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Lady Tam

The Darakan Chronicles

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"Robert, cheer up now! We're in this tagether ranger! Jus' as always ma friend... Besides, I hoped I'd might be continuin' ma training with ye as well, fer yer skills with tha' bow are becoming stuff' o' legend... It has been an honor ta learn from tha best over tha past few weeks. Soon, I hope I canna put yer teachins' ta some use... (gently squeezes the base of the ranger's neck and smiles)... n' rain feathery death upon those who might oppose us."

 

"Stern, ya great lummox!" Robert returns Stern's gesture by putting a hand on the back of his neck, although even with both hands he might not make them meet around the Paladin's great muscles. "If you're shooting at them, who's going to stand in front of me and keep me safe? Warwick? What if there isn't a table for him to hide under? I'll be slaughtered!" Stern's simple manner lightens the ranger's mood a little.

 

Mykayla's whisper and the feel of her hand bring the gentle smile back to his face. Like a new dawn his joy awakes again. He takes her hand in his, kissing her palm and returning an unheard declaration.

 

"Come on then Jess, let's see what you've got."

 

At the Butts, he weighs the skeleton-arrow in his hand, thoughtfully. This'll be like firing a flat-iron.. The balance of the shaft feels wrong, as though it will cartwheel into the ground the moment it leaves the bow, so he shoots his first high into the air, watching it arc up, tip over and come down far more steeply than the graceful parabola of a hunting arrow. Hmmmmm... The next shot is adjusted, striking the close target on the bottom of the outer gold. I see... they fly straight until they lose power. They start to drop more quickly.. So.. The third shaft strikes home dead centre. Yes... effective range is dangerously close.

 

"I'll take your word for their effectiveness, but they're pigs to shoot. You know you could have asked me to fletch these for you and saved your money. I'd only charge half what you're paying that merchant!"

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"Well, and that's true, but he has a dozen fletchers working for him. With parcelling out the work, they can be ready before we need them. If you and I were to do them alone...I suspect it would take more time than we have!" Jesset laughs - a joyous sound of friendship, then goes to collect the shafts they have shot so they can practice another round. Stern needs it most, although his general skills of war are so impressive it seems he masters any weapon at a frightening pace.

 

I would not be nearly as skilled as he is if I had not had such great practice! The arts of war come so natually to him. Although I suppose I haven't done my archery favors by spending so much time in the library.

 

Even so, it is good to see him so deadly so quick. They all have so little idea of what it can be like with endless implacable foes.

 

Even in the Southlands, we could retreat from the temple. It would have sacrificed many innocent, true, but there was such a thing as retreat.

 

Once we make contact with these hordes, there will be no such thing as rest.

 

Having returned with the gathered arrows, she passes them out again allowing the others first shots.

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Stern approaches the Mage's Guild and slowly removes his newly acquired helm. Its large curved goat horns and dark brushed mithril will certainly protect the young knight from critical attacks, but more importantly provide him limited protection from other forms of magical attack such as fire, acid, lightning, and cold. Though somewhat sinister looking, the helm fits the paladin nicely giving the enomous warrior an even more menacing look. Stern places the magic helmet under his arm and knocks on the large pinewood door. Fortunately, an elven steward was able to arrange an audience with the guild's magic using members on such short notice. Once inside the guild's primary workshop, the Aegis presents two blades to the master mage and his apprentice.

 

After some brief introductions and light conversation, Stern candidly makes his request, "<e>Tha larger blade (gently lays Karamor secure in its dark leathery scabbard on the table) will be needin' a Bane o' tha Undead placed upon it n' tha smaller blade (pulls Myka's blade Nighthawk from its weathered sheath) should 'ave tha same, but if ye' can place another enchanment upon tha smaller blade, a defensive ability perhaps, tha' would be much appreciated. Ye shall be compensated fer yer efforts Master Mage, King Atolin has given his word on this I assure ye.</e>"

 

After a few minutes of silence, the ageless elven wizard dressed in a simple robe of green with gold trim smiles and speaks to Stern, "<e>It will be done Brother Stern, return at dusk tomorrow and your blades will be ready for you. Both will be enchanted with undead bane and the smaller blade elven blade, as you requested, shall be able to render it's user invisible three times a day when I have finished with it... Light laughter and sweet water Aegis of Rockfist, may you and your Companions all return victorious<e/>"

 

*****

 

 

Stern continues to practice his archery under the tutelage of Robert and Jesset. The large paladin watches in awe as the two fire the blunted arrows with deadly accuracy...

 

"Ye need no' worry Ranger, fer I shall be dependin' more on me blade when tha battle thickens, but ta be able ta use a bow in combat is a fine thing indeed, ye n' tha' blue horned-devil 'ave shown me this first hand..." (winks at Jesset and pulls another blunted arrow back into firing position).

 

 

Guide us St. Marcus n' bless us with yer divine powers in tha days ta come.

 

SK

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While Jesset shoots, she takes Robert aside for a quiet conversation. Stern might think they are talking about shooting - indeed if he were to listen to the snatches of quiet conversation he can hear, there would be words like, "Tension," "Precision," and "Release."

 

But in fact the crafty blue wizard wants another Bowyer's opinion on just how to solve the difficult problem of Stringing a bow for Stern without the mere tension snapping the cord as soon as it is placed. Mere gut will not do here...

 

With a little advice from the only Bowyer among the chosen more skilled than her, she leaves the two companions behind to shoot just a little more - Robert is better than she at finding his way & will not get lost in the foreign city even tho' that might be a worry for Stern alone. Travelling back to the same district where she ordered the unusual arrows, she finds her way (after much help) to a smaller shop...with even higher prices than those around.

 

Hesitant, she asks for something unknown to her - yet made with a familiar substance. The shopkeeper is knowledgable and allows the skoli to test what she needs. In fact, she even casts a spell over herself and tests it again. It will do, it seems. She hands over another large quantity of money - this time mostly platinum to keep bulk down, but the worth is as much as that she paid for the arrows.

 

That done, she takes herself elsewhere for a few other - less unusual, but still exotic and expensive - parts.

 

Returning to the quarters she has been given in the city, she considers taking a detour and informing Aifrik that she is prepared for the Journey the King has requested. But that would not be elven, she sighs.

 

I will give them no list of needful things. Certainly they will understand that as well as if I told them I was giving them no list. And this is more polite. I am certain the King's power is great...but ultimately the resources I will need on this journey are my own.

 

I have always planned for my bow and sword to be made Holy - to be made Bane of Undead. Both are powerful enchantments, but still I feel I can place them myself someday. And a weapon need only be so powerful to powder a skeleton! It would be overkill should I ask. And disrespectful since I know that they are not needed. Shan and I can both fling eruptions of fire into the heart of our enemies... What would a sword-enchantment be to that?

 

What I really need, the sinister-born muses as she reaches her chamber door and enters, is rank within the Order of Servants. If I cannot make the council take action, at least the additional rank would keep them from interfering. It would not do to be put on trial for treason while my companions are fighting the necromancers!

 

Finally seated in her room, she takes out her tools, and goes to work on a truly fantastic bow. Two of the parts she purchased she affixes to each end of the bow's recurvatures. Then she pulls out another small pouch...within which there are a dozen paper envelopes. Extracting something from one, she tests it with the bow, thankful her spell is still operating. After a few moments of tests, she undoes her recent task and makes adjustments to the bow. Then she tests the paper-wrapped rarity against the bow again. More adjustments are needed.

 

Eventually she is fetched for dinner, eats, and returns to her room. Late at night - acutely aware that her ability to trance gives her more time to work - she finally makes the adjustment that brings the bow in line with her demanding expectation.

 

It is lucky I had the spell memorized thrice... she thinks quietly to herself as she prepares for trance.

 

Her last conscious thought is: I do hope he likes it!

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Hi all. Sorry about the delay.

 

--begin--

 

Much happens to the Companions as they travel through this shining city of the Elves.

 

Little is seen of the crimson-armored Guard that escorted the Companions before King Atolin, but their presence is needed elsewhere. The Companions pass through many shops as the Chariot passes through the sky above. The first winter winds pass through this city, rustling leaves and snapping pennants. The cool breeze freshens those traveling in search of their equipment to fight a most vile foe.

 

In the Guild of Magic, the Elves are most intrigued by Karamor. Fashioned for a Human's crude style of fighting these artificers know Elven-touched steel when they see it. Heated in mystical fires, the enchanters work with the steel, awakening that which lives in the metal already. A day and a night they will work the metal, quenching it in blessed water before awakening the metal once more, again and again they bring their hammers down upon the white-hot metal at the anvil.

 

Garr and Hammer happily play together while the Companions practice at the archery range. For one who has begun her pursuits of knowledge, Jesset the lynx-limbed has not lost her touch with these heavy birding blunts. Each one shot to the target lands with the sound not unlike a fist connecting with a drunkard. To be sure, the arrows to sail through the air, but once they begin to slow, they drop almost suddenly. Best to use this ingenious design when the enemy is close enough to see the pale teeth rattling in their skulls.

 

Many of the Companions are not happy of their situation. To face hordes, legions of the walking dead, to save a kingdom that has done little but turn their backs upon these lost souls. Only in a port city of Humans did they find each other, and in each other they found that which they were missing. Family. How long did it take the bond to form among them all, to risk everything to save each other. To travel through stinking, death-close sewers, to fight spiders that nearly won the day, to seek out vengeance for the murdered of that city. Only in traveling far to the south did the Companions truly discover the mastermind of that horrible plot, and to see his lifeless body swinging from the Corpse-Tree before the city gaol.

 

But it is that very bond of family that keeps them united. Lesser men and women would have bid their friends a fare-well, and been upon their way. But despite everything, each Companions does, in their way, prepare for the coming battles to the north.

 

Few of the Companions truly understand that which they will soon face, the dead eyes, the hollow skulls turning as though watching them. The strength of Hel's soldiers upon the land. Slow to move and slower to react, their constant, impending doom will crush their spirits long before their bodies are crushed, and then their lifeless husks will join the legions that will march down to these lands. Five centuries in peace have the fallen slept, honors and offerings have been theirs by their descendants. Many following ancient custom and slept in those barrows, their questions upon whispered lips, seeking guidance from their ancestors, and many times, receiving it. Though they have long left their bodies, Hel may permit a worthy soul to speak with the living... if only for a while.

 

Onwards, the Companions prepare for their war.

 

But in the King's Library, a different war is waging. A man with no past save that which began when he awoke in a dingy, cramped Gaol with six other strangers sits, willing his mind to open and reveal the secrets within. But alas, nothing.

 

If the King remains in the room, or has left the Wizard to his thoughts is unknown. But suddenly, Nutkin chirrups loudly, a surprising, high-pitched bark comes from the tree-rat as something or someone enters the room. A presence is felt in the Wizard's mind. A soft greeting from somewhere, pleasant and yet uncomfortable. Nutkin darts to the door, scrabbling at it before the door opens of its own accord, and a small, smokey ifrit enters, small and tiny like a cat, and vaguely shaped like one. A pair of eyes peer out of this smoke. The smoke stays coherent despite the winds, and all movements are like unto a feline, but made of smoke?

 

The figure entering is an Elf, soft honey hair reaches her shoulders, bright blue eyes look upon the surprised Wizard with kindness and familiarity. The woman is breathtakingly beautiful, instantly reminding one of a cool spring breeze. Her outfit flickers about, a robe of far eastern manufacture, ivory in color, with tiny blue flowers picked out on the broad cloth. Some unseen breeze pulls at her garments, as though a wind passes by her that touches nothing. She crosses the room without touching the floor, lightly floating inches from the floor and beaming a smile to Shan. She leans in, wrapping soft arms around her, the scent of jasmine can be detected by the confused Wizard now. She kisses him, a lover returned to her arms, and she murmurs softly. “Mmm, missed you.”

 

But Shan cannot remember this woman for the life of him...

 

--End--

 

--LSH

Edited by lstormhammer

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In the morning, Jesset shows her work to Robert first and glows with pride at his approval. "He won't like to hear it, but I would never have known how to make a bow with this strength without talking to those Orc bowyers that make the bows for Kingsport's half-ogre militia."

 

"And the southern Ironwood. Who would have guessed it would be such a beautiful tree? Our local Ironwoods can't match it."

 

After the brief conversation, the Skoli breaks her fast and orders a juice of apples, pears and ginger to wake her and quench her thirst. The bacon was fine, and the pan-breads were sweetened with golden sap. Cheeses melted over roots and mushrooms finished the large meal. And now she is ready for the huge Paladin to arrive.

 

Eventually he enters the common room, though she needs to drink three cups of juice before he does.

 

"Stern," she calls her over.

 

"Jess, ma blue friend! Is tha' it?" he indicates a long shape wrapped in black silk. "When will i' be done? I canna wait to shoot yer shafts as deep in them corpses as Karamor plunged in tha' red-robed Ork!"

 

"That is it indeed," the artist smiles. Reaching out for the silk, she pulls it off the table.

 

The bow looks oddly straight for an unstrung composite bow. Although there are two abrupt angles above and below the grip, neither is as acute as any normal bow. In most composite bows, when unstrung the arms of the bow make more than right angles. The arms almost form a triangle, usually, when their tips come within bare inches of touching. But this bow...this bow is different.

 

"It looks more like a staff, I know, but it was impossible to imbue the bow with both strength and flexibility. On the other hand, the layering was inevitably beautiful. Don't you like it?"

 

Stern shakes his head at the glowing bronze strip on the inside edge and the flashing silver caps at the tips of the arms. "Ih's the most beautiful bow I've ever seen," states the Aegis. "Ah feel shaky as a straw man in a gale jus' lookin' aht the fine thing."

 

"Well," says the proud blue warrior, "why don't you string it?" And at this, she produces a dozen envelopes of brown paper. "Large spider silk," she announces. "The giant spider silk did not have the flexibility. A local elf knows how to wash most of the glue from the strands and wind it into the strongest bow string any elf has ever made. It would still be sticky, which might prevent a clean release, but he wound cotton around the silk. Dyed brown, of course, to blend into the forests. But expensive for all it's dim appearance. I chose a dozen for you because you won't be able to find replacement strings easily. If you take care, these are strong enough to last several years."

 

Again Jesset smiles with pride as the huge human lifts the bow and takes the proffered string. To her delight, the bow bends slowly but gracefully - and grudgingly! It takes all Stern's strength - as it should to string the spider silk from silver tip to silver tip. Up close to the weapon, the bulking Paladin sees the detail work put into the bow - symbols of St. Marcus, flutes, and even rolling waves. The warrior will never know how the waves were necessity rather than artistry. Ironwood is strong and can snap a bow forward with great power, but can only be used thinly and with the inner edge carved in and out in graceful curves that preserve the strength but keep the wood from cracking. Many tiny layers of other materials fill the invisible center groove and splay out to fill the bottoms of the Ironwood waves as well. With black walnut in the bow as well - the strong wood that powers Jesset's own mighty bow - the outer edge is covered with a living wood that will regrow to heal cracks in this most vulnerable layer. But none of these things catch Stern's attention. In fact, he could not possibly know of the bow's interior design.

 

What he does notice is the bright metal of the arm-tips.

 

"Is tha' silver, Jess? I would'a thot it too soft for such a strong bow. You need tha' to keep the strand from breaking?"

 

But the feral smile creeps back into the crafty Companion's face. "That's no soft metal, my Aegis. That's Mithril. As long as I was creating the only bow in the world designed for your strength, I thought the least I could do was to make a bow that would take to enchantment."

 

Joy and wonder spreads over the big man's face - and the Lynx sips her juice as she waits for him to find his voice again.

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After a prayer to St. Marcus, Stern, fully armored, decends the stairs leading to the common room of the inn wherein he finds Jesset and Robert already there speaking quietly amongst themselves.

 

"Stern," Jesset calls to him.

 

Stern stares wide-eyed at the enormous shape wrapped in black silk, "Jess, ma blue friend! Is tha' it?" "When will she be done? I canno' wait ta shoot yer shafts as deep in them corpses as Karamor plunged in tha' red-robed bastard o' an orc!"

 

"That is it indeed," the artist smiles. Reaching out for the silk, she pulls it off the table.

 

"Aye, now she lookin' more like a staff..."

 

I know, but it was impossible to imbue the bow with both strength and flexibility. On the other hand, the layering was inevitably beautiful. Don't you like it?"

 

Stern shakes his head at the glowing bronze strip on the inside edge and the flashing silver caps at the tips of the arms. Overcome with his feelings, Stern eye's rim with tears. "She's tha most beautiful bow I've ever laid me eyes on... I've no' received a gift like this since me uncle gave me ma father's blade."

 

Stern's briefly turns away to hide the open show of emotion taking the opportunity to quickly wipe his tears on the sleeve of the tunic that covers his golden Aegis splint armor.

 

"Well," says the proud blue warrior, "why don't you string it?" And at this, she produces a dozen envelopes of brown paper. "Large spider silk," she announces. "The giant spider silk did not have the flexibility. A local elf knows how to wash most of the glue from the strands and wind it into the strongest bow string any elf has ever made. It would still be sticky, which might prevent a clean release, but he wound cotton around the silk. Dyed brown, of course, to blend into the forests. But expensive for all it's dim appearance. I chose a dozen for you because you won't be able to find replacement strings easily. If you take care, these are strong enough to last several years."

 

"Is tha' silver, Jess? Now I would think it too soft fer such a strong bow. Ye need tha' ta keep tha strand from breaking?"

 

But the feral smile creeps back into the crafty Companion's face. "That's no soft metal, my Aegis. That's Mithril. As long as I was creating the only bow in the world designed for your strength, I thought the least I could do was to make a bow that would take to enchantment."

 

True joy and wonder spreads over the big man's face - and the Lynx sips her juice as she waits for him to find his voice again.

 

"Jess, I shall no' ferget this day this is the finest gift I've ever received, may it serve me well in tha years ta come..."

 

Then the young Aegis moves to Jesset's side pulling her close and embracing her in a smothering bear hug. The skoli's feet soon leave the ground as Stern squeezes her gently in his massive arms.

 

"I shall pay ye back someday ma friend, he whipsers in her slender blue ear..."

 

 

SK

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Jesset revels in the human Joy of the great bear-hug. Too soon will come a time when she is surrounded by Death - but now she will take pleasure in surrounding herself with Life.

 

"Oh, Stern!" she whispers back after a moment. "Making bows for the chosen is nah something to incur your debt," she says, unconsciously speaking with Stern's own accent for a brief moment while her mind focusses on her friend. "It is as if I made a gift for myself. We 11 are our own Corpus, aren't we?" she asks including Ametrine and the animals who will always occupy equal importance among the Chosen for the Lynx. "I merely pass some wood, sinew, bronze, mithril, leather and glue from my right hand to my left.... So I charge no debt to you, member of the Corpus. "

 

"But it is sweet to enjoy your gratitude," the fierce blue-skinned Wizard smiles.

 

"Why don't you break your fast? Then we can return to the ranges to see the power of that bow.

 

"Even with my spell of strength I could not string the bow without bearing my weight on it - nor could I draw it's full power. I'm eager to see what you can do with it!"

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Sighing Mykayla leans back from the chair she has been sitting in Meg, what were you thinking? Formulas for poisons? What do you know that I don’t?... Running her hand through her hair Mykayla looks about the room of the inn. Never thought I would be back here she thinks ironically as she looks about the room, her eyes fall on Adia, sleeping in the sunlight and she smiles tenderly. As if feeling her eyes upon her, Adia wakes up, stretches and looks about. Seeing the sad look on her bond-mates face, she launches herself and lightly lands on Mykayla’s shoulder. Nuzzling up against her neck she asks “What’s wrong?" ?” reaching up and stroking Adia’s head Mykayla says. " Nothing. Everything. Some times I feel like a pawn in some elaborate game of chess.”

 

“Chess? What’s chess? And what is a pawn?” “Chess is a game little one, with two players trying to out think each other. A pawn is the lowest value piece in the game. Something to be wasted, sacrificed, used as needed.”

 

Adia nuzzles a bit more trying to cheer her bond-mate up. Jerking her head up she says. “Let’s fly! Let’s go out there!” As she nods her head towards the window. “Use your new spell, and lets fly out there in the tree tops.” .” Smiling at Adia’s enthusiasm, Mykayla hesitates a moment, looking down at the papers before her. Then carefully rolling them back up she tucks them into a safe spot, knowing that they will be safe on her person when she makes the change. Then walking over to the window, she throws it open, then with a few graceful movements of her hands, cast her spell. Suddenly where there was one small dragonets, there are two! With a few experimental flaps of her wings, she looks over at Adia and says. “let’s fly” The two dart out the window and take to the tree tops beyond. Darting in and out of the branches playing a high speed game of tag. This last for only an hour or so, before they return, no one the wiser about their high flying game. Settling back down, Adia quickly falls asleep, while Mykayla turns her attention back to her papers, her mind a little bit lighter for the few hours of entertainment she and Adia had spent.

LT

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As the group disbands, Cuchulain takes a moment to get directions to the great temple. He is gone and on his own within minutes. Sticking out like a sore thumb, he makes his way towards the great pearly gates. Taking a moment to catch the eye of an acolyte, he quickley pulls off his gloves to reveal the holy symbol. The elf, allready several decades Cuchuliann's senior, scurries off all the same to get a priest of higher ranking. Left to his own thoughts, Cuchulainn takes the time to study the alien arcitechure. The high arches and grand pillars are just as unfamiliar to him as the city of Sea Road. I wonder where that young man went? If this was an Earth Mother abbey, some one would have been here ages ago. Cuchulainn realizes for the first that he hasn't been comfortable since he left his tiny homeland. A subtle cough breaks the young priest's concentration.

 

"It's been quite a while since any one has beared a symbol of her holiness within this city. Let alone a Man." Startled, Cuchulainn turns to come face to face with a truly ancient priest. "Come, friend, I'm forgetting myself. I am Syrwen. Every one keeps saying I'm in charge, but I don't know how I feel about that; this place practicly runs itself." She says, wrapping a shoulder around Cuchulainn before he can protest. Gently muscleing him into a small side office, the old woman deposits the gawking preist on a padded stool before seating herself. Eyeing the tiny man from her perch, the priest suddenly cracks a smile. <S>"If you don't mind, its been quite awhile since I was able to practice the ancient tongue."</S>

 

Seeing his chance to make an attack in the game of diplomatics, Cuchulainn swoops. <S>"What would the need be for such a thing in these hallowed halls? Surely you don't feel any need to keep what we say private?"</S> He says with a hint of a devilish grin.

 

The woman's eyes glow bright and she emits a sudden laugh. "I believe that would be Check." She says. "Now then Cuchulian. I believe I know why you're here." Syrwen opens one of the small drawers in the desk and withdraws a small silken bundle. Folding back the top layer of the ancient silk, the old priest reveals a golden circlet. It is truly a fine piece of jewelry, Cuchulian could feel its power from where he was sitting. <S>"Checkmate...."</S> Cuchulainn mumbles under his breath.

 

"Its as I thought then. Atolin still hasn't made anything public, but word speards fast enough. Besides, its our duty to keep up on things like this." Syrwen says.

 

"Its a beutiful piece work... Did your clerics make it themselves? I figured as much" Cuchulainn says running his hand along the smooth surface of the ring. "Its a custom of our clergy... 'Never leave a gift unanswered' as the saying goes. Here." Cuchulainn says, pulling a small bundle from inside his pack. Unwrapping the dingy cloth, Cuchulainn reveals a tiny reliquary. Just as he is about to hand it over, cuchulain retracts his hand. Undoing the tiny hasp, he lets the small pice of paper drift into his lap. Giving him that unnerving smile, Syrwen does the same with the tiny compartment in the circlet.

 

"Don't think this makes us even, young master Cuchulainn." Syrwen says as Cuchulainn begins to leave the small office. Turning, He makes one last comment before making his final exit. "I wouldn't dream of it. You know, you remind me of some one, her name was Pikt. The resemblance is uncanny." Syrwen is left in the tiny office, running a hand threw her and and marveling at how small the world truly is.

 

On his way out, Cuchulainn stops one of the priests to inquire the location of the city's finest armorsmiths. Once he finally exits the building, it strikes Cuchulainn just how much time he had spent in the woman's company. Muttering under his breath, he sets off for the armoury at a brisk run. When the forge master heres that the young man is there to comission a suit of armor, he pulls him aside. Cuchulainn begins to attempt a brief explanation about every thing the King said and the need for speed in the present situation when the smith breaks in with a series of seemingly unrelated questions. Cuchulainn shrugs in annoyance and answers what he can before trying to continue. But again the smith breaks in with more assinign questions.

 

"I don't know how you people normally do things, but I'm on a deadline here. I don't see what my earliest childhood memory has to do with anything. This needs to taken care of soon... The King-" Again Cuchulain is interupted by the armorer.

 

"Its allready been explained to me sir, but if you would just answer the questions." The smith says in a taxed voice, as if has had to deal with this before

 

"Fine. Red: Seagulls I guess, or maybe Dolphins: My father: Umm, Evil if I had to make a choice: Purple. Happy now?" Cuchulainn says, impatiently tapping his foot. As the last question is answered, The craftsman produces a sheet a yellow parchment and a charcoal pencil. They sit down together over a pitcher of water and begin to make general plans for the suit of armor. Once the general sketch is done, the armorer guides the priest through the smithy to a large crate of metal ingots. "I think we've run into a snag. I can't... I can't wear this." Cuchulaunn says, indicating the smooth ingots of silver, mithral, and iron.

 

"Well, that does complicate things now doesn't it?" The smith says, scratching his forehead. "Not to worry though sir. We'll get this sorted out now, don't you fret." The smith says.

 

Exiting the smithy, Cuchulainn gives a sigh as the sun makes its way towards the horizon. Setting off at a run, he makes his way towards the pallace. Once there, the guards at the gate tell him the companions will be staying at a local inn. Cuchulainn falls to his knees panting from the effort of runnig accross the city. Taking only moments, he again sets off towards the direction the the guard indicated. Once at the inn, he quetly takes a roll up to his room and collapses into bed.

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"Mmph!"

 

For a moment, Shan leans into the woman kissing him before gripping her arms and pushing her away, his eyes darting frantically around.

 

Blue eyes like the clearest of skies... and the scents... not of lavender, but... jasmine...

 

Tiny Nutkin launches himself at the strange cat-like creature, the two rolling around seeming to battle for their very lives. "Smoke! Moke! Oke!" Nutkin's joy is abundant as he leaps and cavorts with the feline shape.

 

Laughing, the elven woman turns her gaze to the two little familiars.

 

<e>"Really, dear... when do you plan to enhance little Nutkin? Doesn't it get cumbersome carrying him in that pouch of his?"</e>The elf-woman gestures and a goblet rises and is carried by a soft breeze to her hand. Taking a small sip she turns back to face Shan, who has backed away to her, his confusion evident. <e>"Wouldn't it be better to..."</e> Her eyes widen as she really looks at the Islander. Before he can blink he is lifted into the air and is slammed backwards into the wall.

 

The ifrit turns insubstantial as Nutkin scrambles to turn and the little squirrel passes harmlessly through. Eyes flashing like lightning, the cat shape takes on a more solid aspect in response to his mistresses' anger. Hissing, the cat stalks closer to Nutkin... who cowers on the floor, as confused as his master.

 

<e>"What is the meaning of this? Who are you to come here in that shape before me?"</e> Her voice is like thunder, shaking the room. Shan gasps for air, unable to speak as the woman stares intently. <e>"No... no... it... it can't be!"</e>

 

As suddenly as they appear, the heavy wind disappears. Books and scrolls float lazily to the floor, along with Shan who breathes deeply, filling his lungs with much needed air.

 

The ifrit, once again placid, sits and stares forlornly at his little friend, still cowering on the floor against a bookshelf.

 

"Nutkin told stupidfuzzydumbhead bad to come to shinyplace when head all funnystupid. Stupid listen Nutkin? No. Not Nutkin. Never listen goodboy Nutkin."

 

Scooping to pick up the little squirrel, the elven woman calmly pets Nutkin and sits in a chair for a moment, gazing off into nowhere and soothing Shan's friend. <e>"You're still... there... only... dim. What's happened to you, my love?"</e>

 

Struggling to his feet, Shan leans against the wall before speaking. <e>"Darkness and pain... running from something... and then darkness. Waking up in a cell in Searoad... the months have been long. I... I don't know what's happened... who I am... who you are. Nothing."</e>

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Hey all. It's monday, let's get this road on the show.

 

--begin--

 

That which must be gathered, harnessed and crafted begins.

 

In the smithy, the fiery glow of the forge gives an unearthly cast to the area, muscular, bare-chested Elves work quickly, for they know the haste which the Companions They work as fast as they can, their ensorceled hammers and enchanted tongs beat hard metal, and even harder mithral into shape, crafting an instrument of war, to defend the strange Island cleric.

 

Mykayla enjoys the sparse moments spared her between their adventures, resting her mind and body after her sojourn in the air with her familiar. Returning to her room, she finds a neat piece of parchment placed squarely on the writing desk. Elven script in a neat hand says simply 'They know not the steel in your soul, Mykayla. And were you not like them before you met your friends in Searoad?' The Elf's blood cools as she recognizes the script.

 

The Chariot makes its way across the heavens, low in the west and already Lady Night's cloak begins covering the lands to the east, the mountains azure in the low light. Tiny gems in Lady Night's cloak can already be seen to the sharp-eyed. The scent of find Elven meals carries along the air, simple but elegant.

 

The Common room of this Inn is no different in style from the Blind Monk. To be sure, there is more natural wood to be seen, and much older in style. But the drink is good, and the fire crackles merrily. The breeze off the mountains chills, but nothing like the icy talons that can come off the Great Southern Sea. Lady Night's cloak can be seen tonight, her gems sparkle high in the sky, so bright one can almost reach out and touch them.

 

Tonight a rakish Bard earns his bread with entertaining. His fife is soft and low, to appease the Elven senses with this Human instrument. The inn holds a dozen or so travelers, merchants, wayfarers, nomads and adventurers. This Bard must have arrived during the day. His cloth is clean, his hair neatly plaited and he brings news of Searoad. A great day has come to that jewel of a city, adventurers numbering eight have arrived from the south, less than a sevensday ago, victorious from crushing the Orc hordes who would threaten their very livelihoods.

 

The tale grows in the telling, each Companion crushing a thousand foes, striding through the land and smashing slavers, skalliwags, ne'er-do-wells, and rapscallions with their Gods-given weapons. Harnessing abilities far beyond even those of Heroes. Lions of Searoad, these Companions are. And where are they now? The Bard smiles. Why, to the Woodland Realm, no less. To soothe the troubled brow of the Elf King. A good man, to be sure, but when the ancestors begin stirring, one would wonder why...

 

As the lights of the Elven City twinkle in the distance, the Aspect of Air learns the terrible truth of what has happened to Fire. Anger flashed in her, her eyes becoming like sapphire ice, then softening when she discovers that nothing of their past can come to him. Alone in the library, she is patient, pulling down tomes and books that possess Shan's own handwriting. Whole tomes written upon Magick, and its place on the world. But for naught. She holds his hand, using soft Magick to seek into his mind, to find that which locks away his power. She shakes her head a little Nutkin and her own familiar, Smoke long since curled up and dozing as she speaks again to Shan. [E]“I see in your mind a darkened place. Like a room without a candle to see by. There is a way to unlock that room, to bring a torch to that darkness. But to do so would utterly crush your mind. I cannot help bring you back.” [/E] She blinks back tears, her familiar blinking and looking up at her. [E] “You are the only one who can bring light into that room, my heart. Until you do that, I cannot help you.” [/E]

 

A soft knock at the library's door and Aifrik enters, the old Elf smiling his grandfatherly smile. “I would assume, from the tears in your eyes, M'Lady, that little success has been made.” He tsks softly. “Such is the way of things. But dry your tears, both of you. Have some tea, and remember; the best route when solving a puzzle is to take your time at it.”

 

Plentiful, and wise advise from the Chamberlain, but time is something the Companions have precious little of as it is. They need to be on their way north, and soon.

 

To the south, along the shining sea, a fog-laden city rests. A castle of ivory stones presses above the fog, looking as a fantastical story of a castle in the clouds. The wind is chill, this evening, damp and clammy, leaving a mist of water on everything it touches.

 

A single-eyed, ebon skinned Regent has accomplished his task for the night. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, or coronet in this case. His large hand reaches up, rubbing his bald, scarred pate while he accepts that he will not gain rest this evening, and returns to his office.

 

Moments later, a page knocks lightly on the thick wood, craving audience. “Lord Asulin from the Woodland Realm, M'Lord.”

 

Janchu stands, his rolling bass voice beaconing his guest in. Rarely do Elves come from the Woodland Realm, and even rarer are they here as Emissaries.

 

This Elf is tall, his strike quick and silent as is known of his people. He clasps hands in the Human fashion, and without preamble, says “Janchu, old friend. How are you prepared?”

 

The Ebon man narrows his remaining eye. “Is it that bad?” he asks, only that day did he receive word from King Atolin.

 

Asulin shakes his head. “No, or rather, not yet. The Companions are there, they should be marching north now. If they're as good as you say they are, then we might be safe. But if the Barrows march south, then we may need your spears. If the unthinkable happens, we may need to use Searoad and Rockfist to fall back upon.” he shakes his head softly, politly rejecting the offer of a drink. “I am only here but a moment. My next travel is to the Brothers are Rockfist. Their Aegis is with the Companions, you cannot miss a Man of his height. But I must speak with the Brothers there. If any can be counted upon to march against the walking dead, it will be them.”

 

Greetings passed, good fortune wished, the emissary departs Janchu's presence. Less than a quarter-candle later, his Elf steed Star and he tearing up the land heading northwest.

 

Dark times these people live in, indeed.

 

--End--

 

--LSH

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The Aegis of Rockfist enters his quarters at the elven inn having just returned from the mage's guild. Closing the large oak door behind him Stern lays the two blades, Karamor and Nighthawk, on the bed. The two weapons are wrapped in cloth and twine, but soon the paladin removes these wrappings to examine the mage's work. With a determined look upon his square jaw and steely blue eyes, Stern gazes at the elven runes sensing a slight change in his enormous two-handed weapon. Nighthawk too has fresh elven runes etched into its slender perfect blade.

 

Yes, tha undead bane... I can feel its hunger for the unholy... I'll be needin' no blunt weapon, no' with Karamor in me hands.

 

Stern slowly wraps Nighthawk back up in its cloth and reminds himself to seek out Mykayla so that he can deliver the newly enchanted weapon to the sorceress.

 

Aye, find tha others Stern... Soon it shall be time ta move north n' face tha undead hoardes. St. Marcus shall guide ye fer this I am certain...

 

The mighty Aegis begins packing his belongings and preparing for the journey ahead. Soon he is ready, but before he leaves to find the others the giant Knight of Rockfist kneels in prayer.

 

St. Marcus lead us to victory

St. Marcus show us the way

St. Marcus give me the courage to protect

St. Marcus may I obey

 

Father, hear me...

 

I am the Aegis...

I am the Protector of Justice

I am the Defender of those in Need

I am the Slayer of Evil

I am the Spirit of Rightousness

I am the Aegis, let me do no wrong...

 

His prayers complete, Stern slowly exhales and stands. Then making his way down to the common room, he waits for the other Companions to arrive. Battle plans must be drawn up and strategies for combating undead must be discussed. The time for war is upon the Chosen of Beleah once more...

 

SK

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Cuchulainn is awake with the dawn once again. He sets about the task of writing a prayer to store in the reliquary of his circlet. Finding himself a scap of parchment, he uses a newly sharpened grease pencil to write.

 

<S> Onimpotent power, creator of all things, forged of the earth from eternal chaos, throw off these false garments and reveal thy true form, creator of all things, become a shield to protect me, great protectoress, do not allow those who would destroy your good works to do their bidding in this sacred place--</S>

 

The priest is inturrupted by a timid knock at his door. "Hillo?" is all that makes it through the rough door. Moving to the door, Cuchulainn slowly opens it. Looking from left to right, he sees no one, until he looks down. "You've a packages awaiting Ma'am." A small elven boy says in rough common. Witha smile, Cuchulainn follows the boy to the back entrance, where two large packages are being guarded by a grimy looking blacksmith's apprentice.

 

"Master Wilyn told me not to worry about a payment." The apprentice says. Handing cuchulainn the packages, heavy for their size, the apprentice walks towards the stable. Cuchulainn follows the young elf back towards his room. Tossing the packages on his bed, Cuchulain flips the boy a coin ("Thank ye!"), before finishing his prayer.

 

<S>Use me as your weapon against this evil!</S>

 

Once that is finished, Cuchulainn finally unwraps the largest of the two packages. Not quite sure what to think of its contents, He lifts the breastplate close to his face to study it. Dragon scales? The armor is somewhere between jade black and emerald green. Turning the chestplate in the sun, Cuchulainn can just begin to make out the thumb sized scales. Putting the chestplate down, he unwraps the other package. It contains a matching pair of greaves and guantlets. From the moment he puts the armor on, it is clear to Cuchulainn that it is meant for an elven frame. Within a few moments though, the armor seems to fit just right. Removing the armor, Cuchulainn goes to join the rest of the companions.

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Returning to the inn where the Companions are staying, Robert is surprised at the look he gets from the inn keeper when he asks where his room is. But upon entering, all makes sense, for his things are neatly stacked next to Mykayla's. Looking up from where she has been sitting reading, Mykayla smiles at him, "So how was it at the archery range today?"

 

"Good, surprisingly." smiles the young man. "Jess' Skeleton Heads are the heaviest thing I've ever fired. I was a bit rusty after the sail home but I got the hang of them. Short range, very short." He lopes easily over to the bed where he hangs his weapons and sits, tugging off his boots. With a little smile, he turns his head towards her. "Missed you, though. What you reading?"

 

"Some stuff Meg gave me to read. Herbal stuff, but ironically a lot of it is about using herbs as various types of poison." Mykayla hesitates a bit "And then there's this." And she shows him the note she found. "I slipped out with Adia for a bit of ..'exercise, and when we got back this was on the desk. That is Meg's writing. And I have no idea how it got here."

 

 

'They know not the steel in your soul, Mykayla. And were you not like them before you met your friends in Searoad?'

 

 

"What's it mean?"

 

"I am not sure. Maybe to remind me that at one time I thought the way they did. Maybe to be a little more sympathetic towards them. But if that's the case, why all the information on poisons and herbal poisons? Sure not all are life threatening, some will only make the recipient sick. But it just seems quite contradictory. Plus the fact that Meg is in Searoad! I cleared the desk off when I left with Adia, and it wasn't here then. But when we got back it was...."

 

"Maybe we'd better stay awake tonight then? Keep watch. I'm sure we could find something to do." The question is light-hearted but Robert is slightly concerned that this has upset her.

 

Smiling at Robert, Myk merely says "I think we are safe enough. After all we will both need our rest. I have no idea when the others will want to go traipsing off to the north, but I bet it will be soon." And she sighs. "All I know is I would have dearly loved to have had some time to rest and relax before heading off again. Sure we got to relax a bit on the ship, or relax as well as I can when at sea." she adds wryly "And now here we are again. Off to save the world. I am beginning to wonder how the world survived before we ever became a group."

 

"I'm only here because I wanted to save you. Now I'm miles from home, with great magic users and warrior priests and Elven gods in human form, speaking to Kings, even if they weren't speaking back. I keep thinking someone will come along and say 'Sorry, there's a mistake. You aren't meant to be here'. Maybe I can go back to catching poachers in Loderan?" he laughs at the absurdity of ever being able to settle in his old life again.

 

Mykayla smiles at her lover, "Well, then it's been a long trying day for both of us. I suggest we retire and 'relax' a bit." Carefuly tucking away her papers in a safe place, Mykayla moves over to the bed and lightly kisses Robert on the cheek. "Maybe, when we wake up, everything will look better. But no matter what, at least we have each other." And she snuggles up into Robert's lap, both giving and receiving comfort.

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