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Silver Shards on the Blue Moonlight


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#1 Orthodoxia

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Posted 08 July 2007 - 10:22 AM

Author?s Notes: Let me say just a few words before the story starts.

First, for reasons that shall be explained later in the fic, this story is happening quite a few years after Baldur?s Gate 2 & Throne of Bhaal. Why? Well, let?s just say that the things that had happened there shall be mentioned, and one (or two, or three) of my original characters is strongly driven by the events in BG2 and later in ToB.

Second, because I?m not an avid fan of AD&D system I?ve had it, for the lack of better term, butchered in the story. Hardcore fans can just walk away if they don?t like it.

And third, since I?m not a native English speaker or writer mistakes are bound to happen.

-Thank you and enjoy.


Slight Edit: I?ve posted an image of our ?not so favorite heroine who doesn?t even want to be one?, so everyone could see who precisely the blue brat is
^_^

Ele'ena

? ? ? ? ? ?


Act I



~ Prologue: To Go In ~


The sound of flute was morose but clear. Were anyone listening they would find strange sad beauty in it. It was without words and still it managed to tell a story, so vivid in listener?s mind.

A story of love and pain, victory and loss, friends and betrayers, all the good things and the bad twists in life.

And sadness of a daughter who never knew her mother.

The tune was rising and falling on the wind, leading it instead the other way around, to bring a few remaining white and blue flowers to rest in front of a partly moss covered tombstone.

Soft petals landed slowly, in a cascading dance, only touching the ground as the tune came to closing. The Moon elf, Ele?ena, opened her ruby-red eyes and stared longingly at the tombstone.

Today was her birthday, and subsequently, it was also the day her mother died.

Nineteen. She was turning nineteen today.

Nineteen years of her life. Nineteen years since her mother?s death.

?I never knew you, Esmerelle.? The Moon elf spoke softly drawing her finger across carved elven letters. ?Maybe you would have been a good mother and maybe not but all the same I still wish you were here.?

With the Harvest Festival approaching Daeghun was getting more and more reclusive. She didn?t know why. He never told her, always ignored her questions or changed the subject.

He was already closed off, this just made matters worse. She loved her foster father, he had took her in and raised her well, taught her things important for life and even if he never was a particularly warm person she was certain he, well, cared for her in his own way.

?He just never shows it.? She thought sadly. Was it too much to ask for some affection? She didn?t think so, but it was apparently too much for Daeghun to give.

? ? ? ? ? ?


The moment she had seen the family of six standing in front of the house looking worriedly she knew she should have taken the longer road ? even if it lead through spider infested swamp ? but she didn?t and she was sure she was in deep anyway.

?Hsst! Ele?ena! Over here!? A man waved at her as she walked down the road.

Ele?ena had recognized them. Ginni and her husband Pitney were showing up in the village often enough to trade and were regular on the Harvest Fest. And it seemed they were having some kind of problem.

Always help those in need, was what Daeghun thought her, and she generally fallowed that rule. Though more often then not Ele?ena had a nasty habit of making herself scarce. When no one was watching of course.

?Well hello there Pitney, Ginni. What seems to be the problem?? She really hoped they didn?t have any.

?We're in a spot of trouble, lass. It's the Scaly Folk! Two of 'em burst in on me and the missus.?

Ele?ena?s enthusiasm fell ? no, dropped ? like a floating city on a kobold?s head.

Despite herself Ele?ena wasn?t above helping others; she just had issues with her laziness and not wanting to get involved into anything that might be over her head. A flirt and a tale-teller Ele?ena was a dreamer to the core. Neither was practical when harsh reality decides to do a wake up call.

?They said they'd skewer us if we didn't clear out. Now they're in the house, and we've nowhere to go...?

Like now.

?Skewer?, yeah, that sounds about right. Brings a vivid red image to mind too. Quite likely what they would do to her if she decided to mix along.

?Can't you hide in the village?? She asked hopefully. The last thing she wanted to do was deal with Scaly Fo- the lizardmen. ?The Militia there might be able to help you.?

?West Harbor's an hour's walk through the swamp. If it was just Ginni an' me, I'd chance it. But we've got the children to think of.? He said gesturing to the two girls and two boys gathered behind their mother. Ele?ena felt something twitch inside her. One hell of a timing for her conscience to decide to show up.

?What are they doing in your house anyway??

?Bustin' up the place, from the sound of it. Laughin' and carryin' on. Probably drinkin' my mead, too.?

?That?s not what I- never mind.? Don?t these people ever listen? Pinching the bridge of her nose Ele?ena took a deep sigh as resignation set in. What a day to pick to go out without her weapons. ?Look, you stay here. I'll deal with the Scaly Folk.?

?You mean it? That's mighty good of you. More than I deserve, no doubt.?

She held back a snort, ?No doubt.?

?Here, take this. It's not much of a weapon, but my old Dad swore there wasn't nothin' better for crackin' lizard skulls.

Ele?ena glared at him sullenly. Why did it always have to be her getting into situations like this? Was there a sign on her forehead saying ?Is dummy, will solve your problems, free of charge?? Did the fate preordain her to become one of those great ? now dead ? heroes who ran around trying to fix everything?

?Please gods, don?t let it be so.?

With a club in her hands and dark thoughts in her mind the young moon elf strode purposefully to the house.

?And, ah... best of luck, lass.? He waved at her most un-helpfully.

There was no law prohibiting pest control, was there?

? ? ? ? ? ?


So, there were two lizardman, both towering over most human and since she was shorter then any human, well, she was being dwarfed in here; and the almighty club was also not showing itself on the best side today ? perhaps it needed to be recharged?

Let?s just say it simply wasn?t her day.

She ducked and parried and avoided their tails and claws and jaws ? and it just wasn?t fair to be naturally armed to the teeth like that, literally ? but since the club decided not to work today she had to find another way of getting out of this mess, victorious and preferably in one piece. Oh, and alive.

?Oy! Fish face!? That certainly got their attention if the two pairs of narrowed eyes were anything to go by. Ele?ena rose, club firmly clenched in her hands as purple and blue energies started forming under her fingertips.

?Let me tell you a joke to make your insides scream.?

? ? ? ? ? ?


?We heard all the screamin', but we couldn't tell if it was you or them! Gods! Are they dead??

?It was a close call, but I managed to kill them. Good thing you lent me that lizard-killing cudgel.? Don?t need to hurt old man?s feelings now do we?

?That old thing? First time it's ever killed so much as a swamp-fly, near as I can tell. My old Dad was the most notorious liar in West Harbor.?

Eyebrow twitching Ele?ena swore she was going to use his lying Da?s old club and see if it works on humans? someday.

?I'm, ah... not sure I've got much to give you, if you're lookin' for a reward?? Pitney fidgeted for a moment looking mightily uncomfortable.

?What about that bottle of spirits that you've hidden under your nightshirt?? His wife spoke with unchallenged command in her voice.

The man was positively outraged. One would think he was being asked to give away his very heart. Hmm, perhaps it wasn?t that far from the truth. ?Wha-? Ginni! That's my 1363 Harvest Mead! From the year I won the Harvest Cup!?

?Well, you've had eleven happy years together. Same as you've had with me. You can bid farewell to one or the other.? Ginni said crossing her arms. Even if she was shorter then her husband right now she was looking down on him like he was nothing more then a bad untrained puppy that was in dire need of spanking.

?I like this woman.?
Ele?ena held back a chuckle. If she ever got married she hoped she would be able to train her husband like that. Perhaps she should ask Ginni for a few pointers during this Harvest Fair. Anyway, it seemed no killing will have to be involved, on her side anyway. His wife had things firmly under control. She almost pitied the poor guy.

?Mph. Very well. You did save our lives, after all. Jus' promise you'll save it for a special occasion.?

?Sure.? She could do that, the question was, would there be such an opportunity in her life. ?Tell me, do you normally see lizardfolk in these parts??

?No... they just started prowlin' around in the past few months. My elder brother has a farmstead east of here. He's been seein' Scaly Folk, too.? He scratched his chin, ?Somethin's drivin' the lizards off their land, deep in the swamp, an' now they're lookin' to do the same to us. That's what I think, anyway.?

Ele?ena nodded, filing that information for later. Perhaps she could ask Daeghun once she was home.

?Well, I best be off. And you should take care of those corpses before they rise from swamp gas.? She said putting the bottle in her backpack.

?Yeah, I out- What!??

?Oh, yeah, didn?t you hear? There?s something ugly in the surrounding lands that turns dead into, well, undead.? The Moon elf said lowering her voice conspiratorly. ?But shh, don?t tell anyone so not to cause panic.? She placed her backpack comfortably over her shoulder and gave the shocked family a farewell smile.

?Have a nice day.? Ele?ena waved them cheerfully as she walked away from the stunned man happily ignoring panic filled yells Pitney was letting out and racket that was coming out of the house moments later.

?Undead walking.? Pft, yeah right, like that?s ever going to happen.

? ? ? ? ? ?


Back on the road Ele?ena?s thoughts once again turned to the oncoming festivities. And a chance to use newly won bottle of mead. She doubted there would ever be anything to celebrate in her life. At least not in the next one to two hundred years. Best to use it now.

Perhaps she could slip it to Bevil this year. She doubted Lazlo would allow them any more mead after what had happened last year. And Amie especially was likely to keep herself way-away from anything resembling alcohol ? unless it was a potion. Who knew that young to-be-wizard was hiding such a beast in herself. She, her best friend, certainly didn?t? ?to full extant anyway.

With a mischief armed-and-ready-to-fire in her head, cheerfully whistling Ele?ena continued on to her well-known path to West Harbor.

But one question remained firmly rooted ? if somewhat clouded by coming festivities - in the back of her mind: what the hells drove those lizardmen so close to people?s settlement?

? ? ? ? ? ?


Edited by Orthodoxia, 30 May 2008 - 11:14 PM.

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#2 Orthodoxia

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Posted 11 July 2007 - 01:25 AM

? ? ? ? ? ?



~ Chapter 1: Last Day of Childhood ~


?So many years ago today??

This wasn?t the first time she had heard him say that. And she doubted it would be the last.

Half-hidden behind the wall Ele?ena looked sadly at the man who raised her.

The elf turned around, his emerald looked directly at her own pale ones. He was always able to find her with his high-tuned senses no matter where she would hide. ?Ah? my foster daughter is up and dressed, I see.? There was little joy in his voice. ?And I see you have the furs,? he added noticing the large hairy bundle of grey and brown and black in her arms.

?Good morning, father,? Ele?ena said softly stepping in front of him. ?And yes, I haven?t forgotten about Galen coming today.?

He nodded but still seemed to ignore her greeting as he continued, ?Very good. As you know, today is the High Harvest Fair, and the West Harbor village council requires me to man the archery competition.?

She could tell he didn?t exactly relish the idea ? he seemed to be more in the mood to crawl into a hole ? but she nodded acknowledging his words.

He shook his head slightly, ?The human need to celebrate remembrance days baffles me. But at least something productive may come of it. This past season has been a hard one - for both tilled fields and wildlands.?

She knew what he meant by it. Last year hadn?t been exactly a walk in the park. More like a walk in the park filled with thieves. Good thing the village always made sure to stock some supplies for emergency use.

?While I attend to the archery contest, I will need you to deal with the merchant.?

?No problem,? Ele?ena gave him a helpful smile, one that he again seemed to ignore. Discouraged, she tried not to think how it made her heart twinge. ?So what did you order from Galen??

?Last season I asked him to bring a Duskwood bow to trade. Sell him the furs, and use the coins he gives you to purchase the bow.?

Well, really. Couldn?t they just trade one for the other? Merchants.

?Yes sir. It?s as good as done.?

Daeghun picked up his bow and arrows and passed by her. He seemed happy to be alone with his thoughts. Just as he was at the door he glanced back at her. ?Your friends await you at the bridge. I suppose you're anxious to see the Fair, but don't forget to trade with Galen.?

The lock slid into place and the only sound that remained was the cracking of the small flame in the fireplace. Ele?ena let out a breath she wasn?t even aware she was holding.

?Well, that could have gone better.? Really, will she ever be able to crack that shell of his?

? ? ? ? ? ?


?Ele?ena, there you are! Come on, the Fair's already started!? The golden haired young woman practically jumped up and down waving at her.

?It's the biggest Fair in years, Ele?ena. There's folk in from all the outlying farms, and even a few from outside the Mere. That means a big audience??

Ele?ena couldn?t help but notice how nervous he looked. Bevil had always had this fear of audience and it didn?t help at all last year. He was so anxious he had accidentally hit her with that club instead a member of the opposing team. She could only hope that he wouldn?t faint this time.

?A big audience, all cheering for us!? Here he paled but Amie didn?t seem to notice and continued most dramatically. ?This year's our last chance to compete for the Harvest Cup? our last chance to win!?

?What's the status of the competition? I didn?t miss any earth shattering events hopefully.? Ele?ena asked holding on to the furs on her shoulder to steady herself.

?The Mossfelds won both their matches in the Harvest Brawl,? Bevil started listing all the things that she had missed. ?They'll be tough to beat.?

?Pfffft. After your training with the Militia we should hardly worry about them.?

Bevil went ten shades of red in an instant. Ele?ena had always thought that he was much like a cuddly teddy bear.

?Well, they?re in the militia too so that?s not much of a guarantee. But, Amie's bound to win the Tourney of Talent for us.?

?I convinced Tarmas to teach me a few new spells.? Amie ginned impishly, ?And I dug up a couple more from his spellbooks when he wasn't looking.?

Ele?ena grinned as well. She could always count on the young wizard apprentice to help her stir things up.

?Anyway, I heard Wyl Mossfeld is doing the same act this year, so that should help my chances.?

Bevil shuddered? he dreaded having to watch that horrible act for the eighth year in a row. ?Oh, gods. Not the pixie impressions again...?

?Oh? You have something against pixies Bevil?? Ele?ena teased him, as she always did early in the morning. He looked away looking both embarrassed and slightly angry and muttered something like ?is not important?. The elf decided to let it pass. For now.

?Well people, we have the whole day ahead of us. What's our first stop?? Almost as is they were ordered, by some godly power, the furs nearly slipped from her grasp. Gathering them back again Ele?ena managed a nervous laugh at her clumsiness. ?After I deliver these of course.?

?We?ll go ahead and sign us up at Georg. You better hurry and get rid of those.? Amie said pulling Bevil?s arm.

?Yeah, before you accidentally drop them in hogs contest next.?

?We?ll be waiting for you at the Tourney of Talents.? Amie said waving at her as she dragged the young militiaman off before the elf could do some creative damage.

?I?ll be there.? Ele?ena?s grin widened, and she would have been rubbing her hands in glee were they not full at the moment. But once the furs was gone ? and the bow delivered ? West Harbor be ware!

? ? ? ? ? ?


Trade furs for the bow ? check. Note: Galen is one money-grabbing bitch.

Solve the mystery of the enchanted Hog ? check. Note: Lewy Jones was likely to stalk her and stab her when no one was looking.

Find feathers before the Knaves Challenge even begins ? check. Note: As always Tarmas? complete lack of imagination of any kind is making her life way to simple. One locked chest in the middle of the village square, one trapped pile of logs (logs) and one brightly green dressed man in tights ? how much did he pay the guy to do it?

Deliver the bow and win the Archery contest ? not checked. Yet.

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Daeghun?s face was stoic as he saw her approach. ?So you've decided to compete for the Cup, I see. I know this is your last year, but the rules apply to all - even foster daughters.?

?I understand. And I brought the Duskwood bow for you.? She said handing him over the bow that hanged on her shoulder.

?A fine bow, a fine one. Made by one who loves his craft.? There was some actual emotion in his voice. Second time since the sun rose Ele?ena felt her heart clench. Usually she didn?t see him long enough to feel anything. Gods, he made her hate the Harvest Fair, too.

?You may keep the rest of the gold as your allowance for the season. But you came for the archery competition as well, did you not?? And we?re back to the good old emotionless self. For a moment there he looked like he would crack. Over a bow. Now there was a low blow to the self-esteem.

?I suppose so.? The young elf sighed.

?Fetch a crossbow from the barrel, and take a few shots at the practice target. You must hit the target once, before you can compete.?

?Why the crossbow? Are there no longbows?? She asked picking one up and loading it with bolts.

?Not many are capable of handling that weapon. And least of all the children who compete here.? While listening to him Ele?ena aimed and fired at the practice target. When one has Daeghun as a father archery came easy, even if there?s no true interest in it. She hit the bull?s-eye without really noticing it.

?Very good. Are you ready to compete, then??

?Ready.?

?The rules are the same as last year - ten shots and ten targets. Your targets will be old bottles, set atop the crates, yonder. Five is the best score so far. If you remember the lessons that have been taught to you, you should be able to best that.? Some rough expectation of excellence from his own child was to be expected.

Was there pressure in the air? Only the un-realized one.

?Yes sir!?

Ele?ena stood and glared at the targets. Really what were ten bottles when you were raised by an Arcane Archer?

? ? ? ? ? ?


Ele?ena was slowly walking towards Lazlo?s mead stand where Amie and Bevil were waiting for her. Her spirit was lifted just a bit more then usual as she did not have always the opportunity to hear that tone in his voice. Perhaps she didn?t hate the Harvest Fair after all.

Deliver the bow and win the Archery contest ? check. Note: Perfect Score Achieved.

? ? ? ? ? ?


?Get your Harvest Mead, here! Cold Harvest Mead!?

?Hey, Lazlo! We'd like some Harvest Mead over here.?

?Wha-? Strange light flickered in his eyes as if realizing who he was talking to. And then? ?Oh, no! No no no no! Not you lot! Got that Fern girl with you, too. I haven't forgotten what happened last year, young lady, even if you have!?

Amie slowly backed behind her two friends. ?Uhm? maybe we'd better go?? She managed to say with a small voice.

??Us lot?? What precisely did we do this time?? Ele?ena demanded placing her hands on her hips. It was a very much not demanding pose.

?Aye, that business on the roof, with the swinging hips and that vulgar song! Not this year, young lady! On your way now, all of you!? He waved his hands around looking all riled up now.

?Swinging hips? Oy, someone?s been paying more attention then they should, to be able to remember that from the last year!? Ele?ena observed with an impish little grin on her lips.

?Ha, ha! She's blushing, look at her cheeks go red!? Bevil laughed holding Amie by her arm so she wouldn?t run away. Or worse ? cast magic.

?Look at his cheeks go red.? Ele?ena chuckled nodding in Lazlo?s direction who, by the way, looked like was about to dump the entire keg of mead on her head. Making a life-saving decision Ele?ena nudged her two friends away from the burly looking human. Being a prankster of the village is also to know when to make a quick exit.

?You two told me you'd made that up?? Amie grumbled under her breath still mortified.

?Give us a song, then!? Ele?ena elbowed her slightly.

?No thanks. Not without a whole lot of mead. I didn't even think I knew any bawdy songs??

?Sounds like you planned the wrong act for the talent show.? Bevil chuckled.

Amie hung her head. ?Knowing this town, you're probably right??

? ? ? ? ? ?


It turned out that Amie would not need to strip herself bare and do another round of ?singing? as the audience ? or the judges ? were yet to enter that strange world of hormonal craziness. But if they were just a few little years older? best not think of that.

For now, one wolf, one enlarged Bevil and one barrel disappearing in thousand little white glitters seemed to be enough to appease them.

As the children played with the summed wolf Amie walked back to where her friends were standing.

?Great show Amie!? Ele?ena congratulated to her friend.

?Yeah, and with no help of the pixies.? Amie winked at them.

?Urgh? pixies?? Bevil muttered looking positively ill.

?What is with Bevil and pixies?? Having Bevil react ill on the word ?pixie? again, Amie asked out loud finally and Ele?ena just nodded behind her. Maybe the gods will grant the answer?

Or? his Mom!

?Oh, when he was little Bevil was very keen on exploring the Mere.? The old Misses Starling joined in on the conversation with a sparkle in her eyes.

?Mother!? Bevil quickly went from being ill to being mortified.

Ele?ena eager to hear the tale, one she didn?t know, pushed him away. ?Bevil? Our waddle little Bevil was actually walking outside of the village? No!?

?Oh yes, he stumbled on the flock of young pixies and they chased him all around the Mere. Pulling on his hair, enchanting his clothes, hiding the path from his eyes, until he stumbled his way back. He?s been keeping himself within the village boundaries ever since.?

?Great. Thanks a lot Mother.?

?There?s nothing to be ashamed of, dearie.? Misses Starling pinched her son?s cheek. And then for a moment her clear eyes glazed with distant sadness.

?Mom?? With a gentle caress she dropped her hand and smiled, albeit sadly.

?It?s all right. Now go and enjoy the Fair, and win the cup. That Mossfeld woman is talking my ear off each year, the entire year, how her boys are the best thing that happened to this village.? She pursed her lips in a mock arrogance.

?Don?t worry Misses Starling,? Ele?ena promised energetically. ?They?ll be coughing up dirt before the day ends.?

When they were far away enough not to be heard Ele?ena looked up at Bevil. He too, looked sad and withdrawn.

?Bevil, is everything alright with your mother? Or you??

?Ah, yes. It?s just that the Harvest Fair brings memories of Lorn back.?

Ele?ena tilted her head, ?Lorn?? She asked confused. She couldn?t connect the name with the face.

?You wouldn?t remember him, he left when you and Amie were just out of the dippers.? He tried to crack a smile but the subject obviously still left a dull trop in his heart. ?And I remember when he left. That was just after my father died, and? I don't know, Lorne got so restless.?

Ele?ena placed a hand on her friends shoulder, feeling some of his sadness. The Starlings are a great family with ties stronger then iron. She had always admired it, and was a little jealous of it as well.

?Winning the Cup was all he could talk about. He'd drill in the fields with his friends, from morning 'til dusk. And then after all that, he lost to Cormick - the guy who was good at everything, and didn't even try. I remember sitting under the table, crying, while Lorne packed up his things.?

?Did he say where he was going??

?Neverwinter? at least, that's what Georg says. Mom would never tell me if she got any letters back from him. Personally, I? I think Lorne's dead. Why else would he just disappear like that, and never write, or visit?? He was silent for the moment looking at his mother. The old was woman doing a few small cantrips of her own much to children?s delight.

?Come on Ele?ena, let?s? Let?s just get back to the Fair.?

Within a blink of an eye Ele?ena put a smile on her face, ?Hey, Amie! Looks like the Mossfelds are in dire need of lesson in manners. How about it??

?I?m all for teaching those brats how to behave around a woman!? Amie said firmly with a fist clench in the air, with magic sparks for the dramatic effect. It seemed she still hadn?t forgotten the ?incident-that-shall-not be-named? that included colored undergarments on display.

Almost skipping Ele?ena dragged Bevil off in the direction of the Harvest Brawl.

? ? ? ? ? ?


?Brother Merring? You are running the Harvest Brawl?? Ele?ena choked out when she saw the red clad priest.

?In truth, I volunteered.? He shrugged, ?Otherwise I'd be racing from the church at every bout, mending cuts and setting bones to right. Better that I'm on hand to do Lathander's work, and to see that all is fought in fairness.?

?Uh-huh.? Rats! With him here, there was no way for her oh-so-brilliant plan to win the brawl to work.

?The Morninglord grants a fine day, even for a Brawl. He likes you Harbormen, I think.? There was a faint smile on his face.

?Well, they do say he has a sense of humor.? Flatter, show off and he might just not see it coming.

?And a good one, too. Lathander delights in contests of physical skill. People forget that. Though I must admit - few such contests are quite as? enthusiastic? as the Brawl.?

?We?re ready kick a- I mean for a fight.?

?Practice a bit, first. There are Practice Dummies just over there.?

?You mean those trashed dummies.? Ele?ena pointed at the heap of charred wood. Not her doing? entirely. Amie and her were practicing their charms, so to speak, a bit earlier.

?Oh my. Well now, you needed not to destroy all of them. And especially not with magic.?

?It?s wood. It?s flammable. And it was an accident. Can we fight now? I can assure you that I know how to use this.? She pointed at the club she was currently using as a waling stick.

Brother Merring sighed. When he applied for the job ? of being a priest ? no one had told him that working with youth would be so strenuous. Especially those that can talk their way in and out of every situation.

?Very well, the Lannon twins and their elder sister will be your first opponents today. Before we start, I'll go over the rules.?

He cleared his throat before continuing. ?As always, I expect a clean fight? and no pranks! After last year, the Buckman lads have refused to get into the ring with you.? The older priest pointed an accusing finger at Ele?ena who found the Hogs Contest by the side strangely intriguing. Never mind that it was over a while ago.

Ele?ena blinked innocently ? with those large warm scarlet eyes she could fake it good. ?Me? Pranking? Brother Merring, would I do that now that you?re in charge??

He just looked at her.

Even the kindly old priest wasn?t falling for her act anymore. West Harbor knew her too well. Perhaps it was a silent message for her to move on ? before they chased her out with pitchforks.

?Only melee attacks are permitted - no arrows, and no magic. You may fight bare-handed, or you may arm yourself with a Training Club, the choice is yours. And finally,? he paused, for the effect she suspected, ?no bets.?

?What? No bets?? First she?s not allowed to cheat and now she can?t even rob Wyl Mossfeld blind. What was this world turning into!?

?The Harvest Fair is an act of worship, Ele?ena, a prayer of thanks to Chauntea, and to all the gods. The events must be fair and just. Spectators are allowed to bet, it's true, but never competitors. That would tempt unfair arrangements. You can see that, I'm sure.?

?Not all the gods object to a good bet. What of smiling Tymora??

?I suppose that's true. Lady Luck could hardly object to a bet. But even she would want that bet to be fair. And if the fighters themselves are betting, how can we be sure that one hasn't made a secret arrangement with the other?? He shook his head, ?No, if you wish to compete, you must follow the rules. I'm sorry.

Humbled, Ele?ena pouted but agreed. ?Very well. No bets.?

? ? ? ? ? ?


?Look who it is, brothers - everyone's favorite for the Brawl. Looking to beat the champ of three-years running? Thinks she's Cormick, this one.? Wyl Mossfeld greeted them in his usual manner. The one that lacked any.

?Stow it, Mossfeld. You're not smart enough to be funny.? Amie snapped at him itching to cast something at him. Preferably with long term effects.

?Who asked you, you ratty little orphan? Always tagging after Starling and her like a blood-fly, singing their reekin' praises. It's a shame those demons didn't burn you up along with your parents.? Amie clenched her fists. Insulting the fact that she was an orphan didn?t sit well with her. Or Ele?ena.

She placed herself between Amie and the young human, the club pointed at his chest. ?That's enough Mossfeld. If you've got a problem, you can take it up with me.?

He looked her up and down and grinned. ?Fine, then. You want my title, you'll fight my brothers and me. We've beat this Brawl three-years running.?

?Only an idiot needs to repeat himself,? Ele?ena said taunting him and he nearly lunged at that but one look from Brother Merring stopped him from doing anything more foolish then usual.

He took a few deep breaths and grinned once again. ?Even better, let's stir the pot some, raise the stakes. Make a friendly wager.?

Bevil was outraged. ?Wait a minute, Wyl. That's against the rules, we can't do that. Brother Merring said so, remember? No bets.?

?Sorry, Mossfeld. I don't trust you to pay up.?

?Oh it?s not money that I want.? Under his examining look Ele?ena glared at him having a good feeling where this was going. ?After the Harves Cup is over and won, by me, you?ll be dancing with me this year.?

?And you can keep dreaming, both awake and asleep Mossfeld, because that is not happening.? The moon elf growled.

?Afraid are we? Can?t handle a real man?? He taunted further and he was doing it better then she was. Of the two he was the more experienced one. In taunting? and probably everything else.

?If I want a real man I?ll visit the Hogs contest. Now get in that ring so I can properly wipe the dirt with you.? She was infuriated, not to mention flushed.

?We?ll see. The bet is on then??

?Urgh!! Get in that ring!? Ele?ena yelled now utterly furious. Yes the bet was on and she was going to make him choke on his own words.

Bevil leaned over to Amie, ?You think she?ll ever get married??

?Not in this or next century.?

?I thought as much.?

? ? ? ? ? ?


The match was one glorious? pounding. Witch ended much un-gloriously for the Mossfelds. Wyl especially, since he ended up lying prone on his front with Ele?ena sitting on his back and her club dangerously close to his face.

?Got anything smart to say now?? She practically purred at him.

But Wyl Mossfeld was not one to give up easily even if the battle was lost. The war was still on.

?Mmmm? I could get used to this.?

And then he saw stars.

? ? ? ? ? ?

?Here are my apprentices, both of them. Are you enjoying the Fair?? The gloom of his voice was enough to summon rain on this fine day. ?Packs of feral children set loose to find trinkets, grown men braining one another with clubs? Do you know they're actually granting prizes for the fattest pig? As if the creatures needed encouragement.?

The three friends just looked at each other and rolled their eyes. This was Tarmas after all. And he was just the thing to put what happened at the Brawl behind them. Ele?ena had calmed since then after she nipped some mead from Lazlo. He had a health policy of not opposing angry females who studied magic.

Though by the time they reached Tarmas she might have been a little tipsy.

?I expect you're here for the aptly-named Knaves' Challenge. Surrounded by muck and reek, and why not encourage our children to be thieves, as well? That's what I always tell them. Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever taught you to pick pockets or break locks.?

?There are a whole lot of things you haven?t taught me Tarmas, but that didn?t stop me from learning it.? Ele?ena was grinning now.

The wizard looked at her with a raised eyebrow. ?I see I?ll have to place some stronger wards on the supplies cabinet. I suppose you'll want to hear the rhyme then??

?Start singing Tarmas. You know we long to hear your voice.?

He either ignored that or was ? actually ? flattered.

?Very well. But it's dreadful. Don't say I didn't warn you.? He cleared his throat to begin a recitation. ?Ahem.

I've hidden three feathers, scattered them wide,

Placed White in a box, and locked it inside.?

Ele?ena pulled out one long white feather much to Wizard?s and her friends? surprise.

?Blue followed termite-tracks, down where they ran,?

One blue feather appeared in her hand. Amie and Bevil collectively shook their heads at their friend?s drama performance.

Green in the pocket of same-colored man. And if you have found all of them why did you make me sing the dreadful thing?? He snapped before the moon elf could show off further.

?Because we love you Tarmas and because we know you love listening to yourself.? Ele?ena winked at him wiggling the green feather under his chin. ?I take it this means we?ve won the Knaves? Challenge?? She lowered her voice a note.

The boom of red on both Bevil?s and Tarmas? face was one colorful event as they exchanged various shades rouge, that sent Amie in the fits of laughter. Tarmas did manage to recover somewhat to perform coherent speech. He was still red though.

?Yes well? Thank the gods for my apprentices. The Knaves' Challenge is won, and I can go back to being dour and standoffish. I believe that means you've won the Cup, as well. Probably best to tell Georg. You know the fellow? large, cheery, talks a bit.?

?A lot you mean. But we?ll go and see him. Buy Tarmas.? Amie chuckled pulling still flustered Bevil with her. She turned to Ele?ena who was looking very smug at the moment. ?You know, for a second there I thought you were actually going to call him ?master? in that tone of yours.? Amie gave her the ?girl-talk? look.

?And risk him having a heart attack? Amie??

?You?re right. They may love it but not many men can handle when a girl whispers ?master? in their ear. Or during sex.?

?No, no, no. If they reached the point where sex is involved ?master? only empowers them further-?

There was a loud thump behind them and both girls turned around instantly.

?Bevil!!? They cried at the same time seeing Bevil?s unconscious body prone on the ground complete with a nosebleed.

? ? ? ? ? ?

With a cookie dangling of her mouth and her share of mischief for the day done Ele?ena was walking between the tents away from the crowd. It was a fun day but now she wanted some time to herself. And perhaps without her around Bevil might actually try and talk with Amie, maybe even ask her to this year?s dance. Yes! The plan was in motion and soon she would have bunch of little nephews and nieces whom she could spoil and plot mischief with all over again!

Ah, wasn?t life just grand? She wished it could go on like this forever because for her it was just perfect.

?And the blight? You're sure it's spreading, Orlen??

Hushed voices reached her and Ele?ena?s ears perked up. That was Georg?s voice. Immediately she ducked and keeping herself low crept closer in the direction of the sound. Behind the Fair tents and away from all the commotion she had spotted Georg and Orlen. They were speaking in hushed tones, almost like they didn't want anyone to notice them. Daeghun was among them as well.

?It's no blight, Georg, it's something else. There's no mold, no rot. It's like the crops don't want to grow. Like they haven't the guts to up and face the sun.?

?And the druids? What do they say?? Daeghun questioned the taller human.

?Well, that's just the rub. There's no druids to be found, not head nor heel.?

Daeghun frowned. It was not like them to simply disappear if something like what Orlen was describing had hit the land.

?Used to be they'd warn me of troubles, long before I noticed the signs myself. But this time? rotten silence. Not to mention them lizard folk. They?ve been getting bolder, coming closer to villages too.?

?Ele?ena did mentioned to me some of them were even attacked.?

?What!? Whom? When?? Georg jumped to his feet surprise and worry clearly evident in his eyes.

?Pitney?s home. They are all alright and in perfect condition,? Daeghun raised his hand to calm now railed up Georg. ?There were only two of them but even that is concerning?

?Ele?ena took care of them, eh??

?Yes.? Daeghun answered curtly. Behind the tent Ele?ena?s heart fluttered. She rarely had the opportunity to hear her father say anything complimenting about her.

?A fine daughter you have raised there, Daeghun.?

?Foster-daughter.? Daeghun?s voice was nearly icy. ?And yes. Despite her childish behavior she can be capable should the situation warrant it.?

Ele?ena stood motionless, not even daring to breath. She tried not to let what he had said to get to her. In the end, it was nothing she hadn?t heard before, and, at least there was something nice said.

It didn?t make it hurt any less though.

?I will scout the lands tonight. See if there is anything to be seen.? Daeghun said turning the conversation back to the matters at the hand.

?Well, if you?re sure.? Georg grumbled not liking the whole situation at all. ?Just watch yourself. What ever it is it won?t take anyone?s snooping around lightly.?

?You think we ought to say something? Everyone's gathered for the Fair, even from the outlying farms?? Orlen suggested running his fingers through his hair. The situation was beyond stressful already. He sincerely hoped the ranger wouldn?t find anything.

Georg shook his head thoughtfully. ?No. They ought to be free from cares, at least for a day. We'll go 'round tomorrow, talk to the households one by one.?

?Right you are, Georg. Tomorrow, then.? And with the plans made Orlen and Georg parted their ways with the ranger and returned to the celebration. Daeghun stayed behind.

?Ele?ena.?

The girl hiding behind the tents gasped at the suddenness of his voice.

?Come here lass.? He said simply with his back still turned to her.

Sulking ? not to mention humbled ? Ele?ena stepped out to him.

?You were eavesdropping.? He stated. Again. He never asked her any questions because he always knew everything. What she did, when she did and how she did it. Were all parents this infuriatingly all-knowing?

?I know, I know. I just? I didn?t go out looking for you, you know.? The young moon elf defended herself. And in this case it was ? surprisingly ? the truth. ?Is?? She was hesitant for a moment, ?Is it something serious??

?I don?t have any answers yet. I will tell you if I learn something but until then you are to keep this situation to yourself.? Daeghun said and while there was no sternness in his even voice there was defiantly some in his eyes. She was not to spread rumors around.

So, he hadn?t intended for her to be aware of this either but after the whole ?Uninvited Guests? thing in Pitney?s house he could hardly hide from her that something was wrong.

?Will you be coming home tonight?? She asked after a moment of silence.

?No. Tomorrow, before noon but not sooner.?

She nodded, ?I better head back to the party then. Best of luck out there father.? She said with a large smile and turned around bouncing back to the festivities.

In truth, she just wouldn?t be able to handle another one of his silent exits.

? ? ? ? ? ?


?Hey! Ele?ena! Where have you been? The evening dance had already started.? Bevil jogged up to her when he saw her approaching the clearing. Behind him a large fire was already burning.

Naturally, Ele?ena avoided the question. ?Oh, around. Fresh air, peace and quiet and all that, you know.?

It was quite obvious.

?Whatever you say. Hey, you up for a dance??

She frowned. ?Huh, me? Why, where?s Amie??

Now it was Bevil who avoided the question. ?Oh, hmm, showing some magic tricks to the children? I think. So, what do you say??

Ele?ena?s patience snapped like a dry Mere twig.

?Oh, for heaven?s sake Bevil!? Ele?ena ran her hand over her face in frustration.

?Huh? What did I do??

?Stop being so damn intimidated by the fact that she reads three times more books pro year then you and ask her for a dance already!? Ele?ena nearly screamed at the end of her tirade pushing him in the wizardess direction. ?Now go there! Shoo!?

Bevil looked like a confused puppy. Confused blushing puppy. But he finally managed a small smile and walked over to the young girl.

Finally! What the hell was she supposed to do to open his eyes? Lock them together in room for a week or something!? Well, at least now they were getting somewhere. Urgh, men!

?Yo! Ele?ena! Wanna dance with me?? Wyl Mossfeld announced his sudden presence with a quick slap on her cheeks. The other ones.

The young elf yelped and nearly jumped out of her skin as she turned around to glare at her assailant. ?Why you-!!? Loss of words? No, too many words, one small mouth.

?So how about it?? He continued grinning; the loss on the battlefield today seemed to be having little effect on his mood. ?I?ll even forgive you what you did at the Harvest Brawl.?

Ele?ena?s face darkened most dramatically and she clenched her teeth.

What was with the men of West Harbor that made them all act like emotionless, blinded, thickheaded idiots!?

? ? ? ? ? ?


After he had gathered his cloak and his new Duskwood bow and arrows Daeghun stopped under one of the trees at the village entrance and took a look at the gathering still going on at the village green. People were still celebrating, some dancing, some singing and Ele?ena?

Well, his daughter was being busy being held back by both Amie and Bevil as she struggled and shouted at the broken-nosed Wyl Mossfeld. Wyl ? the humorless one by her words ? just couldn?t drop the matter and accept no for what it meant. No, she was not interested in him. And no, she would not explore carnal delights with him. The boy really had no tact.

Daeghun let out a sigh.

Growing up in the human village ensured that she would grow up with the same speed as do the human children. Her immature behavior aside he had hoped that she would eventually develop a relationship with one of the boys as she grew up. Perhaps even marry, even if it had to be a human. Lead a life of her own and away from him. But she seemed to be content lying on the rooftops of the village with her books.

It was a selfish wish really. He knew that. He also knew that in all likelihood she had heard him correct Georg. He was aware of her pain but what she didn?t know was that his own pain had made him numb to even begin caring.

Pulling the hood deeper over his face Daeghun disappeared into the Mare leaving the young girl to her antics. Dark things were coming, he knew that long before Orlen brought this matter to him and Georg.

Tonight, Ele?ena should enjoy the Festival.

In the end, it could very well be the last day of her childhood.

? ? ? ? ? ?


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#3 Orthodoxia

Orthodoxia
  • Member
  • 853 posts

Posted 18 July 2007 - 01:26 AM

~ Chapter 2: A Friend for a Favor ~
?first crack?


There was a strange and, for many residents of West Harbor, a familiar sent in the air. The smell of fire and magic. The village was burning and duergar mages and warriors were coming at them. They seemed to poor from every nook and cranny of the village.

But all that didn?t matter.

There was Tarmas yelling something, and Bevil, who was pulling her but the only thing she registered were lifeless eyes on a half burned face. Bits and pieces of remaining hair showed it was golden in color, and possibly a pride of the owner.

But no, since it was Amie, the best thing her hair could expect was being wrapped around a wand and geting soaked in magic ingredients.

?Amie??

It really wasn?t the sight you could get trained to see. To have your best friend struck down helplessly by hail of magic. And the only thing you did was to stand by like a rock and watch, reacting only ? and only ? after she was beyond help, and her dead body hit the ground.

Ele?ena felt something inside her break at the sight and ? disregarding all caution, Bevil, Tarmas and the strange creature ? she rushed over to the dead mass that was someone close to her, to close the wound inside before it spread out.

But did not reach it.

As much as he could, he pulled her away from the battle but even with him blocking the way her glazed eyes were still firmly rooted on the fallen and charred body of their friend. He grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her hard, thereby leaving them exposed for any attack that might come their way.

?Ele?ena, we need to get to my farm!? He tried to out-yell the sound of battle, with little success, though some of it seemed to penetrate the dull state the elf found herself in.

Her red eyes rose up to lock with his and finally focused. With a small nod she took her weapon in tighter grip. And when Bevil released her shoulders she followed him to the

? ? ? ? ? ?


?Thank the gods that's over. We would not have held them much longer-?

No, it wasn?t over. It was far from over. And if it was over it was over for them because more enemies have just surrounded everyone

More dwarves and bladelings come through the fog. Purposefully marching towards them, arms at the ready and in their eyes Ele?ena could clearly see herself for what she was. A sheep for the slaughter.

And then, an arrow whizzed past her face lodging itself neatly in the throat of one of the bladelings. Well, she knew of only one person who could land a blow like that when provoked.

?Daeghun!? She heard Georg?s surprised and a bit relieved voice from the side and, true to his word, it was her foster father.

?Much blood has been lost tonight. Let us make the enemy pay in kind.?

? ? ? ? ? ?


?Lass, come over here...?

Like a soaked puppy she walked over to him, her hand still gripping the blood-soaked kama and chain. She could tell by the slight narrowing of his eyes that he didn?t approve of her using it, just like he didn?t approve of the master who thought her how to use it. Fortunately, he stopped pressing the subject years ago.

?I see you are unharmed. Many have not been so fortunate - and others have seen their final night.? Either she was imagining it or there was a slight trace of relief in his voice ? slight. Were it any, any, other time but now she would have been grateful for the spark of emotion he deigned himself to show. But not now. Not tonight.

?I understand you lost a friend of yours in the attack. A tragedy. She was a promising young mage, or so I've been told.?

?She was a good friend. You wouldn't understand.? She nearly hissed with all the rage and sadness mixing inside her.

?I understand perfectly. But I also understand what can and cannot be changed. Do not burden your resolve by dwelling on loss. Direct your thoughts to the present.?

Slight moment of silence.

?I do not have much time to talk - there are many who are wounded, Ele?ena. Now, there is something you must do. Tonight.?

?Those? bladelings were here to find something?? He nodded. ?What??

?There is an item? a silver shard. Long ago I concealed it in the old stones outside of town. I fear it may have drawn these creatures down upon us.?

?Why do you think the shard is their goal??

?Think it through,? he nearly snapped at her. And she nearly recoiled. ?Their kind doesn't plunder a village like West Harbor, not for a few coins and an old helm or two. They had a reason.?

?But? where did the shard come from??

He hesitated for a moment, ?It is from the time when your mother died. Those were dark times for the village? We can speak more of the shard after you've returned. For now, all that matters is its retrieval.?

?Mother?? Her head, along with her attention, instantly snapped up.

?Is the shard connected to my mother? You never talk about her.?

?There is no time for that now. Your mother is dead - let her spirit rest.?

He calmed himself a bit ? and from the simple fact that she managed to rile him up at all Ele?ena knew that it must be important ? and continued.

?The stones outside of town are older and deeper than you may think. In the farthest chamber of these ruins, look for a strongbox - inside is the shard.?

?Anything else??

?There remains only one thing. You should not go alone.? He looked behind her, his green eyes focusing on? ?Bevil. I need you to accompany my daughter to the ruins. This is an important task.

?But Georg says the ruins have been overrun by lizardling tribes?? He said confused and perhaps a bit worried.

?And that is why you must go. Together two can succeed where one might fail.? Daeghin said firmly, blocking any chance of arguing back. He looked out across the burnt village. ?The cries of the wounded cannot be ignored any longer. Find the shard, Ele?ena. Find it, and bring it here.?

And with that he walked away.

Not seeing any way out of this ? not to mention she was very curious about her mother?s involvement now ? she picked up her backpack when she noticed that Bevil was, warily, watching Daeghun who was attending the wounded. He looked back at her and shrugged.

?No offense meant, Ele?ena, but your father makes the hairs on my neck stand up.?

Well, there was an understatement is she ever heard one.

? ? ? ? ? ?



?into the swamp?

For most of the time Ele?ena felt numb, or maybe it was more appropriate to say that she didn?t feel at all. Bevil wasn?t that far off either. Amie?s death had affected them both in the worst possible way but it head hit harder for different reasons.

Her sense of perception was clouded at best now. And impenetrable room of darkness and sadness.

It also appeared that out of the two Bevil was the one with more sense when he stopped at the unmarked but well known entry to the deeper swamp.

?Ele?ena?? He called out to her and at first she didn?t respond. Only when he touched her arm did she look up at him. ?We?re entering the lizardman territory and? we should be? more careful from now on.?

Ele?ena frowned for a moment, looked around and then sighed. They were still in danger and she was spacing out. She wouldn?t even notice an arrow going through her head. Worse, she could get Bevil killed as well. But not thinking about Amie was so hard.

Of all the images from the recent battle the one of Amie being washed away with storm of magic was the one to firmly lodge itself in her mind.

?Perhaps??
she thought with a mixture of anger and sadness. ?Perhaps if I had? it could have protected her??

?Ele?ena, we have to move. The lizards might jump us here.?

Snapping out from yet again from her mournful thoughts Ele?ena nodded and loosened the chain around her waist. She wouldn?t allow Bevil to lose his life because she can?t get it together.

He seemed to notice her distress and placed a friendly hand on her shoulder. Honestly, it did wonders for her troubled mind.

?This is a bit too much for me too, Ele?ena. Amie's dead, the village is in flames, and now here we are in the swamp looking for ruins. You know, I always wanted to be one of those adventurers - like Bruenor Battlehammer or Lord Nasher ? well, back when he had adventures.?

Bevil had dreams of grandeur. Didn?t expect that really. Ele?ena couldn?t help but chuckle a little, and it surprised her. After witnessing the disaster back in the village she didn?t expect to be able to again.

And silently she thanked him for it.

?With everything that's happened tonight though,? he continued, ?I think my place is here in West Harbor. Adventuring is all fine and glorious, but someone still needs to remain home and care for the families.?

Now there was a sound idea if she ever heard one.

?What about you, Ele?ena? Ever thought of leaving here, becoming an adventurer??

?In truth, I hadn't given it much thought.? It was actually the furthest thing from her mind.

?You haven't?? He shook his head incredulously. ?I guess I still have a lot to learn about you. Our village has always seemed a bit too? well? small for you.?

?I like it just the way it is? the way it was.? She went silent for a moment. ?Come on, we better get moving.?

? ? ? ? ? ?


They followed the narrow path through the swamp, it was longer but it was also safer from the murky waters that surrounded them on both sides. Not that much safer, since lizardmen could walk the dry ground as well, but it was certainly better then to simply lightning fast pulled under all that mud.

Surprisingly, they haven?t encountered that many lizardman along the way but they did run across two empty camps, and that was even more disturbing.

?They could have been chased out,? Bevil suggested meaning the owners, but something in his voice told her that even though he hoped it to be truth it wasn?t.

?They could have been. There are no bodies and no blood. And they have left all their stuff here?? Ele?ena said closing one of the chests. Of course that didn?t have to anything as lizardmen were famous for not being picky when it comes to food.

She dusted her hands off and pulled out a ?light? scroll from her belt. They were bound to run into some inhabitants of this swamp sooner or later and while she could see well enough in the dark Bevil had no such luck. With a whisper enchantment fell from her lips and as the scroll turned to dust small ball of light appeared above their heads. Beats the torch any day of the week.

?Come on, let?s keep moving,? Ele?ena said fingering the chain around her waist.

?The ruins are up ahead. More of the lizardlings, too. We should stay alert.? He pointed with his sword ahead of them. ?The lizardling tribes over here are some of the weakest and scrawniest of the lizardfolk. But enough of them can be dangerous.?

As they expected, but hoped not to, the entrance to the ruin was well guarded. Two archers, two brutes and one shaman. This was no ordinary habitat of the lizards if they were willing put so many able guards.

?There?s so many of them. You think we?ll be able to handle them??

?With the right strategy, sure. Don?t worry, we handled those dwarfs and things back in the village. Now, here?s what we?ll do??

? ? ? ? ? ?


The battle didn?t last long, a bit of choking powder could go a long way. And between Ele?ena?s chain and Bevil?s sword stunned lizards didn?t hold out long. But there were only five of them and in her opinion five was too much as it were. There was no way they could handle a whole tribe.

When the last ? of a very small group ? lizardman fell Bevil was breathing heavily. She handed him over some healing potions.

?You ok?? She asked though she wasn?t much better off herself.

?Sure, just? just let me catch some breath. We might want to camp here before we go inside the ruins. There's going to be more of the lizardlings around.?

?We shouldn?t linger. There?s no telling when they?ll send someone to check the guards or even if they?ve heard the commotion.? Swallowing the potion Bevil nodded uncertainly. She could understand him. She had no desire to here as well. And she absolutely had no desire to shift into a role of a ? gods forbid ? leader. She shuddered at the thought.

?I've been training with blades since I was a little one. I just didn't know how? dangerous real fighting could be.?

Ele?ena agreed wholeheartedly.

? ? ? ? ? ?


One thing was painfully ? as in ?arrow in a biceps?, ?tangle spell around her legs? and ?a near clean chop of her head? painfully ? clear. She wasn?t made for this! For trap removing and treasure finding (although there were some nifty things down here), for dungeon crawling and lizard slaying.

?Oh, cheer up you,? that little optimistically-sarcastic voice in her head spoke up. ?Look at it this way: you may be dungeon crawling but at least there?s no dragon slaying involved.?

Ele?ena whimpered, openly.

And yet she was still here, doing all the things she shouldn?t be.

? ? ? ? ? ?


?I can hear them chanting.? She whispered leaning her head against the door. They spoke faintly but she could make out some words ? ?ritual? and ?enemy tribes?.

They carefully pushed the door open just enough to be able to see. Though it was definitely not a sight either of them ever wanted to witness. No. no bloody sacrifices; only a room filled with large and apparently skillful warriors.

?I don?t know if this is such a good idea.? Bevil whispered behind her.

No shit. When was a good idea to barge into a room filled with lizardmen during a holy ritual? Humans are touchy enough about the subject. Here, one large yellowish lizard headed the ceremony. He sounded like most priests of any race do: solemn and reverent.

?Oh great spirits of the Stone Tomb - please hear our plea! The other lizardling tribes take our territory, they wage war? And before we fight them for our ancestral hatching grounds, we ask for your blessings!?

There was a timbre of fear in his voice. ?There certainly are an awful lot of them. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea.? He said quietly and quickly glancing over her head into the room.

No. Talking aloud wasn?t such a good idea.

The priest ?leader? looked directly at the pair and hissed angrily, ?A warm blood - here!? Your very presence offends the stone god!?

?Oh. Good. Great. I?m lizard food.? She glanced back at Bevil who looked positively ill with fear but was trying hard not to show. ?Ok. No need to loose my head?just yet.?

She calmed herself, taking the stance that ? she hoped ? looked most unthreatening.

?When this land was once ours, my ?tribe? left something here.?

?And this gives you the right to intrude on our lands - and disturb our most holy of rituals?!?

?It's needed to save my tribe - something you should be able to understand.? Perhaps it wasn?t the smartest thing to allude on the exile from their lands but she didn?t see any other option. A side from the ?path of blades? as it were, and that was one road she didn?t wasn?t to take.

He ? it was a he ? cocked his reptilian head slightly so that one needle-like eye bore into her with suspicion ? he was obviously unconvinced.

He continued slyly, ?What do you propose then, warm blood??

?Let me save my tribe, and perhaps one day we can return the favor.? She said without missing a beat even though she felt Bevil stiffen behind her.

He seemed to consider her words. ?A favor for a favor, eh? We may have need of you?? A decision made. ?We will let you do this thing - do what you have come here to do. We will leave the warm bloods in peace, my followers.?

Said followers left the room not spearing a glance at the warm bloods. Their leader followed giving the moon elf a side glance as he passed her, reptilian eye narrowed to a slit, and then, for just a moment, rested on Bevil as well. Ele?ena bore his gaze with one of outmost calmness. Calmness that didn?t last a second more after the lizards had disappeared around the corner.

She, quite unceremoniously, slid on the floor as if someone had cast ?grease? under her feet half an hour ago and only know she stopped fighting the effect.

?When and where did you learn to negotiate like that?? Bevil asked with the most bewildered expression on his face if she had ever seen him with one. It would actually given him the appearance of a smitten calf ? except for that large two-handed sword that was leaning on his shoulder the likeness with a smitten wild boar was more fitting.

?Oh, here and there, after having to talk myself out anything and everything.? She said with a bright smile though she was barley standing on her feet. Her heart felt like it was about to jump out of her chest and proceed its crazy dance on the floor of the dungeon.

?Don?t you think it was a bit, I don?t know, reckless to make a deal like that!??

?Did you want to fight them perhaps!?? Ele?ena snapped up at him. ?Because, you know, if you hurry you just might catch them.?

?That?s not what I meant. But they can?t be trusted, Ele?ena. They might be waiting for us around the coroner.?

Ele?ena sizzled. She was tired and angry. The village was attacked and her friend was killed. She was sent to stinking swamp to retrieve gods know what nearly getting killed in the process and had just managed to safely guide them through a large group of skilled lizard warriors. Couldn?t she get a bit of appreciation here?

?Well, good thing that we have years of your military- oops, militia training and a hot poker of yours at our disposal. Gods know we wouldn?t have survived without that.?

Bevil flushed lightly in the half-darkness of the sanctum but with her infra-vision it was still very much visible. Guilt hit her hard. He was just as upset by the whole situation as she was and he still didn?t take out his frustrations on her. She, on the other hand?

?I?m sorry,? she said earnestly. ?But it was a better option then engaging a fight. Besides,? she stood up and dusted herself off, then turned around with the largest smile on her face, ?it may never come to that ?debt collection?.?

She wanted to change the topic very much and used another ?light? scroll and the chamber around them lit up in pale white glow. And such a beautiful chamber it was ? even with all the garbage that had accumulated over the ages.

He seemed pleasantly surprised for a change and spoke quietly, ?This room looks like it hasn't been visited in years. The whole ruins has been picked through so many times, I'm amazed no one found it before us.?

?The lizards did. Made it into a temple too, but let?s get back to business. Daeghin said it ? whatever it was ? was hidden in the furthest room in the ruins. So, unless there are secret doors here somewhere I can?t think of any other.?

They rummaged through many crates in the room trying to find that for which they came for. It would have been a lot more helpful if they knew exactly what they were looking for.

At the bottom of one of the crates Ele?ena found some object wrapped in a leaf-green elven fabric ? that was Daeghun?s all right ? and she quickly unwrapped it and only found a shard of dull grey color.

Except?yes, it was defiantly magical.

?We were risking life and limb ? for that? None of this makes any sense.?

No. No, it didn?t.

?Daeghun can do his own blasted quests from now on.?

Ditto to that too.

?Come on, let?s head back.?

? ? ? ? ? ?


The first thing duo saw when they got back to West Harbor was Daeghun waiting for them at the village entrance. And if Ele?ena knew something about her foster father ? and after nineteen years of living with him she damn well did ? he appeared to have been waiting for them most impatiently.

And after a small ?war of words? between Bevil and him ? from which the farm boy walked away huffing and puffing ? Daeghun all but dragged her to their home.

Scorning him for treating her friend like that ? though he didn?t seem to be particularly interested to listen ? Ele?ena followed her foster father to their house where he swiftly got to work of bringing out necessities, one she recognized he used when going on a longer trip. She raised an eyebrow wondering; was he traveling again?

?I retrieved the shard, now what?? She said placing it on the table in the main room. While it seemed dead and dull in the darkness of the ruins, here it glowed in many soft hues under the glow of still burning hearth of the house.

?I need you to go to the city of Neverwinter. Find my half-brother Duncan, retrieve the second shard, and take it to a mage you both can trust. Duncan owns an inn in the Docks District of the city, the Sunken Flagon. Not the most... reputable place, but safe enough.?

?I have an Uncle?? Ele?ena exclaimed, surprise momentarily overshadowing the actually meaning of what he said.

?So to speak. It would be more appropriate to say that I have a half-brother...? Right. It was the two of them who were not related.

?Figures.?

He continued, ?Duncan, like Bevil, has many faults that would make it wise not to rely on him or call him kin.? Which, when translated to common meant that he actually knew how to have fun in life.

She had an Uncle. A potentially fun Uncle. Why didn?t anyone tell her these things?

Of course, reality was never too slow to kick in.

Wait one bloody second!? She was going out there? As in, Alone!?

?Is Bevil coming with me?? She asked stuffing the wrapped shard in her backpack. She dearly hoped he did. Selfish she knew, but she couldn?t help it.

?No. I know you value him as a friend, but he will be of no help outside of West Harbor. He would only slow you down. Bevil is made for? simpler things.?

Ele?ena?s face darkened a bit. ?Bevil helped me in the ruins, so be respectful.?

?Very well. Let us waste no more time on discussing your friend. If you have other questions, ask them.?

?So I am to just leave? What if the beasts track me down??

?That is possible - but this village cannot shelter you or survive another attack. On the road, moving, you have a chance. Once you reach Neverwinter, it may prove more difficult for them to attack you.?

?Why don't we dump this shard, or give it up??

?The? problem is more complicated than that. If we give them the shard, I doubt it will prevent them from believing the second one lies here as well - or others.?

?Others?? Great. This was turning more and more into an ?adventure? like thing. She hated adventures.

?We only found two. It is possible there were others, scattered into the swamp, or taken away - or have met other ends.?

?And?? She arched an eyebrow, ?There's something you're not telling me.?

Now he appeared truly irritated, a side of him she had witnessed often. Though rarely it was pronounced like now. ?There are many things I have chosen not to tell you, and that is because they are not relevant. Perhaps if you were to question less and heed my words, it would prevent you from becoming confused.?

Like she wasn?t confused already.

?Ok, ok, sheesh? How do I get to Neverwinter??

?Head to the small port town of Highcliff when you are free of the swamp. There, seek passage on a ship to Neverwinter. The beasts that attacked us will leave West Harbor alone once they realize their quarry has fled. If all goes well, you should be in Neverwinter before they find your trail.? His tone on ?all goes well? indicated there is only the slimmest of chances it will. He stood silent for a long moment regarding her, or her back as she still didn?t turn around, before walking to the entrance.

?Say your farewells - your boots may travel many roads before you return. I let some of the others know you are leaving - but not the why of it.? Front door closed behind him leaving her alone ? again.

So he had planned this from the start. Something coiled inside her at the thought and she kept her back to him as she packed her bag and he walked out, presumably to help the villagers.

Just like he did yesterday.

There were no guaranties that she would come back from the swamp in one piece but here he was, already planning out her next course. And she wasn?t talking about the road. Had the attack not happen she was certain he would have found another way to send her away.

The moon elf took a deep breath ? like she was taught ? to try and calm herself.

Ok, that was a bit presumptuous not to mention pessimistic but ? why in the world would he think that she wanted to have anything to do with it!? Wasn?t he the skillful one? A seasoned adventurer? Someone who actually knew how to handle extra-planer beings!?

She dug her fingers in her midnight blue hair feeling the migraine pulsing in equal beat with her anger and sadness behind her eyes.

What was he hopping to accomplish with this? Her to die perhaps!? He knew damn well that she had no skills to survive out there, in the real world; ?especially after he had forbidden her to practice her magic. She will be food for wolves not half a mile after she leaves the village!

Which made her current situation all the more grander: she had magic in her but did not know how to access it. And she knew ? somehow she knew ? that if he had let her? that if she had practiced it, Amie would still be alive now!!

Her half-glowing half-blurry eyes locked at the crystal and glass vase on the table. Skillfully crafted and ? supposedly ? the last work of Shayla, Daeghun?s late wife, it had survived the onslaught of gray dwarves in their house.

But that was all she had allowed to register in her mind before with a vicious snarl she send it flying against the wall.

It slammed, full force, against the wood but only a dull ?thud? was heard and then it landed on the ground like it was littered with softest pillows in the world. There wasn?t even a chip on it.

Ele?ena let out a weak, strangled laugh.

?Figures,?
she thought tiredly, ?that he would put a protective enchantment on the things closest to his heart.?

? ? ? ? ? ?


Farewells didn?t take long. Tarmas had a few choice words to say about her but still, she had a feeling that the old wizard would miss her. Just a little.

And Bevil? Well, Bevil was more then happy to stay in West Harbor. She couldn?t help but feel something in her twist at her father being right again. Selfishly, she had hoped that he would insist to come with her ? she didn?t want to travel alone.

But he didn?t, and she didn?t press it. Didn?t dare press it.

When she passed by Daeghun she just nodded taking a small map he offered. She wondered weather the ?vase incident? hung unspoken between them, but it didn?t matter really. He must have known by now that she wouldn?t be exactly pleased with being sent off like this.

?I have done all I can to hide your presence.? He spoke evenly. ?If these beasts come again, West Harbor will need me.? It was true, and she knew it.

?Hide my presence?? Ele?ena looked up at him daring an eye contact.

?I have created a screen of activity. On a normal night your trip with Bevil would have been easily spotted, but not tonight.? He looked at the great swamp forest beyond the village border thoughtfully, ?It still may not be enough - but there is little else I can do.?

Ele?ena nodded and without saying anything walked onward ? to the adventure, though it might just as well have been an execution. She passed the village entrance still in vain hope that this wasn?t happening to her. Hope was a wonderful thing but it wasn?t something that could help her now.

Unwillingly, her mind rolled back to the argument she had with Bevil in the ruins. Was that the reason he didn?t want to accompany her? Because she made that deal? Or the small fight they had afterwards? Her tongue often got better of her but she had never expected for Bevil to take her seriously. No one did.

Ele?ena sighed, ?Amie is dead and I have just traded the only friend I have left for a favor to the village.?

She walked down the road leading into the Mere. Should she look back? Was it even appropriate to look back in such moment as this? That probably depended on the adventurer and as for her she decided no to. She would come back once all this was over.

? ? ? ? ? ?


Dear gamer! You cannot summon Spirits of Rage when fighting bosses. We apologize for any inconvenience. Please send all complaints to Undead Control Administration, Bosses Combat Department, and apply for revision of the Endoria combat regulations. - King?s Bounty, the Legend
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#4 Orthodoxia

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Posted 29 July 2007 - 12:34 AM

~ Interlude I ~



There are ways to get killed, and there are ways to get killed.

Between dire wolves, half-dead but still alive bandits, carnivorous plants (though that may have been just a random wizard?s pet) and raging lizardmen, Ele?ena was certain that she had at least two thirds of the ?ways to have your spleen removed in the most painful way possible? covered.

No, it wasn?t a good day for her. It wasn?t a good night either.

But there seemed to be at least some fortune with her as she came upon an inn. She remembered distantly that Pitney had mentioned it. Weeping Willow, was it? And if his wife?s shouting had any significance, he was a regular.

Were she raised in the city the sight that greeted her would not have been anything unusual. Not that a potential brawl was something she hadn?t seen, it was just something she hadn?t expected in the middle of the swamp. But, hey, where there?s civilization there?s bound to be a few fists flying around.

?Now that we're outside, maybe you'd like to tell me what you said again? slowly this time, so you can think about what you're saying.? The dwarf said coolly pointing at the three tugs in front of him.

?You're a small one to be taking this road all by yourself, dwarf. Maybe you've come looking for trouble? unless you have a little coin to convince us otherwise.? The one who called himself ?leader? said in what should be threatening way, but it wasn?t, not really.

Ele?ena didn?t even bother to wonder what this was all about. And especially didn?t want to ask. Because it just might get her involved. And she didn?t want that.

?Just leave me out of this.? And she would have left, except there were roughly three brutes and a dwarf blocking her way with no intention to move. Well, that was no way of treating the lady. Not that she looked like one. With twigs in her hair and mud on her clothes ? well, a deep-wood druid would mange to look more presentable.

?No need to trouble the elf, I believe all of you were threatening me? if you ever decide to throw a punch that is. Even the stranger can see you're too scared of your own shadows to do it.?

She managed to passed by them and get near the inn?s door looking rather sullen and with no intention to get involved. She was quite happy to skip the whole ?brawl-in-front-of-the-inn? thing and would have merrily moved on passed the dwarf and the ?wanna-be-bullies?, but they didn?t seem to want to leave her alone.

?Is that so? Maybe both of you should pay, how 'bout that??

Ele?ena stilled.

?Come on, someone try to hit me already? even the newcomer here sees that you're all too afraid to do anything.? The dwarf said eagerly already getting into fighting stance, fists ready to fly.

When precisely did she get involved in this?

?All right, I've heard enough of this - come on, boys. Let's deal with the dwarf and his new friend.?

Dwarf?s brawl became her problem the moment the bullet from one of the slings hit her in the back of her head.

Ele?ena twitched, quite possibly going purple.

The leader of the group turned towards her, thinking her to be an easier pray then the dwarf no doubt, yelling murderous profanities all the way that were supposed to make him sound tough.

That all stopped when the ball of the chain hit him directly in the face. The sound of bone cracking could be heard and moment later the man slid on the ground like a pair of castaway leggings.

?Enough with the clichés all ready!? The furious elf yelled.

?You! You have killed the boss! Now you pay for it.? One of the other two thugs squeaked accusingly brandishing a knife at her.

Ele?ena raised the other side of the chain where the kama was attached and with an easy flick of her wrist sent it spinning above her head. And theirs.

? ? ? ? ? ?


?5 minutes later?

It is said that hell hath no fury such as woman scorned. It really should be: hells hath no furry such as Ele?ena tired, cranky and starved when on the run (or in the morning). Villagers of West Harbor learned the truth early.

Ele?ena dusted her hands off and reattached the chain around her waist. Then proceeded to rearrange her hair back in the neat bun from which it fell out.

The dwarf looked around the mess of unconscious and half-dead bodies of thugs with a slack jaw then snapped it shut and purposefully stomped over to her. For all purpose, he looked like a kid who?s just been suckered out of his favorite toy.

?That?s no way to go lass! Pinching into my brawl and hogging all the fun for yourself! Why, I have never witnessed such bad manners!?

?I wasn't looking to get dragged into your fight.? Ele?ena replied a bit snappishly placing her hands on her hips.

Khelgar looked around the miniature battlefield, bushy eyebrow raised. Only few broken moans could be heard from the broken thugs between the sounds of the swamp.

?Eh? Well, you could have fooled me - you handled yourself pretty well. Almost as well as I would, but that's a high mark to reach for.? He looked at her up and down? more up then down. ?Have to admit, wasn't expecting an elf to come along - or to pitch in like that.

He extending hand, ?Name's Khelgar by the way - of the Clan Ironfist. Been making my way along the Coast for some time now, stopped in the Willow here for a brief fight.?

She took his hand in a shake ? that nearly crushed her fingers. ?Ouch!?

He looked at her curiously smoothing his beard. ?So tell me, what brings you out along the Mere? Roads aren't exactly safe you know - and they're getting worse all the time.?

?I'm on my way to Neverwinter.? She said then immediately wanted to slap herself with something heavy. What was that all important lesson in life? Not to talk with strangers, was it?

But there was another lesson she had learned. An important one. About strangers and friends and all the things that come in between. Holding back a sigh she decided to go with the flow. It was too late to get out of the river anyhow.

?Seems it's your lucky day then. I happen to be traveling to Neverwinter as well.?

?My lucky day indeed.? Was that sarcasm in her voice? If it was, no one noticed.

?Glad we see eye to eye - and when fortune smiles, who are we to turn away?? He replied merrily. Ele?ena rolled her eyes.

?I say we step inside the Weeping Willow here and share our stories over a few of the innkeeper's best.? He clapped her on her lower back friendly and with no other choice but to stumble forward she accompanied him into the inn.

? ? ? ? ? ?


??so then I punched him in the face for asking, and while he was trying to pick his teeth off the floor, his friend decided to add a few choice words about my heritage. So I punched him, too.?

Ele?ena tossed the half-charred piece of potato into her mouth.

?So to make a long story short, I take pride in what I do - fighting. It's something you can't get enough of, and it's something where there's always room for improvement, if you apply yourself - stay focused - and keep swinging.?

Her mind wondering away from all the ?fight-talk? she looked around the half-empty inn and her eyes stopped on the pair of cloaked figures sitting in the corner of the common room. One of them wore expressionless and ? dare she say ? creepy looking mask, and the other was?

Ele?ena looked back at her plate, then threw a cautious glance at the pair.

Wait a second? Was that a drow? As in, a drow on the surface? In an inn filled with? eh, surfacers?

?And that's why I'm headed to Neverwinter. I heard there's a house of monks there? a monastery, right? ?heard they'll train anyone, just for the asking. Couldn't ask for a better opportunity.?

Her attention snapped back with a record speed.

?You want to become a monk?? She repeated with disbelief.

?Aye, that's the short of it.?

?A dwarven monk??

?No stranger then half of what takes place in Faerun, I can tell you that.?

?Why a monk?? Again, what?s with all the monks?

?As it happens, I didn't always want to become a monk, what happened was??

A rumble.

An explosion.

And the stench she was all too familiar with.

Solid wooden door burst open and a pack of grey dwarves stormed in stopping just short of the entrance. Behind them was an angry looking bladeling. Just like the ones who attacked her village.

?The Kalach-Cha. Find it!? The creature hissed swiping his sword around the room but somehow it?s eyes found and narrowed on her.

?Oh, you have got to be kidding me.? Ele?ena said in pure disbelief and frustration as she jumped from the chair. Mind had time to be puzzled over this persistent hunt later ? if she survived this.

?Well, look at this - our next round of practice just arrived.? Khelgar rumbled rubbing his hands. He looked more then eager to fight. The dwarf was on his feet, axe in hand and already engaging the nearest group of duergar.

?Screen of activity my ass!? She yelled and unrolled her chain wrapping it around and blocking the incoming weapon of the crazy leader of the crazy party.

?You will return what you have stolen Kalach-Cha!? The creature hissed in her face. Ele?ena really had no clever answer to that.

? ? ? ? ? ?


And the evening could have gone on quite pleasantly were it not for the shard. Well, she supposed she could pin the blame on whoever was after it but in the end it all boiled down to little chunk of silver.

?but tonight, whilst in the middle of life and death battle, she had decided to put the blame on a? maniac-looking-sword-wielding-bladeling-warrior!!

This was NOT how she was planning to spend her first night out on the grand adventure. She wasn?t planning to spend any night on any kind of adventure.

And with Khelgar being busy with the duergar Ele?ena was pretty much on her own. She supposed she should lend a hand to the dwarf but at the moment just keeping her own head on her shoulders proved to be a chore.

So she ran out of the room, ducking and avoiding and sometimes even using the chain to parry curved weapon of the bladeling perusing her. And he seemed to have his mind set on killing her himself. She lured him away from the people in the inn ? and quite unintentionally so as she was only trying to get away ? and was now stuck with the creature in the small hallway between the kitchens and the storerooms.

At one point his sword fell slashing her from her collarbone to under her shoulder. And it hurt damn it!

As she fell back she had enough sense (surprisingly) to knock the small table nearby in his direction knocking some balance out of the outsider in the process.

But it wasn?t enough.

Because doing so she had also lost the grip on her own weapon. And the bladeling recovered quickly, too quickly for her liking. And she certainly didn?t like the way the thing was currently standing over her, sword ready to split her skull.

She closed her eyes and almost missed the sound of lashing of magic, clapping wings and venomous hisses that suddenly appeared in the corridor.

Ele?ena opened her eyes and saw three or four imps attacking the bladeling who was swinging his sword at them. A moment of ? who; what; when; where; why ? wonder passed quickly and she grabbed her dropped weapon. Two of the creatures already fell under that blade of his and immediately she sent the ball of her chain flying in bladeling?s direction, ramming it squarely into his abdomen.

Another spin and another slash and the bladeling?s sword-arm was hacked off. But with her back turned for a moment she couldn?t see a small glass object flying in her direction. Ele?ena caught the sight of it from the corner of her eye but no part of her could move just as fast to prevent it from hitting her.

Until one of the surviving imps flew directly into it.

The alchemical fire bottled inside ignited suddenly blowing the imp inside out. But it wasn?t the end of it she noticed. Even with only one arm left the bladeling wasn?t to be stopped.

?Like a fanatic,? she thought already frightened beyond belief and quite certain of her death too.

But whatever the creature had in mind to do to her was not to happen when one long sword slid easily through the middle of creature?s chest.

It stilled and then a second sword came, slicing the head off in one clean smooth cut. The head rolled away, and the body crumpled and fell into the mess of dead imps and Ele?ena ? one very much frightened rabbit at the moment ? raised her eyes to see the drow she had spotted earlier in the inn. Ruby met scarlet and for a moment she wondered if she was to be next on his list. But then, the drow?s masked companion said something laying a hand on his arm and, without a backward glance, he turned and left.

Ele?ena stumbled, back against the wall and slid down, all feeling gone from her arms and legs. Moments later she heard heavy footsteps thunder down the stairs toward her. Khelgar looked at the pile of dead bodies with careful consideration before the elf?s feat and then at her with what could count as a face splitting grin.

?Imps, bladelings and deep dwarfs? Not bad for yer first tavern brawl lass.? He laughed goodheartedly. Ele?ena looked up at him with a confused, wide-eyed ?what-the-hell-just happened? expression and that made the dwarf laugh all the more.

If she were to ignore the perpetual storm in her mind and guess she would say that she must look like a pup fresh from her first fight. Whish she was technically. Only it was her seventh? or ninth fight? if she was to guess.

He threw something in her direction and reflexively she caught it. A bottle of potion.

?You better patch yourself up if you don?t plan to join them, lass.?

Only then did she remember that her arm and chest still. Hurt. Like. Hell.

? ? ? ? ? ?


She leaned on the small wooden fence in front of the inn. She had also noted, with a sinking feeling in her stomach, that the corpses of those tugs were gone. She had left them alive and, of course, it could have been the innkeeper but with things roaming the Mere?

Ele?ena shook her head.

So, no dinner and no bed for the night. The innkeeper just might be in the mood to let them stay but she wasn?t so sure she should stay after this. Of course, she wanted to stay and wanted so dearly, but she doubted that the bladelings are going to make a camp for the night as well.

Also, the imps. She had no idea where they came from and had no desire to meet whoever had summoned them ? even if they hadn?t attacked her? No, the best way to keep her skin intact was to make haste to Highcliff and from there to Neverwinter to finally rid herself of this cursed shard.

?Well now, I've had a good time so far.? She heard the dwarf say and looked up from the dark thoughts in her head. She had to admit with the way he was strolling down the dirt path patting his axe he looked mightily relaxed and in a good mood.

It didn?t make her feel any better.

He looked her up and down seizing her up and Ele?ena couldn?t shake the feeling that he was being rather impressed with her. Of course, with her sorry presentation of battle skills back in the inn she had every doubt it had anything to do with her non-existing prowess.

?And the way you attract trouble? I haven't had this much fun since that tavern back at Bogen's Pass where I was using that trestle table as a battering ram.?

Well, she already knew the dwarf was mad.

?Look, we're headed in the same direction and you seem to have more enemies than friends, what say we travel together? Might be able to teach each other a few things.?

?Sure, why not. I mean, it can hardly get any more disastrous then this.?

?Of course not! It can only get better! With kicking and punching and axe-whirling! And I'll be glad for the company ? and the conversation.? He bashed his fist against his plate in what seemed to be very painful way ? to someone frail as her. ?And don't you worry about me keeping up ? Khelgar Ironfist carries his own weight, I won't be slowing you down.?

Ele?ena rubbed the bridge of her nose. No, this was defiantly not her day.

? ? ? ? ? ?


Dear gamer! You cannot summon Spirits of Rage when fighting bosses. We apologize for any inconvenience. Please send all complaints to Undead Control Administration, Bosses Combat Department, and apply for revision of the Endoria combat regulations. - King?s Bounty, the Legend
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#5 Orthodoxia

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Posted 20 August 2007 - 08:38 AM

~ Chapter 3: On the Importance of Running ~



Screw the day, this wasn?t her century.

She really, but really couldn?t remember running faster ever before in her life. And she was in some sticky situations before that required a fast set of legs.

You might say that the whole incident started in the early hours of the day when the duo finally realized that they were utterly lost ? which is generally what happens when you give Ele?ena map in the hands. Of course, being the prideful brat that she was there was no way she would admit to making a mistake and insisted that they were on the right track.

Meeting Galen along the way only reinforced her ?wrong? belief that she was right. Which she wasn?t. Never mind that they were supposed to be out of the swamp by now and not getting stuck deeper in.

It was only after they passed ? or in Khelgar?s case, bashed ? several lizardling patrols and a stinky cave entrance and reached an apparent dead-end that they ?she? realized how very much in the wrong direction they were going.

And there it was. The biggest spider she had ever laid her eyes on. With the biggest set of mandibles she had laid her eyes on. And she had indeed gotten a good look at them when the beast tried to use them on her head ? Khelgar intervened with his axe, thank the gods.

But that?s not the end of the tale. No, it would be too good for the whole thing to just end there.

It turns out that the giant spider was in fact a she. Yes, that?s right, a female spider. A female spider with a batch of babies ? a mama! ? who heroically charged after them in an attempt to revenge their fallen mother in an instant after Khelgar had split her head ? or whatever passes for a head ? in two.

Performing a tactical retreat ? for the purpose of better killing the little bastards she told Khelgar though the only thing on her mind was RUN! ? Ele?ena suggested that they move into a nearby cave. The most disasters decision she had made yet ? apart from getting them lost somewhere in the Mere ? since she became a newly appointed leader.

The cave was swarming with lizardmen!

Ok, well not swarming exactly. There were good dozen of them in there, what with warriors and shamans? and a big, nasty looking chief. Did she mention a big, nasty looking chief waving around something that suspiciously looked like a solid yet burning metal?

So they get into ?another? fight with her only objective being ?don?t get squashed? and Kelgar?s primary objective was ?squash in as many skulls as ye can?.

When they were finally out she collapsed on her knees coughing and shuddering.

And as he tucked his axe in his belt he patted her back ? dislocating several ribs in the process, she was sure of it ? and congratulated and thanked her for the most fun day he had recently. And then he walked away cheerfully whistling -whistling- a merry tune.

Ele?ena promised to herself that the moment she deposited this shard she would swear off adventuring life.

? ? ? ? ? ?


?If I never see another spider again ? even a tiny house one ? it?ll be a lifetime too soon.? She breathed leaning her forehead on the cool rock in the valley outside the swamp.

?Come now lass, it was a good fight.?

Khelgar proceeded to tell her stories of he used to battle Ogres and Hobgoblins ? in very vivid light ? in some of the less then savory taverns. But what kind of tavern it had to be for one to be able to get brawl with this creatures instead of a standard massacre, she didn?t know.

?I think I?m going to be ill?? Ele?ena muttered into her hand. How can any sane person find this sort of thing thrilling was beyond her simple mind. For one needed to be either a genius of godly proportions or not have brain at all to understand or enjoy this ?run around? thing.

?Mentals, the lot of them??

?So, why were those men trying to attack you outside the Weeping Willow?? She asked changing the subject. Somewhat.

The dwarf shrugged, as if that kind of thing didn?t warrant a bit attention.

?They were in the mood to threaten, but not fully in the mood to start a fight? I think they were expecting me to drop the coin and leave quickly, which just goes to show you they don't know me too well. It's a shame that they didn't keep it a friendly fight.? He let out a mournful sigh. ?Some people have no stomach for using their fists when they have a weapon at hand.?

?But, why are you so eager to fight?? The elf asked bluntly. Was it an urge? Like with the Mossfelds? They certainly couldn?t stop bullying people around them.

Khelgar looked surprised, almost like no one ever before asked the same question that way.

?Eager to fight? Well, I suppose I am, if you can call it that - I mean, it's all in good fun.? He smoothed his beard thoughtfully, almost as if he was trying to find the right words for the elf to understand. If an elf could ever understand.

?Some take pride in craftsmanship, or in hunting, or in haggling for the best price on a blade or other piece of steel. Me? Talking with my fists is my art form. Every tavern's an opportunity, I say. There's usually someone who can take a few punches to the gut and groin before they start weeping like a child.? He sounded quite happy about it. More then happy actually.

?But why do you do that??

?Well, I don't know. I enjoy it, I guess. It's a mark of pride to be able to stand tall, and take every punch, then give it right back until I'm the only one standing.?

He actually had never considered it? Astonishing.

?Is that usually how it turns out??

?Most of the time. Only beaten really bad once, but I learned from it, and I'm determined not to let it happen again. Thing is, I'm glad it happened. It was my destiny.? He looked as starry-eyed as a maiden who just got swiped away by prince Charming on a white horse. Ele?ena couldn?t help but smile impishly.

?Oh, really? What happened?? She asked grinning now quite eager to know.

Khelgar?s response was cut by a shriek, one of frustration she would guess, but still a shriek.

?To get involved or not to get involved? Oh the choices.? But seeing how Khelgar was already making his way to sound the decision was painfully simple. ?Adventurers are not nearly paid enough to put up with this crap. ?

? ? ? ? ? ?


?What, demon, no screams for us? Maybe we should brand you, maybe that'll loosen your tongue.? A man ? a soldier ? brought his short sword closer to struggling girl?s ? horned ? face.

?Leave me alone - I've done nothing to you!?

The thug scoffed, speaking to his equally thug-ish buddy, sarcastically. ?Well, now Commander Vallis will be happy to hear that. It means his work here's all done, he can just give up the fort and go home.?

Taunting issued, as he spoke to his sarcastic buddy, throwing the taunts back in forth in front of the demon girl.

?Still, there's just the small matter of those bounties on bandits he posted - and a bandit with demon blood, well, there's no telling how much that's worth.?

Thinking, the first thug tapped the flat of his blade against his palm. ?A-course, you could tell us where your camp is - Vallis will pay more for that, he will, and we won't even have to butcher the lot of you.?

?I told you I'm not with those bandits - or are you deaf and stupid?? Struggling even more the girl spat the horrid truth in his face.

?Stupid?? Though, sometimes some truths are better left unsaid. ?Here we were, thinking about letting you live, now you've gone and changed our minds.?

One of the guards noticed their approach, and a little dismissive, a bit scoffing nudged the leader to draw his attention.

?Eh - hold on, look at this - an elf and a dwarf, maybe friends of hers.?

Said elf regretted greatly at the moment for not being born as a drow. It would have made things so much more simpler.

Ele?ena wasn?t really one to? ah, let?s not say meddle but rather jump head first into other people?s business ? but this reminded her far too much of the Mossfelds and their ruthless teasing. Except this was more serious, what with the swords and all.

?This doesn't look like a fair fight.? The elf said looking at the opposition with wide innocent eyes.

?This don't concern you, we're soldiers from Fort Locke, hunting bandits.? The soldier stated trying to sound professional. But after the show they had put on just moments ago this didn?t do much.

His thug friend was quick to support him, ?That we are, caught this demon trying to raid our camp, and we were about to deal with her.?

?By killing her? What did she take??

?Nothing yet, but her crew's been hounding these parts. They been raiding merchants, caravans - maybe even killed the old commander!?

?I told you, I'm not with those bandits!? The girl screeched from behind the soldiers.

?Shut your lying mouth, demon, you'll get the blade soon enough!?

?You know, if she?s a bandit then I?m a full blooded drow in disguise.? Ele?ena said with a huff. The soldiers looked at her up and down.

?Well, you might just be, at that.?

Open mouth, insert foot.

Thinning, sizing the pair of newcommers up for murder, ?You know ? Vallis might pay for three bandit bounties, he's not one for asking questions??

??especially about a demon, a runty dwarf? and a dirty Harborman who doesn't know enough to keep walking.?

Khelgar, who was holding himself back for whatever principals ? if any ? was now pissed, cracking knuckles.

?Runty dwarf?" I know you cowards aren't talking to me, or you'll be talking to my fist next.?

The should-be soldiers drew their weapons, greedy look in their eyes and Ele?ena and Khelgar had theirs ready to use.

?Good enough for me. Let's kill them all and I'll sort out the tale later.?

?You won?t be if I sort out your intestines for my spell components first.? This seemed to inrage the man and he charged directly towards her with every intention to sort her organs out. But if one didn?t count the danger it felt so good to have the last word for a change.

? ? ? ? ? ?


?Guess that's what they get for underestimating an elf, eh? Last mistake they'll make.? She sighed relieved. ?Thanks for helping me out. Guess I owe you, huh?

?You don't owe me anything. No one should be treated like that.? Then, as if to rectify her sudden sentimentality, she added, ?Besides, rooting these thugs out is just one more good deed in my book.?

?Hey, you're nice!? The girl almost jumped around her neck squealing happily but then stepped back. ?Sorry? I don't mean to sound so surprised. Well, actually I am. It's just? well, unexpected.? She rolled her eyes, ?I mean, once folks catch sight of me - usually it's the horns ? they run in the other direction. And all those tales about tieflings being cursed don't help much, either.?

Seemingly without any need to draw breath she stood in front of the pair and started from the beginning, which was now at the end.

?I'm Neeshka, by the way. I'm really glad you came when you did. Wasn't really sure how I'd get out of that one. Of course, they never would've caught me in the first place if that invisibility potion I bought hadn't been watered down. If I ever see that merchant again??

Pain would issue ? or more likely empty pockets in Ele?ena?s opinion.

?Why were those men torturing you like that??

Beginning a story she struck a pose worthy of a bard. ?Well, I was actually trying to pass the Fort by, make my way farther south? I thought that potion I bought would help - you see, once the local garrison sees me, they tend to want to throw me in a cell or attack me on sight. Of course, the potion wears off right as I cross paths with those thugs from Fort Locke. They were looking for easy bounties, and I showed up right on time.?

?Cheep merchandise usually is. So they caught you and thought they'd kill you - slowly.?

?It's been that way ever since the new Fort commander posted bounties on bandits - some of his soldiers have been hunting down anyone they find on the road and claiming they're ?bandits?. It's just banditry of a different sort - they rob the travelers, and then get the bounty, too. The roads are even less safe now than they were before.?

?We're on our way to Fort Locke. Well, Highcliff actually but we were planning to make a short breather.?

?Do you?do you think I could join you? Just for now! I won't get in the way, I promise. It's just that I don't know how long I can survive on my own, and? well? I do owe you one.? If there ever was a creature with the blood of lower planes that could pull the stunt with big, sad, innocent eyes, it was Neeshka.

Ele?ena liked her immediately.

?Can't say I trust her. Tieflings'll stab you in the back and run off with your purse the moment you drop your guard.? Khelgar grumbled to himself.

Neeshka immediately went into defensive ?Yeah? Well, dwarves are squat, smelly drunks who'll chop someone in half just to show they're tough!?

?Oh, is that so? Why don't you step down here and say that again!?

?That's enough? both of you!? Ele?ena pitched in between two warring parties.

?He started it!?

?Bah. Leave her here. She'll be food for the other beasts on the road soon enough.?

?She's coming with us Khelgy,? eyes wide, mouth open and axe raised ready to? ?No discussion.? ?nothing.

?Thanks! I won't let you down, I swear.? For a moment there Ele?ena thought that she might say ?I hope?. Could be her imagination playing tricks on her or it could be terrible premonition of doom. She managed to give a nickname to Khelgar without having her head severed. It must be.

? ? ? ? ? ?


She had to admit that Fort Locke looked vastly different from what she imagined it to be. Not because of the number of soldiers that were staying inside when they should be out managing to roads but from the sheer number of civilians in the camp. And if she were to compare them to villagers of West Harbor after the recent attack, she would have to say that the likeness is uncanny.

These people were refugees.

And with that conclusion she felt something clench around her heart. To lose home, to lose everything you?ve ever known, everything you?ve ever been familiar with in one night or in one day? that was something she could understand well.

Then an idea sprung to forward of her mind ? both shamefully and exactingly. If another village was attacked then perhaps had nothing to do with the shard. And were it not for the attack in the inn two nights ago she would have believed it. Things being what they were however?

?Pity they don?t have a tavern here. I could use a relaxing brawl.?

?It?s a fort Khelgar, and the only ale around here is likely locked in the captain?s office.?

?Hah, you wouldn?t say that with all those people around.?

No, no she wouldn?t. It almost looked like a small town with so many non-army people.

?You look familiar. You're not a Harborman by any chance, are you?? A tall looking soldier approached her, though compared to her everyone were tall. Then she remembered Khelgar.

?Almost everyone.?

?Who are you?? She asked looking at the man?s gait. He looked far too self-assured to be a mere soldier.

?I'm Cormick, City Watch Marshal of Neverwinter City. You wouldn't have heard of me - a city watchman is hardly a glamorous profession.?

A-ha, so that?s what that cloak was about. But it seemed to her Fort Locke was a bit too far from Neverwinter for the City Watch to make its rounds.

?A pleasure to meet you.? Though Cormick sounded very much familiar. Didn?t Georg babble something about-?

?Wait a moment? I recognize you. Daeghun's foster child.? He looked her up and down as if surprised that he didn?t need to bend down to look at her. ?I see you haven't lost the knack for finding trouble. Good thing too, this time.?

?This time.? That sounded bad. Bad for her, that is. But he changed the subject quickly. With great possibility to return to it later, her instinct told her.

?Imagine running into you here! How's the old man nowadays?? He was grinning, hands on his hips. And it suited him.

?He's doing well. Thank you for asking.? Ele?ena was a bit surprised, and it showed in her voice. Someone was actually happy to know her father. Imagine that. She shook her head mentally. Many people in and around village showed Daeghun respect and were glad to know him. She could never see why that was.

?Well, that's good to hear. A quiet man, but a good heart.?

He never showed her so she wouldn?t know.

?I take it you and my father know each other.?

?That we did. We were quite a pair in our youth. The death of his wife hit him hard, though. He was never quite the same afterwards. He seems to have done a good job raising you. So tell me, what are you doing so far away from West Harbor??

?My father has sent me to Neverwinter on an errand.? For the lack of a better word. Which remained her. ?You?re from Neverwinter. Is Lorne Starling there? I'm told that's where he went.?

?Lorne? Haven't heard from him since he first arrived in Neverwinter some years back. He was still upset with me over what he calls trickery when we competed for the Harvest Cup.? Cormick shook his head, ?A good man, though a little hot headed. Moved to Neverwinter a short while after I joined the Watch. I tried to recruit him, but I guess he found the Neverwinter Greycloaks more glamorous.?

Yes. What a glamorous death that would be. No really, what was it with men and glamorous life of swords and goblin blood? It was official: she will never understand warriors.

?I poked around a little on Retta's behalf after the war with Luskan, but no one seems to know what happened to him. I doubt he deserted, and I wouldn't have the heart to tell Retta that he fell in battle. Her life's hard enough as it is.?

?If you'll be making a stop at Highcliff then. Be careful. From what I've been hearing from the refugees, bandits own the roads now.?

?Bah, and I though things were going down hill when we picked up the demon here. What could be better then putting some bandits down??

?Robbing them blind?? Neeshka suggested.

?Why don?t you two go and get us some supplies for the road. I?m not rushing into any kind of battle any more without a solid, healthy back up.? Ele?ena threw her coin pouch in their direction but as Khelgar rose his hand to catch it Nieeshka was already on it and the purse landed safely in her open palm.

?I?m on it.? Neeshka exclaimed excitedly as she walked away feeling all giddy at the prospect of shopping. ?or shop-lifting.

?Make sure she doesn?t spend everything. Or keep it.? She told Khelgar who glared at the retrieving horned girl and while she didn?t understand why the dwarf was so worked up she had a feeling he wouldn?t start a fight just like that. Well, not in the camp at least.

Ele?ena looked back at the Marshal and leaned against the nearby well.

?Sorry. Trouble in paradise. So, why are you here??

?Well, mainly to make sure Galen got here safely. He may be crazy and greedy, but he's still a friend.? He looked over at the gates of the garrison. ?But he has not arrived yet and so I?m waiting. I'd also heard rumors that the garrison here had stopped its patrols. Figured I'd look into it while I was down here. And, of course, it turns out the rumors were true. No patrols, meaning the roads are crawling with bandits and worse now.?

?West Harbor itself came under attack recently.? She said lowering her head. It was still a surreal topic to talk about. Even acknowledging that the houses were at this moment half-burned at best was difficult.

Cormick jumped to his feet eyes blazing with fury. ?By the gods, I knew it! I told Vallis that he was putting the village at risk, but he wouldn't listen!?

?Who's Vallis?? She looked up at him confused.

The Marshal passed back and forth before her for a moment. ?Temporary commander here at Fort Locke. For the sake of the north, I hope he's just that - temporary. The people rely on these troops for safety. Refugees are starting to trickle in because the surrounding area's gotten more dangerous. Maybe you can get some sense into that thick skull of his. Once he hears that West Harbor came under attack, he may change his mind.?

Ele?ena gaped. Since when it was her job? Shouldn?t the word of Marshal of Neverwinter carry more weight then that of a simple villager? Especially one who is a notorious prankster and tells the truth only half the time.

?Why don't you talk to him??

?Believe me, I've tried. I just don't have the patience for all of his rules talk though. Guess that's why I've never been promoted to Captain with the city watch.?

Ele?ena cocked her head. ?Why wouldn't he listen??

?One or more patrols have gone missing, from what I gather. If it were me, I'd gather a large force and investigate. Not Vallis, though?? Cormick obviously had no respect for the ?new and improved? commander. ?Vallis there's a ?by the book? soldier. He's called for reinforcements from Neverwinter, and until they arrive he's hunkering down. I tried to explain to him that Neverwinter doesn't have any troops to spare - not after that business with Luskan - but he's sticking to the rules. No initiative in that man, I tell you.?

He sighed looking positively tired. Of not being able to do anything. He looked at the empty road beyond the main gate.

?But no matter how much I would like to put Vallis back in his place in the ditch,? Ele?ena cracked a smile at this agreeing wholeheartedly, ?there is another reason why I?m here.? Cormick finished with a sigh and then looked at her. Ele?ena felt shivers run up and down her back like a legion of soldier ants on march, just as it did every time someone was about to-

?I need a favor.?

-ask her for a favor.

?Damn it!?

? ? ? ? ? ?


Acting like a bait for a pack of angry dire wolves had to be one of the worst decisions she had made since going into that lizard infested cave with Khelgar. It was also the most suicidal thing she had ever done too.

So, once again she was running ? the entire adventure was turning into one big race ? but this time it was as much for Galen?s sake as much as it was for hers. It was a new concept she had to admit.

Using her weapon as makeshift climbing gear she hauled herself up on a nearby tree narrowly avoiding snapping jaws of the wolf leader. Though, the tree could only offer her a brief respite especially if the runts decide to camp in for the night.

Moving between thick branches she managed to find a position safe enough ?position vise? to rest for the moment and collect her scattered wits. If she could only pull that special little something in her she would be able to get out of this mess. But she couldn?t. Not concisely at least. And so, all she could do was sigh.

?No point crying over spilt milk. Let?s go back to the basics.?

She dug through her pockets and pouches and found a handful of green choking powder, last of her supply. She ought to make a new batch as soon as she got her hands on a working bench but for now this should be enough to make the puppies? sensitive noses water.

Ele?ena threw the dust on the pack bellow her and watched it scatter around them. Sensitive noses of the wolves couldn?t stand the wicked mixture of garlic and belladonna for too long and sneezing, howling and growling they scattered as well.

When they were finally out of sight, and out of hearing range, she climbed down and dusted her hands off. She certainly hoped that it wouldn?t be too hard to find a way out and back to the Fort. Hopefully, Daeghun?s teachings will prove useful and she?ll manage to follow the trail of destruction the wolves left back out of the forest. She couldn?t have run that far from the fort.

Being an expert in running away from things she had memorized ? she hoped ? the path she had took a flight. Her sense of orientation wasn?t perhaps at his peek but there was nothing wrong with her memory.

But as she found out, having a cold blade pressed against her throat proved crucial for decision making. Not to mention life threatening.

?Nice work with the wolves bluebird, but there are other kind of beasts roaming around these forests.? Ele?ena dared to turn around and look at who ever was holding her at the sharp point.

Short dark hair and dark eyes complete with a cooked self-assured smirk. Nice physique too. Except for that sharp sword threatening to shorten her by a head everything looked just fine. He circled just a bit and kept pace not breaking an eye contact.

?Especially those beasts whose nose isn?t all that sensitive.? He finished ? and by the Gods, if he looked at her like that one more time she was going to find the closest hot spring (no matter now far away it is) and scrub her skin off. The last time she felt so filthy was when Wyl Mossfeld pushed her into the pig house.

?I thought that that particular beast stuck to the roads.? She looked the bandit up and down.

?That?s more of a workplace, you see.?

?And is the workday over?? She lowered her hands cautiously to her chain and the blade bit dipper into the skin of her neck without drawing blood. Yet.

?For the day, yes. But if an opportunity decides to run into my lap who am I to say no??

Ele?ena frowned slightly but not because of him. There was a sound in the distance. A familiar sound.

?If you say yes, you?re smart. If you say no, you?re even smarter.? He looked at her somewhat bemused, she could tell, though not much showed on his face. ?Because there is little a poor frail girl like me could offer you.?

That wasn?t the smartest thing to say as she had no doubt at least one thing togive but if her superior elven hearing wasn?t failing her now it really didn?t matter what she said.

All she had to do was time it right.

And pray she won?t get mangled.

And then it was like an explosion.

The wolves, with vengeance ? and blood ? in their eyes, rushed in through the underbrush and it was her elven dexterity that saved her when she jumped out of the way. She felt a little nick on her throat but in light of many snapping jaws ? one of which belonged to an overgrown alpha male ? and in favor of saving her own hide -again- she decided to ignore it.

And again she was on the run.

Choking powder did its job when used but, unfortunately, it didn?t have a lasting centaury. And the wolves were now, if possible, even more enraged then before. Silly how she conveniently forgot about that fact when she sprinkled them with it moments before.

So she kept running hoping that the wolves would find a human twice of her size more appetizing then a scrawny elf. Only when she burst into the familiar open road did she stop, the sounds of chasing pack gone.

Well that went great.

?What a bastard. Cute, but bastard,? she tsked thinking back at the encounter as she hurried up the hill.

Then, as if remembering something ? or better said, noticing the lack of something ? important her hand went to her throat.

The necklace was gone.

? ? ? ? ? ?


?Don?t you be eyeing my coin pouch goat-girl.? Khelgar warned fingering his axe and eyeing her tail.

?Your coin pouch? What ever for Khelgar? I mean, I take coins ? and occasional shiny stuff ? not the stale ale stains.? Neeshka looked positively not innocent as used her diamond tipped tail to play with a gold coin, flipping it up in the air and catching it. Then repeating it all over again.

Whatever the dwarf was ready to say ? or do ? to one-quarter cocky devil remained unknown for Ele?ena chose that moment to practically run into both of them, breathing quickly, hair falling out of her bun and with murder written on her face. Neeshka, however, failed to notice a tale-tale signs of a leader in distress.

?Hey Ele?ena. You know I was thin-?

?We?re going after those bandits!? The elf hissed between breaths.

?Huh? What brought this on?? Neeshka asked jumping to her feet as the petite elf stormed past her and proceeded to dug through their neatly packed belongings. ?Three hours ago you didn?t want anything to do with it. Come to think of it, where were you for the past three hours??

The elf pulled out vials with alchemical fire, choking powder and tanglefoot bags. Damn. Wasn?t there anything more explosive in here?

?Probably got lost somewhere again, I?d wager.?

Ele?ena tossed the dwarf the glare of the judgment day. ?Bandit?s Camp. Locate. Now.? She gritted out looking more angrier and ferocious then Khelgar had ever seen her before. And they haven?t been traveling that long.

?I know where their camp is. Saw it on my way here.? Neeshka supplied helpfully. For eager reason to get her sticky fingers on all the looted booty the bandits were keeping.

Ele?ena nodded firmly. ?Good. Pack up and we?re leaving.? She actually managed to look serious like this. And she had a good reason.

That necklace was Shayla?s, and if she didn?t get it back Daeghun was going to bury her corpse in the swamp where no one and his mother won?t be able to find her. Or worse, never speak to her again! And death was preferable to his silence.

? ? ? ? ? ?


She wasn?t even properly out of the disputable safety of the Fort but she already managed to attract trouble.

One slip and after much undignified tumbling down the grassy slope she landed face first in dirt. That would be face first in dirt in the circle of raging duergar led by a bladeling. Again.

Such was her luck.

Ele?ena set up, legs crossed and tried to wipe the dirt off her face, ending up smearing it more, then looked at the hunched wiry outsider leading the band.

?I suppose you?re after Kalach-Cha as well??

?No place to run this time, Kalach-Cha. That which you have stolen - hand it over, and we will let you live.?

Was it just her or was she actually starting to get used to this? She sighed, then murmured.

?Thought as much.? The nimble elf back-flipped to Khelgar?s side.

?This is getting tiresome, lass. What's so important about that blasted thing that has them chasing us all over Faerūn??

?If I had a gold coin for every time I asked myself that-?

?Aye, you?d be having dragons hounding you for loot. Ah, take your time. At least the fights come to us.?

?Hand the shard over now, or we will take it from your corpse.?

?Aw, and we were just getting to know each other.?

?Fool. I shall enjoy killing you.?

? ? ? ? ? ?


The battle didn?t last long, no thanks to Khelgar who was actually trying to spare some of the opponents to make them last longer. The true reason for this abnormally easy engagement was that someone had used nature?s powers on the opponents. And it got them good.

As for the small moon elf? Well, embarrassing as it was, she was saved by the badger. First a drow saves her skin and now a small woodland animal. Oh, the grand adventure that was her life.

Ele?ena proceeded to pull grass out of her disheveled hair. Well, at least she didn?t have to pull out other things. Bloodier, squishy things. The shudder of disgust passed through her at the thought. She also noticed that the newcomer seemed to be slightly amused by her appearance.

She didn?t actually have something bloody, squishy in her hair. Did she?

?I'd hoped our meeting would be under more civil circumstances? it has been some time since I've had a chance to speak to one of my kind.? Ele?ena looked at the wiry copper-haired elf who she immediately identified as one of the wood kin.

?Forgive me, but I saw these? things about to attack you, I found I could not simply stand by while you were ambushed - again.?

Ele?ena nearly twitched. What does she mean by that ?again?? What? Being hunted down was not enough for a good adventure story so she had to be spied upon as well.

Again, what simpleminded fools chose to be adventurers by free choice?

?I'd like to help, if I could. I've been trying to follow you without interfering, but I don't think you'll reach your destination without someone who knows the land.?

?And you are??? Be suspicious. Be very suspicious, always. Especially on those who follow you and don?t bother help when you?re in mortal peril.

The newcomer bowed slightly, elegantly. ?I am Elanee. And rather than shadow you, I would walk with you.?

Khelgar scoffed, grumbling half to himself, ?With a frame like that, you'd most likely be blown by the wind.?

?Now, now, no need to be jealous, barrel-house.?

?Of an elf? And a tree-worshipper on top of that? Ha!?

?I think you will find "tree-worshippers" a rare thing these days, dwarf, so do not use that word lightly.?

?Trust me, with a gut like his, Khelgar doesn't do anything lightly.?

?Would the two of you please let me do the talking?? Ele?ena turned on her heels looking particularly fed up.

?Always talking, and to the elves and half-demons and the like. It'll end badly, I tell you.? The dwarf waved it off looking annoyed at the lack of potential brawl ? the duergar didn?t last long even with him trying to spare them.

?Yes, and who knows where talking might lead us next. Stow it, Khelgar.? Neeshka quite conveniently ? and accidentally ? managed to land a small whack on the back of Khelgar?s bald head with her tail. They were at each other?s throats within seconds.

Leader? Who? Her? No, she was just there for the show.

?You still haven't told me why you were following me. Which is something I don?t appreciate, by the way.?

?It's a strange circle of who follows who on this road - at first, I was following those who attacked you. But they seem to be following you, which leads me to believe that there's something you have? something they want, so?? The druidess raised a hand to hide a half smile forming on her face. ?I thought that perhaps my enemy's enemies would at least welcome some company to their destination ? and with my help, even get there faster.?

Ele?ena huffed, ?We've been doing fine on the road so far, thank you.? Aside from a few minor setbacks that needed not be mentioned.

?Well, I come bearing a gift, not just words. I know of a quicker path to Highcliff, and one that will hide your trail as well. There is a druid sanctuary not far from here, the Maiden's Glade, where members of my Circle would go for refuge when traveling the land. I can lead you there, and with no further attacks from these hunters of yours. Not that you can't handle yourself, but I am sure you're growing as tired of these attacks as I am.?

It was a nice offer. The only problem was was the issue of supposed lack of trust. After all, you shouldn?t trust just about everyone you meet on the road.

Which was exactly what she was doing.

?What do you know of these attackers??

She shook her head, ?Little. They are not of the land, that is for certain,? and then frowned, confused. ?They've a strange smell about them - and their speech is like nothing I've heard before. Unless they are speaking to their thralls, it is impossible to make out.? ?But? they keep calling you ?Kalach-Cha? - do you know what that means??

?Now, that would be my question to you.?

She raised the, oh so superior elven eyebrow, ?Then it looks like when it comes to answers, we have little to offer one another. A pity.?

?You want to help me?? Ele?ena spluttered in surprise.

?There is something these hunters want from you - and they seem determined to stop you from reaching your destination. So, I feel it is my duty to balance things out?? Here she managed to pout without actually pouting, ?Besides, they outnumber you. It?s not fair.?

Well, now she had a brand new companion to lead. Needless to say she wasn?t exactly trilled about it. But she had far more pressing things to worry about.

Namely, the necklace and its retrieval.

The elf clapped her hands together. ?All right people, let?s get this show on the road. Those bandits won?t retire on their own.?

?Bandits?? Elanee exclaimed surprised, as if all her predictions just went uphill and came rolling back down straight in her face. To give her some credit, she recovered quickly. ?I thought you were on your way to Highcliff.?

It was Ele?ena?s turn to raise an eyebrow. Now, how could the young druid possibly know that?

?We are. Or, we will be. Later.? Ele?ena knew she didn?t make much sense so she took a deep breath, ?First we need to take care of some trouble in the neighborhood.? She looked at the side where Khelgar had his hands full with the tiefling?s tail, and Neeshka had her boot buried between dwarf?s teeth.

There was absolutely no reason why Elanee wouldn?t consider her sane now. And frankly, Ele?ena wouldn?t really blame the druid.

? ? ? ? ? ?


Dear gamer! You cannot summon Spirits of Rage when fighting bosses. We apologize for any inconvenience. Please send all complaints to Undead Control Administration, Bosses Combat Department, and apply for revision of the Endoria combat regulations. - King?s Bounty, the Legend
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#6 Orthodoxia

Orthodoxia
  • Member
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Posted 24 August 2007 - 12:50 AM

Author?s Notes: I love this chapter, that?s all I can say. That and the first butchering of the AD&D and game system starts now.
-Again, read and enjoy, and thank you for the reviews which are much appreciated as they keep the story going.


? ? ? ? ? ?

?
? ~ Flashback
? ? ? ? ? ?
? ? ? ? ? ? ~ Scene/Situation Change

? ? ? ? ? ?


~ Chapter 4: Bandages and Jewels ~


In this dank corridors where little to no light exist, and where madness is always out to get you, nipping at your heels trying to taste your flesh. On this day Ele?ena had firmly decided that? Neeshka? must? die.

But all of this doesn?t come until later.

? ? ? ? ? ?


The day was beautiful in its appearance. With golden and green hues of trees and sun, and deep and pale blue of stones and sky.

Well, that was above ground. As for what was on it?

?Weren?t we supposed to be looking for bandits? How the heck did we then end up in the graveyard?? Neeshka asked kicking a skull that so happened not to be buried.

?For one raised in the Mere I must say, your sense of orientation is truly?? The druidess fell silent, as if what she was about to say contradicted her belief in some way.

?Just say it Elanee.?

??appalling.?

Sigh.

?I know.? Ele?ena really had no idea how they have ended up here, in the graveyard of all places. It wasn?t a nice, well kept graveyard even. Which was probably the reason for the skull being above ground when it should be beneath it, but the elf didn?t think of it then.

But again, that wasn?t really the reason why Neeshka was going to die the most painful death Ele?ena could come up with.

? ? ? ? ? ?


?Next time you see a sparkly-shiny-colorful-thingy wrapped in old bandages peeking from the half-opened tomb, DON?T TOUCH IT!!? Ele?ena cried picking up speed and rounding another corner.

?How was I supposed to know there was a hundreds-of-years-old-cranky-when-awoken mummy in there!?? Neeshka defended herself valiantly though not with much success as something she had said caused rapture of angry moans and hisses somewhere behind them in the darkness.

?Great. Not only you?re incapable of robbing the undead without them noticing you, you also have no subtlety when it comes to insulting them.? The Moon elf grumbled fingering the wands on her belt. Magic Missal and Gas only, the Frost one was gone by now.

Shoot! She could have used it now to slow the thing down. Or burn it. How come there were never enough fire wands around when you need them. And if there are, they cost a fortune.

Another angry moan or growl erupted behind them.

And what was it with old lumbering corpses that seemed to make more progress per second then a good young pair of legs?

?Be angry at greedy traders later. Run for life now.? Neeshka said guessing her thoughts ? latent Lower Planes ability anyone ? when she saw the elf fuss over her magic equipment.

Another quick turn.

?Dead-end!?

?Now what do we do!??

?Pray that epitome of maleness and manhood will suddenly come to rescue us, perhaps??

?Then we?re defiantly gonna pull a shorter in this one.?

The mummy rounded the corner and moved straight towards them with a speed no embalmed corpse should posses.

Ele?ena pulled out the Wand of Missles and nudged the tiefling. ?Listen, I?ll shoot you stab.?

The Mummy got closer.

?Huh, why me?? Neeshka squealed unsheathing her newly looted dagger.

Just a bit closer.

?Because you actually know how to use the thing.? Ele?ena squeezed through her teeth.

The walking pile of bandages was very close now. Too close for comfort actually.

?Well fine. But this is the last time I stuck my hand in the pile of walking maggots.? Neeshka huffed and agilely avoided the mummy?s attack driving her blade in and running it up and around the undead?s torso.

?It didn?t seem to bother you when there was jewelry inside!? Ele?ena added as she unleashed storm of magic missiles, one after another, driving the creature back. At first she was worried that the stash of magic wouldn?t be enough but with Neeshka?s precise cuts the thing fell apart, if not quickly then at least surely.

At last the mummy collapsed into a pile of ash with ruined bandages languidly coiling around it. Brave fighters as they were, their legs giving away, back to back both girls slid down on the floor.

?I hate being an adventurer.?

?I second that.?

Blessed quiet.

After a few moments of caching breath in an absolute silence the two girls got back to their feet.

?Wow, that was a one though fight I didn?t expect. Some skeletons and zombies maybe, not a mummy though.? Neeshka stretched her tail wagging happily.

?No. You just wanted to loot the tombs.? Ele?ena grimaced. She didn?t expect any fight at all and, more importantly, should have turned around and left this place the moment she heard the cackling echoing the corridors.

?Relieving the desists of unnecessary junk is what I prefer to call it, but ?loot? fits the bill too.? Neeshka wiggled her finger correcting her.

?I don?t think they appreciate your kind thoughts Neeshka-? The elf pushed her hand away.

?Pfft! No one ever does, let me tell you.? The tiefling crossed her arms pouting.

?In fact, I?m of a firm belief that they would have managed to move on in their peachy unlives even with all the junk weighting them down.?

?Oh come on! You can?t possibly believe that hundreds of years old corpses are rising around us just because I picked a few trinkets here and there.?

?So, the purple glowing dagger, the unidentified-but-smells-like-magic belt and those boots are trinkets? And how can you just take off boots from some rotting corpse and put them on!?? Ele?ena, her face twisted in grimace, pointed at the dark green boots Neeshka was currently wearing.

?How can?t I!? They are comfy and have some nifty enchantments to boot.? She struck a pose, showing off.

Ele?ena threw her hands in the air, ?I give up. That?s just too disgusting for me to understand.?

?It?s strange though.? Neeshka noted then.

?What is??

?Well, we only got attacked by that mummy since we got separated from the barrel-head and the tree-hugger.? Ele?ena muttered something how they wouldn?t have been attacked by even that if she kept her grubby hands to herself. Neeshka pointedly ignored the background noise. ?AND don?t you find that a bit, I don?t know, strange??

Ele?ena shrugged not really caring as long those damn things stayed away from her. ?Perhaps they found Khelgar more appetizing. I mean, he is bigger? er, rounder.?

Neeshka let out a string of laughter, ?Good thing their stomachs don?t work anymore otherwise they?d be dieing all over again.?

Just as they thought the worst of the worst this tomb had to offer them was behind them and they started to relax another gurgling moan echoed in the still air around them.

It was an upper torso of a zombie Ele?ena had cut in two back when they first entered the catacombs. Apparently it?s more competent half had somehow managed to find a way leading to them. Neeshka, like some curious kitten, walked over to it and started to inspect it from all sides. Up and down, left and right, hopping over it as the one-armed-half of the zombie tried to get a grip of her.

?Look, it?s so pitiful; it can?t do anything to us.? Neeshka said triumphally trying to squash him with her boot.

?I wouldn?t be so-?

?HEY!!?

?-sure of that.? Again, a sigh.

?It took my boot!?

?Maybe it?s his.?

?He?s gnawing on my boot!!?

?So he would rather eat it then let you have it. I can relate to that, I don?t like anyone touching my things either.? Ele?ena said matter-of-factly being most unhelpful at the moment.

Neeshka managed to find time from her full time job of playing tug-o-war with the zombie to send a glare from one of the nine levels of hell. Since she wasn?t sure from which one the young tiefling originated the elf wasn?t sure how threatening to classify it, so she settled with ?scary?.

Ele?ena shrugged and walked over to her, ?Well that?s what you get for playing with smaller and older kids then you are.?

? ? ? ? ? ?


Once the matter of the boot has been ?settled? the two brave adventurers continued (ran through) their path into the unknown. The unknown leading straight to slightly ajar door by the way. And like any good thief who saw mystic light coming from the partly opened door at the end of a long, dark corridor Neeshka promptly settled herself at the edge of it and peered in. Ele?ena crutched at the opposite side of the door.

?What do you see?? The elf asked not being able to shake the feeling of deja-vu. Deep dunk dungeon, listening in on private conversations? Well, minus the dungeon and the danger it was pretty much like her every day life in West Harbor.

?Shh.? The tiefling shushed her. But when she stayed silent for several more prolonged moments Ele?ena graciously stomped on her foot. Barely covering her yelp Neeshka glared at the elf who gave her ?well, what the hell is going on?? look.

?Some kind of weird looking priest is in there. You know, the black robes and stuff.? Neeshka whispered finally.

Of course, a priest. How couldn?t she have guessed? They?re in catacombs in an abandoned cemetery. What is an abandoned cemetery without a local cultist interested in necromancy?

?And, hey, there?s a soldier-looking guy in there. Think it might be that missing commander.?

?The one Vallis doesn?t want to show up again??

?Must be.? Neeshka looked at her sideways. ?So, do we save him??

?Do we have a choice?? Ele?ena grumbled mentally. ?Any zombies in there??

?No. But the hall is covered with several corpses.?

?Witch will no doubt get up in the worst possible moment.? And that would be the worst possible moment for the adventurers ? in other words: them. ?Ok, here?s the plan??

? ? ? ? ? ?


It was a very good plan. And it actually worked as it should ? in the beginning at least.

They snuck-up on the masked priest and when they got close enough they launched the attack. And, as planned, the priest did fall quickly but not before he managed to raise the corpses that littered the floor of the chamber. Needless to say, neither Neeshka nor Ele?ena were well equipped at the moment to deal with the opponents that just didn?t want to stay dead.

Fortunately, Khelgar ? who just then busted through the door, was more then eager to deal with the ?fowl wretches?, and more then capable too. And with Khelgar and Elanee around Ele?ena was more then willing to leave the fighting to more competent members of their little group.

?Where were you two?? Elanee started once the battle was over, worriedly looking over the two girls for some sort of injury, which the two pranksters had plenty to spare, but quickly switched into preaching mod.

?And while you two were out skippin? around picking flowers we found some of the Fort?s man down here.?

?Well, we found Commander of Fort Locke himself. Hah!! Beat that barrel-house!? Neeshka taunted as if the two had made some kind of bet earlier and now she was on a winning road. Khelgar bristled and fight was on ? until the druidess decided to intervene with a stern voice.

Ele?ena ignored both of them and their constant bickering and got to work of removing that shackles from the imprisoned Commander.

?It must be your lucky day,? she said freeing the man.

?I'll take all the luck I can get. Doesn't really matter to me what form it takes.? The man said rubbing his sore wrists. ?Did Lieutenant Vallis send you to find me? He must be gloating right now. He warned me not to send another patrol until we received reinforcements from Neverwinter.?

?You could say that he was very much interested whether you were dead or alive, yes.?

?Good thing that he was. I have much to report, and the men need to be prepared to deal with this new threat.?

New threat? What new threat? They barely got out of this one alive. Not to mention that she still had shard to deal with. She had no time for new threats.

?The necromancer interrogated me thoroughly on the strengths and weaknesses of Fort Locke. Troop numbers, defense strategies, the experience of the men? He must have been planning to attack using the undead he was raising.?

?He had enough to defeat the garrison? I didn?t get the impression that there was an army down here.? Of course she had avoided confrontation at every turn but if there were an army she wouldn?t have been so lucky.

?As you say, you've fought through most of his forces to reach me. You know as well as I do he didn't have the numbers to bring down the fort. Perhaps if he had additional forces coming from the north? say, from Highcliff? then he may have had a chance of success.? He shook his head dismissing the possibility. ?Even then, he would have needed to surprise the fort, which would be unlikely. News of Highcliff falling would spread like wildfire. Fort Locke would be ready.?

?Was the necromancer working alone??

For a moment he looked confused, not sure how best to describe what he saw. ?He spoke with a? well, a shade of some sort from time to time. I heard a name ? Black Garius. I gather he's the one giving the orders.?

Ele?ena shivered. Someone giving orders usually meant that there were those who carried them out. And it was highly unlikely that this was the only one who obeyed, if the expensive robes were anything to go by. If the group had a leader and the money and long-distance magic calls then it wasn?t a backstreet gang it was full blown cult.

?Are you able to travel?? She asked finally wanting nothing more but to get out of this place.

?That Shadow Priest tossed me around for a bit, but it wasn't anything serious. I can travel. I was separated from my men as we fought our way in. Some may still be down here.?

?Don?t worry yourself, we?ve found them already.? Khelgar said leaning on his axe.

?You have?? Commander Tann looked up from where Elanee was binding his wound.

?Aye, they were roughened up real good so we?ve sent them to wait for us back at the cemetery.?

Ele?ena nodded, ?Then we should get moving. The necromancer may be dead but I still don?t like staying down here.?

?But I?ve only got to check tombs on the one side.? Neeshka huffed with indignity.

?If you start checking tombs on the other side as well Neeshka, I have no doubt that the resident undead will follow us straight to Neverwinter.?

?But I-?

?No ?buts?. We?re leaving and you can forget about all the pretty shiny stuff lying around.? Ele?ena said with a voice that allowed no discussion ? she picked that one from Daeghun ? and turned around and left the chamber with Commander Tann.

?You?re so mean,? tiefling huffed kicked the ground. ?Party-pooper,? she grumbled crossing her arms before stalking away as well.

?What has gotten into them?? Elanee asked sounding worried.

?How should I know!? You pointy-eared freaks are all crazy.? Khelgar snorted and walked away leaving wide-eyed Elanee standing behind. The druidess was quick to recover and walked over to pouting tiefling curious of one thing since she had entered the chamber.

?Neeshka, I hope you won?t find me too intrusive if I ask one small question.? Elanee started placing one friendly, supportive hand on tiefling?s shoulder.

?What happened with your boot??

? ? ? ? ? ?

?A what?!? Ele?ena exclaimed both in fear and surprise ? as usual, more fear then surprise.

Khelgar clamped the elf on the shoulder, ?Be quiet lass. You?ve been talking me into this ambush thing and now you jump around like a blue rabbit.? With a slightly apologetic expression ? she was still too much worried about what Neeshka had just told her ? Ele?ena slunk back into the bushes.

With Commander Tann safely back to his duties in Fort Locke Ele?ena and the company were tracking the bandits for a while now and bypassing and eliminating small raiding groups as necessary ? mostly to make Khelgar shut up ? and were now observing the main bandit camp. And to everyone?s surprise there were less of them then they expected at first ? either because the patrols were back in work or they were just well organized from the start.

When they have returned to Fort the confrontation with the Vallis nearly took another bloody turn but, to everyone?s surprise, Khelgar had proven that he can hit just as hard with his words as he can with his axe. And especially when he teams up with the certain tiefling. Both Elanee and Ele?ena stared in disbelief as Neeshka and Khelgar grilled the soldiers in perfect coordination. Pity it didn?t last longer though, for the moment they realized they were working together ? and working well at that ? they proceeded to insult each other just for a good measure. Fortunately, Vallis had been taken in custody by then.

What happened next was something Ele?ena supposed she would have to get a grip with soon enough. She knew there was law, and she knew there was justice ? the two not necessarily including each other ? but this was the first time she saw both executed. Quite literally.

Seeing his swinging corpse didn?t do much for her nerves. It reminded her too much of the graveyard with all the dead things moving when they shouldn?t. Not to mention she didn?t care much about the man, he was a rotten bastard who only cared for his prestige and was more then willing to throw the lives of people living in the area to the wind.

It also reminded her that in Neverwinter rules were taken seriously and rule-breakers punished severely. Something she was reputable of doing, repeatedly. She shook her head; she would cross that bridge when she gets there.

Either way, the news Neeshka had just delivered to her worried her a lot ? second only to the problem of missing Shayla?s necklace. The whole conversation started with the simple question that had no simple answer. In other words, Ele?ena asked Neeshka if she might ? just might ? know what the ?Kalach-Cha? means. The resulting answer was?

?What I said, the githyanki.? Neeshka continued as if she was sharing some common gossip in the Marquet Square. ?You know, probably one of the worst groups of zealots you could ever have chasing you, the Lower Planes excluded.?

?No, I don?t know. But I?m sure I?ll find out eventually if they keep hounding me the way they did by now.?

?Githyanki are smart, even for religious half-wits. So I hope they haven't targeted you for some holy crusade, because then you'd be deep in the Styx, let me tell you.?

She?s deep in Styx.

The tiefling tapped her chin thoughtfully, ?The thing is, they usually aren't this persistent ? they have a set goal, they hit it, and then they're out of there. Plus, they don't usually stay on one plane for too long ? the Astral Plane is their home.?

?You think this shard it is, then??

?Your coin's as good as mine. Could be ? but whatever it is, it must be pretty important to them.?

Great. Just great. Not only she had a run-in with a possibly great necromantic cult of sorts, she also had planer religious zealots of the worst kind chasing her. Frustrated she kicked the nearby stone.

?Damn it Father! Couldn?t you just have tossed the thing somewhere in the deepest pits of the swamp!?

The small stone rolled down the slope and neatly settled next to guard?s boot causing him to look up at them.

?They?ve spotted us,? Elanee remarked gripping her weapons tighter. The moon elf looked around confused as to what had happened just now, then spotted bandits charging up at them.

?Can we attack now blast it all!?? Khelgar asked (whined) readying his axe.

Ele?ena sighed, ?Yes, Khelgar, we can attack now.? She didn?t even finish and the dwarf was already off hacking through the opponents and trying some new moves as well.

? ? ? ? ? ?


Neeshka quickly busied herself rummaging through debris ? and corpses ? of the bandit camp. The refugees were safe for the moment but Ele?ena knew they weren?t finished just yet. She had yet to spot the face of the bandit who had robbed her. She searched through all the corpses and when she found nothing she started to get even more frustrated and worried.

Real worried.

It had to be here! It just had to! Because if it wasn?t it meant the bandit who robed her worked solo and she would never find him now. Or he was a part of this group and with the patrols back on the roads he had gotten himself killed and some scruffy looking soldier had claimed her property as his prize. Or, or he had gotten himself eaten by the rabid wolves in the forest ? stinking cloud tended to anger animals with sensitive nose as Daeghun told her once ? in which case she would have to gut every wolf from here to? to IceWind Dale? and, oh gods, Daeghun!

He had probably by now found out that she had emptied his secret stash, the locket and all. And Ele?ena was certain, mystery of the shard solved or not, she was one dead moon elf.

?Come on lass, we should free the people now that the air is clear.? Khelgar called to her.

Oh no, no, no, no. No. This wasn?t ending like this because this couldn?t end until she found the necklace or at least checked very inch of the camp to make sure it wasn?t here. Which left her only with the?

?House,? she whispered. ?We still haven?t searched the house yet.? Ele?ena called to her companions louder. They looked at her in wonder. Most of the bandits were gone, the people were safe and there was plenty of loot. Why risk it all by going into the house with an unknown number of enemies?

?Well, what if free the refugees and the rest of the bandits come rushing out of the house? We don?t know how many are in there and the refugees would certainly make an easier target then we would.? She reasoned quite logically surprising even herself. Funny how good ideas start popping when you get cornered.

? ? ? ? ? ?


?So you've finally made it here - any reason you decided to come tearing through my camp??

Ele?ena gaped. This wiry man of Chondathan descent was the chief of the local group of bandits. Neither overtly strong or intimidating, this man was likely the brains of the operation.

And at the same time he was the bastard who took her necklace? eh, Daeghun?s necklace.

?Three actually, first one being the prisoners in your camp.? She mentally congratulated herself for getting a hold of herself so quickly and with no one noticing. At least she hoped no one noticed.

The leader of bandits leaned back against (presumably) his desk, ?You could have just asked. I was certainly willing to negotiate.?

Ele?ena paused, mouth half-opened and then she closed them. That was not the reply she had been expecting.

?You'd just let them go??

?You've already destroyed my camp. Any gold I would have gotten from the prisoners would have to go to repairs anyhow. Way I see it, things'll go a lot easier if I just free them all.?

Blast it! And here she was hoping, for once, to kick that sorry excuse of a thief five days from Wednesday. Common sense and lack of threat overrode the momentary bloodlust. ?Besides,? that little annoying voice from the swamp made himself known again, ?if he doesn?t deliver the necklace then you can kick his arse three days from Wednesday.?

?Five.?

?Huh??

?Five days from Wednesday.?

?? ?whatever.?


Focusing back on the important matters Ele?ena looked at the annoying leader.

?Second, you need to put a stop to your raids.? ?Come on, give me reason to fight when I actually want to.?

He scoffed, very much not pleased with the prospect presented before him. ?You've done that ? most of my men are dead. So if you're finished, you can just leave the way you came.?

?And how will I know you won't just get a new band and start raiding again? Being mugged every ten meters on the way back is not something I look foreword to.?

He shrugged not really caring whether she believed him or not. ?You don't. I could try to convince you I've learned my lesson, but I don't think you'd listen. Besides, it doesn't matter ? even if we packed up what remains of this camp, another group would just take our place anyway.? He looked down at her with that infuriating half-smile of his. ?You see, in case you haven't noticed, the roads aren't exactly crawling with troops these days. It's every man for himself.?

An idea formed in the little blue moon elf?s head. And evil idea. A deliciously, mischievously evil idea. It was so evil in fact, that she had every potential to become the next grand villain of the Realms.

?Fort Locke is short of men. I'm sure they'd pay well for new recruits to patrol the roads.?

He looked scandalized (as she predicted he would) and looked at her as if she were crazy. Her three companions gawked at her with wide eyes; Khelgar?s particularly were very close to falling out of his head. Poor dwarf had probably expected another fight.

?Me!? Playing a guard!? Hah! The military couldn't pay nearly as well as what I make from raids.?

?Any man who can recruit and lead men deserves an officer's rank ? and pay. Especially since they?re rather desperate at the moment.?

He looked like was thinking the option over, but it was already decided. Ah, the sweet smell of success. ?Hmmm? what makes you think they won't just fit our necks for a noose??

?The Commander of Fort Locke owes me a favor, I'll put in a good word.?

?Hmmm? honest work'll take some getting used to. Still, I am getting tired of being on the run all the time and watching my back. As are my men, I'm sure.?

?Good. And one last thing.? Time to conclude the business. ?The necklace you so graciously took. I want it back.?

He raised an eyebrow, baffled. ?What necklace??

?The one you nicked while trying to escape the maws of rabid wolves. That necklace.?

?I must say I don?t have a clue what you?re babbling about. Too many things happen in the forest for me to keep a track of them all.? There was a small insinuating grin on his face that nearly made Ele?ena blow the top and Neeshka?s small laugh from the background grew louder until she finally couldn?t contain herself anymore.

?So you were having rendezvous with the Bandit Leader for those three hours in the forest. And you didn?t share the news with me? Shame on you.?

Ele?ena?s pale blue skin went reddish-purple but it was all from anger not embarrassment. Because nothing happened to be embarrassment about.

?I was NOT having rendezvous you damnable goat!! I was being robbed!!?

?Of what? Your maiden-? Faster then they could give her credit Ele?ena had Neeshka eating floorboards.

?You!? Ele?ena turned both her attention and her glare to the leader and he, and what has left from his group, nearly took a step back from the unnatural sheen the girl?s eyes took. And indeed, the shadows form the half-burnt candles deepened and expended, crawling over the walls following her as she stomped over to the bandit leader.

Enough was enough.

?I?ll make this simple enough for your tiny pea sized brain to understand,? the shadows coiled deeper as she stood in front of him, ?If I don?t get that necklace back you won?t be joining your men outside ? oh no, you?ll be joining the wonderful community of the undead in the area.? The elf yanked him down to an eyelevel. ?With their numbers drastically reduced recently ? by guess who ? I?m certain that they?ll be more then eager to welcome you with open arms and open mouth! DO I make myself clear!??

A moment of absolute silence followed and then the leader burst into laughter. As did the rest of his men. And if she wasn?t mistaken there were sounds unique to dwarf and plane-touched as well. What a wonderful companions she had.

?Great work on the intimidation kiddo. Nearly feel for it.? He mussed her hair as he continued to chuckle, amusement not leaving him that easily. ?Pity you?re not older, we could have some fun time together.? He produced the necklace from one of his pockets and tossed it to her.

Ele?ena caught it for a moment happily ignoring his comment and then turned slightly green at what he said. ?Pity I?m not even younger to be completely spared of such comments.?

?And if you haven't freed the prisoners up top all ready, I'll let them go. Might warm up this Commander of yours.? Motioning to the exit, ?Now I think you know the way out - and I've got a lot to do before we present ourselves to the Fort Commander.? He shook his head in pure disbelief but still chuckling at the show she made earlier, ?I can't believe I'm doing this.?

?Which was the whole point,? Ele?ena thought stepping out of the room Shayla?s necklace clutched in her hand.

Once they have stepped out of the house Neeshka couldn?t hold back any longer. ?So you?ve hunted the bandits down for this!??

?Don?t you this to me!? Ele?ena waved necklace in hand in front of Neeshka?s face. ?It?s a valuable family heirloom that I?m sworn to protect with my life. And don?t give me that look,? the elf snapped seeing how the tiefling eyed her. ?I?m not crazy!?

Dubious looks of her companions told a different tale. And in greater volume.

? ? ? ? ? ?


?Faint power essence? one sapphire? two iron ingots? Mixed not stirred, and cheat it all with one scroll ?Mage Armor? and one Brooch of Shielding is ready for use.? And indeed, glittering softly in her pale hand, the amulet was more then ready for use.

Some mages would tell you that it was impossible to fake the crafting process with the scroll. But then again, most mages wouldn?t know the difference between their own mother and a tavern wench once they stuck their noses in their precious books. And not the least, most mages didn?t have the honor ? and the luck ? to be trained by her teacher.

And now, what free little time she had before she was on the road again she spent on the working bench, making small useful things for the adventures (since she seemed to attract them like honey does bees) ahead ? Alchemist?s Fire, Stinking Powder and Tanglefoot Bag were a must.

When they had returned they found that certain changes have been taken in the camp,

Commander Tann was shocked, surprised and a bit of amused as well. But all in all, he took it in quite well.

?


?You've been busy, haven't you? I take it I have you to thank for the rabble that I've got as new soldiers now.?

?Maybe. Why??

?Heh. Don't worry about it. In fact, I was going to thank you. Things have gone surprisingly well with those rogues. They all know the basics about fighting already, though their styles are? questionable at times. Guess that comes from their previous line of work. To be honest, I thought I'd been gift wrapped a present from the Neverwinter Greycloaks. I was ready to hang them all until their leader mentioned you.?

?Oh? What did he say??

?Said you'd impressed him enough that he'd heard you out. That you'd convinced him I'd welcome his men. I didn't believe him at first, but then he filled me in on what happened at his camp. It sounded like your work all right.?

?Really? I thought he was more inclined to call me a crazy looking scruffy blue monkey.?

?He mentioned that too.?

?Jerk. Just keep your eye on them.?

?Oh, I will. Still, I think things will work out just fine. Their leader's going to turn out to be an excellent second in command. He's got a good head on his shoulders, and my men immediately took to him.?

?Some glamour comes with being a bandit chieftain, I suppose.?

?How did you ever convince them to give up their raiding ways??

?I have no idea. I could see that his heart wasn't into it.?

?Heh. Well, whatever the reason, I thank you. Neverwinter's been slow to respond to my requests for reinforcements. I must've really gotten on someone's nerves for the Vallis incident. Anyhow, I've started to organize fresh patrols along the roads again. Your bandit friends know the area quite well, as you can imagine. They know of routes I don't even know about...and I've been posted here for half my life. Course, they had good reason to look for those routes before the patrols stopped. Heh.?

?So the roads are safe to travel now??

?Hardly. Oh, they will be eventually, but it will take awhile for us to re-establish our presence. You can't let bandits run loose for this long and suddenly just shut them down. Here's the reward for dealing with the scoundrels. You certainly earned this one.?

?

Cormick?s opinion of her had grown as well.

?


?Commander Tann is back, Vallis is taken care of, and it looks like the patrols will be starting again soon. Not to mention the ?bandit problem? had taken an interesting turn. Not bad, not bad at all.?

?Nah, it all solved on its own, I was just a casual observer.?

?You seem to have a knack for solving problems. I could use someone like you. I can reward you properly for this back in the city. It shouldn't be any trouble convincing Captain Brelaina that you deserve a little something for helping me out. Stop by the city guard barracks if you find yourself looking for work in Neverwinter.?


?


She raised the amulet to the sun to inspect it better ? or to simply admire her handiwork and giggled.

?I?m so good.?

?Good at attracting trouble or good at causing it?? A sudden voice surprised her so much that with a yelp she fell backwards from the stool dropping the newly made amulet in the air.

She scrambled to her feet and glared at the new second in command of the Fort Locke, ?By the- Don?t sneak up on me like that!?

The former bandit leader just shrugged grinning slightly and brought the amulet to his eyes to inspect it. ?Excellent craftsmanship.? Ele?ena sulked but couldn?t help but feel a bit flattered. Well he would know about it wouldn?t he? ?You should open a shop in Neverwinter. The nobles there adore shiny things, especially if it?s magical.?

?So you could show up and raid it at some point??

?In a few years perhaps. Let the business ripe first,? he looked at her up and down, ?and other things as well.?

Ele?ena raised an eyebrow and in turn now looked at him like he was a piece of meet on display. Which was not flattering at all.

?Given your current age and state I?d say you?d be dead in a few years.?

?Evil brat. What happened with respecting your elders??

?Hey, as you said, I?m a kid. It?s an obligatory behavior.? He chuckled and extended his arm to give her back the amulet but she waved it off. ?Keep it. I can make more.?

?You sure you won?t go homicidal over it??

Ele?ena sighed, ?No, I won?t go homicidal over it.? That was what bothered her. She nearly lost it back there, and the worst part was: she had no idea over what she would have lost control. She had no idea what her eldritch powers would do next.

Gods, being a warlock sucked.

Snapping fingers brought her attention back from her ugly and dread-filled thoughts.

?Kid, you?re bound to get yourself in a ditch before you reach Highcliff if this is how you react to danger.?

The elf frowned. First Elanee tells her that her sense of orientation was good for noting and now a Bandit Leader informs her that her reflexes are nonexistent. Perfect. Her poor teacher would have a heart attack if she witnessed this.

?Well I wasn?t exactly planning to go adventuring for about a century or so. And enough with the ?kid? calling already. My name is Ele?ena. Is that simple enough for you or do I have to spell it, too??

?Well then, pleasure to meet you Ele?ena. I?m Nathell.? He extended his hand and she took it laughing at the absurdity of it all. Only she was capable of making deals with lizardmen and forging a fragile bond with the bandits.

? ? ? ? ? ?


Once they?ve said their goodbyes, the provisions were packed, Neeshka and Khelgar were at the safe traveling distance Ele?ena stepped up to the druidess and took her under arm.

?So Elanee, you mentioned a shortcut to Highcliff earlier. A safe shortcut.?

? ? ? ? ? ?


Dear gamer! You cannot summon Spirits of Rage when fighting bosses. We apologize for any inconvenience. Please send all complaints to Undead Control Administration, Bosses Combat Department, and apply for revision of the Endoria combat regulations. - King?s Bounty, the Legend
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#7 Orthodoxia

Orthodoxia
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Posted 26 August 2007 - 11:49 PM

~ Interlude II ~
...second crack...


?Somewhere in the Mere?

Stars were pretty out here. Then again, it was nothing she couldn?t see lying on the roof of her house back in West Harbor.

Ele?ena wandered if she would ever get used to sleeping on the ground. On the other hand, maybe this adventure won?t last long enough for her to get used to. Tomorrow their little group would reach Highcliff and from there they would catch the boat for Neverwinter, and there she could finally put the whole thing to rest.

Yeah, right.

Juvenile she may be, but an idiot she wasn?t. Some might disagree though.

The way they- well, she has been perused there was no way in hells that those things would give up just because she was in a big city, surrounded by watch and soldiers? That may just encourage them to strike when she?s in bath.

?Great. I?ll survive this entire insane trip to Neverwinter only to die in a bathtub. I just know it,? the elf grumbled holding the shard over her head. Even under starlight the dull of its color didn?t seem to brighten. It was still pulsing with magic though, like long cords winding around her hands and wrists. It tickled a bit actually.

Ele?ena sighed. Last few days were crazier then a month in an asylum ? she thought so at least ? and while she knew that there was no way of it happening, she hoped very much that the road ahead would be less frantic then her current adventures.

?Fat chance of that happening,? she snorted and looked at the shard still in her hands sleepily. ?Might as well get some sleep.? She thought wrapping the shard and tucking it back in the backpack and curling under her blanket.

? ? ? ? ? ?


She didn?t wake up suddenly. No, it was more a gradual thing, like waking up on a rainy morning, with the fresh cold seeping into her. Only this time she had no urge to go back to sleep. Like so many nights sleeping outside before, her eyes were drawn to the camp fire where all that had remained of the fire were barely glowing embers.

Was it her watch already? She raised her eyes to the dwarf, with all intention to ask him why he didn?t wake her up ? and to thank him for it. But Khelgar wasn?t where he was supposed to be. In fact he wasn?t anywhere in sight or in camp. And, to her horror, when she turned to call Neeshka and Elanee she realized they weren?t there either. Their bedrolls were empty.

She was alone.

She was never this far from home on her own. Sure, she had started this adventure without anyone but by the end of the day Khelgar had decided to tag along as well. And after that came Neeshka, and Elanee. She was never really alone.

Except now she was.

Alone and afraid.

In the distance she heard footsteps approaching and relief washed over her. If this was Neeshka?s way of making her pay for not letting her get deeper into the tombs then she was really going to get it. She was about to stand up and give a piece of her mind to her companions about ill-mannered jokes in an ill-mannered time ? that was her job after all ? when the figure stepped into the meager light of the campsite.

And it wasn?t Neeshka, or Elanee. And it defiantly wasn?t the dwarf.

Black silhouette. Black creature. Not even her elven sight could make out where the shadows ended and the body began. All dark like the deepest corners of the tombs.

For a second just a second, she thought that it maybe a drow, that drow who had saved her life in Weeping Willow but it wasn?t. Not with that halberd he was carrying with such an ease in his hand, like it was made from shows itself. Not with the way he moved, walking on the shadows and not touching the ground.

Taller then a human, deadlier then a drow. Ele?ena didn?t know how but she could tell.

He approached and kneeled before her, shadows spreading like a shroud across the small campsite, carefully placing the large weapon on the ground next to him. He was at her eye-level now except he didn?t have any or?

?Black eyes?'

His skin, his hair, his eyes? Yes, even his eyes were black aside from those two tiny red dots in the sea of obsidian.

Obsidian.

It didn?t make her shiver. It made her want to shed her own skin and ran to the furthest corners of the Multiverse. Would she be safe there? She wasn?t so sure of it. He was spreading fear around himself like some men spread calmness but one thing was difficult to avoid.

By the gods, was he beautiful! Perfect. Far too perfect to be good.

And he was grinning, gently tapping tip of her hose with the flat side of a dagger. She blinked, confused and followed the red dots that were his eyes.

Her shirt had fallen open, lacings cut.

She wanted to yelp and cover herself but he stopped her ? without a movement, without a look. He just did. And the only thing that seemed to interest him was a scar on her chest.

There was nothing entrancing about it. Not a clear cut or a crescent moon or anything that would make the scar remotely attractive. It was rather an ugly unidentified splotch nestled in the middle of her chest. And Amie kept wondering why she wouldn?t wear any low-cut dresses.

But for whatever reason that ugly splotch had at the moment his entire attention. And he showed his appreciation by running tips of his black fingers around the edges of it so slowly it could almost be described as sensual.

And such feeling it caused that she wanted to scream her soul out.

There was nothing sensual in his touch. Or there was ? if you were a masochist.

Ele?ena wasn?t and the only thing she felt was overwhelming and numbing fear. Cold and heavy, like chains of ice.

And then they probed in, his fingers? claws, like sinking into water. Her flesh nothing but a frail barrier not even worth the trouble to be properly torn down as his fingers brushed against her heart and something else? something else which made him smile.

A cold smile full of sharp white teeth and unspoken promises of ugly things to come.

There was no sound. But it had to, she reasoned to herself. It had to because? because why else would her ears bleed and her tears turn red? Why else would her eyes roll back? Why did she feel her heart grow hot and pick up the speed and then stop?

Why was there silence?

? ? ? ? ? ?


She woke up with a start, her hand going straight for the scar on her chest. Her shirt was in its place, laced and defiantly not open wide. And behind it, a beating heart? with no black fingers crawling inside and coiling around- No! She didn?t even what to think about ?it? Didn?t want to remember that black creature and red eyes?

And she was doing just that.

Running her palm up and down her neck she could feel the rapid pulse slowly going back to normal. A beating heart. That?s one problem solved.

When she looked around she also noticed that both Elanee and Neeshka were in their respective bedrolls though the tiefling was snuggling something that looked like her respective gem pouch.

?Bloody kleptomaniac,? Ele?ena thought rubbing her sore eyes.

Elanee was sleeping as well, the head of her badger companion resting on her bent knees. Looking up at the guard post where Khelgar should be saw him sitting there between the roots of a large tree. With his eyes closed. And snoring.

?Why that dwarf?!?

She picked up one small rock from the nearby camp fire and with expertise born from many hours of practicing on poor villagers of West Harbor, Ele?ena hurled the stone in dwarf?s direction where it landed square on his head. He really should consider wearing a helmet.

Khelgar jumped (and yelped) looking at all directions to find the one interfering in his pleasant dreams. And they were pleasant damn it!

?I?ve put my life on tip of that axe, dwarf. Who knows where it might wander off in the middle of the night if you kept dreaming about dwarven monk wenches?? To her infra-vision Khelgar appeared oddly flushed. She could be mistaken though.

?Well, if you think you can do better then maybe you should take over the watch,? he grumbled but it was a grumble that left no room for debate. It was her turn to take the watch.

Curses and damnations! Not for the first time the moon elf regretted opening her mouth. But situation being what it was, it was still better then going back to sleep. For now. So she settled herself at Khelgar?s place as the dwarf unrolled his own blanket in a cozy spot near one of the large stones.

And just as she closed her eyes for a moment to relax her nightmare ridden mind the pebble hit the top of her head.

?Ye stay awake now!? Came the voice from somewhere in the camp.

?Damnable dwarf,? she muttered rubbing her slightly sore head. Good thing Khelgar decided against using one of those boulders that lay around the camp. Then, quite unexpectedly, snapping twigs somewhere just behind her snapped too her line of thought and she, still under the influence of a stalking nightmare, quickly turned around with hand that really should be on her weapon but sadly wasn?t.

The bear posed his large-half open, salvia-dripping muzzle right between her eyes and then took one long whiff of her pulling some of her loose strands towards the gaping maw. The small moon elf?s bulging eyes locked first on oversized canines (and mouth filled with needle sharp teeth for that matter) and then on bear?s bloodshot eyes.

?Oh hel-??

? ? ? ? ? ?


Dear gamer! You cannot summon Spirits of Rage when fighting bosses. We apologize for any inconvenience. Please send all complaints to Undead Control Administration, Bosses Combat Department, and apply for revision of the Endoria combat regulations. - King?s Bounty, the Legend
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#8 Orthodoxia

Orthodoxia
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Posted 30 August 2007 - 11:56 PM

~ Chapter 5: High that are Low, Low that are High ~



?Highcliff?


Nursing her shoulder that got terribly mangled by the bear, Ele?ena considered herself to be far too selfish for the whole hero nonsense. Really, for what reason did she go off chasing bandits? Because she lost the necklace. Not because of the refugees, not because the bandits have become a serious threat that needed to be dealt with. No, she went there because she was afraid that Daeghun would be angry ? which he will still be no doubt there.

?Unlike others,? the moon elf thought glancing back at the druidess who walked, head down, behind them. Others had more pressing issues to deal with. Issues that laid closer to heart and home. As it turned out, the bear that had attacked them last night was none other then Elanee?s friend who was also a druid as well.

Ele?ena slowed her pace to walk by the druid. She wanted to ask how she was doing but the question seemed a bit out of place after they have killed her friend single-handedly.

?I? Kaleil, he's? dead. It was he that caused such unrest in the Glade? and why the animals attacked us.? Elanee started and went quiet at the end and Ele?ena didn?t know much what else to do but to offer her friendship. She could do that. She can be a good friend.

Placing a friendly hand on druidess shoulder Ele?ena asked quietly, ?What was he saying about the Mere??

Elanee seemed confused for a moment. ?I don't know. I? I have been away from the Circle for some time??

?The Circle? He mentioned something about it??

Again she seemed hesitant. ?Yes? the Circle of the Mere? I have been away for some time? Kaleil and I are part? were part? of the Circle of Merdelain, the Mere of Dead Men. If the elders, if Vashne is lost? and Naevan is lost?? She shook her head, ?I have been away too long. But this would explain why I could not feel the Circle any longer? and as for the land?? She straightened her shoulders then, resolved. ?But we should press on. I promised to lead you to Highcliff? and to safety, and so far, this path has proved longer than I wished.?

?And we are here lass,? Khelgar pointed at the small town sitting at the edge of the cliff, the docks filled with ships of all sizes based on the shore below it.

Ele?ena couldn?t believe it. After all the hardships and all the running they were finally at the first part of their destination. She didn?t even want to think about complications that might arise once they were actually in the town.

?Please, let there be no complications to arise.?


?Why are there so many ships?? Neeshka asked trailing behind them.

?Could be the trading season.?

?If we climb down this path,? Elanee gestured at the narrow dirt road before them, ?then we should reach the docks directly.?

Ele?ena nodded and then with much gusto ran down the path, exclaiming a very cheerful ?yippee? along the way.

? ? ? ? ? ?

A ship's captain was arguing with the harbor master and the frustrated poor man couldn?t believe the captain to be this reckless. ?You're risking your entire ship by going out there, Captain. Ignore me if you will, but at least listen to your own men.?

The Captain, obviously, had enough of this argument and had decided to end it. ?We're leaving port right now. Nothing's stopping this shipment to Neverwinter, especially not a pack of lizardfolk.? Quite rudely he pushed past the older man jerking his shoulder. ?What're you lot just standing there for? Bring up the sails! Man the oars!? The captain walked up the plank of his ship and ordering his men to get underway.

The Harbor master sighed and turned to newcomers. ?The fool is risking a ship worth ten times the cargo he's carrying, and for what? For the sake of a few extra gold for an early delivery.? He looked ? and sounded ? resigned, almost like the fate of the ship was somehow out of his hands now.

?Sailing the seas is always risky.? Ele?ena said scratching her head. ?At least that?s the impression I?ve got.?

?Aye. But he's trying to set sail when we've got lizardfolk going out of their way to sink every boat coming out of this village.? He looked back at the ship quickly sailing away. ?The good captain is a fool to think he can sail out without drawing the attention of the lizards.?

Suddenly someone from the crowd pointed out to sea, ?Harbormaster, out there! Looks like the lizardfolk have themselves another victim!?

Instantly many eyes glued on the fast sinking ship. And it really went down quite fast.

?And I think we've all learned a lesson here. If I say it's too dangerous to sail, it's too dangerous to sail.? The Harbormaster seemed pleased that he was right. Reluctantly so, but still pleased. Then he turned to talk to workers on the dock. ?All right lads! See what we can do to help those sailors? let's just hope the lizardfolk let them swim ashore. ?

Ele?ena huffed pouting, now more annoyed with the prospect of yet another ?fetch my slippers? quest then the actual danger it may pose. In a span of a few short weeks she had learned a valuable lesson.

There always had to be some problem on the road to her goal. Always.

? ? ? ? ? ?


Sullen looking and not just a bit angry Ele?ena stomped into the local inn. Name unknown for she really didn?t have the time to look at the sign hanging in front of it.

They were in another fight.

Yes. Another. Fight.

For which she had Khelgar to thank to. Again.

Another fight for which she had Khelgar to thank again in front of a tavern. Again.

?Khelgar, this might ? just might ? be a conjecture but I?m suspiciously starting to believe that tavern brawls ? in or in front ? happen because of your mere presence, not because you open your mouth to insult the locals. Tell me ? am I wrong to come to such and such conclusion??

?Eh? I don?t know what you mean lass. I suppose I?ve had my share of fights in my travels but a town without an inn where you can expect to get a good tavern brawl is no town at all!?

?Yap. He was ordering them all right,? Neeshka brilliantly concluded.

?The same way he orders ale no doubt,? Ele?ena huffed under her breath eyebrow twitching. Then she started looking around the establishment. Back at the docks some of his men told her that Captain Flinn would more then likely be ?trying to drown himself up here?. In the end, it was really all that much difficult to separate him from the crowd.

Like many of the derelict sailors in town, this man was enjoying a time-honored (and proofed) tradition of relaxation that transcends all races and generations: ale. But unlike many of the derelict sailors in town only a full-fledged ship captain could make you think the entire section of the building was swaying while sitting down.

Ele?ena instantly knew that traveling on the ship will be a murder and decided to sit down before she re-acquainted herself with her meager breakfast from yesterday.

Drunk and depressed captain raised his head and squinted his eyes at whoever was bothering him, ?If you don't mind, I'm trying to drown my sorrows here.?

?Sounds like you've had quite a bit to drink.?

?And what would you do if you were about to lose thousands of gold in cargo?? The man said angrily with a voice that simply dared her to challenge him.

?I wouldn't know. I've never been in a position to lose that much money.? Not today, thank you.

?Hope you never do. It's depressing. Makes you want to become a farmer. I tell you, nothing's worse than wishing you were a farmer.?

?Farming's not so bad.? Ele?ena?s eyebrow twitched. She was a farmer.

He looked at her now slightly curious ?Eh?? And then he sniffed! ?Oh, wait? I can smell the swamp on you. From West Harbor, are you? I thought I recognized that smell? it's like peat moss on your clothes.?

Ele?ena?s face reddened a little.

?I hate to tell you, but he's right. We're going to have to do something about that odor of yours.? Kelgar said a little under his breath.

The moon elf?s face lit up a notch more.

?I'm surprised you can smell anything, Khelgar, your breath being what it is.?

Elanee sounded hurt by her companions? crude opinions. ?I think peat moss smells nice. Sure beats the inside of a village tavern,? she added quietly to herself.

Ele?ena?s face was in a full bloom now and she coughed uncomfortably.

The man sized up the ?farmer?s? companions, ?Where'd you get this bunch? Don't often see a tiefling and dwarf together? and with a wood elf, too.?

Ele?ena shrugged recovering from the aftereffects of the blood-rush, ?Takes all kinds, I guess,? then looked at him, ?I was told to seek out a Captain Flinn here at Highcliff. Is that you??

?Captain of a ship that can't sail, that's me. Here to rub salt in my wounds, are you?? He said ruefully emptying another glass ? count unknown.

?My father, Daeghun, said you could help me get to Neverwinter.?

?Daeghun, eh? Still playing farmer in that swamp village, is he? I'd be happy to grant you passage, but as you can see we're all stuck here for now.?

?You know Daeghun?? She nearly stammered there. She had assumed that they knew each other through one trip or another. ?May I ask how??

?Daeghun and I adventured together for awhile. You know, crawling around in dark tunnels getting clawed and bitten just for a bit of gold. He was good to have around. Kept calm under the worst conditions, and always had your back in a fight.? Captain Finn said leaning back in his chair. And he still managed to make the half of the room sway in her eyes. Ele?ena hated ship-traveling already. ?Thing is, we both got tired of being punctured by nasties trying to keep us out of their lairs. I had enough gold saved up and got into the shipping business.?

?Sounds like my father led an exciting life.? It was certainly disquieting meeting people who knew the reclusive Daghun who avoided to so much as greet his neighbors let alone be a jolly good traveling companion. Not that she had any doubts that he would be. If there was one person anyone would want to guard his or her back it would be Daeghun. The man ?elf? had just as much honor about him as he had coldness.

?About the ship?? Ele?ena cleared her throat nudging the topic in the direction she most desired to go. Namely, Neverwinter!

?No ships in or out of Highcliff, on account of the attacks. Which means I've got a shipload of cargo rotting at the docks until this mess is sorted out. And let me tell you, there's merchants in Neverwinter who'll have me hanging from the gallows if I can't get my cargo there ? and soon.?

?So, who?s responsible for the attacks??

The man?s expression darkened, though it occurred to her that it may have more to do with his damaged ship (and thus pride) then with the actual threat. ?Lizardfolk. What in the hells they're doing this far north is beyond me, but they're certainly causing enough trouble. No one's got the nerve to go after them though. Can't say I blame them either.?

?Can't you just repair your ship and leave?? The moon elf rubbed her eyes (something she seemed to be doing a lot lately). She knew that this was going to turn into another ?fetch-the-slippers? quest, or ?eradicate-the-nasty-lizards-who-are-damaging-my-poor baby-ahem- ship? as it were in this case.

?I've already repaired it? twice!? Captain Finn wailed. ?Each time, some lizardfolk punches another hole in the hull without so much as a sound! I've got guards posted on watch all day and night and it still keeps happening. Even tried nets. Who knew those walking lizards hated ships so much?? In a complete lack of care as to who was watching and who wasn?t the Captain buried his face in his crossed arms on the table huffing.

Ele?ena blinked. And they accused her of being childish. Really, all this drama over a sorted pile of wood. She shook her head in disbelief concluding that ship captains were a strange, possibly outer-planer, breed indeed.

Back to work though.

?Any idea where the lizardfolk are coming from??

?I don't know. If I did, you can bet I'd be telling the village elder to go after them,? he mumbled from the confines of his shelter, then raised his head and his eyes burned with? water, watery fire?? ?The old man doesn't want to risk the villagers though, so here I am? still.? The Captain grumbled and went back to devouring spirits as if they were sea water.

?Well, someone sounds aggravated all right.? Ele?ena thought as she stood up from the Captain?s table and joined her companions who were sitting at the one next to it. She noticed that they?ve already ordered food. She also noticed that Khelgar had made grabs for more then half of it.

?So, we?re off to deal with lizardmen then?? Elanee said in her usual calm manner.

Well, not that they had much choice in the matter. If they wanted to get to Neverwinter, the lizard problem had to be dealt with. Ele?ena was starting to see a pattern here.

?Seems so.? she said filling her plate with delicious goodies. And after living on dry rations for two weeks anything looked, and smelled, like a delicious, eatable goodie to her.

?I say we find their cave and start cracking some skulls.?

?That might be just too extreme.?

?Extreme? What?s wrong with cracking a few lizard skulls??

?Perhaps the fact that we don?t know how many of the tribe will be in the said cave. I am also disturbed as to why have they traveled so far inland from their territories.? The druidess continued firmly, and she and Khelgar proceeded into the ?to smash or not to smash? debate.

Ele?ena was listening one ear only. Being dragged into various ?side jobs? ? she dared not say ?side quests? ? was starting to get all too familiar. It probably meant that she was slowly but surely starting to slip into the role of the adventurer ? which was NOT her number one priority in life. She tossed a quick glance at the silent Neeshka sitting next to her and her eyes narrowed.

The tiefling was silent, but vigil ? vigil to all the small, shiny things in the inn that is. And she did not mean the tableware by it. With so many merchants being stuck in Highcliff at the moment Neeshka nearly stopped breathing at the sight of a rather plump one strolling through the inn like he owned it. And with the rings on only one of his hands alone he probably could.

Neeshka?s tail twitched.

Ele?ena placed the fork on the plate.

The plump rich merchant was strolling towards them like a giant peacock.

Neeshka?s eyes narrowed.

Ele?ena wiped her hands with a napkin.

The plump rich merchant was about to pass by them.

Neeshks grinned and her fingers danced under the table.

Ele?ena?s hand shot out.

The plump rich merchant passed the table and promptly collided with the equally plump serving wench.

?OW!! Owowowowowow?!!? Neeshka both hallowed and whimpered glaring daggers at the blue moon elf who was now holding with a calm ? thereby in Neeshka?s definition wicked ? expression her precious and sensitive tail.

Ele?ena just looked at her catch and then hand it over to dwarf. ?Here, hold this.?

Rouge?s eyes widened comically when she heard the elf say that. ?You can?t be serio-!?

?Gladly lass.? Khelgar said holding in one hand a large chunk of meet and in the other the poor rouge?s tail, on which he promptly sat ? security reasons only. And he did need to use both of his hands to enjoy the meal.

The tiefling battled valiantly, screeching and clawing but it was to no avail. Neeshka ? now sitting between Khelgar and the blue menace ? glared at the elf.

?You better have some seriously deadly traps tonight because you know I?ll just be waiting for you to fall asleep,? she fumed her eyes narrowing to slits.

?Why, Neesh honey, I had no idea you felt that way,? Ele?ena said sweetly batting her eyelashes. It caused Khelgar to choke on his food, Elanee to look at her strangely and tiefling to loose her jaw. Ele?ena?s face turned serious and with a wave of her hand she dismissed their reactions, ?Seriously though, wait until after we?re through here and then rob them. We don?t need any more trouble at the moment.?

Neeshka blinked, ?You?d? let me do that??

?You?d let her do that!?? Elanee and Khelgar said in union looking positively scandalized.

Ele?ena shrugged. ?She?s a thief, and I am certainly no god. All I can do is to make sure we?re not the one's hunted in the end. I can?t prevent her from stealing, nor can I change her. You two are, of course, welcome to try,? she added looking at her two companions.

?You mean that?? Neeshka whispered softly.

?Well I-? Ele?ena started looking a bit panicked at the slightly maniacal look in tieflings eyes. And sure enough, the rouge tried to perform the famous jump-hug when she landed flat on her face.

?Khelgar!!? She roared shaking her fist at the ale-consuming dwarf.

Ele?ena sighed. Elanee joined in.

It was also painfully apparent to Ele?ena that, besides slipping comfortably yet still very much awkwardly, into the role of the adventurer she was also setting herself into the roll of a leader. One thing she wanted even less then the former one.

The dinner continued, with the occasional barb, jest and argument of course. Once they were through with marginal planning for the next day, they decided it was time to retire for the night and Neeshka?s tail was finally free from the imprisonment it was unjustly wrought upon it.

?It stinks,? holding her tail in both of her hands Neeshka wailed quietly with tearful eyes. A bath now and first thing in the morning was definitely in order. And scrubbing. Lots of scrubbing.

No one did notice the plump rich merchant and the equally plump serving wench stagger out from on of the side storerooms.

? ? ? ? ? ?


?next morning?

In the beautiful morning sun in front of the inn Ele?ena stretched herself. Sleeping in bed felt so good and refreshing that she didn?t even mind the short few hours she had spent in it. The heaven that were the pillows did wonders in rejuvenating her sore body and sour mood. And that bath?

In any event, her plan for today was to deal with the lizardmen and be on the ship bound for Neverwinter by the end of the day. And she fully intended to keep to the schedule no matter how many, to quote Khelgar, ?lizard skulls? she had to crack.

She was so full of energy she felt like she could take on anyone!

?Ahem,? came from behind her and Ele?ena turned around and smiled nervously.

Anyone but grumpy innkeepers whose fees for dinner, sleepover and breakfast made one think he had missed the tavern completely and by accident stopped for the night at the local castle. And who was also currently reminding her of how much she exactly owned him. With a nervous laughter and a promise that the moment she and her band of ?yuck!? adventurers had dealt with the local scourge he would have his gold. It made her whish she had let Neeshka do her thing last night. It also made her hope that the local lizard tribe had a hidden stash of valuables hidden somewhere.

And speaking of the devil ? quite literally ? she spotted the tiefling bouncing merrily down the street. It wouldn?t be too much to say that she looked like a spot of sunshine.

?Where have you been??

?Oh, here and there. Just doing some good deeds and trying to fill my pockets.?

?Since when is robbing people a good deed??

?Well it is. I?m poor helpless and unloved tiefling, therefore I helpfully help myself whenever and wherever I can.?

Gods, if the town?s officials start chasing them as well? well, she might as well say goodbye to her short lived adventuring days on which she was just starting to get used to.

Her eyes got a distant look at the thought for a moment, ?Now there?s an idea.? Her eyes once again narrowed at the thief, ?I thought we had agreed that you won?t rob anyone or anything until we?re ready to leave,? Ele?ena said sternly trying to invoke guilt in the girl (warlocks were supposed to be got at invoking things).

Neeshka had a decency to at least look a tiny bit guilty.

?Well, I guess this is where we part ways, tiefling. Good luck to you.? Suddenly Khelgar said stepping out of the inn. He smoothed his beard and brushed past the tiefling as if she weren?t there looking particularly cheerful on this sunny morning.

Neeshka looked at the passing dwarf speechless. But only for a moment ? like her fingers, her tongue was not to be held in check. ?What are you talking about? I'm not going anywhere.?

Khelgar looked back (and up) at her, ?Look, we helped you out at Fort Locke. Even let you share in some of the loot. But we're not your sitters ? you can go about your business here in Highcliff without us, doing whatever it is your kind does.?

?My kind? And last I heard, you weren't in charge, Khelgar, so don't start giving me orders.?

?What did you mean ?her kind??? Ele?ena asked narrowing her eyes at the dwarf ? completely overlooking the ?who?s in charge? comment. This better not turn into another racial debate or so help her?

?Bah. She's a thief, and we don't need that kind of trouble around us, especially not in any village or town we come to.?

?Trouble? I attract trouble? At least I know how to avoid a brawl instead of picking a fight with everyone who crosses my path!?

?Point for the thief,? Ele?ena thought glancing at Elanee who looked a little exhausted by Neeshka and Khelgar arguing

?Are they always like this? It's tiresome just to watch.?

Ele?ena snorted, ?You haven?t seen anything yet sister,? but instead said, ?Unfortunately, yes. They've been this way since they met.?

Picking on the elves? conversation Neeshka went all defensive, ?It's not my fault. Khelgar started it, as usual? which seems to happen whenever he opens his mouth. I mean, I've been helpful, haven't I? I know you don't know me very well, but I've had your back in fights.?

?So very, very true.?

But the way Neeshka was looking at her Ele?ena had a feeling that she was alluding on a certain event. Never mind that the certain event wouldn?t have happened if certain someone hadn?t picked up certain something from certain somewhere, resulting in a certain maniacal chase by a certain cranky-when-awoken-mummy.

?Diplomatic. Must be diplomatic. Must not blow them from the face of Faerun. Gods help me.? ?Khelgar, Neeshka's been loyal and so have you. I say we travel together, and maybe you can teach her a few things about fighting. What do you say?? She put on the best diplomatic expression she could muster ? in the case of a dwarf it were large innocent eyes and pleading look.

?Well? you're right about loyalty. It's a rare quality, and one of my strengths.? Reluctantly he agreed, ?I suppose I could put up with her for a while longer? but no amount of polishing is going to make a rotten apple taste better, in my opinion.?

?Khelgar, I'm touched. No one's ever called me a rotten apple before? and if you can ?put up? with me, maybe I can put up with your smell, too.? Neeshka started sarcastically.

?People, people! Need I remind you that we?re on a tight schedule here? We need to be in Neverwinter this century, preferably tomorrow, therefore, let?s find those lizards.? Ele?ena interrupted before another argument could ignite from that spark. ?Next stop, Shandra?s farm.? Ignoring each other both the dwarf and the tiefling started down the street ? one with the nose in the air, the other in the ground.

Impressed, Elanee approached the moon elf and said a little quietly to her, ?That was impressive ? making peace with words is not an easy thing to do.?

?It just takes the right words sometimes, nothing more.?

?And modest, too. You have quite the future as a diplomat,? Elanee teased. Ele?ena did not find the comment amusing. But it was likely true.

? ? ? ? ? ?


Visiting Shandra?s farm had to be one of the most ridiculous and random moments to have ever happened to Ele?ena. She couldn?t speak for the whole group, and she had her suspicions that Neeshka had probably witnessed weirder stuff, but the situation where two elves, one tiefling and one dwarf follow with their eyes the group of three lizardmen running behind the strew-haired farm girl carrying a torch?

Putting the fire down was a chore and an adventure on its own and Ele?ena doubted they could have done it without the druidess? help. Anyone who downgraded Nature Magic didn?t have half of the brain in their head. Pity the farmer girl was so short tempered with them even after they?ve helped her with the fire.

Not that Ele?ena couldn?t understand her. After all, her entire village was destroyed in a single night and she would be a hypocrite of the greatest kind if she were to suddenly start preaching peace and love in the face of loosing something precious.

Oh, they had learned of the local ?haunting place? and the fires being lit, Shandra was being accommodating enough in the information department. The fact that she had also put to blame Ele?ena and her small group for loosing her barn and, with it, the harvest as well, was what made the situation so amazingly ridiculous to the moon elf.

She had never ?never? been accused of doing something while being in plane sight and the actual perpetrators were walking around for the world to see. Next to being chased by wolves for the sake of someone else?s safety this was a brand new experience for her. And like the one with the wolves, she didn?t like it.

But Ele?ena didn?t burden herself with guilt. Sure, she was sorry about what happened to the girl but the lizards would have shown up just the same with or without her around.

Shandra Jerro was a nice and levelheaded girl, much like women from West Harbor. And she was also very, very stubborn, much like women from West Harbor. She downright refused to leave her farm in the face of danger. And while the moon elf understood the point of protecting one owns property she found that doing so out of shear stubbornness and without a backup plan to actually succeed in the intended protection was nothing short of suicidal.

Ele?ena liked to survive. And she liked those close to her to be safe as well. And if her house was to be caught in the firry blaze then she certainly wouldn?t stand around to quench it, no, she would make sure that her father was safe.

Maybe.

Daeghun was a survivor as well. And when he set his mind on living then nothing would stand in his way. The only problem being: he was very much in the mood to die.

Ele?ena shook her head from depressing thoughts, ?Why, the hells, am I constantly thinking of home??

? ? ? ? ? ?


?Oooooo, tombs?? Neeshka whispered in a dreamy voice better suited for a lover and not a derelict castle crawling with the undead. No need for adding ?again?, the situation was given.

?Here?s the deal,? Ele?ena started once they descended into the ruined castle. ?We go in, get the rest of Slaan?s group ? and that?s get not gut Khelgar ? and get out. We don?t need to disturb the dead any more then necessary.? Ele?ena said grabbing the tiefling and yanking her away from the obvious secret compartment in the nearby wall.

?And you. No looting,? the moon elf pointed a firm finger between Neeshka?s eyes that twinkled like jewels she loved so very much.

?But-?

?No looting!?

Neeshka?s tail shot up in the air very much like that of a displeased cat, ?What?s the point of crawling through a haunted castle when I don?t get to ransack the place!??

?Contemplate mortality!? Ele?ena shot back already going deeper into the tunnels.

? ? ? ? ? ?


?Master of the Fifth Tower, you grace me with your presence.?

?Yes, I am certain. The raising of the army and the attacks on Fort Locke? how do they proceed??

Ele?ena (and the group) had stop at the sounds of sizzling magic and voices (among which were also gurgling sounds of zombies), and this time, with full support of her loyal team ? plus one large lizard warrior ? the moon elf felt a whole lot better and a wee bit bolder.

Actually (and surprisingly), she felt bold enough to march inside that room and ensure the cultist joined the ranks he was recruiting. Usually, that line of thinking was classified as ?suicidal?, today however, she thought it just might work.

Hurray for her! It appeared after all, that there actually was a backbone in her somewhere.

They positioned themselves around the door and listened in on the conversation. Though, had it been Khelgar?s and Slaan?s decision they?d be rushing in, in no time.

?There have been complications, milord. One of our disciples near Fort Locke has been slain. It shall not affect our plans at the Fort, nor the raising of our troops. Our power runs strong here? the war our master pursued here so long ago still fuels our magic. Our enemies shall not prevail.?

?As long as Neverwinter is occupied, then you have served me? and through me, your Master.?

So, her presumptions were correct. Ele?ena made a grimace at the thought. There was a large necromantic cult, they had an agenda ? which couldn?t be good ? and she had interfered in said agenda by slaying one of their own. The situation which was likely to repeat in a few moments no doubt.

?Like the githyanki weren?t enough,?
Ele?ena huffed.

?We are all in the service of the King of Shadows, Lord Garius. Sometimes we forget he is all around us, and there are no ranks and hierarchies before him.?

?Think what you will, as long as you carry out my or-? In a rather predictable turn of the events, making noise in empty corridors spelled disaster for the eavesdropper. ?Ah, it seems someone else has come to pay their respects, priest. Perhaps the same ones who slaughtered the priest at Fort Locke. I suggest you deal with them before you share the same fate.?

The blurry figure disappeared and the cultist raised his hands, and with them the undead standing guard moved like puppets on springs.

It was just another busy day in the life of an adventurer.

? ? ? ? ? ?


?Who the hells was that priest talking to? Looked like a shade or a ghost.? Khelgar grunted kicking the corpse of the dead cultist.

Elanee studied the area, thoughtfully rubbing her chin. ?It felt like a projection? but I'm not sure how it was done. The same darkness I've felt in the Mere? it's here as well,? she finished quietly and her eyes hardened.

?I'm more concerned about what he said about Neverwinter.? Well not Neverwinter and its people exactly. More like Neverwinter and the prospect of her spending some time there while these cultist do? whatever they?re planning to do there.

Neeshka let out a disbelieving snort, ?Trust me, whatever it is, Neverwinter's endured worse. Come on, let's see what the priest is carrying, then let's move on,? she said rubbing her hands in glee.

?We need to move on.? Ele?ena insisted. She was very much against robbing the dead ? especially since they started rising in defense of their property.

?Sounds like a plan to me. But let's see if that priest has any gold on him first.?

?Neeshka!!?

? ? ? ? ? ?


They?ve just exited the cave the tribe of lizardmen occupied and Ele?ena had to say that she felt pretty damn good about herself. This was second time that she managed to negotiate successfully with the lizardmen, and it did wonders for her ego. She wondered if Elder Mayne would pose a problem but if he wanted things back to normal he had little choice but to accept.

Needless to say Khelgar wasn?t too pleased with the whole outcome. In fact he was so infuriated that the moment they were out of the cave he threw down his axe and crossed his arms.

?What is with you and talking lass!?! First the demon (HEY!), then the bandits and now the lizards too!? This was supposed to be a glorious fight not a- a blasted tea party!?

Ele?ena chuckled, Khelgar obviously had no idea how dangerous tea parties could be. ?Live today to fight another day Khelgar? A time honored tradition by me-?

?Bah!?

?-and it works. You should try it sometimes-?

?Humph! I have been trying it for the better part of the last week.?

?-outside my influence. How else do you expect to become a monk??

That seemed to have calmed him somewhat. ?I'm getting tired of all this talking when we should be fighting.? He grunted dissatisfied, ?Lizard or no, let's get on with this.?

Such lively conversations they had.

? ? ? ? ? ?


Captain Finn was still moaning face firmly pressed on the wooden table with four or five empty bottles (he must have had a discount in this inn). He was quite rudely interrupted by the loud group who just stomped through the inn and rattled his, oh so dear, bottles with a loud bang. The good ? if somewhat drunk ? captain rose his head with every intention to send whoever was disturbing his mourning period over the high-cliff when he met scarlet eyes and the smile that, quite frankly, scared him.

?So Captain, when do set sail?? Ele?ena grinned inanely.

Five minutes later the ship was out in the open waters.

Five minutes and thirty-six seconds later Ele?ena found out just how much in fact she hated sailing. And so, she had currently confiscated herself to her cabin to lie on her ? not quite but close ? deathbed.

Lying like that she had time to think the events over in her head. There was one particularity that had caught her eye on this day. It was back in the old castle. In the chamber where they?ve fought the cultist ? that Shadow Priest, as how he referred to himself ? she had found a bag with equipment.

The bag had a name sewed onto it, and the bodies looked like those of some adventurers. She wondered then, would, the way these escapades were going, someone in a year or two dig out her bones and equipment. Would she also be used as a just another mindless corpse in the way of would-be-hero thirsty for glory and excitement?

Dead, forgotten and buried. She wouldn?t mind terribly the ?forgotten? part provided that she remained alive and defiantly not buried.

?Gah! This line of thought is going to bring me more nightmares,? she thought flipping on her back. Her eyes were drawn to a book peaking from her backpack and before she allowed herself to be rocked to sleep she picked up the diary of two cultists they?ve encountered. After all, the contents of the journal could hardly be any worse then the constant swaying the blasted ship was producing.

Either way she was going to retch at least twice before sun rose, she was certain of that much.

? ? ? ? ? ?


Dear gamer! You cannot summon Spirits of Rage when fighting bosses. We apologize for any inconvenience. Please send all complaints to Undead Control Administration, Bosses Combat Department, and apply for revision of the Endoria combat regulations. - King?s Bounty, the Legend
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#9 Orthodoxia

Orthodoxia
  • Member
  • 853 posts

Posted 02 September 2007 - 11:34 AM


~ Chapter 6: Welcome to Neverwinter ~


?Neverwinter Docks?

?And so the mighty warriors came to the end of their lengthy, needlessly complicated journey!? Ele?ena exclaimed. She was a bit on the pale-green side but otherwise no worse to wear.

?So this is Neverwinter? Suppose it's passable ? for a city built by humans.? It was quite clear that he was completely disapproving of it. ?Can't say I care for it, though. You want a proper city, you build down, not up.?

?This place feels? unnatural, the wood and stone, it's as if they've been silenced.? The druidess said.

Neeshka was irritated. She?s been hearing too much complaining for her liking. ?I wish you'd both be silent. The entire trip was just one long whine from the two of you.? She cleared her throat, ?Oh, me stomach feels funny. This boat rocks like a baby's cradle.? And just as she readied herself to take on the druid someone yanked her tail and sent her plummeting to the ground, efficiently cutting her monologue.

But it wasn?t the dwarf or the blue elf that had the honors. It was the reserved (or not so reserved) druid who had the honors of shutting the tiefling up. Even the balance of druid?s eternal inner peace can be tipped.

?If you wish for us not to refer to complaints your various exploits have brought on us during this trip you will keep your mouth shut.? And that was true. Many things, mostly gold coins, have gone missing on the ship, making the tiefling the prime suspect. The sailors thought so because of her horns. The three companions knew so because Neeshka was Neeshka.

?Way to go Elanee,? Ele?ena clapped approvingly.

?A good enough way to deal with their kind,? Khelgar joined in. ?Makes me sad I didn?t think of it first.?

Neeshka got up to her feet and spun around fuming, ?Why do people constantly make a grab for my tail!? Does it have a magical floating sign on it saying ?pull here??!?

?No. But you have to admit it?s quite in the arm?s reach,? Ele?ena grinned wickedly.

The tiefling walked over and leaned over the elf with all the menacing presence her blood allowed her. Ele?ena had to lean back and almost fell down under the weight of her rucksack. ?You just wait shorty, you?ll get yours.?

?Ahem.? The druidess cleared her throat in a successful attempt to get their attention. ?Shouldn?t we concern ourselves with finding an appropriate lodgings for the night??

?Aye, this dwarf could use a meal or two to replace the lost one.?

?Well someone recovers from seasickness quickly enough.? Ele?ena looked around the docks and then back at her companions. ?This is my first time in Neverwinter so I?m not- well no, I have no idea where Uncle?s Inn is.?

?Don?t worry,? Neeshka wagged her tail. ?I know Neverwinter like the back of my hand.?

?That would be the alleys of Neverwinter I reckon.? Khelgar chuckled in his beard when all of a sudden ? and quite expectedly really ? a tail hit him in the back of his bald head. He should really consider wearing that helmet. And keeping his mouth shut.

?Stuff it, Khelgar.? The tiefling gritted through clenched teeth.

?Fine, fine. Do what you do best Neeshka and find the inn. And Elanee, could you please make sure they don?t burn the city in the process??

?I can do that, but what about you??

?And in the meantime I?ll relieve us of this load. My back is killing me.? Yes, that was a whine in the end, because her back were hurting badly and she would complain about it.

?Are you sure you won?t get lost while alone out there? Neverwinter?s a big city and you are-?

?Provincial. I know. I can deal with it, I?m not speaking a language from another plane.?

?There are thugs out there. And not one to be messed with, let me tell you.?

?Pffft. As if they can be more dangerous then lizardman, walking corpses, duergar, crazy cultists or frenzied githyanki.? Ele?ena said disappearing between one of the guard posts and a building.

The others weren?t so sure whether their esteemed leader made a good point or a bad one.

? ? ? ? ? ?


Ele?ena stood patiently in front of the aging merchant as he continued to examine the chalice made of gold she had brought to him. Or, better said, its worth.

She had found this chalice along with the shard in the ruins in the swamp, but had long since used its healing powers ? long before she even reached the Weeping Willow inn to her embarrassment. Again, it was really something no one needed to know about.

Having sold all other junk she had been acquainted lately, the golden chalice of Lathander was all that remained but the armor and weapon merchants here didn?t want to buy an artifact that couldn?t do anything. And it was just her luck that the local magic shop was locked down with some very unfriendly guardian elementals, might she add.

So, the only remaining option was to come here, to Hagen?s Imports, recommended by his fellow shopkeepers, dealing mostly in antiquities. And so she was waiting now for the old man to evaluate its worth ? though she had to say that with all the times it had saved her life (all three) she had found it at the time invaluable.

But that was then and this was now, and only mad-bear-transformed-druid inflicted wounds rivaled with the pain her oversized, overfilled bag had inflicted on her back. Which prompted her to another very important decision: as soon as she got enough many she was going to buy magic bags. She was going to buy lots and lots of magic bags.

?Well, it?s old, that much is given,? the man, Hagen, said and Ele?ena?s pointy ears perked up.

?Well, unless the long closed ruin had been used as a garbage dump by the local adventuring groups then it certainly can?t be new,? the elf thought with a quiet huff watching the man?s long shaky fingers run over the object.

?Are you interested in it??

He frowned slightly putting the chaliced down on the cloth, ?There are buyers who are interested in both beautifully made objects and magic one together. Especially if they can re-imbue it.?

?You?ll take it then?? Ele?ena was quickly getting tired and hungry, and she wanted to find the bad that didn?t doesn?t move and food that doesn?t wriggle on the plate when she tried to stab it with a fork. Her diplomatic skills were not at its best in the late and hungry evenings.

?It has seen a lot of battle,? he said with a trace of doubt.

?And has survived. And, more importantly, it had helped me survive,? she quipped instantly. ?It?s durable at least,? she tried to persuade him.

?But it had still seen battle,? he said calmly and sighed. The girl obviously wasn?t going to budge. ?I?ll take it but it won?t be worth much.?

?Just as well,? she too wanted to be done and over with this.

?It?ll be worth nothin? if you don?t pay up your due,? gruff voice spoke as the front door slammed open. Ele?ena, a little stunned, looked up from the counter at the bearded man strolling in like he owned the place.

?Caleb,? the old man started glancing at his customer, ?can we not settle this later?? He said calmly but she could see that he was unnerved.

?You?ve been stalin? for too long Hagen. You pay now or you pay in blood.? The thug threw the merchant, and especially her, a dirty look.

If she had to admit Ele?ena would be the first one to say that she wasn?t the best choice to deal with zombies, spiders, wolves, and the general population of swamp and outer planes. However, give her a thug any day of the week and she guaranteed she would turn him into mincemeat. And this man was a thug. Plain dangerous thug, and she didn?t like the look she was receiving nor did she like didn?t like the way his hands rested on his weapons.

He moved closer playing with his dagger. Hagen?s shoulder slaked. He didn?t whish for anyone to witness his humiliation. Caleb picked up the chalice not taking his eyes from the merchant.

?You were late with last two payments. You know what that means Hagen.?

Likely thinking it to be some ancient piece of junk, he threw the gold chalice over his shoulder. Not even thinking ? for rarely she did that ? Ele?ena dove after it. She caught it just barely before it reached the stone floor, with which her head collided to. She didn?t get paid for it, therefore it was still hers ? and the bastard decided to throw it around. The elf huffed into the thin layer of dust ? oh, how she hated thugs.

?The gold or your daughter?s life,? she heard him continue to threaten the man behind her. ?The way I see it, your choice is simple.? Bastard.

Standing up she felt a tug on the inside, close to her heart and instinctively reached for it. The invocation fell easy from her lips. Ele?ena grinned.

Just as he grabbed the merchant?s collar and was about to press the dagger against the old man?s throat like a fiery whip something cracked across his back. Caleb spun around and his eyes widened. There, in girl?s hands was a long chain of pure eldritch energy. And a mad look in her glowing eyes. But that was all he saw before she, with startling speed, dashed towards him and coiled the chain twice around his neck.

?I wasn?t finished here asshole,? she hissed in his ear and more eldritch energy surged through her increasing the pressure on his neck. She didn?t even register when the man?s body suddenly went limp in her grasp.

Ele?ena released it suddenly and stepped back, the energy dissipating. With wide red eyes she surveyed what had just happened and then looked at the startled old merchant. Her mouth opened in confusion, then closed.

Finally she said, ?I think I just killed him.? ?In cold blood,? she added to herself.


? ? ? ? ? ?


Ele?ena ran in, slammed the door behind her and leaned on them ? all in one breath.

?Did you get lost again??

?Sure she did.?

?I didn?t get lost.? Ele?ena huffed with indignity. ?I was delayed.?

?Oh yeah, by what??

?By marvelous fauna that makes this city.?

?Is the big city overwhelming for a poor little farmer like you?? Neeshka cooed patting her head.

?I don?t have time to be overwhelmed. I?ll be overwhelmed when I stop being attacked.? The elf grumbled displeased pushing past the tiefling and sat down on empty chair with a huff.

Hagen had told her that he would inform the watch. Ele?ena didn?t think he was particularly grateful to her for what had transpired. After all, it was more then likely that the rest of the gang would be after him now.

?It takes talent to screw people?s lives like this.?
And she didn?t even want to remember how it all happened.

?You?re not in the city for half an hour and already you?ve attracted problems,? Neeshka waved her hands in desperation. Of all her companions, the tiefling had to be the one who talked, made snide remarks, complained and generally didn?t shut up the most. Hells, she even managed to outtalk the blue elf and Ele?ena never thought that was possible.

She sighed looking at the druidess. Gods, sometimes she wished she had an endless supply of patience like Elanee did. ?Did it take long to find this place??

The wood elf shook her head, ?Fortunately it was just around the corner.?

?Aye, we?ve disembark practically at its doorstep,? Khelgar said while he waited for his tankard to be refilled.

Well, wasn?t that great? She runs around the entire district trying to find this place (and avoiding a ridiculous amount of thugs along the way) and they had a two-step walk to reach it. Wasn?t her luck just grand?

In her grumpy thought she spotted the half-elf with an apron approaching. Since the barkeeper was still at his place she could only assume that this was the owner, also known as: the wavered Uncle.

?Well, now, what can I do for you? Bit of venom for the belly, perhaps? Or maybe a tankard or two to shave the edge off your day??

?One question first,? the blue elf raised her hand wanting to clarify something first ? among other things as well. ?Is this the Sunken Flagon, since the sign outside seems to be a little? unkempt?? And that was putting it mildly.

?It is indeed, finest establishment in the Docks for a fine tankard of ale and some good conversation.? The half-elf said proudly.

?Really? With the things drawn on that piece of wood outside, I halfway expected it to be a brothel.?

The half-elf?s eyes widened for a moment before narrowing with fury as he turned around to the bar. ?Bloody street rats. Sal! I told you to replace the damn thing of a signpost.?

?The carver said he had too much to do now,? the bald barkeep returned pouring another tankard of ale to the well known dwarf.

?Carver? Why in the hells did you go to him for!??

?You said you wanted it to look re-spec-table,? the barkeep returned calmly.

The half-elf rubbed his eyes and dragged his palm over his face. Through his fingers he looked at the small blue elf that was now biting her lips in order to prevent herself from bursting out in a maniacal laugh. Duncan had a strange feeling that he had just been scammed for a good measure.

?So, who's the owner of this inn?? Ele?ena managed to say without too much mirth in her voice.

His eyes, if possible, narrowed even more. He looked at her as if she was there to collect on some debt. ?You mean old Duncan? Well now, if you're looking to collect on some debt, I'll tell you that he's a drunk and he hasn't got two coppers to his name.?

Ele?ena looked at the half-elf who slung the rag over his shoulder. If one looked real hard a family resemblance could almost be seen ? hair and eyes mostly, and none of the behavior which was so characteristic for her father. Why hadn?t Daeghun ever introduced her to him? Or even better, why not let him raise her?

?I'm his niece, I'm related.?

?Oh, really. I can see that. Thing is, last I heard Duncan was still a Realms man, so what part of the family tree did you fall out of??

?Womanizer. That?s why.? There was no way in hells that her foster father would let her be raised with someone like that, family or no. ?Daeghun sent me.?

For a moment he was silent. ?Daeghun, eh?? He studied her for a second, his face turning serious. ?So the time's come, has it? Troubles chasing on your heels, and you barely know why??

There was a regretful tone to his voice when he spoke, ?Suppose Daeghun told you less than half of what you need to know, then sent you packing. Don't take it hard, done it to me twice in my life, all for good reason.? Ele?ena wondered whether that supposed to be consoling. ?I can probably guess why you're here, but why don't you go ahead and tell me anyway.?

?He didn?t say anything, apart from: ?find my damn half-brother and ask him about the shards?.?

Duncan rolled his eyes. It was typical Daeghun all right. ?Oh, did he? Nothing more than I did years ago, plain silver near as we could tell, you and those shards were all that were left of that West Harbor battle.?

?Duncan? I thought you said that shard was magic ? didn't you?? The barkeep ?Sal? asked in slight confusion.

?Trace of an enchantment on it is what that eel Sand said, but nothing of importance. Probably residue from demon's fire, or maybe wizard magic.?

?Demon's fire? Sounds important to me.?

?And that, Sal, is why you are cleaning tables, and I own this place. Those shards were magic, yes, a ?trace?, but again, it was Sand, and he's a fool.? The half-elf was irritated but had tried to play it off. ?Anyway, barely worth mentioning ? more sentimental value than anything else. That really why you came all this way, to hear about your mother??

?My mother? What does she have to do with this?? Ele?ena?s head snapped up faster then it would if there were cookies on the table. This night was starting to get full of surprises.

Duncan looked at her with surprise, ?Yeah, your mother ? Esmerelle, since you were asking about the shards,? then his eyes widened and he shook his head. ?What, Daeghun still keeping that inside? It's a wonder he doesn't crack down the middle.?

?It?s a wonder I don?t crack down the middle. Why doesn?t anyone tell me these things??

He seemed to realize that he had overstepped his bounds and sighed, mentally cursing his very much older brother. ?Eh, you know, I have no call to say that. I think that's why he buried that first shard ? and gave the other one to me.

?How are the shards and my mother related?? Ele?ena was persistent and determent. For years her father kept silent about it and if her talkative uncle knew something then she wasn?t about to pass the chance to drag it out of him.

?I think you might have been better off being raised by wolves if Daeghun didn't share that. There's a lot I'm sure he never told you, but listen ? it's his place to tell you, not mine.? The blue elf grumbled something and stubbornly locked her eyes with the floor, until her uncle raised her chin to look at him, ?He'll tell you when he's ready, I think ? but it's best you hear it from him. Let's stick to the shards for now.?

Ele?ena nodded and sighed. Stick to the problem now, she could always get sour over her ?dad? later. ?You keep mentioning him but who is this Sand??

Well, if he was in a sentimental mood earlier then he was positively livid now. From that Ele?ena gathered that he and this person were not on good terms. ?A hedge wizard, somehow set up a shop in the Docks, but it's telling enough he can only run a business down here in the crack of Neverwinter. Got a dry wit, and he'll always rub you the wrong way, so his name's well-chosen.? He shrugged cooling off a bit, ?Still, I suppose I trust him enough, and having a wizard close by certainly tends to keep fools from causing too much trouble. Well, me and Daeghun took the shard to him, back when he lived in the Merchant Quarter. Before his run of bad luck. But he couldn't get much from it, just faint traces.?

?I brought another shard ? and it's definitely magic. And since it's got power now ? maybe he can get another read from it.?

The half-elf?s eyes widened in alarm, and this told her there was more to it than Duncan let on. ?You brought it here? dug it up from those ruins? Now why in the Nine Hells would you go digging up the past like that?? Again his face took an angry, serious expression. ?Look ? and listen. There's no good in picking up history's bones, especially where that warlock's concerned. I heard the tales, and Daeghun told me what happened at West Harbor that night.?

?Well he told me to do so! I didn?t even know it existed until the village was attacked so don?t snap on me!? She huffed and that seemed to calm him a bit. ?Can I see the other shard now??

?Here?? To her surprise he pulled it out from his pocket. At least she won?t have to go on a yet another series of quests to recover it as she feared she?d have to. ?I've always kept it close, for some reason, didn't want to leave it out of my sight. Seemed unremarkable, but I find that sometimes time will tell. Had Sand examine it a long time ago, but he turned up nothing.?

Unlike the one she had found covered in dust in the ruins this shard was kept in hands frequently. She could tell just by the number of fingerprints and smudges on it sooth surface. She rolled the shard in her hands feeling the hum of magic pass through her. With two shards so close it was even stronger then before and it felt pleasantly soothing.

?You think that wizard of yours can take a look at these again??

Duncan snorted. ?Well, it's worth a shot ? but don't pay him any coin in advance, that's all I'll say. In fact, that viper would be best o-?

?Ah? it seems I have arrived just in time to deflect the usual barrage of slander from the local innkeeper.? A smooth, but filled with sarcasm, voice cut in on her uncle and Ele?ena turned around to see a short elf dipping into an exaggerated bow.

?Sand.? The rag in Duncan?s hands was nearly torn in two.

Ele?ena looked between the two of them and immediately caught on what was happening. The rival had entered the building. Let the fight commence.

?Yes, it is good to see you're still sober enough to recognize me, Duncan-? he sniffed, ?past the stale beer, vinegar, faint sweat, failed aspirations, unwashed tunic? I thought perhaps you had already had one tankard too many for the day. But?? Again he sniffed the air and turned towards the blue elf standing next to his neighborhood nemesis. ?Why, your guest here has the smell of a Harborman about them. Faint, but there.?

?Hah, I told you we should?ve done something with that smell of yours,? Khelgar chuckled from behind her.

?Shut up and drink your ale Khelgar,? Ele?ena hissed with a sweet smile

?I thought Duncan was keeping company too good for him, now I see I was right. Duncan, you could learn a few things from your guest.? The wizard sounded amused, maybe secretly intrigued as well.

?Still passing off those two-copper fair weather charms to the locals, Sand?? Duncan fired back immediately.

He sniffed disdainfully, ?You have no appreciation for my talents - and after all I've done for you.? He sighed dramaticly, ?To think you could survive a fortnight without my ale purgative ? why, you would be buried in the tombs with the rest of the Neverwinter traitors ? a betrayer of barkeepers everywhere.? He waved a hand dismissively, ?But enough about you and your ?adventurous? exploits on the tavern floor. I heard my name mentioned, and oddly enough, almost in a tone that suggested I could help.? Sand?s pale eyes glittered teasingly. As they, presumably, always did after a successful into laden with insults.

Itching to strangle the short wizard with his rag Duncan subdued the urge and gestured to his niece, ?This here's kin??

Sand raised an eyebrow drawling sarcastically, ?I'm not really seeing the family resemblance.?

??and we need your help concerning the shard. Both of them.?

?Shard? That chunk of silver you showed me so long ago? I do hope you're not going to try to pawn it to me again, I am no longer interested.? Ele?ena?s eyes narrowed on the wizard. She had risked her life because of that ?chunk of silver? and this petulant child of a wizard had the gall to try and pretend he didn?t want it.

?Besides, as I recall you said the piece of junk had sentimental value, which, upon viewing your establishment, is perfectly understandable. Didn?t your Uncle or Cousin or Brother or whatever make off with the other shard? I thought you only had one now.?

?It found its way back ? so to speak. We need you to look at both of them again. Properly, this time.?

?Oh, very well, give them here and let me see what my keen arcane senses can determine.? He took the shards from her hands and Ele?ena decided she didn?t like his flippant attitude one bit. Sand started to chant something ? she wasn?t that familiar with magic ? and it appeared to go well when suddenly it fizzled and the entire room was floored by a strong blast.

Pain? was everywhere. Fortunately, she wasn?t the only one feeling it.

?Well? it seems to have some? resentment to being scryed. That is quite different than last time.? Sand coughed picking himself up from the floor.

Ele?ena just loved intelligent wizards. She especially loved how their intelligence always seemed to popup only after the damage was done.

The confusion on elf?s usually sour face was obvious and evident for everyone to see. ?Are you sure these are the same shards? The power in them? why, it's definitely stronger than last time? much stronger.?

Duncan was irritated. He had a bump on his head to prove he was irritated. ?Oh, so now they're magical? I'm not paying you for two failed divinations, you charlatan.?

The wizard snapped back immediately, ?It's not a matter of divination, you one-tankard drunk. There is something about these shards ? without knowing their history, even my considerable talents cannot unlock their mysteries.?

?What considerable talents?? Ele?ena stood up picking up the chards and rubbing her sore head that had the unfortunate to meet with the chair on the way down. By the time she managed to sort herself past the throbbing head the two were on it again. Words like, ?charlatan? and ?drunkard? passed around with random (her uncle) and not so random manner (the witty short wizard).

?And there they go.? Ele?ena sighed, hanged her head in defeat and pulled the chair next to the bar. Taking a page from Khelgar?s book she gestured the barkeeper to bring her a drink as well.

?Do they do this often?? She asked when Sal placed her some mead in front of her.

?At least every second night; sometimes more often. Heh, provide plenty of entertainment for the guests, they do.?

As the two continued the fling insults at each other Ele?ena looked around the inn. There weren?t that much patrons here tonight. One, who stuck out like a sore thumb, was a human sitting in the corner of the inn and clearly signaling that this was his turf. She didn?t get to see past the amber eyes for the veil of hate and loathing was too thick. And again she felt the thug on the inside, just like she did in Hagen?s shop, before she killed Caleb.

But she wasn?t looking at him because of his manly looks. There was something ridiculously familiar about him. The elf looked back at her drink frowning. Why did she keep seeing weird things every time she looked over her shoulder? With the way things were going one of these days she was bound to see her very own demented shadow stalking her.

Taking her thoughts in another direction Ele?ena looked at the two men still arguing, and banged her head against the bar. Repeatedly. This called for drastic measures.

?Not to be too rude, but could you two gentleman keep this sort of conversation for late night pillow-talk?? Ele?ena asked innocently, as if stating the fact. They both just stared at her, stopped in the middle of whatever insult they were ready to fling at each other.

The young moon elf blinked faking innocence, ?Well, you argue so much, it?s clear to me, and anyone else for that matter, that you must be married for a century at least.? She grinned most evilly, ?You know the old saying ?bickering like an old marriage couple? didn?t come out of nothing.?

Now that shut them up ? even if their jaws have hit the floor.

?Oh, don?t worry Uncle Duncan, I won?t judge you. I?m a very open-minded girl. I?m relatively sure father wouldn?t mind it either.? She said patting him friendly on the shoulder. Light on her feet, and laughing good-naturally, she avoided the rag flying to her face. At least it wasn?t a Magic Missile.

?Now that I have your undivided attention, and bit of anger,? she looked at smoldering Sand with mischief in her eyes, ?can we get back to matter at hand? As in: the shards.? She raised her hands, with one silver shard in each, to emphase the point.

?Good. First things first, how could you not sense the magic in those shards? I can tell just by holding them.?

Duncan snorted crossing his arms, ?Because he's incompetent??

?Duncan, the more I speak to your kin here, it's evident where the sense in the family went.? His eyes narrowed in calculation, ?Since you seem to have been given all the brains of the family, I'll be honest with you ? I don't know. But I do know the shards did not have the same strength the first time I examined them.? He looked at her then tapping his thin lips thoughtfully, ?There could be something about you that causes them to resonate ? but I have no idea why that would be.?

?Then it doesn't sound like there's much we can do now.? Which meant that her quest was over! She was already planning the victory dance once safely in her room.

?You could try and speak to Aldanon? but I don't think you'd have much luck reaching him, the Blacklake District is closed down.? Ele?ena froze. The shorty here did not just say that there was someone who actually knew more about these cursed little things. Ignorant of the turmoil his words were causing Sand continued explaining. ?Aldanon lives in the Blacklake District, you see - and now he's trapped there. The Watch has it locked tight, no one going in or out, no messages in or out, even for the nobles that used to live there? quite cryptic, really.?

?Why?? She managed to push it through her throat.

Duncan rubbed his chin, ?I heard about that? Lord Dalren was killed, wasn't he? I've heard rumors, but no official word of what happened.?

?As have I. Not only are the Watch not talking about it, but they even called in the Cloaktower mages to investigate? which means sorcery ? or demons ? were at work.?

Ele?ena nearly squeaked.

?Demons? Closest I've ever come to demons is Daeghun's tales about the battles down south, near West Harbor? when there was that trouble with the King of Shadows.?

?King of Shadows?? What she really should have said was: How do I get in Blacklake and finish this. But curiosity was a vice of hers she couldn?t deny completely.

Sand shrugged dismissing the supposed power this villain had. ?Some sorcerer, I believe? had a number of demons and shadows at his beck and call. Not many tales left about that period of Neverwinter history, oddly enough.?

?But you say this? Aldanon might know more, Sand??

He sighed, as if preparing to try and put her over the barrel subtly, ?Well, if you're not a member of the Watch? or know a secret route into Blacklake, then you're out of luck.? He gestured patronizingly at her, ?So it seems like you have no choice but to let me examine the shards at my leisure. I'll need to hold on to them, of course??

While she did swore that she would get rid of the shard (or shards as it were) the first chance she got she had a policy about leaving a potentially powerful artifact ? as it was demonstrated earlier by knocking the inn senseless (nothing that a batch of bad ale couldn?t do but still?) ? in the hands of wizard who was looking at the said artifact with such disinterest that it could only be described as greed.

Daeghun already knew how to make her feel guilty for badly done chore, gods knew what he would do if she didn?t handle this shard properly.

?Wait? Watch or secret route? not bad ideas, either way the coin lands. Well, there's Marshal Cormick, he's currently at the City Watch Post, and I know he's in bad need of an extra swordarm down at the Docks.?

?Cormick? From Fort Locke?? Ele?ena said momentarily forgetting about the wizard (and the inappropriate look he was giving to her shards).

?Yes, I heard he got back to Neverwinter recently. Surprised he even made it with the troubles I've heard around Fort Locke.?

?Trust me, you don't know the half of it,? Neeshka added under her breath. She was still smarting from the ambush those ?would-be-guards? sprung upon her.

?Cormick's a Harborman, too, and folks of the Harbor are as close to kin as you can get out of the Mere. He might be able to take you into the Watch, and from there, speaking to Aldanon shouldn't be too hard.?

The wizard?s eyes followed the two shards being twirled expertly in one hand of the blue elf. His hand even instinctively went for the unfamiliar mysterious magical artifact. Immediately her other free hand came and swatted the grubby fingers away then wiggled a finger in front of his nose as if to say: no touch.

?Is there any other way?? Ele?ena asked not taking her eyes from the wizard. She really couldn?t see herself as a law abiding citizen.

Duncan started a little reluctant ?If you want to find another route into the Blacklake District, that means dealing with other folks that try to control the Docks ? Moire and her gang.?

?Oh, there's an idea, Duncan. They probably were behind the Watch closing the Blacklake District in the first place.? Sand said rubbing his slightly sore hand and casting a glare at the young elf. Children really had no respect for their elders any more.

Now that sounds more like it. ?Really? How do I talk to her??

?Well, she's got thugs all over the docks? but finding one who can get you to her??

?There's Caleb. He used to try to get me to pay him gold for protection before I told him about the wards I had inscribed on the building that caged the guardian elementals. Long story, but quick resolution.?

Ele?ena raised an eyebrow. So he was the idiot whose water elemental wanted to get a little too close for comfort with her. Mages. Irresponsible to the last.

?Caleb? maybe, but I don't trust that harbor rat to give you a fair deal ? and the price'll be steep, in bodies or coin ? he doesn't like being the only one with blood on his hands.?

?Doesn't sound like someone we should put our faith in,? Kelgar grunted downing his drink.

?Obviously, you've never dealt with the Watch in Neverwinter, Khelgar. Dealing with Caleb is probably our best chance.? The tiefling countered immediately. It was quite clear where her affections were.

?Still, the chances are simply talking to Caleb will make you want to kill him, so it seems a clear win ? to me. If you do speak to him, though, be sure to do it downwind.?

And that?s precisely what she did. And that idea, like all good ideas, quickly went down the drain.

?Watch it is then,? Ele?ena said quickly.

Duncan blinked, ?That was a quick decision.? He was pleased with her choice.

Ele?ena rubbed the back of her head nervously, ?Well, you see, since it so happened that I?ve killed the contact for the Thieves ? accidentally of course ? I may not have that much choice in the matter any more.?

?What!? Why in the hells did do that for!?? Neeshka pounced on her yanking her collar. Her opinion on working with the Watch was definitely not high.

?I get all panicky when my life is threatened. And when I get in panic I react,? the elf paused blinking at the tall devil-spawn. ?Or, in this case, my weapon reacted with his throat.? Ele?ena managed to grin innocently, ?So you see, it was purely accidental.?

Neeshka dropped her and threw her hands in the air. ?Argh! Moire will never let us join now!?

?Which is why we?re going with the Watch. Besides, it?s three to one in this small group in favor of the Watch.? She glanced at the dwarf and druidess who nodded at the same time.

?I hate democracy,? the tiefling sulked sitting near the fire again.

After witnessing a set of bizarre events in Duncan?s inn (which was not so unusual per se, because it was Duncan?s inn) Sand decided to retire for the night. It was obvious he wasn?t getting the shards anyway, not with the blue brat watching over them like a hawk.

?Well, you can certainly find your way into trouble from here. Me, I will head back to my lonely merchant existence. Should you need my expertise, simply ask? but just in case, bring a great deal of gold as well,? he added quietly with a knowing smile. And then, with a small bow turned around and disappeared from the inn.

?He?s begging to be freed from that shop, isn?t he?? Ele?ena said looking back at her uncle.

Duncan grinned, maliciously, ?You don?t know the half of it kid.?

She looked around the inn and noticed that her companions looked very much sated with all the food Sal had served while she was being dragged in an argument. She also noted that the seat previously occupied by a human was now empty. Ele?ena looked back at her uncle.

?Who?s the Harborman??

?Aside from you?? Duncan chuckled moving behind the bar.

?Yes, that scruffy looking woodsman who was sitting in the corner. That Harborman.?

With half-elf?s back to her she had no idea what her Uncle?s expression might be when he said, ?What makes you say that??

?Pfft, I?ve lived all my short life in West Harbor, and the few surrounding villages were as far as I was allowed to go. Do you think that I wouldn?t be able to recognize a Harborman when I see one?? She looked over her shoulder at the now empty seat in the corner. ?Even a scruffy-looking-mangy-all-washed-out one,? Ele?ena added trailing off.

Wide-eyed, Duncan laughed then shook his head. ?How about I show you and your friends to your rooms,? he suggested and, as if just now realizing what time it was and what she had been through in just a few hours Ele?ena nodded gratefully. When she stood up she noticed with a smile that Khelgar was already snuggling his empty tankard.


? ? ? ? ? ?


Ele?ena found her new room to be quite adequate and nodded in satisfaction. And then, abandoning all ladylike behavior, she tossed herself on the bed bouncing a bit and squealing happily. She finally had a roof over her head and a soft and clean bed to sleep on any time she whished.

She jumped from her bed and started to unpack her bag. If she was going to stay here until she could get her hands on this Aldanon then she might as well make herself more comfortable.

She grinned. ?A lot more comfortable.?

But it wasn?t the only reason she was so ridiculously happy now. Today, for the very first time, she had managed to concisely summon her powers. It?ll probably take some more practice and, yes, it was a bit provoked, but ?hot damn!? she had managed to actually use her powers when she wanted to. In her opinion that was an excellent reason to celebrate.

When her hand reached the bottom of her bag she raised an eyebrow and pulled out the strange object. When she did she couldn?t stop the laughter that suddenly bubbled in her.

?Pitney?s prized bottle of spirits. I thought I had left this at home.? She stroked her chin, ?In fact, I?m fairly certain that I did.? Oh well, now that it was here she might as well keep it for special occasion. Such as the end of the unfortunate adventure when she?s finally free of the responsibility to the small chunks of silver.

She wrapped the bottle and placed it at the bottom of her drawer, just in case Neeshka decided to ?check her room for safety?. And just as she shut the drawer the devil in question walked in ? without knocking.

?The room is secure Neesh. There are no traps or dangerous creatures lurking in my chest. I checked,? she said, her ruby eye fitted on the tiefling.

Neeshka pouted, ?Do you think so little of me??

?On the contrary, I have very high opinion of your sticky fingers ? just not when they?re in the vicinity of my things.?

?Hey, we?re pals! I would never take your stuff,? the tiefling said with all the true sincerity but for a moment. ?Besides, it?s not like you have anything of value anyway.?

?Oh, go jump of the docks,? Ele?ena said in a huff throwing herself back on the bed. Neeshka let out a small laugh and sat next to the elf, and Ele?ena noticed that she looked pensive and worried.

?So, you?re gonna take it up with the watch, huh??

Ele?ena raised an eyebrow. So that?s what it?s about. ?Cormick already owns me a favor. Why waste an opportunity like that??

?Yeah, but the Watch- they?re not what they seem to be! Half of them are corrupt bastards!?

?And the thieves are more honest how exactly??

?If they?re gonna kill you then they?re gonna kill you. They won?t use law as an excuse to get what they want.?

?Well gee Neesh, what am I supposed to do now when I?ve killed the contact? First, I have no idea where to find this Moira person and second, do you really think they?d welcome me now that I?ve killed one of their own and sabotaged their-? Ele?ena paused for a moment trying to find the right word for what she had witnessed.

Neeshka interrupted her however, ?You?re capable ? except when you?re not-? Ele?ena shot her a glare and the tiefling quickly continued. ?They?d welcome that!?

?I may not be the most ?law abiding? person out there but extortion and blunt backstabbing are not my cup of tea.?

?So, that?s it??

?Yep.?

?You?re not gonna budge on this one, are you??

?Nope.?

They were both silent for a while when suddenly Neeshka jumped from the bed and beamed down at the short elf. ?Say, what do you think about some sightseeing tomorrow?? She asked with a grin.

Well, getting to know the city before she joined the watch could come in handy. ?Sure, why not??

? ? ? ? ? ?


?elsewhere?


?When I said ?watch over her? I meant it as in ?take care of her well being?. Not ?plunge her headfirst into the madness?.?

The black face smiled an open smile full of white sharp teeth. ?It be the same thing, non??

? ? ? ? ? ?


Dear gamer! You cannot summon Spirits of Rage when fighting bosses. We apologize for any inconvenience. Please send all complaints to Undead Control Administration, Bosses Combat Department, and apply for revision of the Endoria combat regulations. - King?s Bounty, the Legend
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#10 Orthodoxia

Orthodoxia
  • Member
  • 853 posts

Posted 05 September 2007 - 11:36 PM

~ Interlude III ~
Sightseeing


?Leldon?s Hideout?

When Neeshka had told her that she would show her around the city Ele?ena never imagined that she was going to have a look, closer then she ever wanted, into a private life of tiefling?s ex-partner.

Well, she should have.

?May I ask how does breaking into the stash of your former partner count as sightseeing?? Ele?ena asked feeling uncomfortable as she suspiciously looked at the stunned guards on the floor. The gas might have done its work superbly, but she was still worried that they might suddenly spring up at them all fine and dandy. And being surrounded by five thugs didn?t differ much from being surrounded by a pack of wolves.

?Easy. It?s a sight to be seen.? Neeshka said throwing the door of the treasury open wide. ?Oh, I just whish I could see Leldon?s face when he finds his coin gone.? Neeshka squealed happily nuzzling the coin she picked up from a wooden box. The elf even thought she heard the tiefling refer to it as ?precious?.

?Don?t make me stop you,? Ele?ena muttered eyes narrowing at one of the guards who twitched on the floor a bit. Neeshka had disabled all the traps, and all the guards for that matter, with such great success that Ele?ena wondered what the hells was she doing here at all.

This was a cruel punishment. Cruel and unjust.

No, it was something worse. It was a payback for not joining the thieves? guild.

?That?s it.? Neeshka said closing the door behind her with the back of her heel.

?Are you sure you?re not overdoing it?? The elf asked looking at the three large bags Neeshka was carrying.

?Nope. I emptied his treasury good.? She practically jumped up and down with glee successfully balancing three bags full of sparkly goodies.

Ele?ena didn?t say anything. If Cormick ever found out she had broken in to someone?s home the prospect of working for the Watch will be gone with the wind. Which was probably what the she-devil had in mind all along.

On the way out Neeshka and her had put all the unconscious guards in the now empty treasure room and had rearmed all the traps. The tiefling had even locked the front door.

?Why go through all the trouble??

?It?s more fun. This way he comes home, he doesn?t suspect anything and then?? she snickered taking the loot bags from Ele?ena. ?See, the dull stuff is on the surface of the city. I showed you the most exciting part of it.? She patted the elf?s back and with a wink disappeared around the corner, ?See ya back at the inn!?

Ele?ena was left standing alone at the corner of the street, without a copper in her pocket from this little excursion. She let out a heavy and tired sigh. Some sightseeing.

?Lass! There you are.?

Ele?ena?s wide-eyed face snapped up so fast that she resembled a baby rabbit at the arrow point of a hunter.

? ? ? ? ? ?


?Tomb of the Betrayers?


Khelgar had dragged her ? well not really since she did promise to help him with his dream of becoming a monk ? to the nearby Temple of Tyr. She figured helping Khelgar in his quest would be much simpler then the whole shard mess that came up. That was until the priest declared that there were three challenges to be overcome to the path of enlightenment.

Three seemed to be a number with powerful magic because most things in life came in threes. Three paths to enlightenment, three whishes, three obstacles? It was always in threes.

And if anyone would believe that Khelgar didn?t know what ?diplomatic? means he would be fooled royally. Because the moment the reverent Judge Oleff mentioned a small problem of a lost priest in the Tomb of the Betrayers Khelgar?s response was:

?Of course we can!? Khelgar said firmly and, not to forget, enthusiastically. Ele?ena just stood behind him face frozen in shock. The muscles gradually relaxed though, and her expression changed to that of severe boredom.

?More undead. Swell.?

?


?Believe me, it has much to do with not seeing what?s on the surface of others but managing to penetrate its depths, as well.?

Khelgar raised an eyebrow and she was certain that there was a grin hidden somewhere in all that beard of his. ?You?ve trained to be a monk, lass??

?No. I was trained by a monk for a while. She had thought me a couple of good things. Balance, some moves, how to predict enemy?s attacks,? Ele?ena said using the ball of her chain to shatter the skull of an annoying skeleton with a bow. She could proudly say she was finally getting a hang of this heroic business. And her phobia of undead seemed to be loosening too. ?We?ve never really reached the whole ki-stuff.?

?No talent??

?Well, there?s that,? the elf grinned and with a jump and a twist of her body she landed on the nearby fence in one smooth move. Her expression turned bittersweet soon enough, ?But she had to leave after short while. What I had learned form her I have cultivated.? Standing expertly on the pointed tips of an iron fence between the tombs Ele?ena said grinning, ?So you see my little dwarven friend, I may not be a full fledged monk but I do know what I?m talking about.?

But the balance didn?t hold out and suddenly she toppled.

?Isn?t your kind supposed to be fleet-of-foot?? The dwarf joked.

?Isn?t your kind supposed to be chained to the forge,? she grumbled from the floor.

?


In the room furthest from the entrance ? because it always has to be the furthest one ? they?ve found the missing priest. Besides the obvious case of absolute terror the young man looked to be in perfect health. Even his robes were in pristine condition.

Ele?ena raised an eyebrow, ?Someone practices running much?? She would know, she was an expert runner.

Of course, the tomb of this caliber couldn?t be without a catch. The instant locking mechanism being that catch.

?The mechanism that seals the entrance has been seized by them,? Onan said looking pained at failing his duty. ?I fear there is no way to reach it? I have tried, but they have driven me back.?

?So who leads them??

?He is one of the greatest of traitors imprisoned in this cursed tomb. I do not know how he returned from death, but return he has.? Ele?ena could see that the priest was scared of this spirit. ?The others gravitate towards him like moths to a flame, and they hunger for the living. He and his fellow undead can be found through the door in the main hall. Be ready for battle. Even with Tyr at my side I was almost powerless against them.?

?Even of I don?t quite understand why Neverwinter would build a tomb for people who hate this city in the middle of it, we?ll have to deal with it.? If Onan wanted to make some kind of interjection to her comment she ignored him ? because she really didn?t understand the logic of this tomb ? and turned to Khelgar. ?You distract them in front of that chamber and I?ll sneak in and try to disable the mechanism.?

?Sounds good to me. Just send ?em to my axe.?

Halfway through the shadows Ele?ena realized she had again sunk into the role of a leader and groaned.

?


There, in the corner of the room sat the saddest ghost she had ever seen. It was also the very first ghost she ever seen. There was no charged anger or bitterness in the air around him but the sadness was so overwhelming she herself nearly shed tears. He was sitting on stone sarcophagi and close to it was a lever that unlocked the tomb.

Carefully she stepped closer even though the ghost didn?t seem interested in fighting her. He didn?t seem interested in her in any way. Indeed, he just looked up at her with his sad eyes and, at that moment, the volume of, the flood of pain increased. With a sigh he looked away and faded into the wall. Or the grave, Ele?ena wasn?t quite sure which.

Confused, she approached the tomb and curiously wiped some years old dust from the lid where the name was written.

?Fenthick,? she whispered in the empty chamber. Was this the guy who suddenly woke up the rest of his inmates? He certainly didn?t look the part of a vicious flesh eating undead she had the pleasure to meet in front.

With a shrug and a mental note to self to find out more about this sad ghost she pulled the nearby lever and heard a distinctive ?click? resonate the walls. Not a second later burning pain ripped through the flesh of her arm and from the corner of her eye she saw a ghoul?s jaws clamped tight around the muscle.

?Goddamnit!? The elf hissed bringing the kama on a chain in quick arc to sever the head of the creature. It fell down and with a kick she pushed the body away from her. Using her weapon as leverage she unclasped the jaw from her pained biceps. ?Why can?t theses things just stay dead??

?


?Thank you for putting that spirit to rest,? Onan said glowing with happiness.

?You?re quite welcome,? Ele?ena grimaced, ?now please heal this wound before maggots start breeding in it!?

?I will if you sit still girl,? Oleff said sternly as he worked his healing powers on her arm. ?You are lucky to be alive with the traitor attacking you himself. He?s proved to be a powerful undead.?

He proved to be a docile undead, she though but opted not to say it. ?He wasn?t that bad. And it was a ghoul that attacked me.?

?By his order no doubt,? Onan, the young priest said worriedly.

Ele?ena rolled her eyes and kept her mouth shut. She did want to know more about the sad ghost but both Onan and Judge Oleff were tightlipped on the matter, addressing to him only as ?the betrayer?. The elf made a mental note to ransack a library at the first possible opportunity.

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?Skymirror?

She had just gotten out of the temple freshly healed but generally un-amused by the local priesthood and was on her way to her uncle?s inn when she saw Elanee kneeling next to a wolf. A second later the wolf ran away and the druidess straightened herself. Without missing a beat Ele?ena turned around to go in another direction.

?Ignore her. Ignore me. Ignore her. Ignore me. Igno-?

?Ele?ena!?

?Damn it!?

The blue moon elf turned around with a warm ? if fake ? smile on her face. ?Hey there Elanee, didn?t see you there. Nice wolf by the way. Your friend perhaps??

The druid cut her of with a resolute tone of her voice. ?We have an urgent mission to undertake.?

?Huh?? The elf blinked.

?You must come with me to the Skymiror.? The druid said.

?Sky-What? Listen, Elanee-? The elf stammered.

?I see you have all your equipment with you. Good, then we?re ready to go.? The druid glanced at her traveling bag.

?Ready to go- When did I-? Ele?ena tried again but Elanee already proceeded to pull her with to the city gates.

?Do not worry. I have the horses ready to go?? Elanee continued talking but Ele?ena wasn?t quite listening.

She wasn?t a leader. She was a bloody puppy.

?


Later, after hours of riding through the unknown paths of the wilderness, Ele?ena was drowsing off in the shade of a tree as the druidess walked around the holy place unlocking its mysteries. Which was just as well with the blue elf; since she wasn?t a druid herself she couldn?t help here. A mission where she didn?t have to bother with the keys was a nice change. And she couldn?t complain about the scenery either.

The lake was beautiful. Pity that her request for a short dip in it was met with a resolute NO. So, the elf took the second option and made herself comfortable under a tree. At some point she had probably fallen asleep because when she opened her eyes next time Elanee was deep in conversation with a projection standing in the middle of the lake. And she had woken up just in time for a juicy part of the tale.

??And we fear that whatever is occurring in the Mere is tied to a set of silver fragments we carry.?

?Silver fragments? Like the one carried by that village girl you were watching?? The image said with a raised eyebrow.

Embarrassed, the druidess quickly looked at her companion who with equal speed closed her eyes pretending not to be present. In spirit at least. ?Ah? yes. But she did not carry it, it was hidden near the village, I believe. She retrieved it from the Illefarn ruins there.?

?Hmmm. That is a strange coincidence? but perhaps not. The darkness clouding the Mere, it is familiar in some respects to events that occurred at the time of the discovery of those shards?? The image looked thoughtful for a moment. ?I will contact you when I know more - I will send a messenger. You will know it when it arrives. Until we meet again, Elanee, beware the shadows.? The image of the druid faded.

?Elanee, how long exactly were you spying on me??

The wood elf nearly jumped out of her skin. She looked most embarrassed with a set of flushed cheeks when she turned towards the moon elf. ?Well I- ?you see, the thing is-?

?You know, now I?m really eager to meet this Aldanon guy because I badly want to know what is it about these shards that makes them so damn compelling to everyone and their uncle.?

Elanee looked incredibly guilty at the moment. Muttering a small apology she fallowed Ele?ena to the entrance of the valley which was?

?Blocked.?

Indeed, as they neared the sole entrance to the Skymirror valley they?ve came face to face with several thugs and a ? and what a surprise it was ? a cultist.

?Two of us against eight of them and a mad necromancer. We are going to be hacked meat long before the real fight even begins.?

?Maybe I can persuade the Guardians of this place to help us.? Elanee said digging her fingers in the earth of a nearby grassy slope.

The thugs readied their weapons and the mean looking cultist started to chant.

?Start persuading.?

As Ele?ena did her best to keep the attackers away from the druid, Elanee concentrated. And several Water Elementals appeared. They did not looked friendly inclined though, as they started both towards the real intruders and them.

Ele?ena avoided one large wave and skipped and dodged until she stood next to the druid. ?Elanee! It would be bifacial if those things didn?t attack us.?

?If you?d like me to do better then don?t distract me,? the druidess shot back immediately. She shut her eyes tightly looking deep in concentration. And then one or two of the elemental guardians, who previously were willing to drown them dry, stopped, reconsidered and turned to their attackers.

All Elementals could be nasty opponents and both elves used the newly made commotion amongst the attackers to get to the horses. Fighting in situation when they were vastly outnumbered and had fickly guardians on their side was not an option.

And while they did manage to get to the horses and avoid being dragged completely into the fight, they weren?t fast enough to avoid one last large wave of water sent in their way. Both elves were soaked to their skin and were riding madly away from the scene of battle. And if the guards at the city gates were surprised by the appearance of two drenched girls they didn?t say anything. In front of them anyway.

Ele?ena stopped in front the Sunken Flagon and looked at the druidess, ?You know, this could just be me babbling nonsense but does anyone else have this weird feeling that the shards and those Shadow Priests are connected??

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?Sunken Flagon?

When Ele?ena had finally walked in the Sunken Flagon that late evening Duncan had looked up from his work and Neeshka and Khelgar from their fight.

?So, how d?ya like Neverwinter so far,? Neeshka jumped away from the table and danced around the girl. ?And where were you all day? You look like a sea elf dragged on shore.? She eyed the elf suspiciously. ?You smell like one too.?

But the blue elf ignored all that and instead had found an empty chair where she sat sluggishly. Bloody hells, if all major cities included sightseeing like this one then she was going to stay clear of them and stick to the farmlands.

The moon elf was fast asleep, head nestled in her arms on the table.


? ? ? ? ? ?


Dear gamer! You cannot summon Spirits of Rage when fighting bosses. We apologize for any inconvenience. Please send all complaints to Undead Control Administration, Bosses Combat Department, and apply for revision of the Endoria combat regulations. - King?s Bounty, the Legend
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#11 Orthodoxia

Orthodoxia
  • Member
  • 853 posts

Posted 08 September 2007 - 09:17 AM

Author?s Notes: The song belongs to Disney (I think).

? ? ? ? ? ?

~ Chapter 7: Law Abiding ~
...Part I...

?
~ Congratulations, bub, you've joined the club ~
~ And everybody here agrees ~
~ We got the finest blend of nearly-honest men ~
~ Welcome to the forty thieves! ~

? ? ? ? ? ?


?day on the job: 1?

Less then two hours into her newest employment Ele?ena quickly, and correctly, surmised that with the watch cloak came the same responsibilities while she was an ?adventurer? ? only now she was paid less, people were more rude and the life expectancy was less then that of an elf caught in the midst of a drow raiding party.

All in all, it was not her dream job.

?Here, you'll need to wear this cloak to mark you as a member of the City Watch. And believe me, your arrival has helped us out immensely.? ? was what Cormick had said.

?No kidding.? Did they wait for her specifically to fall down from the sky and solve all the city?s problems? It sure looked that way.

So now when she was an official member of the Watch she got to clean up her own mess. The Hagen?s shop namely. She had to protect the man from the situation she had involuntarily put him into. And while with no doubt she was a coward of first class, Ele?ena didn?t have the heart to leave the man hanging like that.

That and the cloak on her back which pretty much forced her to go into the lion?s den.

And so it was that the brave quartet made of mixed races entered the Hagen?s shop ready and willing to stop the evil. It would have been easier if the kleptomaniac tiefling had been left back in the inn. Before they could even begin to prepare for dealing with the local thugs they had to persuade good Mr. Hagen that Neeshka wasn?t about to run away with his extremely expensive collection and that she was actually there to help, believe it or not.

That was all before the five brutes made their entry.

A larger then life, stomping, I-own-the-place kind of entry. And as any well behaved thug in the city filled with corrupt lawmen they skipped the threatening part and immediately moved on to bargaining.

?Well, maybe I could be persuaded to leave you to your business,? Ele?ena said with thoughtful tone, as if thinking what she could spend on all that gold.

Hagen was stunned, shocked and very close to heart attack. ?What!? Your job is to protect citizens like me!?

?Wow. You're even more devious than I am. I never would have thought of a double cross,? Neeshka rubbed her hands approvingly before something else shiny caught her eye. And considering how many shiny things were in this shop the list was long indeed.

Ele?ena wasn?t so lucky when Khelgar yanked her to an eye-level ? his eye-level. ?What are you doing? You're the law around here, not these lowlife thugs!?

?I cannot say that I approve. However, I am not familiar with the customs of such artificial environments,? Elanee was an image of calmness. Or was it confusion?

?Trust me. This sort of thing happens all the time in Neverwinter. You'll get used to it,? the tiefling said inspecting a delicate porcelain teacup.

?Our gang's always looking to count you hounds as friends. Here, take this coin. All you have to do is turn around and walk away from this. And don't you worry about Hagen here reporting you. We'll make sure he keeps quiet. Friends have to look out for each other, right??

Standing up Ele?ena caught and weighted the pouch in her hand all the time glaring at the dwarf, ?That's a lot of money. Too bad I wasn't being serious. You're also under arrest for trying to bribe a Watchman,? she said cheerfully pocketing the gold ? as evidence purely.

?A triple cross! All right, I need to start taking some lessons from you,? Neeshka said tossing an expensive teacup over her shoulder (where it crashed into tiny pieces probably breaking Hagen?s heart along the way), the small elf earning her full attention now.

Khelgar sighed in relief holding onto his stomach, ?Clever trick. You almost had me fooled as well.?

Elanee rubbed her head in confusion, ?I'm not certain that I will ever understand how anyone survives in these human cities. Truth appears to be a vague concept at best."

The thugs ? who were fully ignored by now ? looked like a really big Earth Elemental had just trampled over them. Repeatedly.

?Boys, the City Watch is getting uppity again. Time to bring them down a peg.?

? ? ? ? ? ?


?day on the job: 3?

?For relieving us of the trouble that is Caleb I have both to congratulate you and curse you,? Cormick started.

?It was strictly self-defense,? Ele?ena promptly responded. Well, as much as sneaky attack from behind with eldritch energy can be considered self-defense.

?Obviously. Unless you?re a paid assassin who attacks from behind.?

No, she wasn?t anything like that ? minus attacking from the back.

?The issue is that with him gone all the lesser thugs have crawled out of their holes.?

?And my next assignment would be??

?A complete Docks cleanup.?

?A complete Docks cleanup.? Ele?ena mimicked standing in front of the Watch building and kicking dirt for a good measure. ?Like it?s the same thing as cleaning up a room. Besides, there isn?t a broom big and powerful enough to pick up all the dirt accumulated in this cesspool,? she grumbled looking at the dark streets.

The amount of paid ? she didn?t like using the word corrupt because she associated it with dark magic, dark cultist and generally dark stuff ? in the city was astonishing. The pays in the City Watch were so low and the thieves have become so influential that working for them has become a second pay. From the gossip (and Neeshka) she had gathered that there wasn?t the half of that kind of dissatisfaction ? save perhaps the Prison District ? that could be found here in the Docks.

No wonder so many watchmen are turning to Thief?s Guild for their earnings. No treasury in the world can pay enough for this job to be done properly. And she was doing it for the kindness of her heart. Or not. She too needed something, something more precious then gold.

Her freedom. Freedom of this stupid responsibility and these stupid shards.

She sighed, ?Back to work girl.?

Cleaning the place of thieves? gangs is one thing but when thieves start wearing City Watch?s cloaks Ele?ena knew she had a problem. A problem she decided to solve in a way that may not come across as overly acceptable. She should be lucky if they don?t throw her in jail and throw away the key.

And so, she had begun the ?Great Cleanup?, dealing sharp blades to local thugs (to those that were unwilling to negotiate at least), and looking away for many watchmen. Looking away because even a pretence watchman on the Guard Post was better then none.

It also needs to be added that during the ?Great Cleanup? Ele?ena had encountered the most despicable creature to date. Her own twisted evil twin that went by the name Qara. It was a nightmarish experience. One firmly resolved to last as the said evil twin camped in her uncle?s inn.

The horror.

? ? ? ? ? ?


?day on the job: 5?

She just finished the last group of things ? on this street at least ? and being a watchman was a? well, definitely not an employment of her choice. But she never thought that being with Watch would include random battles with extra-planer beings on the streets of Neverwinter. That?s what adventurers are supposed to do. She had washed her hands clean of that job.

On a slightly more serious note, Ele?ena had to admit she was more then slightly worried at the persistence these Githyanki harbored in their hunt for her and the shards.

She ran a hand through her hair and rubbed her scalp tiredly, ?This can?t end well.?

Then her stomach made itself known with a large, hungry growl. ?Also, this might not end at all if the break doesn?t start soon.?

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?day on the job: 7?

?No. No. No. And for the last time: NO!? Duncan said with finality only someone of Farlong blood could posses. Ele?ena knew that tone well and held great respect for the one using it. It was just that? well, with his dirty apron, customary (and equally dirty) rag and balancing several mugs of ale like a serving wench Duncan inspired the small blue elf with fits of giggles rather then awe.

?Those street rats have no business being here!?

?But they do,? Ele?ena insisted with a sweet smile. ?They can make sure the customers that owe you money truly pay for their drinks.? Duncan started to protest again against Wolf?s and his minions stay at his precious, precious, inn but the small elf cut him off, ?And look here, if I don?t get out of here then Brelaina is going to kill me for being late and you are going to mangle me for bringing street urchins to your fine establishment. If I go out there,? she gestured at the door and the street beyond, ?I have high hopes of being brutally butchered by the thugs I should keep in line. Ta-ta!? She waved and was out the door?

?but one step out of the inn and already a giant fireball rushed by her leaving heat and scorch in its way.

Ah, the life of Watchman is never dull.

? ? ? ? ? ?


?day on the job: 10?

They nearly burned down the Back Alley.

So, it was mostly filled with lowlifes but still-

They nearly burned down the BACK ALLEY!

She could only imagine what Captain Breilana would say if another part of Nasher?s beloved city suddenly disappeared in a puff of smoke.

?Could you next time, please, exercise some restraint? As in, not burn down the thieves, the (corrupt) watch, the district and, oh my, us in the process.?

?Restraint is just another word those pompous powerless mages use when they can?t cast a single spell above a cantrip.? Ele?ena blinked at the redhead?s attitude as the sorceress ran her ungloved hand through her hair confidently. ?I know precisely what I?m doing.?

?If there was a voting open a unisonous vote would say that no, you don?t,? Ele?ena said crossing her arms.

Qara?s eyes narrowed and the elf was certain that a real spark of fire flashed then. ?I?m not going to waste my time listening to a washed out brat from a backwaters village nestled in a reeking bog.?

She was called brat before, no problem there - hells, it had become somewhat of a middle name for her. But to be classified as immature by spoiled princess raised with a silver spoon in her mouth and immense power (according to her at least) in her pinky, took the cake, the icing and the cherry.

?I have just met someone with behavior worse then my own. Gods, how didn?t they kill me in sleep by now exactly I?ll never know?? Ele?ena dearly wished she knew more evocations and more about being a warlock because an unlimited source of power sounded really good right about now ? if only to shut the princess up. This way she had to put up with her? well, immature, behavior.

?If I only hadn?t asked her to tag along??
Ele?ena thought with murder on her mind.

? ? ? ? ? ?

?day on the job: 13?

Just to mention, she was fresh out of wands and a new marvelous day as a watchman was about to start. However, knowing and being able to control one or two elusive evocations didn?t give her much comfort and the rest of her party knowing that she was a warlock made her feel even less comfortable. Warlocks were generally not liked and long termed companions or not she wasn?t about to test the limits of their likes and dislikes. And since taking Qara anywhere again was completely out of the question (both the city and her were already suffering enough, thank you very much) restocking her magical supply had just become a priority.

Sitting on the porch in front of the Sunken Flagon she cast a glance at the local magic shop just across the street. She frowned grumpily.

?Water Elementals. I hate Water Elementals. I hate dealing with Water Elementals. I hate wizards who have Water Elementals as pets.?

As she was quick to find out, the feeling was mutual.

It could be luck or it could be simply the wizard?s routine but Sand was up and brewing in this ungodly hour ? Ele?ena considered any time before the sunrise had long since past to be an ?ungodly hour?. So not to say he was surprised by an early customer, because he wasn?t, but he certainly didn?t expect a drenched blue cat- elf to be standing at his doorway like she had just swam her way to Neverwinter.

?Oh, a drowned kitten finds its way into my shop.? The sarcasm ? or it could simply be the was he naturally spoke ? was lost on her.

?Your Water Elemental has a perverse obsession with me,? the drenched elf hissed pointing an accusing finger at the wizard just at the same time a half transparent wobbly mass appeared behind her. With the speed honed from years of running away from various things, father included, she slammed the door shut and leaned her back on them. For a few moments there was almost mournful splashing before the elemental resided back into its bindings.

Helpful for any mage or not Ele?ena vowed never to have anything to do with Elementals. No matter the danger she was never going to summon one of those.

?It was probably charmed, as am I, I assure you. Now what can I do for a member of the Watch in this early hour before the shop has even opened,? he said it in that syrupy voice of a salesman ready to empty his victim?s- customer?s pockets at any time of day or night, but somehow he still managed to accuse her for showing up this early. That, and she was dripping water all over his well kept wooden floor.

Ele?ena had to acknowledge that Sand truly knew how to work his voice.

?Less attitude preferably.? Ele?ena had a guilt threshold so high only one elf could cross it and Sand was not him. ?Wands, potions, scrolls, books,? she replied instantly handing him over a scroll, which, once Sand unrolled it bumped on the counter and proceeded to unroll around his feet. Eyebrow raised, the wizard looked at the girl wondering not for the first time if she was truly insane or were those just the recent bumps in the head she had received.

Ele?ena stared right back at him. ?What? I?m a girl. I have long, extensive shopping lists.?

?You are aware I hope, that this will cost you more then Duncan can earn in his lifetime.?

?No. I came here because I counted on your fabled generosity,? Ele?ena snorted pulling out three large pouches filled with gold (conveniently lifted from Neeshka when the devil-spawn wasn?t looking) and one smaller one, which had opened as it hit the counter and a pair of shiny silvery shards fell halfway out.

And how the wizard whimpered. Silently of course, but in the presence of unknown potentially powerful magical artifact whimpered he did.

Making sure it looked like it was definitely not done on purpose she pulled one bag of gold from under the one which contained the shards, causing the two silvery pieces to slide along the counter. And, predictably (as with mages is), his eyes fallowed them go. Ele?ena thought it was incredibly funny.

By now she had moved the shard so many times, in so many ways that Sand nearly dropped a batch of bottles filled with healing potion she had ordered.

?Will you cease with this childish behavior!?? He finally snapped with authority born of centuries of experience when her immature teasing became unbearable and downright humiliating. Ele?ena grinned satisfied with her success to rile up the wizard and bagged the shards back in the safe place. He stealthy fallowed the movement from the corner of his eye ? she saw him! ? but quickly reverted to actual business.

Then, momentarily startling her, something jumped on the wooden counter, where the two elves were conducting their transaction.

It was a cat. A black cat. No bigger or, at first sight, more special then any other alley walker. Except, perhaps, for his behavior. With elegance extreme even for a feline, and arrogance beyond that of Qara, the cat made itself comfortable on the thick pile of books piled on the counter. His icy green eyes, which showed there was intelligence hidden behind all that fur, looked down on both his master and the customer with equal amount of loathing.

Of course, not icy demeanor or claws and fangs could deter the small blue moon elf from exclaiming a high pitched ?cute? and snuggling the poor creature. Other animals wouldn?t know what hit them ? Jaral, however, was slightly different and a lot quicker on his paws.

Four long white, shallow scratches were what she received for her need to snuggle before the quick cat disappeared between chairs and shelves of the shop.

??I told you so? would sound a bit haughty now, wouldn?t it??

?Only when you say it,? Ele?ena thought glaring at the fait scratches. ?Who?s the kitty?? She asked rubbing her slightly sore hand with a grin, ?Your familiar??

?A permanently polymorphed drow. That is my theory at least, with the evil streak he seems to possess,? he explained when she looked at him like he had grown a second head suddenly.

?I don?t believe you,? Ele?ena huffed. ?He?s much too cute to be a drow.?

The wizard sighed not in a mood to argue with a girl obsessed with petting cute and fluffy things. ?As you would have it. But I will not be the one to explain Duncan why his niece walked into my shop only to never walk out.? Ele?ena shrugged, eyeing the shadows where the cat may be. ?I will need to collect most of these from the storage room,? the wizard continued rereading the frighteningly long list. If she continued to buy at his place he would have to soon stop sleeping to make up for the lost items. He looked over at the young elf, who was now picking one book after another from his shelves. ?Please, girl, try not to pawn anything while I am away.?

?I?ll behave, if you stop wooing my shards with your eyes,? she responded not turning around.

There was silence, then an almost inaudible huff and then stiff footsteps leading out of the room. Obviously Sand didn?t like when someone brought up a topic of things he wanted but couldn?t have. Perhaps she overdid with teasing?

?Nah, after what his Water Elemental did to me ? repeatedly ? he deserves it.?
Closing the book soundly Ele?ena turned her face towards the black familiar with a maniacal grin and a spark in her red eyes.

?Here kitty, kitty, kitty?? Ele?ena cooed still grinning an insane grin.

Jaral backed away until his back paws met the wall, arching his spine and showing his needle like teeth in an attempt to appear more menacing, but the smart cat suspected that the end of life as he knew it was near.

Well, at least he?ll be rid of that horrible urge for all things fish.

Many minutes later Sand returned to the main part of his shop with his customer?s orders and was greeted by a sight he had not expected to see ever in his life ? or at least not for a few more centuries. The sight was deviant and went against the laws of multiverse.

Sprawled on his back, with all four paws in the air and the tip of his languid tail twitching just slightly the black cat was lying in the cradle of the elf?s crossed tights. With one hand Ele?ena was slowly scratching his lean belly while with the other she held a book. A pitiful mewl for attention left familiar?s mouth when she stopped her ministrations to turn the page.

Jaral was being petted. No, it was worse! His antisocial familiar ? and Sand held a firm belief that Jaral was the reason the word got invented in the first place ? was actually enjoying himself in the company of someone.

The blue elf raised her eyes when she heard the noise and smiled. ?Oh hey Sand,? Ele?ena greeted the wizard running her thumb on the underside of cat?s jaw to which Jaral let out a loud, throaty purr. ?You know, I?d never thought that you of all people would have a petable familiar.?

Sand gawked, dropped the box and all the personally and with great deal of effort crafted content in it went to hells.

One thing was certain. That brat wasn?t going anywhere near his shop again.

? ? ? ? ? ?


?day on the job: 14?

Ele?ena adjusted the cloak around her throat running her finger along the inside. The thing felt as an executioner?s noose. And she had put it on willingly on her neck. But there was no turning back now. Not until she learned more about the shards, got rid of them, got out of town and send the cloak back to the Watch via a courier. Hopefully, that could happen soon.

She tried to loosen the cloak a bit more without much success and glared at the warehouse as if it was the building?s fault for that she was here. Effectively, it was. And even if it weren?t she would still find a way blame it.

?All right people,? she started looking at Khelgar and Elanee who were both rested, armed and ready to face the great ? she doubted it was horde ? of thugs in the warehouse. The happiness Khelgar felt couldn?t be put into words. Ele?ena quickly realized that rooting out thieves was the dwarf?s favorite pastime.

?No wonder he and Neeshka get along so fabulously,? she though and cleared her throat. ?According to Captain Brelaina this is where the Thief?s Guild keeps their weapon stock and the smugglers will be there. Therefore, we are to-?

?Strip the place down to its nails!!? The familiar screech of a tiefling made itself known from the background.

Two elves and a dwarf nearly kissed the ground from the surprise attack. Well, Ele?ena did.

?Neeshka! You were supposed to stay in the inn!?

?What? And miss the greatest raid in the history of Neverwinter!? Never!? The tiefling looked scandalized by elf?s proposal ? it was more like an order ? to stay behind.

?Do you even have any depth to your character at all??

?Of course I do. But my sneaky-sneaky side is the most appealing part of me.?

Ele?ena had a sudden headache attack. ?Try appalling.?

?Can we go in now? Can we? Please??

Ele?ena looked at Khelgar and Elanee for support but found them to appear busy with whatever was handy at the moment. ?Traitors,? she huffed.

?Yes, Neeshka, we can go in now.?

Woe to anyone who tried to stand in the way of the prancing tiefling.


? ? ? ? ? ?


?evening on the job: 19?

Ele?ena managed to somehow push and pull her way through the recently ? and courtesy of her ? tavern filled with prominent member of Neverinter Nine and his special unit (whatever the name may be, both his and theirs). Considering how much money ? most of which was Neeshka?s ? she had spent earlier she was surprised, if elated, that the tiefling wasn?t chasing her around with a hatchet. Hells, she wasn?t even sure why her body hadn?t mysteriously disappeared while they were in the warehouse. It could, of course, be the case that the said tiefling was yet to be aware of her secret stash missing or, if she had, looting of the warehouse had probably sated her lust for gold.

Therefore, avoiding freshly drunken soldiers and one almost-certainly-furious she-devil was a paramount for Ele?ena to get to her job in one piece in the morning. Especially since she was so close to getting into Blacklake district now.

She was so consumed with monitoring where the kleptomaniac tiefling was that she didn?t see where she was putting her feet. And ultimately, and as always ungracefully, she tripped and fell and discovered the already common knowledge of the state Duncan?s floor was in ? a good scrub was a must. Ele?ena made a mental note to mention that to her uncle just in case she and the floor met again intimately some day soon.

But no sooner then she got to her feet (with a brand new insight of the state her uncle?s floor was in) air was knocked out of her lungs and she stumbled ? but didn?t fall ? again. With a mighty glare and a few choice words on the tip of her tongue Ele?ena lifted her head and met a pair of amber eyes. But instead of looking at her they were looking right through her, focused on something beyond or behind her.

Never before had she been so completely ignored, not even by Daeghun, and yet to this ?is-Harborman-isn?t-Harborman? she wasn?t much more then thin air in between the narrow space in the currently crowded inn. And had she not swiftly stepped out of his way she would have been kissing floor all over again.

Glaring at the man?s back the small elf had an urge to do something extremely childish and nasty in retribution but a pair of horns peaking from the crowd reminded her precisely why she was going into hiding at the moment.

Yes, Captain Brelaina had told her that she was to report early in the morning for an important announcement.

?Blacklake! Here I come!?


? ? ? ? ? ?

?morning on the job: 20?

With Hagen well protected, Caleb eliminated, city streets cleared of corruption (partly anyway), weapon shipments stopped, informant protected and Moira dead, Ele?ena had finally dared to hope that the Blacklake district was close at hand. She was already indulging fantasies about gates opening with the sound of trumpets in the background, possibly a red carpet too.

All Captain Brelaina had to say now was: ?You have performed admirably. The way to the Blacklake district is now open to you.?

That?s how it was supposed to go, but what happened was:

?I?m promoting you to the rank of a Lieutenant, and according to it I have mission of great importance for you.?

Ele?ena came up with a very smart response.

?Gulp.?

? ? ? ? ? ?

~ A fraternity of thugs that you can trust ~
~ There's nothing up our eighty sleeves ~
~ Got lotsa grub to share ~
~ Pull up an easy chair ~
~ Welcome to the forty thieves! ~

?


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#12 Orthodoxia

Orthodoxia
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Posted 04 November 2007 - 12:53 PM

Author?s Notes: After a long dry period inspiration is slowly and shyly creeping back. Not entirely satisfied with this chapter but it honestly needed to be over and done with. Anyway, lots of dialogue from the game but I thought it was necessary at this point.

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~ Chapter 8: Through the Mountains We March ~
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?I suppose you'd say I stick my hands in just about everything. Including dark holes filled with phantom spiders?but that's another story.?

Ele?ena grinned at Grobnar?s enthusiastic tale. Talking to the gnome both amused and helped her not think about the orcs ahead.

Yes, orcs. Hundreds and hundreds of orcs. And she was going to face all of them.

If she weren?t feeling too shocked and frightened Ele?ena would faint properly.

Well, to make a small correction here, she wasn?t going to face them all directly (the trip isn?t planned that way at least); she was here to escort the emissary of Waterdeep. But the man chose to take the currently most dangerous route to Neverwinter, what was she supposed to expect!? A happy, with-flowers-covered parade!? Or perhaps, that the tusk-faced things are going to salute him as walks by?

To her mind, it was crazy to send someone as inexperienced as her to a dangerous place such as this with a mission which is of outmost importance to the city?s existence.

?Brelaina must be getting desperate,? she thought fingering her weapon. She cast a withering glance over her shoulder. Which is precisely why the red princess, as she took up calling her, was coming along. In a way Ele?ena had hoped that a little actual combat would work therapeutic but she had a sickening feeling that it would only add fuel to her already all-consuming ego.

On the other hand, no one could rain fire like Qara. The downside was, both Khelgar (who never missed a party or a bloodbath) and Elanee were at the receiving end of her acidic tongue as well as random fireballs.

She had found out that despite their considerate? eh, similarities, and therefore prone to considerate amount of arguing, she missed Neeshka. The she-devil was more then glad to stay behind especially after Ele?ena said: ?Oh, why don?t you go and rob some rich house or another?? She didn?t need to be told twice.

?And she?ll probably point the finger at me if the robbery goes wrong.?

The tiefling alone wasn?t enough to stand up to Qara but Neeshka and Khelgar together (during the times they would set aside their differences ? demonstrated at the night before they left) were a team more than a match for the redhead. Pity she wasn?t here.

In the meantime, Grobnar proved to be an excellent distraction. Khelgar disagreed on many occasions. The gnome and the blue elf chatted about many things: mundane, irrational, irritating and were generally making sure that the rest of the party had their ears bleeding ? especially when Grobnar had the audacity to mention his codpiece again, used in many ways and told in many variations.

Perhaps they weren?t the best of friends but they were still her comrades and, minus a few incidents that need not be mentioned, they were there for each other. Ele?ena, if not the rest of her party, was almost too sorry when the encampment of the Greycloaks appeared on the desolate road before them.

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Perhaps the most unpleasant thing she had saw, and had at the same time reminded her where she was, was a pile of burnt orc corpses at the far edge of the camp. Those were probably the ones who managed to break into the camp and not break out. How high was the possibility for her to end up on a similar pile on the orc side of the camp?

Or worse.

On the other hand, better not think of the worse. Yes, not think. It was bound to send her running in the opposite direction.

Near the great well, according to which it got its name, a golden haired dwarf was issuing orders with a firm grip and even a firmer voice. The eye of Neverwinter was on his armor, a sign she had come to associate with the fabled ?Nine?. If Sir Damon was anything to go by she preferred nothing to have to do with them.

In fact, she discovered that the mere presence of anyone from that elite circle was giving her a severe case of rash. Perhaps the seriousness of the situation would prevent her from constant scratching.

As she approached closer she could hear what the argument was about.

?I want those walls up by evening, no excuses. The orcs aren't going to stop attacking just because we need to catch our breath.?

?But, sir, the men are having a hard time finding the materials we need??

All right, that was a lame excuse. Even she could tell that.

?You're telling me they can't find any stones? We're in the middle of the blasted mountains! Unless you'd like to report to Nasher that we're overrun because we couldn't find rocks, I suggest you drive some sense into your men and get that wall built.?

?Yes, sir. I'll see to it, sir,? the sergeant (or was it a lieutenant?) scurried away to carry out his orders which included finding suitable stone in the middle of the mountains.

One thing was for certain, this dwarf was nothing like Khelgar. Swallowing her nervosas she approached the dwarf in charge, for the first time worrying of the impression her immature appearance might make.

He didn?t seem to notice as he shook his head and continued under his breath, ?I tell you, I've lost years off my life trying to get this rabble fit for service?and who are you supposed to be? Reinforcements?? He asked sizing up the small elf.

?Are you leading these men?? Ele?ena asked cautiously.

?If one can ?lead? such a disorganized rabble, then yes. Usually I just point them in the direction of the enemy and hope they stab the right person.?

Ele?ena didn?t find that comforting.

?I'm Callum. Commander Callum to you. Lord Nasher sent me here to secure the Old Owl Well. So what are you doing here??

?I'm here to escort the Waterdeep emissary to Neverwinter.?

?Issani? He hasn't arrived yet, should have been here a tenday ago. I've sent a scout to look for him.? Then, recognition. ?Wait?you're the one from the city watch, aren't you? I got word yesterday you'd be making a visit. I'd hoped to have better news for you.?

?How did anyone know he'd be coming this way??

?We're still not sure ourselves, really. The information I have is vague ? at best. This route makes the best sense, though. It's one of the few they haven't tried yet.?

?The emissary had no idea he'd be entering a battlefield, did he?? For that matter, neither did she. Well, some vague idea maybe, but not?this.

Callum looked irritated. ?This assault has been planned for months. We weren't able to warn Issani ahead of time though. We weren't expecting to be needing a new emissary, to be honest. Still, at least we'll be here to offer more protection. ?

?So what do I do? Just wait here until your scout returns?? Because what was there else to do now?

The dwarf commander shook his head, ?Oh no. No waiting around for you ? I'm counting on you to help with our defense against the orcs.?

?I am not under your command,? Ele?ena?s voice was full of indignation.

But Commander Callum would have none of her insubordinate behavior. ?Think again. You're in my camp. While you're here, I own you. I'll expect you to help out with the defense of this camp. You've already brought your own gear, so just find a spot to call home. And stay alert.?

Ele?ena opened her mouth ready argue, or to bite, to get herself out of this situation, out of this subordinate position that was so suddenly thrust upon her, but she was interrupted by the most common occurrence in the Old Owl Well.

?Sound the alarm! Orcs! The orcs are attacking!?

?Wouldn't you know it. Not a moment's rest?? he said ruefully before turning to his soldiers ?Greycloaks, to arms! For Neverwinter!?

Well, yay.

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Orc bodies littered what was supposed to be the safe camp of the Old Owl Well. Breathing heavily and covered in blood of both hers and orcs? Ele?ena dropped the sword ? which she wasn?t qualified to wield in the first place ? and leaned back against the partly collapsed wall.

Never before had she been so afraid. Hundreds of orcs, all attacking at the same time and only blind instinct, blind self-preservation and just a bit of experience she got on the road had helped her avoid getting sliced, skewered or used as a pin-cushion from various arrows.

The way they attacked, from all sides and in such a great number for such a small encampment.

Khelgar fought with much fury, and even the calm druidess had managed to unleash the nature?s fury. Qara?s behavior during the battle needed not be mentioned at all. The fire princess had managed to rain hell on everyone?s heads. She had killed with equality both the orcs and the soldiers.

The small elf pulled herself away from the brick wall in search fro some healing. She was certain that the blood loss she had endured from a few meager orcs that had managed to get to her in the heat of battle would kill her sooner rather then latter. She kept forgetting that even a few orcs can be deadly for someone not skilled in the wondrous art of combat. So she dragged herself to the nearest healer to take care of her bodily wounds if not those that cut her self-esteem to even lower levels.

Before finding anyone from her own party she ran into Callum who, unlike her, looked none worse to wear.

?Another orc raiding party. We're lucky they haven't attacked in full force.?

This was a raiding party!? Weren?t these supposed to be small? Few people only? Not a tidal wave after a tidal wave?

?Just wish I could make contact with whoever it is that's been distracting the orcs,? he added quietly, a little to himself.

?Someone else is attacking the orcs??

?Yes ? someone's out there attacking orc patrols, and it's giving us a chance to build up our defenses.?

?So they're on your side.?

?I've been at this long enough to know that you need to control a battlefield ? and this new ally of ours is something I can't control.

?Why can't you make contact with him??

?He's not one for talking. Every time I send someone out to contact him, he and his men move their camp. The orcs have a name for him ? Katalmach. They say he attacks without warning ? and without regard for his enemy's numbers.?

?That's not a name orcs give lightly ? it's a name they give to warriors who lose themselves in battle,? Ele?ena looked over to see Khelgar and Elanee approaching. And while Khelgar?s voice held a note of respect, the druid was thoughtful.

?It is odd that even orc trackers couldn't find him. Or that he would risk stirring up so many tribes in this region.?

?Maybe this ?kettle-head? person simply lacks basic math skills. You see, if we were to face three hundred orcs, the odds? well, if you carry the two? might be?? Grobnar was lost in his very much un-mathematically calculations.

Ele?ena?s thoughts exactly.

?Sounds like someone who wants to die to me. If we weren't here, it'd only be a matter of time before all the tribes in the Well hunted down this? Katalmach? and then his crusade would be over. Well, enough talk about him. I've got my hands full just keeping the men in fighting shape.?

?Commander! Scout returning!?

Callum looked over at the blue elf, ?Let's hope he brings word on the emissary, eh??

Ele?ena sighed and left the commanding dwarf to speak with the scout. From one moment to the next her face blanched ? precisely at the moment went the scout said: ?Orcs, sir. They must have taken him.? By ?him? they meant the Emissary.

Those words efficiently meant the worst possible ending of a very bad day. She held a hand to place on her side where recently a wound was. Make that a very bad and painful day.

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One thing was clear. If the Waterdeep emissary wasn?t going to come to them, they would have to go to him. And seeing how he was currently imprisoned by the orcs the chances for him to walk up and greet them were slim at best.

And so the task of retrieving ? dare she say it ? the princess of Waterdeep fell on her narrow shoulders. Their first stop, as it were, was the Bonegnashers cave ? where everyone is welcome to come but not leave. At least not in one piece and breathing.

?Why is this place so important?? Ele?ena asked no one in particular with no small amount of frustration.

?The Old Owl Well is the only known water source for three days in any direction,? Elanee supplied with her abundant druidic knowledge. ?From what I have heard Neverwinter and the orcs have been fighting over it as long as anyone can remember,? she finished with a shrug.

Ele?ena glared mutinously at the mountains. All the magic in this world and they could take care of lack of water. And who suffers because of it in the end? She does, that?s who!

?Let?s just get over it,? she muttered resigned to the faith of eternal ?water savior?.

Many hours into the march the road there proved to be fraught with peril and untold danger. Not by the orcs and trolls which resided there in great numbers, oh no, but because of the constant rockslides - of which the number increased exponentially since her little party had entered the region. The reason for that was ridiculously simple.

And had red hair.

And was breathing fire.

And the way things were turning out, she might rain rocks on them next.

At first she was glad that Neeshka was back in Neverwinter. Sweet devil she may be, but her and Khelgar?s bickering would bring a mountain down upon them. Unfortunately, she had completely underestimated the power of Qara?s lungs (and her magic), along with her tendency to argue not with one person but with everyone who was not her. At one point Ele?ena even wondered if death under the rocks would be less painful compared to what the orcs had in store for them should they be captured instead of just outright killed in the battle.

Which was exactly what happened next.

The blue warlock and the red sorceress did not agree on many accounts but they did agree that they couldn?t stand each other. And unfortunately for the blue warlock, the red sorceress had by far more power and more importantly know how work it.

And worked it she did after one particularly lively argument that involved such words which would be banned in some countries. The argument itself was a loud one ? in fact, it had quite likely signaled their precise location to the orcs within the mountain range.

But orcs hardly mattered when, after her temper flared to unseen proportions, Qara unleashed a series of fireballs just to went out her frustration. And, as her frustration proved to be deadly in the first place, the rocks thumbed down the mountain. The party scattering each his own way to avoid the falling danger. In the end, in the narrow trail of steep mountains there wasn?t much place to run to. It was either back, or forth.

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Scared wasn?t even a word for her anymore. It was a state of mind. And in her case it was a permanent state of mind.

Of course, you either have to be an archmage of epic proportions or completely numb with fear to wander these mountains like they were a park in the middle of Neverwinter. And that?s only if one manages to forget that the said city is at the moment overrun with thieves and thugs of various sort. That scenario doesn?t inspire much confidence.

But she was neither an archmage nor numb with fear (which was certainly mounting) and so she didn?t have enough confidence to battle through the orc infestation ? unless she was running in the direction of the city and they were in the way.

Ele?ena?s brain came to two important conclusions.

One: she was separated from the rest of the group. And two: she was helplessly lost in mountains swarming with orcs. Since Amie?s death this was the news that broke her. Her legs gave away and the small elf slid on the ground like an empty potato sack.

To be alone ? this was her worst nightmare.

She was both unsure and mortified. She didn?t know what to do next, where to go ? and most importantly, how to survive here. Swamp and lizardmen were one thing, but orcs and their mountain were a different matter altogether.

How was she supposed to do anything!?

From her pouch she pulled out the two shards that had gotten her into this mess. If only Daeghun had decided against keeping them those bloody gith wouldn?t attack the West Harbor in the first place and life would go on as it always had. No extra-planer beings popping out of nowhere, no deals with the lizardmen, no undead, bandits, dwarves, druids, kleptomaniac tieflings, overpowered red-haired brats?

With the fury born of a months of frustration, she threw the two shards as far as she could.

Their fault!

Their fault she was going to loose her life in the middle of nowhere, for absolutely no reason at all! If she had any guts at all she would just walk away from all of this, leaving the cursed chunks of silver to rot among the corpses.

But she didn?t have the courage to that, didn?t she? She didn?t have the courage to live her life the way she wanted to instead of being pushed around constantly. She hated it, hated it all. This situation, as well as her inability to deal with it the way, perhaps, others would.

?I am so not a material for a hero.?

Khelgar or Elanee, and even Qara would have a vague idea as what to do next. Though Qara might just blast her way through the mountains, making a convenient road for herself and possibly for future caravans.

And precisely because the fear of repercussions prevented her from walking away she knew there was only one thing she could do now ? besides ending up in some monster?s belly ? and that was to push forwards.

So she stood up, dusted herself off and walked over to the rock formation where the cursed chunks of silver were supposes to be. The sight that greeted her there was last one in the long line of unpleasant surprises she had experienced in her yet short life.

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Again, as almost after every fight, Ele?ena sank to the ground before the troll corpse feeling absolutely exhausted. Let that be a lesson to her: never toss magical artifacts in the middle of troll lunch. It can prove to be bad for health.

Then, just as she thought she could catch some breath the corpse that wasn?t exactly a corpse twitched, and Ele?ena was (with a puppy like yelp) on her feet and down the mountain before the said twitch subsided.

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Blood spluttered only for a short moment before vast quantities of acid covered the body.

Babysitting. He honest-to-gods hated babysitting.

It was the girl?s luck that he found her clumsiness and near death escapades amusing. Not exactly an outright comedy written by the best the Realms had to offer but it still managed to make his day a little brighter at least.

Now, if she could only hurt herself some more and more often, it would be perfect.

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Many miles away from the bloodshed.

?Wait a minute. Was that???

Why yes, yes it was.

Lorne Starling.

That was one tall human she wasn?t about to forget.

So, the emissary was in there. But this was the entirely different clan then the one her small group was originally going against to. And much larger too. Well damn! Wasn?t it just her luck for the day to turn from bad to worse like this?

With the rest of her part hacking at the entirely different clan she had no option left but to ?blend with the landscape? and listen to the private and confidential conversations of a privileged orc chief.

And she listened. Though true to her personality what she heard on one pointy ear usually went out on the other. So it wasn?t a great surprise when she caught on only the last bit of conversation.

?You threaten me?! Here, in orcish lands? I fear not your lord Garius, nor your dark priests!?

?That is good.? Ele?ena swallowed a fairly large lump when she saw several Shadow Priests walking in to back up Lorne. ?Because Garius has sent more here to watch over you. And unless you drive the Greycloaks from Old Owl Well, then they will carry out the orders that you cannot.? Lorne walked away with all the confidence and menacing air a brute like him could possess.

And what did she find out?

Well, for one, she had located the emissary, found out that the orcs were more then happily being pushed into this mini-war. Oh, and Bevil?s brother had grown up to be a complete ass. And how she was going to tell Retta about him she had no idea.

Hiding between the rocks the small elf tucked her knees and considered what to do next. Getting the emissary out was why she was out here in the first place. Orc threat was not her problem. It could be handled by the Greycloaks and the Nine.

?That?s why they were here in the first place,? she nodded firmly to herself.

Therefore, what she should do is this: gather courage, make herself invisible, sneak inside to get the precious cargo, and then in all her glory and blaze, get out (preferably on one piece) and make haste for the city, where she would be congratulated and the doors to the Blacklake would finally be open to her.

?I?m so clever sometimes.?

A sudden familiar battle cry reached her ears.

Or she could just fallow the screaming to her trusted friend Khelgar, who was accompanied by a relatively powerful druid and even more powerful snotty brat, complete with a crazy gnome, and push them all in the front line.

Yes, she was very cleaver indeed.

But she was luckier still.

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After the magnificent (and dangerous) blaze of both Nature and Arcane magic subsided Ele?ena finished the one orc she was struggling with and rushed down the steep slope narrowly avoiding a serious neck injury and only just stopping in front of the dwarf and the druid.

?Where in Nature?s name have you been?? Elanee asked steadying the stumbling elf and quickly checking for any possible wounds to which Ela?ena was prone to.

?Found? the emissary?? she managed between heavy breaths and trying to stand on her own two very tired feet. Tired form abounded amount of running, that is.

?So we fight for our lives and you go on a merry scouting mission? That has got to be the lamest excuse you?ve ever used to get out of battle.?

?Die a gruesome death by the hands of third class and utterly incapable wizard, who will kill you quite accidentally by stumbling over his frolicking robes.? Ele?ena thought vehemently. And then, as if she remembered something she proceeded to rummage through Elanee?s backpack.

When she pulled out a water skin, and took a long, deep swig from it, she looked over her shoulder at her still baffled companions. ?The orcs are keeping him in the Eyegouger?s lair. Saw it when they brought him there.?

?You?ve found their lair?? The druid was astonished.

Still being busy with the emptying the water skin Ele?ena only nodded.

?You are so- How do you manage to do these things I shall never understand?? Once again, the druid was both astonished bewildered.

?You?d be surprised by the skill of tracking that suddenly develops when you?re chased by full size mountain troll.? Meaning: she was scared shitless and had ran in a random direction until she hit the guarded entrance of the orc cave. The true meaning did not escape the group.

?There also are cultists there,? she added quietly.

?Those mask wearing freaks, eh??

?That means there will also be undead around.?

Well of course there will be undead around. Evil cultists without their prone-to-rotting pets wouldn?t work for this epic tale of Ele?ena?s mighty?cowardnesses?whatever. Good thing there was a paladin around this time around.

?Wait! What Paladin?? That little, often extinguished, candle lit Ele?ena?s brain as she finally noticed the tall armored human, whose expression was caught in the mixture of unexpected amusement and utter bewilderment.

?Oh, that Paladin.?

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Edited by Orthodoxia, 04 November 2007 - 11:47 PM.

Dear gamer! You cannot summon Spirits of Rage when fighting bosses. We apologize for any inconvenience. Please send all complaints to Undead Control Administration, Bosses Combat Department, and apply for revision of the Endoria combat regulations. - King?s Bounty, the Legend
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#13 Orthodoxia

Orthodoxia
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  • 853 posts

Posted 26 November 2007 - 02:13 AM

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~ Interlude IV ~
Issues

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There was a definite shortage of people in the group and Ele?ena only noticed because her ears were not flooded with one tale or another that didn?t make much sense.

Elanee told her that the gnome was waiting for them at the Old Owl Well. Apparently, some of the injuries he had caused around himself in battle didn?t spare the allies. Grobnar was proud to say it was his ?supper-secret-weapon? inspired by immense power of Wendersnaven (whatever that was) though still in making ? there were a few glitches he couldn?t quite figure out ? which made the weapon dangerously unpredictable and was the reason why he could tinker with his toy back in the camp.

It could also be that the rest of the group wanted some time off from Grobnar?s now legendary codpiece.

?You disappear for one afternoon and the world goes crazy.? With a sigh Ele?ena took in this new update of group dynamics. The bard was out, the paladin was in. And speaking of? Perhaps she should get acquainted with the newest team member. Or not. What does one say to a holy warrior? Is there a proper way of conduct?

In the end, after her head started to hurt from too much thinking, she walked up to him and started the conversation in the single, most rude way possible.

?What is a paladin doing in Old Owl Well, if don?t mind me asking?? Ele?ena asked catching up to the holy warrior.

?Many who live in the shadow of these mountains have suffered greatly from orc attacks over the years,? he said and she could sense firm conviction in his voice. ?Families have been put to the sword, homes burned, and traveling merchants have been slaughtered along the High Road. It is time that the orcs be driven back.?

Well, at least he?s talking instead of berating her for her unseemly behavior.

?So you came here with your band?? She remembered seeing some warriors with him back in the gorge.

?I did not come with these men. These are men and women who live here, who have been willing to lend me their swords. They have good hearts. Living here has made them tough, capable, and their knowledge of the mountain paths have made them invaluable as scouts,? there was fondness in his voice. Ele?ena guessed he cared great deal for each man under his command.

?So you came here alone at first??

?Yes, I thought perhaps by traveling here, my sword could make a difference, give the people living here some hope if Neverwinter itself could not protect them.?

?Doesn't sound like you have much faith in Neverwinter. Not that I blame you,? she added quietly, more to herself.

?I do not have faith in a city or a nation, but the people within it. These people of Old Owl Well - they know the truth of this,? he said quietly.

?But going to Old Owl Well alone to stop the orcs seems like suicide.? By Ele?ena?s standards that was suicidal indeed.

There was a rueful smile on his face. ?It may seem such, but I felt that one man could make a difference.?

?I don?t see why not. History is filled with one-man-army stories,? Ele?ena said crossing her hands behind her head. She didn?t see when he looked down at her.

?You are unusual,? the paladin had something of a smile in his blue eyes. Any other girl might have found his slightly curious expression endearing, Ele?ena was too busy panicking to notice.

?Really?? Ele?ena asked with a smile but behind where panic ruled. ?Gah! If he finds out that I?m a warlock I can prepare myself for some serious smiting.?

She was honestly worried as to what a paladin would say, or do, if he caught the whiff of her eldritch powers ? which she didn?t even know how to use properly, by the way. Descendants of infernal races and god-abiding holy warriors just did not mix by definition. Did her mother have horns? Daeghun never talked about her and no one in the village mentioned it as far as she knew ? the horns, that is.

?Quite usual for my age actually. Lemme see,? she started counting on her fingers. ?Cowardness, immaturity, sloth ? my personal favorite. So you see, quite ordinary for young people like me,? she finished with a cheerful innocent smile. ?And while you?re at it, look the other way. No descendants of infernal bloodlines here, thank you very much.?

?Not to mention the ability to disappear in the middle of a battle,? Qara quipped from the back (a place where she defiantly didn?t want to be ? Qara didn?t do backgrounds). Ele?ena, tired and cranky as she was, nearly blew top with her eldritch power. Only the presence of a paladin ? therefore, self-preservation ? stopped her from doing something overly zealous.

That didn?t stop her from yelling however.

?Because someone decided to summon a mountain down on us,? she snapped whirling around and pointing a finger in the most childish display. ?And the only fight happening was while we tried to outmaneuver your overwhelming ego.?

?My-! Which is not nearly as dangerous as the way your orientation leads to certain doom and destruction!?

?Shall we compare that to your anger management??

Nose to nose now the two could probably go on and on but both the dwarf and the druidess were reluctant to interfere. The paladin, however, was not.

?Arguing is hardly going to help either of you.?

?And is likely to tell the orcs exactly where we are,? Khelgar rumbled.

?As if she hadn?t done that already, and repeatedly,? Ele?ena muttered.

It nearly set off the sorceress again but despite different personalities Casavir did manage to calm Qara just enough not to blow up the mountain. He had that kind of presence about him. Ele?ena huffed and walked by Khelgar and away from the red brat.

?Listen lass, I have a favor to ask,? Khelgar said, for once deciding that a quick change of topic was in order. And when that change of topic corresponded with his potential plans then it warmed his brawling dwarven heart.

So he told her about his clan, a clan that was quite nearby, and that after a good brawl with the orcs he would like to go and visit them. She was invited too of course.

?I wouldn?t mind Khelgar,? oh yes she would, ?but Captain Brelaina will likely want a complete report once we?re back.? Liar, liar, pants on fire. ?Not to mention I?ll be likely off to another mission. That woman seems to have a never-ending source of them.? Khelgar looked utterly crushed, and a worm of guilt made itself known somewhere inside her. ?But you should still go, you know. You could even take Neeshka with you.?

Khelgar gawked, stunned.

?Well you do need to learn some tolerance for that ?monk of Tyr? quest of yours,? she reminded him shaking her finger.

?I tolerate you,? the dwarf muttered.

?That?s because I don?t have horns sprouting out on my forehead.?

Grumbling, the dwarf agreed. He really wasn?t happy about it.

? ? ? ? ? ?


With Casavir?s guidance (and in this case no input from Ele?ena was needed, ergo, reducing her previous hopping around dangerous mountain to useless) they arrived at the same entrance where only few hours ago she had witnessed Lorne speaking with the chief. It was guarded now by two large orcs who, while may not look like that, were keeping a sharp eye for intruders.

?So dealing with this bunch should be easy, right?? Ele?ena asked hopefully. After all, all her companions were experienced fighters ? minus one who was just overpowered and crazy ? and thus, this little adventure should prove easy as pie. Right?

?Hah! You wish lass. If anything going in there will be one hard brawl, with hundreds of orcs storming down the corridors,? Khelgar sighed happily. For him it was a dream come true. For pale Ele?ena it was the stuff of nightmares.

?But, you?ve already decimated the Bonegnasher clan?? Ele?ena started in desperate voice.

?Yes, that we did, but they didn?t have necromancers in waiting for the corpses to pile up,? Khelgar shot down all her hopes for quick ?in-and-out? plan. Ele?ena watched with mixed feelings of dread and something else (that just might be excitement but let?s not go that far) at the entrance to the Eyegouger clan.

?What are the chances for the emissary to be hidden in the room right next to the cave entrance?? She asked in hope for a simple end to a very complicated day.

Qara raised one elegant red eyebrow.

?You are joking, right??

One red sorcereress well done and slightly crispy coming right up.

? ? ? ? ? ?


Dear gamer! You cannot summon Spirits of Rage when fighting bosses. We apologize for any inconvenience. Please send all complaints to Undead Control Administration, Bosses Combat Department, and apply for revision of the Endoria combat regulations. - King?s Bounty, the Legend
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#14 Orthodoxia

Orthodoxia
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Posted 09 December 2007 - 03:31 PM

? ? ? ? ? ?

~ Chapter 9: The Not So Sweet Home ~
? ? ? ? ? ?


What she needed was a bath. Desperately.

But the only thing Ele?ena wanted at the moment was to get back to the inn ? currently dubbed ?home? ? either on horseback, wagon or by means of magical transportation. Anything went as long as it wasn?t by foot because her feet protested against sudden movements.

All in all, she was very fortunate that she hadn?t received anything more serious. And she even had to resort to using some of her powers ? miserable as they were. She really wished she could find someone to teach her how to properly use eldritch energies inside of her because depending on wands and scrolls was not amusing, especially when said wands and scrolls stopped being usable ? which was the equivalent of her stop being usable in the party dynamics. And since her fighting skills left a lot to be desired it needed not be mentioned how often she found herself in life-threatening trouble.

She didn?t contribute much to the party, either as a member or as a leader, if the number of how many times she had gotten them lost counted. They were lucky that Casavir had joined them when he did, because there was one man with a natural talent for leadership.

At the point when they had reached the lower caverns Ele?ena was very glad that her phobia of walking dead things was by far, eh, less than when she first started this journey. And by that she meant that gods-awful cemetery way at the beginning. The lower caverns of the Eyegouger clan were one half filled with corpses that didn?t walk and just as many that did. Plus the motherly cultists who like hen-mothers watched over their newly born, or dead as it were.

It was in the caves below that they found out how far the corruption of the Neverwinter Academy went. Hearing that Qara laughed a self-satisfied laugh saying how she wasn?t surprised what with all the weak-minded buffoons leading the school ? never mind the fact that she was offered the same power as those ?weak-minded buffoons? if only she would turn herself into one of those decaying things. And Qara did what Qara did best, she laughed in their faces. As arrogantly as only Qara knew how.

If she could hide the fact that she was a sorceress Qara would make a great Red Wizard of Thay. Even her hair color matched. Not that it would be of much use to her what with their practiced baldness and all.

Ele?ena didn?t laugh. What was happening in the academy only confirmed her suspicions of what happened in the Tomb of the Betrayers. Cultists were deeply rooted in the city of Neverwinter. How often do the dead betrayers get up for a stroll otherwise?

She also learned that pondering important questions in the middle of the battle wasn?t a smart thing to do. In fact, it earned her a few broken bones. Broken bones that due to lack of healing potions still haven?t healed properly.

?Bloody hells,? she rubbed her aching knee. Pity she no longer had that chalice. Pity the chalice wasn?t rechargeable in the first place.

Rubbing her knee she watched on the side Katriona and Casavir talk about something. Pointy ears she may have and an elf she may be but that didn?t mean she had super hearing. So she had watched them talk. Or argue. Or whatever one-sided love couples do when there?s no pining involved.

How did she figure that one out?

Well, it reminded her of the way Georg would spend too much time with Retta ever since her husband died. He still was but not so obviously, not since Bevil grew older and Retta was obviously not returning his feelings.

Really, there was only one reason why a woman would show so much devotion to her superior commander and call it ?only respect?. Well respect it may be but Ele?ena had witnessed enough coveted glances between couples back in the village as she grew up to recognize one. Intensity and personality may change but the intention behind them always remains the same.

Ele?ena shrugged. All that she had observed sitting on the roof of?Daeghun?s ? not hers, Daghun?s ? house. Observed but never experienced. Not that she was sorry, she considered herself too young for something like love and romance. It would happen when it would happen.

?Humph, why am I even thinking of that? What other couples do or do not do is no business of mine.?

Before she could avert her gaze they finished their conversation and he turned around. He seemed to have noticed her looking at him and she noticed that he saw her moping over her partly healed knee. He approached her and before she could say anything he healed her injury.

?Thank you,? she said sheepishly feeling the tingly sensation creep up and down her leg.

?Do you hurt somewhere else as well?? He asked in kind calm voice.

?No, no, I?m good. As you might have noticed, I?m not exactly a weapon master.?

?Perhaps not, but if you insist on perusing carrier of a militiaman you?ll become one eventually,? he said taking a seat on the broken stone wall next to her.

She managed a nervous laugh. ?Yeah, about that?? She looked at him nervously as he sat next to her. ?I saw you talking to Katriona. Are you two planning on staying here, to help further??

?Katriona will. The orc treat is crushed, at least for the moment, and the Graycloaks can handle the affairs here. No, I don?t think I would be of much help here.?

?Then you?re returning to Neverwinter. I thought you said you left the city deliberately.?

?Yes. And now I must return. There are some unfinished businesses I must?attend to.?

Ele?ena didn?t ask. It was none of her business. If he wanted to tell her he would. No probing on her side.

Then, completely out of the blue, the sound of war drums filled the evening air. Ele?ena nearly jumped out of her skin and her fear could plainly be seen on her face. The others in the camp, the Graycloaks, barely bothered to look up in the sky.

?Not another raid,? she asked almost desperately.

?No. Just the remaining tribes preparing for war among each other,? Casavir said looking at her. ?Without the Eyegouger clan enforcing the union they?ll scatter once more.?

With a sigh of relief Ele?ena leaned her forehead on her knees.

?I?m sorry. I?m just not made for this. And quite frankly, I have no idea why of all people in the Watch I was the one sent to do this. I know for a fact that there are more capable warriors and leaders to deal with the oncoming orc threat. And I?m certain that Brelaina knew that this was going to happen because what else happens when you send the emissary through the orc infested route?and I?m babbling aren?t I?? She sighed once again. It all broke out of her like a damn. What a way to sink.

Issani was well on the way to Neverwinter under the heavy guard of Graycloaks, so her presence in the Old Owl Well was a moot point. She was more certain then ever that this was another of Brelaina?s schemes.

?I swear, that woman was a drow Matron in her past life. Hells, she could be a drow Matron in this life too.?

Casavir too, wondered why someone so young, without much fighting experience, would be sent this way. But despite her obvious reluctance in combat and holding back when it came to organizing a group she had the markings of both, the warrior and the leader.

He didn?t have exact knowledge of how elves aged, and she may very well be too young to be here but there was no turning back now. Cruel as it may sound perhaps a mission such as this would help her see the world through the eyes of an adult and help her adjust.

He was never the one in favor of forceful maturing ? a child should have a period for just that, to be a child ? and it galled him that the Watch had indeed sent someone (and he knew that they knew) with potential but reluctant to be what they wanted her to be. And potential she had. With less luck and a slower mind she would no doubt be dead now.

?I don?t think the realms consist only of people who seek adventure,? he said slowly.

The blue elf looked up at him in childlike surprise.

?It is true,? he said sadly. ?I have seen seasoned knights fall simply because they were overconfident. Courage isn?t only charging heedlessly into your enemy with your weapon drawn. You shouldn?t be ashamed of your fear as long as you don?t let it govern your life.?

Little as it might be those words provided some comfort and peace to her mind. It turned out that paladins were very good at things they did: fighting evil and talking ? especially at talking. And giving advice. Really good at that.

?Thank you. But I still don?t think myself qualified for the job.?

?Then the best advice I can give you is to once you is once you find with whatever it is you?re looking for you to retire. People who approach their job halfheartedly are better off not doing it at all,? he said getting up. ?You?ve handled yourself well,? he said before leaving her alone.

Ele?ena blinked, both grateful to the paladin for the talk and somewhat bewildered. She knew precisely when she would retire ? once the mystery of the Silver Shards is lifted. Yes, the retirement will be sweet indeed. And to think she was only approaching her twenties.

Her confidence refreshed she stood up in search for the rest of her group. She felt so good about herself right now ? heh, paladin charm ? that she wouldn?t mind a week long walk home. Unfortunately for her very good mood it was Qara she had ran into first.

Ele?ena glared at the red sorceress who was, predictably, sulking in the corner of the camp. She never sought out company and the company never sought her out. Equal and good trade in Ele?ena?s opinion.

?Don?t think I haven?t saw you cast some spells,? Qara said all triumphal seeing the elf pass, ?but seeing how meager they were I?m not surprised you hide them. Ashamed, are you? Perhaps you?d like me to tutor you?? The sorceress taunted the blue elf.

?You? Teach me? You wouldn?t know how to teach the dead to rot,? Ele?ena snapped back but hurting inside. She knew well enough that as a magic user she was useless but for someone else to know, even point it out so blatantly, was utterly humiliating. Even worse, it was the red overpowered brat who had found out.

?What to put that theory into practice, shorty,? Qara hissed.

?Try me, wonder brat,? Ele?ena hissed with equally low voice.

On the sidelines things as well were going their usual course, if a bit repeating.

?My good paladin, are you quite certain that there is no accomplished mage in the encampment that could transport us back to the city,? Elanee asked straightening her robe. She was, by now, quite used to hormonal jousts of the younger members in the party. And while used to it she didn?t relish the thought of week long trip of experiencing it.

?I?m afraid not milady,? Casavir sighed. He was certain now that for her to mature it?ll take more than two warring orc clans. Ele?ena was still nothing short of a hotheaded adolescent.

?This?ll be a long track home. The half-elf better have some ale waiting for us or there?ll be no inn for him to run,? Khelgar grumbled for the first time experiencing a headache not inducted by ramming his head through the wall.

The red sorceress and the blue warlock have long since came to common conclusion that the world around them mattered little for the chance to strangle each other.


? ? ? ? ? ?


?One week later in the Sunken Flagon?

?Come now, you?ve earned yourself some rest,? Duncan said fallowing his niece through the inn. Ele?ena was hurriedly fixing her freshly washed hair. She grabbed a small loaf of bread from the kitchen table as she passed to her room.

?No, what I deserve are some answers. I am sick and tired of spending months on ?go fetch? tasks so Brelaina could decide if I am credible enough to be let in the Blacklake district.?

?For a good reason. People are dying in there.?

?Indeed. Pompous nobles killed in their sleep. Do I look like I fall into that category? Or am I a perhaps a picture perfect image of the mysterious assassin? I don?t think so. And, damn it all, I want to be rid of this shard sooner rather than later!?

Duncan looked at her, truly looked at her, as she packed her backpack. Having spent some time on the road as well, this wasn?t the first time he had met a reluctant adventurer, this was, however, the first time he had met a reluctant adventurer who was trying very hard to get to the bottom of the mystery only so she could ran away from all the responsibility. The contrariety of it all was giving him a migraine.

Or she just didn?t know how to say ?no? to Daeghun (not that many people knew how).

He was going to strangle his brother with his cleaning rag.

?I suppose this little trip wasn?t something you wanted in your life, eh??

?Not much of a choice when you?re quite literally thrown out your own home.?

He wasn?t going to strangle his brother ? he was going to dig his heart out with a dull spoon.

He was grinning gleefully as he thought that. Good reason or not, Daeghun really needed to learn some tact. He didn?t have any before he met Shayla and what little she had managed to beat into his head during their life together he lost after she died. Now things just turned nasty. Next time he met his beloved older half-brother face to face he?ll have a few choice words to share considering raising a child. Though he feared the damage was already done.

?If Brelaina lets me see Aldanon today I?ll be a few steps closer to the end of this?? she waved her hand around not knowing how exactly to call dangerous escapades in her life.

?Well, if that?s the way you want to go,? Duncan shrugged walking away, ?then at least have some decent breakfast before you rush off to that harpy of your boss.?

Ele?ena stopped packing and listened to the retreating sounds of Duncan?s footsteps. Why, why, why couldn?t she have been raised by him? Unsavory or not Daeghun?s brother (and she couldn?t call him uncle since Daeghun wasn?t her father) had more of an idea what to do with children then Daeghun could ever in all his centuries of living.

Ele?ena scratched her head furiously and then sighed.

?No point thinking about it, I guess.?

Waiting for Sal to bring out the morning meal she yanked her backpack on the table and started rummaging through it. Since they weren?t in the chest in her room she knew they had to be in here somewhere, but she didn?t take them with herself to the Old Owl Well before. So where were her??

Happy whistling noise interrupted her thoughts. Happy whistling noise that sounded suspiciously like coins jingling. Only one person she knew knows how to whistle like that.

?Ooooh Neeshkaaa??

The tiefling stilled. Not even a tail twitch.

?Do you, per chance, know what happened with the books??

?Books?? The tiefling laughed nervously but it sounded more like a squeak.

?Yes. Books. My books to be precise. My nice leather bound books that were lying innocently at the bottom of my backpack right next to where the damn-silver-shard was. You wouldn?t happen to know where they are now?? Ele?ena grinned innocently then in an instant t her expression turned like a dark storm, ?Or would you??

Loud gulping squeaking noise.

?It wasn?t really like that.? Neeshka said from the opposite side of the table the two were now circling. But the young tiefling somehow doubted that a Neverwinter?s worth of distance won?t be enough to save her now.

?Those were expensive!? Ele?ena managed to both growl and hiss at the same time

?Well no, not really. They were quite cheep actually and-?

Wrong answer.

Ele?ena uncoiled the chain from her waist.

Neeshka made a quick work of her potion of Cat?s Grace.

Duncan, with a plate filled with food, wisely considered that new more stylish, sturdier, furnishings for the inn are in order.

?


A lovely pair of seagulls was grooming each other on the roof of local magic shop paying no attention to the world around them. Because what point is there to pay attention to the loveless world when your beautiful dove is right by your side.

?NEESHKAAAAA!!!?

Unless a random explosion compels you to flee for life leaving your loved one behind under a pile of rocks.

?


And across the street ? and under the very same roof of the magic shop that survived the cataclysm ? the wizard Sand decided that Earth Elementals were a paramount as long as Duncan?s niece was visiting. Now, if he could only find the blasted book for summoning in the newly made mess that was his workshop.

? ? ? ? ? ?


Dear gamer! You cannot summon Spirits of Rage when fighting bosses. We apologize for any inconvenience. Please send all complaints to Undead Control Administration, Bosses Combat Department, and apply for revision of the Endoria combat regulations. - King?s Bounty, the Legend
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#15 Orthodoxia

Orthodoxia
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Posted 14 December 2007 - 09:33 AM

Author?s Notes: The Hero of Neverwinter makes appearance in this one folks.

? ? ? ? ? ?

~ Chapter 10: Blacker than the Sun ~
?third crack?


? ? ? ? ? ?


Ele?ena was fuming.

This was worse than Mossfeld?s taunting when she was a kid. Worse than the time her teacher had left her leaving her training still in fledgling state. Worse than- ?well, maybe not worse than that but it was bad enough.

Bloody she-devil. How dare she touch her property!? What!? The nobles? houses weren?t enough for the hells? spawn so now her books had to suffer as well. One of few small joys she had in this gods-forsaken problem-plagued city and she had to go and sell it off.

Ele?ena was firmly resolved. She wouldn?t talk to her for a week.

No, make that a month.

Or better yet, a year.

Screw talking! If she had a hatchet right now Neeshka would suddenly lack all of her horns. Good thing she was with Khelgar now or who knows how far the chopping might have went.

In her fury Ele?ena quickly stomped to Merchant Quarter not even noticing when she reached the Watch Headquarters. She rushed in, doors slamming loudly behind her and while Cormick rose a questioning eyebrow at her whirlwind-like entry Brelaina didn?t even wait for Ele?ena to stop or greet her. Her relief for the safe return of the emissary was absolute.

?You have done well, lieutenant - I knew my faith was not misplaced. You are to be commended for your efforts on Neverwinter's behalf. Your efforts at the Docks have greatly improved the position of the Watch??

There but somewhere in there, Ele?ena could smell it. She had become an expert in sniffing out subtle subplots her superiors were trying to press on her. Trying and succeeding, unfortunately.

??but it has also drawn new predators.?

?Predators from Luskan,? Cormick supplied grimly.

?Luskan?? Ele?ena was not an expert when it came to diplomacy between big cities but she certainly didn?t like where this was going. The hate between Neverwinter and Luskan was akin to the rivalry Qara and she had.

Brelaina chose her words carefully, ?Luskan is one of our less?benevolent neighbors. We have had troubles with them in the past.?

?A war, actually. No need to hedge words when it comes to their kind,? Cormick crossed his arms angrily. ?Now those Luskan cowards are attempting to take advantage of your success at the Docks to put spies in our midst.?

?We have caught word that one of their agents is attempting to enter port on board a merchant vessel from Luskan - a vessel called the Sea Ghost.? Brelaina?s voice was firm, reminding her who was the boss here, ?We need you to go to the Docks, board the Sea Ghost and stop the Luskans. Return here when you have accomplished your mission.?

There was no broach for discussion, not that there ever was, but this just left Ele?ena with her mouth hanging open. Wasn?t returning of the emissary enough? What else did this woman want her to do? Stop another magically inflicted plague, or defeat yet another army threatening the city?

Was there no end to it!?

For the first time since she had left West Harbor Ele?ena was on the verge of tears. On the verge but not there yet, and as such she had left the building walking in the direction of the Docks. Half of her company wasn?t even here, how was she supposed to go up against trained Luskan spies?

?This day just keeps getting better and bet-?
she stopped in mid-thought when her eyes connected to a dark shape standing next to one of vendors. While she should have expected for Brelaina and Cormick to set her up for another task, what she didn?t expect was to see her nightmare realized in broad daylight. Even worse, she didn?t expect her worst nightmare to lock so harmless and utterly relaxed chatting with people in broad daylight.

Yes, there among many hardworking people of Neverwinter stood the nightmarish shadow from her?nightmare. And while she was frozen with fear the people around her carried on without a care in the world. Or they did, and they were greeting him like he was long lost friend suddenly found.

The sheer amount of her dreaded amazement was absolutely stunning. She would turn around and flee kicking and screaming in another direction but the Luskan ship waited for her to sink it and she was this close to getting into Blacklake district.

?If I tiptoe around him (in wide arc) perhaps he won?t notice me,? she thought sticking to the shadows (during a sunny day) and choosing big crates and barrels to hide behind, and sometimes into.

She slipped through the gate between the districts (drawing curious glance from the guards as she did so) and when she was certain that no one was fallowing her Ele?ena let out a big sigh and continued straight into?

?someone?s chest. Someone?s armored chest.

She peered up at the pale face and red eyes, and that amused smile.

?Would you care to try and run away again?? He asked then, seeing how she wasn?t moving.

?Would it do me any good,? she asked in a small voice.

?Not in this life,? he laughed and then she did jump away from him. ?But you have nothing to fear from me.?

?Nothing but a big black monster lurking in the dark,? she edged away. She had no intention reliving that particular nightmare again. Even if his skin was black in her dream whereas now it was white (making him look by far less frightening but that was beside the point) and he lacked certain things like horns and tale and generally scary stuff (again making him look less like a monster).

But no! None of those things calmed her none one bit.

?My apologies, I was merely confirming something,? he said quietly with a small bow.

Ele?ena blinked repeatedly. ?What could you possibly be confirming inside of my ribcage?? But to that he merely smiled having no intention to tell her and seeing that she frowned, ?You don?t plan to tell me a damn thing, aren?t you??

To her surprise he patted her head like she was a very small, very cleaver child. And he had that silly grin on his face.

?Nothing you should worry your pretty little head over.? Yes, he was defiantly hiding things. Hiding them in broad daylight what?s more. When she glared at him he took on that hurt expression. ?Now what can I do show how sincere I am in my apology for trespassing on your person in such a gruesome fashion??

Ele?ena groaned. Did he have to go on and remind her how gruesome it actually was?

?Just one thing, if you may?? She raised a finger.

?Hmm?? he cocked his head waiting for her question. A question she was burning to ask, he knew.

?Who are and why the hells are everyone treating you so friendly?? She snapped impatiently.

His grin grew larger still.

?Now, there?s a tale to tell??


? ? ? ? ? ?

?many hours & one grand tale later in the inn in Merchant Quarter?

Ele?ena couldn?t speak. The narrative of the story was so?

?I must admit, I did, however, embellish my tale somewhat,? Khai, the Hero of Neverwinter said honestly.

?unbelievable. Yes, that was the word she was looking for.

?Your exploits?? She asked suspiciously.

?The more violent ones. You are by far too young to hear such gory tales; therefore, I had it toned down a bit.?

Ele?ena raised an eyebrow, ?As bards might say, I?m currently starring in one gory tale.?

?But without intent,? he waged his finger. It surprised her that he had absolutely no jewelry on his person, and while his armor looked complicated made out of many intricate smaller pieces it was still very much plane. ?You have absolutely no desire whatsoever to perform the killings, in other words, you do not want be here.?

?How many sane persons do want to take part in-? but she stopped herself after seeing his expression. There was at least one, it appeared. ?In all honesty, how many people have you killed when they weren?t looking?? She asked with a sudden insight.

He took a deep breath like he enjoyed the smell of beautiful flowers. And then he grinned the same nightmarish needle sharp grin from her nightmare.

?That depends.?

She was afraid to ask, but she still did.

?On what??

?Up to which number you can count.?

Despite the answer she found herself to be completely free of fear from him. Why in the hells wasn?t she afraid of him? That time in her nightmare she screamed herself hoarse in fear.

?Does Nasher know what a rotten bastard you are, or is he as ignorant as the rest?? She decided to test the waters.

He rubbed his chin thoughtfully, ?I must say that Nasher has the markings of an excellent king. Pragmatic, calculating and above all else, he takes care of his people.?

?In other words, he knows but can?t do anything about it.?

He waved his finger in front of her nose, ?Not can?t, little girl, won?t.? Her red eyes widened. ?Sometimes you can?t choose your allies and sometimes you have to keep the allies you have no matter what,? he continued. ?In short, beggars can?t be choosers. You?ll learn that soon enough.?

?I think I already have,? Ele?ena said sullenly thinking of Qara, and to some extent Neeshka too. She was still angry at her but, ?away from eyes away from heart? and her anger was abating. Until she saw the hell-spawn again, that is.

?But where are they now?? He asked resting his chin on his entwined fingers.

?Well, as luck would have it, the dwarf, the tiefling and the crazy gnome are off to some adventure in the mountains ? don?t ask me because I don?t know. The paladin is dealing with some personal issues, and the druidess is spending way too much time with Uncle Duncan then I deem healthy.? For all intention and purpose Qara was banned from her thoughts and presence.

?So you are all alone on this mission,? his voice held that inquisitive note of a trueborn manipulator. Pity the blue elf missed it completely.

?Quite so. It is my job to solely- oh my gods!!? She jumped from her seat toppling the chair behind her, and drawing quite a few curious glances. ?The Sea Ghost!!? She had completely forgotten that she was supposed to deal with it. In fact she was on her way to the Docks when she met?

?You?? she pointed an accusing finger in the direction of her companion for the day.

?Well yes, you could say that I have that effect on people,? he smiled lazily.

?What? Them wanting to strangle you?? She snapped angrily then snapped her hand to her mouth remembering that she was supposed to be afraid of him.

?Among other things,? he grinned and then stood up.

?Shut up you!? Ele?ena was flushed with both anger and embarrassment. ?Argh, Brelaina is going to have my head if I don?t deal with the Luskans today, and then you have to show up and before you know it, half of the day is gone!?

?But why haven?t you said so?? He asked most innocently.

?Because you scared the living shit out of me!? Ele?ena snapped angrily.

?Such language,? he tsked, ?but you are correct. And since it was I who had taken upon your valuable time it would only be fair to help you with you task. Provided, of course, that those runts haven?t spread like rats carrying the plague around the city,? he was smiling a shiny smile as he said that but the old man nearby dropped the bottle from his shaky hands.

Ele?ena looked at the hollow expression of the old-timer and then back at Khai. She knew that he had something to do with the sudden emptiness in the man?s eyes but she wasn?t sure what exactly.

?Come along, little girl,? he said locking his arm with hers and pulled her down the street to the docks where the Sea Ghost waited. ?We have people to kill,? he whispered and his smile was no longer charming but simply frightening.

? ? ? ? ? ?


Ele?ena was in a daze. And she felt stupid too. When Brelaina had told her to deal with incoming Luskans the elf doubted that she meant for her to sink the boat literally. Nevertheless, that?s exactly what had happened. One touch from Khai?s halberd and the acid was eating through the wood in speed faster than that of fire through dry grass. It had caused quite the commotion too.

But that wasn?t half as strange as the way Ahja the Azure started talking the moment he recognized the black knight walking beside her. And even that wasn?t as half as interesting as when he started to talk about Garius, the ?Master of the Fifth Tower?, whatever that may be.

She knew she had heard the name before, perhaps somewhere on her travels, but she just couldn?t place it. Grumbling, she pushed that information in the back of her mind. It?s not like it mattered anyway,

All in all, Khai?s presence simplified things immensely. Simplified yet confused her completely.

?Seems the Luskan knows of you,? she remarked on their way to Watch Headquarters.

?Of course they do, but that?s a tale for another time. Now go up there and inform Brelaina of your great success,? he said pushing her up the stairs. ?I?ll be right here waiting.?

Ele?ena blinked. Why would he want to wait for her?

?Also, it might be for the best if you conveniently left my name out.?

She raised an eyebrow, ?Do all the authorities in this city hate you??

?Yes,? he sighed in perfect imitation of resignation, ?but the people of the city love me, and Nasher had learned long ago to bow to the will of his citizens.?

Again Ele?ena blinked. She had no idea what he meant but if it was in context with Lord Nasher then it had something to do with his past exploits as the hero of the city.

?


?10-15 minutes later?

Ele?ena felt like screaming. In fact, had she Qara?s powers the city would no longer stand. She threw unashamed glare of murder at her dark companion.

?You knew!? She accused instantly.

Khai, who was twirling a pendant between his fingers, shrugged, ?If working for the watch wasn?t such an ungrateful job it wouldn?t be understaffed for all the things happening in the city.? He looked at blue elf?s face now purple with rage. ?A logical conclusion,? he smirked amused. He was right before ? she was a constant source of amusement.

?You knew,? she hissed slamming her fist against the wooden sign of Watch Headquarters, her eldritch energies enveloping it in ice in an instant. There was so much anger born of frustration in her eyes. Anger which was now taking shape. On the sight of that Khai?s eyes sparkled with unabated pleasure.

?I had an idea, yes.? He had watched members of the Nine leave the Headquarter and with his contacts from Axle he had a fairly good idea of what was going on. Better, actually, than either of the parties involved.

So he knew. Now how does one kill a fiend spawned from plane of shadow, who also just so happened to be a local hero, without upsetting the townsfolk. Although, Nasher might prove grateful for shadow?s sudden disappearance. It was a thought worthy of entertaining and utterly impossible to realize.

She sighed. The assassins weren?t going to commit suicide while waiting for her. She glanced at Khai. He grinned innocently. Bloody murderous bastard. As if hearing her thoughts his grin grew even wider.

? ? ? ? ? ?


Never had Ele?ena seen someone fight like this one did, not even the zealous paladin or Khelgar at his most drunken state. But this black find fought the way some people drink wine ? he savored it. Every last drop of blood.

And he did it with such an expertise that she might have spent the entire encounter in the corner observing the battle. Except he deliberately let some of the Githyanki slip past him and charge straight in her direction.

Which wasn?t fair at all in her opinion.

And while she was struggling with a couple of measly opponents (compared to dozen he would take on at the same time) he would cheer her on from the sidelines like some annoying battle bard. It just fueled her rage and she found herself dispatching her opponents quickly only so she could glare or yell or simply stomp away from him. That too, was fallowed by some remark or another.

It surprised her how much that nightmare of him scared her but how little he did in person. Of course, that might have everything to do with him not showing his true face to her but, also surprisingly, she didn?t care. As long as he didn?t point that acidic halberd and his menacing grin in her direction he could do and be and act whatever, whoever and however he wanted.

And for the moment he chose to be annoyingly charming.

When the giant golem (who looked more like an armored suit) appeared Ele?ena nearly fainted. Khai glanced at her taking in her stance and expression ? the one of a rat on a frozen sinking ship ? and leaned against his halberd.

?Do you??? He asked gesturing at the walking suit of armor.

?No! No, no. Have fun,? she quickly said waving her hands.

Khai split the golem in half with one strike.

Ele?ena lost her footing, landing solidly on her behind.

?Sooner or later,? he said slowly approaching and towering over her small form, ?you will have to stop avoiding bigger conflicts.? He kneeled next to her and in the half-darkness of the room, and with the shadows playing on his face the feeling of that nightmare from the forest was evoked once again. Her heart took a hellish pace of beat and each time it did it hurt her ? like it was hitting against something while beating madly.

?You will have to meet them head on or,? he paused grinning, ?from the behind. Whichever method suits you better.?

She didn?t respond, too terrified, too wrapped up in the nightmare he had produced, to do so.

?Now, let us go and inform good Captain Brelaina of a job well done,? he pulled her up and instantly all of the shadows and fear disappeared so fully that she wondered if she hadn?t imagined the whole thing.

Looking at his equally red eyes she decided that she didn?t, and that she didn?t like being confused like this. Her emotions weren?t there for his amusement damn it all!

Khai, of course, had an entirely opposite opinion.


? ? ? ? ? ?


?late evening that very same day?

?I assume you?re not coming with me once again due to your reputation,? Ele?ena asked once they reached the Watch HQ. If it wasn?t her job he was escorting her at, this whole day would feel very much like a?well, like something that wasn?t a job anyway.

?Yes, and no. I have an engagement to attend elsewhere. But I must say,? he replied smoothly bringing her gloved fingers to his lips, ?it was an outmost pleasure to spend this day with you. I do hope we?ll be able to repeat this, but until then,? he slid away from her slipping into the coming dark like he was born of it somehow.

Watching him disappear into the street shadows Ele?ena sighed tiredly. Yes, if it hasn?t been her job in question this day would very much feel like a rendezvous. Except it was, so it didn?t.

?What a bloody day. Literally so.? Then she turned on her heel and climbed the stairs.

The moment she walked into the office, Brelaina?s brusque voice greeted her, ?Lieutenant, you have done well. These men are from the Nine?under the service of Captain Nevalle.?

?You know our orders were that you give us the location of the assassins, Captain Brelaina, and let us deal with them,? the man said ignoring elf completely. His attention was solely on the Captain of the Watch. ?And now with the death of Lord Hawkes, I think the Watch's attention could have been better spent elsewhere.?

?I believe the Nine and the Cloaktower are the ones responsible for the Watch in Blacklake - this matter was something my lieutenant could handle on her own, and has.?

There was a game played here ? a political game Ele?ena knew nothing about and had no skill to keep up. But their words made her think of herself as a grunt hired to do dirty work. How utterly depressing.

?I hope you're not blaming us for Lord Hawkes' death. As I recall, the orders given to the Watch were to man the gates of Blacklake and solely act as couriers for the Nine and the Cloaktower mages,? Captain Brelaina replied coolly, anger flashing. ?We are, as always, ready and able to serve Neverwinter in any capacity requested?if you wish us to take a greater role in the Blacklake investigation, then we would be happy to assist.?

?I doubt any order I give you would be followed to the letter, Captain, but I appreciate your gesture nonetheless.? No, he didn?t, and he was quite angry. It was clear for anyone to see.

?Good day, Captain ? Lieutenant,? he said curtly and without any emotion behind it, and in flurry of capes the whole entourage left the building.

The Captain of the Watch looked at her, ?As you no doubt heard, lieutenant - while you were on your mission, there was another death in Blacklake - Lord Hawkes.?

Brelaina looked concerned, as well as she should be, but the first thought on Ele?ena?s mind was:

?Does that mean you can't allow me into Blacklake??

Perhaps Brelaina too, thought that she was turning into a pest with her constant nagging. Whether that was true or not Ele?ena had finally had the words she had wanted to since the past two months.

?You have done all I asked at the Docks, and now I am giving you official permission to enter the Blacklake District. But do not interfere with the investigation there - I fear I have pushed the Nine as far as they will go in this matter. As for the Docks - I suspect they will always give us trouble, but with your help, we have made great strides in restoring order to the area. And trade should improve as a result - Lord Nasher will be pleased, and I shall make sure to mention your name to him. ?

?Please do. I?m certain he?ll come up with some more tasks for me to juggle.?
Ele?ena tried hard not to make a face at that thought. She was on the best way to turn into a cynic.

?Thank you for your efforts, lieutenant. And fortune be with you on your travels in the Blacklake District,? the Captain said in a formal way.

?For all that she claims I have done she dismissed me quite fast,?
Ele?ena thought sourly.

?Thank you Captain, and have a pleasant evening,? Ele?ena replied calmly with a small respectful bow before leaving them. Leaving the two very stunned Watch members who were quite used to her childish outbursts.

Outside, at one point in her life Ele?ena had thought that the moment she got the permission to enter Blacklake she would shout her joy to the skies. But, for today at least, the life had beaten that compulsion out of her. Lately, life seemed to be beating plenty of her habits out of her.

Still, she had obtained the permission to enter the Blacklake, so, should she celebrate or should she get a good night?s rest.

?Party with Neeshka and Khelgar, and potentially Grobnar, or sleep through the horror of this day??

She thought long and hard?for about seven seconds.

?Bed it is.?

? ? ? ? ? ?


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#16 Orthodoxia

Orthodoxia
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Posted 10 January 2008 - 02:29 PM

? ? ? ? ? ?

~ Interlude V ~


? ? ? ? ? ?


Ele?ena had not visited many mansions in her life but Aldanon?s house had quite a homey feeling to it. If you loved books that is. Neeshka would probably comment how boring and un-shiny it was, Khelgar would grumble about the lack of things to smash and so on and so forth. Good thing she had decided to come alone.


Why alone? She didn?t know but as of late she felt the urge to spend more and more time alone, distancing herself from others. It?s not like they were close friends or something.

Last night after returning from Brelaina?s office she ignored or excused herself, but mostly ignored, the invitations from Khelgar and Neeshka who had returned from their little venture in the mountains. Grobnar was already cheerfully spinning tales about their bravery, trickery and just plain lunacy.

Ele?ena wasn?t in the mood for it. Not then, not now.

Elanee did insist on coming along but Ele?ena said that Brelaina allowed only her to go alone. Security and all that. It was a lie of course, but in the face of a dire need to get some time away from all things, her Uncle and companions included, she was getting desperate. It wasn?t the first time she had done such a thing and knowing herself Ele?ena doubted it was ever going to be the last.

It wasn?t nice, but desperate people weren?t nice. Consequently, what did that make her?

?I?m going to rip my mind to pieces if I continue like this.?
She looked up at the large but cozy looking house the guard was taking her to, ?I wonder if this sage is anything like Sand.?

? ? ? ? ? ?

The short version was, Aldanon was nothing like Sand.

?Ah, well met, well met?please forgive my rather rude questions at the door. I would never intentionally stand in the way of the City Watch?well, unless there was nowhere else left to stand, really. But that wouldn't happen unless there was a flood,? the old sage said joyfully shaking her hand.

Ele?ena blinked.

?Eh?thank you, sir,? she managed bewilderedly.

?I must confess, normally I'm rather, well, reclusive. Not that I dislike people, mind you - quite the contrary. But lately with all the troubles - a murderer on the loose and young nobles sneaking around, up to who knows what - I've had to place wards around my home.? He gestured at the large comfy chair.

Ele?ena wasn?t quite certain if she had heard him right.

?Nobles sneaking around?? She repeated taking an offered seat. What a strange man he was. Almost instantly a maid showed up carrying a try with a tea set.

?Ah, yes,? The old sage tsked lightly, ?Lately I've seen figures sneaking around in the dark, and not that well-meaning sort of sneaking, either. It's obvious what they want.? He looked at her like she should already be aware of what this was all about.

The maid placed the tray on the nearby small table and poured them some tea. Ele?ena accepted the cup offered to her.

?What do they want?? No really, what could already very rich people want in the rich district?

?Why, my house, of course! As if I would ever sell it - ridiculous. I'd sooner give up my left eye.? He paused, thinking, ?But my right annoys me at times, so that would be an easier sell.?

?Uh?all right. Please, go on.?

?In any event, back when I first settled in Neverwinter, my humble abode was on the outskirts of Blacklake, bordering acres of untouched wilderness.? Ele?ena didn?t exactly mean that he should continue with that but his and her mind seemed to operate on the different levels.

?Now with Neverwinter being rebuilt following all that plague nonsense, my property went from the periphery to being right on the main thoroughfare of the ?rich? part of Neverwinter.? It could also be different planes.

?All the nobility wants to live in Blacklake, but there's no more room. So lately they've been trying various ways to convince me to sell my land.?

?Are you sure these figures you see are nobles??

?Of course. Who else would sneak around my home?well, present company excluded. Oh?that's right. You came here for a reason, yes??

Yes! Yes she did!

?Well, you see - several nights ago in my home village of West Harbor?? Ele?ena started telling the story that dragged her kicking and screaming down the road. Kicking and screaming of course not being mentioned. By the time she finished her grand tale, told in short notes, Aldanon was both excited and eager.

?Great Tyr! What a tale! The moment you arrived I knew I'd be interested in meeting you - wish I'd known that when I first greeted you, would have saved some time. You've certainly come to the right place. A while ago I found another shard, with properties similar to the ones you possess and I've done every possible test on the shard but learned little. However, I've never had another shard to compare it against. If you'd like some answers, I'll gladly run some tests on your shards. I have just enough quicksilver to do it,? he seemed quite eager in wanting to try it out.

Ele?ena, who was waiting for this moment for the past month, eagerly handed the shard over.

?Certainly, here you go,? she handed over the pouch containing two silver shards.

?Ah, thank you. I'll be right back with this,? he said before Ele?ena could excuse herself, and potentially rid herself of these ?highly troublesome? chunks of silver. The excitement of a scholar was easily recognized and untamable. It seemed he did have some similarities with Sand after all.

?


About an hour later, during which Ele?ena had perused through the bookshelves, Aldanon returned all chipper and excited. During that hour she had honestly considered sneaking out and leaving the shards with the old man.

Two reasons stopped her. One, the Githyanki were after the shards and she?ll be damned if she was the responsible for the sage?s death (the slight twinge of guilt at the though of the old man?s potential demise had nothing to do with that, nothing at all). And two, she did promise Daeghun she would take care of the shards. She just didn?t know that taking care of them would make her go through law and order, local thugs, orcs and planer beings.

?My tests are complete. With another shard to use as a comparison?well, I learned quite a bit. Quite a lot, actually,? the sage immediately launched himself into a rant. ?It appears these shards contain latent magical energy, either caused by a strong enchantment from when they were whole?or from their method of destruction.? And he didn?t stop there.

?Furthermore, the shards resonate when they are brought together, increasing their magical energy output accordingly. These shards are pieces of a broken githyanki silver sword. Are you familiar with the githyanki??

?Aside from what I?ve seen of their anatomy, no.? At his puzzled expression and potentially a row of questions and topic switching she hastily added, ?I'd be interested in hearing what you know about them.?

?The githyanki are a race of beings that dwell on the Astral plane, led by Vlaakith, the Lich Queen. Not a nice woman, I hear.?

The ?Lich? in her name probably gave it away.

?Ages ago, the ancestors of the githyanki were human, and inhabited another plane of existence, where they were enslaved by the illithids, or mind flayers. Then came Gith. Little is known about her outside the githyanki, but she led the rebellion to free her people of the illithids, and is considered the hero and founder of the githyanki people.?

Despite herself Ele?ena actually found herself listening intently to Aldanon?s storytelling. Even though this was more actual history it reminded her of the time when she would listen to Georg and his insane, and made-up, stories. The one of the ?swamp elf? came to her mind.

?The githyanki silver swords are forged with the special purpose of severing the silver cord that connects the form of an astrally projecting traveler to his or her material counterpart. They look like a regular githyanki weapon, until used in combat, at which point they turn into a column of flowing, shimmering liquid, really quite amazing, I'm told. I believe the shards that you have found are pieces of one of these silver swords. I presume the githyanki have come to Faerūn to recover the shards.?

Columns of flowing, shimmering liquid? No, she hadn?t encountered anything like that in her fights with them. ?Thankfully.?

?I've fought githyanki, but none of their weapons had the properties you describe.?

?Common githyanki would not possess a silver sword. These swords are rare and highly prized. They are given by the Lich Queen to only the greatest of githyanki knights. When one of their silver swords falls into the hands of a non-githyanki, they will go to extraordinary lengths to recover it.?

?Do the githyanki often lose their silver swords?? Because if they did?

?Often enough that there is a special group of githyanki, the Sword Stalkers, whose sole purpose is to seek out any of the missing silver swords - and punish the thieves who took them.?

?Why would the githyanki care about pieces of a broken sword??

?I've never heard of one being broken before. It could be that the githyanki are as interested in how it was broken as they are in reclaiming the pieces.?

?Is there anything more you can tell me about the shard?? She inquired.

?I wish I knew more. Ammon Jerro was the real expert. He actually possessed a silver sword.? He sighed, his face taking on that regretful look only a scholar pining for unattainable knowledge could have.

A-ha! New information. She quickly swallowed her hot tea.

?Wait! Who is Ammon Jerro??

?Ammon Jerro? Oh, he was a court wizard of Neverwinter decades ago. I met him a few times. He was a nice fellow?a little absent-minded, with a tendency to drift off the subject?? Really now? With a roll of her eyes Ele?ena wondered on who did it exactly remind her of. Meanwhile, Aldanon was on a trip down memory lane. ?Ammon Jerro reminded me of my old mentor Master Grahler. Had the largest collection of noisy, exotic birds, made quite a racket, you know, chirping and squawking??

?And where can I find him??

?Well, he's dead now, so I'm not sure finding him will help you much. Oh, how rude of me, I forgot to ask, how do you like your tea?? Aldanon kindly asked and switching between topics quite easily.

Ele?ena swallowed and gracefully set her teacup down on the table.

?More sugar please.?

? ? ? ? ? ?

?Later in the Archives?

?Why am I lying on the floor counting tiles on the ceiling?? Ele?ena asked finally after she reached the eight-hundred and forty-sixth tiles with red edge and blue flowers ? which looked quite nice actually.

Going alone to see Aldanon had most likely spared her friends the misery. Going alone to the Archive however, was potentially the most stupid thing she had ever done. And, she has scars to prove it. In her defense, how was she supposed to know that the Archives were crawling with rebellious green-skins from outer planes?

Then again, they were after the shards so of course they?d be after any information available. It was she who didn?t stop and think things through and which is why she was lying on her back now counting tiles on the ceiling.

?I swear, if I ever get my hands on whoever forged this damn sword and, or shattered it, I?ll have a few choice words to share with them. And perhaps a well placed dagger.?

?Because you got your butt kicked around by the denizens not of this plane,? the familiar voice suggested coming up to her prone form. ?And because you forgot to ask your closest, best friends ever, to accompany you.?

Before her stood the tiefling and somewhere in the distance she could swear she was hearing Khelgar cursing the gith all the way to the Astral Plane. And a fireball whooshing around. And just maybe a prayer to Tyr somewhere in the distance. Of the room. Chamber. Between the books. Somewhere.
Sigh.

?What are you doing here?? Ele?ena asked wiping the sweat of her brow.

?Saving you,? the tiefling singsong twirling her dagger. Instantly she pulled the beaten elf off the ground yanking her on her feet.

?Besides that,? Ele?ena snapped irritated. The world was determent not to let her off the hook. First she walked into a virtual slaughterhouse curtsy of the Githyanki and now Neeshka was lecturing her on her lack of team spirit.

All right, so maybe she was right about the last part.

?Oh, a kindly, yet strangely good-looking, knight pointed us this way. Said something how you got yourself in over your pretty little head,? Neeshka snickered.

?Tall, dark, really doesn?t like to answer a question with a simple ?yes? or ?no?? Grins like a maniac??

?That?s the one! Cute and courteous. I didn?t think there were well-mannered knights any more. Except for Casavir but he makes my skin itch-?

?Yes, yes, yes, you?ve found the new love of your life. Now can we get the others and move? We?ve got a lot of ground to cover,? Ele?ena, who had long since stopped listening to the she-devil and was looking through the family lists, interrupted impatiently.

?What? Now?? Neeshka asked surprised. In her experience Ele?ena Farlong did NOT jump from one battle to another. It was just so not Ele?ena.

?Yes now! Or do you think that the Githyanki are going to take a tea break while we gather our bearing?!? Ele?ena asked furiously waving her hands around.

?Well I-?

?No they?ll not! So can we please get to rescuing?!? Sheeting her weapon she stormed past her companions and out of the Archives.

?Eh, rescuing who?? Her tail flickering, confused Neeshka asked in the empty room.

But Ele?ena was already huffing and puffing all the way out of the Archives.

This was a long day, will be a long night and there was no guarantee that the morning will be any better. Ele?ena hated when days like this showed up in her life. It didn?t help that such days were getting more frequent.

Well, at least now she knew why extra-planer beings were after her?er, her backpack that is. And as it were, or as things concerning a grand adventure go, things would not be set straight just by looking at them.

No, instead she would have to travel for days and miles to meet the same rude person they have met before and who had all but thrown out of her land. Oh, and this time they had more than lizardmen to be concerned about.

The joy.


? ? ? ? ? ?


Dear gamer! You cannot summon Spirits of Rage when fighting bosses. We apologize for any inconvenience. Please send all complaints to Undead Control Administration, Bosses Combat Department, and apply for revision of the Endoria combat regulations. - King?s Bounty, the Legend
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#17 Orthodoxia

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Posted 25 May 2008 - 07:25 AM

Author?s Notes:

- I apologize for severe lateness of this. First I didn?t have any inspiration and then when the chapter was finally being close to finish my computer crashed and I lost everything. And then I really started to loath this chapter. But I think that now it turned out better than the original one. You?ll be the judge of it, of course.


? ? ? ? ? ?

Chapter 11: Kidnapped & Hunted
?fourth crack?


?outskirts of Highcliff, Shandra?s farm?

Ele?ena had always thought that bonfires were pretty on the eyes. In that regard she had always liked fire. In that regard.

?So what are we doing here again?? Neeshka asked crossing her hands behind her back in a moment of child-like curiosity.

?Saving a misanthropic person from herself,? Ele?ena said as her and Neeshka continued to watch the flames leap around the house.

?Some Water Elementals might be helpful in this situation,? Elanee said as she pulled her sleeves and started to chant. Ele?ena glanced wide-eyed at the druidess and the sparks of nature magic surrounding her.

?Right. You take out the fire and we?ll save the girl.? And with that she made haste to the wildly burning building.

?Say what?!? Neeshka squeaked but seeing how Ele?ena wasn?t about to react to her loud protests she fallowed the blue elf wildly running into the fire to escape the water. Neeshka, of course, remembered that no one ever said that Ele?ena was sane.

? ? ? ? ? ?


?Neverwinter, Castle Never?

The room was filled with maps and scrolls of various kind and was lit just enough for a human to be able to read. In other words, it was mostly concealed in shadow. A perfect place for a Spymaster to reside ? like a shadow that he was.

Khai walked into the room, and true to his instincts, he found the Spymaster ? also member of the Nine ? poring over many reports. Khai half expected to see the chains tying the man to the desk. He laughed silently. But of course Nasher, like the most of benevolent rulers, held the preference of for those invisible self-imposed chains, the kind the poor man would never want to shed.

?I was beginning to think I would have to go down to deepest dungeons of the castle to find you,? the Hero of Neverwinter closed the door behind him. He took a seat in the chair conveniently placed in front of the large and always covered with papers desk. Aarin Gend ignored him.

?You are not still angry at me, are you? If you are, then you?re displaying quite the childlike behavior,? Khai teased but after the Spymaster remained mute he sighed. Honestly, humans knew how to hold long-lasting grudges over the slightest of things. ?You?re still thinking about her.?

Zoe?dara Esaq. Golden haired, blue eyed maiden who was considered the cream of Aribet?s misfortunate Academy ? or Academy of Musfortune as he liked to think of it, top marks and all. Charming and cleaver girl, she excelled both as a fighter and as a mage. In the guild of mages they both adored and, young incompetent students being what they are, resented her. She had charmed the Spymaster with her laugh alone.

All in all, a true hero who was at the right place in time of need. The people loved her, her superiors respected her, and if the rumors were true, she was to be engaged to the Spymaster of Neverwinter.

Khai had worked with her on several important occasions during the hunt for the clues behind the plague and the search for ?Words of Power?. He could only say the best of her without any false modesty.

And then he killed her.

In an essence, it was a climactic end to her bright carrier, not to mention her life. And thus Neverwinter was left without an important ally and an idol. Great cities always had a need for paragons.

Not that anyone knew about his involvement. For all intense and purpose, she was slain by one of the dragons guarding Morag after she had slain the other. Oh, Nasher and Aarin suspected it but they couldn?t prove a thing and since he was the only surviving hero of the war they really couldn?t pull another Fenthrick and execute him on suspicion alone.

Khai grinned a secret grin of satisfaction. Should he play with Aarin? He didn?t see why not. His morals were practically non-existent anyway.

?Lovely girl. There was much life in her.?

Aarin still refused to answer. Even after all these years he still refused to react.

?She had died fighting Silver and Gold dragon, who had not the best of dispositions, and have even managed to kill one. An epic death I say, worthy of a hero of her caliber. So stop feeling sorry for yourself, and her. Cheerful as she was she would slap you for your moping.?

?Her body was not recovered.?

Khai smiled the smile, the kind you wouldn?t want to be left alone in the dark with. Or in the room bathed in light. The Spymaster still harbored hope that she was alive. Not a chance in hells. Khai made sure of it.

?You wouldn?t want to see her body. It was not a pleasant sight after what that dragon did to her,? Khai noted sensibly. The Spymaster leaned over the crowded desk, his face was like a mask of rage frozen in a moment.

?Then you should not have left her to rot there. That was not for you to decide.?

?And I didn?t. Oh, don?t not look at me like that, the place collapsed on its own.?

?And with no help of yours??

Ah, the sweet smell of suspicion. It?s best in dark dungeons with bitter lovers. Very well, he might have given the supporting walls a little nudge, nothing major to be sure.

?Now why would I do such a thing? I understand that as a Spymaster you see shadows everywhere but blaming me for girl?s death does not help you or solve anything.?

There was silence and rustling of paper. Aarin, now of the Nine, looked away from him. All of Khai?s emotions were fabricated and the spymaster knew he wouldn?t get anything out of him this way.

?I?ve been meaning to ask,? Khai started with all the gentles of the voice the razor blade tucked into a fluffy cushion had, ?how is your wife??

Aarin stiffened. Khai smiled.

?I apologize for not being able to attend the wedding. Heroes are constantly on the schedule,? he continued with concern in his voice.

?Apology accepted,? the Spymaster replied with a dead voice.

?I understand she is quite the beauty. Influential even.? The Hero of Neverwinter pressed on the open wound of Spymaster?s heart.

?You are not off the mark,? his voice remained as dead as twice killed zombie.

?Of course, of course. I wouldn?t expect less form Lord Nasher.? Khai looked at Spymaster?s stiff shoulders. A barely visible shaking made the tunic of the Nine tremble. ?He was the one to choose your bride for you, was he not??

The Spymaster?s spirit was beaten and broken permanently this time. First Khai had killed his lover, an action no one knew anything about, and then Nasher, in his infinite wisdom chained him from his beloved jungle shores for good by an arranged marriage.

Khai found the whole situation entirely too amusing and entertaining for anyone?s good. But Aarin had had enough. He slammed his hands on the heavy wooden desk and his voice rose over the cracking of fire in the otherwise quiet room.

?Enough! If you?re done with rubbing pepper and salt into my wounds tell me if there is another reason for you being here that is not connected to your personal amusement!?

The tiger was roused from his slumber.

Kahi?s needle sharp smile positively glowed.

?Good. You?re awake. Now,? Khai leaned forward taking up a serious posture, ?what does Nasher plan to do about the cultists that are sprouting around the countryside like well-watered plants??


? ? ? ? ? ?


?Neverwinter, the Sunken Flagon?

Duncan was scrubbing tables. Normally it would be Sal?s job but he felt the need to scrub something into oblivion. In this case the ten-year old dirt would volunteer to be erased from existence.

Ele?ena had gone to see Aldanon and now, good three days later, he had yet to see or hear any sign from her. When the news came that his darling niece might be in life-threatening trouble Neeshka, the dwarf and the druidess raced to the Archives ? with a special permission to pass through Blacklake gates, and they are yet to be back. Duncan sincerely wished that paladin chap went along with them but he was not present when the message arrived. Which was bad, they could always use a good paladin around.

Yes, Duncan was worried and the poor dirty tables were there to feel it. Not just about the situations that seemed to be rolling one after the other. Worried about Ele?ena?s behavior too. She has become more introverted. Now, he really didn?t know what she was like in West Harbor, receiving few to none letters Daeghun his dear older brother, but from what he had seen of her before she had started working for the Watch this behavior wasn?t like her. Perhaps the thieves would have been better for her. At least she would?ve stopped acting like a younger version of Daghun.

Duncan redoubled his efforts in scrubbing the tables ignoring any petulant whine that came from the wood.


? ? ? ? ? ?


?on the road to Neverwinter?

?Look, like I?ve said it before,? Ele?ena started again picking tiny charred debris from her hair, ?the green things want you dead, or alive, we still haven?t worked out that, to get to-?

?My grandfather you said. Because of some archaic topic my grandfather studied?? Shandra interrupted again, raising her hands. ?How can you expect me to believe that??

Ele?ena was still fiddling with her hair. They?ve been traveling for hours and she still hadn?t managed to pick one charcoal per mile.

?Silken elven hair my ass,? she thought dragging her fingers through the bird?s nest which was usually deep color of blue but now looked like something the cat dragged inn, after plucking it from a tree and dragging it around Docks district. Then, as if she remembered that her hair shouldn?t be her greatest occupation she looked up at the taller woman.

?The gith believe in it,? the elf girl shrugged non-commentary. ?And since they?re the one hunting you what you want doesn?t seem to matter. Besides, what with Ammon Jerro being your grandfather you should know best if would endanger his family by poking his nose in things that would infuriate beings from Astral Plane.?

Shandra turned silent chewing over everything she had been told so far. She looked like she wanted to say something to contradict it all, to find some sensible reasoning to all the misfortune that had been happening to her lately, apart from the appearance of the blue elf, but she couldn?t find any. In this day and age it was easy to believe that denizens of far planes wanted to burn your house down because your wizarding grandfather meddled in things he shouldn?t have.

That didn?t explain why her barn went down earlier.

?But you need his research as well?? Shandra looked at the elf girl who was still struggling with her hair. She looked on the verge of giving up.

?We?d like to take a peak in his notes, yes.? After a minute or so Ele?ena dropped her hands with a huff. ?Elanee, can you help me with this?? The druidess approached her and looked at her critically.

?There?s nothing I can do about it, only a good bath will help you now,? she said tying it in a less conspicuous knot. Ele?ena sighed. She hated adventuring. ?You know, we could have asked some of the Water Ele-?

?No.?

?I don?t think they would have mind dousing you in water.?

?I don?t think they would have mind drowning me with sheer joy.?

?You?re being paranoid, Ele?ena.?

?And I like myself like that very much, thank you.?

?Why?? Shandra?s voice cut in then.

?Hmm? Why what?? Ele?ena looked up while her mind wondered elsewhere.

?Why do you need to look into his research??

?See these,? she pulled out a couple of silver chunks as big as her palm. Under the sunlight they weren?t just silver but many different colors played on the jagged surface. ?They?re the pieces of the gith silver sword. They?re priceless to them.?

Shandra took one in her hands and twirled it in the sunlight admiring the dance of colors it created.

?And you want to learn more about them??

?Me? I just want to chuck them in the deepest ravine I can find. But I kind of promised? someone I would see it through. Not the smartest promise I?ve ever gave,? Ele?ena added seeing the look Shandra was giving her. ?Or willingly given,? she thought to herself sullenly.

?I don?t?? Shandra started, then took a deep breath, ?I don?t mind helping you find this grandfather?s Haven but I don?t know what would become of me now. All my possessions were in the house and-?

?Oh no need to worry about that. If I know Duncan he?s going to welcome you with open arms.? Ele?ena said smiling, some would say grinning like a woman who came upon a good solid gossip. ?We?ll see where it goes from there.?

From there, with Shandra successfully comforted for the time being, they lapsed into silence. It was further down the road that Neeshka approached the blue elf and asked,

?You really think Duncan will just let her stay in the inn, no pay and all??

?She?s a young, pretty girl in need of help. What do you think??

Neeshka gave her a curious look then. Not something Ele?ena would see every day on tiefling?s face.

?You really don?t have high opinion of your Uncle, do you??

I have higher opinion on him than Daghun, was what she wanted to say but held her tongue in check. ?I like him well enough. Why?? She was truly puzzled with this sudden conversation.

?It just seems to me that you take him lightly.?

?Neeshka, what are you raving on about??

The tiefling sighed.

?Those trophies in the common room, they didn?t come and offer their heads to him.?

?And??

?He?s not an idiot Ele?ena,? Neeshka said finally with her fingers twitching like she wanted to shake the elf. ?Don?t treat him like one.? And with that she bounced down to where Khelgar was and immediately proceeded to do things to his beard that would make any dwarf wish he didn?t have any.

Ele?ena, in the meantime, remained just as confused as she was during the short talk. She didn?t know what it was all about. She had no idea what made Neeshka react the way she did. There were truly days, like today, when Ele?ena didn?t understand the way world worked.


? ? ? ? ? ?


?Neverwinter, the Sunken Flagon?

The welcome at the inn happened just as she had predicted. Duncan hugged her, scolded her and welcomed Shandra in. Ele?ena had decided, for propriety sake, to settle any bill that might occur, she being the one who had brought the woman in. It may or may not have had something to do with what Neeshka said earlier.

Then there was dinner, there was ale ? mostly on Khelgar?s side of the table because of, well, Khelgar and the fact that Duncan deemed her too young to drink. Sure, she?s not too young to be going around killing bandits, orcs and whatnot but when it came to drinking there was certain set of unwritten rules in Duncan?s inn one did not cross. ?Elves under sixty years of age were not served drinks?, being one of them.

It was then in the merry atmosphere of accomplishment that Neeshka sat next to Ele?ena.

?Look how the paladin is getting all chummy with the farm girl,? she said in a conspirator like tone. Ele?ena looked over to where Casavir and Shanda were sitting.

?They are not getting chummy, they are talking Neeshka.? And to the elf it was logical. Casavir was a good listener and good at giving advice. Shandra, on the other hand, had a problem. And so, they were talking it through.

It made her think that she should probably have a chat with him as well. Gods knew her self-confidence didn?t work properly without a nudge.

?Oh yeah? How can you tell??

?He?s a paladin. I don?t think they know how to get ?chummy?.? It was an idiotic comment to make.

?A bit naļve, aren?t you??

?All right. So he probably does.? She saw Neeshka give her a look. Ele?ena sighed. More idiocy on her part. ?Most defiantly does. My point is that he is a paladin and therefore he doesn?t. Now, if he were a tiefling-?

?Wha-??

?-I?d believe every word you say.?

?And what is wrong with us tieflings?? Neeshka asked placing her hands on her hips.

?Well, you know what people say. Like how you?d put the entire drow culture to shame.?

?Prejudice!? Neeshka exclaimed huffing. ?All lies!?

?Are they? Can I have my books back then?? Ele?ena asked innocently. Pouting and fidgeting Neeshka strode away, nose in the air, muttering something about ?prejudice? and ?stupid paladins?. Of course, not being one to miss the opportunity to tease someone Ele?ena had concocted a good way to tease Neeshka in the future. A teasing that just might end with the lovable rouge tossing a dagger in her direction.


? ? ? ? ? ?


?the Sunken Flagon, later that night?

Ele?ena liked to cuddle. It was one of her vices. And in the absence of stuffed toys and pet cats she had resorted in cuddling a pillow. Thank goodness Duncan had sense to put two on her bed, though probably for entirely different reasons.

But that night her blissful cuddling was cut short by her sharp survival instincts that were even sharper when her mind wasn?t awake enough to panic. So it was no surprise that her hand, with the pillow, shot out before her eyes opened or her mind comprehended what was happening. It was still busy wondering where her warm cuddling toy was.

Ele?ena opened her eyes and sat up in her bed blinking owlishly at the shape that was now covered in feathers. It took her less than a second to realize that the green shine of the intruder?s skin was not due to colorful moonlight and that the feathers were all over the room because something sharp and pointy had sliced through the pillowcase.

The gith composed equally fast as she did and muttering words in a language she did not understand raised his sword and jumped towards her. She ducked under its blade and ran out of the room, in pants and shirt only. Once in the corridor she saw Duncan fighting with another gith. Fighting and ending it with expert quickness.

?Wha- What happened?!? She asked as the gith?s blood started to pool around her bare feet and she hastily sidestepped.

?The gith have stormed the place.? He wasn?t looking at her but rather at the surrounding doors, waiting for more enemies to spring from behind them.

?Why??Why tonight? Why here?

?They didn?t stop to tell me their reasons,? his voice rose over the noticeable noise coming from the common room. ?Now go! Help the others!? He hurried down the corridor to check the other rooms. Swallowing, and panicking, not to mention without her weapon Ele?ena made her way to the sounds of crashing and cursing. The biggest fight was led in the common room.

Through smoke and debris flying around Ele?ena could only make out vague figures of many combatants in the common room of the inn and clearly see them when they were flying straight in her direction. Like?

?Incoming!!?

?when Khelgar would send something across the room.

With a yelp Ele?ena moved out of the way just in time to avoid a table, a cheese, ale and a gith ramming into a wall where she just stood. She made a face at the combined mess Khelgar?s handiwork left behind, more correctly at Khelgar?s handiwork of which she could have been part of just now.

Ele?ena moved along the wall avoiding all fight, she had no weapons and did not know how to use her magic, and she felt useless. She ducked suddenly covering her head when a chair flew over her and just as she raised her head to look from where it had came an arrow embedded itself right next to her ear taking a few of her dark blue strands with it. Wide-eyed with fear she looked around for someone with a crossbow or bow until she realized that only one person in the inn was handling a ranged weapon with expert proficiency. Both in close range and, she swallowed, long-range.

Uncle Duncan?s resident ranger. If she weren?t already sweating there would be cold beads going down her back. But she had no time to fully contemplate the incident and the reasons behind it. With fireball to the left, Duncan waving his sword like he was chopping onions to the right and arrows which suspiciously whizzed around her sensitive ears, Ele?ena was left with only one option.

She dodged, side-stepped and generally with great delicacy crawled behind the bar, the only place that appeared non-infected by green outsiders, where she would wait out for bodies to fall and smoke to clear before she even showed an inch of her nose.

Many minutes the casting of spells could be heard, swords swishing through the air and arrows flew over her head ? several even rammed into wood behind which her back were leaning on. Once the noise of the ultimate destruction stopped Ele?ena dared to peek over the partly ruined bar. With the dust and smoke still tick in the air she stepped out of her hiding place and over the corpses looking at roughly fifteen or so green bodies littering the floor.

Duncan appeared in the common room then. He didn?t seem to notice the state in which his inn was, but he was sure to notice it once he took the bodies out and looked upon the mess he would have to clean. Instead he looked genially troubled.

?That lass, Shandra, has been taken? How in the hells did those githyanki get into the city?? Duncan exclaimed in worry and haste. There were murmurs all around from her companions.

?Here we go again,?
Ele?ena thought silently. She was still shaken by the attack. She wasn?t even safe in her own bed anymore.

?Does that matter? You'd best hurry if you want to get her back.? The ranger who frequented the inn stood up from where he was standing over a dead githyanki holding. ?Look, this one has a sprig of Duskwood trapped in his boot. That means they came from deep within Luskan territory... and that's where they'd be returning to.?

His condescending and cocky voice made Ele?ena flinch. It was the voice of a man who knew the territory, knew its dangers. And he knew that clueless fools, like her, would have their throat slit before they caught up with the gith?s trail. Worse, her uncle confirmed it.

?Luskan... that's your territory, Bishop.?

?Yes, but it's not my problem. I'm not going into Luskan territory for some farm girl, and certainly not with any kin of yours, Duncan,? he remarked coldly dropping casually the twig he was holding between his fingers.

?You'll help them, Bishop, whether you like it or not.? Duncan?s voice changed. It became forceful, commanding. The type you wouldn?t dare to say ?no? to. It made Ele?ena think of what Neeshka had said to her about him and how much she actually didn?t know about her Uncle.

Bishop sneered, ?And what makes you th??

Duncan just stared wordlessly at the ranger, his face stern.

?Calling it due, are you, Duncan? Are you sure?? Cold, sinister, deadly? if voice could slice matter Duncan would have been neatly stacked in several piles. But the half-elf remained composed, letting the anger and hate slide off of him.

?A woman's life is at stake, Bishop. If that's what it takes to move you to do the right thing, then so be it.?

?Fine, it will be worth it to be rid of you - and for such a small price, too. You're a fool, Duncan.?

?So be it,? Duncan said in a flat voice. To him, whatever there was between him and Bishop was settled. In return, the ranger?s voice turned business-like as he looked over at the motley crew that he would be leading to Luskan territory.

?All right, pack your bags and grab your weapons. We're bound for the Luskan border. Follow my lead and don't try to be clever. If the Luskans catch us, they'll use us for target practice.?

Ele?ena sighed. She agreed with the ranger, however reluctantly. Enough was enough! This shard thing had to be resolved! She was sick and tired of looking over her shoulder for someone to snatch them whenever it suited them. She wanted her life back!

If she had to she?d go there and get Shandra.

Perhaps the gith would be inclined to- but no. If that were the case then it could have been settled back in West Harbor. She just happened that she won?t trade one assassin for another. She glanced at Bishop.

Her professional opinion was: she was screwed.

She should also consider getting dressed before they went anywhere.


? ? ? ? ? ?

?on the way to Luskan?

Ele?ena didn?t like rangers. There was something in her that categorically rejected all men who were close to nature. And it had nothing to do with the nature itself because she loved and respected nature, as long as it didn?t try to eat or kill her. Anyone living in the swamp did. But having a ranger with a hand twitching for his dagger guiding them did not sit well with her.

His hand in fact, was not twitchy at all but her instinct, the same one that saved her from the gith the night before, kept telling her that under no circumstance should she walk ahead of him and alone.

So in light of her decision, while Bishop had taken upon leading their small group through the wilderness following the tracks Ele?ena had taken a safe position at the rear of the party, wild animals be damned.


? ? ? ? ? ?


?the village of Ember?

The village of Ember held much similarity with West Harbor. The only difference being that there was no swamp littered with lizardmen surrounding it. Though they made it out with the fact that there was a number of Githyanki around. They couldn?t compare with lizardmen but were still green.

It was Bishop who held them up before the entrance to the village. He was cautious, and wary.

?Hold on - something isn't right.?

Ele?ena picked from behind the tree. The village was quiet. There were lights behind windows and birds in the sky overhead. The wind in the trees and wolves in the forest ? she was certain she had heard one howl on the way here.

?There?s no livestock. So??

He looked at her like she had grown a second head, or possibly sprouted another pair of arms or changed race and gender. Or it could have been the combination of all above. Ele?ena found she did not like being under scrutiny of those yellow eyes, and she wished he would turn them elsewhere.

?Good eyes - I noticed the villagers, but you're right about the livestock. We're on the trail of our friends, though. They're moving fast, but it looks like we've closed in a bit.?

?How can you tell??
?Their trail's hard to miss. They may know where they're going, but they aren't bothering to hide their tracks??

?I noticed that as well,? Elanee spoke quietly with seriousness only a druid can posses.

?It's almost as if they want us to keep up. I don't like it. Keep your eyes open and your weapon handy. I smell an ambush.? Bishop was extremely suspicious about this. In fact, Bishop was extremely suspicious about everything but for now the state of the village was on top of his suspicion list.

?


They were ambushed. Twice. Of course, no proper hunt to save the fair maiden could go without an ambush, it would defy the state of the world as they know it. But twice? If the gith were so keen for her group to keep up with them, as Bishop had so expertly remarked earlier, then why so many ambushes? Why the, for the lack of a better word, occupation of this village? It didn?t make sense.

Ele?ena looked down at the village of Ember they have left behind. Bishop could be such an ass, she thought sneering to herself. Not everyone could be toughened up like Harbormen. Hells, she wasn?t like most of the Harbormen.

?Well,? she thought sighing, ?at least I got rid of his dagger.?

? ? ? ? ? ?


?the Gith hideout?


The valley was narrow and the path dangerous. It was a perfect place for them to be attacked. And yet, there was no one there. No gith, no wild animals, no orcs, nothing. A perfect opportunity wasted as Bishop would have said.

Alert to any possible attack they walked through the cave entrance. They were momentarily blinded from the transition from the outdoors to the dark cave but with most of them having darkvision they quickly adjusted to cavern?s low lighting. For a moment there they thought that it might be empty. How many other caverns were around?

They were not disappointed, and both Ele?ena and her companions were taken aback by a dozen menacing githyanki.

And there among them, smiling viciously, leading the gith was the creature responsible for Amie?s death. Ele?ena?s eyes went wide, and over the red of her eyes she saw more red. She saw the end of her peaceful life and all things attached to it.

?Zeeaire has foretold your coming, Kalach-Cha. She sent me here to end you,? it hissed menacingly and so certain in its victory.

Ele?ena didn?t even stop to consider the plan or the consequences. She didn?t even consider if she could do it. She uncoiled the chain from her waist.

?Not if I send you there first.?

And she jumped.

? ? ? ? ? ?


Dear gamer! You cannot summon Spirits of Rage when fighting bosses. We apologize for any inconvenience. Please send all complaints to Undead Control Administration, Bosses Combat Department, and apply for revision of the Endoria combat regulations. - King?s Bounty, the Legend
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#18 Orthodoxia

Orthodoxia
  • Member
  • 853 posts

Posted 28 May 2008 - 01:48 AM

? ? ? ? ? ?

Chapter 12: It?s not Fair!


?on the way to Neverwinter?


For some heroes this would have been a perfect opportunity to celebrate. Zeeaire was dead. The Githyanki threat that hang over her head since West Harbor was over. And Shandra was safe. And, the elf thought solemnly, she had managed to avenge Amie ? something she had previously not thought possible.

She didn?t know what came over her when they encountered the Githyanki leader, the one who led the attack on the village. Repressed rage? Ele?ena didn?t know she could be so angry, or that she had accumulated so much ire over time. Or that it would burst in such a murderous manner.

She had killed before, orcs and lizardmen and bandits, the undead didn?t really count, but they left her with little choice in the matter. But never had she jumped and strangled someone without so much as blinking.

The partly talked, some comments passed between them. But Ele?ena had the no presence of mind to pay them any attention. She was shivering. Her teeth chattered and she kept holding on to herself. Whether it was the remains of Zeeaire?s spell or her own fear increased tenfold she didn?t know. And in the end it hardly mattered.

Ele?ena felt utterly broken. Like something vital in her had shattered and died. Her freedom.

Now, miles away from that accursed cave one might say that a leg of her journey has been covered but obviously it was only the tip of an iceberg of what started to look like the longest journey of her life. A journey fraught with many perils and even more damaging secrets.

She was the last one in the line of their group back to Neverwinter. Her hand was on her chest, which hadn?t stopped hurting ever since Zeeaire tried to forcefully pull out? she still had difficulties wrapping her mind around that one.

She untied her shirt and rubbed the scarred skin. It still twisted and burned just under the surface, like it was somehow awoken and couldn?t go back to sleep. Elanee?s, or even Casavir?s healing spell couldn?t lessen the pain as if it was beyond their power, and so she dragged herself behind the rest of the group.

Having a piece of ancient, overly powerful sword didn?t help her imagination. She was going to have even more nightmares from now on.

?So, container for ancient, overly powerful weapon, how do you feel?? Neeshka asked with flourish falling in step next to agonizing elf (something Ele?ena was taking upon doing more and more with less and less dignity).

?How does a tiefling feel surrounded by an inquisition squad?? Ele?ena asked deadpan not even looking at the hyperactive thief. She wanted the glare at tiefling, to show her how tasteless her joke was, but was too tired to do so.

?Ouch. Either you?re being deliberately mean or you don?t like being used as a vessel for powerful obscure artifacts,? Neeshka noted sagely.

Ele?ena, in all her wisdom, decided not to answer that, for that road led to obscure wine cellars of Duncan and as of yet she still couldn?t hold her drink.

Mind numb and dry tears she was half wondering why she didn?t just lay down and die ? surely the Wall of Faithless couldn?t be much worse than this. She didn?t know what kept her walking. It wasn?t because of others and their opinion of her that?s for sure; she doubted it even had anything to do with her strong instinct of self-preservation which would kick in even if it was only a paper-cut.

No, what she wanted, and subsequently what made her keep walking, were once again the answers. Answers to questions that buzzed in her head and burned close to her heart. Ele?ena wanted to know how and when she ended up with a fragment of a planer sword pulsing in the same beat as her heart.

?Duncan had better be in the mood for talking or?? Well, she didn?t know what to do if he decided against talking with her. That had always been the problem of Ele?ena.

? ? ? ? ? ?


?Neverwinter, Sand?s shop?


It was late evening, his inimitable sense of time and space told him, when Nevalle strode into his shop. And with his equally his inimitable sense of smell Sand didn?t even need to turn around.

?Ah, I thought I smelled one of the Nine - and Nevalle, no less, not an aide. To what do I owe this rare honor, my liege?? Flippant, the sarcasm in his voice was unmistakable. Of course, this was Sand he was talking with therefore it was no surprise. Still, if one could grasp it, it could be said that Sand had a unique sense of humor.

Slightly amused Nevalle looked around the shop, much smaller than his previous one in the Merchant Quarter.

?I see your post at the Docks hasn't improved your temperament, Sand.?

?Yes, well, it's a step up from the Merchant Quarter. Less politics - until now,? he eyed the knight and his mark of the Nine under one arched eyebrow.

?So, is there something you wish to interrogate me on, or can I go back to wondering where my life made such a sharp turn??

But Nevalle wasn?t up for joking. His face was grim. ?Something has happened? and I will need your talents to set it right.?

Oh dear, Sand thought. This was going to be one of those days.

? ? ? ? ? ?


?Neverwinter, the Sunken Flagon?

Duncan joyfully approached when the party after a long march had finally reached his inn and to surprise of Ele?ena and some but certainly not all, hugged a startled Shandra. Perhaps hugging just one girl was his way of showing how glad he was to see everyone.

?Hey, welcome back! Glad to see you've all returned? and in one piece, no less!?

?Actually, I discovered I have an extra piece inside,? Ele?ena started dryly.

Momentarily confused he looked up from where he was hugging the blond farm girl, ?Eh? What do you mean??

Yes. A pretty girl in arms and Duncan was liable to forget anything. But wait! That?s how it was with all men. For all she cared he could snuggle with Shandra or Neeshka or Qara or Elanee, or even Khelgar for that matter, but he could do it all later. Now she had to talk with him. Now she needed some answers.

She pulled him away from others to the corridor where the rooms were and closed the door behind them. They really had no business listening in on her private and potentially life-threatening problems.

?I need to talk to you about this wound I received when I was a child.?

He swallowed she noted, and his eyes grew wary. ?Look I? I don't know why you're asking again. Surely you've heard this before. You were just a babe when West Harbor was attacked near the end of the war with the King of Shadows? you suffered that wound from a stray arrow or debris.?

Ele?ena?s eyes narrowed. How in the halls did he still dare to lie to her?

?It wasn't an arrow or debris and you know it. There is a shard lodged within me.?

?Inside the wound on your chest? That means you've been carrying the shard around almost your entire life? I? we had no idea.? He was not surprised as much as he should have been, Ele?ena noticed.

The half-elf sighed, giving in, but he was not pleased about it. ?I don't know if I'm the best one to be telling you this, but if you've got one of those shards in you, I think you've earned the right to hear everything.?

?You're right, I want to hear the whole story, so I suggest you start talking.?

He sighed again, steeling himself to tell the tale, ?Daeghun probably already told you, but when you were an infant, West Harbor was the site of a battle, a terrible battle. The King of Shadows himself led an army of demons against the Neverwinter army, which had gathered at the village.?

Thinking back, ?West Harbor was struck suddenly, without warning. There was panic? confusion? villagers fleeing every which way to escape the battle.? His voice lowered to quiet whisper. ?But Daeghun's wife Shayla? and your mother Esmerelle did not.?

?They stayed behind, to save you. As demons and magefire rained upon the village, they fought to reach your crib. By the time Daeghun even realized they were missing, it was too late. He could only watch from a distance as the village was consumed in the battle.?

Ah, and the reason behind Daeghun?s lifelong cold shoulder was revealed. She had indirectly killed his beloved wife. Ele?ena refused to feel guilty. It wasn?t her fault.

?What you're saying is I've been lied to my entire life.?

?It wasn't my decision to keep what happened to your mother from you? and my brother will be furious I told you,? he was sad, tried to reason with her.

?Gods forbid Daeghun gets furious,? Ele?ena said coldly.

Duncan winced. Visibly. ?I guess he? he thought it would be too much for you. In any case, when the few that remained returned to the village, no one was alive. Except you? Your mother was there? so much blood and? you were clutched in her bosom, a deep wound in your chest. She'd tried to shield you, but? The shard must have cut through her and into you. No one knew how you survived. But you did, and your wound sealed itself within days, leaving the scar that you still bear.?

He looked at her, worried, ?But if that wound was due to the shard that pierced you then, that raises many questions? And I'm afraid I'm just all out of answers.?

But Ele?ena had gotten her answers. Answered about her past at least, though she hardly knew what she was going to do about her future. True, the Gith themselves were gone but they did insinuate that someone else was after the shards. Now she regretted thoroughly that she had killed that gith bitch too fast without getting any answers from her first.

?Anything else you're hiding from me?? She asked keeping her voice at the freezing level.

Duncan was immediately on his most defensive, ?Look, I wanted to tell you, but??

At that moment Bishop chose to open the door, but he was probably listening in the whole time, and interrupted her conversation with Duncan.

?Why the long faces, you two? Somebody die? If so, sounds like a cause for celebration to me.?

There was something about men who could be cheerful, insensitive and sarcastic at the same time that Ele?ena just didn?t like. Where?s the mechanic Blade Golem with sword for arms when you need one? Right. Grobnar had yet to fix it.

?Grobnar, you worthless half-man, strike up a tune? before I strike you,? he added silently.

?Of course, Sir Bishop, it so happens I have just the tune?? Instantly Grobnar whipped out his instrument and played a happy tune, one he dubbed ?Shandra's theme.? Also, he was oblivious to insult.
Bishop turned to her looking most cheerful, ?By the way, I've decided it would be in both our interests if I stay on with you.?

?Oh, I?m thrilled,? her voice was flatter than the Grey Waste. And she was trilled, really. First the Gith, now the unknown enemy and, on top of that, she had her own personal ranger who wished her dead with all his scrawny black heart. ?And for the sake of my own neck, why would you want to do that??

?What? Does a man need a reason? Come now. Duncan's kind request was enough to start this, I think, why not finish it??

?We don't need any more of your help,? Casavir?s deep voice came from the surrounding silence of the group. He didn?t like Bishop ? not surprising since they were as different as night and day ? but Duncan too was a little wary. She knew this wasn?t a good thing.

?No, no. There's no need, Bishop. I'm sorry for before, but you've done more than??

?Oh, come now, Duncan - I still owe you. And what better way to make it up to you than watching your kin here??

?That?s it. I?m dead. So long miserable world full of trickery and lies.? Ele?ena sat in the chair rubbing her face. She knew that now when the ranger was on board she could say goodbye to decent sleep.

?After all, a debt is a debt? all the way until the end. Isn't that right??

His cold voice made Ele?ena wince. She didn?t know why he hated her so when it was Duncan with whom he had quarreled with but in this world the reasons behind one murder and another hardly mattered.

Shandra approached her nervously, ?I hate to ask? but what happens now? I can't go back to my farm, ashes and all.?

?I don't know. Maybe Duncan will take you in,? Ele?ena replied looking up.

?Oh, she'll be in good hands here,? Bishop mocked.

Tossing a quick dirty glare at Bishop Duncan replied, ?Well, I'd be more than happy to offer the lass my hospitality, but don't you need her to unlock Ammon Jerro's Haven??

?You're welcome to travel with us, if you'd like, Shandra.? Really, what else could she have said?

?Well, then, as long as we simply need her with us, and don't want her, I'll drink to that.?

Casavir had a quick reply to that. Then Bishop said something else. Ele?ena wasn?t listening anymore. Khelgar approached the group looking a bit stern.

?If she's going to be with us, she'll need to do some catching up? we can't just keep on rescuing her all the time.?

Shandra was thoroughly offended. ?Rescuing me? I can rescue myself!? She went slightly quiet as Ele?ena raised an eyebrow. ?Sometimes, when there's not too many lizardfolk. Or githyanki.?

?Haven't you always wanted the adventuring life?? Ele?ena ventured. Not that she would ever understand such people.

Shandra was slightly hesitant. ?Well? I know enough to use a sword and can handle myself in a fight. I mean, I'm no spellcaster, but if you need an extra blade? I admit - you've rescued me twice now - and if you're going to help teach me to survive these attacks, I accept. But there's some things you're going to have to accept, too. I don't like being left behind. Because whenever you're out of my sight, suddenly all this trouble starts happening, and I'm really tired of it.?

Her voice grew quiet at end. ?So?look, I won't try to get in your way or anything, but I don't want us to part ways again - I've? I've, well, lost too much already.? She looked at the blue elf, the ?leader? of the group firmly, ?You're not leaving me behind. All right??

?I didn't mean for anything to happen to you or your home.? It was the unfortunate set of circumstances that she happened to have the blood of a Jerro and a shard-bearer walked on her farm seeking direction to the old castle. Once again Ele?ena had no real intention to feel guilty about the whole thing but for the sake of not being stared and glared at added, ?If I can make it up to you, I will.?

Shandra nodded, ?Then that's all I ask.?

?So the farm girl's going to join our band? Good. We need someone to make up for the paladin - or at least to catch arrows if Grobnar's already dead. For now, I say we crack some of those kegs and drown the Flagon in wine.? It was possibly the first and only time that Khelgar agreed with Bishop on something.

Just when they shook hands on their new agreement, and somewhat planned further ?adventure? (oh how she hated that word) a door suddenly slung open, and a sandy colored hair man walked in, flanked by two guards. He looked grim.

?There you are,? the man said and by the way he was looking at her Ele?ena unmistakably knew who he was talking about.

?By all the- What now?? She wailed angry and tired.

?He is Sir Nevalle, a member of the Nine - Lord Nasher's bodyguards.? And judging by her uncle?s tone the Nine were much more than bodyguards.

?What is this about??She looked at the knight curiously.

He studied her face, looking for something. Guilt perhaps. ?I am here because Luskan has accused you of murder - an entire village, no less. Have you heard of Ember??

?Been there but I haven?t killed anyone. Unless someone did the killing while I wasn?t watching,? she cast an unabashed glare in ranger?s direction, who returned it with an equally unabashed grin.

?I've scraped things from my boot that I respect more than Luskan. But unless we find some means of clearing you of these charges, we will have to surrender you to them. We've signed a treaty with Luskan - they have the right to dispense low justice for any crimes committed on their soil. But I'm not turning over a loyal member of the Watch to some Luskan dog on this day or any other.? Nevalle?s voice was overflowing with disdain. Clearly, no one sane in Neverwinter would think that the treaty was nothing more than a farce.

?But there must be some way of disproving it.? Ele?ena was now getting desperate. After surviving through something she would consider hellish, she was going to die because of a piece of paper no one really respected and a crime she didn?t commit.

?Your guilt is preordained in a Luskan court. If you were a lord, knight, or even a squire, however, then matters would be different. You would be subject to high justice, and your trial would take place here in Neverwinter before Lord Nasher.?

There was a not so subtle hint somewhere in there, she was sure of it. ?What are you talking about??

?I need you to go see Sir Grayson, one of Lord Nasher's most trusted knights, and become his squire. I may also send a? friend of mine? to assist you. He has proven invaluable in such cases in the past. Mind you, the matter must still go to trial, and if you cannot prove your innocence, then you will face execution.?

?For now, let us deal with what we can - see Sir Grayson at once at Captain Brelaina's office. Pledging yourself to Neverwinter's service will give us time to counter these Luskan lies. And until you answer for these charges, the gates of the city will be barred to you - seek out Grayson, but do not leave the city.?

Nevalle and the two of his guards walked out of the building. Ele?ena slumped back in her chair. For a few moments there was nothing but silence and slurping of the wine. Then, one angry Uncle exploded.

?No way in the hells will I let those Luskans get their hands on you!?

Shandra raised her voice as well, ?But there's still something we can do - right? Even Nevalle said as much, all you have to do is pledge yourself to one of the knights, and Luskan can't touch you.?

Neeshka joined in defiant defense, ?And we're innocent, besides. I mean, the slaughter of an entire village? That's going too far, even by Luskan standards.?

?Is it? If you have something Luskan wants, they'd kill an entire city for it. They don't care. They attacked Neverwinter once, and even now, they're sending fleets to attack Ruathym. Give them an excuse, and you'll soon find Luskan blades at your gate,? Bishop kindly enough to rammed reality in tiefling?s face. Neeshka, in return, probably had a kind desire to return the favor.

?Uh? Duncan, looks like we have a guest,? Sal pointed at the door. Upon laying his eyes on the newcomer Duncan felt like punching a hole through something. Most likely, the unlucky wizard.

??oh, as if the day couldn't get any worse. What do you want, Sand??

?I am here to help you - and your kin, actually.? Despite elf?s constant seriousness, it could easily be seen that he was uncomfortable by this situation. Why he would be uncomfortable about anything Ele?ena didn?t know, or want to know for that matter. She was the one, once again, in deep shit here.

?Oh, really. And what's the price? If it's more than a half-copper, you can see yourself out,? Duncan was already irritated and was getting angrier by the minute.

Sand looked more uncomfortable then that time when the shard knocked him of his feet. ?No, I? seem to have been given an ultimatum, in fact. I have heard of your? troubles with Luskan.?
?Word travels fast,? Sal muttered under his breath.

?Know that if you are sent to Luskan, you will be killed,? Sand looked at her with a mixture of seriousness and, did she spot there, pity.

?Oh, really? I know that,? she snorted.

?I realize you may find my sincerity difficult to believe, but allow me to act on your behalf. There are laws, and there is right and wrong. While I believe you are quick to take liberties with the law, I do not believe you are guilty of this?? He really did believe that. Ele?ena on the other hand, during her time with the Watch had come to believe otherwise.

??and if they should get a hold of you, you will be killed. I believe people should answer for their crimes, but it must be just.?

?What exactly will happen if I go to Luskan??

?Well, at best, they will put you on trial - or what seems to be one, then execute you. At worst, they will dispense with the courtroom mockery and execute you as soon as you step within the gate. And when I say "execute," do not think it will be one clean chop of a headman's axe? Luskans have all sorts of inventive ways for executing prisoners that is not best to describe on a full stomach. ?

?What do the rest of you think??With a sigh Ele?ena looked around.

?I think we should give him the chance. This is not a battle that can be won by swords, and I for one, am ill-equipped for such a fight,? the paladin reasoned, probably pulling that from his own experience.

Qara scoffed with disdain, ?Sure, after all, a hedge wizard can't make things any worse. Maybe all that digging through books might prove useful.?

That seemed to set off Sand in a particular way and once again the inn exploded into array of voices, accusations, custom brawl and a mage battle. She, however, had more pressing issues to deal with. Like a murder charge.

?I can?t believe it!? Ele?ena thought stunned folding her arms and burying her face in them.

Murderer!? Eradication of an entire village!? Her? Who could barley defend herself from common street thugs? That was preposterous! Moronic! And idiotic!

But what was even more preposterous was the fact that both Luskan and Neverwinter seemed inclined to proceed with this charade ? and everyone knew that it was just that. A really big potentially bloody charade. One from which her life now depended on, unfortunately.

She had a piece of an ancient sword nestled right next to her heart and now this! Why couldn?t she for a change have some good news? Like, you?re free of all obligations. No one whishes you dead. Something that didn?t involve bloody baths.

In the midst of Sand?s and Qara?s arguing, one which was gaining much attention, Ele?ena once again slumped on the nearby chair and thumped her head against the wooden table. All of it, it all just wasn?t?

?It?s not fair!? She wiled into the noisy tavern.

?That?s right, little girl.? Ele?ena looked up and saw Bishop sitting not to far toast to her with his mug and wine. ?It?s not fair, but it?s only the half of it.?

Actually, it was the third of it but Ele?ena didn?t know that.

? ? ? ? ? ?

End of Act 1

? ? ? ? ? ?


Edited by Orthodoxia, 30 May 2008 - 11:12 PM.

Dear gamer! You cannot summon Spirits of Rage when fighting bosses. We apologize for any inconvenience. Please send all complaints to Undead Control Administration, Bosses Combat Department, and apply for revision of the Endoria combat regulations. - King?s Bounty, the Legend
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#19 Orthodoxia

Orthodoxia
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Posted 28 May 2008 - 01:51 AM

Author?s Notes:

- This is it, the final chapter of Act I.

First, I want to tank to those who reviewed and those who read it. I am glad to know that at least someone enjoyed this story.

Second, on the matter of Act II & III. I can safely say that I would like to write them but I?m not certain when or how or anything else for that matter, and I would have to reply the game once again since those parts are a bit foggy in my head. Not to mention that if I do write I?ll have the first half done before I even think of posting anything. And if I do it will be on this thread, there's plenty of room left ;) So for now it?s over and done for.

And thirdly, just for the record, there was no romance, there is no romance and there will be no romance in ?Silver Shards on the Blue Moonlight? no matter the Act. That kind of thing is reserved for ?Hungry Dreams?, a sequel for SSotBM.

So thank you and have a good day.

Edited by Orthodoxia, 28 May 2008 - 05:43 AM.

Dear gamer! You cannot summon Spirits of Rage when fighting bosses. We apologize for any inconvenience. Please send all complaints to Undead Control Administration, Bosses Combat Department, and apply for revision of the Endoria combat regulations. - King?s Bounty, the Legend
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