The Dragon's War: Healer's Quest

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The Dragon's War: Healer's Quest

Postby Cerridwen » Tue Mar 22, 2005 1:59 pm

A long time ago, on a completely separate messageboard, I was invited to participate in a then-Tolkien-inspired role play/collaborative writing project. I was supposed to have been the bad guy, if my dim and distant memory serves.
As time wore on, the theme grew to be Tolkien-inspired, but we all decided that we were definitely not in Kansas anymore, much less Middle Earth. I was given the final edit of the thing, and we had many merry larks, for many merry months.
The messageboard that held our work has gone through enough revisions that I suggested moving the project to TORC. I have agreement from the people involved, but I have dragged my feet about it for a long, long time.
That being said, unless we are moved it will continue here. As those involved in the project know where we are and what we're doing, I will only post a brief synopsis.

There are currently no roles open, nor are we officially accepting new players; but should anyone else wish to join I ask them to request it in the OOC counterpart thread. Even if I particularly like you and consider your contribution worth giving a shot, the group only admits new players by simple majority vote.

Anyone who ignores this request and chooses to post in the midst of the action will be automatically disqualified from participating.

Situations, ideas and stylistic elements are property of their respective authors. This is a role play, not a published work. Those who wish to copy these elements in any capacity, without prior permission of the author/authors show poorer than usual taste. Pray I never find where you sleep.
This tale is fictitious, and any resemblance to any person, their username, or their TORC or real-life identity is unintended and completely coincidental as this lark began on another messageboard before I had even heard of TORC. :P

That being said let the games... recommence.
Cordially,
Cerri
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Cerridwen
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Postby Cerridwen » Tue Mar 22, 2005 8:38 pm

A bit of a synopsis, to jog our collective memories somewhat...



Winter has come early this year, after lingering long into the spring. Summer in the northern lands has been brief and fickle, and as a result the harvest is poor and the stores from last year are not likely to hold. The merchants of Rhenhaven have gone trading out of season, to Tairoen in the west and to the desert clans of the southron part of the world.
They have come prepared to make the grueling, days-long march across the fiery southron boundary, at any price to them and their caravans... but as they near the Sands, they hear tell of a terrible magic, and of the boundary changing by some great power into an impassable chasm.
Those merchant lords who reck not of such things press on toward the South, and end up standing helpless, gazing out over just such a chasm, which has rent the earth to its core as far to the eastern horizon as can be seen, and just as far to the west.
Some have told of a power in the Desert, which made the Sands impassable to any but a native guide. There are whispers that it has come north to give the Tower mages a reckoning.
As for the mages of the Tower, they have found that there has come a new ordering of things. A sorceress of fell magic and terrible power has ensconced herself among them, and soon proves to be no merely mortal woman. There are those who whisper that she is an ancient demon who has lately taken flesh. Of these there are two sects: one has chosen to remain, and hope to keep their lives and win themselves power and land and glory; the other sect has renounced the ancient Tower and fled.
These have gathered at Mount Stormfell far to the north, trusting themselves to the protection of the Keep and its mistress. Lady Caren is the last of the Stormfell line, having lost her son to the Tower's corrupt justice and her prodigiously talented daughter to foul magic. Alone, she commands the vastness of the northern forces. These are the first of the earth's people to stand against the Tower, these keepers of Mount Stormfell.

Far to the south across the boundary, the clans make ready for war. Having been warned of the danger of the Tower's demon-mistress, the lords and clan cheifs and warriors have met in council, and have been persuaded to aid the Mistress of the North. They prepare, waiting for the word from Nevallien herself to call them to march.

Nevallien Maikariel is herself the half-elven healer spoken of in prophecy and foretold among her people for many ages. She took her leave from among the desert people near the beginning of their autumn season, companioned by her cadre of sworn protectors and friends:
Hassan, her lifebonded. Elven son of the woods and waters and from among the clans of the Light-elvish kin; a warrior of the first rank and many times blooded in battle.
Silvertears, an assassin and Dark Elf, also foretold in prophecy as the cheif protectress of Nevallien of the Healing Hands. She has sworn to go with Nevallien to her death if necessary, and travels her road knowing her own end by her gift of foresight.
Troan, a human assassin whose inner light has been shaped by the shadows in his past. Once an unremarkable man of modest means and simple joys, he chooses the path of dark, dancing blades after the Tower mages rob him of his wife and two young daughters. His eye is to revenge and any reckoning that he can exact at bladepoint, no matter the cost.
Richard Trevaeren, mage of the Tower and the first man in a thousand years to claim Adept rank, he is a master swordsman in his own right and weilds magic with as much skill as he does a blade. He was the first of the Tower's mages to see and speak out against the corruptions and the greed of the Tower's Council. For this he was judged guilty of oathbreaking, and executed.
He was found by a young healer of the clans, who later became his wife. Her name is Cerri.
Daughter in heart to a desert clansman and a healer in her own right, she claims friendship with Nevallien from her childhood. She and Richard were hunting red wolves in the east of Tairoen when they ran across her old friend again. Since then neither has turned from her side, and each has vowed to go where necessity and Nev takes them.
Shaidas, called The Broken Shadow by his own people, hails from an island off the coast of the desert lands. His is a true heart and a keen blade, and his skill is at least equal to Troan's.
Carrad, an ancient red direwolf and himself a mage, joined with the group after having been on hiatus and then on hunt. Formerly one of Richard's teachers, he disappeared from the Tower after Richard's execution. He later disappeared from Stormfell Keep, to investigate whether or not that execution had been successful.
He found, to his great releif, that Richard Trevaeren was yet alive and well, and he persuaded the group to come north again, to friendly lands. His people, the red wolves, are largely in slavery to the Tower's dark Mistress. Like the gray direwolves, the red wolves can communicate by their thoughts. Unlike the gray wolves, the red wolves carry in their bloodlines the magic that allows them to change their shape to a human's at will. It is for this reason that the Tower's Mistress first bound them to herself, and then enslaved them to do her bidding. The people of Rhenhaven are learning the terrible speed with which dissenters are ferreted out and, in many cases, eaten.
Narsali, heiress to the lands west of Stormfell Keep at Mount Ravenness, and a dissenting mage along with Talon Trevaeren, was sent out to find Carrad when he had left on hunt. Failing that, she travelled north again, to the convening of the mages at Stormfell Keep. A friend of Richard's from their days together at the Tower, she is come very recently to the group but considers the cause of the faithful mages to be part of Nevallien's larger goals.
On her way north she met Eirien, formerly a sworn member of the group who had fallen, along with a dwarf, Thunderblade, into the hands of the enemy. Eirien is a fair elf, from among the clans of the Light elves. Hers is a true heart, but she is getting over being a little mad.
And lastly, there is Kelvar. Dragon lord and guardian of the magic of the world his interest in any mortal, when he deigns to express it, is neither idle nor casual. That his paths take him walking among mortalkind again bodes ill for those who have upset the balance in the strands of magic. The runes on his garments declare him to be on the path of vengeance, dark and terrible. The demon-taken-flesh has something that belongs to him. He means to have it back, at any price.


After the incident with the Cult of Lu'o, the little band, of necessity, broke up into two groups to ease their escape. In one group was Hassan, Nevallien, Cerri, Troan and Tam, son to one of the desert's greatest warrior lords and Richard's adopted brother.
In the other group was Silvertears, Shaidas, Kelvar, Carrad, and Richard himself.
As these groups are travelling to their rendezvous, Kelvar senses that something is terribly wrong with Richard's magic. He has gotten wounds that do not heal, and Kelvar suspects the enemy of using the ordeal at Lu'o's temple as an opportunity to harm the young mage. He finds what he calls a 'hook' in Richard's spirit, and tries once to remove it. He is faced with removing part of it and leaving the rest to disappear or fester, or removing all of it and risking that Richard die. He removes part, at great pain to the young mage, and waits.
Kelvar also discovers Narsali and Eirien travelling together, and invites them to travel with the rest of the group, since they are all going in the same direction, towards Stormfell in the north. Once they reach the haven there, they can all decide what further measures must be taken to rid the lands of the dark magic that has made its rookery in Rhenhaven's Tower.

_____________________________________________________________

:roll: Okay people, there you have it. Last action post I have to follow, shortly. Goes off to the OOC to put her feet up and nurse a headache.
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Postby Cerridwen » Wed Mar 23, 2005 5:31 pm

The following morning found Kelvar studying the fire, as if he'd been studying it all night. Silvertears suspected the latter.
"You're awake early," she greeted cheerfully, stretching the kinks out of herself. The sun was not yet up, nor would it be for another hour or so. It had yet to begin to shade the eastern horizon with its light.
"You slept well?" Kelvar greeted in return.
She smirked. "Better than you, by the looks of it. I'm eager to see what our human friends are made of, whether they're game for the road; sooner rather than later, I hope."
Kelvar chuckled. "If you ever mean to catch me sleeping, you will have to awake so early that you had as well not sleep at all."
"You don't sleep, do you?" she asked him, perfectly serious.
He returned her quiet query with a soft smile. "It has been a long time since I slept," he answered, and winked. "It makes me a good choice to keep the watch, and allows the rest of you to catch up a bit, at least for the time that I'm here. When one has matters to think on, the time is better spent awake."
Sil shook her head in amazement. "It is beyond my ken to consider such a length of wakefulness. How on earth do you keep from being bored?"
Kelvar laughed and shook his head. "I have plenty to entertain me, little she-elf. I have never feared a day to dawn when I could no longer find sources of interest or entertainment. Even after all this time," he finished, getting to his feet and dusting his robes. Her elvish eyes told her that his robes hardly needed it, and her inner sense told her that this creature did such things only to put the rest of them more at ease. He'd had a long time to practice making himself more palatable to the mortals he sometimes had occasion to walk among.
"How old are you?" she asked, again perfectly serious.
He flashed her a grin in the darkness. "I am nearing the middle of my years, as man or elf would count them," he replied enigmatically.
"Answer the question sir, if it please you."
Kelvar chuckled. "Truth, child," he murmured, "what would you take for an answer?"
Silvertears gazed at him, looking as nearly into his merry, golden eyes as she could stand. This creature, this being, made her feel a great deal younger than she had ever felt in her life. It was a different sort of experience, for all the she had been born a Dark Elf, and bred an Assassin.
"The truth, sir."
"From this I take it that you believe me capable of lying?"
"I believe you capable of great subtlety, if not outright deception," she replied. There was silence several moments as he weighed her answer.
"This is not about your curiosity, or my age," he observed at last, in a gentler tone than she might have credited him with.
"If I am to trust you, then no, it isn't."
He nodded. "Then is trust based on truth or on honesty?" he asked her.
"Honesty must spring out of truth," she replied, confused.
"I may be honest about my intentions to you, but what if my intentions are evil?"
"Yes. But those who are good do not lie," she returned.
"Correct. And if I am good, as well as honest, what then? What if my intentions are good, but likely to cause harm?"
The dark elf frowned. "Small comfort, that is."
"Indeed." Kelvar waited patiently as she sorted through her thoughts. At last, the dark elf appeared to have come to a conclusion, though it appeared to cause her some discomfort expressing it.
"Do you... care at all, for any of this?"
Kelvar smiled, and Silvertears was surprised to find herself warmed by it.
"Oh yes," he replied softly, turning to the horizon and allowing his expression to become wistful. "I care a great deal for it. I do not promise what a successful end will look like, but I will do everything in my power to have it end well. I do not decree these things, you see." He spread his hands, and returned his attention to her.
"Have you an ear with anyone who does?" she asked, again perfectly serious.
Again, that smile. "As much as any other creature," he replied. "I do as my Master bids me, though there are times even I do not understand."
Silver's eyes got a little rounder. "Dragons have masters?"
Kelvar grinned. "Dragons are creatures, child. Of course."
"Well of course you're creatures, but one rules over you?"
Kelvar shrugged. "It stands to reason that a creature should not be as great as the one who created it. And it would amaze you to know that there are even creatures higher than we are, that we do well to honor duly."
"But the races were created free," she replied, a little dazed.
"There is nothing amiss with giving honor to those higher than oneself; nor is it amiss to submit oneself to all lawful demands of one's superiors. There is joy in such duty. Were it otherwise, there would be chaos."
She shook her head, her eyes still a little glassed over. "Then thank the Star Lady that I serve Chaos."
Kelvar grinned behind his dark beard, and a strange glint came into his raptor's eyes. "All creatures serve something, Silvertears. It is only to be asked whether they serve aright or amiss."
Silver frowned. "How can you say what is right or wrong?"
His eyes twinkled. "Experience. Immediate, firsthand experience, soon after I first opened my eyes."
"Why are we not told of such things, if they were so self-evident?"
He shrugged. "It is recorded," he answered her. "It is all around you, child. Your difficulty is that you do not to see it."
"But then... but... surely you know of the Lady?"
He shook his head with something very like sadness. "With many regrets, yes, I do know that creature."
"'Chaos is'," Silver quoted. "'Chaos was. Chaos remains. It has been, and ever shall be, until it is all'."
Kelvar offered her a brief, dark scowl. "There's a word for folk like you," he told her. "Chaos or entropy, whichever you care to call it, has not always been. It came after the dragons woke. Long after. I remember the world without it. I look for a world without it. It is my Master's way."
"Your Master cannot stop this," she returned. "Once spawned, it consumes, and there is nothing that can tame it. Nothing."
Kelvar caught her gaze and held it. She was the first to look away. "Do you trust her, this Lady Chaos of yours?" he asked gently. "Does she care for you at all?"
Silver shifted uneasily. "Her fire warms me. She rewards those who serve her. She is near us."
"Does she care for you?" he pressed.
"She rewards us," Silver repeated.
Kelvar shook his head. "A worker may earn wages," he replied softly. "It is a child that is fed."
The Dark elf was very near to misplacing her temper with him. Her nails bit into her palms as she tried to contain it. "The Darklings were not fed when we sought it at the hands of your Master's minions," Silver snapped, though with less venom than had suddenly welled up in her heart. "We were considered as less than creatures after the Sundering of Kindred. Lacking food, we sought wages, and She offered them," the dark elf stated coldly. "Surely you remember."
Kelvar nodded. "I do. I remember that the Darklings began as Light Elves, and that they were seduced and taught dark magics. I remember the war, and the Sundering. I remember having to undo many things in order to teach your kind right magic again, and I remember petitioning your kindred on your behalf many times. It was not I that was unwilling, it was all of you, both sides, both kindreds. All the Elves took part in that debate. Elves have their pride, as much as men do. They live longer, and sometimes it burns out... sometimes it burns longer. It has been so with you and your folk."
Silver was stunned. "There is no record of such a mediation," she murmured. "None. How can you say this?"
Kelvar nodded. He well knew. "When things are wished forgotten, they often are. The records were destroyed in secret, and the tale as you know it was told. I had a few things to say on that score also, and when I mean to make my point, I do. Your races have peace now, tenuous a thing as it is." Kelvar held Silver’s gaze again until she was forced to look away. She could well imagine being on the end of that authoritative, raptor's glare, and she well imagined that there had been peace after he had demanded it.
"Your kind have long memories, child," he stated. "One thing they will not soon forget is never to argue with a dragon. Especially not with me."
There was silence between them again.
"Did you place... a spell on us?" she asked, her tone a great deal more subdued.
Kelvar smirked, and chuckled shortly. "Not precisely." He held out a black-robed arm, and the runes flashed with their strange, blue-black light. It was less light than dark, and it was terribly unsettling to look directly at.
"What do these tell you, dark-child?" he asked.
Silver had trouble keeping her eyes on them long enough to read them. Finally, she had to shut her eyes. It was upsetting, even to her.
"Anger," she stated, in a tone that was nearly a whisper. "Vengeance... dark, terrible vengeance..."
"That is the magic of the Dark Ones," he replied. "It is how I declare myself to your kindred, and how I am known among you. It is visceral, and does not require that you know the elder tongues."
Silver shuddered, and folded her arms as if against the cold. "It is... terrible."
Kelvar nodded, and his expression softened as much as his tone had. "It is."
"Are you...?" Silver stopped herself, as if she could not find the words for it. Kelvar was silent, so that she could continue. Silvertears finally found her tongue again, and her eyes had shaded to near-black. Her skin, her body, was trying to fade into the darkness of the pre-dawn. The moon had crossed the western horizon, and the night had become very dark. Kelvar sensed her fear. She was trying very hard to hide.
"Do you wield the Death Magic?" she asked, in as hushed a tone as she dared.
The question took him slightly aback. Then he saw it in her eyes. She had a strange gift, not rare among the Dark Elves, anymore than it was rare among others. Silvertears was touched with one of the gifts. It was Foresight. She saw visions at times. Perhaps she referred to one of them.
"I do not," he replied. "I am not that sort of a creature. Of what do you speak?" he tested. Even he did not know all, and would have been the first to admit it.
Her eyes had glassed over, becoming still darker. "It is said that such a one will come bearing these marks, as you do. The prophecy of the Death Magic is a terrible thing, feared by many of my kindred. Our cousins the Light Elves take it to mean that this one will come from among the Teachers, to... teach the rest of us our place. I did not until today realize that it meant your kind." She swallowed. "But it makes better sense now."
Kelvar tilted his head as he listened. "What makes better sense?"
"That one of the Teachers would carry the Death Magic. And that he would return and use it against us."
The dark eyes he gazed into were filled with a nameless dread.
Kelvar frowned in thought. "No such magic exists among us. If it did, we would never use it against mortal kind. Your days upon the earth are short enough as it is."
The darkling did not appear to take consolation from the dragon's words.
"Think, child. What use would one of my kind have for such a thing, especially against mortal kind? Or even against your kindred? New magic is not discovered among us, child. I promise you, none of us has this strange thing. And I can count all of us using both hands, less my seven children – none of them have anything approaching what you speak of, and few of them will be fledged by the time you die. Not even the one of us that is fallen possesses such a thing – and even he could find no use for it among mortals. It would be... almost redundant." Kelvar shrugged apologetically. "Why kill what is to die anyway when you can manipulate it? He is like that, my brother."
Silver's eyes showed true alarm. "Then this is... these are for..." she indicated his dress, and the declaration of the runes he wore.
He nodded. "He has something that belongs to me," Kelvar stated quietly.
Silver hoped never to occupy this other dragon's position... never. She found herself somewhat at a loss for words. She felt afraid. She felt... cold.
"I saw... one of you in a vision."
Kelvar lifted an eyebrow in the darkness.
"I was in meditation, seeking guidance of my Lady... and instead I saw another of you. I didn’t know what to think. Then he opened his mouth, and I knew less what to think. I have been considering, and I wanted to ask you, to see if you could help me decipher his riddle."
"Riddle?" Kelvar answered, somewhat amused. "Has one of the Twins come to you with a riddle?"
Silver's countenance remained dark, her expression troubled. "It is upsetting to me. And I am amazed you do not remember."
"Oh, I do remember. I observed courtesy though, and did not eavesdrop. It was none of my affair, so... let's hear it," the dragon lord offered companionably. "Though I tell you, their chief delight when we were younger was to try to stump the rest of us with their quick wit. And none of us could ever catch them, when they had angered us beyond all sense and we wanted to roast and skewer them both."
Silver gaped at him. After a few moments, she found her tongue again. "If you're so great among your own kind, and you can count them all using only your fingers, then find this riddler of yours and persuade him to tell me his meaning!"
"Well it isn’t quite... like that. There are errands he has that may not be interfered with by anyone... even me."
Another slack-jawed expression of shock and dismay...
"Alright I'll explain... first off, he's escaped being bitten in half for so long because he is still the swiftest creature I have ever met. Second, I may ask him to explain himself, but we are both quite busy with our own pressing affairs, and could not take the time. Thirdly, what he said to you was for you, and fourthly, I am no interpreter of prophecy anyhow, particularly as touches on the affairs of mortals. Therefore, I respectfully leave that realm to those as have business in it."
"Will you not even hear it?" she begged him. "Do you not even recall being there? You laughed at me, after I opened my tent to look out."
"And you flung the flap shut in my face. Yes, child, I remember. Recall that I just told you that I didn't eavesdrop. So out with it, and I will offer what insight I can; but I do not deal in these matters, and he has told me himself that he sometimes does not understand the meaning of the messages he is tasked with delivering. And for your enlightenment, I was laughing at his way of riddling, not that he was riddling you. I well remember how it feels, being on the other end of those."
Silver sighed. "He told me that I would betray Nevallien, or that I would betray myself. He told me that I would take her to the breaking of the world or its utter destruction. He told me that upon one path I would lose my life and yet have it, and that upon the other I would have my life and yet lose it. I do not understand any of it."
Kelvar's expression looked pained. He shook his head, and scowled hard as he thought. He rubbed his jaw and scratched his head. He continued to scowl.
Silver waited, expectant. Kelvar exhaled, and his scowl deepened, if that were possible.
"I can tell you one thing, lassie: if I were you and had a chance to get my talons into that creature, I'd shake him until he rattled, and I'd scorch him until his scales blackened. And mind you," he warned, shaking a finger at her, "it takes a lot of fire to get our scales to blacken."
Silver found herself shaking uncontrollably. "You don't know?"
Kelvar spread his hands in a helpless gesture. "I haven’t the least clue. I have a few wild guesses, based upon what I know of you, and of Nev, and of such things generally, but I'm afraid I can be of no help. Your guess is as good as mine. No, yours is probably better. What was said was said to you, after all."
"That is most unhelpful," she hissed.
Kelvar spread his hands again. "I told you, this is not my circle. Give me a tapestry and tell me to weave any day, but prophecy..." he shook his head. "I can trace the threads of it as it passes, but I cannot tell you where it's going before it gets there."
Silver wanted to slap him.
Kelvar chuckled. "Sometimes I want to slap Kalered. He's done this to me since I can remember. I dare not act on such feelings though."
Silver gave him a tired look. "Why not? I'd wring his long little neck."
Kelvar's eyes were distant with memory. It had been a long time ago. "I fought with one of my brothers, once. Our father did not approve."
Silver lifted an eyebrow. Kelvar saw her expression and chuckled softly. "No, it was not pleasant. It was like the entire sky falling. Everything shook like it wanted to rattle loose, and there I was, in the middle of it. Nowhere to hide, nowhere to run, and not a thing to say for myself. It is disconcerting, feeling that small." He frowned briefly, and then let it go.
"That was before there were elves to have memories of such things, for which I'm grateful. I wouldn't get any respect from you lot if you remembered me from when I was a youngster."
I doubt any of us would.
"Good morning, Master Wolf," Kelvar greeted.
Good? Good, you say? Carrad snorted. Clammy, damp and bloody cold. Bloody early, too. Dark as the seventh hell... but, as you'd have it, if that's how you want it.
Kelvar frowned. "You're alive, as am I. I call it good."
You haven't got a bum leg to carry you another day's march. Be useful, lizard, and magic it better.
"We'll hear no end to it until you do," Richard called from his tent.
Kelvar scowled. "And when did I get nominated group healer, hm?"
"Be useful," the young mage returned. "I'm going to find something to build up the fire again."
Kelvar's eyes narrowed. "Less sauce from you, boy. If you intend to make trouble for me this early, it may go ill for you later."
Richard glanced over his shoulder and favored them all with one of his famous grins before he started off into the woods to their west, to find something dry that would burn.
Kelvar grumbled something about not needing dry wood in order to set a fire, and arranged his robes to sit again. "Well, nothing for it then. Come here, you," he said, indicating Carrad.
Carrad stiffened, and his eyes showed some alarm. I hadn't meant immediately, of course. I—
Kelvar slapped his knee. "Right now, Master Wolf. I haven't got all day."
Carrad ambled over then, and meekly allowed himself to be seen to.
"Well, I never," Eirien said, from her side of camp. "All you have to do is slap your knee and say 'Come!'? I never indeed."
Quiet you.
Kelvar quelled the wolf with a look. Carrad growled and backed his ears, but held his peace.
"Temper, temper," Silvertears teased.
Carrad licked his chops and continued to glare at her with his mad yellow eyes, but he dared not provoke his current caretaker.
Kelvar chuckled and patted him. "There's a good boy."
Are you trying to provoke me into taking your hands off?
"I counsel against trying," Kelvar returned. "I have a nasty habit of being faster with them than others suppose."
Bloody nabage...
Kelvar swatted him. "Be still."
Carrad offered the dragon an expression that was highly amusing, if not precisely outrage or incredulity.
You struck me.
"I did."
You dare...
"I do."
Blood and all hell's fire...
Kelvar swatted him again. "Less of that, old son. There are youngsters around."
Carrad's favored him with such a look of incredulity that Kelvar chuckled. The wolf's eyes rolled back in his head and he began yammering rapidly in some gibberish that made as little sense as your typical animal noises.
Silver could barely contain her mirth. "Oh goodness Kelvar, you've put him mad."
Kelvar favored her with a hooded look. "Lady Dark, I don't think this one was ever quite sane."
The yammering stopped, and Carrad turned his head slowly to gaze at the dragon again. His mad yellow eyes burned, and he made a strangled, choking sound, which could only have been his questionable sanity trying to swallow an overpowering and very wolfish urge to bite. Kelvar chuckled, and scratched him under his chin.
Silvertears covered her mouth and turned away.
Carrad loosed a mournful, soul-wrenching howl. It sounded dreadful. It was worse when he tried saying words with it. It sounded like he was being hamstrung. Silver had to sit down, and even Kelvar was hard-pressed not to begin laughing.
The awful noise had roused the rest of their camp. Eirien had been joined by Shadas and Narsali each of whom had come to the fire-pit to see what the matter was with the wolf. Eirien narrowed her eyes. "Ten hells, what on earth ails that poor creature?"
My dignity... Carrad began brokenly, his ears set at a rather skewed angle, has been trampled, spat upon—
"And ground into the very dirt, yes we know," Kelvar finished for him. "Now be silent, you."
Carrad loosed another pathetic, ululating howl. Shadas winced and covered his ears. "That's awful for you old boy, but think what you’re doing to the rest of us."
It was the last straw for Kelvar. He slapped his knee and loosed a deep, hearty laugh, which rang throughout the camp and was echoed by all of his companions. The dragon lord bent until he was leaning over and he laughed until the tears came.
Carrad continued to appear perfectly miserable. You're wretches, he accused sullenly. All of you... wretched... wretches.
Narsali was the next to have to sit down.
Richard returned to an entire camp of his companions in various stages of hysteria, ranging from Eirien and Silvertears, on their knees and moaning next to the rock they'd been sitting on, to Shaidas, who swayed a bit where he stood. Kelvar sat and shook his head, and wiped the occasional errant tear from his eyes. Carrad looked perfectly... wretched. It was obvious that they were all laughing at him.
Narsali was the first to recover some measure of her composure. "You missed some fun," she told her old friend, her eyes lighting with mirth.
"So I hear," he replied, lifting an eyebrow at his old teacher, who lay at Kelvar's feet looking as dejected as a thrice-kicked dog. "I knew something was up when I heard him start to laugh," he said, indicating Kelvar.
"He's got some laugh," she agreed, her expression thoughtful.
For some reason, it pained the young mage to hear it pointed out. He well knew Kelvar had a wonderful laugh. It was infectious. He hadn't ever been able to provoke it himself, though, in all the time he’d known the dragon. Not to this degree. He felt a rather sullen mood trying to come over him, and he wanted no part of it.
After all, why should I care? he reasoned.
Make them stop, or I shall eat them all, Carrad begged him. I shall hound them into the nether darkness, and listen to their tormented, disembodied spirits howl in agony...
Carrad looked more as if he was describing himself than any outrageous vengeance he was threatening to the rest of them.
You do it, whelp, or I'll bite you in half!
Richard set the firewood down in the pit, straightened, and raked a hand through his hair. "Well, right now I’m hungry..."
Carrad howled again, and it was pitiful.
Kelvar patted him, and grinned. "Your leg's fixed. You're welcome."
Carrad gazed at his new-healed limb, and then turned his mournful eyes to his benefactor. They exchanged a look, Kelvar grinning, Carrad pitiful. Kelvar's eyes sparkled with something very close akin to mischief then, and he began scratching the wolf's belly vigorously.
Ye dare not! Carrad yowled, his mental voice edging near panic. Ye dare not! I'll have you skinned! I'll tear your throat out! I'll have your knuckles in salad, you misbegotten spawn of a desert lizard-rat!
But for all his protestations, Kelvar finally won out, and Carrad's new-mended leg began kicking in the way of any other dog who is getting a better than decent belly-scratch.
Curses! Belly-aching, bloody pox! Infestation and leagues of fleas! the wolf screeched helplessly.
It reduced them all to helpless, hysterical laughter again. The elves lay on their backs, trying desperately to get air, and Shaidas had to sit down. The only thing keeping Narsali and Richard standing was that they held one another up, and even that was tenuous. When Kelvar at last ceased tormenting the poor old fellow, Carrad went perfectly limp and lay there between Kelvar's boots, staring out at nothing with slightly unfocused, blazing eyes.
There was a slight pause. Then, without warning...
I have been violated.
Silver, who had barely managed to get herself breathing normally and into a sitting position again, gasped and returned to the ground. Eirien hadn't managed even that, and another soundless spasm rocked her lithe body.
Richard lost hold of Narsali, and she fell down, gasping. He was bent nearly double himself, his hands on his knees, and tried to stagger over to something he could sit on. Failing that, he landed in a hard sit as well, and used a nearby rock to keep himself from falling over. Shaidas kept slapping his thigh and made no sound whatsoever, though his shoulders shook with mirth.
Kelvar chuckled, ruffled the wolf's ears and stood, stepping over him to the fire-pit. He arranged the wood so that it would burn, and in a very few minutes, it began burning brightly.
"Now children, do you stay here and papa will go and fetch breakfast," he told them wryly. From the looks of things, none of them were going anywhere, at least not for another several minutes.
Carrad eyed him warily from the shadow of his rock. You're mad, he stated, licking his chops.
Kelvar winked. "Like knows like."
Stay away from me, you...
"You're sure you don't want to help feed the children?" the dragon asked playfully, indicating the four figures who sprawled in various places around the fire.
Carrad sneezed, and crept further behind his rock where he crouched, keeping it between himself and the dragon. Kelvar chuckled, and turned to go.
"You've probably had too much fish to be palatable anyhow," he murmured, as he made his way toward the coast and the ocean.
The dawn was beginning to lend the horizon a silvery cast, and the ocean could be seen mirroring the early morning sky. There was dark and dark, split as far as could be seen by a pale, silvery ribbon, herald of the morning. Kelvar waited until he was most of the way down the steep, stony beach, almost to the edge of the surf. The dragon inhaled the bracing, salt-spray, spread his arms, and leaped into the air. His form changed immediately. With a leathery snap of his wings, he beat for altitude to glide across the surface of the dark, choppy waters.
The bigger fish would be further out. The tuna swam in schools, far, far out to sea. Pods of dolphins and whales would be coming up the coast at this time of year. One of those, two or three years old, could satisfy even his typically ravenous little bunch. Kelvar had a pang then. It had been a long time since he'd seen his little ones. It made his eyes fill with tears... he missed their little voices, and how they scampered about. He missed them crawling all over him in the morning, when they wanted him to be awake, and to play with them. None of them were over the age of seven, as a human would count a child's age. His littlest was still crawling, as such things went.
A darker shape moved below him. It was large, about twice as long as a man is tall. His eyes narrowed... he'd have to dive for it. It was a little-known fact, but a dragon's wings could work as well in water as they could in air. And Kelvar wanted a bit of a fight, creature to creature. What he'd spotted was a shark, and the form he'd taken had none of his usual great size. When he landed, his shoulder would come as high as your average horse.
But it was not worth hunting if there wasn't some risk.
The dragon beat for altitude again, until he was higher than he'd been, and then he folded his wings and dropped without a sound. He arrowed into the water with barely a splash, and then used his wings as fins, and his tail for power.
The shark had been startled, but he was a territorial beast, and was not about to be scared off by some misplaced bird who thought it could barge in on his domain. Kelvar soon found that he'd misjudged a bit. The shark had more bulk than he'd previously thought, and was not about to turn tail and swim away. Kelvar narrowed his eyes again, and continued to approach the wily old fellow. It would be grappling, talon and tooth, and Kelvar hadn't had a good grapple in a very long time. He was outmatched, but he was spoiling for it.
They closed, and Kelvar soon found that he was at somewhat of a disadvantage. He could not breathe down here. The shark could. At the last possible moment he pulled a wing out of the way and sunk his talons into the great beast's side, wrapping his tail around it's head and mouth. He used his muscular neck to wrap once around it's tail, and he held on so as to immobilize it. Once immobilized, and with his tail wrapped around it's gills and mouth, it would suffocate.
The question would be whether he would have to get air before the tough old creature would give up the ghost. And this shark was proving to be a tough old son indeed.
You've been around a few times, haven't you old boy? he thought to his adversary. The shark twisted and thrashed, grinding him against the rocky bottom of this part of the ocean. Kelvar was deeply thankful that he had been endowed with a nigh-impenetrable hide, but that did not stop him feeling the force of impact when the shark banged him against something solid. He wrapped his wings around the animal in at attempt to cocoon it and further disorient it.
Three minutes ticked by, and the shark continued to fight. Five minutes... Kelvar narrowed his eyes and waited.
Seven minutes had passed. The animal had finally given out, and it's thrashing had stilled.
Kelvar rapidly unwrapped himself from the shark, and stroked for the dark surface of the water. He felt his lungs were going to burst before he finally broke through. He thrashed around, gulping oxygen, and finally settled into a sort of calm float, allowing his wings to fan out to either side of him.
He'd go back for the wily old fellow when he'd gotten his air.
To his chagrin, he had forgotten how wily a shark can be. He felt the merciless, jagged bite on his flank, and he shrieked in rage and pain. He dived again, his own teeth seeking purchase on the shark's leather-tough hide. He'd tear it's gills out, and then see if it decided to stay dead.
Around and around they went, grappling and tearing. It became clear that the shark had the upper hand, because the dragon had to get air. Kelvar sunk all four sets of talons into the enormous fish and beat for the surface of the water again. He was determined to get this thing beached, if he killed himself doing it. Once he broke through, he gasped and flapped and shrieked in rage. The sun was coming up on the horizon, painting the scene in red and gold, with stark shadows.
Kelvar began to try to get airborne, the shark gyrating wildly in his grip. He shrieked again, and his head snaked down to get another bite out of the creature. They were both kicking up so much water into the dawn's light that he could barely see.
He shrieked again, and finally got the shark clear of the water. It seemed like miles to the rocky shoreline...
Twice, thrice, and four separate times they plummeted, shrieking, to the water. Four separate times, the dragon fought the shark free of its watery domain.
By that time, they both had an audience. Silver leaned close to Richard and whispered over his shoulder.
"What does he think he's doing?" she hissed incredulously.
Richard shook his head and shrugged, too amazed for words. "He said something about breakfast before he left. I had no idea dragons ate fish."
If that's a fish, I'm a pigeon, Carrad offered, his tone subdued. He's mad I tell you. Mad.
The rest of the group concurred by their silence.
Kelvar and the shark came out of the water a final time, and the dragon began beating madly for altitude. They could hear the sound of his leathery wings against the air, even from as far out as he was. The shark had not given up, and appeared to be making as desperate a bid for freedom as the dragon was making for food.
Kelvar's wings burned with fatigue. His lungs burned for air. When he reached the apex of his climb, which was not as high as he would have liked, he turned toward the shore for a final approach, and whatever manner of landing he could salvage with a live, angry shark... and he prayed those daft mortals moved before he got there.
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Postby Silvertears » Wed Apr 20, 2005 11:22 am

Silver watched, an amused grin on her face, as the wily old dragon set out to sea. Papa, as he had put it, was going to feed the children. It didn't matter that their combined age was more than most people could count- they were still 'younglings to be fed'. Either that or Kevlar just really wanted to fish. She followed at a distance behind, until she reached a vantage point where she could see the dragon, a mere dot on the horizon, streak down and attach himself to something. He was far enough out that even her elf eyes had trouble seeing him, but as he made his way closer to shore, she realised he had a shark in his talons.

A rather large shark.

Huge, even.

She leaned over to Richard, who was watching with her, and hissed, 'What does he think he's doing?'

Richard shook his head, amazed. 'He said something about breakfast before he left. I'd no idea dragons ate fish.'

Carrad offered his insight, of course. If that's a fish, I'm a pigeon. He's mad, I tell you.

No one said a word.

It suddenly became apparent that Kelvar was intending to beach the shark, still live and wildly struggling.

'Lady protect us, he's heading right to us!' Silver breathed, and then suddenly everyone was backing up. Backing far away.

Carrad peeked out from behind Richard's legs. Bloody mad. Absolutely insane.

Silver gave a quiet laugh, but she was privately hoping they were giving that mad dragon room to drop a live shark.

And then a thought popped into her head- I wonder what shark tastes like? She grinned.
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Postby Cerridwen » Mon Jul 11, 2005 9:39 pm

As it became apparent to all that the dragon wasn't going to slow down enough for a proper landing, there was a mad scramble to get out of his way, or at least to clear him a path to beach his shark.
Their landing, such as it was, proved quite messy. The shark was not nearly dead, and was nearly as big as the dragon himself. Both showed evidence of having fought; the shark's tough hide showed tears in several places, and the dragon favored one of his hind legs.
No one had a spear to spare for helping, but Richard did have his sword. He approached cautiously, holding it at the ready and looking for some kind of opening. He'd only ever seen sharks from the deck of a seagoing vessel; but never one this big, or this close.
Kelvar leapt on the creature again, wrestling around with it and disengaging quickly as the shark heaved and gyrated, snapping at its winged foe.
Don't you dare, Richard heard in his mind, as he approached the thing's head.
No, don't you, the mage returned irritably. It's plain enough you've finally gotten in over your head. He continued to pace the circle, looking for an opening.
He didn't see the dragon's tail suddenly come snaking out of nowhere. It caught him handily across his middle and lifted him off of his feet, sending him sprawling backward and out of range. When he tumbled and slid to a stop Kelvar spared him a brief, scarlet-eyed glare, and turned to pounce on the shark again.
Slightly dazed, enough that he was seeing flashes of light and a few stars, Richard rolled to all fours and shook his head to clear it. His sword lay about ten feet to his right and he saw that Carrad had prowled over to lend a paw. Unwilling to get within snapping distance of the shark's teeth, he'd latched onto its tail in an attempt to immobilize that part of it.
That his old tutor had never been quite sane was no great secret, either to Richard or to any of the other apprentices at the Tower; but Richard had never really known exactly how mad the old wolf actually was. When Carrad grimly latched onto the shark's tail and remained there throughout the rest of the beast's thrashing, writhing death throes, his fear of and respect for the old boy increased a few notches. Nobody in his right mind would remain so tenaciously attached like that, and suffer getting tossed around all over the place. Richard was amazed it hadn't wrenched all or some of his teeth out.
Though small for a red wolf, Carrad still weighed at least as much as Richard did... if not more. Direwolves were typically between two hundred fifty and three hundred pounds apiece. Some of the bigger alphas could be larger still, and easily a match for your typical mountain cat. Carrad was smaller, but he was still all wolf.
Between him and the dragon, the shark finally gave up the ghost. Still, there was a few minutes between when the beast actually stopped moving and when the two-legged members of the party mustered the courage to venture closer.
Kelvar tore a mouthful out of the beast's flank, tipped his head back and swallowed the piece whole. He scrutinized the animal from it's head to it's tail, then loosed fire on it until the outer skin blackened and began to flake away.
You'll probably like it better cooked, he told them wryly, though in my humble opinion it ruins the meat.
Carrad sniffed delicately, sneezed once, and wrenched his own piece of breakfast out of the shark's hide. Kelvar's eyes reddened.
Let the others take their fill first.
Carrad backed his ears at the dragon, as though he was going to take exception to his tone. You had your bite-
And a bite it was. That piece is as big as you are.
Carrad's hackles came up and he bunched his muscles as he made ready to defend his breakfast.
Kelvar's spines lifted in answer, his neck and shoulders rippling sinuously as he brought himself nose to nose with the wolf over the piece of shark in question.
I could have another bite, if it pleased me, Kelvar observed, his displeasure rumbling such that it was audible.
After staring the dragon in the teeth for a good twelve heartbeats, Carrad took his meaning and gave ground, though he still bristled out in all directions and his ears lay flat against his skull.
Kelvar snapped to get him moving a little faster, then lowered his spines and lay down, inviting the others to come.
"What would you call a bunch of people that a dragon invited to breakfast?" Shadas asked.
Richard and Silver exchanged a look.
"Mad," they murmured, nodding.
The day is not getting younger, and neither are you, Kelvar murmured, his golden eyes half-closed.
They exchanged another look, with each other and with Shadas. Narsali would not be persuaded to move. Kelvar chuckled.
I intend to take my fill of shark this morning, and possibly of mad wolf, but humans are really not to my taste. Not unless they're fat and have had some bit of wine.
Eirien chuckled, and took a slice. She chewed thoughtfully for a bit.
"You're right," she told him. "It's better raw."
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Postby Cerridwen » Mon Aug 29, 2005 6:42 pm

Before the group departed the little camp they stripped every possible scrap of meat from the shark's carcass, to cure. When the deed was done, a rather large shark's frame lay near the cliff's edge, stripped to the pliable cartilage that passed for his skeleton. Rather than leave any passerby to wonder how in the world a creature of that size ended up so far above sea level, Kelvar lifted off with the remains and flapped out to sea, where he tossed them back into the water.
The horses had been loaded down with the cured meat, albeit under protest. This morning there had been clouds that threatened snow.
"It's just too early in the year for that," Shadas was saying, his usually thoughtful tone hinting at worry.
"Aye that, old campaigner. Even this far north it should be mid-autumn and crisp this time of the year. It's the magic."
"I'm happy I don’t truck with it then, anymore than I have to."
Kelvar grinned at the remark, his eyes lighting with mirth. He chose not to comment in a way that would have further tormented the quiet warrior, as he himself was practically magic wearing boots.
Richard did not have that restraint, or chose not to exercise it. "Oh we're not so terribly bad, are we?" he teased. "I know Narsali isn't, if you don't count the temper. Carrad I don't vouch for, and Sil I won't vouch for, and Kelvar, well..."
"Behave," the dragon reproved, his eyes somehow retaining their smirk, even under an impressive scowl.
The young mage chose to take it graciously, and gave his horse's ears another scratch.
"Richard, how far are they," Kelvar asked him. His tone indicated that he well knew, but it still caught the younger man off guard. Richard furrowed his brow in thought for a moment, then tilted his head toward their north and a bit west.
"A bit inland from the coast, possibly another handful of days... it'll be easier going if the weather holds off, and if the roads are clear."
"How far," Kelvar repeated.
Richard's distance sense wasn't as keen yet, and he admitted it after giving it a good think.
"I'm not sure," he replied, after considering. "Some leagues, I would guess..."
Kelvar was chuckling. "Less than twenty. I grant you haven't got the benefit of my perspective, but it can be learned. Until now, what you have has sufficed." He offered the younger man a wry look that Richard had learned to dread from some of his boyhood tutors.
He chose to answer with a snort. "When I learn to sprout wings and take a view of the landscape at a whim, as you do... Until then what I have will continue to suffice, as I have no ready alternative."
"Not if I teach you one, and I will, if I have to trounce it into your thick human skull."
Though the mage could hear the amusement laced through the dragon's tone, he also knew that the words held no idle threat. He sighed and hauled himself into his saddle. Sunnim accepted the added weight with a weary grunt, and stood planted there as if he would never move again.
"Oh cheer up old boy," Richard groused acidly. "He isn't going to haunt your dreams with more lessons in magic, he's going to haunt mine. More's the pity he’ll likely succeed, and you will no doubt have to cart my charred flesh around in addition to the cooked fish you're carrying."
Sunnim heaved another groan, as if the mere idea was overwhelming. He raised his head enough to offer the dragon a truly pathetic look, as though pleading with Kelvar not to inflict that fate on the mage for the sheer bother it would cause for him.
Kelvar chuckled. "I won't require so much of him that he can't look after his other obligations."
"And now you're going to set me chores, like a first-year apprentice?"
It was Narsali's turn to chuckle. "You'll have to be keen after him. He was never terribly good with those."
Richard flashed a leveling glare at her, which was mostly irritation. She added a giggle to Kelvar's chuckling.
"I'll say this in his favor, that he pursued more than a mage's training while you knew him," the dragon replied cryptically. "Or had you ever wondered why any mage would also carry a sword?"
She shrugged. "He likes putting on airs, as nearly as I've ever been able to tell. It's known to be impossible to reach his level of expertise in magic as well as be any good with a sword. You can't have both, and he has the one in plenty."
Kelvar's wry grin gentled into a smile. "It's also known to be impossible that any mage should achieve Adept ranking, further back even your grandsire's lifetime. He has. He is also one of the more respected swordsmen north of the Desert's border, and I hear tell that he holds his own well enough even in the southlands... unless my ever-advancing age has dulled that sense as well."
Narsali furrowed her brow at the dragon's assertion. "Well," she said at last, "he never told me."
You never asked, Carrad observed, grinning.
Narsali's furrowed brow deepened into a frown. "You never told me," she accused.
Richard shrugged. "I got beaten enough for truancy as it was. I dared not let slip that I was 'wasting time' studying swordcraft too."
"You obviously knew," she accused, this time leveling a glare at Carrad.
There are many things that I knew, and still know, he replied enigmatically, obviously enjoying that he had provoked this turn of her temper. She wasn't quite done with her sniping.
"And what do you think you're doing, overburdening that poor horse while the rest of us walk, hmm?"
He didn't dignify her remark with more than a longsuffering backward glance. Then he started off in a northern direction, leaving the rest of them to follow or fall behind.
Kelvar chuckled and started after him, his long strides taking up the slack with ease.
Silvertears shrugged, and swung up into her saddle as well, having observed the unfolding conversation with her usual wry amusement. "I don't see as there's a problem," she replied sunnily. "Besides, he always has to walk," she added, indicating the wolf.
I praise your kind attention, he returned. It is so rare among you two-legged sorts.
Narsali folded her arms and snorted with more than her usual venom as those of the group who could swing into a saddle did so.
"You never complained once while we traveled together," Eirien remarked, coming alongside and taking her arm in a companionable gesture. Narsali hefted her pack again and offered an ungracious snort as they followed.
"That was before I lost my fiancé and best friend to some little minx of a desert nomad who had the temerity to think she could ever be suited to him. She has no idea what is required of the next Lord of Stormfell. She's probably never even heard of Mount Stormfell, and wouldn't know how to tell it from the western River Descadras on a map!"
"Who, Cerri?" Eirien replied conversationally.
Narsali shot her a hooded look as they walked. "The wench-minx has a name, then?"
Eirien shrugged. "I can't vouch that she answers to another, and I can't vouch for her skills with a map, but she's more that rascal-mage's match than anyone else I've heard of."
The other woman snorted again. "I'll decide that when I see her for myself."
"She can light a candle, I hear."
"Small good a candle does in the middle of a northern winter."
Eirien shot her traveling companion a hooded look of her own, and chose not to comment further.
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Postby PatriotBlade » Sat Oct 08, 2005 8:20 pm

Nev's sleep had been restless for days and Hassan was getting worried. Cerri had either been quiet or irritable by turns so he was hesitant to go to her, but his concern grew as his beloved's face grew paler and her hands trembled when treating Troan's wounds. As he watched her dose, twisting in the blankets, her face a mask of agony, he desided that he had to get Cerri's help. He quietly stood up, praying that she would stay asleep until he returned.
He found the other healer by the small cooking fire. He aproached with his silent elven steps, but she knew he was there even before he sank to the ground beside her.

"What's wrong?"
The elf shok his head and almost chuckled. "I am deeply concerned for Nev."
Cerri looked up.
"She can't sleep. She's having nightmares and she's getting weaker. Do you know what could be wrong?"
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Postby Cerridwen » Thu Oct 13, 2005 10:22 pm

Cerri stirred the fire again and pondered a moment before she answered. There were things wrong with Nev, alright, but she didn't think her warrior elf would appreciate her view of it at the moment.
"She is overtaxing herself, for one thing. I have the sense that she's a little frailer than she ought to be, mainly out of a basic inability to husband her reserves." She glanced up at Hassan's keen, thoughtful eyes. "Your pardon, but I have ever been frank with you. I'm more like to be frank these days though, so it doubles the effect until it's purely, gracelessly blunt. In this I am becoming like my horse," she ended sorrowfully, casting her gaze to Kadesh.
Hassan chuckled. "I did ask you, after all."
"You did." She sighed, wishing it were not all so, but it was. "I think she's a fool, Hassan. I really think she's a fool, and a child, and silly as a flock of geese. I think one of you will go mad in this pairing of yours, and it will either be her, of silliness, or you, of having to nest with a silly spouse. In either case, one of you is going to fly west with as much speed as you can, shortly after what passes for an elvish honeymoon. And that is my strict opinion," she finished, heaving a sigh.
A smile played at the corners of his mouth, and his eyes were already dancing with his mirth.
"Cerri," he intoned, with all of the weight and decorum an elvish warrior can muster, "I think you're pregnant."
She locked eyes with him, having for a moment lost all power of speech. Then, without ceremony, she burst out in a spasm of rollicking, howling laughter. He waited for the hysteria to subside until he could once again be heard when using a normal tone, and stirred the fire quietly as her peals quieted to mute, shaking chuckles.
"Notwithstanding your condition, I did ask your opinion as a healer. I think I received the opinion of a mother or older sister, however."
She nodded, her expression wry and her hair in slight disarray. "She's silly, Hassan. She has no discipline, no self-control. I am tempted to fear what I cannot see in the strands, and I hope it's only that she's being silly, but there is the possibility of something darker at work." A slight frown settled between her brows as she weighed the possibility.
"I sense nothing amiss, so I am tempted to believe you have the right of it. My private objections to the contrary."
"So noted," she returned wryly, and shook her head. "I was never this silly about Richard," she declared. "But he requires more looking-after than you do, and I suppose Nev thinks she can afford to be silly since you'll always be around to look after her." Cerri frowned again. "I'll beat her, do you hear me? One of these days I'll take a horsewhip to that little goose, and I will beat every bit of featherheadedness out of her. For my own peace of mind, and for posterity."
Hassan covered the unjudicious smirk that tried to steal across his face.
She glared. "You do or I will. Mark me," she threatened, leveling a finger at the taller elf.
He held up a pair of placating hands, and the smirk got the better of him. Close on its heels came the chuckle, and then the quiet, steady laughter. Cerri flung a pebble at him, which he deftly swatted out of the air without missing a beat.
"My one condition is that I never have to be around her while she's carrying your get."
He nearly squawked. "I beg your pardon!"
"One of her is more than enough, but two of you would be unbearable."
"And how do you think we feel, having to live with you in your current condition?"
"He's not a condition, he's Richard's baby."
Hassan lifted his hands and his eyes the heavens, as if in supplication for mercy.
Cerri squawked and flung another pebble at him.
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Postby Neko_Eirien » Fri Oct 21, 2005 3:34 am

Eirien listened with some amusement as Narsali has a slight outburst over the suitability of the 'wench-minx' to be Richard's wife. From what she could remember of Cerri, no jealous child was going to seperate her from Richard. But, arguing was probably not going to do anything other than aggravate her, so Eirien chose the rare path of silence.
Her thoughts returned inwards as the group rode off and she silently contemplated the faint tug at her heart and spirit towards the Tower. It had faded somewhat with what healing her madness had had. The elf bared her teeth in a feral snarl. Someday soon she would return and her humiliation and pain would be repayed to the demons who had presumed upon her. Narsali caught her eye and looked questioningly at her, but Eirien just shook her head and fixed her eyes on the road ahead, whilst the first unwelcome snowflakes began to fall.
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Postby Cerridwen » Fri Oct 21, 2005 6:59 pm

Cerri wrapped herself tightly against the bite of the wind. After the blustery little squall had caught them in the open yesterday, the group had opted to move a little off the road for their traveling. The trees were a bit harder to push through in places and it was slower going all around; but at least the woodland pieces softened some of the harsh coastal weather.
Tam had actually behaved today. He'd been better about it since Hassan had spoken with him about his earlier behavior. Cerri hadn't pried into how the elvish warrior had accomplished this; she was simply content with the results. The boy seemed content to ride behind her, his trousered legs dangling down Kadesh's flanks. He occasionally twisted about and rode backward, and he seemed as comfortable in that position as he was in the other. Now he sat cross-legged, his back against hers. He was idly carving something out of wood... yesterday he'd told her he was choosing different woods for his sisters, to make them beads to wear. Wood in their grassy homeland was scarce, and the little carvings would be treasured, she knew.
Troan was mending well. She'd mended him as completely as her increasingly fickle gift would allow, and his body was doing the rest for her. Nev obviously itched to get her hands on him and have him mended completely, but Hassan had been as firm with her in his way as he had been with Tam. If in his judgment Troan could mend on his own out here in the wilds, Troan would mend on his own. In this matter there had been no gainsaying Hassan.
After Cerri's less-than-tender ministrations Troan hadn't wanted any healer meddling with his torn flesh again, and had said so, and there was no gainsaying him either.
Cerri half-suspected that the elf had had some words with Troan's wound to coax it along, and the thought made her want to split her sides giggling.
She'd felt the baby move yesterday. It was just a flutter, deep in her belly, but it was there. She'd been able to sense and almost connect with her baby for awhile now, but to actually feel his feathery touch inside her filled her with emotions she had not been prepared to deal with.
So this is what a maiden feels, who is becoming a mother.
It surprised her how much she wanted her husband with her for this. She wanted him nearer than he was, so that he could hold her and tell her not to fly into a feather-pulling panic.
How often she'd told others in her position that their fear would pass, that they would learn, that it would be well... that a baby newly come to the world needed only warmth and touch and nourishment, all of which his mother could give him.
The rest of the time, he would sleep. And they typically did, new babies.
She still felt completely unprepared for it. The part of her that had studied the phenomenon knew that it was her body's changes that deepened her emotions and whipped them into tempests that would wash over her almost without warning.
Somehow this did not ease her near-frantic need to be near her husband and have him hold her and chuckle at her fears.
Then she invariably got angry and wanted him near so she could swat him.
She sighed, resigning herself to greeting him with a whole cocktail of overwrought feelings, once she could get her hands on him again.

That morning, Nev had insisted on staying where they were. She claimed that she could sense the other group's approach by way of Kelvar, and that they would be coming this way by nightfall.
Cerri held her peace. Richard had told her about the same thing late last night, only he'd told her it was all right if they kept moving. She decided against contesting it with Nev, because her friend behaved as though it was more of a priority to be reunited with their friends sooner than to travel ahead of them by another few hours.
She'd given a fairly persuasive argument for keeping still that day, and Cerri could not have cared less, about that or about anything else. It apparently surprised Nev a great deal.
"I thought you'd be adamant on moving, Cer," she remarked, after her speech had been met with the silence of full acquiescence.
Cerri's reply had been to shake her head and continue stirring the fire. She didn't want to discuss with her friend how little they agreed anymore about what she might want. It didn't matter, and was therefore not a subject for discussion.
She simply didn't care.
That afternoon before lunch she'd needed a good cry about it.
The remainder of the afternoon she hadn't felt better, only like she'd been crying. The flutter in her belly felt agitated, as though the baby was dismayed that he couldn't do anything for her.
Silly of you to think that, Cerri... He doesn't have enough words for that yet.
At least she hadn't been sick. She was grateful for that small mercy. She'd known women to get so nauseated that they couldn't sit a horse.
Richard had told her they'd found Eirien again, and that had cheered her. He'd also told her about finding an old schoolmate of his. She'd asked after the rest of their little bunch, and he'd said they were well. Upon the subject of Kelvar, he'd said little. From his tone, and the strictness with which he'd schooled his reaction, she could guess he was growing tired of being around the dragon... and not only because Kelvar was apparently a hard taskmaster. There was something else, in the way her husband didn't say anything, and didn’t have his usual flip, good humor about his assessment of the dragon. There was something personal there, beyond the occasional complaining any student might do against an exacting teacher.
She had no doubt he was being taught the greater magics, the ones that had been so long lost. That by itself would not have caused him to speak as he did, though. It was less in what he said than in what he omitted.
She hoped there would be time later for him to elaborate. She hoped he was willing to elaborate. She knew her husband to be adept at keeping his secrets.
She sighed, stirring the fire again. It was getting near dusk, and she had been able to sense his approach for awhile now. She felt if she strained all her senses, and could shut out the evening sounds along the coast here she might be able to hear him.
He seemed in a sunny enough mood today, the bits she could get. She liked to see him happy and at ease. He was not entirely carefree, and had not been for awhile on this trek... He was happy though, and had enough a devil-may-care inflection in his tone. Perhaps he was teasing someone, likely poor Carrad.
There was an undercurrent of unmistakable irritation there too. She was surprised to have missed it. It flashed suddenly, only to submerge again under his iron self-control.
Cerri shook herself, and withdrew her attention from the surface of his thoughts. That had not been a minor irritation... that had the feel of something that he'd been harboring for days.
And it wasn't Kelvar. Had it been Kelvar, there would have been anger. She was familiar with that reaction in her husband. She had no idea how the dragon had provoked it, but apparently he had.
She was surprised to come to herself again and find her surroundings rather dark. The birds had quieted, but not as they do when night falls. It was still light enough they should be singing. The silence was surprising.
Hassan had surreptitiously put himself and a few of his arrows between the camp and the direction of the disturbance, to their southeast. Tam had gone up a tree with the aplomb of a northern-bred squirrel, to play scout. She was sure he'd brought some stones with him, just in case. The boy was a wicked shot with small rocks, even from treetop height. He'd been playing games with the wildlife almost from the time he'd discovered the joy of being in trees, and the northern creatures were no doubt cursing the desert boy to anybody who'd listen.
Cerri sent her awareness out again before sidling up to Hassan and giving him a nudge.
"It's just Richard, and the rest of the group," she whispered loudly, offering him a grin that held no malice.
He returned it with one of his own. "I know," he returned, in the same loud whisper. "Nobody's as heavy on their feet as that lout of a mage-husband of yours."
She made an indignant sound and swatted him. It wasn't fair that he could hear her Richard and she couldn't.
"Except possibly me," Troan offered, in a perfectly normal tone. "Although that is only my concession to injury and a general malaise."
"And now we get to have more discussions about who is heavier on whose feet, ad infinitum, ad nauseum, and whether this makes them more deadly or less, and whether this makes them a better all-around male."
This from Nev, who had also sidled up next to Hassan. She peered into the brush, apparently having as little success with a visual as Cerri.
"Being light on one's feet matters little to me," Cerri returned. "I honestly can't tell the difference when it's my feet being trod on."
"Hssst!" Hassan cautioned them.
Cerri lifted an eyebrow at the elf, knowing full well he'd catch the gesture, even in the waning light. "What are you playing at?" she asked him, her tone so low that Troan had to lean in to hear her.
"I think we're being stalked," he returned, not even hissing his sibilants, "by another elf..." He grinned at Nev. "Female by the scent of her."
The expression on Nev's face was priceless, as she weighed where best to land a blow.
Cerri offered her friend a feline grin. "I told you they could be infuriating," she intimated, as she watched Nev's jaw work itself as though she was chewing on dried out old leather.
When the two women returned their attention to where Hassan had been, he was gone. So was Troan.
They exchanged a look, and decided to keep the fire going. The others could play their games as it pleased them, and welcome.

Several minutes later they heard a startled squawk, and the brief ringing of steel on steel as the assassins were reunited. There was a general elvish cacophony when Eirien was reintroduced to Hassan. And, for reasons that neither Cerri nor Nev could fathom, Tam had decided to drop out of a tree onto Kelvar.
He'd no doubt mistaken the dragon for Richard. Others had done so before him. Kelvar took it in good stride, and with unusual good humor. He put the boy over his shoulder and tickled him mercilessly... and despite Tam's vocal begging, refused to let him down. Further back in the caravan, Richard was having himself a good laugh at his little brother. Tam's begging had increased to a shrill, panicked squeal, and Kelvar eventually relented and spared the boy more tickling. He did not, however, set him down. Instead he began telling him how sweet boy-flesh was when properly roasted, especially if the intended meal had been properly scared first. Fear, he said, made the meat sweeter.
"I particularly enjoy toes," the lordly dragon was relating, just as he came within earshot of the fire, "although I prefer them smaller than yours. The younger they are, the more tender they are... nibbling on toes your age isn't as much fun." Tam had gone stiff with terror, his protests a mere whimper of incoherent dread. Kelvar set him down easily and ruffled his hair. "Don’t tell me your father never nibbled on your toes, youngster," he teased. Tam continued to hyperventilate for another few breaths, then seemed to shake it off.
"Thou're wicked," he breathed, turning to go greet his older brother.
Kelvar offered the boy a sly chuckle, and Tam hurried to be out of his way.
Cerri surprised herself by simply sitting and listening to them as they all came nearer to camp. She set her brush down and picked up her tea, allowing her hair to hang loose in the evening breeze. The firelight would make the amber and honey colors in it glow, she knew. She also knew Richard loved to see what the light did to it in the morning and evening. He loved the feel of it, and the scent of it. She'd have preferred to keep it braided and out of the way; but she smiled to think how welcome he'd find it, and her.
She grinned. He'd likely have offered to give her another baby, if he hadn't already done so.
Kelvar lifted an eyebrow at her as he entered the circle of light cast by the fire. She smiled and rose to greet him, and he surprised her by embracing her warmly.
"Hello there," he said gently. "You’re getting bigger, I see."
She was surprised and pleased to discover that he was speaking to her baby. Her baby did more than flutter too, he bounced such that she felt it.
"Now he’ll never go to sleep," she teased.
Kelvar chuckled. "Oh, he'll sleep. They all sleep eventually."
The baby bounced again, and was more excited than Cerri had ever felt him be before. She shook her head. "Not with you around, he won't."
Kelvar tapped the side of his head and offered her a wry smile. "It’s the magic. He’ll get used to it."
The baby bounced again, and Cerri swayed a bit, trying to settle him down. He'd come right through her ribs into her throat if he jumped like that again...
"Baby," she exclaimed softly, "don't do that."
Kelvar chuckled and stroked her extended belly gently with the backs of his fingers. To her amazement, she felt the baby extend himself across the watery haven of her womb to try to return the touch from the inside. Kelvar seemed to share her wonder at it, although she had heard him speak of his several children, and knew him to be no stranger to babies and children, and the sense of wonder they could inevitably bring to one's world.
"Hush, little one," he murmured. "It's near time you were asleep, yes?" A pause, in which Kelvar's mouth twisted into a broad smile. "There will be enough time later to play, child. I promise."
Cerri stared at the dragon's face as it changed again, and he laughed. "No," he said cryptically. "No, I'm not."
Another pause.
"I certainly shall."
"You can’t possibly be having that involved a conversation with a baby who is barely four months in the womb!" she blurted.
Kelvar grinned at her. "He doesn't have words as you do, but he hears your voice every day. He is self-aware, and he is aware of others. Being a child of magic, he can make himself understood... it's an altogether different modality, mostly what he feels and wants. He knows your touch. He knows his father's touch. And now, he knows mine. I might venture to say he likes me," he added softly, and grinned again.
"I should say," Cerri returned, accepting a gracious kiss on the forehead from the tall fellow.
Their attention was otherwise occupied then, as Richard's irritation decided to take another bid for air. What made Cerri pay more attention was that Kelvar's expression had changed, and now showed something close akin to dismay.
"What?" Cerri asked, sensing no danger.
Kelvar spared her a gentle glance before returning his attention to a point just beyond the fire's light.
"This discussion should have been over days ago," he replied enigmatically. "It'll be over today though, one way or the other..." And he muttered something else, which she did not catch.

"Of course I shall be introduced," Narsali pressed, from her superior position atop Sunnim.
The horse was bearing her with more good grace than his master was at the moment, but Sunnim had tilted his ears back and balked when she mounted, as clear an expression of distaste as he'd yet evidenced for anyone. He'd borne her this far because her complaining about her feet was even less bearable. She was continuing...
"... although I have my doubts it'll mean anything to her. I doubt she'd have the appreciation for the intricacies of Court and such as we know it on the Storm Mountain."
"'Court', as you call it, still exists in the Desert, despite what you might have heard to the contrary," Richard returned. "It isn't that she doesn't know about such things, it's more that she doesn't care."
"And you knew this prior to your marriage to this woman?"
Richard had been bristling from her tone for a long time now, and it was beginning to show.
"I care for it about as much as she does, if I may be frank," he returned crisply.
"But you still know what is required, and you'll do what is required as a man of honor and of your word," Narsali answered, with no little heat.
Richard exhaled through his teeth, the discussion having tried his patience as far as he was likely to allow it.
"Unless it escapes your attention, Lady Narsali Corvey, Stormfell has a Wolf-Monarch in residence, namely my dear mother. She is not likely to simply step aside upon hearing of my return to the world again, and she is not likely to simply die of joy over it either. Therefore there is no pressing need, either to lecture me regarding matters of honor, or to lecture me about my choice of a spouse. And there the discussion ends, if it please you," he returned in kind.
"Lord Richard Stormfell," she snarled, "I consider it my duty as an ally and as a longstanding friend of your family to advise you in matters of state, of which your alliance with this little desert vixen is most certainly an issue, notwithstanding a prior betrothal agreement entered into by both our parents for the mutual benefit of our peoples and the further strengthening of our border alliances-"
"Spare me," he snapped. "Spare me the lecture and spare me the tone, and especially spare me any further deprecatory reference to the woman who is and ever shall be my heart and soul and sunlit sky." He leveled a finger for emphasis as they stepped into the fire's light, and was obviously about to continue, but Narsali cut him off.
"She has no idea what duties are hers to shoulder, other than being your sunlit sky," Narsali returned, the acid in her tone unleavened by having been muffled in her dismount.
Richard appealed to Sunnim. "If she says another word, kick her in the teeth. Better yet, kick her in that high and mighty northron arse of hers and teach her better manners."
"Not higher or mightier than your arse, as there's none higher, or mightier, or stupider in all the Three Kingdoms. A no-name little desert minx-wench... I swear to you, your grandfather is turning in-"
Richard went so far as to lay hands on her, one around her throat and the other gripping her left arm. Her eyes got just a little larger, though they flashed with fury rather than fear.
"I'll ask you one more time not to speak ill of my wife. After that I'll not vouch for my temper," he murmured softly.
Her familiarity with his family's ways kept her tongue still behind her teeth. He really had nearly shaken his ancient mountain home from its foundations once, in a fight with his mother; although upon that honored lady he had never laid a rough hand in his life.
She really might have nailed him to a wall.
Cerri watched the little scene unfold to its end. Richard released the red-haired firebrand of a woman, and Sunnim heaved a truly mage-weary sigh into the tense silence that followed.
Kelvar did not offer comment, but took a seat next to the fire and stirred it until a few sparks shot skyward.
"Will there be fish again tonight, or something less salty?" he queried, to nobody in particular.
"There are rabbits and a few quail. I am sick unto death of those, so if you lot are sick of fish, I'll eat any of it that you can spare."
"That's lovely of you, Cerri," Silvertears sighed, materializing out of the shadows with her matched-blade mate close behind her. Cerri hadn't seen Troan beam like that in a long time, and she was pleased for him. "I have had more than my fill of fish, for at least one lifetime," Sil was saying.
Hassan appeared out of nowhere, the rest of the group in tow.
"Fish?" he asked hopefully.
"Shark," Silvertears clarified, "as much as you can stand of it and more, mostly on the horses. Offer your thanks to the all-flying, all-fishing dragon over there."
Kelvar accepted the gratitude with a gracious nod.
Sunnim whinnied pitifully.
Everyone but Cerri missed Narsali's expression of open-mouthed shock at the Dark Elf's use of her name, Richard having departed that part of camp to chase Tam down for pelting him with a pebble.
"You poor thing," Cerri murmured, crossing the distance to the heavily-laden desert horse and stroking his nose.
Sunnim had his four feet planted wide apart and heaved another sigh, allowing her to stroke his ears and scratch his itchy places. She murmured to him in Desert, having heard enough of the conversation to be able to guess about the other woman. This would no doubt be Richard’s old 'schoolmate'. She'd decide later what to think about the lack of warning. She wasn't angry with her husband, as she knew him to be a tactful person. In his position he'd have to be.
She smiled, cooing to the horse in the tongue he understood best, and proceeded to unharness and unlade him. She continued to talk to him in the southron tongue, and to watch the other woman out of the corner of her eye.
Let Narsali puzzle over her perfect northron, and her command of the southron tongue. Let Narsali puzzle over her northron dress and coloring.
Let Narsali eat herself alive with envy that Cerri, not she, carried the next little lordling of the North.
She discovered, with no little glee, that her wicked streak was coming out. Part of her pitied the northron woman. The other part wished that Sherrit could be here to enjoy it with her.
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Postby Neko_Eirien » Tue Oct 25, 2005 4:58 pm

Eirien swung herself down from her horse's saddle and watched as Carrad shook what remained of the wet snow from himself. The light elf imitated the wolf, her cloak flying off and landing in a bush and her short hair spiking itself as the water droplets flew from her body. She grinned a rather bemused Carrad, retrieved her cloak and sat herself next to Cerri, who was bathed rather attractively in the glow of the firelight and watched the 'discussion' between Narsali and Richard.
It didn't seem to be going to well for Narsali and Eirien sniggered to herself. Cerri shot her a wry look and the elf explained under her breath.
"This conversation has been coming for a while...the silly girl has been trying to persuade our dear mage that you're not good enough for him. I think they were promised at birth, or something similar and my friend has found Richard's marriage a hard thing to except." Cerri snorted slightly, looking as amused as her companion felt.

The discussion ended and Richard strode off to look for someone - possibly the small child who had been wandering around? Eirien didn't know and wasn't particularly interested in any case. She lay back on the ground and closed her eyes, keeping her ears tuned in to the sounds of camp activity around her. Somehow, she drifted off into sleep just as Silver and Troan arrived back at the campsite. The rest of the group started to unpack the shark and other bits of food, Narsali scowling every so often at Cerri in something approaching surprise. Cerri ignored these looks outwardly but smiled quietly to herself, pleased that she'd had such an effect on her husband's 'school-friend'. Richard and Tam arrived back, the boy seated happily on his brother's broad shoulders. Cerri smiled contentedly at them both as Richard swung Tam down to the ground and seated himself beside her, taking her hand and gazing at the much-loved face. Narsali watched from the other side of the fire, the scowl fixed on her face. Kelvar was occupied with Tam. Silver, Troan, Hassan and Nev were chatting quietly over their food whilst everyone else started to catch up with talking.
Suddenly, a loud and piercing scream cut the still air and the talking abruptly stopped. Smaller screams followed it and they died down to a quiet whimpering from the still-sleeping Eirien. Kelvar exchanged worried looks with Narsali as the healers of the party walked swiftly over to the elf. The sobs were heartbreaking, the type one might hear from a child who had lost their favourite toy. Nev put out a tentative hand to her forehead and snatched it back as Eirien lept up, knives in her hands. Cerri thrust Tam in the direction of their tents, somewhat scared by the crazed look in Eirien's eyes, but before anyone else could do anything, she had turned and fled into the darkness of the trees. Troan and Hassan got up to follow her, but Kelvar waved them back with his hand.
"You won't find her tonight. No arguments. You may both be skilled trackers but that one is as close to an animal as you can be but with all the cunning and intelligence of the elf she is. She'll not be found tonight"
Richard sighed and rubbed a weary hand across his eyes.
"Then I suggest carrying on with our dinner would be sensible. we're all still hungry and I for one am very tired. We can find her in the morning." Narsali cast a worried glance in the direction that Eirien had gone, concerned not only for the elf's safety but for the safety of the rest of the party.
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Postby troan » Thu Dec 08, 2005 9:46 am

Troan's head spun for a second in a wave of dizziness, "Where am I?" Regathering his bearings Troan looked around, a bemused smile on his face as he took in the strange collection of friends that their group had managed to gather over their perilous journey. A dangerous light took to his eyes as they ran over Richard and with a sigh he put his arm around Silver and let it pass. He never would grow used to a mage who also managed to be a decent man, a man with whom he could be friends. A sharp prick at his side brought his mind back to the present, "Care to dance?"
Silver was more than a match for him when he was at his best, but still injured as he was..."I missed you," he replied rising and smoothly drawing his blade.
The blade purred in his mind and carressed his senses, but firmly he shut her away. "Only steel, darling, that's all I want for this fight." There had been a time when she wouldn't have obeyed, when lightning instinct came with a blood frenzy as soon as he drew her. He owed Richard for that, yes, he was a friend, mage and all.
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Postby Cerridwen » Sat Dec 10, 2005 5:33 pm

[OOC: Tackles Troan in a huge bear-hug.... I thought you were dead, man. I honestly thought Clemson had swallowed you alive. How goes it with you, you old scoundrel?]

Once the festivities had settled down and the merrymakers had retired to their respective tents... and once one or two of the elves had begun to whistle softly in their sleep... Kelvar stirred at the fire until sparks shot into the air. They reflected briefly in his inscrutable golden eyes, then he turned away from the fire and strode soundlessly into the night.
He was summoned to pressing business which had waited long enough.
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Postby PatriotBlade » Sun Dec 11, 2005 2:25 pm

Nev shivered in her sleep and turned away from Hassan, subconciously trying to shield him from her nightmares, but he had already seen and he lifted her thrashing body into his arms. He smoothed the cold sweat from her brow and wrapped their blankets around her.
She could feel the evil that sought her drawing nearer and she feared what she had seen would happen in the end. She moaned and shivered again.
He began to hum an elven lullabye as he prayed that the end would come quickly, whatever the result would be.
Hassan's voice was soothing to her spirit and in moments she had settled into a deep sleep.
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Postby troan » Mon Dec 12, 2005 3:18 pm

[OOC: teehee, sorry bout that yall. Oh and btw I am now Clemson's newest English major : :shock: ya ya i know ]

With a wry smirk on his face Troan balanced himself on the toes of his right foot. The wry smirk carefully erased from his face he quickly and quietly began to erase every thought that swirled through his frantic mind. Not an easy task, too long since he had danced with death, too long since he had seen eternity an inch away and felt the thrill of it pumping adrenaline through his body. Too long since he had released passions long since held in check. Yet even as these thoughts formed they were quenched in overwhelming determination.
You are a weapon, his mind intoned with the regular cadence.
Your body is not your own
Your mind is not your own
You are a defender
You are the shield
You are the steel against the storm

Slowly, he loosened every muscle individually, loosened every tendon in his body. Perfectly balanced, his body hung, focused around that one point of balance. He flexed and his body came alive, flowing he worked through his sword forms.
My love, I shall never let you fall...not again
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Postby Cerridwen » Wed Dec 14, 2005 12:27 pm

Despite the stir in camp upon Kelvar's unexpected departure, Richard had little trouble convincing the newly-reunited party to continue moving. Although Nev required a bit more convincing, due in part to her dreams in the night, the mage reasoned that if Kelvar had left them, it was better that he be somewhere else at the moment.

So it was that the group began anew, heading inland from the coast towards the feet of the mountains, just south of the holdings of Mount Stormfell. The mage figured it would take them several weeks to a month to reach the Stormfell holdings, if they took certain of the mountain passes.
He had not considered the brutality or the suddenness of the unnatural winter. It decended in fury, almost from the time the horses' hooves first touched the road to the mountains. The brooding sky lowered, darkening with each passing moment, and it began to snow almost immediately.
"A fine sendoff this is!" Silver shouted, so as to be heard over the wind.
Bloody hell and sparking firebrands, Carrad muttered, as he set his head into the wind. It reeks so of magic I want to sneeze.
And reek of magic it did. Richard was not yet familiar enough with the ways of dragons to tell if it was Kelvar's weaving. The magic savored of something terrible and deadly, though he didn't know whether it was woven against the group or not.
It made him wonder, even as he had to dismount to unburden Sunnim enough that the horse could find his footing in the narrowing mountain passes. It made him wonder when he glanced behind them to watch the trail, what he could see of it.... there was little evidence of their passing, and in the gathering drifts there would be no sign by tomorrow.
It made him wonder, though the driving wind chilled his bones and drove the dry, stinging flakes into his eyes, and down his cloak.
The snow could have been wet and icy, making the passes impossible. It could have frozen, but it did not.
The fact that it was snowing so profusely, and so quickly... it made him wonder whose magic was responsible. It was miserable going, but it certainly could have been worse.
And as things stood, their progress would be untrackable to unfriendly eyes.
"It's a crazy time to have to travel!" Nev wailed. Cerri turned in her saddle to regard her friend with an expression of incredulity, but found that Nev was grinning even as she bewailed the weather.
"Well I hope that isn't a problem... we're not known for our sanity around here, after all..." Cerri let her comment hang in the air, and Carrad spared the energy to spring up next to Kadesh and offer Cerri's boot a playful nip.
"We weren't naming names, dear," she teased him. He licked his chops and offered a low growl, but there was no mistaking the humor in his eyes.
I should hope not, he returned, but I hope you remember me in kinder terms when I have finally frozen solid.
She chuckled, and wrapped herself more tightly against the cold. I'm sure I'll try, dear one. If my Richard lets me.
Carrad had a comment for that as well, but he decided to conserve energy by keeping mum.

It was a long, cold, miserable two weeks, but the group finally made it over the pass and into the lands of the North. Whereupon the storm and its fury vanished, almost overnight.
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Postby PatriotBlade » Wed Mar 22, 2006 5:48 pm

It had been a long two weeks, but though the going had been difficult, Nev was never more glad for it; for she was so tired that the nightmares could not invade her sleep. With the death of the storm however, they returned, fiercer and more frightening than ever, but her control had strengthened. She never once let her shields slip and only rarely did she cry out in the night.
Yet Hassan knew. He could see how sad her elven eyes had become and he knew just how tired she was from trying to hold her shields about herself. He had long ago stopped sleeping, using his Elven rest instead so that he could strengthen and comfort her as she slept.
This night, something other than her dreams awoke her. Hassan was outside their tent and she could hear hushed tones as their shadows danced against the canvas. She crawled silently to her pack and dug to the bottom until her cold fingers encountered what she sought.
She pulled the twin daggers, Mind and Spirit from their hidingplace and examined them the wan light. When Slivertears had given them to her, she had carried them on her belt for a while, but soon hid them away, not wanting to use them unless absolutely nessisary.
"The time has come..." she thought to herself. The half elf slid the deadly blades back into their sheiths and fastened the belt loosely around her waist, checking the balance and placement before wrapping her cloak tighter about herself, bing careful to hide them before joining her friends by the fire.
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PatriotBlade
Ranger of the North


 
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Postby Cerridwen » Wed Mar 22, 2006 8:44 pm

The weary group awakened to a perfectly dazzling, crystalline display of fire as the dawn illumined the the tip of every peak within their sight. Its glory was nearly blinding, and the beauty of it nearly made Narsali cry. This was her home, after all, and she had been away from it for long enough.
Nev was struck speechless. For days now, she hadn’t been able to see anything unless it was directly in front of her. She had wondered how Richard knew where he was going, because the view had been wholly hidden by all the snow. She’d thought several times that they’d come to the top of something, but it had always led to more uphill going after that. She had stopped looking for the end of the road, and not wholly because she couldn’t see.
Today, she could see everything. It was overwhelmingly big. The Desert had been big in its way, furlongs and furlongs of grassy expanse, stretching out into eternity…
The peaks of the North were something else entirely. She gaped in unabashed awe.
If her reaction was interesting, the elves appeared to be having some kind of religious experience. Hassan and Eirien babbled on and on together in an uncharacteristically animated fashion, which made Silvertears laugh and laugh.
“And here I thought you’d seen the world,” she teased the taller elf.
“I have,” he replied breathlessly. “It gets better each time.”
She chuckled and pulled her collar up around her ears. It was good to see her kin enjoying themselves, particularly Eirien. There was usually something dark that bordered on madness behind her large eyes, but Silver neither saw nor sensed that in the other elf today. It was good to see her at ease for once, without a trace of what had been done to her.
“What about you, human?” Sliver asked. “Isn’t all of this supposed to be yours?”
Richard turned at the sound of her voice and offered a smile. “Not yet,” he replied simply. “If I had it my way, not ever. But if certain of us have our way, it will be. My only happiness in it is that it would spare my mother the worry.” His expression softened to something like concern. “If she does not decide to kill me instead.”
“She’ll do no such thing,” Cerri told him, with a heat and finality that gave even Silver pause.
“If I were her, I would not,” the dark elf conceded, wondering what made human women so prone to insane over-protectiveness when they were carrying offspring. “I do not understand why she would want to.”
Richard offered his friend a studied scowl. “Tell me what you’d do if I suddenly reappeared after you thought I was several-years dead, and this after one of our last exchanges involved me declaring that I would rather die than be forced into a role you had planned for me since before I was born.”
Silver appeared to consider it. “I take it you didn’t leave on good terms.”
“I left on very tense and uncertain terms, which I can assure you she didn’t appreciate.”
“And these terms were…?” Silver pressed in a lower tone, inviting him to elaborate. Cerri huddled closer, enjoying the feeling of conspiracy.
Richard held her gaze for a moment, then deliberately shifted his dark eyes to where Narsali was regaling the other members of the group with tales about her homeland.
“I agreed to shoulder my responsibilities to my people at a time when they became mine to shoulder, but I flatly refused the… other arrangement.”
“Oh come now,” Cerri teased wickedly, “she doesn’t seem all that bad.”
For all that her husband’s glower was fierce, it didn’t affect Cerri in the slightest. Silver gave a low chuckle.
“She isn’t that bad,” Richard replied in a tone that surprised the elf in its evenness. “It really might have worked, and we both could have done worse in a mate, but is the principle of the thing.”
Cerri winked. “He doesn’t care for being told what to do.”
Richard shook his head soberly. “I really don’t.”
“This is why we get along so well.”
Richard offered her another glower, and she kissed him with a sweetness that was entirely unfeigned.
“So your mother would not object to your being alive, but she might object to your choice of a, ah, spouse.”
“She will object, and the ten hells may shriek in protest, but my choice of a mate stands. She’ll have to adjust accordingly, because I will not.”
There were a few moments of silence.
“It would seem to me that the discussion should be over with regard to your schoolmate, then, but it is obviously not.” Silver let her question hang for a few moments. “Could someone tell me why, unless she simply does not understand a mating pair?”
Richard sighed, and Cerri appeared to tense slightly.
“Northron law is… complicated. Well, the law is simple, but it complicates her claim on me… and technically, she still has that claim.”
Cerri’s brow lifted a notch, and Silver mouthed a very telling ‘Oh’, indicating that of course he had to explain.
Another weary sigh. He’d apparently given it some involved thought himself.
“She and I were not so much promised to one another as to our respective parents. Her father and my mother arranged it shortly after she was born. The families have been allies for a long time, and the season had come to strengthen those alliances. Such arrangements are considered binding on all parties. It is not so much a matter of wanting as it is a matter of duty. In both our families, duty to clan and house is above all. She was made aware of the arrangement long before I was. She was at the school for different reasons than I, but we did become friends. It was not until later that she attended the school for mages.”
“That is strange,” Silver broke in. “Magic does not show after a certain age if it is going to show at all.”
Richard gave her a slightly stricken look. “I… involved her in something that forced it out of her. There was some thundering over that, apparently -”
“You forced her magic?” Silver murmured incredulously.
“She had the gift, but it was latent. It hadn’t shown for all her childhood, but I involved her in something that triggered it. It was an accident.”
Now he sounded defensive, and Cerri didn’t know whether to console her husband or to laugh at him.
Silver continued to shake her head. “How strange… “
“She was your schoolmate as an apprentice then,” Cerri prompted, trying to salvage the conversation.
“Yes,” he said. “Now, the matter of the law is that the contract is still binding, unless all parties renounce their claim. All parties in this instance being Narsali and her father, and my mother.”
“And if they don’t?”
“Stormfell will be less an heir, or I will have to marry her. Or there will be a row, and I will go back to the desert and never show myself across these borders again.”
“But you have a wife,” Cerri said, strictly as an observation.
“I do,” he agreed. “Northron law is strange this way: I am considered contracted to Narsali until that arrangement is dissolved by mutual consent. Although her people hold with taking one lawful mate and not having relations of any kind apart from that one mate, my mother’s people do things differently. They may have a spouse for contractual purposes, and they may have other partners as well. Narsali intends to hold me to that part of my people’s law. In her eyes, Cerri is little more than a mistress since she has prior claim. My mother will certainly take this view, and Narsali might persuade her father to take this view… herein lies the problem.”
“So contract the marriage to the little redhead to keep the peace, but do not consummate it.”
Richard gave her a longsuffering look. “The point of the arrangement is to solidify the alliance by way of an heir. My conscience forbids that road.”
“Albeit not on general principle.“ Cerri grinned and patted her tummy. It raised a smirk from her husband.
“You’re wicked,” he said, and kissed her. “Anyhow, I could possibly get out of it by arranging that one of my children complete the contract, but I had much rather not.”
Silver sat thinking again for another few moments. “How well did you say your families got along?”
He sighed. “We’ve been allies for generations… literally, generations. We’ve gotten along well because we have kept the peace together, and kept our borders friendly, and kept our word to one another.”
“Until now,” Silver supplied.
“In my defense, I did not learn about all of this until after I learned where I had even come from, and then I learned it all in the same hour. I would willingly do aught for my family and my people, anything but this.”
“I don’t suppose all parties involved would be unwilling to consider the fact that your alliance with the Desert clans is more helpful just now, given the circumstances.”
Richard shook his head. “The Corveys’ claim is the prior one, given the history. It would be taken as a dreadful insult, and all parties involved would overlook my offense only when they each had a piece of me to nail to the wall.”
“But surely Stormfell would not be robbed of its heir,” Silver teased.
Richard sighed. “You don’t know Lord Brand Corvey. And you don’t know my mother.”
“I’ll blast her to cinders if she lays her littlest finger on you,” Cerri declared. “After that we will ask her about the contract, and she will consent by her silence. I’ll do the same with that little red vixen and her vixen’s-get father if I have to.”
“I’d like to see what that dragon of yours had to say about it,” Silver chuckled.
“Don’t you dare drag him into this.”
“But dragons are known as peacekeepers,” Cerri reasoned. “Sil said so.”
“It’s true that they were our teachers long ago, and there has been mediation undertaken by him and his kind before… but I doubt he’d consider mediating a betrothal dispute. I said I’d like to see what he had to say about it, because he seems to be the only one able to keep this one in line.”
“I’m sure I appreciate it, but thank you no,” Richard growled.
“Why not?” Cerri asked, her confusion genuine.
Richard took a moment or two to answer. “Because there comes a time in every man’s life where he has to accept the consequences of his actions, and persuade those around him to do likewise.”
Silver smirked. “Eloquent. I still think you could charm them into acquiescence, if you put your mind to it.”
“I prefer to keep the Corveys’ friendship, and I prefer to remain on speaking terms with my mother, but the matter of Cerri’s lawful place as my only wife will stand. I am willing to sit in my place after my mother, but if she decides to disinherit me over this I’ll weep no tears. And there,” he finished, “is an end to it.”
For what it’s worth, I think the four-leggers will take your view of the thing, Carrad interjected. They’ve got the ways of Alpha males and females ingrained in their blood, and one of those ways is that the Alpha males have only one Alpha female.
“Until the male is run off,” Richard corrected, scowling at the wolf.
Succession still passes through the female, the wolf returned, grinning. If she is run off, it passes through her mate. The pack is preserved.
Richard shook his head. That’s all well and good for the packs, but I worry that my mother will not have another heir if she is rid of me. The matter is complicated, naturally, because I love her.
Carrad grinned. She’s not as young as her looks, but she’s still well able to produce an heir. Maybe not by your father, but she’s capable.
Richard shook his head and decided to leave the conversation there as far as Carrad was concerned.
"We'll be heading that way," he said, indicating a more westerly route. "It heads north and west, toward Stormfell. The passes are usually clear at this time of year, but I can't vouch for them during this kind of weather. At any rate, there are some stopping points along the way going down, before we get into the more southerly part of Haresfoot Forge. It'll ease the trip a little."
"And if that way is shut?" Narsali asked as she sidled up to them, the other elves in tow.
He shrugged and shook his head. "Then we'll try our luck across the Eastern Peaks, although you know how little that would like me."
She nodded, her expression as grave as Cerri had ever seen it. She seemed to shake herself then. "Well, we'll know before we've lost too much ground I dare say."
"Aye that," Richard concurred.
Silver appeared to consider it. "So we're heading more west, and then we have to backtrack all that way and go east again...? You're not making sense, mage. As usual."
Richard had gone digging in one of his packs for a pot to boil some water. "The pass we'll take to get down that far is at roughly the same elevation as the others. If it's bad, we won't make it to the head of the western road. The Eastern Peaks are at a lower elevation and won't have gotten the kind of weather the other passes have, but it's much easier to get lost over that way."
"Most travelers don't take that road unless there is great need," Narsali added.
"Or if they want to lose pursuit," Hassan interjected softly.
There was silence a moment as several eyes turned to regard the typically taciturn warrior.
"Well, we qualify on both counts then don't we?" Nev said.
Richard nodded as he found the pot he needed and filled it with snow to set over the fire. "That we do, lass. That indeed we do."
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Cerridwen
Rider of the Mark

 
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