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Old 01-28-2007, 07:46 AM   #31
Calatea

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I don't usually reply, but I must say...I need more :smileyhappy:.

Message Edited by Calatea on 01-27-2007 08:47 PM

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Old 01-28-2007, 10:35 PM   #32
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Yay! I DO have live readers! SMILEY
 
Thank you so much for replying. It was starting to get discouraging without feedback, positive or negative. For a while I thought Ferrunia was just clicking on my post 10 times a day to make me feel better. SMILEY
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Old 01-29-2007, 01:13 AM   #33
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Not sure I could count as 'live' today...maybe marginally exahusted, but gotta pass the feedback-love. I rather liked the part where he thought about his feelings toward High Elves. It took an angle I hadn't really seen explored in most of the tales... I'm glad to see you highlighting the Tolkienesque 'wonderful and dread' high charisma (to mangle mythology and gaming systems references) aspects of the race. Please keep wrtting, at least 3-4 of those post clicks were mine, not Ferrunia's
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Old 01-29-2007, 02:05 AM   #34
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Lol, I've liked your story for a while. I just recently went back to work...have to leave the house by 3:45 am though, so I don't have much energy for reading on the forums...or posting as I'm sure my 2 1/2 fans may have noticed. Keep up the good work jnom.
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Old 01-29-2007, 02:47 AM   #35
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By mid-morning, most of the fresh fish sold at the seafood market on the Harbor pier were gone, but the scent of them still lingered in the air. Win wrinkled her nose at the smell. She looked up at Jaffar and found him trying to hold his breath.

"Are you ok?" Win asked with concern. The rogue had only been back on his feet for a few days, and the Resurrection had left him completely drained. The numerous potions and brews had replentished the body, but he was still a few days out from completely recovering his strength.

"I'll be fine," Jaffar grunted. The pier was crowded with travelers, merchants, and dock workers, as well as the occasional drunkard staggering out from the tavern. People bumped into each other frequently as they tried to carry on with their business. No one else seemed to mind the smell.

Win hadn't wanted Jaffar to accompany them on this trip, but he had insisted. Win had been a little surprised, given the rogue's usual lackadaisical approach to everything else. When they told Jaffar what had happened to him and of Moirena's subsequent departure, he had refused to be left behind, despite Win's repeated warnings about his state of health. To Win, the man was still a big mystery.

Linde walked ahead of them, her paladin armor giving off an array of colors as the sunlight reflected off the metal. As crowded as the pier was, people still gave her a narrow berth as she passed by. Whether it was out of respect for the paladin or fear of her sword, it was hard to say. The Harbor was a collection of people from all over Norrath, and perhaps many of them had their own reasons to fear a paladin's sword.

They had first started their search at the Castleview Hamelt, but they turned up nothing there. The Innkeeper at the Hamelet seemed to have disappeared in the last few days, and no one else could recall seeing Moirena either. They had hoped that asking around the Harbor would net them some answers, but so far, all they have received were blank stares and useless information. The questions were getting them nowhere.

They approached one of the small tents that dotted the pier. A fish vendor occupied the space, and underneath the shade the light fabric provided, an old man was just starting to wrap what remained of his morning catch.

"Kind sir, can you help us?" Linde asked.

The man looked up at her and shook his head. "All out of fish today, dear, what remains here is for the wife and kids. Come back tomorrow, and come early."

"We're not here for fish," Linde replied. "We were simply wondering if you saw a friend of ours recently?"

"I see a lot of people, miss," the man replied without looking back up, busying himself with packing up the last of his goods. "What makes your friend so special?"

"Please sir," Linde insisted politely, "A Koada'Dal, tall, short blonde hair, probably wearing a heavy white robe with black patterns on it."

"A mage, eh?" the man asked. He looked up at Linde and chuckled. "Look around you, miss. Even at this very moment, there are at least five people matching your description here. How do you expect me to remember one specific one?"

Linde couldn't think of anything to say. She was starting to get flustered. All morning she had been getting the same answers, and she only had herself to blame. She had never realized how hard it would be to follow in one person's footsteps. The dreams in her sleep had always guided her way before, and now that she was trying to find her own way, the realization of how much she had relied on her dreams was starting to sink in.

They walked away from the vendor stand, once again failing to get any new information. Win looked up at Linde, waiting for her to tell them their next step.

"I don't know, Win," Linde replied, dejected from the futility of the search. "Moirena could be anywhere by now."

"Excuse me," a voice came from behind them. They turned to see a bearded old man sitting on the edge of the pier right behind them. He was wearing the loose garments designed for travel through the Sands, with layers of cloth wrapped around his head. Linde noticed the hard lines etched into his face, but she couldn't tell whether they were from time or hardship. It was likely a combination of both.

"Please excuse my interference in your matters," the man proceeded. "You are seeking a woman named Moirena?"

Hope suddenly flooded back into Linde. "Yes! Have you seen her recently?" Linde asked excitedly.

"I was with the Harbormaster over there a few days ago when a woman with that name purchased a ticket to the Dead River Docks," he replied, pointing towards the Tavern on the far side of the pier.

"How did you know her name?" Win asked.

"The Harbormaster has been asking of the names of the passengers boarding or leaving boats that travel outside of Qeynos. There seems to be some unrest beyond these waters. The army has been asking of more recruits lately too." The man shook his head. "Word is, the gods are returning, and trouble always follow them."

Linde ignored the last part of the man's comments. She had her own opinions about the role of the gods in the lives of men, but now was not the time or place to discuss them. "Dead River Docks?" she asked again to be certain she heard correctly.

"Yes, in the Thundering Steppes," the man answered.

"Thank you, kind sir," Linde said, giving a slight bow to the man for his help. She had found herself at a loss for what to do, but now the man had given her a new direction.

Filled with a renewed sense of hope, Linde quickly made her way through the throngs of people to the Harbormaster. Win and Jaffar followed closely behind. They purchased three tickets and boarded the ship anchored next to the docks.

The old man smiled as he watched the boat leave the harbor. When it was out of sight, he grabbed his pack lying next to him and walked into the Tavern. Several small curtained rooms lined the back hallway of the Tavern for private gatherings, and he quickly dodged into one of the empty ones, drawing the curtains closed behind him. He took off his fake beard and retrieved a dark cloak from his pack. As soon as he wrapped the cloak around his shoulders, the man disappeared from sight.

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Old 01-29-2007, 06:59 AM   #36
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((on a bit of a roll lately with the posts...))

The Rite of Growth was only performed once a year, and during the three-day period of ceremonies and rituals, the Temple grounds felt more like a festival than a place of worship. Large tents were set up all over the hills, and the grounds were filled with the denizens of the local villages as well as the Temple dwellers themselves. Priestesses mingled with their flock, and gave them blessings. The people, in return, offered their grain and dairy to the Great Mother's Temple.

While the focus of the three days was on the many young girls about to pass into womanhood, many small individual ceremonies were held under private tents. Offerings to the Great Mother were made, along with prayers for a good harvest, protection, or even for a child. Many small statues of Tunare could be seen decorating the multiple shrines set up underneath the tents, and almost every shrine had a plate in front of it covered with bread or cheese.

Linde walked through the crowd, keeping her head up as her mother taught her. The golden shawl hung from her shoulders, announcing to everyone that saw it that she was one of the girls to undergo the Rite this year. It was only the first day of the Rite, and this evening, she would be expected to join all the other girls at the Temple to offer herself to Tunare's services. It would only be a short ceremony tonight, consisting of a prayer session. Tomorrow, however, the Rite as most people knew it would begin.

As she walked by the tents, everyone who caught her eye gave her a smile and a quick bow. They were all thinking of how lucky she was, being able to join the Priestesses of the Temple. It made her nauseous thinking about it, and Linde tried to keep her eyes ahead of her, ignoring anything that was not directly in front of her.

"Oomph!" Linde grunted as she walked right into the chest of a guardsman. She had been focused so much on what was in front of her that she had failed to see the man crossing in front. Linde's thin frame bounced off of the large chest and lost its balance, but the guard grabbed her waist and effortlessly steadied it on the grass.

"What do you think..." Linde prepared to begin her tirade. Her words disappeared when she looked up into the face of Captain Marek.

"I apologize, Linde, I should have been more careful. Are you injured?" the large man asked kindly.

He's speaking to me! Linde found herself filling with an uncontrollable excitement. Captain Marek is speaking to me!

Marek smiled at Linde's seeming inability to answer his question. "Are you in a hurry, Linde? You seemed somewhat distracted."

"Yes," Linde finally forced out an answer. "I'm...I'm sorry, Captain Marek, I was at fault. My mind was elsewhere."

Marek nodded as if he understood what was on her mind. For some reason, even though she had never really spent time with the man, Linde felt like she had known him for a lifetime. She had spent countless hours watching him from the hilltops, practicing his sword forms with the other guardsmen. So many times, she had dreamed of being right next to him, his powerful arms holding hers, guiding her through the sword forms.

"I suppose congratulations are in order," Marek said. "Tomorrow is a big day for you."

Linde rolled her eyes. "Please, don't remind me."

Marek tilted his head to one side, but kept his eyes trained on hers. "You are not happy?" he asked. "Isn't this what you've always wanted, to be part of Tunare's flock?"

"It's what my mother wanted," Linde replied with a hint of bitterness.

His eyes still peering straight into hers, Marek kept that warm, welcoming smile. "It is not what you want?"

Linde shook her head.

"What do you want then, Linde? You've spent your life here under the shadow of the Temple, what other aspirations could you possibly have?"

Linde looked away from Marek's intense gaze. She knew he was reading her mind, and she didn't mind it at all. She was a bit embarrased to ask, but she had wanted to for all of her life. It was her chance. Tomorrow, it would only be a dream.

"Captain Marek, will you teach me to hold a sword?" she asked, her voice quivering with the fear of being rejected. "I've watched you all my life, and I want to be a warrior like you."

Marek laughed. "You want to hold a sword? Great Mother, priestesses aren't allowed to use swords, Linde. What would you do with a sword?"

"Yes or no?" Linde replied, her voice stronger with resolve. Marek's merth at her request had added some fuel to her temper. "You asked me what I want, and that is what I want. Will you teach me?"

Marek appeared to ponder the thought for a moment. He was no longer smiling, but his eyes were still filled with amusement. "I could get in a lot of trouble for this from the Priestesses."

"No one needs to know," Linde insisted. "I could come to you at night, after my training sessions. We could just do one form a day. Please," she begged. "I promise not to cause you any trouble."

After what seemed like an eternity to Linde, Marek finally nodded. "Alright, Linde, if you pass the Rite of Growth, I will do as you ask. But for now, you must focus on your duties in front of you." He smiled. "Then after, you can visit me at night for your first lesson."

Linde let out a breath of relief. She was sure Marek would turn her away. "Thank you, Captain!" she replied, her voice on the edge of becoming a squeal. "I promise to be a good student! I will!"

Marek simply smiled and turned away, leaving Linde basked in her excitement. Walking towards the Temple for the first prayer session, she felt like a new path had just opened up for her, and she began to return the multitude of smiles the people gave her all the way up to the temple gates.

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Old 02-14-2007, 05:06 PM   #37
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When she opened her eyes, Moirena found herself staring at the familiar walls of the cave. Only two nights have passed since Ellian brought her here, yet the solid rocks forming the cave walls offered her an unexplained sense of being protected and sheltered. She looked over at Ellian's form lying next to the fire. The brute, destructive forces of fire and ice were at her command, yet, this young boy and the small cave made her feel like a child again. She felt safe.

Moirena pushed herself up from her make-shift bed. She threw off the layers of fur covering her and swung her legs off the side. Her strength was coming back now, and she felt like stretching her legs. It appeared still dark outside, but Moirena couldn't tell whether it was late evening or early dawn. Since she first woke up, she had spent most of her time drifting back and forth between dreams and reality, only occasionally breaking the pattern to eat. Ellian had kept the cave well-stocked with water and food purchased from the docks. Moirena still couldn't quite figure out why the boy was helping her, but truthfully, she didn't mind. She had been too tired to think anyways.

Her face still flushes whenever she thought about what Ellian had told her last night. When he first carried her back from where the bears had attacked her, she had been icy cold, her garments drenched with sea water. Her breathing had been fast and shallow, and her skin was as pale as bedsheets. Pale complexion was a trait of the Koada'Dal, but the boy had said she looked like death itself. There was enough deadwood around the cave for him to quickly build a fire, and the cave was small enough that the heat warmed up the insides fast. However, he still had to strip her of her wet robes for the fire to warm her up faster. When wrapping her up in laters of fur still didn't seem to help, he had had to make a trip to the docks get a metal bucket with some water. After carrying the load all the way back to the cave, he heated the water and gave her a "bath" as Ellian called it. Afterwards, color finally returned to her skin.

Ellian had been enough of a gentlemen. He had only told her of the events leading to her awakening under the threat of a fiery death. She had been overwhelmed by embarassment, and she needed to hide it from him. Anger seemed like a good way to do it.

The fire gave off soft, rhythmic crackles every so often, sending little sparkles of ember floating into the air. Ellian was still sleeping soundly, laying on his wool cloak. Moirena stood up from her bed and took a few steps toward the entrance. Ellian stirred and opened his eyes. He looked at her with sleep-filled eyes.

"You're awake," he said, pushing himself up off the ground.

"Sorry to wake you," Moirena apologized. "Just wanted to do some walking."

"It the middle of the night," Ellian replied. "It will be dark and cold outside. Can't you wait until morning?

Moirena reached behind her to grab her robe off the folded pile next to her bed. "Go back to sleep, Ellian," she said as she started to head towards the cave entrance. "I'll be fine."

Ellian started to rise. "I'll go with you then," he said, starting to pull his cloak off the ground.

"No," Moirena answered curtly. "I said I'll be fine, Ellian. Go back to sleep, I don't need your protection."

Ellian eyes locked on hers. His muscles tensed for a split second, then he relaxed and laid back down. "Suit yourself, Moirena. Just don't go too far. There might be bears around." The tone of his voice held an unfamiliar touch of frost.

Moirena sniffed and walked past the fire and out the cave's entrance. The night air was cold, just as Ellian had warned. She found herself shivering despite the robe covering her. For a brief second, she considered returning inside, but pride held her steps. She took a deep breath and coughed as the cold air filled her lungs. She had breathed warm air for the last two days, and the sudden transition caught her by surprise.

Walking a few steps away from the cave, Moirena sat down on a small outcropping from the cave's wall. The clouds were hiding the shards of Luclin, and the meager starlight made it too dark for her to see her surroundings clearly. All she could see were the moving shadows cast by the dense tree tops of the forest. She gave herself a hug and tried rubbing her arms with her hands to warm herself up. It didn't work.

Footsteps approached from behind her, and by the time she turned around, all she could see was a fur blanket falling over her shoulders. She looked up at Ellian's face. He smiled back.

"Told you," he said.

Moirena didn't reply. She didn't push the fur away either.

Ellian sat down next to her. "There's not much to see out here at night. At least, not much you want to see anyway." When it was apparent Moirena wasn't going to reply, he continued. "This forest was my playground growing up. In the daytime, there is a mystery around every corner, but when night falls, those mysteries turn into danger." He turned to look at the side of her face. "I promise, tomorrow morning, I will take you on a walk to visit some of these places. Now please come back in."

A few moments of silence followed, then Moirena stood and started to walk back to the cave. Ellian watched her go with a shake of his head. "High Elves," he murmured under his breath, pushing himself up and following after her. He stopped when Moirena stopped at the cave entrance and turned towards him.

"Thank you," she said softly. Then she turned and disappeared into the cave.

Ellian stood alone outside. "You're welcome," Ellian whispered back into the night.

The forest animals watched as Ellian followed Moirena back into the protection of their cave.

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Old 02-14-2007, 07:11 PM   #38
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/hands Jnom a plate of muffins and a drink. Glad to see you made it back. It's been a bit quiet lately on board. I was starting to feel lonely (well as lonely as I can get with my multiple alt issues).
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Old 02-14-2007, 09:26 PM   #39
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/thanks Valkyr for the muffins.

Ah..schizophrenia, it's both a blessing and a curse, isn't it?

 /looks and sniffs at muffins.

These...won't give me worms will they? SMILEY

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Old 02-15-2007, 09:01 AM   #40
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/takes muffin back

You won't get worms unless you go play wolfie games with Tearan and Peter. SMILEY

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Old 02-15-2007, 10:26 PM   #41
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/makes a sandwich to apologize to Valkyr for insinuating that her muffins give worms.

 Please accept my sandwich. They are made from freshly roasted owlbears.

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Old 02-18-2007, 11:04 PM   #42
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They stood together on top of the grassy knoll outside the cave entrance. Moirena looked around her and saw her surroundings for the first time in the light. The sun had finally broken through the clouds, and shed its rays through the gloomy foliage of the Nektulos. As the air slowly warmed with the rising sun, a thin layer of morning dew covered the forest, giving everything a sparkle under the welcomed light. Green was everywhere, covering the ground and the trees. Moirena took in a deep breath of the morning air. Her skin felt warmer under the sun, but her lungs still resisted the cold air. She held her breath for a few seconds before letting the air out. While the cold made her want to cough, it also helped clear her head. The last few days inside the cave had made her mind sluggish.

"Cold?" Ellian asked, watching Moirena occasionally shiver under her heavy robes.

"No," Moirena replied. "I needed to get out. The cave was starting to get suffocating." She knew she was lying, but she hoped Ellian didn't. Being taken care of again had been nice, and truthfully, Moirena wouldn't have minded the protection of the cave for a few more days. However, every moment she stayed in the cave was one more that gave her prey a chance to elude her. She had already wasted too much time.

"You sure you're up for this?" Ellian asked. "The forest isn't going anywhere."

Moirena answered the question by starting down the small hill. It felt nice to take big strides again, and she felt her sore leg muscles starting to stretch again. At first, they did so grudgingly, but they soon fell into an old familiar rhythm. She needed her strength back as soon as possible.

"The ships from Qeynos, where do they dock?" she asked.

"The docks? They're quite a ways from here. I don't know if it's a good idea for us to go that far today," Ellian replied as he followed Moirena down the hill.

"Where are the docks?" Moirena repeated her question.

Ellian sighed. High Elves can be as insufferable as they are beautiful. They always feel like they own the world. "The docks are due southwest, about a half-day's hike from here. This place is kind of off the main road though, and finding the way to the road can be tricky."

Moirena turned around and faced the boy. Under the sunlight, his short dark hair covered less of his boyish face, and his tanned skin seemed less of a trick of darkness. She sniffed. "You seem to think very little of my ability to defend myself."

The sudden stop caught Ellian by surprise, and he stumbled a little bit trying to avoid walking into the wizard. "No...it's just that...this forest isn't your typical forest. There are places here haunted by the cursed. There are much worse things around here than bears."

Moirena started walking away as sudden as she stopped, her footsteps subconsciously heavier. She almost appears to be pouting, Ellian thought.

"Just because you saved me from bears doesn't mean I can't handle a few bears!" Moirena yelled back as she kept walking. "Hundreds of gnolls and undead have burned by my hand, a few bears are nothing!"

Ellian said nothing, and that seemed to make her walk faster and stomp harder. "You must feel like you're my bodyguard or something. If I hadn't killed that last bear before it pounced on you, we both would have been dead."

"Yes," Ellian murmured under his breath. "You saved my life, thanks a lot."

The words were soft, but the sarcastic tone reached her tall ears. She whirled around again, but this time Ellian was prepared. He stopped a good distance away.

"Why you...you..." Moirena stuttered. She hadn't stuttered since she was in Beginning Novice classes at the Tower. She wasn't one to give in to illogical tempers, yet somehow the boy had an effect on her. Moirena once saw a piece of rounded glass fashioned by some traveling gnomes that visited the Tower every few months. The glass was attached to a handle, and if one looked at something small through the glass, it became as big as one's palms. It was a neat toy for the Apprentices, and Master Eluywin had had to remind them that it was not magic that the gnome offered, but science, and how it can be difficult to differentiate the two at times. Now, for some reason Moirena could not understand, the boy's presence was having the same effect on her emotions as the glass had on a small sliver of grass.

The boy simply stood there, waiting for her to finish her half-finished insult. He almost seemed to be smiling, the way his dark eyes looked at hers. She searched his face for something to say, and her eyes finally landed on his half-developed elven ears. If it wasn't for them, he could almost have passed for a human.

"...you mixed breed!" she finished her insult. Ellian's smile disappeared, and Moirena felt a tinge of guilt at chasing it away. Her words had struck their target.

"Listen..." Ellian began, with a growing heat in his voice that Moirena had not heard before from the boy. "I could have left your precous High-Elf skin for the bears, but this hlaf-breed dragged your royal highness to safety and saved your royal rump. Did they not teach you manners in High-Elf Finishing School?"

Her illogical anger easily brushed away Moirena's growing guilt at her words. The half-breed was arguing with her! "How dare you!" she yelled, her voice starting to rise as well. "You violated me when I was unconscious! I guess you couldn't pass up the opportunity to touch a High-Elven woman!" Her arms subconsicously gave herself a hug.

"You would have died if I didn't do something!" Ellian replied. They were both screaming now, and the ravens perched up in the trees began to rustle, sensing the animosity in the air. "And if this is the type of gratitude your kind shows when someone helps them out, Marr strike me down if I ever risk my neck for one of you again!"

Her reply was about to leave her lips when Moirena heard a ear-piercing laughter. She turned towards where the noise came from, and Ellian was already at her side, his bow drawn and arrow notched. "What..." Moirena began to ask, but Ellian cut her off with a quick flick of his hand.

"We've got company," he whispered.

"What kind of company?" Moirena asked, keeping her voice low as well.

"We're near the old Thexian campgrounds. My guess is we disturbed their slumber."

"Whose slumber?" Moirena asked again.

"The guards," Ellian replied, "and they've been sleeping for five hundred years."

Moirena's fire leapt to life in her palms at the same moment the first Thexian undead walked into sight from behind the trees. Ellian's arrow left the string and flew over the head of the leading skeleton. It cackled, as if laughing at Ellian's missed shot. Moirena's fire, however, did not miss, and its cackles were abruptly cut off. The other three trailing members of the coterie of undead advanced past their leader with their swords raised, not even flinching at its quick demise.

Ellian drew his own sword and charged towards the skeletons, closing the gap between them in a few steps. The nearest skeletal soldier swung at him, but Ellian's quickness allowed him to duck under the swing. He brought his sword up and into its empty rib cage, and the edge of the blade struck true in the gap between two vertebrae. The skeleton's back snapped at where the sword struck and collapsed to the ground in two halves. Ellian didn't pause his attack. In the same motion, he twirled and brought his blade around, swinging at the next nearest enemy. This time, however, his blade met that of the cackling skeleton.

Moirena only had a few seconds to watch the boy's fluid movements before she herself had to concentrate on avoiding the swings of the other skeletal soldier. A quick wave of her hand, and lightning crashed from the sky to sear the dry bones of her attacker. The skeleton dropped to the ground, smoke rising from its skull. It was not a killing blow, however, and it quickly rose back up, sword in hand.

Ellian found himself parrying a sudden onslaught of swings. The skeletons looked slow before they began to attack in earnest. Now, Ellian was doing his best to keep its blade from his neck. The blade came at him fast and from both sides, alternating with no discernable pattern. He ducked under one blow, and the next one was immediately on it's way. Ellian raised his blade above his head to parry the next strike, and found the soldier's bony foot kicking him in his abdomen. He backed up a few steps, and nausea washed over him. He looked up at the sword coming down on his head.

The descending blow suddenly paused in mid-air. Ellian didn't waste any time rolling out of the way of what would have been a death blow. He stared at the skeleton, his arms frozen above it's head. In the bright sunlight, Ellian could only slightly make out the ethereal forms of chains bounding it's arms together and holding them in place.

"Now we're even," he heard Moirena say from behind him. He looked at her and at the skeleton laying in pieces around her on the floor, each bone smoking and covered with soot. Ellian swung at the neck of the immobolized undead and severed its head from the rest of its body. A few seconds later, the rest of the body collapsed, the spell animating it broken.

Ellian motioned her to be quiet and cocked his head as if listening for something. "There will be more," Ellian said quietly to Moirena. "A group of them are coming this way. We must have interrupted some sort of gathering."

"This way," Ellian motioned, quickly sheathing his sword. He started making his way up the hill away from the approaching sounds. His steps were quick but quiet. When she tried to follow, however, Moirena felt like she stepped on every single dry branch, breaking them and giving away their position. A hidden root grabbed her ankles as she tried to climb after Ellian, and she found herself face down on the forest floor.

Ellian was immediately beside her. He offered a hand. She looked at his eyes. The anger was gone, replaced by worry and concern. She looked at his hand again.

Her anger had disappeared as well.

She took the hand and he pulled her off the ground. There was more strength in those arms than Moirena gave them credit for as she found herself easily lifted back on her feet. He didn't wait for a thank you before turning and continuing up the hill. Moirena followed in silence. Right now, there was nothing more to say.

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Old 03-07-2007, 10:14 PM   #43
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The rhythmic lapping of the waves upon the hull of the ship was mesmerizing, and Jaffar tried to concentrate on the soothing sound. To the casual observer, the rogue was simply leaning nonchalantly on the wooden railings, peering out at the endless ocean. To the keen ones, however, the tight grip he had on the railing would have given his strain away. Jaffar tried closing his eyes to focus on the soothing sounds of the waves, but the sudden deprivation of one of his senses made the voice in his head even louder. He quickly opened his eyes again and tried to focus on a distant cloud. He was fighting hard in a battle he had no confidence in winning. Everyday, he felt a little less himself and more...something else.

"Are you ok?" Win asked from next to him. The little halfling's head barely reached the top of the railing, but she was peering out at the ocean from underneath the wooden planks as well. The wind was blowing hard enough for her two pigtails to flutter. Jaffar didn't answer, but gripped the railing tighter instead.

"What's wrong?" the halfling pressed. "Are you sick?"

"Please, Win...leave me alone for a while..." Jaffar managed to squeeze out. His head was starting to throb from the effort of keeping the voices out. "I just...have a headache."

Win's child-like face was full of concern. "I can take a look, Jaffar. Let me see..." She reached out for his arm, but he quickly jerked it away from her reach. He watched Win's eyes widen, and hurt showed through her stare.

"I'm not going to hurt you," Win half-pouted.

You already did... Jaffar thought. You should have left me where I was...

"I'm sorry, Win," Jaffar apologized, interrupting his own thoughts. "I'm just...jumpy today...please, just give me a few moments alone, I'll be fine."

Win gave him one last questioning look, but kept her mouth closed. She gave a quick nod and skipped away towards the bow where Linde was speaking to the ship captain. Jaffar turned his attention back to the clouds. The throbbing was getting more intense, and his vision was starting to blur in rhythm with the pounding inside his head.

Why do you resist? the voices asked. So much power...

Get out of my head! Jaffar screamed silently. Since the night he woke up, the voices had been there, haunting his days and nights. At first, he had been able to dismiss them without trouble simply by thinking of something else, but now, the voices were overtaking his own thoughts.

Endless piles of gold...endless women...everything you wanted could be yours...

Jaffar clenched his teeth so tight that he thought he heard them crack. Get out! he repeated his silent scream. I want no part of this!

He didn't remember much about dying. He remembered the initial pain, but then there was peace. The struggles he had felt within himself in life were suddenly completely stipped away in an instant, and for the first time, he had felt content. There was no describing where he was, or how long he spent there. He simply floated along in a vast expanse, formless and free of want. He had been vaguely aware of other conscious beings floating in the expanse with him, but he paid them no heed. Then the pain returned as suddenly as it was stripped away, and he found himself being pulled out of the expanse. He wanted to scream, but sounds were only made by those with form.

Help me! he remembered trying to yell. Let me stay!

And he remembered hearing a reply to his plea. You are not alone... the voice had said. You will never be alone. We will come with you. At the time, the voices had been comforting.

His next memory was waking up under the concerned gaze of Linde and Win, lying in bed, too weak to move. He remembered Win's soothing magic running through him hourly for the next night, and of strength slowly creeping back into him. The voices were forgotten, until they made their presence known the next morning.

At first, the voices offered benign suggestions and words of encouragement, and Jaffar didn't even distinguish them from thoughts of his own. They were appropriate for someone recovering from injuries. Then the voices became more insistent, and began taking on a separate personality. Win had said nothing during her healing sessions, so Jaffar had tried to ignore the voices as his imagination. It was simple enough at first, the voices would quiet down after a while.

Then the headaches started. The more he tried to keep the voices away, the more his head began to hurt. They forced him to listen.

That was when he knew he was going insane.

They promised him power and riches beyond his imagination. All for a little task.

Listen to us... the voices continued. We chose you, as you chose us...let us in, and the rewards will be immense.

His muscles were straining to the point of going into spasms. He could feel his arms starting to shake. What do you want from me! he asked.

You know what we want, came the reply. Revenge.

I seek no revenge! I beg of you, leave me be! His vision was starting to dim. The throbbing was becoming one continuous swell of pain.

She caused you pain and suffering, revenge must be taken! the voices commanded. Revenge must be sought!

His legs were clearly shaking now, and people wandering around the deck were starting to stare, including Win and Linde. The halfling started to make her way back towards him.

It was an accident! he pleaded. I seek no revenge!

Kill her, came the order. Kill the wizard that harmed you. Then we will leave you be.

Jaffar sobbed as his legs finally gave out and he felt his body falling towards the deck. He saw Win's worried pace quicken to a run, and saw Linde following after her. It felt like hours passed before his body hit the wooden deck, and in the span of time he tried to come up with an answer.

Who are you? he asked.

Kill the wizard, the voices repeated, and the waves of pain continued to sear behind his eyes.

She is a friend to those I care about! I cannot kill her!

Kill the wizard, and we will set you free.

When his body finally struck the deck, Jaffar had made his decision.

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Old 03-07-2007, 10:43 PM   #44
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Ok, you got your muffin privileges back...but you gotta keep writing like that.
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Old 03-09-2007, 06:20 PM   #45
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Well I've got to say, your story has me hooked.  I wanted to encourage you to continue, enough that I've posted my first time.  Keep up the good work!

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Old 03-09-2007, 11:30 PM   #46
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Muffins! Yay, muffins! Mmmmmm...yummmm....  /looks around for muffins...

Jakimo, thanks for your encouraging comments. I do have another posting nearing completion. A short, nice remark like that though once in a while just makes a writer's day! SMILEY

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Old 03-10-2007, 05:57 PM   #47
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"Is he alright?" Linde asked while watching Win hover over Jaffar's unmoving form. The deck hands had helped carry him off the ship, and Jaffar didn't even stir when they dumped him unceremoniously on the docks. It took five more silver pieces for them to agree to carry his limp form into the storage shed of the dock's general store. The owner had agreed to let them use it for a gold piece per day. It wasn't a time to haggle.

Win rested her hand on the rogue's limp arm and allowed the serenity of Quellious to fill her. Strands of magic flowed into Jaffar's body, seeking the source of the ailment. When the strands found nothing to latch onto, the healing powers dissipated back into the air. Win shook her head.

"He's still breathing, so that's good, but I can't find anything wrong with him."

Linde placed a hand on Win's shoulders. "It's ok, Win, you've tried your best."

Win continued to shake her head. 'I don't understand!" she exclaimed, exasperation entering her voice. "I made sure everything was healing before we left! This shouldn't be happening!"

"Something we missed, maybe?" Linde ventured. She wanted to be helpful, but her own limited knowledge of the healing arts was simply child's play next to Win's divine magic. As much as she wanted to help, there was nothing she could do except watch and throw out suggestions.

The shed provided some privacy from the curious gazes of bypassers, but it provided little barrier to the sound of footsteps walking by and the last call of merchants closing up for the day. When Win made no attempt to answer, they sat against the thin wooden planks that made up the walls of the shed and listened to the traffic on the dock.

"Thundermist Village," Win suddenly said.

"What?"

"Thundermist Village!" Win repeated herself, excitement flowing back into her voice. "Several years ago I embarked on a mission for Quellious to show my faith and devotion to her. The path led me to a small village to the west of here. They may not have a huge population, but they do have a good number of soldiers there protecting the village from occasional raids. There is an alchemist there who once helped me get in touch with Quellious. Her knowledge of the healing arts was extensive. She taught me about the benefit of combining the healing power of the gods with those of the earth. Maybe she can help him!"

"But, how are we going to get Jaffar there?" Linde asked. "We could barely get him into this shed!"

Win bit her lower lip. She had not considered that aspect of her idea, and disappointment showed across her face.

"This alchemist, what was her name?"

"Azalea, she called herself then. I wonder if she's still there?" Win pondered out loud.

"Alright," Linde said, standing up. "I'll go, you stay."

"What? But..." Win began.

"Someone needs to stay with Jaffar, and you're the healer." Linde interrupted her. "If anything went wrong, I wouldn't know what to do. I'll be fine," she reassured the halfling.

"This land, it's not like the Antonican Plains," Win warned. "There are much more dangerous creatures wandering around here. It's not safe to go alone."

Linde tried to give Win her best comforting smile, knowing that she would fall short. She was trying to convince herself as much as she was trying to convince the halfling. "Gnolls, the undead, the occasional bear...nothing I can't handle." She tugged at her light armor and loosened her sword at her waist several times for effect. "I'll be fine."

Win didn't look convinced. "I guess we have no choice..." she muttered. Linde's silence sounded her agreement. Win sighed.

"To the west is a canyon that travels to the village, but don't take that route. The canyons are haunted by the undead whose souls perished there long ago. They guard the canyon zealously, trying to cling on to the last place they enjoyed the essence of life. If you go down that road, you will join them."

Linde nodded her understanding. "Avoid the canyon, got it. So how do I get there?"

"From the end of the docks here, follow the trail until you come to the main road, and travel to the west. It's a longer way, but it is well traveled and passes several populated areas along the way. The road will eventually lead you to Thundermist." Win paused. "Be careful. Despite the popularity of the road, there is still much danger that lurks alongside if you were to wander off the path."

"I'll be careful," Linde replied. She looked at the slumped form of the rogue. She had pulled him away from death more than once, and this time would be no exception. "I'll be back soon, Win, take care of him."

Win smiled softly. "Quellious and I will watch over him while you're away, Linde. May the gods travel with you."

Linde turned and pushed open the small wooden door of the shed. The hinges creaked loudly as the door opened and closed.

Great mother, guide me, she prayed silently, making her way off the docks and onto the sandy beach. My life and the lives of my friends are in your hands.

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Old 03-22-2007, 09:28 PM   #48
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It was that time in the afternoon when the sun was barely hanging over the treetops that dotted the hillside. The remaining clouds, illuminated by the orange fire of the setting sun, glowed a light shade of pink. Flocks of birds flew from one treetop tot he other, searching for their next meal.

Linde placed her chin on her knees, sitting on the soft grass of the sloping hill. Out here, at the edge of the temple grounds, she could be alone with her thoughts. She knew when she stood up, the back of her white Apprentice dress would be covered in green and brown stains from the grass and dirt. There would be expressions of disappointment from others to deal with later on, but for now, Linde pushed those thoughts far away from her mind. She enjoyed sitting out here alone, watching the fruits of Tunare's work going about their mundane, daily tasks. In her heart, she knew she loved the Great Mother and her creations, but she just didn't want to serve her by spending the rest of her life living in a temple. There was so much to see in the world, and it was unfair for her mother to expect her to give up everything. Life offered so much more.

A short branch laid on the ground next to her, and Linde picked it up, holding it out in front of her like a sword. She gave it a quick twirl, and smiled when the make-believe sword handle landed squarely back in her palm. It felt right, holding a sword, even if it was only a pretend one. She looked forward to her first lessons with Marek.

It was starting to get close to the time of the first ritual, and Linde grudgingly rose from the grass to make her way back to the temple. She was certain she would be the only Apprentice with grass stains on her robe.

By the time she got to the granite steps of the temple gates, people were surrounding her from all directions, each giving her a warm smile and wishing her the best of luck in her coming trials. She smiled to each in return, hoping her false sincerity would be convincing enough. She felt eyes on the back of her robe, and the disapproving stares that followed. The trip to the top of the stairs felt longer then it normally did.

The atrium of the Temple was constructed by the dwarven architects who survived the Breaking. Commisioned by the first followers of Tunare who settled here, they were asked to create a structure where the inside would meld with the outdoors, creating a sense of being surrounded by Tunare's beauty. The dwarven, masters, charged with this task, delivered a temple where every room was bathed by the sun in the day and the glow of Luclin at night. The ceiling was dotted with multiple large portals that were open to the outside air and to the occasional rainstorm. Where the floor wasn't covered in granite, large patches of soil covered the floor, and grass and shrubbery adorned these patches, fed by the drainage system built into the temple design. Trees of varying species and size stood throughout the hall, their canopies reaching through the open areas of the roof. The occasional chirping of a visiting bird would reverberate off the walls, making one feel as if they were surrounded by nature's love.

When Linde stepped through the gates, two temple servants, each dressed in her own white robe, approached her from both sides. They each held a wooden bowl filled with water. After a short courtesy, each sprinkled her with the water. The traditional gesture was one of blessing, to signify the bathing of those who entered with the source of all life. Linde offered her own courtesy in return, as all of those who served the Great Mother deserved respect. She then made her way towards the main hall.

The walls of the main hall were adorned with carvings of bountiful grapevines, and many live vines also hung down from the ceiling. When Linde entered the main hall, the three High Priestesses, with her mother in the middle, were already standing in the circular clearing in the center of the room. The clearing, like so many other places throughout the temple, was paved with soil. A tree that towered over all the others rose from the middle of the clearing and reached far beyond the ceiling. The fading light of dusk still lingered on the tree leaves, giving them a soft glow. Linde, however, could only focus on her mother and the other two Apprentices that now knelt in the clearing in front of the tree.

All eyes were on her as Linde made her way next to the other Apprentices. She didn't need to look to know that she was the last one to arrive, and to see the disapproving stare her mother would be giving her right now.

"We are now ready to begin," one of the priestesses announced. "This is the first ritual of the Rite of Growth. Tonight, you will undergo the Trial of Enlightenment."

"Apprentices, are you ready to serve Tunare, the Great Mother of all life?" the second priestess asked.

"Yes," the Apprentices all answered in unison. The voices bounced off the walls of the hall.

"Are you ready to face the trials that the Great Mother will ask of you?"

"Yes," came the same reply from the Apprentices.

"Are you prepared to give everything to the Great Mother, so that she will watch over you and those you love in return?" Linde heard her mother's voice ask.

"Yes," the other Apprentices replied. This time, Linde didn't join in the answer. The High Priestesses didn't seem to notice.

"Very well," Bedaine nodded, content that the Apprentices have given all the expected answers. "The trials will begin." She made a motion with her hand, and three temple servants appeared, each holding a bowl filled with a clear liquid. The priestesses each accepted a bowl and walked up to an Apprentice.

"Drink," they ordered collectively. "You will then proceed to the meditation rooms. Tonight, if the Great Mother chooses you to begin your service, she will grant you a sign. Do not leave your room until dawn has arrived. When the sun rises over the horizon, we will come to retrieve you, and at that time you will tell us of what transpired in the night."

Linde accepted the offered bowl just as the other Apprentices did. The liquid inside was clear and odorless, and tasted just like water. From previous Apprentices that had failed the Rite, Linde had heard that the liquid was just that, water. However, others swore that the liquid brought them closer to Tunare. When each Apprentice emptied their bowl, the priestesses retrieved them and handed back to the servants.

"Go now, and stay in your rooms until dawn. Remember, you are not to leave the room until then."

"Yes, Priestess," the Apprentice replied in unison and rose to their feet. They then proceeded toward the back of the hall where a doorway led to the separate meditation rooms in the back of the temple.

Once through the doorway, each Apprentice made their way to their own meditation room. The rooms were small, but all had doors to provide the faithful with some privacy while they offered their prayers to the Mother. During the regular months, pilgrims would frequent these rooms. For the next few nights, they would be reserved for the Apprentices to use during their trials. Linde looked down the hallways to see if any of the servants would be patrolling during the night. She knew the layout of the temple like the back of her hand, but if servants would be walking the hallways, it would make her night more difficult. No servants were in sight. The Trial of Enlightenment was the first trial of the Rite of Growth, and often the first most significant thing to happen in an Apprentice's life. To disobey the priestesses' orders and leaving the room before dawn was unimaginable, so no guards had ever been necessary.

Walking into her own room, Linde tried to control her own breathing. Her heartbeat was starting to race faster and the pounding in her chest felt like it was getting louder. Excitement filled her, as she knew it must be filling the other Apprentices in their own rooms. Tonight would be their night, but for Linde, her excitement was for a completely different reason.

She had no intention of spending her night in the Temple.

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Old 04-02-2007, 07:51 PM   #49
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Eluywin looked around at the now empty hall, a smile of satisfaction for a job well done on his face. He heaved a great sigh of relief. It took a little extra convincing, but he had done it. The Council was on his side.

Like most of the other large rooms in the Tower, the Sage's Hall was designed in a large semi-circular pattern, with a small elevated platform at the front of the room to serve as a stage. Eluywin stood with his hands clasped behind his back, running scenes from the meeting over in his head to see if he had missed anything. The meeting had been over two hours, and it had taken all of his skills of persuasion to convince the Council to concede. In the end, he had the backing of the full Council for his plan. They would be making preparations to leave within the day.

His smile was quickly replaced by a look of concern when he watched Jolan walk through the door. The old Sage had been one of the last ones to leave, and he now made his way to the stage slowly.

"It's true then, what you said about Moirena?"

Eluywin nodded. "I'm sorry, Jolan."

"How did this happen? I thought we kept her here at the Tower precisely to avoid this from happening. The Council should have kept her here!" Anger crept into the old man's voice. Eluywin ignored it.

"I understand how you feel, old friend, but we couldn't have kept her here forever, Jolan. Eventually, she would have had to make her choice."

"You could have sent a guide with her, Eluywin, or at least given her a clue as to why she had to leave."

"It would only have complicated things, Jolan. Moirena needed to make her own decision. She has to face their calling on her own, without contamination from us. It was the only way. She had to stay...pure..."

Jolan stopped in front of the old Master, and their eyes locked on each other. It was an unspoken challenge, and neither was ready to back down.

"You knew about this earlier, didn't you?" Jolan asked. "You kept it from me."

Eluywin didn't acknowledge the accusation. He stared, unmoving, back at his old friend. "When I gave her to you after her parents died, you knew this was a possibility, Jolan. They were ready before Leena and Ren even reached Qeynos. If Leena hadn't sent Moirena back to us, she would have been lost to us. But we were given a second chance, Jolan, and I gave her to you, to guide her. But in the end, neither you nor I could make the choice for her. I'm sorry it turned out this way, but she has chosen her path. Now, we must deal with the consequences."

Eluywin's last words echoed off the walls of the hall when Jolan didn't reply. It would take more effort for the old Sage to come around, but Eluywin wasn't worried. They had time, and he would make sure Jolan saw enough evidence to convince him beyond a doubt.

"I'm coming with you," Jolan broke the silence.

"I'm not sure that's a good idea, old friend. When the time comes, you may hesitate."

"I'm coming, Eluywin," Jolan repeated with more force. "She is still my daughter, and I need to be there when it happens."

"She won't recognize you...you understand that?"

"I'm coming."

Eluywin sighed. "Alright old friend, you will come." The old Master paused strategically before he continued so Jolan would hear his words. "I'm sorry it has come to this, Jolan, but it has to be done. She has to die."

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

It is time... the voices hissed in his head. Jaffar moaned softly at the intrusion.

Kill her...

He tried to fight it, but the more he resisted, the more painful the needles in his head became. He squirmed, trying to reach towards consciousness.

Kill her, before it's too late...

He wanted so desperately to wake and leave the voices behind, but he had made a promise that they will not let him forget. He will carry it out before he finds peace again. The needles in his head reminded him of that every second. He needed to wake up.

Awake... the voices commanded.

His eyes snapped open, and his surroundings slowly came into focus. He found himself lying in a small shed with boxes piled up in every corner. The room was dark, but there was enough moonlight slipping in through cracks between the thin wooden planks that made up the meager walls of the structure for him to make up his surroundings. As the rest of his senses slowly flowed back, he detected the smell of fish.

He tested his fingers, and they wiggled at his command. He pushed himself up off the floor to his elbows. There were distant voices, but nothing that Jaffar could make out distinctly. He looked to his right and saw Win curled up on the floor under a small blanket, deep in sleep.

He tested his legs, and they worked perfectly. He stood slowly, his movements betraying no sound. Just as silently, he made his way next to the sleeping halfling.

Kill her... and the needles prodded his head. Jaffar winced but stopped short of drawing a breath. The silence remained unbroken.

He drew his sword.

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Old 05-18-2007, 02:42 AM   #50
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((Lost the impetus to write for awhile and also got busier this month. To any readers that were following this story (insert sound of crickets chirping here) SMILEY I apologize for the hiatus. Hope to be able to post more regularly from now on)) 

------------- 

The canopy of the Nektulos was so thick that when night fell over the trees, the silvery light of Luclin could barely penetrate to the forest floor. The occasional rustle of a forest denizen moving about in the shadows would break the silence, but otherwise, the only sound Moirena could hear was the crackling of the meager campfire Ellian had built for them. Not much warmth radiated from it, but it had been sufficient for Ellian to cook them a small dinner. She supposed she was lucky he even built her a fire after the mutual silence they've collectively agreed to suffer through for the last few days. She wrapped her cloak tighter around herself. It felt like the night was leeching the warmth from her body as fast as she could generate it.

Ellian slept motionless several paces away. He had felt exposed sleeping nex tot the fire, and had chosen to sleep further away in the shadows. His own cloak blended so well with their surroundings that had Moirena not personally seen him lay down at that spot, she would simply have assumed that his sleeping form was merely a part of the forest.

Their journey through the forest has been slow as a surprising number of undead troops seemed to be crawling through the forest in an almost patterned method, as if they were searching for them. Ellian had seemed surprised at that, as the undead in the Nektulos normally only wander in close proximity to the area where their decaying bodies laid buried. So far, the ranger had shown his worth by taking them around most of the undead parties. Those that they could not avoid they made sure would never rise again. He seemed to know the forest like the back of his hand, but their circuitous route had added days to their journey back to the docks. She had made him promise to lead her back there so she could continue what she came here to do in the first place. However, as eager as she was to track down the Teir'Dal and the Innkeeper, a lingering sense of sadness hovered over her at knowing that the Docks were only a day away.

She turned again in her cloak to try to get into a more comfortable position. The hard gound jabbed at her in many places, and her ribs felt bruised from the small rocks scattered over the ground. The new position didn't feel any more comfortable than the old one. She sighed and looked in the direction where Ellian was sleeping. It amazed her how the ranger had fallen asleep so quickly and slept so motionlessly. She caught herself smiling, and found no reason to be doing so. The ranger had indeed saved her life, but she had already thanked him. Now, the man seemed to want to hover over her and tell her what to do. Well, tomorrow, they would be on their separate ways.

She fidgeted again with her cloak so she could lay on her side and look in the general direction where Ellian's form was. "Goodnight Ellian," she mouthed silently, then closed her eyes to wait for her dreams to take her under.

**********

The grass of the forest was a lot drier than Ellian was used to, but it wasn't anything that he normally couldn't sleep through. What was keeping him awake was not immediately obvious to him. By this time tomorrow, he would be on his way back home, alone in his travels like the way he had always preferred. By all accounts, sleep should not be eluding him tonight. Perhaps the stress from evading the search parties for the last few days was finally catching up to him. Perhaps.

Sleeping in the wild was a talent his father had taught him since he first started following him on the path of a ranger. To a ranger, melding completely into his surroundings at will was vital, whether while he was asleep or awake. Sleep was a vulnerable period, and the less likely that enemies will come across your vulnerable body while you slept, the more chance you have of waking up the next morning. Years of sleeping under the stars had made it second nature to him, yet tonight, it felt like every blade of grass and every pebble was trying to dig between his ribs.

One more night with the High Elf, and tomorrow they would be going their separate ways. He knew he should be glad. Rangers were meant to travel on their own, with nature as their only companion. He had saved her life, and while he didn't exactly expect gratitude, the arrogance and insults she had offered him in return made him want to seethe with anger. Yet, as much as he wanted to be angry with her, the emotion eluded him. It was probably some High Elven magic that he didn't understand or want to understand. Either way, he would be rid of her by tomorrow evening, his promise carried out.

The wind blew through the trees and Ellian heard Moirena fidgeting in her cloak above the rustling of the leaves. He closed his eyes again to try to capture sleep, all the time trying to ignore the gnawing sensation in his heart.

**********

When she opened her eyes again to the light and warmth of the morning sun, Moirena was surprised she had slept at all. The night had been cold, and the strange noises in the shadows had kept her nerves wound tight all night. Yet, somehow, she had still drifted off to sleep watching Ellian. When her eyes adjusted to the light, she saw that he had already been up and was sitting next to the trunk of a tree, looking at her.

"Stop staring at me," she said, sitting up in her cloak. "It's rude to stare."

"If you're ready, it's time to go," he replied, ignoring her remark.

Moirena stood without answering. The place where their fire was the night before had been covered with dirt leaves, making it indistinguishable from any other patch of ground to the untrained eye. She flicked off pieces of dried grass from her hair and robe. She felt dirty, but said nothing as there was nothing she could do about it. The last thing she wanted now was another sponge bath.

"Alright then," Ellian said curtly and turned to start making his way through the trees. Moirena followed silently, as had been their routine for the last few mornings. As uncomfortable as it seemed, Moirena felt a tinge of regret that today would be the last day they would be spending together.

She watched Ellian's fluid movements through the trees, and tried to mimick them. However, the twigs crackled and the branches snapped as she tried to keep up with him. She knew she was announcing to anyone that was trying to track them their location, making herself an easy target. In contrast, Ellian flowed over the grass and the dried branches without making a sound. At least, not any that she could detect.

"How much further today?" Moirena asked, breaking the silence.

"We should be there by this afternoon," he replied without turning his head. Then the silence returned.

Moirena felt as if she should be saying something, but nothing seemed appropriate. In fact, their conversations have mostly been these short awkard question-answer sessions since the day she called him a...well, it wasn't her proudest moment.

For the next few hours they traveled in silence, the only sound she made being her heavy breathing at trying to keep up with Ellian. He had slowed a few times to wait for her to catch up, but he never turned around to face her. She knew he was still upset, but Tunare knew what he expected her to do about it. If he wasn't going to talk to her, then she certainly didn't feel the need to talk to him. But as they got closer to the docks and the smell of salt began to permeate the air, Moirena began to feel as if she would regret letting this moment pass.

The road became visible ahead of them, and it lead into a winding canyon. As Ellian had told her, the beach would be at the other end of the canyon, a short hike away. Time was slipping away, and she felt something pushing her ahead. The man did, after all, save her life.

"Ellian..."

He slowed, but didn't completely stop. "What?" he asked, leading them into the canyon.

Moirena tried to organize her words. "I...I'm not good at this..."

"Good at what?"

A few more seconds passed by while she tried to force the words out of her mouth. It seemed harder than reciting a spell.

"I'm not good at apologies," she finally forced out. Then she stopped, hoping he would say something that would make the next few minutes easier. He remained silent. She cursed him silently for making her finish.

"I'm sorry about what I said a few days ago. I'm sorry I called you a...well...a..."

"Half-Breed." Ellian finished for her. "You called me a half-breed."

"Yes...well, I didn't mean to...well, I didn't mean to hurt you. I was angry."

He let a few seconds of silence fill the gap, and it felt like hours before he spoke again.

"It's fine. I'm over it." Then he turned and smiled at her, and the anxiety of the last few days seemed to wash off of Moirena's shoulders.

"Good. I'm glad," she replied, and she returned his smile. They walked on again in silence, but somehow it felt different now. They walked abreast of each other, Moirena regretted not doing this earlier.

The beach came into sight, but the people on the docks were still dots flickering around in the distance. Moirena felt her heart sink, but she kept walking.

"Listen Moir..." Ellian began.

"Moir?" Moirena cut him off.

"Umm...Moirena..." he quickly replied.

"No, please, Moir is fine," she said with a softer tone. "No one's ever called me anything but my full name before, and it was just different, that's all." She paused. "I like it."

Ellian laughed. "Moir it is then. Well, Moir, if you ever need help with whatever you're doing here, just leave a message for me at the General Store here at the docks. I'll do my best to help you."

"Thank you, Ellian," she nodded, and she hoped her true sincerity reflected in her voice. "Thank you for everything you've done for me."

When they finally reached the docks, Moirena found herself laughing and smiling in Ellian's company, and him in hers. Before they knew it, they were standing next to the wooden planks of the sea-drenched docks. They stood facing each other a few paces apart. Suddenly, words escaped them. A day ago, she would not have thought they would be staring at each other with anything but animosity. When the words refused to come, Moirena reached out with her hand, and Ellian reached out with his own. They gave each other a smile and a soft squeeze, and parted away. He gave her a nod, and turned to make his way back into the forest.

Moirena watched him for awhile, and turned towards the General Store, trying to suppress the strange new feelings in her chest and to focus on her new task. She had lost many days already, and it was time to catch up to her prey.

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Old 05-18-2007, 11:33 AM   #51
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Freakin Excellent.

More Plz!

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Old 05-18-2007, 02:29 PM   #52
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had to read the whole thing before I could reply. Just wanted to let you know I am enjoying your story very much ,and am adding you to my list of favorite authors stories to lurk about SMILEY keep up the good work.
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Old 06-02-2007, 02:42 AM   #53
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"You's all ready?" the ratonga asked when they approached the door at the end of the small tunnel. He tried to add an air of menace to his question, but he simply managed to sound confused to Lea's ears. She simply nodded in his general direction. The ratonga, failing to get his desired effect, seemed to pout for a second, and his whiskers started to quiver. The entire scene felt silly to Lea. Why the Master would choose a ratonga as a guard, she could not figure out. The little rodents seemed quite useless in Lea's opinion, except for hunting down garbage.

The tunnel was ill-lit with only a few candles seated in poorly set holders jabbed into dirt walls, given it an appearance of being longer than it actually was. They had entered it through a hidden entrance in the back of a cave. There were many caves in Nektulos, and this one looked no different than any other from the outside. It was one of the many summoning spots the Master used when he wanted to speak to one of his servants. These meetings were always shrouded with a foreboding atmosphere, since it was never certain whether the summoned would leave on their own two feet.

Lea stopped behind the ratonga when he reached the door. She snuck a look a Mira to detect any sign of fear. The Teir-Dal looked as emotionless as ever, his dark skin seeming to absorb the meager light available to them. She fought to keep down a shiver. Somehow, she had never grown to feel comfortable around Dark Elves, even after working with them for years.

The ratonga rapped on the small wooden door with his fur covered knuckles. The walls of the tunnel seemed to suck away the sound as soon as it was made. "Master. They's here. Kats bring them here."

The door opened quietly. Lea had expected some sort of a creak, but none came. The three of them stepped into an even darker room beyond.

Lea had been summoned before, but never to this particular place. The room was smaller than she had expected, with only a small desk in the back of the room. A lone candle stood on top of that desk, trying its best to illuminate the room. A hulking figure stood behind the desk, its head covered by a hood and its body draped by a cloak that flowed from the hood. There was no suggestion of color on the cloak, not that Lea could have really appreciated it anyway, given the darkness of the room. The only color that came from the figure was from the two yellow eyes that peered out at her from under the hood. A snout protruded from under those eyes, covered in scales that dimly reflected the quivering flame from the candle. A forked tongue occasionally slithered out from what Lea assumed was the mouth and disappeared just as quickly.

She knelt down on one knee and bowed his head. "Master."

The Iksar said nothing. The tongue continued to flicker in and out, as if to taste Lea's thoughts. It was an uncomfortable silence. After what seemed like an eternity, he finally spoke in a familiar hiss.

"My little human comesssss..."

"Yes, Master, I come at your beckoning," Lea replied.

"Yesss, sssoo you do." Lea kept her eyes to the ground. The Iksar's voice seemed disembodied, and seemed to come from all around her. She found herself holding her breath.

"Do you know why you come, little human? Do you know why you were ssssumonned?"

"You wish to speak to me regarding Boots' death, Master," Lea replied. At least, that was what she hoped she was summoned for. Boots had it coming, and his death would be easy to explain. However, if the Master starting asking about the wizard...it would be a more complicated explanation.

"Yesss, Bootsss. Why did you kill him?"

"He came at me with a sword, Master," Lea began her rehearsed explanation. "He was drunk like he usually was, and came at me thinking I was one of his regular bar wenches. I introduced him to my knives."

"Isss that sssoo?" the Iksar asked. Then he made what sounded like clicks to Lea. She wasn't sure what they meant. "Why did Bootsss attack you, my little human?"

"I told you, Master, he thought I was one of his wenches."

A silence followed. Lea hated these silences with the Iksar.

"I will not assssk you again, my little Lea. Why did Bootsss attack you?"

Lea's throat suddenly felt tighter. This was not going to be easy.

"I...I don't understand, Master." She looked up at the Iksar, and regretted it as soon as she saw his eyes. He knew.

"You betrayed me, my little Lea...you disssappointed me..." The Iksar seemed to talk without moving his mouth. In fact, the only thing that moved was his tongue. He tasted her fear, and seemed to be relishing it.

"Master..."

"You led the wizzzard to the paladin, my little Lea. You were sssuppossed to lead her to me..." The tongue flickered again. Then the Iksar moved for the first time since they entered the room. His arms came up and made a circle in front of his torso. A low rumble began to reverberate throughout the room. The ratonga started to back out of the room.

Seemingly against her will, Lea watched, her eyes bound to the smoke that started to come out of thin air in front of the Iksar. The smoke slowly grew and erupted into a small ball of fire. The ball then grew and began to take on a humanoid shape until it was about the size of a dwarf. It floated to the ground slowly in front of the desk. The entire room began to heat up as the creature took a step towards her.

Lea stood. It would be no use to show the lizard any more false servitude. She feared the creature, and feared the lizard that created it, but fear would not serve her here. She turned and ran towards the door, but the ratonga stood blocking it, holding a short knife in its paws. She kept up her momentum, and launched herself into a kick. Her leg moved faster than the ratonga's arms, and her foot caught the side of his wrist. The ratonga squealed in pain and dropped his knife. Before he could recover, Lea shoved a palm into his chest, sending him sprawling through the doorway. She leapt over him and started to run down the tunnel towards the exit.

She only made it a few steps before her legs suddenly stopped moving, and Lea fell face forward onto the floor. She flipped herself over, and numbness started to creep up her arms. She tried to push herself back up, but her body started to feel as heavy as lead, and her fingers barely wriggled with her attempt. She laid on her back, staring down the tunnel in horror as she watched the fire creature slowly walk towards her. The heat was intense, and the closer it came, the harder it became to breathe.

"Ssssleep well, my little Lea...ssstay warm..." The Iksar still stood unmoving inside the room, yet his voice resounded in her head as if he was right next to her. She saw Mira standing next to him. She could just make out a satisfied smile on his face.

Lea tried to scream, but even drawing breath was becoming harder now as her own chest weighed down on her. The fire creature came closer. Her leather shoes began to blacken, and every breath that she managed to draw torched her lungs.

The creature stepped on her foot, and the fire tore through her shoes. Pain ripped through her body as her toes began to char. Then the rest of her clothing erupted in flames as the creature bent down over her.

The tunnel filled with the smell of burning flesh, but even through the searing pain of feeling her own skin melt, the Iksar's voice still reverberated in her head as loudly as before.

"I'll ssssee you sssoon, my little Lea. Your bonesss will ssserve me well..."

The tunnel would have filled with Lea's horrified screams if the paralysis hadn't taken away her ability to draw even one breath. Instead, the only sounds in the tunnel were that of flesh crackling, and a clicking sound that the Iksar began to make again.

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

"What do you wish of me, Master?" the Teir'Dal asked. He wrinkled his nose at the scent of charred flesh that now permeated the tunnel. The fire creature was gone, leaving behind a pile of charred bones that lay in a pile on the floor. The Master's tongue flickered rapidly, as if savoring the taste in the air.

"The wizzzard...sssshe is here..."

"Here? In Nektulos? But how?"

"Fate...my Mira...I am her dessstinnny." The yellow eyes turned towards the Dark Elf and burned into him. "Bring her to me, my little Mira...and do not fail. I have sssso many more...petsssss." The tongue flickered towards the Dark Elf's face. "You may like to meet them..."

Mira quickly lowered his eyes and knelt in front of the towering Iksar. "I will not fail you, Master," he quickly replied. "I will bring her to you."

"Yessss, my Mira. You have been mosssst helpful uncovering Lea's betrayal, but if you fail, you will ssshare her fate. Now go..." He motioned towards the ratonga that crouched next to the doorway, sniffing the air as if trying to find his next meal. "Take my little Katsss...and bring her to me..."

The ratonga, hearing his name, perked up and jumped to his feet. Mira gave the Iksar another quick bow and headed towards the exit, taking care to avoid the bones in the middle of the tunnel. The ratonga gave the bones a longing look before following the Dark Elf out.

The Iksar closed his eyes, enjoying the new silence that fell over the tunnel. He waved his hands again in a small circle in front of him. A low rumble again filled the room.

"Risssse and sssserve..."

When he opened his eyes again, a skeletal soldier stood where the pile of bones had laid.

"Welcome back, my little Lea..."

The skeleton cackled.

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Old 06-02-2007, 02:44 AM   #54
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Thanks for the encouraging remarks. I tend to take longer between chapters due to my schedule. Hope this last one works.
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Old 06-03-2007, 04:13 AM   #55
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very cool writing Jnom!

from the first word on i was addicted to it. hoping there is more soon 0)

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Old 06-03-2007, 07:47 PM   #56
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((Thank you Lahmia. I had a little more time today and the next chapter in my head already, so here it is!)) 

By the time Linde finally made it out of the canyon to where the smaller road joined with the larger route of travel, Luclin was already hanging in the sky, its beams somewhat obscured by the gathering thunder clouds. A few drops of rain started to drizzle on the light plating of her armor, making soft thuds as they bounced off the metallic surface.

Linde turned at the sound of gnolls howling in the distance. They sounded far enough away, but those howls have always turned her stomach. She rolled her shoulders to try to relieve the built-up tension and checked to make sure her sword was loose in the scabbard. Her experience had taught her that a sword that gets stuck at the wrong time can mean the difference between life and death, whether for herself or for her charges.

The light plates shifted a bit when she tried to ease the soreness out of her shoulders. The strange sensation between her shoulder blades had bothered her since she left the docks, and nothing seemed to be able to get rid of it. Her thoughts went to her friends, and Linde offered a quick prayer to Tunare for their safety. While they were never officially made her charges, she couldn't help but feel that way about them. If any of them were hurt, it would be another sin to atone for on her path of Redemption. As it was, she had more than enough souls to atone for already.

As the howls faded away, Linde turned onto the main road and continued in the direction she thought was west. Even the meager light was fading fast with the storm clouds rolling in off the eastern coast of the Steppes. She didn't relish the thought was trudging through mud wearing a drenched set of armor, but if Jaffar was to have a chance, it would take her sacrifice. Physical discomfort was a small sacrifice compared to the life of a friend.

In the distance, a guard tower came into view. Linde felt her spirits lift. The tower would have a guard, and she could ask for better directions to the Village. The few moments out of the rain would be nice, but she wouldn't stay long. For all she knew, time was of the essence for Jaffar.

With that thought, all discomfort faded into the background, and Linde quickened her steps towards the tower.

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

The cloak was getting drenched, but its magic held steady, keeping the figure shrouded in the protection of invisibility. His own training also made it possible for him to follow the paladin with minimal noise. She had appeared to be deep in thought as she traveled, and noticed little more than the road beneath her feet. He snickered inwardly. Taking her life would be as easy as snuffing out a candle flame.

He still could not figure out why the paladin came to the Steppes. He had made sure the wizard left no trails that could be easily tracked, and he knew the paladin's group lacked any skilled trackers. Someone must have told them, but for all he tried, the figure could not remember seeing anyone that they spoke to that would have done so. He remembered following them to the docks, and feeling that familiar sense of nausea wash over him. He had blacked out for a moment as usual, but he could have sworn it was only for a brief moment. When he looked up again, they were already boarding the ship to the Steppes. Something had happened in between, but all of his efforts to regain the few lost minutes in his memory have so far failed.

However, it was of little consequence anymore. He had personally watched the wizard board the ship to Nektulos with the Necromancer's small coterie and knew she would be well on her way to them by now. The old wizard would be satisfied.

He watched the paladin approach the tower, paying no heed to the splashes she made in the puddles that were now quickly forming on the dirt road. Yes, it would be easy to tie up this last loose end. Too easy. He usually preferred prey that provided more of a challenge.

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

Linde covered her head with her arms as she ran towards the tower. The rain was coming down hard now, and it was getting difficult to see. Her footing slipped on a patch of road that was quickly turning into mud and found herself sitting in a muddy pile of rainwater. Water oozed in between the cracks of her armor and began soaking through the padding she wore underneath. She carefully stood up and gave her armor a hard tug to make sure everything was still in place. The plating was now covered with mud, but at least all the straps still held tight.

A growl made her look up.

A large bear stood straight in front of her in the middle of the road, with two smaller cubs hiding a few paces behind it. It was a mother cub, and Linde had somehow completely walked right into them, completely oblivious to their presence.

She began to take a few steps back, being careful to make small, slow movements. The mother bear continued her growl, but stood her ground. Linde's hand went to her sword handle and tugged on it to make sure it was still loose.

Too late did she realize her mistake.

The bear, somehow realizing the intent of the long piece of metal hanging by her side, roared when it noticed Linde's motion. It charged at her with surprising speed and its claws were coming at Linde before she could even draw her sword.

The mud save her life as she slipped once again trying to back away from the attack. As she fell, she felt the bear's long claws rip through the air where her head would have been had she not been saved by gravity. She felt her back hit the ground, and the wind rushed out of her chest. The bear, carried by its own momentum as well as the slippery mud, charged past her defenseless body as she laid on the ground, trying to gasp for a breath.

Forcing herself onto her knees, Linde watched the mother bear turn towards her again, its paws regaining traction on the ground. She drew her sword and held it straight out in front of her. The conditions were too slippery for her to gain a solid footing, and any stance other than a defensive one would leave her wide open for an attack if she should fall again. Slowly, she regained her footing and waited for the coming charge.

The bear did not wait long before it came at her again, this time slower and with more deliberation. The claws came at her again, but this time Linde was ready and dodged the swipe easily. She took advantage of the few seconds the bear needed to gain its own footing and slashed with her sword. The blade left a long gash in the bear's leg, and her ears filled with its angry roar. It snapped at her, faster than Linde anticipated, and its teeth came within inches of her face. Linde leapt backward, and before she could set herself, the bear's claws came at her again from the other side. This time, the claws ripped into her shoulder, and she found herself sprawling onto the side of the road. Chunks of plate armor soared through air and came to rest around her, mangled beyond repair. She quickly rolled away and stood up again. She didn't feel any pain, but she knew blood was now flowing freely from the gash in her shoulder. She held her sword with her good arm and quickly traced a blessed symbol in the air with it. A familiar, blessed energy flowed through her body, and the bleeding stopped. An ache, however, now started to eat its way into her joints.

The bear, now injured, seemed more tentative about any further attacks, but Linde could see that the rage was still there. She kept her footing steady, waiting for the bear's next move. After a few seconds passed, it seemed to make up its mind, and launched itself into another charge. For a brief moment, Linde closed her eyes.

Great Mother, please guide my sword true.

A flash of white light covered her blade and exploded onto the bear, knocking it off its charge and on its side. It slid for a few yards before coming to a stop. When it finally did, it laid there on the ground, breathing heavily. It made no more attempts to rise.

Great Mother, please forgive me for injuring one of your creations, Linde prayed silently. I will not leave it injured.

She began tracing the healing patterns again with her blade, making circles upon circles in the air. A soft, white light descended over the injured bear, and its breathing slowly became smoother. It made a few attempts to stand, and eventually succeeded. Linde backed away slowly, sheathing her sword in the process. The bear stared at her, but the rage was now gone. After a few sniffs in the air, it backed away as well and made its way back to its cubs. Together, they disappeared into the rain.

Linde released a long breath of relief. Win wasn't exaggerating when she warned her. The Steppes was a dangerous place, and she would need to pay more attention to her surroundings from now on. She turned to make her way towards the tower once again, but the whistling sound of an arrow flying through the air made her dodge instinctively. At the same time she saw the arrow fly past her head, she felt another one strike her solidly in her now exposed shoulder. She turned towards where she thought the attack came from. The arrow would have lodged itself in her shoulder bones and wouldn't be life threatening. She could take care of the attacker first.

A warm feeling suddenly filled her body from where the arrow had struck, and she felt her legs give out from under her as if they were filled with cotton. She found herself lying on her back, staring into the dark sky with the rain falling on her face. As the realization of what had happened washed over her, so did the poison from the arrow's point, and her world faded into darkness.

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Old 06-03-2007, 11:44 PM   #57
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Old 06-20-2007, 01:25 AM   #58
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 (First part of this posting. Second part coming soon)) 

Rise, little one, there is work to do, the voice echoed through the darkness.

But I'm tired...I want to sleep, Win replied. The last few days have tried her stamina, and now her muscles ached with every move.

There is still much for you to do, my little one. Listen to me now, and rise. The voice was gentle, but the insistence was clear. Win found the darkness fading away, and while she longed for the continued comfort of slumber, dim light began to enter her world as she opened her eyes.

Jaffar stood over her, his short sword drawn. He stared at something behind her, and his mouth moved as if speaking to someone. However, all she could hear was muffled mumbling.

"Jaffar?" Win groaned, pushing herself out of sleep. "You're awake."

The rogue ignored her, seemingly intent in his own conversation.

"Who are you talking to?" Win asked. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes and tried to stand. "And how..." Before she could push herself up, Jaffar lunged at her and knocked her back to the ground, holding her down with a hand on her chest. His sword gleamed in his other hand.

"Don't move," Jaffar growled. "There's something outside."

Win tried to control her breathing. Jaffar's sudden motion had caught her off guard, and she found herself straining for air. She tapped his hand, trying to get him to ease up on the pressure on her chest.

"You're hurting me," she managed to croak between breaths. "Let go!"

Whether her pleads reached Jaffar's ears, Win couldn't tell, but Jaffar's hands slowly lifted off of her. He still seemed to stare out into nothing, his sword hovering in the air.

"Someone is watching us," he whispered. "I'm going outside."

Win coughed, then quickly clasped her hand over her mouth. Jaffar glared at her. It was the first time he acknowledged her presence since she woke up.

"Be quiet, and stay here," he said with a tone that expected no arguement. Win could only nod, and watched Jaffar slowly ease open the door. The hinge had creaked awfully when they first entered, but somehow, Jaffar opened it without any noise. His shadow slipped outside, and the door closed again silently.

Win wrinkled her brow. Something felt wrong. It wasn't like Jaffar to be so intense on anything. Yet, since he underwent her Resurrection, he hadn't quite seemed like his old cavalier, nonchalant self. Something was bothering him, but Win had no idea what it could be. She had probed his life force hundreds of times since that evening, yet nothing seemed overtly out of place. His amas t'bai was strong, yet...there was something that felt foreign. Over the years, she had had to heal the rogue hundreds of times from his numerous bar fights, and she knew his amas t'bai well. Something was different.

She got to her feet slowly, trying not to make any more noise. Her pack still laid in the corner, and she grabbed her statue of Quellious. It made her feel safe, and at the moment, she needed its calming influence.

Win made her way to the door and tried to push it slowly. She held her breath, waiting for the creak of the hinges. The door opened without any noise. She exhaled, and remembered to continue breathing. The door was opened sufficiently for her to squeak through, and she eased herself out sideways so she wouldn't have to move the door anymore.

The dock was fairly well-lit, as traveler's still departed and arrived on a few scant ships throughout the night. Win looked around for Jaffar, but the rogue was nowhere to be seen. At the end of the dock, the black sea stretched out as far as she can see, with only the glimmers of Luclin betraying the presence of the waves that gently rolled on the surface. She squeezed her statue, suddenly feeling very alone.

Her only warning was a short whistle as the knife flew past her head. A force flowed from the statue instinctively, and from the air around her, thorns suddenly materialized and enveloped her head and chest. Win felt something glance off the side of what would have been her bare head, followed by a dull thud behind her. She whirled back, ready to draw her own mace, but once again saw no one but the open door she had come through. A knife was buried in the thin wood, its handle waving slowly in the soft wind.

Once they sensed that their master was no longer in danger, the thorns withdrew and disappeared back into the air. Win murmured a short prayer, thanking the Child Goddess for her protection. The prayer also calmed her racing heart, as well as steady out her breathing. She tried to scan for the owner of the knife, but whoever it was that threw it eluded her sight. She tried to feel for life forces around her, but all she could sense were the fish in the sea around her.

"Where are you Jaffar?" she quietly asked the wind around her. It didn't respond.

She drew her mace and held it loosely, but tightened her grip on her statue. The attacker was probably still watching her, and she needed to act fast. She pushed her fear to the side and tried to concentrate on her options. There was no one besides her out on the docks, but she could hear conversation from inside the General Store. It would be safer than standing outside, waiting for the next knife. She walked quickly towards the door, constantly looking around her. Perhaps Jaffar was in the store, asking for information.

When the halfling disappeared through the doorway of the store, the figure drew back his hood, and the invisibility spell dissipated. He walked over to the knife and pulled it out in one fluid motion. Holding it up in the light of Luclin, he examined it for any damage. Satisfied that there was none, he resheathed it in his belt. The halfling was a bit faster than he had anticipated. Next time, however, speed would not save her.

His smile faded as he drew the hood over him, and the shroud of invisibility once again hid him from the world.

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Old 06-20-2007, 05:17 AM   #59
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((second part of above post))

Waves of indignation washed over Moirena as she stood in front of the bar table, watching the barkeep double over with laughter at her question. "Boys!" he roared to the patrons, bent over their mugs of ale. "This lady Elf here wants to know if we've seen a Teir'Dal with a human female!" As if on cue, laughter echoed through the tavern, finally dying down when the lure of alcohol re-captured the interest of those who found her actions humorous. "I don't see what's so funny," Moirena said. The barkeep's response to her question irked her to no end, but she needed the information. When the barkeep finally stopped shaking with laughter, he bent over the bar and gestured for Moirena to come closer. She took a few steps forward, but kept her hands behind her back. The last few days have taught her the values of being prepared, and with her hands concealed, she could have several spells prepared before the barkeep even knew what was happening. "Listen lady," the barkeep said, his voice suddenly lowered. The conversation was obviously now intended to stay only between them. "You don't just watch into a public place and ask questions about the Dark Ones like that. The Overlord watches the Nektulos closely, and if you want to stay pretty, you best mind your own business." Moirena remained standing straight, but she lowered her voice as well. "I'm just trying to find some people for my friends. I lost them when I came ashore." The barkeep shook his head. "Don't lie to me, lady. It won't do you any good, but neither would telling me the truth. I don't want any trouble in my bar." He straightened up and pointed at the door. "There's the door, lady. Make good use of it." Moirena opened her mouth to respond, but closed it again, changing her mind. The man was useless, and if she continued this line of conversation, something was going to catch on fire. She whirled around and drew herself up as straight as she could, doing her best to make the barkeep feel small. Scattered snickers followed her on her way out. Outside, the sun was starting to reach for the horizon, and the ambient temperature had cooled noticeably since she arrived at the docks in the afternoon. She took a deep breath. Since she watched Ellian walk away, a sense of frustration had been building inside her. It was an alien feeling, something that she didn't quite know how to deal with. As a result, she's found her temper increasingly short. She was used to traveling alone, and the last few days with Ellian had certainly not been filled with scintillating conversation. Yet, now that he was no longer there, she found herself wishing he was. She took another breath, trying to get rid of the odd sensation. It wasn't like they even liked each other that much! A crowd was gathered at the end of the dock, watching a goblin shouting at passer-bys. He stood behind a large crate with items scattered on top. Moirena watched as people handed the goblin coin after coin, and watched the it spin a strange contraption on top of the crate. Sometimes, it returned the coins, but most of the time, the coins disappeared into its pocket. Moirena began walking towards the commotion to get a better look. Something grabbed her shoulder, and she instinctively reached for her inner fire. Her nerves were on edge after sneaking around the forest for so long, and she spun around, ready to unleash her magic. She expected to see some brute hoping for a easy target to rob, but instead, she found herself face to face with a ratonga dressed in loose, traveling garb. The tunic it wore was covered with dust, and mud covered its greaves and boots. Moirena released her power somewhat regretfully, and the heat dissipated before it erupted into flames. Tendrils of smoke, however, drifted upwards from her palm. The ratonga made a squeaking noise, which Moirena could only guess was nervous laughter. Its beady eyes shifted between her face and her smoking palm, and its whiskers twitched incessantly. It rubbed its paws back and forth. "Excuse me, pretty lady. Me's overheard you in the bar. You's looking for a Dark Elf and a human lady?" the ratonga asked. Moirena narrowed her eyes. She never trusted ratongas. To her, they were only a step above gnolls, but this one seemed to have the information she needed. It seemed like a perfect coincidence. "Yes," she replied. "You know of them?" "Yes! Kats knows!" the ratonga replied excitedly. "Kats seen them many days ago. Followed them into forest! Kats knows!" "Why did you follow them?" Moirena asked suspiciously. "The Dark One...many coins he had. Shinies!" the ratonga answered. "Kats wanted more, so Kats followed them into forest to where they stay! Kats knows!" "Can you take me there?" Moirena asked, hope starting to return to her voice. The ratonga nodded. "Yes, Kats can take you, but you must give Kats more shinies!" "How much?" "Five gold ones! No less!" the ratonga answered, its whiskers twitching faster. "Five, and Kats take you!" Moirena reached into her pocket and withdrew five gold pieces. She hadn't planned on taking a long trip when she left, and there wasn't much coin left in her pocket. However, if the ratonga was telling the truth, the price would be worth it. She wasn't going to go back empty-handed, not after what she's been through. "Alright, Kats," she said, handing the ratonga the coins. "Now take me." Kats greedily rubbed the coins and stuffed them into its tunic. "Come! Kats take you!" The ratonga skipped down the wooden planks, thrilled by the transaction that had just taken place. Moirena followed, trying to keep it in her line of sight. She reached again for her inner fire and took comfort in its presence. Knowing it was there made her feel more prepared. If the ratonga named Kats gave her any reason at all to unleash the flames, she would be ready. And she would have no regrets.

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Old 06-20-2007, 01:23 PM   #60
SilverclawII

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Just started, I'll let you know when I finish.  Liking it so far.

...Done! Took awhile to finish, but it was time worth spending.  A very nice piece of work.  Don't let the absence of feedback deter you, I'm certain you have a lot more readers than those that have come out in the open.  If you would like to talk about anything in length, just lemme know.  I think this is piece I could talk about for a long time.

Congratulations and keep up the good work!

Keep writing and I'll definitely keep reading.

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