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Old 07-06-2008, 08:13 PM   #31
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     A commotion arose out on deck; down in the cabin, Leeroy and Treissae strained to hear what was being said. Definitely Tabaar was furious with someone; his voice arose above the ruckus and everything else abruptly quieted. "Ye heard me," was clearly audible. "Ye have to face him with this and now!"  A clattering of boots announced the Mystic's swift and angry stride as he dragged someone by one arm and shoved that person through the cabin doorway before him.

     Leeroy looked at the human guardian in surprise. The man was shamefaced and would not meet his gaze. Behind him, the older Barbarian seethed with fury as he blocked the doorway. "Tell him," the shaman grated. "Tell him, Trethor."  Trethor at last looked Leeroy in the eye and immediately ducked his head, gulping in fear as he did so. "I....I have something to tell you.  At the camp when the wolves attacked...I was on watch and I guess I fell asleep...I didn't sound a warning and they nearly killed you."  The guardian dropped to his knees. "I have no excuses, nothing to offer but my sincerest apology. I am at your mercy."

     The Inquisitor stared at the human. Now what, he wondered. Should he be enraged? After all, here he was lying in a bed recovering from severe wounding, having barely survived.  In his mind he replayed what he had seen at the camp during the attack.  Yes, Trethor hadn't even joined the fight for quite a few seconds; the wolves had all been attacking Leeroy before the guardian grabbed his sword and ran into the fray. Am I supposed to punish him in some way?

     "This wretch is at yer disposal," Tabaar intoned, pointing to the hapless guardian.  "As an in-Clan relative of yers, if ye had died I would have killed him myself. As it is, he is to be punished by the injured party, that being yerself.  I will leave him here with ye in private. Just call out when ye decide his fate." The Elder Mystic motioned to Treissae. "Come on out, young lady; Leeroy has to do this alone."  The cabin emptied of everyone but the miserable human and the nonplused Barbarian.

      "How long have ye been in the Qeynos Guard," Leeroy asked. "About 15 years now; before that I was a guard in Thundermist Village." "So ye aren't new at this and know better than to sleep on watch." "Yes, I have no excuse or reason for endangering the lives of those entrusted to my care."  The Inquisitor carefully turned on  the bed, swung his feet to the floor and stood, swaying slightly and ducking the low ceiling.  "Such a lapse cannot go unpunished," he said in measured tones.  "Go out and find Tabaar and wait five minutes before ye come back in this cabin."

       When the others returned to Leeroy's room, they were surprised to find him in full plate armor with the unmistakeable peaked helmet which was the signature of the Inquisitor.  He was sitting on the side of the bed; he couldn't have stood upright in that room without brushing the ceiling.   "All right.  Ye have heard that this guardian here is accused of and confesses to sleeping on watch, endangering the lives of others in the dereliction of his duty. Trethor, step forward." The human guardian did so and stood at attention, his face bloodless with tension. "Does any of ye have anything to add?" No one said a word. "Then it is settled. Finding the defendant guilty, I sentence him to death."

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Old 07-07-2008, 02:47 AM   #32
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    There was a collective gasp of shock from the group.  "How could you!" Treissae cried out.  Redclaw shouted, "What kind of backsta..." "SILENCE!" Leeroy roared, smashing down his war hammer on the floor beside him. "I haven't finished what I had to say. A sentence of death...commuted. As was mine. As were so many along the way. Today is the day to taste mercy. I want ye all to listen to what I have to tell ye." He moved over and motioned Trethor forward. "Ye start with a clean slate. Make the most of it." The Inquisitor sat back and smiled. "Sit down beside me, Treissae. All gather round to hear my tale."

     "After I left Neriak I was still filled with rage and humiliation over what had been done to me. I used their sea gate to nektulos forest dock and went to wander in the place called Timorous Deep.  While I was there I talked to the prophet of the Tribunal and the prophet of Karana. I had really needed some insights into my own behavior and how it impacted others and myself.  From Justice I learned how we all are guilty of something and must realize that or cause misery to all.  I had never learned much about Karana but was eager to find out what the Stormfather teaches. So I talked to the prophet, an old human man named Askr, and he told me much..."

    Leeroy had not been surprised to hear that Karana was the deity of the weather and open lands. What did surprise him was how he felt once he heard the words. Some sort of...well, powerful force seemed to course through his body and caused him to see what was real, and what was only wishful thinking.  Then Askr requested a favor: he wanted the Barbarian to help him project himself across distances to combat the creeping evil that was Bertoxxulous the Disease Bringer, and its minions. Leeroy readily agreed.  He went from place to place and found items that would help resonate a portal, and brought them back to the prophet. 

     When at last all the work was done, Askr had the Inquisitor travel to the prearranged site in the Fens of Nathsar, and set up the receiving end of the portal.  It seemed to be in working order, and soon it flashed and crackled as it activated. Askr popped through and began casting spells; sure enough, Bertoxxulous appeared to combat the human.  A terrible fight broke out, with Leeroy trying his best to keep the prophet alive and the minions subdued as Askr took on mortal combat with the evil demigod.   To Leeroy's despair, Bertoxxulous smote Askr with disease until he succumbed and fell dead there beside the Barbarian.

     "Now it's your turn," rasped the hideous apparition. "I believe not," thundered a hooded figure from behind Bertoxxulous.  And thunder it was, and lightning, as Karana attacked the surprised fiend. All the Inquisitor could do was watch in awe as the very air seemed to cleave in half and Bertoxxulous twisted and writhed in the storm.  Leeroy had a strange feeling he should put his hands over his ears.  Then came a huge clap of thunder and the Disease Bringer flattened out then vanished in a pinpoint of sullied light.

     The tempest disappeared as if it had never been.  Karana moved closer to the Barbarian and the fallen human. Leeroy abruptly dropped to the ground, groveling before the Stormfather. He had failed and gotten the prophet killed...now he waited in dread for whatever punishment was forthcoming. But he was raised to his feet instead... and then Karana said, "I don't leave my friends dead...mercy is the only way to bring about the saving of Norrath from darkness." With that, he flung out his arms and Askr was levitated from the ground and set on his feet, shaky but very much alive. "Go continue my work, Askr," commanded the robed figure. "As for you, Leeroy, did you learn any lesson here?" "Aye," the big man replied in almost a whisper. "Go then, and take this as my gift to you. It is only to be realized some time in the future, but it is a personalized bit of Foreboding, and when you need to use it you will." A small shard of multicolored opalescent stone appeared in the Barbarian's hands, and he clasped it to himself and knelt as Karana faded away.

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Old 07-09-2008, 05:32 PM   #33
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     The Barbarian removed his helmet and indicated the stone set in front. "Here it is.  I replaced the original and it fit in the setting like it was made for it.  Some day it will do something for me, I don't know what.  But Karana did say Foreboding... and that is foreknowledge of some sort from what I can figure out." Tabaar nodded in agreement. "Aye, Leeroy, it is indeed. And it is a very perilous thing to have it in yer possession; ye must be strong of will and resist temptation to make use of it before the time is right."     

     Food was being served in the narrow room next to the galley. They all filed in, Leeroy leaning on Tabaar's shoulder for support, and sat down at the bench. It was just a basic stew but to the Inquisitor it smelled wonderful. Someone shoved him a bowlful and he ate rapidly.  Treissae watched in awe as 7 times the young Barbarian sent his bowl back for a refill.  At last he sighed and set down his spoon.  "I feel so much better," he murmured.  Leeroy then leaned back against the wall while the others finished their meal and talked of their destination.

    "All right, I am heading to bed," Redclaw remarked. "Aye, it will be a long day tomorrow; we should all get a good night's sleep," Tabaar added. The Gnome woman set down her bowl and gave Leeroy a long look as she slipped by. "He's asleep," she smirked. The Mystic turned to look. Sure enough, the Inquisitor was slumped against the wall, eyes closed and breathing slow and even. "Leeroy, wake up. Ye can't sleep here." "Huh? Wasn't asleep. Was resting eyes," the younger man mumbled. Tabaar grinned. "Sure, sure. Anyhow, have a good night's rest, everyone."

     They disembarked early the next morning at Butcherblock dock.   Leeroy did manage to walk unaided; he was fully outfitted in his plate armor, sans the helmet which was in his pack.  Treissae wondered aloud why he chose to wear the heavy armor. "If I don't wear it, someone has to carry it," the young Barbarian replied.  And it is heavy to wear but worse to carry."  Redclaw came back with some supplies and food for the trip. "Here, take these," he said, passing around travel rations and flasks of water.  The Kerra pointed to the ramp. "We have to go up that way, and there isn't much in the way of traveling comforts until we reach Kelethin."  Leeroy eyed the ramp and switchback trail. He didn't look forward to it.

     Sure enough, the climb was strenuous; the Inquisitor's stiff muscles protested as he forced himself to keep moving. Sweat dripped from his forehead as he grimly kept up with the party.  He began to lag behind slightly as time went on. Tabaar kept a pace for the rest of the group and didn't seem to notice. Treissae moved up beside the shaman and said in an undertone, "Leeroy is not keeping up, didn't you see?" "Yes child, I saw but ye have to realize that if I stop and wait for him it will only distress him further; his pride is at stake here." Treissae looked back at Leeroy; the big man was white-lipped with the effort but he was actually moving a bit faster now. 

     The trail was flattening out; the steep grade eased until it was only a gentle slope. A tower was visible as they rounded a bend; it was a griffon station. "There we are," Tabaar said. "We'll use the transport to get us there a lot faster. Let me see about getting us a good price on the use of their griffons."  Leeroy staggered up to the group and leaned against the tower, breathing hard.  "Here, give them this," he managed to say. He held out a small scroll to Tabaar, who was perplexed but took the offered document. "It's a signed affidavit; says that the holder is authorized to use the griffon transport along with anyone in his group." The older Barbarian unrolled the scroll and scanned it quickly. "Aye, and they send the bill to Lucan D'Lere." The Mystic climbed up to the platform and motioned them all to follow. "Transport for six to Greater Faydark," he requested and handed over the scroll.

     This is certainly easier than the climb up from the dock, Leeroy thought.  The land below slid by as the powerful bird lofted on thermals and beat its huge wings to gain altitude and speed.  He could even see the lost dwarf stronghold of Kaladim, now overrun with kobolds, gnolls, bugbears and the like.  Treissae was in front of him a little way on her own griffon, clearly enjoying the novelty of fast travel.  I need to talk to her, and soon.  Leeroy had found he couldn't stop thinking about the Wood Elf, not even for a moment. As if he wanted to.  But the timing had to be right....

     The griffons alighted at the Greater Faydark station and the party made its way down another switchback trail - downhill at least, thought Leeroy - to where a pathway lead into greenery.  "At last," remarked Trethor. "I haven't been here in a long time."  The warmth and moderate humidity gave a greenhouse atmosphere to the already lush appearance of this region and Leeroy didn't feel as fatigued as before.  Was there something invigorating about this place?  He shrugged and strode forward down the trail. Tabaar looked at Treissae but said nothing, then followed the Inquisitor. Treissae trotted to keep up. "I know where the nearest lift is," she offered. "It's over there, past that bend about 5 minutes' walk. 

     There was a small stairway leading to nothing. "Look up," Treissae said. "Ah, all right I see it now," Redclaw remarked. "It's on a pulley system."  An acorn-shaped enclosed lifting device was up against a platform high in the tree above them.  A few seconds went by and it slid down its pulley to come to rest there in front of them. Treissae and Trethor both got in the lift, and the others followed after a moment. "It'll start rising soon; it's on an automatic timer," the Wood Elf supplied.  The forest started to drop away around them.  Without any noise at all the acorn lift rose to its destination and settled into its niche in the platform.  Treissae hopped out and spun around. "Come on out, we've arrived in Kelethin."

    

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Old 07-09-2008, 06:59 PM   #34
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   "I want to go see my family but first we must announce our arrival to the Queen's Guard. They are in charge of security and protocol here; if you get lost they can help you find your way." The Wood Elf pointed toward two Fae stationed at a sky bridge.   "They watch for intruders. Fae are good allies to have here in the trees."  The party moved up the bridge and onto another platform, Treissae acting as tour guide. "All right, the next level up this way," she gestured, "is the complex which contains the Queen's residence. Do be careful and respectful."

    Leeroy looked around at the confusing multi-level tree city.  He had never been in such a place and from the residents' curious stares, not too many Barbarians came here.  One little Wood Elf boy came a few steps nearer before a woman that was apparently his mother called out sharply to him, calling him back to her.  The Inquisitor realized that he was feeling much more normal now; maybe this forest with its riot of growth was somehow conducive to health.  He followed the rest of the group up the final ramp and they all stopped in front of elite Queen's Guards.

     "Greetings to the Queen and her protectors," Tabaar bowed.  "May we ask yer hospitality?" "Of course," one of them said.  "You are all good upright citizens and I trust there will be no trouble." The Fae greeted each of them in turn, then dipped their swords and with a flourish and sweep of their wings, parted to let the travelers through.  "NO!" shouted the Gnome woman "Don't you see? That one there is a Freeport spy!" she cried out, frantically indicating Leeroy. 

     The Inquisitor was completely taken off-guard.  He backpedaled a few steps in surprise, which the guards took to be confirmation of the accusation against him.  They moved forward at surprising speed, swinging their swords above their heads as they attacked him. The others were in shock as Leeroy looked for a way out, but other guards were approaching from all the directions he could see.  "Ye don't understand," Leeroy tried to say, but a sword clanged off his armor as he backed away in desperation.

      "Stop, stop!" Tabaar cried out, but the guards would not be dissuaded, and if the group attacked them, there would be a terrible fight and loss of life.  "He's not... he wants to become a citizen here!" But the guards' blood was up, and they pressed the attack home. Karana, what am I supposed to do? Is this a sign? A test? Leeroy mentally beseeched his deity as he took more steps backward... and then there were no more steps to take as he hit the low railing in the backs of his knees and flipped over the side and fell with a cry of surprise toward the ground below.

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Old 07-09-2008, 07:51 PM   #35
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   The Queen's Guards stopped and peered over the edge. Satisfied, they began returning to their posts.  Tabaar's icy shock turned to white-hot killing rage as he realized that the Gnome woman had betrayed his nephew. He ran at her with his spear, shouting battle oaths hundreds of generations old. She had nowhere to go as the Mystic hurled his weapon, pinning her to the side of a building.  He rushed forward with his dagger, stabbing the Gnome many times until the others pulled him off. "She's dead, Tabaar, stop fighting," Redclaw restrained him until Tabaar's rage abated. "It won't bring him back." Tabaar howled in frustration and incipient grief.

   Treissae had to her dawning horror realized what the Gnome woman was about to do, but she hadn't been able to do anything to stop her. She shrieked in panic as Leeroy was driven back, and when he fell she let out a bloodcurdling scream and ran for the nearest lift.  Nothing was fast enough to get her down to where the Barbarian had fallen, and it was a very long distance from the treetops to the ground.  Blinded by tears as she was, Treissae ran screaming his name.

     Mmm? What is this? he wondered. He floated in cool green water that supported him perfectly. Need to get some air. His lungs ached and yet he couldn't move. Involuntarily he drew in water... and pushed it back out, drawing in more to replace it.  How strange, some detached portion of himself observed.  It is water but breathable... and now I am feeling stronger.  Leeroy started swimming for the nearest embankment and crawled ashore there, turning over on his back in the mud to take stock of the situation. The guards attacked me when that Gnome identified me.  He wanted to be angry but was instead filled with a lassitude that relaxed his body and mind. Am I hurt in any way? He couldn't find any injury whatsoever... not even the ones from the wolf attack. 

     Tabaar flung Redclaw away from him and snarled.  The Queen's Guards regarded him impassively. "I will lodge a formal complaint about this!" the Mystic spat. He pelted toward the lift and got in, shaking with repressed emotions.  Trethor and the Kerra followed but said nothing.  At the bottom, they found Treissae had run ahead toward the base of the tree. "Let her find him," Trethor stated flatly.  "We will wait until she does; there's nothing we can do." Tabaar turned red-rimmed eyes toward him with an unfathomable look. "Clan rights state that I have disposition..." "We don't even know if he's dead or injured, yet," came the guardian's rejoinder.  "He fell over a hundred feet!" They had nothing to say to that, and wisely neither Redclaw nor Trethor did.

     The Wood Elf tripped over an exposed root and fell down a sloping gully of mud, and then she saw the Barbarian lying on the embankment, motionless.  "Leeroy! No, no, no...." She fell down beside him, sobbing. "I would do anything if it would bring you back," she said in a low, hopeless tone. "But now it's too late..."  He opened one eye. "Anything? Would ye marry me?" "LEEROY!" she cried, this time in astounded tones. "You lived? Oh thank the gods..." Treissae flung herself on the muddy armored form and sobbed anew.  "Are you hurt? Can you get up?"  He shook his head. "Just felt like I couldn't move for a while." He sat up, hugging Treissae to him.

     There was a motion above as the others came running to investigate. Tabaar was in the lead and he skidded to a stop on the mud, seeing his nephew sitting there with the Wood Elf cradled in his arms. "Hello, Uncle," Leeroy greeted him.  The Mystic sat down heavily, wheezing for breath. "I don't understand how ye lived but boy, ye lead a charmed life." "Oh, I fell in this deep pond here, and the water has healing properties I think." The Inquisitor looked around. "Where is that Gnome?" Tabaar's face was as hard as flint as he growled, "She's dead at my hand; Clan revenge rights. But ye live, and that is what matters."

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Old 07-10-2008, 04:26 PM   #36
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     Treissae turned again to regard Leeroy.  He was muddy, soaked, and just about the most beautiful thing on Norrath, she was sure.  What had he said?  "Did you really ask me to..." "To marry me? Yes, I did."  She stared at him for a few seconds, which later Leeroy considered the longest few seconds of his life.  His eyes were anxious, almost pleading, dark with emotion. "I couldn't do anything less," she answered.  "I love you, Leeroy, and yes I will marry you."

    His face lit up with joy as he renewed his embrace of the Wood Elf.  Behind the happy couple,  Tabaar, Redclaw and Trethor exchanged glances.  "Ye will need a priest," the Mystic rumbled.  "Of course, I am qualified to perform weddings." "Yes, that would be perfect," Treissae answered. "All we need to do first is see my family. I know a way up that won't take us near the Queen's Guards."

     Leeroy looked ruefully at his disheveled appearance.  "I need to clean up a bit. My armor is filthy and I have mud in my ears."  He began shucking off the plate armor, setting it aside.  For propriety's sake he left on the ragged trousers he wore underneath, and waded out into the pond to scrub at his hair and beard.  "Trethor, would ye mind getting some of the mud off my gear?" "Not at all," the human replied, and set to work on the armor with a wet rag.  Tabaar handed Treissae a towel so she could remove the mud streaks on her face.  While she cleaned them she watched the Inquisitor with fascination.

     He had always taken pride in his body, tall and strong and muscular as it was.  Leeroy knew that Treissae saw him, and he did feel slightly embarrassed....and just a bit arrogant.  Oh how he loved her and wanted to get the marriage ceremony over with and... better not go that route right now or ye will embarrass yerself, he mentally chided himself.  With an effort he turned his thoughts to other things.

     When Leeroy was reasonably clean, dry, and outfitted in his armor, the group headed to a more distant lift and again approached Kelethin. They were very cautious about disembarking, and all kept weapons handy in case.  "This way," Treissae pointed. "We can go up this ramp and over down that one."  They followed the Wood Elf and soon found themselves among small round hut-like residences. "This is my family's neighborhood.  My parents live there, in that house."  Treissae walked up to its door and tapped out a code.  The door opened to reveal an Elven couple who smiled to see their daughter. 

      "Father, Mother, may I introduce my friends?  This is Redclaw, Ranger,  the human is Trethor, Qeynos Guard, this is Tabaar the Elder Mystic of Graystone Yard,  and this is Leeroy, Tabaar's nephew." The older couple nodded and greeted their visitors. "I need to talk to the Greatmother, is she available?" "Yes daughter, she is in her house."  Treissae excused herself and left. "We are Fanada and Melquon," the Wood Elf man said, indicating his wife and himself. "Friends of our daughter are welcome here. May we offer refreshment?" "Something to drink, please," replied Tabaar.  Fanada bustled to the kitchen and reappeared with a pitcher of fruit juice and several glasses.

     Treissae knocked on the old woman's door. She would consult the family elder for any important decision; this was the way Elven society worked. The door creaked open to reveal a seamed, lined face surmounted by a halo of white hair. "Come in, child, come in," the Greatmother indicated.  "What can I do for you?" "Honored Elder, I wish to marry." "Indeed? Who is the lucky man?"  "He is named Leeroy and came a great distance to see us."  "What family is he from?" "He's the nephew of the Elder Mystic of Graystone Yard."  The old woman digested this a moment and blinked.  "You mean to tell me you're in love with a Barbarian?"

      She turned pale and swallowed twice before replying. "Yes, Greatmother. I beg your indulgence on this matter." "I have no problem with it, but your parents will. But I think I know how to ease the shock.  Is everyone at their home?" "Yes, they are there now." The old woman walked slowly to the door. "I shall pay them a visit, and counsel you. Come now, I would like to meet your intended."

     

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Old 07-13-2008, 09:42 AM   #37
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     "And what brings you travelers all the way to fair Kelethin?" Treissae's father asked.  "It's a long story, but I will tell ye the gist of it," answered the shaman.  "Several of us had bought passage to Everfrost and we decided to travel together.  We met my nephew there and since Treissae wanted to come here next, it was decided that we would accompany her, as it is a perilous journey."  Trethor and Redclaw looked at each other, then the Kerra shrugged.  Tabaar had his reasons for being so vague, obviously.

     A tapping at the door announced Treissae's return, and the arrival of the Greatmother.  "Come in, come in," urged their host. "Travelers, this is Greatmother Saranaea of the Enothie family of the Feir'Dal." Everyone stood, and Tabaar bowed deeply, saying in halting Feir'Dal, "We greet the elder lady of the family."  Saranaea curtsied and replied in Halasian, "And I greet the Kol-Hurn and their friends."

     Tabaar and Leeroy gaped at the aged Wood Elf. "How do ye know our name for ourselves?" burst out the younger Northman.  Tabaar froze him with a glare.  Abashed, Leeroy mumbled his apologies. "No, no, it's quite all right," the Greatmother went on in the Common tongue.  "Young man, come a little closer."  Leeroy did so and dropped to one knee. "Yes....Treissae, you know that chest at the foot of my bed? There is a box inside it, tied with white ribbon. Would you run and get it?" Turning back to regard the others, she nodded as introductions were made. "I have some things to tell you when she returns.

     Treissae was soon back and handed Saranaea the box.  "I haven't opened this in over a century," mused the Greatmother.  "It contains a diary and a few effects left me by my godmother.  I have often wondered if I were ever to reveal this to anyone, but I see that now it is time."  Taking a proffered chair, Saranaea scanned the guests. "This is a long story but will be well worth the telling and the hearing." She sipped at a tall glass of fruit juice and took a deep breath.

     "This tale is not about me, although it may seem so at first.  You may notice my name means "gift" in the Feir'Dal tongue.  Most folks believe it is because my parents spent many years trying to have a child. But that is not why my name is Saranaea.  I was born sickly and weak, and given only a short time to live.  My father Ioemir, a warrior of Faydark, was helpless to stop the insidious decline of his only child.  He asked my godmother Aelwyl, a powerful druid, for assistance. She was unable to stem my decline, and so she called in some favors.  A High Elven cleric and his sister tried but only could slightly delay the inevitable.

     "In desperation Aelwyl broke Tunare's command about not Porting outside of Faydark and went to see a former friend in Halas. He was a veteran shaman named Heldorm, and after much persuasion he agreed to try his hand at a cure. His skill with herbs and healing mixtures was already legendary among his own folk. 

     "Aelwyl Ported them back to Kelethin, where most residents had never seen a man of the North.  My father abased himself before the shaman, which embarrassed Heldorm terribly.  The shaman examined the child, told of a life elixir he was working on, and asked to return to Halas for his stock of herbs.  But Aelwyl had been forbidden by Tunare to use Porting for the time being as punishment for breaking the rules. So I was left in my mother's care while the others left on a long journey...."

     Saranaea told of travel and peril, new companions and flames rekindled, of war and battle, and of her father's shameful secret.  She spoke of Aelwyl and Heldorm's renewed bond, their near-drowning in the sea, and the perils that still stood between them and their objective.

     "Little did anyone know that my weakness was like a lighthouse bonfire to a Dark Elf  who wished to use my ebbing life force to open up a permanent portal between Norrath and the Void.  My mother was murdered and I was abducted to be the final victim in a long line of victims to the Teir'Dal mage's plan.  My father, Aelwyl, and Heldorm attempted a rescue but were instead captured and made to watch while I was hooked up to the infernal device.  Ioemir fought like a madman to get to me, and the Dark Elf obliged him mockingly, releasing him and throwing his sword to him.  When my father rushed him, the Teir'Dal simply cut him down. 

     "Aelwyl told me later that Heldorm flew into a frenzy that made my father's look tame, and that he called upon the Tribunal for assistance.  They must have heard their Shaman of Justice, because he gained the strength of a demigod, burst his bonds, and wielded the war hammer Invictus to great effect.  With it he did defeat and kill the Dark Elf.

     "He released Aelwyl and they mourned for Ioemir and prepared to carry me back to Kelethin to die also.  But then Heldorm saw my father's blood mingling with that of the Dark Elf and found that it had a blue glow.  Once ages ago, all Elves were one people, and somehow this blood was exactly what was needed. The shaman put some in a vial and solemnly carried Ioemir's body while Aelwyl carried me. 

     "My godmother's prayers to Tunare were answered; she was allowed to Port them back to Kelethin.  She ran to find the High Elven clerics while Heldorm made his potion for me.  I was very weak, and in my final hours by this time if untreated.  But the shaman dripped the concoction on my lips drop by drop until I ingested enough to start to respond to treatment.

     "Meanwhile the High Elf siblings managed to perform a miracle. My father, three hours dead, was successfully resurrected. This had not been done in centuries, if not millennia.  Aelwyl filled him in on all that had happened and he listened, amazed that anyone would so care and have such determination that they would bring him back from the dead. 

      "And then he cried out for me his daughter, fearing the worst.  The others tried to reassure him to give Heldorm a bit of time to finish his work. Ioemir grew frantic then the huge Northman walked in the room carrying me, healthy and cooing and giggling like any infant. My father pronounced my name 'Saranaea' as he said I was a gift, and that he could never repay Heldorm for what he had done. Heldorm had simply laughed and said that his gratitude was more than enough pay for him."

    

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Old 07-13-2008, 11:02 AM   #38
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     The Greatmother paused a few moments to take a drink then continued, "I grew up into a young woman and one day my father has a visitor. It was the druid, my godmother, who had not visited since I was a tiny baby.  She wished to tell me the origin of my name, and did, in the story I have just told you.  I asked after Heldorm, and I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised to hear that by that time he had been dead for a very long time, it having been 500 years since my birth.  

     "But my godmother told me later that my question led her to find a passage in that very diary in that box there which Heldorm had left for her to find centuries before.  She said that as a Shaman of Justice his timing had always been perfect, and that it still was, and that he was watching over her still."

     Saranaea stood up and perused everyone's reactions. She had everyone's full attention, and some of them were trying to swallow past a lump in their throats.  "But know this, I didn't tell this story only to speak of a love match like few others, or to say how grateful my family was for my life.  I wanted all to know that some do know that the people of the North are not "Barbarians" as we so often have thoughtlessly said.  Treissae, I believe you have something to tell your parents."

     The young Wood Elf walked over to stand by Leeroy, who remained seated.  She put her hands on his shoulders and said, "This is the one I choose for the binding."  Her mother blanched and looked quickly at Melquon, who seemed ready to object. He walked over to the young Northman and  stared at him for quite a few seconds.  Leeroy returned his gaze calmly.  "What do you do for a living?" the Feir'Dal man wanted to know.  "You can't be a shaman, dressed in all that plate armor." "No, I am not.  But I am a priest, a cleric to be exact." "A cleric? I'm sure you didn't train here in Kelethin. You probably were born in Qeynos." Leeroy nodded in agreement.  "What did the Temple of Life teach you about our slightly differing practices here? Do they use the same spell runes for Sanctuary?"  Leeroy blinked and flushed slightly, wondering what he should say.  Luckily, Tabaar saw his difficulty and came to  his rescue. "Melquon, can I speak to ye in private?"

     The sounds of an intense argument arose in the adjoining room. It went on for quite a while, at the end of which the shaman and the Wood Elf man re-entered the sitting room. "We have come to an agreement," said Melquon.  "The Greatmother shall judge." Tabaar turned to Leeroy.  "He was trained in Freeport. Yes he is a cleric, an Inquisitor."  The young Halasian nodded in assent.  Treissae's parents backed away and turned to their daughter in accusation. "So you no sooner lose one of them that you go running back to find another Freeporter Barbarian?" her father demanded. Treissae was aghast at her father's vehemence but replied in an even tone, "No, father, he didn't die after all. This is the man who rescued me from the prison and set me free to come back to Faydwer."

     Her mother wrung her hands. "What if he really works for the Overlord?" Fanada wanted to know.  "Mother, they would have killed him for letting me go, but for that last-ditch port spell I found in that arcane book that Grandmother gave me."  Her father broke in, "A likely story; more likely that Freeport forces are on their way now that this one has given the signal..." "Silence, Melquon, I will be the judge of this," snapped the Greatmother. She wove a complex spell in the air and with a muttered chant cast it on the unsuspecting Inquisitor. "There. He can hide nothing from me. I worked as an Enchanter for many years, and the skills have stood me well."

     Saranaea motioned to Leeroy. "Come over to me." He did so. "Stand here and face the others." The young Halasian shifted his position and stared off into space with unfocused eyes.  The Greatmother began questioning him. "Your name is Leeroy." "Yes." "Tabaar is your uncle." "Yes." "You are from Freeport and are an Inquisitor." "Yes." "You were sent here to spy upon Kelethin." "No."

     She questioned the young man a bit further for appearance's sake but was already satisfied as to the truth of the matter. She broke the spell chain and was startled to hear Leeroy chuckle, "Aw, ye had me charmed, didn't ye?" "Yes, I did," replied the Greatmother. "Thought so. I don't blame ye either."  "He cannot be any more or less than what he claims. None but an Inquisitor can see through charm like that. He might have broken the spell if he so desired." "Nay, I couldn't do that; my will wasn't my own. But I was detached and observant." Saranaea was satisfied with the answers and called to the young Wood Elf.

    "Treissae, bring me that flat hinged object in the box, please." The young woman did so and handed it to Saranaea.  The Greatmother opened it and nodded to herself. "I have here a miniature painting, commissioned by my godmother back when Heldorm was still alive. Come see." Everyone gathered around to see the ancient artifact. It was Tabaar who saw first. He gasped in shock and grabbed Leeroy by one elbow. "It's... it's yer double, boy," he rasped. It wasn't of course a perfect mirror image or anything like that, but the resemblance between the young Inquisitor and the long-dead Shaman of Justice was startling. 

     "This is a sign.  You are an echo of the long-ago hero, Leeroy.  What this means I cannot say, but I do have one more story to tell that will explain my opinion on all this,"  the Greatmother pronounced.

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Old 07-14-2008, 10:12 AM   #39
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     "You are all familiar with accounts of the War of the Fay, I presume? My husband was away on a visit to Qeynos so I went to stay with my father, who was by then quite old and really needed some assistance.  He complained of joint aches, which slowed him and forced the proud Ioemir to use a cane to walk.  I set out one day into the forest to search for certain plants which would help ease the worst of the discomfort.  I was on that slope overlooking western Kelethin, very near Butcherblock Pass, when I saw something that froze my blood. 

     "There were quick fluttering movements under trees that didn't match up to anything the local residents would be doing.  My sixth sense warned me, 'invaders' and I ran down the slope and scrambled up into a tree, scraping myself on branches as I fought to reach a platform so I could alert the guards.  When I got there I breathlessly tried to tell and pointed back in that direction.  All the guards could see was an assortment of  Feir'Dal, Fae, and Koada'Dal.  "They aren't real!" I told them. Just then one of the false Wood Elves stumbled over an exposed tree root and hit the ground hard, losing his illusion momentarily. It was a Dark Elf, a Teir'Dal, just as I had suspected.

     "I wish I could say we easily repulsed the attack. But we barely survived as a city, and as a people.  The invaders had nearly annihilated the Dwarves who were unfortunate enough to not be deep within Kaladim, and now the assault force burned our city to the ground around us and decimated our numbers, killing our king in the process.  The cost in lives was so great.... my father was badly wounded in the fighting; as a warrior of Faydark he had taken up arms, old as he was.  The healers told me soon after the battle was over that he wasn't long for this world; Aelwyl and I hurried to his bedside.

     "He told us in a trembling voice that the first two people he wanted to see in the afterlife were my mother... and Heldorm.  'And you know why I look forward to meeting the shaman? To thank him again, Saranaea. If he hadn't saved you all those years ago, you wouldn't have been alive to save us. By the grace of Tunare and by the judgement of Heldorm's Tribunal, the Feir'Dal still exist....'  his voice trailed off and his eyes closed and he was gone.

     "We Feir'Dal owe the Kol-Hurn an honor debt that can never be fully repaid. But as Greatmother for my family, I think I can do something to help.  As my father remorsefully admitted his wrongdoing  in slaughtering  Half-Elves and was forgiven, I can say that if you are sorry for your past actions, Leeroy, we will forgive."

     The young Northman knelt in front of the assembled group. "I have no excuse for the things I have done in the past, the lives I have ruined.  I could point to Lucan, or blame the Dark Elves who enslaved me, body and mind. But those circumstances didn't make any difference to my victims, and ultimately I will face the Tribunal and answer for myself.  Here and now, in the presence of any whom I have caused pain and distress, I beg yer forgiveness." 

     Surprisingly, it was Melquon who spoke first. "I have misjudged this young man. Leeroy, not only are you forgiven, but I shall be proud to call you 'son'." Fanada gasped in surprise. "Yes, yes," she said, trying not to sniffle.  Saranaea smiled and motioned Leeroy to stand. "Treissae, over here too." The young Feir'Dal woman moved closer. "Does anyone have any reservations about the proposed binding?" queried the Greatmother. "Actually, I have one," answered Fanada, "It's really awkward but... unless by accident or will of Tunare, my daughter will outlive Leeroy by centuries." Treissae answered, "It's worth it to me. What if I never met another like him?" 

      Saranaea held up a hand. "  I will tell you what my godmother said to me shortly before she died. I asked her, 'Aelwyl, have you ever regretted marrying Heldorm? You've been alone so long.'  She understood and didn't take offense.  She replied, 'I counted myself lucky to have him. I would have considered it worth it if he had only lived a day. I only regret the twenty years we spent apart over a stupid argument. And remember, once we are reunited, it is for eternity.'  The very day she died, Aelwyl had me read the diary and the promise that Heldorm had written there. And keep his promise he did according to Aelwyl; her last words were, 'see him waiting for me? Heldorm...'

     "Now the time has come for another to behold the promise.  Leeroy, open this diary to the last red mark."  Saranaea handed him a gold-clasped, faded book of obviously great age.  He found the mark, carefully parted the brittle pages and began to read the faded writing. After a few moments he held the diary out a bit farther as not to get it wet from the tears running down his cheeks.  He then handed the book back to the Greatmother, staggered a few steps away, and sat down on the floor, his face in his hands.

     "What did ye have him read?" asked Tabaar.  "I showed him Heldorm's own writing  to Aelwyl, where he promised to watch over her from the afterlife.  It seems to have had a very strong effect on your nephew." "Aye, it did," answered the Inquisitor, looking up.  "I can only hope to be half the husband that Heldorm must have been."

    

  

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Old 07-14-2008, 11:22 AM   #40
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   "I believe we are ready," commented the Greatmother a few minutes later.  "Feir'Dal custom simply has the young couple recite their vows in front of at least two witnesses who are not parents of either party." "Why is that?" asked the human guardian.  "It is a safeguard so no one can be forced into an arranged marriage against their will. Now, in deference to our Halasian groom's custom, he may name a priest to officiate," Saranaea answered.  Leeroy looked up from where he was seated.  "Uncle Tabaar, will ye do the honors?" The Elder Mystic laughed and replied, Of course, I'd be delighted!"   "Is there anywhere I could change out of this armor?" Leeroy asked Melquon.  "Yes, right this way" The Inquisitor picked up his pack and followed the Wood Elf host from the room.

    "Daughter, let's get you all fixed up," Fanada coaxed.  Treissae glanced at the others. "I'll be back soon." "I still have that dress you wore for your cousin's wedding..." Fanada's voice trailed off as she and her daughter exited the sitting room.  "Now, Tabaar, do you need to prepare?" the Greatmother asked. "Nay, just need to put on my bear hat and grab my ceremonial spear.  Where did I put it... ah, here we go. How's that?" 

    The shaman stood tall and tapped the base of his spear on the floor, the bear head just missing the ceiling as he drew himself up to his considerable height.  "Very impressive, Elder," Redclaw remarked.  "All you need is real teeth and claws to be a real shaman," he teased.  "Aye and fur, too, right?" came Tabaar's rejoinder.  As old friends, the Northman and the Kerra basked in each other's company.

     Leeroy returned to the room first, dressed in clothing that no one had seen him wearing before. It was a red, dark green and silver outfit of the most striking cut and pattern.  It had a neck clasp, cummerbund, tail and sash, and drop sleeves that left his shoulders bare.  Crocodile hide boots with silver studs completed the look.  Redclaw nudged Tabaar. "See your nephew?" "By my ancestors, he's spectacular!" laughed the shaman. 

    Then Treissae glided in wearing a cream-colored v-necked mid-calf length dress.  Leeroy saw and caught his breath.  It was so simple but on her... "Ye look so nice, love." She turned to behold the young Northman and her eyes grew wide. "Oh, my."  He stepped up to her and dropped to one knee to embrace her. "I am ready for this. Are ye also?"

    They turned to the expectant assembly and waited.  "Who are the witnesses?" Mequon asked. "The Greatmother and Trethor shall serve," answered Tabaar.  "Who will record and officiate?" the Wood Elf host went on.  "I will," the shaman replied.  "Leeroy, Treissae, speak yer vows now in this assemblage as we celebrate the rite of marriage."

    Leeroy turned to Treissae. "I will love, protect and cherish ye.  While I live no harm will come to ye that I can prevent by any means.  When death takes me from ye, I will watch over ye, striving to keep ye safe until ye are reunited with me."

     Treissae smiled through blurry vision.  "And I will love, cherish, and stand by you.  I will be there for you through thick and thin, and I will not forsake you when you grow old."

     The Elder Mystic waited a few moments then announced, "Vows are heard and witnessed. By the power vested in me, this son of clan Hammersmite and this daughter of family Enothie are now husband and wife.

     "Ye may kiss the bride." 

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Old 07-14-2008, 07:35 PM   #41
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I have just caught up with this story, and have enjoyed it very much indeed.  Well done, and thanks.  You have snared a faithful reader.
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Old 07-15-2008, 06:30 AM   #42
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      A nice custom of the Feir'Dal was to have a special house in reserve for newly-married couples.  For a people who lived in rather small residences, having a place for the newlyweds to go as a private retreat was a welcome change. No one would disturb them for a couple of days; they would be busy with the post-wedding bash anyhow.

     "Here we are," Treissae indicated the residence.  "Our time is our own for three full days and nights."  They walked inside and set down their belongings and sat down on the sofa.  "I can still hardly believe ye agreed to marry me," Leeroy said softly.  He ducked his head and kissed her cheek, then he encircled her with his arms.  Treissae carefully reached up and touched his face. Leeroy returned the gesture, running his thumb gently across her lips.  Her eyes half-closed and he found he was breathing faster. 

     Leeroy's mind was whirling. Never had he been so excited.  And she loved him... all he wanted to do was please her. Nothing else mattered, not even his own ardor.  With great effort he drew back and gazed at her tenderly.  "I love ye, Treissae," he murmured, and kissed her passionately.  She matched him for enthusiasm, and his arms tightened around her, causing her to squeak in surprise. "Did I hurt ye?" Leeroy asked, concerned. "No, you just startled me." "I would never hurt ye deliberately; that is a solemn promise on my honor."

     They got up and walked into the next room and Leeroy sat down on the edge of the bed.  Treissae turned and pointed around her back. "Could you get these? I can't reach all the buttons."  He was only too happy to comply, carefully undoing the back of her dress.  Again he put his arms around her and hugged her tightly. The Wood Elf turned and laughingly undid the front of his shirt.  "Get more comfortable," she giggled.  He peeled it off and set it aside on the table, all the while staring at her as the dress slid down to her waist.

     Treissae could not stop looking at Leeroy, either.  His eyes were dark with interest as he held out his arms to her. As soon as she got close enough he closed the gap then fell back onto his back, still embracing her.  She could hear the rapid thudding of his heart as he turned on his side to regard her. "Ye know how beautiful ye are?" She didn't answer but instead divested herself of the cloth around her waist. His jaw dropped. "Ye know I'm about to lose control here." His bride didn't answer but gestured in such a way he couldn't mistake her intention.

     It was her turn to watch in fascination as her husband finished undressing. He then did a surprising thing; he lay back down on the bed on his back and waited to see what she would do. "Whatever ye want of me, I am yers, Treissae," he murmured.  "Whatever I can do to please ye, I will." She lay down next to him and ran her fingers along his jawline. "I want you, husband of mine. Love me." He was overjoyed to do so, and soon neither of them even was aware of anything but each other.  And then, for a long time that never was long enough, all speech left them.

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Old 07-21-2008, 01:28 PM   #43
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     An insistent knock at the door interrupted the wedding reception; Fanada padded out of the dining room to see who it was.  A few moments later she was back.  "Tabaar, someone's here to see you." He gave a puzzled frown but went to see.  To his utter consternation it was one of the Queen's Guard.   Fae...buzzing insects, the shaman thought sourly.  "And what do ye want with me?"  "Come with me, we've got some issues to discuss," the tiny creature ordered.  Tabaar shrugged and followed.

     The Fae motioned the grizzled Northman into a small hut; Tabaar had to duck carefully through the doorway. Inside was a small table and a bench that would have to do to support him.  He eased himself onto it and placed his elbows on the table.  "All right, what is this about?" "I think you know, Elder Mystic.  First though, I want to clear up some misconceptions. Ever since I was a budling, all I wanted to do was become a warrior.  Nothing else mattered." The guard fluttered closer and stared up at Tabaar with faceted eyes.  "Your people and mine have a lot more in common than you might think - don't shake your head like that; it's true.

     "A Fae, wanting to fight. Imagine the teasing, the ridicule.  'Become a mage, don't be a fool.' 'Fae are too weak to guard anything.'  Despite this, I volunteered for training and although I had a lot to overcome, size and mass being two of them, I did prevail upon my instructors to give me a passing mark. I worked very hard for this position, and dealt with the whispers and obstacles placed in my way.  Now imagine one of your kind wanting to become an arcanist, or researcher, in the foreign realms you must live in. What would other peoples say?"

     The shaman sat back and pensively stared at the ceiling. "Aye, we get called muscleheads, lugs, and of course barbarians.   But ye didn't bring me here to commiserate about shared experience."   The Fae man fluttered his wings and nodded. "We cleared up the mess and spread the word that the Gnome woman was a Freeport operative, and that we had regrettably killed her when she tried to escape custody." Tabaar jumped to his feet. "Why would ye cover up what happened?" "Oh, we realized what was going on... we are not as bubbleheaded as we seem.  Yes, we drove the other Northman back over the railing... but we knew what was below."

     Tabaar bristled. "Ye mean to tell me it was a set-up?" "We have very fast reflexes. Oh, the Gnome was serious, making that accusation. And I have a strong feeling that it wasn't baseless." The Fae hovered right in front of the Mystic. "Was it?"  Tabaar shook his head. "Nay, my nephew has lived in Freeport.  Not at his own will, I assure ye.  And he is no danger to ye of Kelethin. In fact, he has married one of the Feir'Dal. I am hoping ye understand my position here."

     "Yes, I do.  All I ask is that you let your nephew know what transpired here, and tell him to be sure that he never again approaches the Queen's Guard or the upper platforms." "But what if he becomes a Qeynosian citizen or even a citizen of Kelethin?" Tabaar wanted to know.  The Fae guard settled onto the table again. "If that were to happen....and I consider it unlikely...we would reconsider this. But until then, he is to confine himself to the lower parts of Kelethin when he visits." The Fae indicated the door. "You are free to go." The Northman started to duck through the door when the Fae called out. "One more thing," the winged man said.  "Tell your nephew 'Congratulations'."

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Old 07-23-2008, 08:51 PM   #44
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Thanks for the new posts.  Very well, and tastefully, done.  I look forward to seeing where you take Leeroy next.
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Old 08-01-2008, 04:53 PM   #45
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     Treissae awoke in the twilight and found herself perched precariously on the edge of the bed.  Leeroy was sprawled on his back across the rest of it, oblivious.  She propped herself up on one elbow and regarded the sleeping Northman.  He looked so peaceful; the worry lines were smoothed out and the wary look was gone.  Treissae carefully edged over against him and relaxed, allowing  herself to drift off again.

     Where am I, he wondered as he squinted up at the ceiling. Then memory returned as the momentary disorientation faded. Leeroy felt a weight on his left arm and turned his head to find the Wood Elf - my wife, Leeroy thought exultantly - nestled in the crook of his arm.  "Treissae," he murmured. "Mmm?" "I love ye now and forever." She gave him a sleepy smile. "I love you too, forever."  "I wish I could stay here like this," Leeroy noted, "But I need to get up, clean up and find something to eat." 

     Indeed there had been no food left for a day now.  Whoever had stocked the pantry hadn't counted on a Halasian's prodigious appetite.  Treissae had eaten an apple and set down the core, and Leeroy had picked it up.  She had assumed he meant to dispose of it in the trash.  No, he took that core and ate all of it except the seeds.  Now he reluctantly got up and found some fresh clothes, his razor kit and a towel, and headed into the bath.

     The tub was not really big enough for him but it would have to do. It was filled from a clever device that came from a rainbarrel on the roof, saving the trouble of hauling buckets.  He let in some water then carefully climbed in and sat down.  Not too bad, he decided.  Leeroy felt the stubble on his chin and picked up the razor, unwrapping it carefully along with the hand mirror. With the help of some soap he set to work. 

     When Treissae padded into the room a few minutes later, she found that he had drained and refilled the tub for her, and was just finishing toweling his hair.  "Ah, very nice of you," she said.  While she took her bath, he finished dressing. "Where can we get something to eat?" he wanted to know.  "Joleena's Restaurant is right down the way," she replied. "It's home cooking; great food. It's where newlyweds always go because it's so close." "Right now I'd settle for boiled horse," he laughed. "But that sounds perfect."

     "Table for two," Leeroy told the hostess. "Of course, this way," she replied and led the young couple to a rustic table and bench.  He gingerly sat down, but  it seemed the furniture was sturdily built and would not pose a problem.  "May I offer my congratulations to you both?" Their hostess gestured to a server, who hurried over with a bottle of wine and two glasses. She filled them as the hostess announced, "This is compliments of Tabaar."  Treissae and Leeroy looked at each other.  How thoughtful of the shaman!

     Leeroy hadn't needed a menu, not really: he just asked for them to bring out food and lots of it.   It was abundant, and very good, from salad and soup to roast chicken and gravy and more.  Treissae thought she ate a lot, but it paled in comparison to the empty dishes stacking up on Leeroy's side.  She must have stared a bit or shown some surprise because he abruptly stopped eating and flushed slightly. "Don't worry," he remarked, "I normally don't eat THIS much in one sitting. And I can afford it." But when they were finally done and sat back, full, the hostess presented their bill as Paid in Full. "Compliments of everyone at the wedding," she announced.

     "I suppose we'd better head over to my parents' house," Treissae said. Leeroy agreed; he wanted to talk to his uncle about some things he had considered during the last couple of days.  When they arrived, the door was flung open and they were ushered inside to find a rather tipsy gathering of revelers. "Hey there, kids," Tabaar addressed them as he walked over.  "Ye look lovely, my dear," he said, bowing to Treissae. "And how is my nephew enjoying married life?" he asked, eyes agleam.  "Uncle Tabaar, I've never been happier. Thank ye for everything ye've done for us. Ye gave me my life back, and my future."

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Old 08-12-2008, 12:26 PM   #46
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     After a couple of days Leeroy and Treissae decided to do some traveling. "We would like to spend some time in Ro, maybe visit Maj'Dul, before we head toward Qeynos," the Inquisitor told the Elder Mystic.  "I will wish ye safe travels, nephew. I should be back in Qeynos in a couple of weeks myself; I left my adopted son and his wife in charge and I'm sure they will be happy for me to take over my duties again."

    Leeroy frowned. Adopted son? He knew from talking to Tabaar that his uncle had lost his wife in childbirth, and his son in the defense of Qeynos a few years back.  He expressed his confusion, and the older Northman nodded. "I have never told ye the details of losing my son, but suffice it to say his friend, a young human Mystic, helped me out greatly in that time of grief.  I went through the difficult process of out-race adoption; even so I felt that my expression of thanks was inadequate.

     "So when ye get to Qeynos, if I am not there, ask for Jimbob, or his wife Kebia.  They will give ye hospitality in what will be a hostile and unfamiliar place.  And in case there is any question of yer authenticity, just refer to Trethor, and if that doesn't work, say that Jimbob lived on a remote farm in Thundering Steppes as a boy.  Not many folks know that.  Once ye are settled in, we can go about doing some quiet asking around to see who will be willing to help ye out with retraining."

     The next morning the newly married pair arose early and packed for a long overland journey back to the Butcherblock Mountains, the nearest location where ships serving Maj'Dul and the Sinking Sands region of the Desert of Ro made their ports of call.  Treissae embraced her parents, who admonished her on safety and care in traveling, how to avoid thieves, and sundry other advice.  "It's all right," she assured them. "We will watch out for each other." 

     The Elder Mystic thumped his nephew on the back and wished him well. "Thank ye, Tabaar," Leeroy remarked.  "I hope ye also have safe travels and that we see ye again soon."  The young couple started to walk away, then turned and waved.  "Don't forget to write," called out Fanada. "I'll remember, Mother," Treissae answered. Then they both turned back to the lift and got in.  It dropped down toward the forest floor and Kelethin disappeared from sight.

    

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Old 08-26-2008, 09:39 PM   #47
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     In the distance Treissae could see two objects that seemed to rise out of the sea. They looked for all the world like cobra heads. "That's because that's what they are," Leeroy informed her. "They are the watchtowers for the dock at Sinking Sands." As they got closer she could also see something like an unmoving cloud behind the dock. "Is that Maj'Dul up there?" "Aye, that it is." "How do we get there?" "I will show ye when we arrive."

     Once at the dock, the passengers streamed off in different directions. Vendors hawked wares and advice, and courts representatives offered favor for small errands. Seabirds wheeled overhead and the sun beat down although it was already late afternoon. "Over here," the Inquisitor pointed at a stack of carpets. "Maj'Dul means flying carpet in the Dervish language. It's the only way to get there. Just step on and hold out yer arms like this."

     Treissae gingerly walked onto the rug and to her astonishment it levitated a few inches then glided forward, gaining momentum and altitude as it did so. She risked a look back and saw Leeroy crouched upon one, following fairly close behind. He was laughing to see her reaction and Treissae couldn't help but giggle. This was fun!

     The maj'duls deposited them on a large courtyard in front of a gate leading into the namesake city. The Barbarian pushed the gate open and motioned the Wood Elf to enter. "We'll do some sightseeing and get a place to stay for the night. Be advised, folks here have differing customs. They sleep during the hot hours of the day and work and play most of the night." He put his hand on her shoulder. "Stick close to me; there are beggars, thieves, and ruffians here. Unescorted ladies are fair game."

     After eating dinner at a very good Dervish restaurant, they toured the marketplace and visited the courts areas. "Ye can't get into a court until ye have enough favor built up with one. And since they require ye to show yer court badge at all times, once ye have committed to a court the others will be hostile to ye." "Hostile?" "Aye, they will actually attack ye if they can get away with it. The Sha'ir-" here Leeroy pointed up at a robed figure on a flying carpet "- will break up fights and they are authorized to use deadly force." "Then what is the advantage of belonging to a court?" Treissae wanted to know. "Amenities, the protection of the court leader, permission to purchase housing, certain things ye can't buy anywhere else. I am affliated myself with the Court of Truth."

     The sights, sounds and smells of the crowded streets and plazas gave the Dervish city a feel, an aura that Treissae had never before experienced.  The desert climate was dry but invigorating and Maj'Dul seemed as busy and bustling well after dark as it had been in daylight. "It'll be like this for hours yet," Leeroy said.  "If ye're getting tired we can rent a place; might as well if we plan to stay a few days."

     Once in the inn room they sent for the luggage still at the dock holding area. It was delivered promptly and in good condition, and Leeroy was careful to tip well.  "That's important here," he said to Treissae when the local had left.  "Poor tipping means stuff gets broken or walks away. Something to get used to."  He looked around. "I'd like to wash up and get some sleep."  The Northman padded into the next room. "Ah, good. A nice generous-sized bath." His eyes glittered as he walked back into the main room. "Care to join me?"

     Early the next morning they dressed for the beach and rode the carpets back down to Sinking Sands dock.  Once there the couple found a good spot nearby and set out their blanket.  Leeroy, stripped down to shorts, lay back and basked in the desert sun for a little while. Treissae watched the tourists and locals going about their daily business.  "It's getting warmer fast," she said after a short while. "Mmm..." he replied sleepily, then propped himself up on one elbow. "About fell asleep there. Bad idea; could get a terrible sunburn." He stood then and stretched. "Want to go swimming for a bit?" Leeroy asked. 

     Treissae watched as the big man cavorted in the turquoise water as if he were a small boy.  The Northman was truly in his element; he swam like a fish and more than once worried the Wood Elf as he disappeared underwater for long periods of time.  But every time she started to get anxious, he'd pop to the surface somewhere.  She couldn't hope to keep up with him so most of the time she just paddled around and watched him.  After about an hour he waded onshore and flagged down a passing vendor. "Famished," he explained.  Treissae just shook her head and smiled at his prodigious appetite. 

     They spent about a week like this, mornings on the beach, midday nap, evenings in Maj'Dul taking in the sights and entertainment.   Leeroy was bronzed and relaxed, and Treissae had a light tan and streaks of blonde highlights in her hair from the intense sun.  "Love, we need to head to Qeynos," Treissae reminded him one day. "Tabaar will be expecting us." "Aye, I'll check out and get our stuff sent back to the dock. We'll book passage out today."

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Old 08-28-2008, 01:45 AM   #48
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     It was a pleasant overland journey across Antonica. The few gnolls they saw stayed clear of their path, and the good weather meant the road was dry.  A breeze sprang up from the northeast, bringing with it the tang of salt.  The woods soon thinned out and parted to reveal the panorama of cliffs, ocean and the city of Qeynos.  "It's beautiful," Treissae murmured.  Leeroy just stared, lost in his own thoughts.  It was his rightful home, lost to him through no fault of his own... "I was born here. Graystone Yard is where we lived..." he broke off and sighed. "But past is past. Let's head toward the city."

     They walked along a narrow path upon cliffs overlooking the sea.  Waves broke against rocks, and the deeper parts of the inshore sea reflected the cloud-studded sky.  To the landward side of the road a trio of men smiled and waved. Two were human, the other half-elf.  "Visitors to our fair city?" one of the humans asked.  "I'm Kittiwake, this is Philo, and the no-count half-elf is Ramaryt."  Treissae smiled and nodded. "Pleased to meet you.   I'm Treissae, and this is Leeroy."  The Northman nodded curtly to each of them. He couldn't explain why he felt uneasy. Maybe it was just him.

     "What's the easiest way to get into the city?"  Leeroy asked.  "Oh, that's easy," Kittiwake replied.  "Follow me." The group walked to a rise overlooking the water. "See down there? That's the dock and from there you can get anywhere in the city and NOW!" Treissae let out a startled gasp as strong arms grabbed her, and Leeroy's world splintered into multicolored fragments then everything went black.

     "Quick, grab everything you can!" Kittiwake ordered Ramaryt as he and the half-elf worked to strip everything of value off the unconscious Barbarian.  Treissae let out a piercing scream. "And keep her quiet!" Philo cuffed her hard, dazing the Wood Elf and causing her to taste salt.  "Soon enough you'll join him," he sneered in her ear. "But first we have some fun."  The other two highwaymen finished their theft and without hesitation rolled Leeroy off the cliff and into the deep water. Something shut down in Treissae's mind at that moment; like a doomed animal in the clutches of hyenas, she gave up and awaited her fate.

     What was he doing in water? Had he fallen off the cliff? Leeroy broke the surface to hear the laughter of men and a crying woman... "TREISSAE!" he roared, then scrambled up the slope with a strength born of rage and desperation. He burst on the scene as one of the men backhanded the Wood Elf, and none of civilization remained in the Barbarian now.

     Leeroy screamed battle oaths hundreds of generations old  as he caught up to the nearest two thieves and rammed them together face-first, dropping the broken bodies in the dirt. He whirled and ran after the one with the unbuttoned pants, knocked him down, then punched him in the throat and watched the man strangled on his crushed larynx. 

     The red haze in his mind faded and the Northman ran over to Treissae. Her dress was in shreds, and he dreaded what he would find upon examination.  But though she was battered and bruised, it didn't appear that she had been violated.  He got some of her spare clothing and dressed her, then pulled her into his lap to wait for her to awaken.

     Treissae awoke confused and afraid.  Nothing made any sense.  The men who had been about to molest her lay dead, their blood spattered all over the ground.  It was like a whirlwind had crushed them. And now she felt arms around her again.  Startled, she turned to see who it was. There was no one there.

     As his wife stirred, Leeroy murmured encouragement and reassurance.  She had had a terrible shock and he needed to be sure she understood that she was safe now.  The young Wood Elf turned  and looked around and right through him, and then scrambled backward, eyes wide with fear.  What is wrong,  he wondered, and called after her.  She seemed not to hear.  He went around her and knelt to set her on her feet again.  To his shock, she let out a startled cry and broke free, running a few steps and looking wildly about.  An icy pang of fear gripped the Barbarian.  There was only one reason he could think of that she couldn't see or hear him. 

     He hadn't survived after all.

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Old 08-28-2008, 03:21 AM   #49
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    He had once, in Commonlands, thought himself a spectre, a ghost.  But now the full horror of it dawned on him.  "Oh, no," he whispered.  He was a wandering soul, condemned to roam the plane of the living it seemed.  "Oh, Treissae, I am so sorry," he said to the oblivious Wood Elf.  "I knew I should have paid attention to my suspicions. Now I've left ye a widow and all I can do is follow ye and try to watch over ye." He trailed behind her as she stood for a few moments on the overlook staring down into the dark water, then followed as she ran toward the dock. 

     He stayed well back as she arrived at Tabaar's door in Graystone Yard. A Dwarf woman answered her frantic knock and motioned the Wood Elf inside. The door shut and Leeroy slumped by the central fountain to give vent to his grief. 

    "Come in, come in," said the Dwarf. "I'm Kebia; you must be Treissae. Oh! You poor thing, you're all scratched and bruised. What happened... and where is your husband?"  The Wood Elf burst into tears. "Tabaar, you need to come in here," Kebia called out.  The old shaman heard the tone in her voice and came running, Jimbob following closely behind.  "Treissae!" Tabaar exclaimed. "What... what has happened to ye? And where is Leeroy?" "They....they..." "Calm down, start from the beginning," the older Northman said softly.  "We were almost here and highwaymen attacked us," Treissae said in a rush. "They...they...wanted to use me and Leeroy was in their way so they...oh, Tabaar, they killed him! They hit him over the head and threw him in the sea to drown!

     Jimbob winced as he saw his adoptive father's reaction to the news. He looked like he had the day Tyndall had died, impossibly ancient and defeated.  Kebia was horrified, not only for Tabaar's sake, but for the devastated Wood Elf also.  The Halasian shaman shook his grey head. "Well, there's nothing for it but to find the body and give him a proper burial so his spirit will be freed from this plane."  Treissae looked up, still sobbing. "I'm sure he was still there....I thought I felt his arms around me...and someone killed those men before they could..." she broke off.

     Kebia looked up from comforting Treissae to see a Barbarian man staring in the window. She looked around to see if anyone else saw, and when she looked back, he was gone. She frowned and shrugged. Drunks, vagrants, all kinds out in this weather.  "We can't waste any time," Tabaar announced. "We need to get to where the incident occurred. Bring yer mining tools, Kebia. Jimbob, get all the rope ye can find."

     They can't see ye anyway, he mentally chastised himself.  He had ducked away when it seemed the Dwarf might have seen him.  Pure reflex.  Then the door opened and they all filed out, Tabaar, Treissae, the Dwarf woman and a Human man.  Leeroy got up and followed them out of town and up the cliffs to the scene of the crime to search for my body, he determined.  Strange how detached he was becoming, now that he was accepting his fate. 

     Tabaar looked around; Treissae hadn't exaggerated. The dead men were in such a condition that only a killing rage would produce.  He'd seen vengeful ghosts before and their ability to lay waste was well known.  "I need to know, child, where did they drop him off the cliff?"  She pointed to a rise nearby then sat down on the ground, racked by fresh sobs.  The others climbed down to start their grim search.

     Leeroy was torn apart by Treissae's grief, and there was nothing he could do. He had never felt so helpless. "All I can do now is keep my promise, the one I made at our wedding - only a month ago, it was - I would do anything to go back and change this. Love, I'm so sorry..."  he flung himself flat and cried bitter tears that she would never hear. 

     The Dwarf happened to come back up the cliff for her shovel, and saw a man near Treissae. She was alarmed; it could be another ruffian.  "Jimbob, there's some Barbarian man bothering Treissae. Maybe you can see to it he leaves."  The human shaman nodded and walked up to the man, who was obviously drunk or crazy. "Get away from her," he snapped in Halasian. The reaction from the Barbarian was not what he expected. 

     Leeroy looked up to see the Human man from Tabaar's house. Maybe he had come over to keep Treissae safe while the others worked. Instead his ears rang with the man's angry demand - in Halasian, no less! - that he stay back. The Inquisitor scrambled a few feet and sat there panting. "Ye see me?" he entreated. "Please say ye see me!" "Of course I do, you drunken sot. Now get away from her before I call for reinforcements."  The Barbarian groveled at his feet. "Please call Tabaar over here!"

     When he heard Jimbob's yell, Tabaar broke into a run all the way up the steep slope. Was there danger? "Look what I found bothering her," the younger shaman said, poking at the prone Barbarian with a foot.  "What do you want to do with him?"  "Get up and face me like a man," Tabaar commanded the filthy disheveled form.  The man did so, raising his gaze to meet that of the Elder Mystic of Graystone Yard.  Tabaar recoiled in shock, then reached down and grabbed the Barbarian by the arm and pulled him to his feet.  "Am I really alive? Is this a hallucination?" Leeroy gasped out.  Then Tabaar enveloped him in a bear hug, laughing for joy. "Leeroy! We thought ye were dead!" he exclaimed in Halasian. "So did I, Tabaar, so did I."

    

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Old 08-28-2008, 01:32 PM   #50
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     But then he turned to Treissae, who still sat on the ground.  She showed no sign of seeing him.  "I don't understand this, Uncle. Why am I invisible to her?"  Tabaar regarded his nephew with sympathy. "I'm afraid that the traumatic experience caused her mind to block out things. She believes she saw ye die, so to her ye are a ghost. It's a coping mechanism, and one we don't well understand." "What can I do? I'd do anything." Leeroy implored.  The Elder Mystic shook his head. "I haven't had much success with the few patients I have treated for this.  Ye can try to substitute one delusion for another, but that is often temporary and always causes its own set of problems."

     Leeroy hunched down and stared at his wife. Without thinking he reached out to cup her face in his hand in a loving gesture. She cried out, startled, and backed away. "Tabaar, he's here again," she gasped.  The shaman decided to try something. "Child, don't move next time ye feel his presence. Just tell me what is going on." To the others he spoke again in Halasian, which the Wood Elf didn't understand. "I am guessing she doesn't hear me speak to ye, Nephew, that she blocks that out also.  That makes it a lot harder; the coping mechanism will be very complex.  I need each of ye to watch and observe."

    Tabaar nodded to Leeroy. "All right, try something."  The young Northman sat down behind Treissae and carefully put his arms around her. Treissae's eyes grew wide but she didn't try to escape this time. "Tabaar, he's holding me," she said in a scared voice. "It's all right, ye know he wouldn't hurt ye, would he?"  She nodded, not trusting herself to speak.  "If ye look behind ye what do ye see? Anyone there?" She twisted around a bit and looked straight at Leeroy. "No... but he's still got ahold of me..."  The Inquisitor leaned forward and kissed her on the lips. This time she did move away and fast, sobbing as she did so. "Easy, easy, child." "Oh, Tabaar, he kissed me...why did he have to die? We were so happy together! Why do evil people have to do this? Why did they take his life?"

    Leeroy was in total despair now. Nothing that anyone tried was making any headway; if anything, matters were worse.  "Tabaar, I made her a promise that I would always protect and watch over her. But my being around her is driving her to distraction." "Aye, and it will lead to more problems. If ye stay near, folks will question yer presence...and then her sanity. She will be unable to comprehend and I am in great fear that it will lead to her doing drastic things to try to cope, and inevitably insanity will result."

     "I cannot break my promise; it was uttered under the most solemn oath.  If I keep my promise I will destroy her. If I do not, I will destroy myself and that will destroy her too."  Tabaar nodded in agreement to Leeroy's pronouncement. "Aye, this is the case. I don't have any answers for ye. All I can say is that I am sorry that I cannot resolve this dilemma." The young Northman drew himself to his feet. "But I can, I think."  He made a sign over his chest that caused both Tabaar and Jimbob to pale. Kebia frowned in momentary confusion, then comprehended.  He will take the path of honor, she realized.

     "Uncle Tabaar, I beg grace of ye." "Do ye indeed?" Tabaar's mind raced. This was the very last thing on Norrath that he wanted to do, ever. And his nephew had asked him in a way that he could not refuse.  "Very well, here is my blade," he intoned, drawing forth a jeweled dagger.  Leeroy pulled the front of his tunic open and knelt in front of Tabaar, who dropped to one knee, facing him.  "Strike true and deep," the younger Barbarian answered.  Tabaar shifted his grip on the knife, blinked away the tears in his eyes,  and placed the point under Leeroy's breastbone.  "Receive grace, then," he choked out, and tensed his arm to drive the dagger deep.

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Old 08-28-2008, 06:27 PM   #51
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     "No!" shouted Kebia, shoving both of them. Tabaar turned, eyes smoldering. "Ye better have a reason for this intrusion..." "I invoke Right of Statement," she continued. "I know you cannot go back now but does it have to be the knife? What if the shock can be reversed by resolution? If Treissae sees his body pulled from the water? Isn't it worth a try?" "I have nothing to lose," Leeroy said. He stood up, shaking. "Give me a short piece of rope," Tabaar ordered.  He tied the Inquisitor's hands behind his back, reversed his spear and prodded Leeroy with the blunt end. "Get going before I lose focus."

     The younger Barbarian waded in and soon the water closed over his head.  The Elder Mystic shoved him down with the spear and they all waited. Leeroy stared upward, fear in his eyes at the agony to come.  Finally he couldn't hold the lungful of air anymore and let it out, trying not to breathe in. The need for air became acute, and he started struggling to reach the surface. Tabaar grimly pinned him down, sweat running down his face from the effort and emotional toll.  Leeroy thrashed wildly, churning the water, the bonds on his wrists parting.  At last the struggle eased to occasional twitches and then the body went completely slack.

     Jimbob came up just then, Treissae in tow.  "We think we found him," he told her.  Kebia swam down and attached a rope to something then came back up. Tabaar handed the rope end to Jimbob and they both started pulling. A leg broke the surface then the rest of the drowned Northman was dragged up onto the sloping beach.  Treissae shrieked and ran forward, falling upon the lifeless body.  Tabaar and Kebia exchanged a glance, then the Elder Mystic set to work trying to revive his nephew.

     Gray nothingness, no sound no surface, just him suspended in the ether.  What was this place?  Ah, little one, you have learned the price of love.  I wish all my creatures to learn this but I will not force them.  Instead I give them demigods and spirit beings to lead and mislead them according to the wishes of their hearts.  He felt himself turned over and over as if in the palm of a limitless hand.  But you, I want you to go back and live your trial of life to its fullest, and when you do face the Tribunal, confess your guilt fully and you will have nothing to fear. As for fear, I will grant you a gift that will mean that you will never have to fear the water....ever.

     Tabaar was exhausted, and Jimbob nearly so. Both shamans had tried and tried to bring back the cleric but nothing was working. The Elder Mystic sat up straight and shook his head. "No use.  We'll bury him here...and be sure you dig a second grave. I'm not staying in this world."   Kebia grabbed her sword and held it up. "As a Paladin of Qeynos, I have lived to protect others regardless of cost.  Now I can do this and save two lives." Before the startled shamans could stop her, she climbed on top of the body, held her sword straight up, and yelled wildly. A bolt of energy connected sky and sword, then the Dwarf fell on her side beside Leeroy, breathing shallowly.  With a trembling finger she touched him on the forehead.

      "Huh? What?" He stared up at a blue sky and a ring of faces. Was it possible? And what about Treissae....the Wood Elf threw herself upon him anew, repeating his name over and over.  Tabaar collapsed, alternately laughing and weeping with relief.  Leeroy levered himself up on one elbow, tears running down his face. "I don't know what to say." He swallowed hard and coughed a bit. "Just saying 'thank ye all' doesn't even begin to convey my unending gratitude."  The young Barbarian drew Treissae into his arms again and the flood of emotion overwhelmed them both.  The others drew away a bit to allow some privacy of the moment.

      Leeroy held nothing back in his account of what had happened from his viewpoint.  Treissae listened, alternately sympathetic and horrified.  She couldn't remember many details but trusted Leeroy implicitly.  He had shown he would not break his word even at the cost of his own life.  She would take his word about all that had occurred.  The Wood Elf was more determined than ever to help them both. She would get training in Qeynos in the magic arts and she informed Leeroy of her intention.  He was pleased.

      Jimbob stared at his wife, then over at the Inquisitor. "Did you really do what I thought you did?" he demanded of Kebia. "Yes, I did as was my right." "Don't you know you can't do that ever again?" he snapped.  "Yes, I do.  But half a life is a small price to pay for two lives. It's nothing compared to what they just went through. Do you think that Tabaar wanted to kill his nephew? Do you think Leeroy wanted to go through dying?  Some day you will learn the price of love, too."

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Old 09-01-2008, 08:07 PM   #52
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     "Let's clean up this mess." Tabaar indicated the scene. "Bury those men and let's see if we can salvage some of Leeroy and Treissae's belongings." He and Jimbob and Kebia began the task and Treissae came over to see what she could do. "He said he needs a few minutes alone," she stated. "All right, have a look and see what ye might be missing. Here's what we found so far."

     Leeroy was on his knees, head down. He had never realized... "Nameless One, I thank You for Your mercy, and I will try to do Your will. Guide me and never let me waver from the path." He didn't know how to go about it very well but the Inquisitor planned to be the best he could possibly be at his sacred task as a clerical healer. It surprised him greatly as he received the distinct impression that he was not to take training as a Templar.

     Tabaar motioned Kebia over to him, and sat down to be at the Dwarf's level. "Ye made a great sacrifice today. I don't think I would have allowed it had I realized what ye planned." "I didn't even think about it, I just had to do it," replied the Paladin. "What if I had just said nothing? Right now we would be burying him and you both." "But now ye may have cut yer lifespan quite a bit. Yer unstinting sacrifice may cost ye yer health and certainly it took years off." "It was worth it to me, Tabaar."

     Most of what had been stolen had been retrieved, along with articles obviously pilfered from earlier victims of the highwaymen.  Jimbob leaned on his shovel and surveyed the scene. How was this being allowed to happen so close to the city? Certainly there were guard patrols in the region. Maybe if he put a word in Trethor's ear the Qeynos Guard could quietly look into the situation.

     The Inquisitor got up and wandered back over to the group, a faraway look in his eyes.  "Do ye know what I experienced while I was gone?  I was in the Presence.  I couldn't see the Nameless One but I was in His hand. I thought I knew...but now I do, a little bit.  And He gave me a gift. Watch."  The others followed the young Northman as he walked over to the water's edge and carefully waded in. When he got to shoulder level Leeroy turned and sat down, exhaling as he did so.  They watched in puzzlement as he sat there, submerged. And sat and sat, chest heaving.

     The Elder Mystic waded in to get a closer look, ducking down to see the blurry form of his nephew staring at him, openmouthed.  Leeroy didn't make any effort to reach the surface and Tabaar realized with dawning amazement that he wasn't trying to, nor was he in any distress.  The shaman gestured 'are you all right' and Leeroy nodded. Then Tabaar figured out that the Inquisitor was openmouthed to get enough dissolved oxygen. He was breathing water!

     Treissae was frantic as she couldn't see quite what was going on. "He's all right," Tabaar called back as he broke the surface. Then Leeroy did the same right alongside him, water pouring from his mouth and nose.  "That was amazing," the younger Barbarian said when he could speak.  "I've always loved water but have been afraid of drowning since I was put in the situation where it happened. And now...now I guess I won't have to worry about it. I can swim anywhere and just breathe normally." "You mean you don't have to surface?" Kebia asked. "That makes you like an amphibian...Frogloks are like that."

     As Leeroy embraced his wife he turned to the Dwarf. "And as for what ye did. There is no way either of us can ever repay ye for yer action. By the Six Hammers I swear that anything at all I can do for ye, it is done." "Yes, anything at all you need or ask, Kebia," echoed the Wood Elf.  "I will keep that in mind," the Paladin replied. "Although I would not impose except in dire need." She moved closer to Jimbob, who put a hand on her shoulder. "It's probable that I will outlive this Human of mine, anyhow." The younger shaman hugged her, murmuring in her ear. 

     "I do have a couple more things to say before we head back to Qeynos," Leeroy stated.  "Treissae will be taking training as a mage, hopefully as a Conjuror.  But I was told by the Nameless One that I shouldn't try to become a Templar. He told me I would do more good in my current skills, that I could influence things for good by helping those in Freeport, Neriak and Gorowyn." The Inquisitor spread his hands. "I do not know why this is, or what the future holds. But I plan to find out." He rummaged through his gear and drew on his peaked helmet. "Never again will I pretend to be something I am not.  I will be accepted or rejected on the basis of open honesty."

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Old 10-15-2008, 10:15 AM   #53
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      "I still don't recommend wandering around Qeynos wearing that," Tabaar remarked with a chuckle.  "Speaking of Qeynos, I need to find a place to take refuge and not be seen by the guards," Leeroy replied as he replaced the telltale helmet in its bag.  Treissae spoke up. "I have an idea. Why don't I find us a place and you can sneak in later?"  "Good idea," the young Northman replied.

      Under cover of darkness the Inquisitor worked his way from shadow to shadow through the city.  Most folks didn't seem to care one way or the other but he knew that the guards would be suspicious of newcomers.  And of course without citizenship papers he couldn't purchase goods or services.  Finally he reached the gate to Graystone Yard.  His roundabout route had had a purpose: now he had basic knowledge of how to find his way about; it didn't do to have to ask directions. 

     Once in the village neighborhood, he looked around and tried to remember the place. It had been a very long time.  If only...but speculation on might-have-beens was useless and ultimately counterproductive, he knew.  But still he longed for that time stream where his parents didn't take that trip, where he grew up here and...his vision blurred; he angrily blinked back the tears.  No time for self-pity, Leeroy chastised himself.

     He climbed the back stairs of the tavern and walked in to find the place a bit of a mess. Evidently a fight had just ended; the bartender and barmaids were still cleaning up debris.  Up the next flight of stairs were the apartments; at the top awaited his uncle and his wife. "I got a place for us," Treissae said.  "And Tabaar has been kind enough to help me furnish it." She pointed to a nearby door. "Thank ye, Uncle," Leeroy murmured and turned to follow the Wood Elf into their new home.

     The place was not large but was adequate, and indeed it had been furnished; nothing elaborate but good sturdy Halasian-type furniture.  "This is great," he said as he shut the door and knelt to embrace his wife.  Abruptly he felt a flush of heat rising. Now why are ye surprised? some part of him wondered.  He pulled her closer to him and was pleased to find she returned his attention with interest.

     Treissae had missed her Barbarian husband for the short time they had been apart, and now she felt drawn to him strongly as she ever had been.  Since their wedding night she had marveled at how careful and gentle he always was. And enthusiastic...the more she enjoyed his attentions the more he seemed to enjoy himself.  She decided to be a bit bold this time; she tugged on his hand.

     "Why don't you come with me?" she said softly. He stood up and followed her to the bedroom.  His mind was aswirl with wild thoughts; his body was on full alert, all senses at a fever pitch of intensity.  What did she plan to do?  "Ah, look, a nice brand-new bed. Should we try it out to see if it is satisfactory?" Treissae murmured with a come-hither look. That was all it took. With an inarticulate cry, Leeroy scooped her up and laid her on the bed. 

      Hours later they awoke to morning sun streaming through the curtained window.  "I don't want to ever be away from ye again," the Northman whispered. He gently caressed her face, the love in his eyes reflected in hers.  "I don't know what I would do without ye."  Treissae put a finger to his lips. "Shh... we're together and that's all that matters."

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Old 10-23-2008, 12:15 PM   #54
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     After breakfast the young couple made their way over to Tabaar's place. He opened the door, smiled crookedly and waved them in.  Something's different, Leeroy thought. But what was it? "And how are ye two today?" the Elder Mystic asked, when they had seated themselves in the guest room.  "We are fine, thank you," Treissae said softly, glancing up at her husband.  Leeroy flushed slightly as he grinned in pure delight. "Aye, we're doing great, Uncle."            

     "Child, ye want to learn magical arts, ye need to get some training," Tabaar noted as the trio traveled through southern Qeynos.  "The Concordium will offer basic instruction to get ye started."  A tower loomed above the assortment of other buildings. The old shaman pointed. "There's the place. I'll get ye an audience with the trainer; after that ye're on yer own."

      Strange glowing portals lead up to the higher reaches of the Concordium's shining tower.  There was a library full of arcane research, various persons engaged in experiments, and several teachers plus students.  "Can I help you?" the head instructor asked.  Treissae stepped forward. "Yes, I'd like to apply for training."  "All right, what specialty do you prefer, or are you undecided?" "I'd like to be a Conjuror," the Wood Elf answered. "Excellent choice. Who is your sponsor?" "I am," Tabaar replied. "Very well, sign here and I will collect the fee."

      She now had the right to call herself a mage but lacked much experience in actually being one.  "That will change," the instructor noted in response to her concern.  "You will train for a week in basic conjury; bringing up elemental constructs and minor spells."  Leeroy sat beneath a tree and watched the students make their attempts at taming fire, land, wind and water to their needs. Some were more proficient than others; he was pleased to see Treissae demonstrated competence at the tasks. 

      When the week was completed, the students were given a choice of advanced training grounds. "You can voyage to the training island; unfortunately no guests allowed there, or you can travel to either Greater Faydark or Timorous Deep for further instruction. Be advised that dangers lurk in both places.  We cannot guarantee your safety."  The young Barbarian sauntered over.  "Ye plan to go back to Kelethin, then?" he asked. "No, actually," Treissae replied, "I want to see this Timorous Deep place.  It would be a challenge I am sure."

      Leeroy went to Tabaar and asked him a favor. "Uncle, will ye go buy me a few bundles of incense? Here's enough coin to cover them." "Certainly, Nephew!" the Mystic replied. In a few minutes he returned with the goods, which Leeroy stowed in his pack.  "Thank ye much. Don't say anything to Treissae; it's for a surprise."  "Don't tell me ye're going to try to make spellrunes?" Tabaar exclaimed. "Try? I don't need to try, I just do."  The older Barbarian frowned. "Ye never mentioned anything to me about being a sage..." "Aye, I am one; I just never thought to mention it."

      Tabaar shook his head in rueful amusement. Such a valuable skill and the young Inquisitor hadn't even seen fit to say he could earn his keep that way.  Ah well, a lot had happened in a very short time. Miraculous things, some of them.  And even for himself....until recently he would have sworn that all the years as a widower had rendered his hearth cold.  But seeing the young couple so in love and vital had stirred the ashes... and there had been a spark there after all.  

      The old shaman hurried into North Qeynos, a bouquet of hand-picked flowers clutched in one fist.  He ducked into a jewelry store and waited for the proprietor to notice him. It didn't take long, and she came down the stairs quickly to see if she had a customer. "Ah, it's you," she said. "What's that? Flowers? How pretty! Let me get a vase!"  She returned a few moments later with a tall vase that sloshed as she carried it. Tabaar put the bouquet in it and set the vase on a table. "What's the occasion?"

      He dropped to his knees and looked up at her.  "Ye have been my friend for years now, and I realized recently that what I feel is more than just that. Now if ye feel I am being out of line here, just say so and I will step back."  She said nothing but motioned him to continue. "I feel we are already a family, with yer son being my protege and legally adopted heir... Roanna, will ye marry me?"

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Old 10-26-2008, 06:47 PM   #55
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/Gnombie stops to read current chapter then attacks Leeroy. Arrrggg Romance always makes me hungry for Brraaaiiiinnnnsss & Barbs are so big, there are plenty of left overs for hungry Gnombies.

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Old 10-27-2008, 12:08 PM   #56
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  Still using mine, thank ye very much though for the zombified interest, Valkry.

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Old 10-27-2008, 12:39 PM   #57
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/Gnombie lurches back to thread, takes tubberwuzzle box out of her pack, takes leftover brraaaiiinnnnssss out of tubberwuzzle, clumsily stuff the half of brraaiiinnn lobe she didn't nom yet, back into Leeroy's head, pats Leeroy on his head/brraiiinnn half, hands him sage materials & shambles off to other thread to nom on decorators for a while.

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Old 10-27-2008, 01:15 PM   #58
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     A couple of days later Treissae was in her training class, Leeroy watching as usual from the grassy embankment, when he noticed an unsteady couple of Mystics weaving through the archway and toward the Concordium tower.  The Inquisitor frowned, puzzled that Tabaar and Jimbob would be drunk midday. He got up and hurried over to see. As he got closer he saw they were in very good spirits indeed.   "Tabaar, Jimbob, what's going on? What's the occasion?" "Ah, good news, Nephew," the Elder Mystic grinned.  Jimbob stumbled and caught himself. "Great news, yes. Treissae should hear this too," the younger Mystic agreed.  They approached the students and Leeroy waved to his wife to come over. Treissae immediately did so, her elemental pet following in her wake.

     "Yes, we've had a bit to drink," Tabaar continued. "But it's a celebration! I asked her to marry me and she said yes!"  Leeroy boggled at his uncle. "What? I'm confused. Who are ye marrying? I knew nothing of this!"  Tabaar pointed to Jimbob. "His mother! Yes, I am engaged to Roanna as of today."  "It was as big a surprise for me, Leeroy," the human Mystic pointed out. "You Barbarians seem to be the most impulsive bunch I've ever seen."  Tabaar patted him on the back, causing Jimbob to stagger forward.  "Where is Kebia?" Treissae wondered. "She's with my mother," Jimbob said.

     They trooped into the jewelry shop to find Roanna and Kebia examining sketches and fabric samples.  "Hey, we just heard," Leeroy exclaimed. "Congratulations, Roanna!" "Thank you! We were just trying to decide on my wedding dress. It's not going to be some big ceremony, just a private event."  Tabaar sauntered over and put his arm around the human woman.  "I'd marry ye if ye were wearing burlap," he offered. Leeroy started laughing.  He couldn't stop and soon was leaning on the wall, eyes streaming. "What's so funny?" Roanna wanted to know. Between gasps the young Barbarian managed to say, "Oh, what a mental image... ye standing there frantically squirming in itchy burlap, then Tabaar goes to kiss ye and he lets go fast and starts scratching....it would be, ah, memorable."

     "I have a question," Treissae stated when the laughter faded away.  "Who is going to do the marriage ceremony? Tabaar can't do his own, and Jimbob, well, I think that him doing the ceremony for his own mother would be awkward."  "That's right," replied the Elder Mystic. "The only one here who has qualifications would be ye, Leeroy." "I would be honored, Uncle," the young Barbarian replied.  "I do have a question. Have ye set a date?"  "No reason to delay," Tabaar replied. "It's all up to Roanna." "If the tailor gets off his lazy backside and doesn't completely mess up the order, they should be able to do this next week," Jimbob said with an impish grin.  "Mother, have you decided? I have the tailor dummy sized to you." "Yes, son, here's what I want..."

     Kebia left and headed back to Graystone. After a while she returned with a small box and set it on the counter. "Here, Roanna," she said.  "My wedding gift to ye ahead of time so ye can finish it up."  Puzzled, the human woman opened the package and drew forth a paper-wrapped object. She peeled the paper back to reveal..."Oh, Kebia, thank you so much! Everyone have a look!" The others crowded around to see a dull translucent stone about as big around as her fingernail. "What is that?" Treissae asked. Leeroy smiled and picked it up. "It is indeed a raw diamond from Kaladim. How did ye get this?"  The Dwarf held up her pickaxe. "I sneaked around and found it in a wall. Those vermin in our old home don't even know minerals; it was right out in the open embedded in some blue ore."

     "Let me see how I do cutting this," Roanna stated.  She set up her station and carefully examined the stone through a gnomish lens.  "Very fine quality and I think I see the best cleavage plane."  She marked the spot with a fine ink pen and set the stone in a clamp, carefully tightening it. "Can't be too tight or too loose."  Roanna picked up a sharp pointed chisel and carefully drew a line through the ink spot. "Notice I didn't scratch the diamond," she said. "To cut diamond you have to use diamond, or cause it to break along what is called a cleavage plane."  She picked up a jeweler's hammer and aimed carefully. "If I hit it wrong it could shatter or split badly." She gave the diamond a sharp blow, then another. A slice dropped off, revealing a more transparent structure.  "Ah, that went all right."

     "How many times do ye cut a stone?" Leeroy asked. "It depends on the cut a customer wants, but a good diamond will be cut several times to form a basic shape then shaped further, then faceted on this grinding wheel over here." Roanna indicated a foot-pumped device. "It has oil and diamond dust on the wheel to wear down the diamond to form the small cuts called facets. They are what gives a cut stone its brilliancy." Kebia handed Roanna a small drawstring pouch. "Here is more dust," she said. "Thank you again, young Dwarf." Jimbob's mother looked at the others. "I'd better get to work on this," she said.  "I have to sew the dress," her son added. "And we all  have some planning to do."

   

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Old 12-14-2008, 05:52 AM   #59
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     There was a new plaque on the wall of Tabaar's study; it read "As the growing time refreshes the old land, love will make us new".  Leeroy smiled slightly and straightened his helmet as he walked back into the front room.  It looked like Jimbob and Kebia had finished moving furniture and chairs, and guests were starting to file in.  A few seemed startled at seeing an Inquisitor but they must have been informed; at least no one panicked. 

      Finally all the assembly was there; the human Mystic walked up to stand by him. Leeroy nodded and Jimbob announced, "All of us are here to witness the marriage of Tabaar to Roanna.  Tabaar's nephew Leeroy has agreed to conduct the ceremony." "Aye, it's only fair; Tabaar married Treissae and I",  the Barbarian replied, winking at his wife. "Anyhow, all be seated please and we will usher in the happy couple to be."

     Jimbob walked over to the door and opened it to admit first his mother Roanna. She wore a beautiful gown of brightest red. Tabaar ducked through the doorway next, looking very dapper in a fancy formal suit in deep green.  Both walked forward to stand before the priest as Jimbob took a seat by Kebia. 

     "Today we gather to celebrate the rite of marriage between two people who have seen many years and many toils. For each it will be their second wedding.  May they be as young as they feel, and live life to the fullest together", Leeroy recited.  He motioned to Tabaar, who drew a small velvet box from his vest pocket.  "Here is the symbol of life," the Elder Mystic said as he opened the box to reveal a gleaming diamond set in a platinum ring. "An endless ring surmounted by the purity of a precious gem is life and love.  Roanna, I give my life and love to ye for as long as I will live." Tabaar knelt and placed the ring on her outstretched hand. 

     Roanna reached up and unhooked a necklace to reveal a matching band, set with small diamonds all around its circumference.  "And Tabaar, I pledge my life and love to you for as long as I shall live." With that, she placed the heavy band on his ring finger.  "Together we will complete the circle of life and be an example to the younger generation."  They stood facing each other and waited. Leeroy placed one hand on Tabaar's shoulder, then the other on Roanna's. "Yer vows are heard and witnessed this day. Now seal the vow with a kiss," he pronounced.

    No, his uncle didn't really need any encouragement; neither did Jimbob's mother.  Leeroy started to chuckle then tears ran down his face, confounding him.  He stumbled to the chair beside Treissae and hugged her. Really there wasn't a dry eye in the place from what he could see through his blurry vision.  No, there was no shame in strong emotion.  Still trying to regain his composure, the young Barbarian waved for everyone's attention. "All right, refreshments at Jimbob and Kebia's house.  Let's leave the happy couple to their privacy."  With that they all filed out into the Qeynosian night.

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Old 01-08-2009, 04:52 PM   #60
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   Treissae packed the duffel bags and glanced over to see Leeroy walk in the front door. "Almost done?" he asked. "Yes; I'm really looking forward to this," she replied.  From his description of the place, the island home of the Sarnak was an exciting place to visit, with breathtaking scenery and wildlife. They would have to be careful concerning the Sarnak; theirs was the hospitality to give or withdraw. And Gorowyn was the only large settlement in the area.

    With the well-wishes of Tabaar and Roanna, and Jimbob and Kebia, they set sail for Butcherblock Mountains. "Been a while since we've been there," Leeroy remarked. "At least this time I won't need to climb that cliff." Treissae shuddered at the mental image of her husband struggling to keep up with half-healed injuries draining his stamina.  "They have trained griffons of some special variety that will fly over water for great distances," he continued.  "I think I'm going to take a nap; this rocking is making me sleepy." He found a spot out of the way and curled up on the deck.

   Unsettling dreams haunted him; this had been happening more and more in the past couple of weeks.  He thrashed around until Treissae, worried as she was, shook him awake. "Huh?" "You were dreaming again, and muttering in your sleep." "Ah... I don't know what it was but it's the same feeling I've had.. that something is terribly wrong and I can't quite figure out what," Leeroy said.  The Wood Elf hastened to reassure him. "I'm sure it's just all the events lately...we'll relax and I'll learn to be a better Conjuror, and you'll be less stressed." "I hope ye're right."

    A ways down the beach from the docks was a small hill overlooking the chain of islands that lay in Butcherblock Bay.  Leeroy pointed toward them. "Past those close islands about an hour's flying time is Timorous Deep."  Treissae eyed the strange griffons. They were an odd mix of colors. "Yellow and aqua? How strange.  How can we be sure we won't fall off?" The griffon tender hastened to reassure her. "Ma'am,  we  have the latest safety devices. With these straps, you cannot fall off one of our griffons." Leeroy laughed. "All right, two for Timorous Deep."

   They found lodgings in Gorowyn and set out to see what the local fauna would be like for Treissae's abilities and skill.  To their delight they found the pickings easy; there were all sorts of researchers and such that paid a good bounty for specimens.   Leeroy would most times sit back and watch Treissae; if she got into trouble he would wade in with a huge battle hammer and lay waste.  After a day he presented her with a wrapped box. "What is it?" she wondered. "Open it and see," the Barbarian replied.  Inside was an assortment of spell runes of quality and craftmanship. Treissae's mouth dropped open.  "This must have cost you a fortune!" "No," the big man chuckled, "I made them for ye myself."

    Treissae thanked Leeroy profusely and set to trying out her new improved spells and pet conjury.  "What a difference!"  He just smirked and watched her progress.  "At this rate ye will be beyond the limited challenges of this island in a day or two."  The Barbarian sat back against a tree and watched some more until he drifted off to sleep again. Once more he found himself shaken awake by an anxious Wood Elf. "You were shouting something," she said in a trembling voice. "What?" he wanted to know. "It sounded like... It's all wrong, everything's wrong, he should have caught it'... Leeroy, what does it mean?" The Inquisitor was stumped. "I don't know, love. I wish I did."

    They spent an enjoyable evening in each other's company, seeing the sights, trying the local foods, and talking to the locals.   Afterward they went back to the room they had rented. "In the morning let's head back to Qeynos," Treissae suggested. "All right," Leeroy agreed.  They prepared for bed, and of course one thing led to another.  She couldn't resist him and he was putty in her hands, and both derived great satisfaction from it.  Afterwards Leeroy dropped off into an exhausted sleep that was dreamless for a long while. But toward morning he awoke in a cold sweat, certain that some disaster had struck.  Treissae lay peacefully asleep.  He drew a deep breath and tried to calm himself. But the dread wouldn't go away.

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