fanciful legends by most, but all begged Caedmon for further investigation. As he looked back up into the Wanderer’s piercing blue eyes he knew that the old Mage was right. The only way he could find the knowledge he sought was to leave Calet.
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Postby Aiwe » Tue Dec 28, 2004 8:06 pm

“I'm sorry,” Voke whispered, stroking the gelding's slimy, rotting neck. “I'm so sorry.”

The horse didn't shuffle, or snort, or nicker. It just stood there, pearly dead eyes staring straight ahead. Voke Nahl eased its head down to her face, and put her lips to its putrid mouth. A vapor, green, oily, and glowing like phosphorus, drifted from between the zombie animal's lips. Voke breathed it in, sucking deeply until nothing was left. Then she jumped back, and let the body of a long-dead horse crumple and slide heavily into the ditch beside the road.

Voke's legs gave out. She sank down onto the hard-packed earth of the road. “I'm so sorry…” she said again. “Sleep now, rest. I hope no one ever uses you like that again. Please understand. I had to get away. I had to raise you, to ride you, or they'd catch me.”

As she spoke, scratching wretched patterns in the dust with her long black talons, another animal eased itself from the shadows of the roadside trees and began tearing at the dead horse's flesh.

“For Goddess's sake, Seelo, hasn't he been through enough?” Voke muttered.

The creature, a fog-white jackal with a sickly greenish cast to its fur, lifted its head from the feast. It stared at her with eyes that were like orbs of solid emerald.

Shell. Hollow. Useless. Going to waste.

The words misted into her consciousness, in the space behind her eyes. Then the jackal-thing resumed gorging on decayed horseflesh.

“I suppose you're right. It just doesn't feel right.”

Confusion? Conflict? Go home. Answers.

“No.”

Safety. Power.

“No!” she shouted, rising. “I told you, I'm not going back!”

Purpose. Reason for being. Squandered. So selfish!

“Damn you,” she smoldered. She turned and paced a few steps away from Seelo and its dinner.

The creature made no further comment. It ate its fill, then returned to its accustomed place at Voke's left side. She made no move to pet it or scratch behind its ghostly ears.

Eventually Voke sighed and viciously beat the road dust from her black caftan. Arms back at her sides, the long sleeves of her garment reached several inches beyond the tips of her longest talons, hiding them from view. She shouldered the scant pack that contained the sum total of her worldly possessions, and continued on down the road to Brahna. The horse's corpse slumped further into the ditch behind her. Voke tried hard quell her mind as it wondered what had become of the creature's soul.

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

Getting into Brahna itself had been easier than Voke expected. She was still edgy from her flight out of Calet. Her eyes, the solid-black orbs that had turned the White Mages' welcoming embrace into a terrifying strangle-hold, roused no fear or comment from the Brahnan guards, since she kept them downcast and veiled behind long, dark lashes.

Seelo drifted back to her side once she was past the gate guards.

"You're a sly one. They didn't see you?"

The jackal-thing gave a derisive snort and let his tongue and jaw hang in a canine smile.

Incompetent.

"Me or them?" Voke mused. Seelo didn't answer, though. Voke already knew he meant the gate guards. His thought-snatches were always accompanied by edges of feeling and sensation.

"You may be sly, but you still need a place to sleep. And so do I. Hopefully there's an inn around here that allows animals..."

Another disgusted snort was shot from knee level, but Voke wasn't listening to that. Her sensetive, ever-so-slightly pointed ears had tuned into a conversation across the street.

“I just sent a message informing the Council I am here. We will not go there today, since it is so late in the day. We’re going to my favorite inn here in Brahna. It’s called the Silver Dragon Inn. They shouldn’t mind your menagerie, unlike most inns here.”

She didn't turn her head to face them, only glanced beneath her lashes.

White! She nearly jumped at the mere flash of that color, fearing that a Mage of Calet was near. But it was only a cat. A simple white cat.

Silly.

"Yes, thank you, Seelo," she muttered. Out of the corners of her eyes she watched the man, woman, and assorted wildlife strike off down one of Brahna's many tangled streets. "That sounds like our kind of inn, though. I'm going to follow them."

Mages? Hurt. Fear. Blame.

"Inn: food. Clean Sheets. Plumbing. So just shut up, will you?"

Home is better. Safe.

Voke rounded on the jackal-thing, making him cringe back a little. "No! I've told you a thousand times, no! I'm not going back to them." It was a harsh whisper, so the other street-goers wouldn't hear.

Home is better.

Voke gritted her teeth and turned back onto the path, to follow the pair of navy-blue-clad mages once more.

--Aiwe
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Postby undomiel » Wed Dec 29, 2004 8:59 am

"Oh Blessed Sun, forfend this day," muttered the old man as he paced by the open windows.

"A little late for that, Father," said Rien. He carefully folded a tunic and placed it in the bottom of his new leather pack. He'd never had to leave Halin's heights before and the travel gear had been a parting gift from his mentor. Saying goodbye to Auzan had been almost more difficult than the loss that had provoked this journey. Almost. Rien wiped a tear from his eye before his father could see it.

"That I should live to see such things," his father continued. "It is almost beyond belief."

"Nothing is beyond belief, Father," Rien whispered. "Not anymore."

"My boy, my boy," rambled the old man. "Did ye ever think such a thing would happen? I've tried my best to be a good man. I've lived according to the Laws. Why does tragedy ever strike the righteous house?"

"You've no hand in what's happened, Father," Rien told him. "You nor I. We cannot control the deeds of others." A traveling cloak went into the pack and several packages of food. Calmly he watched his Father as he walked back and forth. He stopped abruptly and looked at Rien with desperation.

"Do ye think, my boy, that ye will bring her back? Do ye think that ye can save her?" The gnarled hands clasped Rien shoulders desperately.

Rien would have pitied that man, yet he knew that he worried more for his reputation than his daughter. Gently, Rien removed his father's hands. "I'll do my best. The Council will surely aid us."

"They must. They must," his father said emphatically. He continued to pace.

From a high shelf Rien took down a small wooden chest. With a key that had hung on a chain around his neck he carefully unlocked it and withdrew its contents. A shining golden medallion came forth and glittered in the sunlight that streamed in through the wide windows. He held it in his hands a moment, caressing the ancient patterns and inscription. Then he meticulously wrapped it in a silken cloth and laid it in his pack. The time had not yet come to display it openly. "Soon," Rien whispered. He secured the leather bag and slung it over his shoulder. "Alright, Father, it's time for me to go."

"May the 5 Winds guard your steps, my boy," said the old man, "and the Blessed Sun smile on your quest."

Three days later Rien stood before the gate of mighty Brahna.
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Postby The_pointy_hat_trick » Thu Dec 30, 2004 1:13 pm

The last scattering of the beeches faded quickly out of sight as the company made their way onwards. The black horse followed placidly behind, seeming glad of the relaxed pace.

After a mile in which there was no sound except the rhythmic plod of the horses hooves Garia broke the silence, “How much father is this river then Cadell?”. He glanced at the women in front of Cadell, “She doesn't seem to be showing any signs of waking does she?”

Cadell ignored the second question. “Just over a mile now I think, the land seems more fertile around here, so we should be near”. He adjusted his hold on the maid in front of him so that she was more stable, leaning her onto his arm and shifting the reins so that he had a better contact with Rahn. Looking at her now, he realised that she couldn’t be older than twenty. Why she was out in the wilds all alone he couldn’t figure, many ideas floated through his mind but none seemed to fit with her sudden flight.

Soon the river wound into sight, and the horses pricked their ears at the noise of it.

“We’ll spend the night here and then move on again in the morning” said Cadell pulling the mare to a halt, “Can you help me lift her down?”.

Garia dismounted and made his way over, taking the woman in his arms as Cadell lifted her off the horse. “Where do you want her?” he inquired with a grin. Cadell dismounted, and laid the woman’s cloak on the ground, “Just lay her here. See to the horses while I go and try to collect some firewood will you?” Cadell replied. The light began to fade silhouetting the figures of the three humans and three horses against the fire.

Pointy stirred, her body ached her mind half waking half sleeping. Half formed thoughts drifted around her mind. “Sleep oh the numbness of sleep, the blissful escape from the pain of the waking world. The endless babble is gone and I cant rest, recuperate and dream. Dreams are the way to live, I can make them my world and I am in control, things can go the way I want. The soul that yearns for comfort can find solace in a dream, and the harsh reality can hide unnoticed in the back, blocked out for those few delicious hours.”

She could hear birds and the wind, see the suns last rays through her closed eyelids, and she could smell smoke. Smoke, this awakened her senses and she sat up suddenly, trembling, ready to run. She uttered a soft scream, as she saw the two figures in the light of the fire.

“Hush lass, we shan’t harm you, your safe.” Cadell said turning towards her, Garia looked round interested.
Pointy gasped and staggered to her feet, “Where’s my horse, and who in the devils debt are you?”. Cadell moved forwards, as Pointy drew her small dagger and pointed it at him, “Get away from me, I’ll, I’ll fight if you touch me”.
Cadell didn’t move, in the background Garia placed his hand on the hilt of his sword, ready to intervene. “Come lass” said Cadell gently “lower your blade, I’ve never fought a woman and I don’t want the first to be you”.
Pointy regarded him, his blue eyes held no malice only concern, she concentrated willing herself to understand him, she glimpsed his character, he seemed loyal in nature and bound to his honour. Satisfied she let drop her sword, and collapsed back to the ground.

Garia came into the light of the fire with a steaming bowl of what looked like stew and handed it to the shaking girl , “Here, drink, you must be starving”. Gratefully she took the bowl and sipped the broth. She finished and set down the bowl.

“I’m sorry, I was startled, I didn’t want to fight you.” Garia gave one of his snorts, Pointy jumped. Cadell shot a reproachful look at Garia who fell silent, “Come lass, what’s your name, I’m Cadell and this is Garia.”

She shifted closer to the fire and regarded the two men, “Pointy, or at least that’s what everyone called me. My given name was Estalwin but I do not use it anymore.”, she paused and looked round. “This isn’t where I fell off, I remember trees and there wasn’t a river, and where’s my horse?”

Garia spoke before Cadell could start, “No, we found you some miles back, Cadell rode with you on his horse till we could make camp, your horse is with ours”.
A flicker of a smile passed across Pointy’s face and she glanced at Cadell, “Well, I am in your debt it seems, thank-you.”

“What made you ride out into the wilds all alone?” Cadell broke the silence that had fallen, but at this pointy started like a spooked animal and wouldn’t expand on; “I don’t want to think of it”
Night fell and Pointy drifted once more into a dreamless sleep.
Garia poked the embers of the fire with a branch while watching the sleeping woman wrapped in her cloak, and then faced Cadell, “We have to move off again in the morning. What are we going to do, have her tag along with us?” Cadell regarded him incredulously, “What are you supposing we should do, leave her here in the wilderness with nothing but a horse? Garia, she’s a young and she scared, the least we can do is offer her some sort of guidance and help.” The mercenary prepared for sleep and lay staring at the embers, wondering whether the coming day would bring solutions or raise more questions.
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Postby Aiwe » Thu Dec 30, 2004 8:40 pm

Voke leaned against the side wall of the Silver Dragon Inn, listening to the innkeep and the two mages discuss booking and payment. The light banter felt brittle and harsh on Voke's raw nerves. She'd run from home, she'd run from Calet. Would she soon be running from Brahna?

Strange. Seelo cocked his head.

"What?" she stiffened, black-on-black eyes darting for threats.

Council?

"What council?" she frowned. "I just got here. Why do you think I'd know anything about the local politics?"

But she stopped herself, head nodding as she filed through the snatches of eavesdropped conversation between the male and female Spirit Mages.

"He talked about a Council. He keeps mentioning it. Why? Is it a big thing?"

The jackal-thing at her side somehow contrived to shrug. Questions here. Answers home.

"I am going to strangle you, Seelo. And then I shall make myself a nice dinner and a pair of furry boots from your corpse." Voke said this all very calmly, while staring off into the middle distance.

Seelo did not seem perturbed. Voke supposed he must be pretty much immune to death-threats by now.

"To think I once believed it'd be funto have a familiar," she huffed, heading for the Inn's front door. "Fairy tales lie. C'mon."

The two Spirit Mages had already retired to the second floor. Voke strode up to the counter and said, "Hello, Neela. I'd like one room with a single bed and a doggy bed, please. Extended stay." She drew a meagre purse from her shoulder pack, using the knuckles of her first two fingers so that she could hide her talons in a tight fist. "You will find exact change inside."

Neela made a point of giving Voke and Seelo each a thorough, suspicious stare, then carefully opened the purse and counted out the coins one by one. When she had them all neatly stacked, she raised an eyebrow. But she handed a key over anyway. "Upstairs. Last room on the left. Enjoy your stay." The last was said with very little enthusiasm.

As Voke headed up the stairs, Neela wrung her hands. I don't like the feel of that one, she thought. Perhaps I should talk to that kind Master Odunar. He'll know what to do...

--Aiwe
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Postby Eltirwen » Fri Dec 31, 2004 2:24 pm

After an hour of restless turning on his bed, Odunar got up. The lodging was excellent, and he could usually sleep anywhere. However, his mind simply would not halt its frenzied pace. He ran a hand through his rumpled black hair, and put on his bathrobe. He might as well check on Eltirwen while he was up. He eased the connecting door open, thankful the hinges were well-oiled, and slipped in.
He had to admit, watching the girl he preferred to think of as his own daughter always relaxed him. The sheer impossibility of her being dangerous or evil always amused him when people were afraid of her. If only they could see her face, they would know she hated to harm a fly. At the moment her smooth, open face was relaxed and peaceful, her slightly open mouth trailing a thin silver line onto a pillow from between her red lips. The amber eyes that caused people to fear her were hidden under smooth white lids and a ruby fringe of lash. Her round face with its slightly snub nose could hide no emotion, as her wild mane of red curls could not be tamed. Curled underneath the covers, her body had grown into a woman’s, with generous curves that could tempt any man. It was fortunate for this innocent girl that her robes hid her more alluring features in the daytime, or else she could receive far more trouble than the elders gave her. One white, small hand with stubby fingers rested on her cat, curled in the hollow left by her body. The large golden dog rested against her back, snoring slightly. It seemed Shaya and her pets had all been drained by the long trip. Perhaps the dreams would not break her sleep tonight.
It was really the dreams Odunar had come about. The council had summoned him, as one of its members, to a meeting about a message from Halin, but he was using this opportunity to speak to Lekan. As one of the most experienced of the spirit mage order, surely Lekan could discover the reason for his ward’s strange dreams. From her descriptions and her cries in her sleep, they almost seemed to involve Shades, but that was impossible. The girl was far too young to have seen one.
Suddenly, Odunar’s grey eyes widened, and he stiffened. What was that click he’d heard in the hall outside? It would seem ordinary, if it had not happened at the same moment Onu stirred slightly in his sleep and growled. It almost sounded like someone was trying to get into this room… He got up from the chair silently, slipping back through the connecting door and securing it before stepping into the hallway. The figure he saw there was not one he had expected at all.
“Neela, what are you doing?”
She wheeled, looking rather bashful. “I was only trying to get into your room so I could speak to you, Master Odunar. I thought you would have chosen the larger room.”
He smiled. “Shaya needed the larger bed for her pets. What do you need?”
“Well, sir, it’s about another patron of the inn. She came in shortly after you and your daughter. She seemed rather… strange, and had a mangy jackal with her. Her money was good, so I let her stay, but something about her just didn’t feel right. She wouldn’t meet my eyes, for one thing, and never showed her hands.”
“I see. Would you like me to watch her? I could speak to her if you like.”
“Oh, would you? It would make me feel so much better! I put her right across from you, in case anything happened.”
“I will take it from here. You may go.”
Neela left, seeming relieved, and he scrutinized the door she pointed out. Touching it softly, he stretched out his senses. Whatever the girl was, she did not feel like an ordinary human, and she was definitely awake. He always preferred to do things sooner than later, so he knocked.
“Excuse me, I know it’s a very late hour, but I was wondering if I could speak to you? I’m Odunar, and I was wondering why you are here.”
A strange voice answered him. “Come in.”
He walked in. The jackal Neela had mentioned was nowhere to be seen, but a singular personage was seated on the bed. He bowed, and waited for a response to his question.
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Postby Aiwe » Fri Dec 31, 2004 3:35 pm

Voke sat on her four-poster, eyes carefully veiled and hands tucked into her sleeves at her lap. What was this man doing in her room? Surely it wasn't any sort of funny coincidence that the very man she'd followed was now in front of her, asking questions.

"Why is anyone here?" she replied, voice calm, but mind racing. "I seek lodging." Drat it, Seelo, where are you?

The man put his head to one side. He didn't look particularly threatening; he was dressed in a nightshirt and bathrobe, for crying out loud. But Voke had to fight the impulse to shrink back into the corner. The only men she'd ever really known had been back...home. Where the scars came from.

"I have no doubt that this is true," the man said. Slowly, he shut the door behind himself and eased into the wickerwork chair by the fireplace. "I myself seek lodging also. But it does not explain why you are here, in Brahna."

"I needed a place to stay. Brahna has many inns." Cautiously, Voke inched towards the window at the head of her bed.

Odunar nodded slowly, then put his chin in his hand. "I will not harm you," he said, concern suffusing his mild tone.

"I've heard that one before," Voke muttered. Her back was against the window now. She could feel the catch digging into her ribs.

The man decided he was getting nowhere. "Let's quit chasing eachother in circles, shall we?" he sighed. "I am a Spirit Mage. I sense things that others cannot, and see what others will not. And what I sense and see in front of me is no normal young woman."

Voke was just about to whip her arms around to undo the window catch and flee. But she saw a bit of fog rise from the floorboards in a patch just behind Odunar's chair. She relaxed visibly. "What makes you say a thing like that?" she said, slowly, as Seelo finished coalescing to stand at silent guard.

Odunar opened his mouth. And someone screamed. It was one of those long, drawn-out cries of the bloodcurdling variety. Voke went stiff, but before she could make a break for the window, Odunar had her arms in an iron grip and was shoving her out the door, across the hall, and into another room.

"Seelo!" she cried. The jackal-thing, bound to one spot until he finished forming, stared mournfully after her, muscles tensed as they formed from the sickly-green fog. Then he leapt into the room behind Odunar--And froze.

Neela was there. So was another woman, slight, pale, with her red curls sticking to the tears on her cheeks. Seelo doubted he could take on Odunar even with Voke's help. Now there were three enemies--all but Voke and the men from home were enemies--and he could do little but stand and growl. He didn't bother.

Voke thrashed in Odunar's grip. "Let go of me! Seelo! Help!"

Neela looked terrified, first by the scream and second by the way her normally-mild-mannered guest Odunar was behaving. "Sir, she just woke up, and--"

"Leave us please," Odunar said, as calmly as he could manage. "Now."

Neela complied, meek and worried. She stepped gingerly past Seelo with evident dislike and shut the door gently behind herself. They could hear the clicking of her shoes as she made her way back to the front desk.

Odunar rushed to the other woman's side, dislodging a white cat in order to sit by her on the bed. "Shaya," he murmured, face strained with worry. He stroked the ruby curls from her face with one hand, and held Voke there with his other. "Shaya, what is the matter? Was it another dream?"

"Oh, papa..." the girl wept. "Papa, it was awful, there was this creature...like a wolf, but death-pale. I only saw it for an instant before it disappeared in a fog. And then--" She shook violently and have another scream as she noticed Seelo lounging at the entrance to her room.

"It's alright, my sweet Shaya. I won't let it hurt you. Go on," Odunar said, holding her protectively close and stroking her hair.

"And then..." She looked up, and saw Voke. Her voice took on an edge of terrible certainty. "And then there was a woman. Her eyes were black and she had black claws, and markings on her skin that swam and twisted and formed curses and words of killing. But she was not a woman. When she spoke her mouth was full of black fire and death poured from her lips. She was a Shade."

All eyes locked on Voke, including Seelo's hopeless green orbs. She backed away, realizing that she could neither reach the dor nor the window before being caught.

"Let me see your eyes," Odunar said, voice cold.

Voke shut them.

Odunar gave a frustrated sigh. Then Voke felt her sleeve being gently slid back.

Oh, Goddess, no, not that...

Her eyes snapped open. "Get away from me!" she screamed, jerking violently. But it was too late. Her skin crawled at the male touch.

Odunar held her wrist firmly. As Voke watched, trembling to hard to move or speak, the Spirit mage felt along the talon of her index finger, studying it. Then his hand slid the sleeve all the way up her arm, to her shoulder, exposing the thick, violent black marks splattered over her skin. They were in the language of the Kushun-Dar, the ancient order of necromancers, and each mark was a rune of pain, or hate, or death.

--Aiwe
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Postby Rodia » Sat Jan 01, 2005 8:17 pm

“What?” Garia raised his eyes up at the freshly woken Cadell. Still lying on his bedding, the mercenary had let out a very discreet noise, which at any noble venue would have been considered as ‘most definitely not a laugh.’ However the venue was rural and cold with the morning mist, and Garia had long felt no obligation to mind court etiquette. So he raised his eyebrows at the now openly smiling Cadell. “What’s so amusing at this hour?” he demanded.

“The fact that you’re up, for one.” answered Cadell quietly, sitting up. “Another good jest is the vulture-like pose you’ve assumed over that young girl. Tell me, can you honestly expect not to end up stuck like a roast if she wakes up and sees you hovering over her?”

Garia immediately stood up and walked off a few steps, stood aside a while, then walked back. “Actually” he said in an offended tone. “I was trying to figure out where she might have come from. Have you thought about that?”
Cadell made a small gesture to make his companion lower his voice. The girl was still asleep, and he liked to think it was not only extreme fatigue, but also trust that allowed her to rest soundly. He would rather not lose that trust through careless speech.
“Come” he said, picking up the canteens, and taking Garia by the elbow “the river is clean here and we can draw water.”

Out of hearing range, Garia spoke up again. “I’ve been thinking.” he said.
“A remarkable feat.” replied Cadell, who was in an exceptionally good mood that morning.
“Hilarious. I swear I haven’t heard that lark hundreds of times. Now will you listen a moment?”
“I will even listen two.”
“That lass” Garia was set on ignoring the jokes “is running away from something. Someone. We have no idea who.”
Cadell handed him a filled canteen and agreed that this was a startling deduction. Garia threw up his hands in frustration, and spilled most of the water from the uncorked skin. Cadell calmly reached out for the canteen.
“If she stays with us, whoever is after her will be on our heels soon.”Garia looked back at the camp. The girl had not moved.
“And so” Cadell stood up “You suggest that we abandon her?” He wasn’t smiling anymore. “I’d expect more of you.”
“Stop that. I didn’t say anything about abandoning her. I just think we should try and find out a little more about her, so we know what to expect.”
“What to expect.” sighed Cadell. “Garia, when in all the time you’ve spent on the road have you ever known what to expect? If there was even one day in which you were certain of the sunset, I tip my nonexistent hat to you, for you are wiser than I am, and possibly clairvoyant.”
“I would only like to know, in approximation, whether taking her into our care will mean a swift and gruesome death, or “merely” a price on our heads. Don’t look at me like that, young girls don’t ride to exhaustion through the night unless they’ve got a good reason. Someone either wants her dead or married and it wouldn’t hurt to know which.”
This time, even calm and controlled Cadell could not suppress the laugh. “Are those the only two possible reasons for a young girl’s flight?” he regained composition but smiled broadly.
“They’re the most likely.”
“You think not of imprisonment, then?”
“A bad match in marriage is quite the same thing. All right, she might be a criminal. I don’t see how that makes the situation any better.”
Cadell sighed and put a hand on his companion’s shoulder. “Garia, please lower your voice. In fact, we should leave this discussion for a more appropriate moment.”
“What moment could be more appropriate?”
“One in which the girl cannot hear us.”
Garia looked around. The mysterious runaway had awoken, and she was up, stroking her horse’s head, but watching the two men carefully from a distance. Garia waved and grinned, Cadell nodded, and they both walked back to the camp, assuming their most trustworthy attitudes.


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Postby The_Fool » Tue Jan 04, 2005 12:10 am

"Morning lass," Cadell said as they moved into the camp. "How do you fare today?"

Pointy continued to run her fingers over her horse's forehead as she turned to look at the mercenary and smile politely. "Well enough," she said. "I'm a little hungry though. I was going to make breakfast, but I couldn't find anything."

"I am afraid the snares caught us nothing this morning," Cadell gave an apologetic smile and handed her the canteen. "But Garia and I have a little bread and cheese left. It should last us the morning. We hope to catch something a little more substantial later on in the day."

"Unless of course you know somewhere close by where we won't have to ride for our food," Garia interjected slyly. Cadell shot him a warning glare.

"Actually, I'm very much lost," Pointy replied quietly, her attention focused upon her horse, her fingers working nervously in its mane, the canteen forgotten in her other hand. Her voice shook a little and she bit her lip. "I didn't mean to go this far…"

"There, there lass," Cadell soothed. "Where were you trying to get to?" He reached out to lay a comforting hand upon her shoulder only to have her flinch a little at his touch. The mercenary let his hand drop to his side. "We have to tend to the horses lass," he said softly when she did not answer his question. "Horses before men. That's the saying in a warband, and though we may not be one, we certainly rely on them. Do you think you can wait until then for your breakfast?"

"Sure," Pointy gave him a smile. "I think that's just fine. Your mare's certainly looking forward to a rubdown and her carrot piece."

"Here now," Cadell grinned at her, a line of minute crow's feet crinkling the corners of his cornflower blue eyes, "how would you know something like that? Did she tell you herself?"

To his surprise the woman paled at the jest, her eyes widening. "Oh. No. I just g-guessed. That's all."

"'Twas only a jest lass," Cadell said, "I meant nothing by it. Have I offended you somehow? If so you have my apologies."

"Cadell stop bothering the Lady," Garia grinned from his position down by the saddlebags. He had retrieved a filthy comb and was plucking a few strands of coarse horsehair from between the teeth. "You just tell me if he's sweet-talking you miss, and I'll knock him across the head for you." Garia gave a conspirator's wink at Pointy and shook another strand of horsehair free.

Cadell rolled his eyes at Garia and stalked across to take the comb from his companion's grip. "I'll do more than knock you across the head if you don't clean this damned comb more often like I tell you to," he returned with a rough grin. "Now help me with the horses."

"Remember what I told you miss," Garia said as he rose to his feet. "You just let me know."

"By the Goddess Garia, shut up!"

Garia laughed and started off after Cadell, who was whistling through his teeth at his mare. Rhan raised her broad head from her grazing and shook once before walking over to her master. Cadell ran a hand along her neck and over her withers, murmuring to her as he went. "Hello my lovely. Did you look after the new one?" Rhan snorted. "Ignored him then did you?" Cadell grinned and bent to run a hand down the horse's thick legs, clucking his tongue at her to make her lift her feet when he reached the feathered fetlock. He checked each of the warhorse's large hoofs for stones, placing the comb between his legs and using his fingers to remove the thick layer of dirt in the hollow.

This done he plucked a switch of dry grass from around the roots of a large oak. He placed the comb on the ground near one booted foot, then wrapped the switch of grass firmly about one hand and proceeded to rub Rhan down until her dark coat gleamed. Turning his attention to her tail he ran the comb through it, picking out the twigs and grassheads they'd picked up the day before, then moved on to her mane. When he was done he tossed the comb to Garia, then offered a thick carrot piece to Rhan as a morning treat.

"I'll start on breakfast shall I?" he called across to Garia who was struggling with a rather tangled burr in his mount's tail.

"Yes, yes," Garia called back distractedly. "Wretched piece of filth come...loose!"

Back in the camp Cadell wiped his hands clean on a scrap of cloth. Resting the cloth on his shoulder he knelt to rummage through his saddlebags, pushing aside a spare shirt to pull a loaf of bread and some cheese free. Unwrapping it he studied the bread to ensure it was still edible, then turned his attention on Pointy. The lass was seated by the ashes of last night's fire, and she had picked Cadell's wooden shield up, her fingers tracing along the battered edges and around the faded image of his Lord's emblem, the badger. Her horse stood nearby, grazing; its sleek ebony coat glossy in the early morning light.

"Be careful lass," he warned softly as he came to sit down beside her, "the wood's a little rough, and it's easy to gain a splinter."

"Is it yours?" Pointy asked, looking up from the scarred black and white blazon.

"Aye," Cadell nodded and he ripped a chunk of bread free for her with his hands. She took it with a polite smile and a murmured thank you. Cadell smiled back as he unsheathed his dagger to cut the cheese. At the sound of the blade coming free from its sheath the blonde woman shied like a startled horse and she scrambled back on her bottom, her heels digging into the dirt. Instantly Cadell lowered the dagger, turning it so that the blunt hilt pointed towards Pointy.

"Here now," Cadell said, a slight frown wrinkling his brow beneath his fringe of dark hair, "I'm only going to cut the cheese. Has someone hurt you lass? Is that why you're running? Your man hasn't got you with child has he? Made your Da mad enough to harm you? If that's the case we need to know. We can't have you riding hard if you've got a babe." He paused, searching her face and her eyes for some form of conformation yet finding none. "Or is it something else?"
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Postby Eltirwen » Tue Jan 04, 2005 4:56 pm

Odunar’s heart nearly froze in his chest when he saw the marks on the strange girl’s skin. He had seen marks like this only a few times, and they never boded well. The marks in conjunction with the talons made this person standing in front of him more frightening than he cared to admit. With a thought, he quickly secured the doors and windows of the room, and set up a mind-barrier nothing but air could enter or escape. He noted with a faint trace of amusement that Onu had taken up a position between the jackal-thing and the bed where Shaya was, with bared teeth indicating his willingness to protect his mistress.
“Shaya, you’re shivering. Get back under the covers, or you’ll catch cold.”
The frightened girl complied, obviously not sure what was going on. Minya jumped up into her lap, rubbing her head against her arm as if to reassure her. Odunar returned his attention to the female before him, feeling a swell of anger.
“Now, I demand some answers. That jackal-thing of yours can’t go anywhere. You’ve given my daughter her worst fright in five years, and helped disturb other people at this inn. What on earth is a Shade necromancer doing here? Do you intend to disrupt the council and start another war?”
His grip on her arm tightened as he spoke, and his grey eyes looked as if they would start shooting steely sparks.
“Papa! You’re frightening her!”
Eltirwen’s soft plea interrupted his angry thoughts, making them disappear like frost in the sun. He looked back at the girl in front of him. She was indeed cringing, seeming afraid of his very touch, and looked about to burst into tears. For the first time he noticed how young she was, almost the same age as his Shaya. He sighed, and let her go, sinking onto the end of the bed.
“I suppose you’re right, Shaya. No true Shade would be so afraid of one Spirit mage. Forgive me for my anger. Please, sit down. I’m not going to hurt you.”
The girl hesitantly moved to the armchair, and uneasily sat down, seeming confused by this turn of events.
“Introductions might help things a little. I am Odunar, a Spirit mage of Baeret, and this is my daughter, Eltirwen. I call her Shaya. How about you introduce yourself and your strange friend? You must have an interesting story.”
The girl’s face showed an interesting mix of confusion, fright, and something else, but she lifted her head and replied.
“My name is Voke. Please, what is this council you speak of?”
Odunar was utterly taken aback by this response. Obviously she knew nothing about the council - he could tell she was sincere. His fears were unfounded. Perhaps he could help her, somehow.
"Well, how about you answer my question first, and then I'll tell you about the Council. If that is all right with you."
Last edited by Eltirwen on Fri Jan 14, 2005 8:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby The_pointy_hat_trick » Wed Jan 05, 2005 3:30 pm

At these words Pointy bolted up right, fear showing vividly on her face, trembling violently. Her instinct in this case was flight; she didn’t want to examine the images in her mind as cold and as clear as ice.
Cadell made to speak, but before a sound had left his lips Pointy whinnied, calling to her horse, who at once pricked up his ears and cantered over. Surprise rooted Cadell to the ground and in an instant Pointy was upon the geldings back making to flee.
Looking down, she saw Cadell move suddenly his hands quickly grabbing hold of Daeglow’s mane, the delay giving him time to speak.

“Whoa lass, I didn’t intend to frighten you. Only know what you are running from”

Pointy shivered involuntarily her eyes flicked over him warily, weighing up the situation. She was lost, with no idea of her location and she was poorly equipped, these two men were strangers and yet they seemed to pose no threat only aid. She Glanced at Garia who some distance off was still focused on his horse and was oblivious to the situation.
She looked back at the mercenary still holding the gelding’s mane, his concerned gaze fixed intently on her. She had been shown little sympathy in her life save from her brother having been scorned by most and his concern overrode her fear allowing misery to flow back and overcome her.

She slipped slowly from the horse’s back, lowering herself gently to the ground. She pretended to be busy caressing the horse, her small hands rubbing his withers, to allow herself time to blink back tears that threatened to spill, not wanting to appear weak to her new companions.

“Lass?” Cadell’s voice broke into her thoughts, “what have they done to you?” he added more for his own thought that for her hearing.

She gave a small sob and blinked furiously, making her way back to the ashes of the fire and sitting down. Oh how she wished she could have stood up to her Father, to not be frightened by the mere memory of him. She felt faint her head whirled as she pictured Mearyn searching for her.
“I have not a man, nor am I with child.” she muttered eventually, tears leaked silently down her face, as she continued to speak.

Cadell, not knowing how to comfort the woman without frightening her further just sat down quietly next to her.
“I run because I fear that if I stayed I would be persecuted and hurt, by my father, he hated me. I loved him and it broke my heart.” She faltered not finding the words to go on, instead she held out her arm and rolled back her sleeve revealing the ugly scarring that disfigured her pale skin. Her fingers traced the marks on her arms and she shuddered, covering them quickly again.
The mercenary’s brows contorted in anger, he thought highly of honour and this disgusted him. “Your father, did this?”
She nodded, “And now he wants another chance to”. Cadell reached out automatically, wrapping his arms around the girl’s shoulders as she began to cry freely, her instinct to pull away conquered by grief.
“He came and found me, and the street was on fire, he new in the chaos people wouldn’t notice what he was doing.” A quieter sob shook her small form as she cowered outwardly, Cadell trying to sooth her.

Garia appeared suddenly, having won his battle with the stubborn burr, and opened his mouth only to be silenced by a gesture from Cadell, instead he surveyed the situation quizzically.

Pointy straightened up and managed to force a weak smile as she wiped her eyes, she could not read Garia easily, and struggled to know how to act around him. His mind was so open that the minor and the major merged creating a blur of mixed pictures which she could only see snatches of.

She saw an image of a crying woman and tried to look deeper, but managed only to glimpse the image of a dishevelled but determined Garia riding out alone before another lesser thought travelled over it.

Still shaking slightly she muttered something about getting water for Daeglow and led the gelding to the river, where she stood stoking his nose and scratching him gently behind the ears.

Cadell placed his head thoughtfully in his hands, while Garia paced back and forth.

“Well” Garia said after a while, “What did you do to upset her like that? I told you to stop bothering her”

Cadell continued to stare thoughtfully at the ground for a moment before consenting to answer. “Well, one of you guesses was closer than I imagined… or feared.”

Garia paused mid pace, “So we do have danger on our trail then?. Someone wants her dead?” his voice edged on concern.

“I am not sure, but someone has hurt her and wanted to continue along the same path. I would hazard a guess that if she had not fled there would have been some risk to her life.” He sighed and glanced at the maiden as she cared for her horse, who pushed her gently in play with his nose. It was a curious bond he thought as he watched the two, but one his puzzled mind currently did not know what to make of.
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Postby erinhue » Wed Jan 05, 2005 10:16 pm

“Shoo away now you children,” Clea scolded the gaggle of small clamoring bodies eagerly dancing around the young man who had just stepped into her neatly maintained cottage. “You leave the young Magus be. It’s your father needs tending. He’s got no time to fool with the lot of you.”

Clea flapped her apron after her scampering brood and lead the healer towards a back bedroom. “I don’t know which one is more stubborn, Rolf or that stupid donkey. I’ve kept him in bed as you suggested but I tell you it was no small job”

“Don’t let her fool you.” The aforementioned Rolf called out in a put upon growl.”That woman has enjoyed every moment. You tell her I can get up out of this bed now. I’ve got work to do.”

Bandar stood in the doorway and listened to the long married couple. The cadence of their bickering was a well-practiced rhythm, the rhythm of normalcy. When they first carried Rolf in, after the donkey kicked him, the roubust farmer was still and pale and near to death and Clea was something she very rarely was, completely silent.

The unnatural stillness was not dispelled by Elar’s emergency ministrations. Rolf survived, but still the sense of frozen quiet prevailed about the household. It held the small farmer’s cottage in tight grip each time Bandar came to check upon the man’s condition and to leave more of the potion with which the wound should be bathed. Today life was returned to the place and Bandar smiled. All would now be well.

While Clea would have no one but Elar for anything serious, once she was assured that Rolf would not immediately die, young Bandar was just fine to tend the mending. The young magus’ smile was all the verification she needed. She already knew her husband would not be leaving her to seek the dragons.

“You tell him he needs more rest.” Clea did not ask, she informed Bandar of what he was about to do. “You tell him in my presence so that he cannot argue with me later.” The note of triumph in her voice was something Bandar could not bring himself to take away.

“I’ve brought more of the potion, Elar says that as long as you are awake you might as well take some of it internally, and…”Bandar looked at Clea and nodded “ you might take a day or two more to rest that head before you go back to work.” It was the lazy time of summer, there was little work to be done on the farms or in the orchards at this time of year.”

Noting that Rolf did not object to this recommendation, Bandar went to see the children, who promptly lead him out to the barn to have a talk with the four legged guilty party. Partly to appease the little ones and partly because it certainly could not hurt, Bandar made a chant over the donkey for a more cooperative spirit and not such good aim next time.

That done Bandar kept the children out in the barn and told them stories. As always the loosely formulaic tales were informative and educational by design and made exciting and entertaining by the individuality of the teller.

Two of the children would be of Divining age when the of Calista birds next flocked to the slopes of the volcano. It would be the second since his own and he knew that Elar would ask his opinion of how the Jewel would read.

He also understood that it was a subtle lesson one that would make him get to know the children and the people of Yalek because by knowing them he would best be able to help them. Bandar had doubted much of Elar's wisdom when he first became his student but lately much of it sounded like true wisdom.

Bandar launched into another tale spun long to keep the childern occupied. Rolf was all but healed and Clea had been too quiet and too frightened for too long. Keeping the children entertained for a little stretch of time seemed the height of wisdom at the moment.
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Postby Spirit_of_the_Willow » Sun Jan 09, 2005 9:05 pm

“Take care my Son,” Mendel said, watching the young man take up the donkey’s lead rope hesitantly. He almost wanted to call Caedmon back, and tell him to remain a while longer till he himself could accompany him, but his own days of travel were at an end.

“I shall, Master Mendel,” Caedmon said seriously, gifting Mendel again with the title, though he did not remove his eyes from the road which disappeared into the trees only a little way from the gate. He was anxious to be gone now that his decision was made, but he found also that leaving the only home he’d really known was not an easy thing.

Aside from the Wanderer and himself there were no white robes within sight, though there were many villagers watching from a safe distance. Mendel was furious with his fellow Mages for what they had done, and what they were doing. Once Caedmon had made his decision known there had been a few attempts to dissuade him before they began to ignore him completely, reminding Mendel forcibly of the time before he himself had elected to leave, when he had thought to change the structure of their society. However, above all the White Mages valued peace, or rather, non-disturbance, so rather than deal with a disturbance, or accept change, they ignored its existence. It was inevitable that anyone seeking change would find themselves leaving the community.

Better that Caedmon leave now, Mendel reassured himself, than that he find himself forced out by their disapproval.

He had done his best to prepare the lad, but there was so much to tell. It was difficult enough instructing him in how to care for the old burro, and what supplies he needed to take. The lad knew nothing of the outside world. The Mage community was such that they had no need of money. Whatever they needed they raised themselves, or else the villagers provided in return for healing. It was a simple life, but even Mendel admitted that the peace it brought was necessary for learning the healing magic. It was only the custom of ignoring the rest of the world that Mendel felt needed to change.

“Remember Caedmon,” he urged the younger Mage, who finally turned his gaze from the road to meet Mendel’s. “You’ll want to leave the forest swiftly. Once you are out people seldom see us, and are usually very welcoming, at least in the smaller villages. Trade your skills for food and lodging, and coin when necessary. Save the coin for emergencies. Panos, the White Mage who attends the Council at Brahna will give you more if you need it, as should any other Wanderer you encounter.”

Caedmon smiled to himself at the old Wanderer’s obvious concern. He had already related all this the night before, and Caedmon remembered it quite clearly. There was really no need to repeat it, save for Mendel’s peace of mind.

“Aye, I see you think I’m rambling my Son,” Mendel said with asperity, “But the world outside Calet is very different from what you are used to. But I’ll stop. Experience is still the best teacher, and I’ve no doubt you’ll get your fill of it soon enough. Bah! Be on your way then!”

Obediently Caedmon turned and, tugging on the donkey’s lead, took his first step outside Calet, and into the forest. He did not look back, for though he was grateful for Mendel’s help, the knowledge that he hoped to gain called him forward with a song that could not be refused.

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

Nek Tormod took a long drink from his mug, trying to rid his mind of the image of Vadim hanging from that tree. He’d not wanted to enter the forest there. There were easier ways of making money. But Vadim had insisted that Haleigha would pay them handsomely for some wolf blood for her potions, and both he and Kale insisted that the rumors of the demon were just that, rumors. A lot of good it had done them. Vadim was dead, his heart ripped out, and they had no more money than they had before. At least Kale would think twice before claiming that the demon did not exist. They’d both seen its horrific red face, its eyes glowing, and smoke issuing from its nostrils like fumes from the volcano in Yalek.

“Well, well,” Kale said softly from where he sat opposite Nek. “That’s a sight you don’t see often.”

Nek strained over his shoulder to see what Kale was talking about. A tall man, dressed completely in white robes stood in the doorway, looking about him with much more interest than the Black Horse warranted. Nek grunted and turned back to his ale. He wanted nothing to do with those magisters back in Calet, with their dragon knowledge. Give him an honest old witch any day.

To his dismay, Kale rose from the rotten bench, and strode over to the Mage, clapping him heartily on the back, and asking him to join them in a drink. Nek turned and watched, but did not hear the man’s reply, for he spoke in softly cultured tones, which did not carry in the noisy tavern. Kale responded his manner apologetic, and the Mage ran his long fingers through his sandy hair.

Nek turned away again, hunching lower over his ale. This did not bode well for him, not well at all. He’d just tell Kale that whatever her was planning, he could just take care of it on his own. Nek Tormod was not going to get himself mixed up in magister nonsense. He valued his skin over that.

“Hah hah! My lad, we’ve hit it this time fer sure!” Kale said, slapping Nek on the back as he returned to his seat, a glow in his eyes which only appeared when there was easy money to be had. Nek turned his gaze away, he’d not be caught again in Kale’s scheming. “That pigeon is as innocent as a mewling kitt’n. He’ll be easy pickin’s. He was lookin’ fer lodgins’! Imagine that, lodgin’s at such as the Black Horse!”

Nek just grimaced, he could tell where this was going, and he didn’t like it one bit.

“So I sent ‘im on ta th’Forest Guardian Inn, a little ways along the right fork, you know the rest.” He gulped down the rest, “We’d best be goin’, I glanced out, and that ass of his is loaded right heavily. This’ll be a haul to beat Vad’s witch t’ flinders.”

“Not int’ th’ forest Kale!” Nek finally found his voice, “th’ demon’s there. Likely its just waitn’ for us t’ come back. It took Vadim as a warnin’, I know ‘t did!”

“Non-sense m’lad, It targeted Vad special, why else would’t have put us to sleep as gently as a lamb eh? ‘Sides, I just got m’self this little charm from Haleigha, ain’t no way that demon c’n do nought to harm me. Just stay close’n we’ll be rich men cum tomorra Nek m’lad!”

Caedmon tugged on the donkey’s lead, urging her into the shadows, “Come on Amaris, there’ll be a nice little stable for you, with lots of oats and straw and,” he faltered, he really did not know what would tempt a donkey, especially one with such an unlikely name as Amaris. The man in the tavern, Kale had said the inn was not far once you passed the fork in the road. It seemed odd to Caedmon that the inn would lie along the road which seemed less traveled, but he knew that the locals would have more knowledge than he about the surrounding region.

Not without a fierce battle of wills the two moved slowly along the path. But at last Amaris won out, and refused to move another step. Caedmon cursed under his breath as he leaned against a tree, and slid to the ground, his arms akimbo. Amaris looked at him steadily for a moment before moving to munch on the undergrowth.

At least she wasn’t attempting to leave him behind, he thought with mild amusement.

A snapping branch caused him to scramble to his feet, ignoring the dirt which now stained his robes. His grey eyes scanned the dimness around him, seeming to catch some movement between the tree branches. But a moment later he was certain it had been his imagination. Though he did seem to recall some rumors of a forest demon from chance heard conversation in Calet, he dismissed them as nonsense, probably from some wild animals.

Amaris stirred nervously, and he walked to her side and took her lead again, to see if he could urge her onward now.

Nek crept forward carefully, striving with difficulty to suppress the curses which flooded his thoughts. He was quite frankly amazed that they had gotten this close without being turned into frogs or whatever it was that these Mages did to people who annoyed them.

Kale held up three fingers to signal when they should attack. Nek twisted the heavy branch he held in his hand nervously. Attacking a Mage was as fool a thing as he had ever been talked into. If he lived through this he'd move out of this forest forever, hopefully far away from any hint of magic.

Two fingers, one. The two slipped forward as one, silent from many years of practice. The tall man's white robes made an easy target in the shadows. Kale was right on top of him, knife held ready before him. Could he be so oblivious?

It seemed he could, for it was not the Mage who reacted, but the donkey. She brayed angrily, and started bucking. The tall man whirled around just as Kale sliced with the knife, opening a long gash in his arm. He cried out, and Nek cursed Kale and his knife. Much better to just brain the victim.

And he suited his action to his thoughts, and brought the club down on top of the Mage's head, or he would have if the man hadn't been so tall. As it was it managed to get him square on the side of the head. The effect was the same. He collapsed in a heap of arms and legs, blood staining his white robes from the gash in his arm, and the blow to his head.

Kale hadn't even waited till he had fallen before rushing to search the packs which the ass had managed to throw.

"Witch's eyes!" Kale cried out, "There's nothing but bloody books!"

"What!?" Nek said, leaving their victim.

"All that bloody ass was carrying was a bunch of cruddy old books, and some paper!" The said articles were thrown to the ground in disgust.

"Lets after it," Nek said then, seeing his way out of the forest, for the donkey had not stayed around to chat. "At the very least it'll be good for the knackers. And perhaps it didn't manage to dump its whole load, and we'll yet make something of this trip." He tried to sound as furious as Kale was, but it was difficult with the heavy purse he had lifted from the Mage weighing down his belt.
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Postby ElvenWanderer » Thu Jan 13, 2005 2:36 pm

Rhavara changed clothes. They were the same size and material; a short light tan leather skirt whose bottom was a bit uneven because of the animal’s skin shape, and a soft tan shirt that had holes for her arms and tied around her chest. It only covered her bust, as it often got quite warm in the forest. The set she had been wearing was streaked with blood. She went outside and washed the clothes, leaving them out to dry.

She looked around, but Drahne wasn’t anywhere near. She had been wandering off a lot lately. Rhavara knew Drahne felt it her duty to protect the forest. But sometimes, Rhavara thought she took it too seriously. Drahne hadn’t been too happy about the other night. Rhavara couldn’t even count all of the times Drahne had come back nearly dead. A long, loud howl broke the silence of the forest. Rhavara had acquired an acute sense of hearing since being in the forest. Recognizing it as Drahne, Rhavara grabbed her mask and spear and hurried out of the cave. She bounded down the steep mountain in a catlike way. As soon as she had reached the bottom, which wasn’t awfully far, she was in the forest. She ran, jumping over rocks and branches.

When she finally reached Drahne, the wolf was circling a human lying on the ground. He wore white robes stained with blood. He had obviously been attacked by other humans. “You brought me here for this?” Rhavara asked, almost not believing it.

“The human. You must help him.” The voice jabbed at her brain.

“Oh? And why should I? When have I ever saved a human? What reason do I have? The humans destroy the forest. Look what they do to each other, their own kind.”

“You must. You will. I know it.”

Rhavara raised an eyebrow. “How?” Drahne stopped pacing and sat, cocking her head to one side. “You will see in time.”

“Don’t start that with me again.” She paused, thinking. Finally, Rhavara sighed. “Fine. You win. I’ll take him back home. But I’m not carrying him.”

Drahne’s ears flattened as the wolf looked down. “I knew this was too good to be true.” Rhavara picked up the man and put him on Drahne’s back. The wolf didn’t even stagger under the weight of the human. The man’s skin was so much lighter than hers… he was obviously a mage. Rhavara was darkly tanned from always being in the sun.

Once they returned home, Rhavara laid the man down on the floor of the cave. He had a horrible head injury and his arm was clotted with blood, and would probably become infected. She looked up. Drahne was sitting a few feet away, watching. Rhavara grabbed the rattle and a few clay jars. Kneeling next to the man, she began to speak the Ancient Language. She dabbed some brown mud-like paste on the gash on his arm. It smoked and bubbled angrily. Rhavara could sense that his life force was very weak.

Once it was clean, she placed her hands, one holding the rattle, over his arm. Moving her hands up and chanting, black smoke seeped from the wound and rose into the air. She gathered it into a clay jar, which she put aside.

Rhavara took some of the green paste she had used on Drahne and put it on his head injury. It was a repeat of the night before. When that was over, Rhavara brought forth a third jar. She lifted the lid and took out a few small leaves. The edges were pointed, and the leaf itself was triangular in shape. She placed them on his arm and wrapped the whole thing. Once again, she lifted the rattle and chanted. Rhavara sensed his pulse begin to quicken, but it was still no where near normal. Thoughts returned to him. Ten minutes later his pulse returned to normal. He opened his eyes... and yelled out. The man scrambled to the cave wall, smacking his arm in the process. Drahne, who had been sleeping, lifted her head and her ears perked.

"What... who are you?" Clearly, he was confused as to what was going on. And frankly, Rhavara didn't have the patience to deal with it. SHe pulled forward the thought of sleep, as she had with the other men. This was much harder, because he was a mage. His mental discipline and control was greatly increased.

Rhavara pulled the sleeping man onto the bed and covered him. She herself slept on the floor, with Drahne still watching, an amused look on her face. When she woke up in the morning, the man was still sleeping. She retrieved a casst-iron pan from the wooden chest near the bed, careful not to disturb him.

Taking some of the deer meat out of one of the bundles, she made a small fire on the ledge outside. Rhavara poured water into the pan and cut the meat into small chunks. She allowed it to soak up the water as she sliced carrots, potatoes, and mushrooms. Putting all of this into the pan, she placed it over the fire and added a bit of sea salt. She didn't bother to grow vegetables. There were a few villagers in the forest who had given them to her. In return, Rhavara kept the animals away from their crops. From all of this she made a stew. When it was done, Rhavara poured some into one of the bowls and placed it on the table. All of a sudden, thoughts burst into her head. The screaming pain made her body turn rigid, and she clutched the table to the point where her hands hurt. She put up a mental block to shut it all out. When she did, Rhavara turned to see the man sitting up.

"How are you feeling?" Rhavara asked, averting her eyes

"Where am I?" he asked.

"You're in the mountains between Numa and Dasari."

"Who are you? What happened to me?"

"My name is Rhavara. You have no need to know any more. And as for what happened to you, I don't know."

"I had an odd dream. It was cold, very cold. But I can't remember much else."

"You were dead." Rhavara said simply, and then felt like hitting herself.

"W-what do you mean I was dead?"

"My my, Caedmon." Rhavara said, clicking her tongue. "As a white mage you should understand what death is."

"How could I be dead? And how did you know my name?"

"You're not dead NOW. You were hurt badly. I had to remove your soul before I could mend your wounds so your soul wouldn't go into shock from the repair." Ahe purposely avoided his second question. At the look Caedmon gave her, she added hastily but a bit agitated. "I put it back in."

"Who are you that could do such things? A Shade? You are obviously not a normal mage."

Rhavara laughed. "A Shade? No. You don't want to get anywhere near one of them. Compared to them I'm nothing. "

"You still didn't answer my other question. How did you know my name?"

Rhavara looked at the floor and hesitated. "You spoke it last night. You were talking in your sleep." It was a blatant lie, but it was better than the truth.

"You're not one of those black mages, are you?"

"Don't be foolish." She was fast losing her temper with this human.

"Why do you live here, so far away from the rest of the world?"

"Why do you insist on asking so many questions?" Rhavara asked hotly. She picked up the bowl of stew, grabbed a wooden spoon, strode over to the man angrily and shoved the bowl roughly into his hands. "Eat it before it gets cold." And with that she stalked angrily from the cave. Outside, Drahne was sitting on the ledge with a smug, matter-of-fact look on her face. Rhavara turned to her and sighed angrily. "Make sure he doesn't go anywhere." And with that, she went into the forest to cool off.
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Postby Aglanor » Sat Jan 15, 2005 10:36 am

A door opened silently and a servant entered, carrying a bottle of strong, red vintage. He walked to the small table in front of the hearth and poured it in a crystal glass. The figure in the chair didn’t move. “Any further assistance, my Lord?” the servant asked to the dark figure. “No thank you, Dinnah. I’ll be fine.” The servant bowed and walked out of the room, closing the door behind him. In the near darkness of the room the still figure was a mere silhouette against the dancing flames in the hearth, but his gray eyes shone like gray gems. A burning passion had taken hold of the man. He stood up and walked to the bookcase and took his most recent addition out of the cabinet. It had taken him years to find this book. Most librarians and collectors considered this book a myth, and even most mages would not believe it existed. But the book was very existing. The man who sold it to Damian had thought it to be fictional poetry and though it indeed was a very poetic book, fiction was not part of it. The prophecies dated from before the Shade wars, and they spoke of great wars and dragons; decennia before the earth actually tore apart. No one had believed it of course, and even then it was shoved away as fiction. But the man who had written the prophecies had been correct and his prophecies came true to even the finest detail.

Yet not all were regarding the Shade wars. Some later poems prophesized a second breaking of the world at the hands of a half-blood. It wasn’t as clear in the text, but it was the only thing Damian could translate it into. He went to the page with the poem that spoke clearest of it.

And lo! That what was shall pass once more
as the world tore; it shall tear again.
Break under the weight of vengeance and hatred;
Among the clouds, smoke is not welcome.
Smoke contained, leads to fire;
And thus the world shall burn.
The world’s fate hangs by a thread.
As offspring brings the world to death.


Damian’s mind processed the words, but the conclusion stayed the same. This prophecy spoke his mind’s inner thoughts. But it didn’t give him a clear idea how. He had been trying to find away to end the world for years. Decennia even. Yet, there just didn’t seem enough strength to do that. But the Shades nearly succeeded. Damian looked at his hands and the slight pale glow that came from his skin. Had he power in the blood that flowed through his veins or was the legacy of his father merely psychological? He knew he had magic talent for the Spirit path. Yet his magic was twisted and dark; nothing like what the mages of Baeret channeled in their so-called ‘hidden’ city. Damian smirked. Hidden... There weren’t big neon-signs pointing in it’s direction, but all it took was intelligence and the ability to look further than your own nose. Hidden away with simple illusions and visual tricks it was not easy to see, but one should never purely rely on any single sense. He remembered his experience in Baeret and felt anger boil up. The open-mindedness of mages was non-existent. Because of his different form of magic they banned him from practicing magic and tried to have him imprisoned. Damian would show them. Magic can be self-taught. And he’d show them what power lies in the shadow. He had found books that talked about the early mages and how they taught themselves. Magic existed before the dragons came, of course. But it slumbered and only awoke on rare occasions. Most humans lived without ever knowing of their hidden talent, but some found the seed and carefully made it grow. Some turned mad, some actually succeeded in taming their magic and using it for their own good. Damian was determined to follow their path. He had been able to shield his spirit from any insanity, and had a certain resilience to mind affections, inherited no doubt, from his father. He didn’t complain. At least the bunnyslipper had been good for something. Damian finished his glass of wine, and put the book back on it’s shelf. He walked out of the lounge and went up to his bedroom. His bed was hardly used. As half-shade Damian didn’t need sleep. Yet he often found it pleasant to escape this world for dreams. In his dreams he felt no bitterness or hatred. In dreams he could be himself without fear of pulling down the curtain, showing people who he was. He looked in the mirror. His pale skin, his dark hair and his gray eyes were inhuman enough for some to notice. It had taken him years of training, but his magic had been good use in creating a façade. A minor illusion, constantly in effect so others could not see his real visage. He lied down and rested his eyes and mind. He was never really asleep, but more of a deep meditation; his mind wandering though an ethereal world, while his body rested.

With a gasp he awoke, sweat forming crystals on his face. A nightmare. And a heavy one, too. Had it been real? With the slight training he had been given by his Spirit mentor and by the training he had gotten from trial-and-error and instinctive use of magic, he had quickly found to not do away with dreams as mere hallucinations. There was ever truth in the world of dreams, and glimpses could be caught of the future. However, it could be an alternative future. But this nightmare had been strong. It was a very close future and very present. Not a sideway of a sideway of a sideway. The path this world was walking led to the future Damian had seen. He quickly stood up and half ran to the parchment and quilt on his desk to write down his visions. He had seen dragons. They had talked to him. But about what? Was it a warning? Or even a threat? Clearest in his minds were gems. But what was important about gems? How did they fit into the story?

Damian sat back. His forehead wrinkled as his mind went over the various options. Suddenly the poem sprang back in his mind. … As offspring brings the world to death.. It hadn’t meant him. The gems were dragon eggs. Damian smiled and his eyes burned with passion. The veil before his eyes was lifted and a way had been found. Dragons were born with the magical talent and grew up learning to master their immense strength right from birth. A yet unborn dragon holds tremendous magical strength, but untapped and free to be used by whoever possessed the egg. Damian went back to bed, knowing that the road ahead was clear. Tomorrow would prove a day of trial as he had to find out where the eggs could be found. A secret not easily uncovered. Yet for now, his mind was calm as he rested once more.
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The Journal

Postby ElvenWanderer » Sat Jan 15, 2005 2:35 pm

Lian walked into the Citadel, opening the colossal wooden doors. Inside, the floor was a dark blue sky, with white stars, a huge white moon, and an enormous yellow sun. There were mages everywhere inside. He made his way to the library and began shuffling through books. Wedged between two large books was a tiny, tattered one. It almost fit into the palm of his hand. The pages were yellowed, and it was obviously very old. Lian opened it carefully and looked at the inside cover. “Sir Ramos Dakot.” He stared at it in wonder. His heart raced and he looked around his. There was a guard at the entrance who was eyeing him suspiciously. He read the first page of the book.

“I have dreamed it. And it has haunted me since a fortnight ago. So I have painted it. I have never been a man of the arts, but alas- for when I touched brush to canvas, it seemed to pour out of me.” Lian realized with giddy excitement that the tiny book he was now holding was Dakot's journal. He read on eagerly. Further on into the book, it read “If someone else is reading this, you must know not to bring this to the Great City. For if they find it, they will surely destroy it. For within these pages are the secrets of the past. I am Sir Ramos Dakot, knight of Glandlin, and I have seen dragons.”

Lian knew he couldn’t just walk out of there with the book in his hand. He slipped it into a pocket on the inside of his robe and left and made his way outside. On the way, however, the guard ordered his to stop and turn out his pockets. He, however, pretended not to hear him, and hurried away through an alleyway. The guard proceeded to chase him.

Lian headed back towards the inn. He reached it near dusk. Lian had gotten lost on the way, made a wrong turn, and had almost run straight into one of the city guards. He didn’t want to be caught with the book. Why had it been in the common library instead of the Council’s library? Perhaps they didn’t know it was there? That, however, seemed quite unlikely. He then went downstairs and sat down at one of the tables near the fire and opened the journal again.

“I have dreamed it. And it has haunted be since a fortnight ago. I have painted it. I have never been a man of the arts, but alas- when I touched brush to canvas it seemed to pour out of me. I dream it every night. Years ago, I fought as a knight for Glandlin in the Great War. I was a great warrior. Now I am old and can no longer fight. But it is calling me. Always, forever calling to be. I am near mad with it. I must go to him, who I once knew so well. I am going on a journey, and I do not know if I shall return.”

This was utterly amazing. Lian turned to the next page. Nothing. He frantically flipped through the book, but there was nothing there. He angrily slammed the book closed and put his hands to his temples.

“Do you live here?” he asked a man a few tables away. Beside him was a young girl.

“Where? The inn?” the girl asked.

“No, I meant Brahna.” Lian’s ears turned red.

“Oh. No. We’re from Baeret." said the girl.

“Huh?”

“The home of the Spirit mages.” You are most certainly not from Reist.” said the man.

“Is it really that obvious?” Lian asked grumpily.

The man laughed. “A bit. Where are you from?”

“I’m from another country. Far away. I journeyed here by boat. Arrived just the other day. I’m Lian, by the way.”

“Odunar”

“I’m Shaya.” Piped up the little girl next to him.

“You are a Spirit mage?” Lian asked, sounding hopeful.

“Yes, I am. And what brings you to Reist?”

“I want to study magic. I can do wind magic. Well, almost. That’s why I’m here... I’m so lost here though. It’s such a huge place.”

“Not many outsiders can do magic. Actually, you’re the first one I’ve ever heard of. Well for starters, you’re in the wrong city if you want to learn Wind magic. You need to go to Halin for that. It’s on the plateau.”

“And where is that? Is it far from this place?”

“It’s to the northwest of here, bordering the desert. It is a very long way. Two months on foot. About half that on a horse. It is a very dangerous journey. To get to Halin, you must pass through the forest. Numa forest is full of beasts. And then there’s the forest demon.” He said half jokingly.

“Forest demon?”

“Oh, it’s just a rumor. Most of the people who go through the forest don’t make it out. They die in odd, horrible ways. Found a few days later. The Council tried to find this so-called demon. They’ve tried scrying, but they only see the forest and the mountains. People are afraid it’s a Sadēs.”

“A shade? I’ve only heard a few stories from back home. How am I going to get to Halin?” Lian was desperate.

“Find a guide.” Odunar said simply.

“I hate to ask, but might you be willing to take me?”

“Sorry, but I’ve got business here.”

Lian sighed. “Alright. I’m sorry to have asked you.” He paused. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m quite tired.” Upstairs in his room, he got into the big four-poster bed with its dozens of pillows and crawled beneath the bedspread. He turned the lamp on and opened up the book again, hoping reading it would give him a hint. To what, he didn’t know.

“If someone else is reading this, you must know that I no longer live. Do not go into the Great City, for if they find it, all will be lost. I am Sir Ramos Dakot, dragon knight of Glandlin, and I have seen dragons.” It was what Lian had read before, but the wording was different, Lian was sure of it. He read on. “I know of you Lian. I know all about you. They have showed me. They, who are wise and strong. If you are reading this, a set of events has already been put into motion that will bring about the end of all you know. Do not trust those who are not of you.” He had to read the page four times before it sunk it. How did he know his name? What did it mean by “not of you?” Why hadn’t it shown this before? The questions swam through his head. He turned the page eagerly.

“You must leave the city at once. Go with those who are near to you, but do not know you. Listen to the Calling. You are in great danger. If you are caught, all is lost. The forest will guide you.” There was nothing written after that. Lian committed the information to memory, in case the next time he tried to read it, the writing was different. He also wondered what it meant. It was all a big riddle. Now there was no way he would be able to sleep. Instead, he retreated back downstairs. Unfortunately, Odunar and Shaya had already gone to bed. It would have to wait until the morning. He gazed around the room at the magical tapestries. He had never seen anything like them before. Neera had told him they depicted the Great War. Defeated, Lian returned to his room and had a restless night’s sleep. He awoke once in the night when he heard a rukus outside in the hall, but he did not go out and investigate.
Last edited by ElvenWanderer on Sun Jan 16, 2005 8:43 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Aiwe » Sat Jan 15, 2005 8:06 pm

“Introductions might help things a little. I am Odunar, a Spirit mage of Baeret, and this is my daughter, Eltirwen. I call her Shaya. How about you introduce yourself and your strange friend? You must have an interesting story.”

“My name is Voke. Please, what is this council you speak of?”

"Well, how about you answer my question first, and then I'll tell you about the Council. If that is all right with you."


Voke shrunk further back into the cavernous upholstery of the chair. Seelo, noticing a vacated soft spot, leapt up behind her, narrowly avoiding a snap from the big yellow dog. He curled up in the cushion and decided to try his luck by placing his head in her lap. To his surprise, she didn't shove him off, but instead buried her fingers in his fur. He could get used to this.

Voke let her fingers seep into Seelo's unreal, downy coat. No, she thought. No, it's not all right with me! But I suspect you'll only let me out once you've gotten the truth from of me, one way or another. So let's do it painlessly, shall we?

"This is Seelo," she said, carefully. "We used to live in the desert, several weeks' travel from Jalen," she said, not meeting any eyes.

No! Not Safe! Secret. Hide!

The words misted in, trying to override her own thoughts. She shifted her weight, ready to heave Seelo back onto the floor, then realized, He's just as scared as I am. She rubbed behind his ears until the tension drained from his etherial muscles. Astonished and pleased by this unusual treatment, Seelo shut up.

"Were you alone?" Odunar asked, his previous roughness gone in the presence of his daughter.

"No," she mumbled "There were others there."

"Other Shades?"

Voke's eyes flickered to the mage's face. "I am no Shade," she said, quietly. "And I have never met one."

Odunar's head tipped to one side as he studied the strange young woman. "No," he said at last. "You are no pure-bred Shade. But that vile blood runs in your veins nonetheless."

Voke flinched away.

"What are you, Voke?"

Voke stared at the wall opposite, silent.

"If you will say nothing, then I shall answer the question for you," Odunar said, rising to loom over Voke.

"Papa--" It was the red-haired girl, clutching the covers in her small hands. Voke marveled once again that she would stand up for someone who terrified her so.

"Do not worry, Shaya. This creature has not yet given me cause enough to hurt it," Odunar said. Instead of advancing rtowards Voke, he strode to the dresser and lit a taper, using it to light the room's oil lamps.

Thick shadows thus dispelled, he sat down once again by his daughter and said, "I cannot be sure, Voke. But I think you are one of a very rare breed. A half-Shade."

Vokes eyes snapped up to focus on the mage's face.

"But how?" Shaya quavered.

"In the Shade wars much violence was wrought, including violence to the women of towns razed by the Shades. Some of the women became pregnant. I had thought all of the halfbreeds thus created were either miscarried or stillborn, though I have heard rumors of live births. Why a mother would allow such an abomination to live..."

"Papa," Shaya whispered, putting a hand on his shoulder. "Please, do not speak like that. Not to Voke."

Odunar clenched his fist, but nodded, relaxing a little before going on. "So. Tell me, Voke, is the rumor true?" he asked.

After a long pause, Voke nodded.

--Aiwe
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Postby erinhue » Sat Jan 15, 2005 8:48 pm

Yarlek in the shadow of the great volcano was one of the major cities of Riest although to look at it one might not call it so. The “city” consisted of two short rows of buildings, streets that crossed each other to form the market square, the true heart of the place. The Metalsmith’s shed, the WoodWain’s and several shops made up one street with the homes of a few merchants forming the other. The Lair sat off to itself at the far end of the square balanced on the other side by The Sanctuary.

Yarlek’s population lived near its fields and trees, in farmhouses clumped together here and there over the countryside. The old magics over stone and metal and wood were still remembered, even if the strength of it in most was not as strong, and they had been put to use in fashioning any number of unconventional dwellings.

To say that the Magus of Yalek, lived in a cave would have been misleading. The dwelling was indeed carved into the living stone of a mountain but the fashioning of it was done by Pietor, greatest StoneMelder Yalek had ever produced. Glow stone was subtly worked into the walls to provide light and heat as required and feathered pebblestone cushioned the flooring. The “cave” was neither dark nor dank and well suited to the needs of the office.

Elar was seated at his desk troubling over an ancient scroll and a sheet of his own scribbled calculations. Slowly vague thoughts and feelings began to assemble themselves into something more concrete. The changes noted in the wind and sky were infinitesimal, only the strictest long term monitoring could have even detected them and even with all of that there was no way to be sure. No way to be sure, Elar repeated to his growing suspicions.


“Hail Bandar, wait up.”

The apprentice mage slowed his pace, and turned around, a smile growing on his face at the sound of the voice calling to him. “I see why you were picked to be a Rider, Var, you’re much too slow on your own feet.”

“Riders are never slow, we simply appreciate time.” Var’s smile was a match for Bandar’s as the young man caught up. “Where is Elar keeping you, I never see you any more.”

“You saw me last week” Bandar responded as the two fell into step and continued on together. “I went to commune with the mountain.”
“Oh that’s right, I remember now.” Var smacked the heel of his hand against his forehead. “Thank the dragons that Riders only have to go up there once a year. You’re not living off the land right now so come with me to The Lair.” The dark haired youth moved in closer to his friend. “ I hear that Farmer Ails dug up some of that ciderwine he put down last season.”

The Lair was an ancient hall with an ancient name shortened to its simplest form. It was home to the remnant of Yarlik’s Dragon Riders. The once proud guild ,that legend claimed had once ridden upon the backs of the Dragons themselves, had come through to the present day as little more than a social club with an elaborate and mostly secret tradition passed down through time.

“And what would Novar say to that? Bandar asked “I though outsiders were not allowed inside The Lair.
“Oh they’d make an exception for you, Bandar,” Var replied. “after all you will be Magus someday.”

What might have been said in answer went unspoken. The ground beneath their feet gave a great heave tossing the young men completely off their feet. Two sets of eyes turned immediately towards the mountains that sheltered Yarlek from the sea. A whisp of smoke trailed up from the volcano.
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Postby Spirit_of_the_Willow » Sun Jan 16, 2005 4:32 pm

Caedmon looked down at the bowl in his hands, his stomach in knots. There was no way he could manage to eat this, even aside from the fact that he wasn’t completely sure he trusted it. There was no knowing what this Rhavara would consider safe to eat. He set it aside, and rose from the bed, wincing a little as his arm protested the movement. He raised it a little and looked down at the dressing with horrified fascination. He’d never been injured seriously before. A few cuts, burns, and bruises were the worst he had gotten, and those came mostly from the time before he had been taken to study with the Mages.

The knot Rhavara had used to tie the wrappings was tight, and Caedmon decided that he really did not wish to look at his wound at this moment. How had this happened? Who had attacked him? For that was the only real possibility. He had left that tavern with Kale’s direction, and had that trouble with Amaris . . . Amaris! What had happened to Mendel’s donkey, and all his supplies and books?!

Striding swiftly to the cave’s opening, Caedmon ducked a little and stepped outside. The cave was on some sort of ledge, but Caedmon did not have time to discover the way down, for a very large wolf was rising from where it had sat on the ledge, and was now moving toward him, its yellow eyes seeming to glow menacingly.

He scrambled back into the cave, tripping over a chair and jarring his injured arm. The wolf sat when it reached the entrance, and merely looked at him. Caedmon straightened his long frame slowly, keeping his hazel eyes on the silhouetted form of the wolf, which lowered its body to the cold stone, and rested its head upon its front paws, effectively sealing off Caedmon’s only means of escape. He could only hope that the fiends who had attacked him had not found his supplies to their taste.

Deprived of that, he glanced around at his prison. It was much better furnished than he would have expected from a cave in the mountain, which was not really saying much. It was really much more like the rooms back in the Mage’s Community than he liked to admit. Simple utensils and bowls, pots and bottles of various things, though the odors here were far different from the familiar herbs of home. There was not really much in the furniture to hold his attention, so he began to examine the walls themselves. Various carvings and paintings adorned them, but one wall in particular held his gaze.

He’d never seen the creatures painted there in blood, nor even a picture, for none existed within Calet, but he knew them none-the-less. Six dragons, wings spread wide, circled the ancient symbol of the Mage Council, albeit roughly drawn. Something about it tugged at him, as though there was some meaning behind it. He glanced around at the furnishings again, trying to find some parchment and a quill. His drawing skills were mediocre at best, though he wrote a fine script, but he needed a copy of this image. But there was nothing, and again he cursed the chance that caused him to lose Amaris. But then, if he had not been attacked, he would never have found his way here, and discovered this picture, and someone who, perhaps, knew something of the dragons.

He spied a chest at the foot of the bed he had used, and crossed to open it, hoping that it might contain some writing instruments.

“What do you think you are doing?” a sharp voice called from the entrance to the cave. He looked up, to find Rhavara standing there, eyes flashing with displeasure.
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Postby Eltirwen » Wed Jan 19, 2005 8:22 am

Eltirwen was getting more and more frustrated by the minute. She couldn’t remember being abandoned by her parents in the woods, but she knew why they did. It was the same reason the other children in Baeret had taunted her, and the teachers had treated her like an animal when Odunar had tried to send her to school. He had always become furious when anyone treated her like a creature instead of a person because of the way she looked, but here he was doing it to someone else. The girl was obviously scared too. She looked like the woman of her dream, but the similarities stopped there – this girl seemed like she wouldn’t hurt a mosquito at the moment. Finally she could hold in her exasperation no longer.
“Papa, will you quit treating her like a thing? Whatever her parents were, she’s a living human being, and deserves to be treated like one. She’s still scared of you. I don’t think she’s the person from my dream – at least she doesn’t want to be.”
Odunar whirled, looking rather surprised. The girl Voke stared at her in shock, probably wondering why she was sticking up for a stranger.
“Now, you have the Council in the morning, and I’m tired. I’m sure she is too. We’ll be here for a few days, so we can have a chance to get to know her better. And she can tell us her story when she’s ready – I’m sure she’s not just here for the night. Maybe she’s trying to get help. Now can we please all go to bed?”
Odunar started to say something, but stopped. He looked partly amused and partly embarrassed that she was unleashing her temper on him. Voke still looked speechless.
“Perhaps you’re right, Shaya. You know, I can’t take you to the Council tomorrow. Maybe I should find you two a guide to show you around the town. You can get to know each other better. If that’s all right with you, Miss Voke?”
“Oh, Papa! That’s a lovely idea! Please say you’ll come. I’ll be so lonely tomorrow otherwise.”
Voke hesitated, then softly spoke.
“Let me think about it. I will tell you in the morning.”
She got up and left the room, still seeming a little shaken by the night’s events. Eltirwen yawned.
“Well, Shaya, back to sleep for you. You’ve had an interesting night.”
“You need to get sleep too, especially if you’re still planning on talking to Lekan.”
Odunar chuckled and nodded, then tucked her back under the covers. He made sure her door was secure, then went over to the connecting door of their rooms.
“Sleep well, Shaya.”
“You too, Papa.”
Eltirwen shut her eyes, and drifted off.
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Postby undomiel » Wed Jan 19, 2005 10:33 am

The place of Brahna was larger than any place Rien had seen before, in life or on paper. Its teeming humanity was such a far cry from the stark moors of his home that at first he felt a little bewildered.

He had managed to find the Silver Dragon Inn the night before, just in time to collapse on the bed from a weary day's wandering. The Mages of Halin had told him that the Inn was close to the Citadel where Brahna's High Council met and so he had paid their rates and grumbled to himself that carved doors and tapestries still couldn't be worth that much. Yet he had seldom slept better. Breakfast was equally as pleasing. Neela made sure that his plate was filled over and over until he had eaten as much as he could hold. He imagined that his bill would go up quite a bit with that breakfast.

With directions from Neela, the Citadel was easier to find than the Inn had been the day before. The building itself was hard to miss, as tall as it was, but getting to it involved a maze of streets little and big. Silently he said a prayer to the 5 Winds for Neela. When he came to the entrance to the Citadel he was required to show his credentials to several guards and captains before being ushered into a waiting chamber. At least a dozen others sat there already.

To his great suprise, he was guided into the main chamber right away. The men ane women still waiting glared at him as he passed through the tall doors. He had been rushed when he had passed through the other parts of the Citadel and had little time to take in his surroundings. Even the faces of the guards and the people in the antechamber had been a blur. The Council Chamber was another matter. It was a place that commanded the eyes to study the grandeur of the architecture and the mimute details of various tapestries and murals that adorned the walls. A long walk between decorated columns displayed statues of many of Brahna's most loved leaders and Mages. Rien found himself wondering if anything really needed to be so grand. In Halin, everything served a purpose. He imagined that the only purpose of the room's grand design was to intimidate.

At the far end of the room, when he finally came to it, were the 13 Council members arrayed in the traditional dress of their respective home cities. Rien vaguely recognized one as a man he had seen breakfasting at the Silver Dragon Inn that very morning. He tried to smile in greeting to the man, but his muscles felt paralyzed before these auspicious men. He had never been in the midst of so much power before. He managed to bow his head.

"Representative of Halin," said an aged Man in the center of the sickle table. "We have in our possesion a letter from the High Preist of your Temple. He instructs us to listen to your story with a sense of the upmost urgency. So I have called all the Council from the various reaches of Reist. We have convened to hear your tale. Begin."

Rien heard a man from the left side of the table muttering to his neighbor. "It had better be good. I have to come all the way from Jaalen to be here." He swallowed hard. Oh Mighty Winds, guide my tongue this day. Make my tale true, he quickly prayed and then he told them his story.

"I am Rien. I was born in the high place of Halin, as befits the Children of the Sky, and not alone. Another came into the world that night as the Great Wind rose up around us. It is a rare thing in my City for two children to be born together, and yet even so did my sister and I come into the world. The Wind Storm that killed my mother in our birthing promised great power to those born. That promise was kept.

"When we had lived 5 years, my sister and I entered the Temple of the 5 Winds. Fifteen years we spent there in the care of the City's Wind Mages. They taught us all we now know: of the land of Reist and its diverse peoples, of the mysteries of Wind and Weather, of the little history of Magic that has been preserved, of the lore of the world. The Temple was our world. We seldom left it and seldom received visitors, even our own father. The Mages were our family.

"When 15 years of study had passed and we had undergone the Trial we were named Wind Mages. Our power was great and we were expected to surpass all others in skill. We had our choice of positions within Halin or we could travel to other cities and take up the duties of Wind Mages there. Even the ruling council of Halin was open to us, because of our power. I did not desire to rule over others or usurp the places of the Mages who had come before us and I believed that my sister felt the same.

"We took up a simple life. We continued our studies under the Lore Masters of the Temple. We served the people as best we could. It was not enough for my sister.

"Little though I knew it at the time, the lore books she studied were of a more dangerous sort than those I read. She became fascinated by the legends of the Dragons. She soaked up every morsel of knowledge she could find about them. Along the way she came across vague references to the Sades, shadows of terrible power, and of a battle between the Sades and the Dragons. With the information that she had gleaned she developed a theory. Magic had entered the world at the same time as the battle between these two powers, she said, taught to us by the Dragons. Yet they had taught us only what we needed to know and had withheld the vast stores of their knowledge from us. She proposed that if we could duplicate the conditions of their first coming, then they would be forced to return and give to us the knowledge we need to defend ourselves against the Sades.

"This theory she put before Halin's Council of Mages and, seeing it as folly, the Mages rejected it. Rage filled my sister and she vowed to accomplish the task herself. No one believed that she would do as she said. Then the next morning she was missing. All that she left behind was a very cryptic note addressed to me. It said, 'I have gone to wake the Dragons.' "

The chamber was silent for several minutes and Rien watched as each Council member slowly processed the information he had just given them. One by one looks of realization and then horror showed on their faces. A tumult of voices rose from the council table. It was clear that though they all agreed that this news was no good thing, they disagreed about the possible ramifications. Several of the younger members were shouting back and forth hotly until the aged man who had spoken before stood.

"Quiet!" he bellowed in a voice that should not have come from his stunted body.

"But Lekan, what do we do?"

"Nothing," Lekan said. "We do nothing."

"But what if-"

"What if what?" Lekan demanded of the younger man. "Are you saying you believe the old stories about the Shades and the Dragons? Mythology is convenient in its own way, but one should remember that it is based on the fantasies of the populace, not on history. The Shades do not exist. The Dragons do not exist. There is no reason to fear the delusions of a young girl."

Rien stiffened at the words of the elderly Spirit Mage. He had seen his sister's notes of the years she had spent researching. He had seen various ancient texts that mentioned the legendary war.

"It's true," Rien cried, interrupting a new melee of angry voices. "My sister is not delusional, only misguided. And when she has decided to do something there is nothing in the world that can prevent her. She will do everything in her power to wake the Dragons, even if it means waking the Shades first. You must do something to intervene!"

Looks exchanged between men told Rien all he needed to know. The Council members from Halin had argued valiantly in his defence, but the others had overruled them. Lekan was adamant.

"We appreciate being notified of this... event, but we have decided that there is no threat. No action will be taken. You may go." Without another word the council members filled out of the room through a small door behind them. The Wind Mages cast him apologizing looks.

Rien stood alone and dumbstruck for several minutes. The Mages of Halin had been convinced that the Council would take this matter seriously. Instead they had treated him as if he were threatening them with children's stories.

"If they won't do anything then I must," Rien concluded. "She must be stopped."
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Postby Rodia » Sat Jan 22, 2005 2:22 pm

Westward, there was the river. North, there was grass. Far East stood the few huddling trees where they had found Pointy, and South stood Cadell, paused in between tasks of breakfast making, amused at Garia’s little roundabout.
Unabashed, Garia picked the blade of grass from between his teeth, and pointed it vaguely Southeast. “ While you were busy extracting maggots and mould from what’s left of our rations, Cadell, my keen sense of direction told me that over that way lie abundant stocks of culinary and sensual delights.”

“I wish your keen sense of direction stood a chance against geography. We’re days from any settlement.” With a sigh, Cadell disposed of a half-rotten satchel of dried apple slices. Breakfast was now less than half of yesterday’s, with the girl in their company. A town would be a welcome sight.
Garia joined him and observed his ration with a critical eye.

“Well, I’m hungry, and you’ve given me a substantially smaller slice of bread. Don’t be greedy, Cadell.”
“Don’t be petty, Garia.”
“Pass the butter.”
“In the name of…What butter? Go find a cow and you can have butter.”
“You’d curdle it.” Garia brushed the crumbs off his front and stood up. “And you forgot to invite the lady.” He gathered up the third portion, laid out on a cloth, and strode over to where Pointy was still having a quiet moment with her horse. He slowed down halfway, remembering her panic. “Must be careful and gentle, the lass is scared” he said to himself, and groaned as he realised that was exactly what Cadell would have said. Garia liked his travelling companion, but made light of his seasoned advice almost on principle. To realise that the influence of steady, honest, boring Cadell already kept a check on his thoughts annoyed Garia. He immediately resolved to ignore the next three terribly sensible suggestions the knight would surely make.
“Breakfast!” he announced to Pointy. She was a lot calmer now, and almost, almost smiled as she took the cloth. “Not quite the palatial menu, I’m afraid, but the bread is excellent.” He grinned. “Two weeks, and you can still bite into it. Do you know how to tell an honest man from a thief?” he riddled, and didn’t wait for the reply. “Share his bread. A stolen loaf turns to stone before morning.”

The girl definitely almost smiled at that. She broke off a bit of the dark loaf. “You are honest.” she remarked, and her piercing stare told Garia it wasn’t the bread she judged by. For some reason he suddenly remembered all the lies he ever told.
“We try.” he replied. He watched the girl eat- it was awkward, she hadn’t sat down or even moved. She stood by her horse, as if it were impolite to leave the animal for no better reason than breakfast. Garia felt strangely out of the loop, like a shy guest who knows no one at the party. He picked a leaf from a nearby bush and chewed on it. It tasted foul, and he spat it out. He tried reaching for a blade of water-grass, but it sliced his finger painfully and he retracted. In afterthought, he wound his sleeve around his hand and wiped the green blade clean.

“I…I will be going my way.” the girl handed him back the cloth. “Thank you for your kindness.” Her voice trembled ever so slightly. The horse shifted, understanding that the pause was over.
“Your way?” Garia was more than taken aback. He thought the frightened lass would crave company and protection. She had trusted them so far. “Don’t be so sure your way isn’t our way!” he exclaimed, and immediately regretted it. The girl shied back, a flash of new fear in her eyes, and tensed in a defensive pose. Even the horse whinnied angrily.
“No no no…I didn’t…That’s not what I meant. We’re not going to trap you or follow you against your will...” Garia saw, out of the corner of his eye, Cadell approaching them. Wonderful. “ I only meant to say, we’re all looking to find a town, right? Safety in numbers. Three is company. We desperately need a third for riding songs because, frankly, Cadell sounds like a mule in heat.” he threw in a hopeless joke. Against all odds, or perhaps because of the pent-up stress, the girl let out a clear laugh. It was short and abruptly ended as if she had embarrassed herself. But there was no more fear in her eyes. Relieved, Garia flashed his most friendly and charming grin. It had less than the desired effect, as the girl shook crumbs from her hands and turned to face Cadell.
"I told the lady we'd accompany her to the nearest town if she wishes." put in Garia quickly. Eyes fixed on Cadell, Pointy nodded. "I don't wish to be a bother" she said "but if we really are travelling in the same direction..."
"Your company will be a pleasure." said Cadell gently, and smiled.

They were ready to leave not long afterwards, a need for haste unspoken but felt by all. Cadell walked back down to the river and all around the campsite before mounting his horse, and Garia asked him the purpose.
"You worried about a tail." the mercenary replied and they both fell back to have a quiet talk out of Pointy's hearing range. It may have not been necessary, as the girl was completely preocuppied with her horse. She had pressed herself against its velvety neck, and spoke to it softly as they rode.
"I made sure we had left no traces of our stay." resumed Cadell. Garia's eyebrows rose.
"They wouldn't be looking for us.” he wondered aloud. “Not for three horses, not for two men."
"But one horse and one girl they know well. I don't think she has ever made such an escape before." Cadell pointed out.
"She rode like crazy, didn't she. Say, how far is the nearest town?"
"A few days. We should reach a better road by this evening."
"And a good road brings a good hire."
"We find ourselves in a strange situation, I'd like you to keep that in mind. We may meet an honest hire..."
"I don't think that last one was very honest, did you?"
"...or we may meet her pursuers."
“Hang on a moment, if she doesn't know where exactly she rode from, how can we be sure we're not marching straight into their loving arms?”
“Because when we found her, I paid attention to the trail she left. The grass grows tall in these parts. Let us hope it rains before evening.”
Pointy had finished conversing with her horse and looked over her shoulder, puzzled. They rode up to her, one on each side. Even in the sunshine, she still looked haunted by her flight. But as they rode on, both Garia and Cadell were pleased to see that her features gradually softened, and she stopped trying to simultaneously keep an eye on both of them as well as the path behind. Like Cadell predicted, by suppertime they reached the better road, and paused at the edge for a short while before following it westward. A few stray droplets made Garia look up at the cloudy skies, and against the way of someone with no roof or shelter, hope for rain.

.
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