REVENANTS

An EQ2 bloggage

RP Stories

Please enjoy the stories herein.

The newest stories will be posted at the top of the page, the older RP stories can be found by scrolling down.

I have been having some issues with the layout of this page. If some of the text seems unreadable just highlight the paragraph with the cursor and it should clear it.

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The following is a look from different toons perspective of How Shadowraethe became Shadowraethe, and how Killzum escaped Freeport to form a new life in Qeynos. Unfortunately, all was not plain sailing for any of them with Shahlai Vah’Khan, Vengeance Seeker lurking in the wings….

((The stories are split up in to the order in which they were originally posted on the Guilds Website that he was in at the time (Fellowship of the Dragon- a wonderful bunch btw). They are all penned by myself. ))

New Begginings for an Old Troll

It was a busy night in the Inn. Visibility was low as heavy smoke filled the room, both from the large fireplaces and the many pipes of tabac that seemed to be as popular as ever. Loud raucous conversation occasionally paused just enough to give way to whispered murmurings in the shadows. In a dark corner of the Blood Haze hid a monster. Huge in form, a powerful figure slumped up the back wall, his armour digging even larger chunks out of the already failing plaster. The red skinned troll hung his head, the massive sharp toothed chin resting on his chest. Lost in misery, Count Killzum of Freeport was unaware he was being watched. She had been watching him for days.

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1 week ago…………..Maj’Dul.
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Archduchess Astarte’s pale eyes idly watched the swirls of sand in the breeze as they gathered in to miniature dunes in the corners of the street. Waiting for the street vendor to finish measuring her cloth, her mind wandered, fixing on one word ‘Balance’. For just under one Norrathian year now she had been existing in the reanimated corpse of the Half Elven form she wore, working towards her goal.

‘Balance’. Queen Astarte of the hierarchies of Hell held a comprehension of the subject perhaps more than most. She had spent a lot of time and worked hard to establish this in her mission to help make Freeport as strong as the city of Qeynos. Her time remaining on the world of Norrath was short now. Then she would move on, to another world in need of evaluation. The King of all the Hells was a hard taskmaster. She was indeed afraid of him and would not even think his name. Smiling to herself, ‘He should be pleased with my efforts this time though’ she mused.

 

What appeared to at first to be a heat haze on the hot streets, slowly coalesced in to form of a black robed spectre, its skull hidden deep within the folds of the hood. The vendor screamed and dived down below his stall, his shaking making his wares rattle in an expression of his fear.Turning towards the floating robed figure, Archduchess Astarte turned cold eyes upon it,“Baal. I do not recall summoning you. This interruption had better be of an urgent nature…..I am shopping!” she half joked.

A hollow voice ignored her comment and from skeletal teeth whispered on the breeze back toward Astarte,“You have problems my Queen….there is one….a cat of the shadows….her plans disrupt yours…of the line of Vah’Khan. Her name is Shahlai, an assassin by trade”, finishing, Baal’s skeletal arm extended holding a blood red parchment out to Astarte. Even as she took it the form of Baal faded, once again becoming the gentle breeze.Later, lounging upon cushions of fine silk Archduchess Astarte had finished reading the parchment and again her mind focused upon balance. It seemed the assassin had slaughtered a family of hairy feet. Not normally a problem one would imagine, she thought. But in this case, one had been a close advisor of Antonia Bayle.

Astarte now had another problem. Having re-addressed the balance between the two cities to some extent it had become unbalanced once more. Reeling in shock and remorse for her advisor, the soft hearted Bayle and her city would be vulnerable for a time. This upset the balance. A balance that Astarte had worked relentlessly to establish. Now another word formed upon her black mind. Vengeance.………………………………………………………………………………………

It had not taken long to find Shahlai Vah’Khan. Living in riches in the Northern quarter of Freeport. It seemed she was somewhat of a mysterious celebrity amongst her neighbours. It had also taken very little time to work out that she depended extremely heavily upon the strong arm of her operation. A huge, ugly and imposing figure of a Troll. A Count of the city. Twisted by Vah’Khans mind games to her own ends. A troll by the name of Killzum. It took Archduchess Astarte even less time to realise her move in to vengeance, and how she would accomplish both revenge up on the meddling kerran and, perhaps only a little, help to move back towards balance between the two cities. She would find the troll a new home. As luck would have it Astarte knew the perfect place……….

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Belching loudly, Count Killzum miserably raised his blurred gaze from the floor as he heard something being placed on the table in front of him. Struggling to focus through the alcohol and haze in the room his eyes fell up on beauty, in the form of a Half Elf. She was smiling at him, but was silent.“ Yuuz wunts whut?” Killzum grumbled at her, swigging from his flagon and in the process spilling a goodly amount on his lap.“It is more about what you want Count Killzum of Freeport.” She replied.“Meez no wunts da cluvurs..meez is sads..und mez eats yuuz iv yuuz dunts leevs meez” Killzums voice began to rise in to a loud rumble, his displeasure more than evident.It was then when he glanced at the table to see the object that had been placed there. A crystal, pure and white. Poking it with his finger it moved slightly rolling in to a puddle of ale.“Whuts dat den…prutty it iz”. He asked the stranger who had been sitting silently in front of him.“Your new life” is all she replied as she gently placed an ice cold hand on top of his, and his mind swam and his world fell apart.

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Lost in images of red and black, Killzum swam through mists of blood and saw faces. Faces he thought he had forgotten. The faces of those he had slaughtered over the years under the Vah’Khans insistence……..and he felt their pain……and their loss.

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The bellowing scream drew looks from all in the Inn as Count Killzum stood, knocking the table in front of him over, the vision now ended. The strange Half Elf was gone and as he looked around at the staring faces a glint caught his eye. The crystal. Stooping to pick it up from where it had fallen when he had upturned the table, Count Killzum stumbled out of the Blood Haze and in to the fresh night air. He did not know how, but he knew what the crystal was for, and how it worked. Raising it to his ear he spoke…”Ullo?”

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For the first time he could remember, Count Killzum felt giddy with glee as he strapped the last pack on to his horses saddle. Easily vaulting up on to the huge creatures back he gently urged the mount forward,“ Move hurrsee, weez a gun tuuz nuw home!”.As he cleared the gates of Freeport, Count Killzum couldn’t help laughing as he kicked his horse into a gallop, feeling free.From the shadows of the gate house, she watched him. And smiled.

 

 What’s in a Name?

Flames danced merrily in the hearth casting a warm orange glow on the mossy walls of the tower.  The fire’s chimney long needing repair, sent a fair amount of smoke back in to the part ruined tower’s main room. Gathering in hazy layers, the smoke only served to make the glow from the flames appear all the more cozy. Stretched out on her saddle blanket to guard against the cold floor, Archduchess Astarte lay back, her head resting on the saddle itself.  Mesmerised by swirls of orange smoke above her, she let her mind relax. 

A breeze from one of many holes in the brickwork moved the dancing smoke above her into untold patterns, her pale eyes glazing over as the hypnotic fiery swirls became faster and more pronounced, seeming more solid.  A voice like gravel cut through the mists clouding her mind.“Queen Astarte. It seems even your dreams carry you home. Missing us?”Astarte, shook her head realising only now that the apparitions of dancing flames were indeed now a reality. She was home. She was back in Hell.  Despite the almost agonising heat, her leathery skin of her demonic form rippled with pleasure at the prospect of being back.  Still lying down she propped herself up on her horned elbows and looked back over her shoulder towards the voice.

“My King, Zagan. Tell me, am I dreaming again? is it real this time?  Am I home for good?” she asked, her voice sounding hollow and distant to her own ears.

 

The huge winged form strode over to her still prostate form, sparks springing from the rock as his claws moved across it with each step. Standing over her his wings cast mammoth shadows from the flames all around.

“You brought yourself back Queen of the Dead. I certainly did not summon you.  I have not the inclination nor the time to mess with summonings of Demons as annoying as you.”
 
Astarte inwardly smiled at her Kings ability to turn most statements in to an insult.  He had not summoned her, as she freely summoned him to the lands of Norrath without a moments thought.

“To answer your question. Yes, you are back home.  However, this was of your own doing Astarte. As I said, I am beggining to think that you miss us” Zagan  smirked down at her.

Rolling over, Astarte stood. Rolling her shoulders, her own wings of leather pulled tight across twisted bone unfolded, flapping briefly as if stretching.

“That feels good!” she exclaimed flapping her wings one more time before folding them again.

“So why did I bring myself back King?” she mused, knowing her duties upon Norrath had not yet ended. “there must be reason enough”.

“There could be many reasons as you well know.  If it is a definitive answer you are after, I shall call for the Hag”. Motioning his clawed hand towards a lesser demon who awaited his Kings bidding, Zagan added,
“Fetch the Hag, Dormunucles, we have need of her wisdom”. 

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Astarte could not help it. For some reason she had tried to hold the laughter in, though she knew not why.  As the bloodied and burnt form of the Hag writhed in agony on the cradle that had carried her tormented soul to them.  Failing, or not wanting to hold the laughter in further, peels of the hollow sound echoed off the walls.

“What mean you pitiful Hag?  My quest is done? I have barely started in establishing a workable equilibrium between the two cities. Your mind has truly snapped this time”

Through screams of agony The Hag spat back at Astarte,

“Your path crossed with a Vengeance Seeker, Queen.  From that moment on your fate did change”

Slashing a razor sharp claw across one of the Hags eyes with alarming speed Astarte turned,

“What do you mean, The Vengeance Seeker? Who is this you talk of?” Astarte growled though her fanged teeth at the Hag, fresh blood now streaming down her face.

“Shalai Vah’Khan.  You took your vengeance out …on one of the mythical Vengeance Seekers..the irony is simply worth all the pain and suffering you lot have visited upon me!” the Hag now laughing crazily to herself.

“You mean when I stole her slave from her? That dumb creature Count Killzum? I see not the significance. So what if I did? I sent him on to a new life in Qeynos.  I really do not understand the reasons for your hilarity Hag, especially considering your position”

Cackling almost hysterically now the Hag struggled to speak,

“It is your own position you need to consider Queen.  You have inadvertantly begun a war. And it is against you…let  me tell you of the Vengeance Seekers….” moving her hands, the shackles clinked against one another as the Hag held them out,

“Take my hands Queen of the Dead….let me show you”…

Moving forward, Astarte extended her claws and grasped the Hags hands, and the ground fell away…..

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A sun dappled glade lay below them. Astarte looked down and saw that her translucent form still clutched the hand of the Hag next to her. Floating above the tree tops they looked down upon the glade.  Strange figures moved in unison around a fire, dancing in circles around the flames.

“Where are we? Why are we here?”

“This is Comadon.  A world far far removed from Norrath, Queen.  A birthing ceremony sending blessings to a new God. We are here to watch”

Astarte watched as the figures danced in the sun catching distant whispers of music and singing from below.  She could see tendrils of smoke rise from the fire and the sweet smell of meat cooking.

” I understand not what I see. What is the relevance?”

“Watch” the Hag replied.

As Astarte looked closer, she noticed shadows moving amongst the trees.  Barely visible she strained to focus on the figures moving towards the encampment. The sound of music and dancing suddenly gave way to screams of panic as the shadows descended upon the ceremony. The slaughter was absolute….and the ground fell away…

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Deep shadows filled the huge vestment of the chapel.  A single Priest, obviously of some standing, lay prostrate genuflecting before an altar.  Astarte still holding the Hags hand watched from the shadows.

“Where are we? Why are we here?”

“Still upon Comadon…watch”

For moments nothing happened.  Then Astarte felt a figure moving behind her. Turning she noticed a concoction of shadows, oblivious to her prescence moving towards the altar, and the Priest.  Within moments the deep shadows of the Chapel exploded in to movement and figures of unnatural circumstance smothered the worshipper.  The slaughter was absolute…..and the ground fell away……

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Looking down upon a huge walled city, Astarte saw that it was cradled between two mountain peaks.  Snow capped the mountain tops and a ferocious wind whipped flurries of snow around the floating pair.

“Where are we? Why are we here?”

“The northern territory of Carramesh. Comadon. Watch”

Through the thick snow storm Astarte feeling no cold stared down upon Carramesh and it’s city.  As she concentrated on what she saw  she noticed thousands of figures on the walls, all armed for war. All figures upon the walls faced the valley that led up to the mountain stronghold. Waiting.  Shifting her gaze down the valley, Astarte spotted what the troops were looking for.  A tide of shadows flowed up the steep valley.  Too dense to determine numbers, but Astarte guessed upon millions of the same creatures she had witnessed in the previous visions, moved to the walls.  As she observed them flow over the defences like the tide upon a beach, Astarte looked at the Hag who silently watched the scene.  The slaughter was absolute…..and the ground fell away.

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Dizzy, Astarte stumbled on the hard floor of the chamber. Noticing the flames and the crib upon which the Hag still lay staring back at her. She knew the visions had ended.

“What did you show me Hag? What was the purpose of your display” Astarte asked, angry at not having been in control.

” What you saw Queen of the Dead is the first of the Vengeance Seekers.  They were created from shadows of lost souls an immeasurable time ago by a God consumed with jealousy.  His creations and machinations were shunned upon Comadon so he waged a war upon his brethren and their minions who were commonly accepted and loved.  His armies were of the Vengeance Seekers.  Viscious, with one purpose only, to wreak vengeance upon his brother and sister Gods and their creations.  Eventually the Vengeance Seekers were banished by the other Gods who united against him.  Sent to the far corners of the universe as it is…for the Vengeance Seekers could not be destroyed.” the Hag pausing to wipe blood and spittle from her chin stared straight at Astarte.

“Tell me more old woman, or I shall end your days!” she spat.

“Well, there is not much more to tell.  Save the Vengeance Seekers begin by removing those who are at the bottom and most inconsequential in the reason for the revenge. Say, like your aquaintance Count Killzum and his new found friends in Qeynos.  When you removed him from the service of Shahlai Vah’Khan and sent him packing to Qeynos for your own revenge upon her…you were inadvertantly beginning your own demise Astarte.” Smiling the Hag continued, ” Then only when the bottom rungs of the ladder have been removed does the Vengeance Seeker move to the top.” Raising her brows at Astarte the Hag again began to cackle.

“Then I have no choice Hag.  I shall protect the Count and his new friends.  If they do not perish at this Vengeance Seekers hand, my time shall never come.”  Looking across at King Zagan who had remained silent throughtout the whole exchange, Astarte paused as if making a decision and spoke,

” King Zagan.  It is time I ended your service and mine to you.  It would not do for me to bring this thing here.  If it cannot be destroyed then the Hells can do without such a destructive force amongst such creatures as populate these halls.”

“It saddens me to hear this Astarte..where will you go, and what will you become? Whatever you decide, you know you can always call upon your King for assistance”

“I know I am done with the Archduchess’s form. I now need something more suitable.  If these beings are born of shadows and lost souls, I shall become one who can defeat such creatures.” Thinking for a brief moment, the demon known as Astarte smiled,

“I shall become a Shadowraethe my King…and I will take her lost soul”

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Two figures moved quietly in the shadows.  Small and hardly making a noise, they glided through the night. One moved in to the tower and the silence was broken…

“Tobey!! Tobey!! Come here me friend.! ” laughing the Halfling danced around the ruined tower.

“This had better be good cousin, I was about to start gathering wood for a fire” the voice came from outside.

“No need Tobey…we have a fire here, and so much more…come look!!”

Another Halfling moved through the covered doorway of the tower in to the main room,

“My my!” he exclaimed looking at the quite obviously dead form of a Half Elf lying on a saddleblanket, with sadness. However, his gaze like his cousins just couldn’t keep away from the bulging saddlebags…and the fine horse that accompanied them.

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Count Killzum stood rather shyly for a brusque Troll on the shore of the stream.  He was embarassed at the kind attention his new friends had showed towards him, but he also felt an emotion he had not felt before. Happiness.

Waiting along with the rest of the gatherers for the proceedings to begin, Count Killzum could barely contain his joy at being invited to the wedding.  He checked his doublet. Smoothing its front he hoped his mentor Lady Daelan, would be pleased with his appearance and attire.

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He, nor indeed anyone from the gathering before the altar saw the figure high up the mountain over looking the congregation. Neither did they know that the scene below reminded the figure of a vision it had recentlywitnessed in a sun dappled glade, more than a million miles away on a different world to Norrath.

Shadowraethe this time knew where she was, and why she was there.

She was there to watch. She was there to protect Count Killzum and his new friends from the Vengeance Seeker.

‘Let her come.’  Shadowraethe thought,

‘for my slaughter will be absolute’.

 

 

 

 

Killzums Journal – Strange Dreams ~ Written in Thullian

The dreams they keep coming to me.  I find I want to resist sleep so I do not have to face them. Yet strangely, I find almost always during this last week,  I struggle to stay awake.  I do not know why this is happening and fear I do not have the mental capacity to figure this out. There are some very definite factors that hold steady in my dreams. My mentor Daelan appears often as not. The image of her face in the background, watching me with a warm smile.  Images flash between the horrors I have commited in my past, to something darker.  The flash backs of the horrors do not suprise me. It is part of my pennance I am sure for carrying out those actions. I do not regret having to re-live them despite the immense pain they cause me. They remind me of how far I have yet to go to even start to readdress the balance of what I have done.  The darkness bothers me. I see first and formost Daelan and my friend Lorelea, both warm and kindly as ever. There are other faces from my new found friends of the ‘Dragon’. I see them all smiling, encouraging. However, behind them there is a darkness. It lurks, held by some unknown force. I do not know what this is. I can sense however, it wishes my new friends harm.Again a weariness overcomes me. I will go rest where I can be tranquil, in my garden amongst the palms and pools.  I do not look forward with anticipation to my dreams. I fear them. This also is strange to me. I do not know fear..until now.  It adds to my weakness.Yet I must sleep.

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 Observations of  troubled mind

The tavern was crowded. Shouts of joy and expletives of disbelief emanated from a game of cards across the room. Cards flew in to the air along with a spray of blood red wine as the obvious victor, a giggling halfling stood on the table waving his goblet in celebration. Laughter sprang forth from a tight knit group of Dwarves near the bar. Recently back from a long journey if their muddied boots and travel packs were anything to go by. A joke shared about an occurrence on their travels perhaps or maybe plain merriment at being home and in comfortable surroundings once again. Other groups, large, small, loud and quiet filled the room. All added to the feeling of warm life and an existence worth being a part of.  

The smell of wood smoke filled the room as the large fire roared in the hearth, warding against the last of winters chill in the air. Soon the fireplace would be dark and empty, soot and ash it’s only testament to the merry life it lived during the colder months. But for now it held strong, throwing warmth, dancing light and shadows across the room touching all in one way or another.  

The shadows touched the far side of the common room more frequently than the dancing light and the hooded figure had picked her seat carefully. The shadows were the first reason for her choice of seating. The second reason was the view it heralded through the main bay window out in to the yard and the dimly lit cobbled street beyond. The unobstructed view showed her the now thinning populace moving through the streets hurrying along with purpose, either to find welcoming shelter or simply rushing home to their families after a day spent at market. She wondered at the lives and purpose of each she witnessed. Armed Guards vigilantly strolled past, the torches hanging in the street from shop fronts reflecting off their glossed armour and weapons.  

 

It was only a matter of time. She knew that her wait would be rewarded this night. Word had already passed to her from Amaffi. He had seen him riding in to the city not ten minutes previously. Having instructed Amaffi to follow him all the way from the Mountains of Butcherblock, she knew his information would be specific and correct. And so, the merriment and noise of the lively tavern now as hazy to her as the heavy smoke hanging in the air, she waited. It would not be long now.  

It was the squeal of fright that first alerted her that he was indeed coming. Two young elf creatures screamed as they ran past the window looking over their shoulders. A sound partially laced with giggles and hysteria. Then she saw him. Huge and imposing and devastatingly ugly he was exactly as she remembered him. There was something different though. The contraption on his face, buried in to the flesh. She knew what it was and what it symbolised. It made her smile, her sharp teeth hidden beneath her mask. There was something else though. The way he walked. It was with purpose and a liveliness born of happiness. Feeling disgust and hatred towards him, she waited until he had passed out of view then slowly rose from her seat. Moving towards the door she stepped out in to the colder dusk air.  

Glancing both ways she scanned the now almost empty street. Seeing no guards she moved to follow expertly hiding amongst the shadows, unseen to all. His destination was as expected. He stayed constant on his course, west along Erollsi Lane. He was heading home. The thought made her stifle a laugh. Not too long ago he had called Freeport home. The contrasts and differences were startling. It was beyond her comprehension to even consider one moving so abruptly from one place to the other.  

As he neared his house which was large and dominated the end of the street just as its much as its owner, she slipped across the road and up the wooden stairway to the loft room she had rented through Amaffi. The door was unlocked as she had left it, not worried about unwanted visitors, having left the room bear. She stepped inside, closed the door gently shut and went immediately to the window. The black and grey cloak she wore guarded her from being seen with a back drop of the pitch dark room. She did not however use her skills to melt into the shadows. This time she wanted to be seen. Silently watching, her green eyes pierced the short distance across the cobbles. Until he looked up and saw her…saw her eyes.  

Her fur rippled with pleasure and a quiet purr of pleasure left her lips as she saw his expression. Worry, surprise, but most satisfying of all, fear. She held his gaze for a short time then melted back in to the darkness of the room, pleased with her progress. Turning, intent on her next chore a meeting with her aide and contact in Qeynos-Amaffi, she stopped dead. The door to her room was open.   

A playing card on the bed, vaguely visible with her unnatural sight. Shahlai Vah’Khan-Vengeance Seeker, stooped slightly picking the card up while still watching the door. Realising her fingers were sticky from the playing card she raised it to her nose and sniffed. Wine she thought, red wine.

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Killzums Journal –Joy and Pain go hand in hand – Written in Thulian

Sleep still troubles me.  Nothing has changed.  The forboding darkness still taints and marrs all that I do.  Things seem strange to me in day to day life, like something is not quite right. Something out of kilter.  I travelled to the Butcherblock Mountains to meet with my good friend Lady Dae’lan. On the way, Horse was unlike I have ever known him.  He was distant from me and would not follow my lead.  It seemed most strange.  My musings over this were short lived of course.  As ever meeting with my friends fills me with warmth and hope.  Seeing Dae’lan was to me as the sun breaking over the mountain tops on a beautiful dawn. It lightened my day. Warm kind words and news that elated my heart.  The Fellowship have voted and I have been accepted amongst their ranks.  I truly now feel part of a family.  Feelings that should be strange to me as I have never experienced them, however it just feels right.  I was embarressed and emotional when Dae’lan told me and announced it to the guild, but I can never explain with these ugly hands grasping a quill how it made me feel truly.  I think I managed to hide it well though.  I pretended to have something in my eye.  For that time everything felt as it should. I felt at home.  I will find a way to show my new friends how grateful I am for their love and trust, undeserved by a troll with a chequered past.On the way back to Qeynos the feeling of disquiet returned however.  I had feelings of being followed.  Horse was behaving strangly once more.  At one point he reared and nearly threw me.  As I entered my new home city things seemed to get worse. He was jittery and nervous.  It was dusk and merry light began to spring forth from the windows of South Qeynos as I was nearly home.  I arrived outside my Manor door and I happened to look up at a dark window across Erollsi Lane.  I swear I could see a pair of green eyes watching.  My heart froze with a steely cold. I knew it was I that was being watched.  Again I felt the disquiet.  Feelings I am uncomfortable with. Killzum rarely feels fear.

My sleepiness began to over come me again as I watched the eyes watching me.  I write this eyes half open. Now I must sleep once again.  I am filled with anxiety at what it will bring.

 

 

Killzums Journal – Of Friends, Halflings and High Elves – Written in Thulian

I slept soundly. I did dream, but for the first time since my arrival in Qeynos it was an untroubled dream.  There were of course faces of my friends. Lorelea and Dae’lan, although never speaking but watching me constantly throughout. As before smiling and full of warmth.  There was another face. Muirnin.  The monk whom I hunted with in the Commonlands just the other day. She also was silent and just stood there, her hand upon my shoulder, reassuring.  It made me feel strong, untroubled. A reminder of the strength I bear in these ugly arms, twisted with muscle.I woke from the dream to heavy knocking at my door.  Although now the sound of the knocking is but a distant memory, it must have been loud for me to hear it in my garden over the sound of the waterfall.  I recall stumbling downstairs weary, yet stronger than I had felt for some time. On opening the door, there was no one there. A glance across the street at the high window that held fear for me previously, brought now only mild curiosity.  However, I would be lying if I said I did not jump at the tugging on my breeches.  Looking down I saw a Halfling, smiling and friendly.  As is customary in this city I invited the short creature in to my home, offering hospitality.  Without a word they entered.  As the halfling crossed the threshold of my door, I closed it behind but I caught a glimpse of something in the halfling.  A much taller creature, full of beauty but smelling of death.My reactions when so weary suprised me. I guess so many battles over so many years hardens a soul without being aware of it.  Bunching the muscles in my legs I launched myself upward landing easily on the first floor balcony and snatched a spear from the weapon rack there.
I turned and saw in place of the Halfling a terrifying beauty I had seen once before.  It was the Half Elf, Archduchess Astarte. Not the same Half Elf form as before when she cam to me in freeport all that time ago. By the eyes I knew it was her, cold and dead. The name also seemed not to fit, or indeed no longer suited her form.  I knew instinctively even through the haze of evil that washed out of her in waves, that she meant me no harm.

I cannot recall the following hours with accuracy.  I know she told me of dark strange places and circumstance on worlds far from here. I remember the warnings she gave of the power my former employer Shahlai Vah’Khan held over me. But most vividly I recall that those warnings told me to beware of sudden ,brutal and cunning attacks upon myself or my friends were imminent.  Lastly before she left I remember these words she spoke and the feeling of invulnerability that they brought to me…

 

“Fear not your past deeds of evil Count. Remember only the strength you hold in your soul to show pennace for them. Remember your strengths. Remember your skill. Remember your friends”.

___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________Oceans Away 

The water was warm and crystal blue.  Laughter rippled towards him across the white tips of the waves. He watched the children playing in the surf and smiled. The sun beat down on the sands and warmed his body and his soul. Slowly closing his eyes, Killzum wiggled his toes as the water ticked his feet. The feeling of calm and serenity that washed over him as he listened to the children playing made him feel complete.

Having been approached by his neighbour a few hours before, Killzum was more than a little startled when the tiny Wood Elf had asked if he would join her and her family for a picnic on the beach.  Of course he had agreed and lying on the sand as the sea scented breeze gently brushed across him, he knew it was as a guardian to the family against the possibility of pirates roaming into the cove off the Forest Ruins. But he did not care.  He again felt overwhelming new emotions, knowing he was needed by some of his new peers, wanted even. It made him feel good.Screams woke him from his thoughts and he sat bolt upright. 

He scanned the scene and caught Bayliss, his neighbour giggling at him and he relaxed once more, realizing the screams were playful. He joined in the laughter as he watched one of Bayliss’s children trying to dunk another under the surf.

“Here Killzum. Eat my friend” Bayliss said as she rose from her blanket and walked over to him. She held out her hand, offering him a chicken leg.  He nodded in thanks and devoured the morsel with huge jaws, grease dripping down his chin. Stopping as he finished, he guiltily looked up at her realising his gluttony. A smile was all he received as she walked back to her blanket.

………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

 

Amaffi, filthy from the mud surrounding the reeds he was hiding in next to the shallow dips in the rocks, was getting impatient.  He glanced over his shoulder at the ten men waiting with him, raising his finger to his lips for what felt like the thousandth time. They just didn’t seem to know how to be quiet.  Quickly dismissing the regret he felt at bringing them along, he knew The Vah’Khan wanted this over quickly.  For such a mission he had decided to bring overwhelming force.  The Troll, Killzum was unarmed and without his armour.  It would surely be over quickly.  Moving his eyes back to the beach, he watched them.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

“Children! It is time to get going. Come along now” Bayliss shouted at the playful lot.

Still lying on his back, the water now over his knees and cooling his thighs, Killzum knew that meant him also. Sighing at the day being over, he opened his eyes and looked at the wispy clouds above him.  For a few moments he watched their lazy progress across the sky, the torn form of Luclan behind them.  He pushed himself upright and brushed his hands together, the sand that had stuck to them sprinkling his feet.  The children now gathered dutifully around their mother, were in turn being rubbed dry by a roughspun towel.  Not wishing to stand around useless, Killzum wandered over and gathered the wooden plates, stacked them gently into the basket and then piled the uneaten food on top.  Closing the lid he stood up to find the now ready children and Bayliss watching him.

“Thank you for joining us today Count. It was most gracious of you”. Bayliss said gently. The children standing behind their mother smiled at him, unafraid of the towering giant.

“Meez shudd be fankin yuuz gud laydee.  Yuuz hus bun must kund” Killzum paused, “und yuur chukkun wus vuree gud” he smiled.  Without waiting to hear more Bayliss turned and beckoned her children across the beach. they ran out in front of her, once more the screaming and laughter ensued.

Killzum dawdled behind as they ran off.  Not wanting the day to end he watched them as they made their way through the narrow gully leading from the beach to the forest ruins, and paused to take one long last whistful look at the sea and sands. He knew from that moment on this place would be special to him.

Sighing deeply he made his way towards the gully and as he reached the entrance he realised he had perhaps dallied to long. Now he could not see the kind family that had let him be a part of their day and quickened his step to catch them.  They could not be too far ahead as their laughter although now muffled, was still audible.

There was no warning that Killzum picked up on.  Had he been paying attention he was sure he would have heard the tell tale signs of shallow breathing, or the change in the air as anticipation and tense emotion surrounded him. But Count Killzum was not paying attention. Far from it.

The ten men leapt from the rocks to surround him as he was mid-way through the gully.  The leader, obvious from his elaboratly embossed leather jerkin, moved forward.

“We have a message from The Vah’Khan, Count. Do I need to explain? or do you already get the jist of it?” Amaffi snarled at him, the light glinting off the serrated edge of his long blade.

KIllzum stood still. His mind was slow, he knew this. He knew that they knew this. However, his battle instinct was not.  Almost two different personas, calm, kind, funny, a joker when relaxing but when battle was on the cards Count Killzum was truly a monster.  Not only for his size was awesome, but his instinct and savageness in battle was second to none. 

Instantly the shroud and haze of the day stripped away and subconsciously he began to assess the situation. He was unarmed and not dressed for battle. His soft linen tunic and breeches as useless as the wind in stopping a blow. he was greatly out numbered. Five men to his front, five to his rear.  He could smell them. He sniffed, their sweat permeated the fresh sea air alongside something else.  Glancing over his shoulder quickly, he saw all he needed to know. He only saw the five swords held low in his periferal vision. He was not looking for arms. He was watching their eyes.  Turning to the front again he saw a mirror image of what was behind him. And he smiled. Rows of sharp teeth met Amaffi as the leader of the group spoke once more.

“Why do you smile at your demise beast? Looking forward to your sweet death?”. On speaking, Amaffi leapt forward.

Three others to the front remained motionless and one other followed his leader, there being no room in the tight gully for more than two abreast.  Killzum heard movement behind him and knew two would be leaping at his back the very same moment.  He did not wait for his death however.

He leapt forward to meet the charge instead of retreating as he knew the leader thought he would facing such overwhelming odds, Killzum turned as he leapt his body now sideways on to Amaffi.  As the two swords to his front lashed out Killzum grabbed the blades with his hands feeling the steel cut in to his palms.  The cuts were not deep and the pain was non existant for Killzum. His beserk nature swamped him like the waves devouring the shore to his rear as he ripped the two blades from shocked hands, weak by the huge trolls standards. 

The three remaining to the front could not move forward, their path blocked by their leader and comrade.  Killzum whipped around with un-natural speed of one so large and met the charge of the two behind him. He used the pommels of the swords which were still reversed in his bleeding hands to obliterate their skulls, their life blood spraying from open mouths to cover him. Their momentum carried them in to Killzum as they fell and as he kicked them away he turned again sideways on and flipped the blades so he now held one pointing towards Amaffi and the other to the three that had been behind him. 

“Think you have won the day Troll?” Amaffi growled as he snatched a blade from one of his men. 

Killzum said nothing, only watching the group of eight men. Three to his left, five to his right. Two of whom were now unarmed.  He again watched their eyes and sniffed the air. Once again, Killzum smiled as his own blood dripped from the handles of the weapons he held. 

Only Amaffi leapt at him this time, frenzied by the Trolls demeanour.  His eyes intent on his targets face, Amaffi did not see the huge bare foot crash into his stomach.  Doubled over gasping for air, Amaffi also did not see the two swords already crossed lining up on his neck.  Killzum violently uncrossed the blades and Amaffis head spilled to the floor, covering the Troll in a bloody fountain.

The remaining seven glanced at each other and the now truly terrifying image of their supposed prey. He looked again in their eyes, seeing as he has before their apprehension, and as they fled Killzum sniffed the air. The smell of fear had left with them.

Killzum smiled again to himself and using his foot to roll the now detached head over, he looked in to the eyes of Amaffi. 

“If you were not dead” he said in Thulian remembering a Half Elfs words, “you could tell your mistress I am ready for her, and I remember my strengths”.

Dropping the blades on to the ground next to the three still forms, he walked away.
…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

He caught up with Bayliss and her children as they were approaching the gates to Willow Wood.  His mistake was realized as soon as the first child saw him, and screamed.  No longer a scream full of joy and exuberance, it was a scream full of fear.  They all turned at once and saw him and the screams of the first child were echoed by all.  Bayliss, her eyes full of fight, remorse and sadness herded her children towards the guards.

Dumbfounded by the display and his stupidity, Killzum slowly turned walking back down the slope to the small pool.  Glancing once with regret at his horrific bloodied reflection he strode in, the previously clear water turning red as he wondered if he would ever again be needed or wanted. 

As he washed, the blood red water hid his tears.

 

 

 

 Journal Of Killzum –Bloodied Hands and Joyful news~written in Thulian~

I find it hard to write. The cuts in my hands are deep and painful. Even bound the bandages turn red quicker than I had hoped. All this is a reminder to me. A reminder that I am not yet free of ‘Freeport’ and the tendrils of hate that follow me still.

I am determined not to let them get me down. As Archduchess, or whatever name and form she goes by now informed me. I must not forget my strengths, for they are many.

Small details of my new life under the light of Qeynos light up my soul and assist to banish the feelings of woe Freeport has left me with. They come thick and fast. From expected an unexpected sources.

As an example I visited my good friend Dae’Lan the other day at her domicile in Kelethin. Her warmth and care for me fills me with joy. I feel protective towards my newly found friend. She showed me the improvements she had made to the waterfall I had built for Landail and her. As she did so she shared with me some special news. I was at first amazed that she had told me such things that are so obviously close to her heart. And then I simply felt honoured she thought of involving me. She asked me to refrain from announcing her secrets to all. And as such I will not even furnish my diary with the details lest some nosey eyes find it. A secret of a friend will always remain fiercely locked in my heart.

We shared small talk , and she showed concern over the problems I am having. I confessed to her that I am hunted at this time by something from Freeport. I did not dally too long on details. I felt guilty for sharing this with her. I do not know why I did. I know she has enough on her mind and does not need to worry about a stupid old Troll. It was a strange feeling though to be told I should ask for help should I need. I am unaccustomed to this. I do know that though it was a new thing to me, it was another small spark that lightened my soul against the darkness that used to surround me.

I was saddened that I missed seeing Landail once more. When I hunted with him in New Tunaria I had the opportunity to judge him on a level I find easier than an emotional one. When I am with Dae’lan the friendship is so overwhelming and I sometimes struggle to understand it’s complexities, even though at base level I simply know it makes me feel good. With Landail that time it was easier. Only as I am used to judging proficiency with a blade more than being the subject of friendship. He is a most impressive figure in battle and wields a control I sometimes find difficult to achieve. Watching him made me glad I now will never have to face him.

I am experiencing worry that I seem to always see Dae’lan when we are alone. Since beginning to understand the nature of Elves and Humans more, I worry that Landail may think there is something unnatural about our meetings. I cannot explain to him that there is nothing to worry about, as if he wasn’t worried he may become so. I also cannot explain that I have no interest in love or the indulgences of that kind towards anyone. I shall always remain alone in that respect. Not to be a martyr, but as this is the way I shall live my life. For the things I have done, I do not deserve the pure unadulterated joy such unions bring. I am content with my friendships. They give me more than I could have ever hoped for.

Talking of friendships, and yes I know I ramble about such things, but they are still such a wonder to me. It was an unknown concept in my previous life. I have not seen Lorelea, or Leusk or any of the other Fellowship members I call friends now. It is strange, but I feel something inside the more time that passes when we do not meet. I miss them. I have hope I shall see them soon. I may one day attend the meeting at the Inn on Monday night. At the moment I know my presence will cause pain to some and as such it is not a good idea. Hopefully soon.

It is ironic that I have not seen those who I call friend for a while, but only last night I found myself venturing in to the catacombs beneath Mistmoore Castle with none other than Fennil the Fae. She ignored me most of the time and when I was acknowledged it was with answers of one word. I saved her from certain death at one time. In her mind is probably so I can have the pleasure of doing it myself in the future. I will persevere to be kind and warm towards Fennil in the vain hope that one day she will see the turmoil I have experienced and what I am trying to become. I have considered though that it is good Fennil sees me this way. It is teaching me a valuable lesson, in that not all friendships come easily. Apparently some you have to work for. It is good penance for me also that there is someone reminding me of what evil I have been, lest I get caught up in the joys of my new life and forget.

 

——————————————————————————————-

 The Crystal Explodes with sound…a cry of help can be heard.. 

The air was dank. The walls were damp and covered in a moss that cushioned his skin from the cold, jagged rock. He could only feel the soft touch of the moss. The blindfold and darkness prevented him from seeing it. Intermittently his world would turn from pitch black to a feint glow at the edge of the cloth covering his eyes as torches passed where he was chained. Quiet foot falls accompanied the glow along with mutterings that he couldn’t quite discern. He thought they were probably in a language he did not know. The glow only lasted for seconds and once again he would be tipped in to darkness. The only sounds a constant dripping from somewhere above him, and the rattle of his chains as he shifted position. On rare occasion, he would hear a distant scream or shout, unable to locate the direction the sound originated from. 

He had timed how regular the foot falls had been as best he could. It was no easy task but he now thought they were around every hour. The didn’t seem to be a time when they weren’t there, regular as clockwork. A patrol he thought. It must be. Not that this gave him anything apart from a way to pass time. He found he actually began to look forward to the approach of the dim glow that would get only slightly brighter before it disappeared again and the waiting would begin once more.  

He used the time between these incidents to try and remember what had happened on the day he had been captured. There was something about that day. Something important. But he could not quite place what it was. Just as he thought he had the reasoning almost within his grasp, it would flit away again as if a leaf on the breeze. Apart from being frustrating this was beginning to anger Count Killzum. He was more than aware he was not the cleverest being to walk Norrath, but his memory was usually fine. 

With nothing better to do, he shifted his weight and tensed and relaxed his muscles to prevent cramping. He closed his eyes as even though it was not necessary, it helped him think. He relived that day once again. Perhaps this time he would find answers. 

 

    Rain dripped of the eaves of the overhanging houses. Strolling through the grey streets Killzum splashed unconcerned through the puddles and mud, intent on his destination. The air smelt fresh from the storm, and the rain had washed away the dirt from the streets and cleaning grime covering the windows. Taking a deep breath and closing his eyes the huge Troll smiled to himself as he took in the smells of the city. 

He nodded at the sodden and miserable looking guard as he passed though the arched gateway to the Northern Quarter and quickened his step. Only a few more strides to go and he would be back inside out of the storm. More importantly though he would be soon enjoying one of Steinbeards Fish pies. 

Pulling a chair out from a table near to the door, Killzum looked around at the other patrons enjoying the jovial atmosphere on a rainy afternoon. Over by the bar there were three elderly gentlemen enjoying more than just a few ales, quite obviously all of them were using the bar as a tool to aide ale hobbled knees. As drunk as they were though, Killzum could tell each one of them had the look of a seasoned campaigner. The scars all three carried a testament to many battles fought. At the table between the Troll and the three old warhorses was a lone Fae, perched delicately on the only chair at the table to be occupied. Killzum studied the tiny but stunning creature, captivated by it’s beauty. Catching himself staring, Killzum dragged his thoughts from the day dream, realising only then he was fingering the mask he wore embedded in his ugly face. A definite contrast he thought. 

There were the usual group of Halflings playing some game or other in the corner. It looked like knuckle bones this day. The laughter and high volume of their celebrations when a win occurred were almost a part of the place as the furniture. There were a few other regulars he noticed. Nothing out of place. 

While he tucked in to his pie, Killzum passed small talk with the Fae. Calm on the exterior, he was secretly delighted that the Fae didn’t seem to be scared by him, and actually seemed to enjoy his company. Killzum certainly enjoyed passing time with the fascinating creature. He even suggested when the Fae borrow his crystal while he ate when they discussed how difficult it was to find friends in a new city. 

Following his meal, with a full stomach Killzum raised himself from his seat and pulling his cloak around him walked back out in to the rain. As he was leaving one of the double doors swung towards him and sidestepping he avoided being hit by it. Killzum stood by quietly as a heavily bearded Dwarf stomped past him, obviously eager himself to get out of the rain. 

 

 Behind his blindfold, Killzums eyes shot open. Seeing only darkness with his eyes, but the now full picture with his mind, involuntarily he tried to sit up and cursed when the chains holding him pulled him back. It had been the smell of the Dwarf. It was a smell he recognised well. It was most certainly not the fresh air he had enjoyed on his way to Irontoes. It had been the rancid air of Chandlers Alley off Stonestair Byway in Freeport. Where the Vah’Kahn warehouse was situated. There was now no doubt in his mind. It had been the Dwarf that had given the order to jump the huge Troll with weighted nets. Knowing he would be most vulnerable after several ales, relaxed after a large meal. Berating himself Killzum couldn’t believe he had been so stupid. He was going soft! 

The anger was starting to build to uncontrollable levels. No matter how many times Killzum reminded himself too keep his breathing shallow and calm, more and more they came with sharp ragged gasps of the damp air. Clenching his teeth with such force he could feel the iron of his mask ripping at his taught skin. 

At that moment several images flashed across hiscovered eyes all at once. The Half Elf Shadowraethe..’Remember your strengths’ she had whispered as she leant in close….The faces of his friends, all smiling ‘We love you for what you are. Be yourself friend’, followed by his good friend Dae’Lan, gently touching his forearm ‘ If you need us, do not be afraid to ask for help’. 

An earth shattering bellow erupted wildly, filling the silence as Killzums full fury and berserk nature was unleashed. He did not see the glow return as the gutteral noises called to the guards, bringing them to him.

As he tore away his blindfold he dimly realised he was now standing, two chains swinging from the manacles on his wrists. Boulders of rock attached to the ends where he had torn them from the wall.

Without his armour Killzum ran through dark tunnels, chased by a multitude of Orc guards, his intent was set in his mind. A large Orc, almost as large as the fleeing Troll leapt from a side corridor engaging Killzum without thought or warning. His escape not faltering Killzum grasped the Orc by its throat smashing its skull against the tunnel roof, and ran. 

Bursting out in to an open cavern Killzum spied his belongings piled in a corner, his bright blue breastplate unmistakable. Dashing directly for them, he quickly rummaged through his pack snatching the crystal free.

‘ULP MEEZ! DAE’LAN…’ULP MEEZ’ he screamed in to the device as blows pummelled him to the ground. And as Killzum slipped in to unconsciousness the Half Elven image of Shadowraethe returned, ‘ She will seek to harm your friends first, then you after’….His mind screamed as the realisation struck him heavier than any of the blows from the Orcs….he was leading his friends in to a trap! 

 

 Delivery 

The chamber was dark. The sound of her footsteps echoed off the walls of the vast vaulted Hall, carried by the surrounding silence to the prostrate figure before the altar. He heard her coming in his subconscious but did not divert from his offering of Prayer. To do so could perhaps offend the Prince of Hate, and that of course would be no good thing. He could not afford the disruption it would cause his business. Now distracted slightly from his silent words, his mind also turned to greed and relished in it.

As he finished his offering, he could feel her behind him patiently waiting for him to finish. In a twist of malice, the Tier’Dal smiled to himself as he began to rise then knelt back down to begin another prayer.

It annoyed him slightly that his delaying seemed not to bother the Necromancer one bit, as when he did finally turn toward her, she only smiled. Walking past her with no other acknowledgment apart from a slight nod, he again could hear her footsteps behind him as she began to follow. Not a word was spoken between the two on the long walk from the Spires of Innoruk to the New Foreign Quarter.

Sitting in his throne like chair in his chambers above his store, Starm N’Tiri the Alchemist, still unspeaking gestured with his hand towards his guest that she should sit. His arrogance astounded her, but also amused her. Any trait as strong as this one, she thought, can be used to one’s advantage. Indeed it had taken the pompous Tier’Dal three days to even acknowledge her presence in Neriak, from when she had arrived seeking an audience with him.

Sitting as offered, holding the gaze of N’Tiri, Shadowreathe smiled and spoke.

“Have you had a chance to look at it?” she asked.

N’Tiri, pulled open a drawer in his desk and took out a small velvet wrapped bundle, placing gently on the desk top.

“No I haven’t”, he paused, not for a moment taking his eyes from Shadowraethe, “but I will look at it ….when we have discussed a price” he finished. The superior look N’Tiri gave her as his eyes dropped from hers to roam over her seated figure, turned to pure lust. At that moment Shadowraethe knew what his price would be. This will be too easy she mused, as she mentally began to stack up his short comings.

Raising an eyebrow, Shadowraethe leant forward letting her cleavage rest on the desk top, accentuating her curves.

“Well N’Tiri, what you want is certainly a prize both of us can consider,” smiling warmly at him she continued “but I need an answer now. I have others waiting on it. Such distractions would surely…last so long a time, the answer would be by then…useless.”

His gaze now consuming her form with uncontrollable desire, he simply nodded. After a short pause, the Alchemist shook his head and blinking away his sleazy visions he looked back down at the purple velvet wrapped item.

Gently moving the folds of fabric aside he looked down at the pure white crystal. Proserpine had taken it from one of the Fellowship of the Dragon whilst they had hunted with her and Archduchess Astarte as was, in the Estate of Unrest some time ago. At the time they had simply been resting. It had been an easy chore to remove one when bidden by Astarte from a pack, cast aside while they took a brief respite.

“I will need to carry out a few tests on it, then send for Tarmil. That boy has some unusual qualities concerning rocks” he supplied as he stood moving out of his chair and in to his laboratory next to his office, taking the bundle with him. As he walked past her, he looked down at Shadowraethe with longing, the bulge in his breeches testament to his thoughts.

Leaning back in the comfy chair she closed her eyes smiling. The day was turning out to be most splendid. Shadowraethe had no idea who Tarmil the boy was but if he assisted her in achieving her goal, that would not be a problem. And N’Tiri was also easily led in to her design it seemed. If he could deliver as promised information on how the crystal worked and if she was extremely lucky a way to track them, her efforts would be worth it

.………………………………………………………………………………………………..

As far as she could tell with no sunlight coming through the subterranean windows, about two and a half hours had now passed. After whiling away the time studying the opulent self involved office of Starm N’Tiri, she had closed her eyes for a short time, resting. Eventually N’Tiri, along with the boy Tarmil returned and just a few moments ago began explaining to her his findings. Already she was bored with him and his talk of chemicals, science, Tarmils visions and a spirit journey. Studying the ‘boy’ who she thought was more of a young man, she spoke out, interrupting N’Tiri,“This is all very well N’Tiri. But do you have the answers I seek. Where is the crystal given to Count Killzum Brakkarg? This is the only answer I seek.” Glancing nervously at Tarmil, as if unsure of her reaction to the news he was about to break, N’Tiri spoke in quiet tones “We, err, I could not discern much,” he quickly continued patting the boy on the arm “But Tarmil here. His spirit journey saw many many orcs, hundreds of the beings…and he brought back this…” The alchemist produced a small bag weighed down with something contained inside and leaning across the desk, he handed it to Shadowraethe. Opening it slowly, she looked inside and once more, smiled.

Relaxing at her apparent happiness over the contents of the bag, N’Tiri started to speak excitedly leaning over his desk,

 

“So I collect my payment now , yes? You are happy with our findings?” again indicating towards Tarmil, “The boy will stay and watch. I promised this to him for his participation.” He stammered, almost too excited to speak now.

“Yes, he should stay and witness this, he will learn a few valuable lessons.” Shadowreathe spoke as she got up from her chair and walked round the desk to N’Tiri. Smiling down at him she gently began to unbutton his silken tunic and ran her soft fingers over his bare chest. N’Tiri closed his eyes, his breath coming in short excited gasps as Shadowreathe looked up at Tarmil,

 

“Are you ready for your lesson boy?” she asked of him, yet both him and N’Tiri replied in guttural desperate voices “Yes!!”.

Continuing her soft caress of the alchemists skin, her left hand moved down to his waist band, onto his throbbing crotch as her right hand rested gently over his quivering heart. Closing her own eyes now, muttering sensual words of magick, she slowly and carefully slipped her hand in to N’Tiri’s chest, her fingers disappearing from view and seized his heart with fluid fury, twisting her grip . The boys eyes widened now with fear not lust as Starm N’Tiri opened his mouth, a primeval scream bursting from his lips. Shadowraethe yanked her hand back from the alchemists chest ripping his still beating heart free leaving the chest strangely mark free. Her words of magick became louder, more forceful as she held the heart aloft, blood spraying over her and the boy as she held his gaze.

“Learned your lesson boy?” she snarled, gesturing towards the thrashing form of N’Tiri,

“ I have taken your heart N’Tiri. Just as you wished to take my dignity. You shall live….for as long as I deem necessary and only because you gave me the answers I required”, she said, nodding towards the heart ”I will keep this safe for you”.

Shadowraethe retrieved the crystal and the bag she had been given, turned on her heels and was gone. Shutting the door behind her she left the writhing form of N’Tiri behind her as the boy Tarmil feinted, falling heavily across his master

.…………………………………………………………………….
 

This city never changes much, she thought as she moved through the streets, her eyes wary for guards. Pausing momentarily to let a mounted Captain pass, she waited patiently in a side street concealed in the shadows. Her destination was now not far away and she moved on hoping her acquaintance, Lady Lorelea of the Fellowship would be at the guild house.

Seeing the door across the sun dappled glade across from the water and the huge Magicians Tower, Shadowraethe took one last look around and dashed across to the door. Hammering her staff up on it, it quickly opened. Greeted by a powerful looking Barbarian who answered the door she immediately decided not to enter, feeling uncomfortable at intruding on her acquaintances home ground.

“Yes?” a deep voice asked of her.

Opening the small bag she had obtained from N’Tiri the alchemist in Neriak and showing the Barbarian Warrior the plain desert sand within, she muttered only,

“For Lady Lorelea..concerning Killzum”. With this she hurried away, again scanning the streets for guards.

 

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Hallucination

Dappled sunlight played easily on the leaves as a distant breeze cooled the air slightly. The faint rustle of the air through the leaves was like a constant mantra or prayer being whispered. It calms my soul and takes away my worries, Killzum thought as he strode across the wooden platforms towards the bank where he was to meet his new charge.  

Mixed with the sound of the rustling leaves there was a distant noise. A throbbing, pounding noise that seemed to resonate through his head. Dismissing it, Killzum continued on.  

He had spoken to her over the crystal and she seemed a most understanding creature. During the discussion of him tutoring the Fae in the ways of the Fellowship, Fennil had voiced her most strong objections. At first refusing that it could ever happen. Until Myrilandel had spoken up. Lady lorelea had endorsed and suggested it, and truth be told Killzum’s chest swelled with emotion that he should be given such responsibility after not long being accepted as a Fellow himself. He was determined to do both the Fellowship and Myrilandel proud in his new role.  

The first hurdle in his way was now being realised in full. Eager to visit Myrilandel and introduce himself in person Killzum had made the easy journey across Butcherblock Mountains and in to Greater Faydark. It hadn’t been until he was waiting for the lift he had realised again the problems he encountered entering the tree city. He had spied movement in the bushes near the lift and in anticipation of trouble had strode over, hand on the hilt of his sword. As he had pulled the bushes aside an ear piercing squeal came from the foliage. He had forgotten how he, more often than not scared the local inhabitants.  

As he made his way down the last set of steps towards the bank, he rubbed his head. Surely the noises will stop soon. I must be getting a headache akin to the pounding of Brell’s Hammer breaking rocks he thought, as he pushed the door open.  

The meeting had gone very well. He was more than happy with how Myri had looked him straight in the eyes, not showing any fear. He felt gratitude towards her when she addressed him as an equal and not as if he was a psychotic killing machine. He had watched her move whilst they had talked and was impressed with the grace, control and speed he had witnessed. She would make a fine warrior indeed. All in all he thought she would do very well in her role as a Paladin and would fit in to the Fellowship with ease. It will be no hardship tutoring this one. She will more than likely become a good friend, he mused even as he closed his eyes and rubbed his temple, once more wishing the pounding would stop.  

As he did so the memories faded away in to darkness and pain. The reality thundered in to Killzum as once more the dank, stale stench of orcs hit him and broke him from his reverie. Just then a fist adorned with brass knuckles crashed in to his now unmasked face. Killzum could no longer discern the differing taste of normal saliva to that of blood, but he felt his already pulped nose split again from the blow. The orcs had laughed as they had tied a rope to the mask embedded in his face and skull. They had slapped each other drunkenly on the back as the dog they had tied the rope to pulled desperately against it, attempting to get the piece of fresh meat they dangled in front of it. Eventually driven in to a frenzy the dog had ripped the mask from Killzums face, tearing the skin to shreds and as it lay on the floor bloodied, the dog ate his prize meat and Killzum bellowed in pain. The mask, ironically enough he thought he had worn to remind him of the pain he had caused others during his years of tyranny. He had wondered many times during this last week. Is this now my punishment, my pain?

 

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­Escape?

The slow pulse from the darkness no longer irritated him.  At first the droning intermittent sound enveloped everything. It drowned out the sounds from the Orcs activities in the caves, it possessed every corner of his mind making it impossible to think. It had been days since he had last slept.

Count Killzum however, had slowly begun to overcome its effects using skills he had learnt from observing Desticarto and Muirnin.  He thought they had referred to it as meditation.  As his control over meditation had improved and its affects on him had increased, he had taken to studying the thing with little else to do.  Looking like a disk of constantly moving black smoke that occasionally flashed with purple energies, the thing was big enough to block the alcove entrance in which he had been placed.  It’s size seemed to alter, as when he was brought food ,it shrank making it possible for the Orc who delivered it to squeeze an arm through and dump the rotten scraps on the filthy floor.  Killzum had also noticed that whichever Orc came, they all seemed to avoid any contact with the disc of darkness.

One thing he was sure of is that his captures were very sure of this things ability to keep him penned in his prison.  He couldn’t help but wonder why.  That, along with their distinct avoidance of the thing could only mean a few things. It was either fatal to touch it or painful and incapacitating.  He decided to try his theories out, again more out of boredom than any real hope at escape.

A full day passed and he came to aware of the change in pulse as he had come to link with the delivery of food and the changing in shape of the disc.  Rousing himself quickly from the spot he had selected from next to the entrance, just in time he saw a wart covered grey skinned arm propel his meal through the gap on to the floor.  Without a moments hesitation, slowed and weakened though he was from lack of food and drink, Killzum grabbed the arm and pulled the Orc in to the alcove prison with him.  Lifting the Orc who now cried for assistance from its comrades, he propelled it headlong into the disc.  The thing exploded in light as blue flashes of what appeared to be lightning danced across the surface. The Orc screamed from the display of energies obviously in pain, but as the creature began to fall to the floor unconscious, Killzum watched in wonder as arms as red as blood emerged from the disc still electrified with flashes, and clawed hands grabbed the Orc.  Its screams intensified as the arms dragged it in to the disc. As it disappeared, all was silent once more.

Shocked and not a little disorientated from the display, it took Killzum a few moments to gather his thoughts and to notice that the gap where his food had been delivered through was still there.  It was only slightly too small for him to get through and slumping down on the dirty floor he paused, considering if it was worth trying to squeeze past the darkness.

A while has passed and no one had come looking for the Orc he had thown in to the disc of darkness.  Killzum had decided the risk was worth it.  Lying as flat as he could he pushed his arms through the small gap his huge hands grasping at rocks, he slowly and carefully began to drag himself though.  Pushing his face in to the dirt he feel where it was still covered in scars and open sores from where his mask of pain had been ripped clear. As his shoulders flexed one briefly caught the disc and pain exploded though his whole body almost incapacitating him. More out of instinct he ignored his slow progress and threw himself clear and in to the tunnel beyond, afraid the hands would try and grab him and drag him after the Orc, in to the darkness.

He lay for several moments on the cold floor shaking with the pain, his breath coming in short sharp gasps.  Eventually gaining enough strength he forced himself upright and scanned the tunnel he was in. All quiet.  Following his previous attempt at escape and desperate flight down dark corridors, he decided this time to attempt to adopt stealth and began to creep as quietly as he could manage.  It mattered not which way he travelled he thought, as he had no idea where he was.

It seemed like hours and he had no idea how far he had crept when eventually he saw light ahead.  His heart lifted as there was no mistaking it.  It was daylight.  Attempting to keep focus he shook his head and was glad of the pause he had made as he saw distinct shadows of movement outside the tunnel entrance.  Of course there would be guards.  He had been foolish to allow himself the hope that he was nearly free.  Unarmed, without armour and weakened he was not sure of a victory in battle, but decided nonetheless he had nothing else to lose.

Loosening the muscles in his shoulders at the same time he squatted up and down warming his legs. It was to be a simple plan.  To run as fast as he could out of the tunnel and hope that the time it took the guards to react would give him enough of a head start to escape. As long as none of them have bows he thought grimly.

Gulping a huge lungful of air he sprinted forward exploding out in to the hot sun and saw all around him reddened rock and sand…the desert.  He did not pause to look behind him to see how quickly the guards had made pursuit but couldn’t help thinking as he felt the warm sand beneath his feet that survival in the desert would be a challenge indeed.  But first he had to get free. His legs still felt surprisingly strong as he powered along, risking now a glance over his shoulder.  As he did so his heart screamed with joy as through the clouds of sand he had kicked up, the pursuing Orcs were almost dots on the horizon.

Slowing his pace only slightly, the adrenalin wearing off he began to feel weary but knew he could not yet rest. It didn’t matter, laughing out loud he found he could not stop his mirth becoming almost maniacal in its relief.  As he continued on he could discern smoke in the distance. A camp! Hope sprang though him again..drink, food, help..all may be there. Picking up the pace again he made for the distant plume.

At that moment pain erupted in his lower back as claws dug in to his skin and he hit the sand skidding to a halt a weight holding him down. A desert cat he instantly thought, a lion or panther. Face down he felt breath behind his ear and waited for the bite that was sure to come on his neck, no more energy left to fight….

“Hush little Killzy don’t you cry,
Mamas going to see to it that you die,
And if you can’t remember my name,
I’m the Vah’Khan and I bring pain…

Worry not Killzum my old friend…your time will come soon enough”.

Almost passed out from exhaustion he felt the weight lift from him and firm hands pulled him to his feet.  Through hazy eyes he saw Shahlai and a troop of Orc Runners.

“Get him ready” the vile Kerran ordered, “Things are progressing quicker than we thought. We are moving him now”.

As she walked off, Shahlai Vah’Khan looked over her shoulder and just before the Orcs pulled him away, he saw her blow him a kiss. Whilst he was pushed firmly away, her peels of mocking laughter were unmistakable.

————————————————————————————————————————

Warg’Wrestler

Maj’Dul.

 

Fine clouds of dust swirled in the corners of the steps and against the arenas outer wall. They imitated miniature sand tornados as they danced, in a futile attempt to escape but were trapped by their size and lack of power.  The heat was unbearably oppressive on the sand. Even the stands, shielded from the scorching sun by long strips of white canvas held a dry heat, giving little respite for the crowd beneath.  Almost as visible as the shimmering heat wave that hung above the dusty ground was the intense wave of noise coming from the scorched stands.  Flowing like water, falling and rising in tempo and volume in a mimicry of the contest that was taking place on the arena floor.

 

The stands at the Champions Arena had been sold out for months now.  It’s Lanistas, the owner and main benefactor Hassan Al’Rid relaxed on the Lanistas balcony, enjoying the spectacle below and the grapes which he intermittently plucked from a bowl laden with exotic fruits.  Servants stood at the back of the balcony, gently but constantly moving large palm fans relentlessly up and down in an attempt to move the dead air. Al’Rid leant across to his guest and waving his arms in expression of his enthusiasm he shouted over the noise of the crowd to her.

 

“It’s amazing, no?. Profits have been up by more than double since he arrived here”, he paused moping his brow.

“ I don’t know where she got him from, but he’s a revelation.” He exclaimed turning his attention back to the Arena where attendants were spreading a fresh layer of sand to cover the blood of the last fight. Called the Harena, the practice of layering the sand in turn became the forefather of the name ‘Arena’.

 

Lanistas Al’Rid continued, not taking his eyes from the Arena doors, For a ‘novicium’ his skill is stunning..you can feel the ferocity from here. Two more bouts and you’ll see for yourself!”.

 

Feigning interest, smiling and nodding at the Lanistas, Shadowraethe turned her own gaze towards the sands of the Arena, watching the attendants as they finished raking the sand smooth.  Raising her eyes, she studied the crowd in the stands opposite and watched the lively crowd now on their feet, baying for more battles.  Amongst the bustling colour of the clothes and robes that almost blinded the eye with confusion, she sought out the small hooded figure, the only one still seated. Motionless.

 

The crowd lost some of it’s voice as the speaker’s roared in to play, rising and falling in emphasis to his story.

 

“ Good citizens of Maj’Dul, now we witness a re-enactment from the War of Defiance. Ladies and Gentlefolk, please welcome the Orcish Horde!”.

 

Shadowraethe watched impassively as the Arena gates opened and a group of ragged looking Rujarkian Orcs stumbled out on to the sand and seemed to mill about without direction or purpose, their guttural chatter inaudible above the chanting and booing from the crowd.

 

“Staged against the mighty walls of Qeynos, thousands of Orcs laid waste to the troops caged behind the closed gates of the Citadel. Surely Qeynos was lost to the invaders but in a desperate last act, a group of warrior knights rallied forth to break the Orcish lines! I give you…The Knights of Thunder!” roared the speaker, his vast voice drowned out as the gates were flung open and six Knights in full armour levelled their lances and charged the Orcs, sand flying from their horses hooves.

 

 

Below the baking sands of the Arena, the thundering from above made distant muted thumps as dust glided down from the boards in the gloom. Drowned out by sounds of the crowd and the fighting, the screams and moaning from the injured and dying were constant companions in the Gladiators Hall.

 

Silent and brooding, the shadowed figure sat on the dirt it’s back wedged against the mud daubed walls.  The Troll, now known as ‘Brakkarg The Warg Wrestler’ brooded constantly over his fate and had drifted off in an attempt to remember happier times. You are still being punished for your black deeds, the voice inside his head told him. He had long given in to the fact that this was true.

 

Brought forward from his reverie by a kick to his thigh, Count Killzum raised his gaze to look into the eyes of the man who had kicked him. Doctores met the Trolls gaze and simply said, “You’re next.  Get ready”.

 

Standing, the huge form towered over Trainer Doctores, but Killzum said nothing and moved past him to the ready room. Pausing only briefly, Count Killzum moved to the far wall and removed his breastplate from the hook.  He did not see the group of his fellow Gladiators gathering behind him watching his back, but as he turned each and every one raised their clenched fist in silent salute to the massive Troll. Nodding, he moved past them and stood silently, unarmed aside from a vicious looking belt knife.  Bowing his head and closing his eyes, Count Killzum waited behind the closed gates.

 

 

 

“And now good folk of our Majestic City, stand from your pews. Raise your arms in salute….” The speaker rallied, but already there was a murmuring from the crowd who knew what event was next. “Shout your appreciation, for today we have a spectacle to behold…for the very first time challenged by not one, but three battle Wargs…please welcome to the Arena of Battle, the monster…. Brakkarg……….Warg Wrestler!!!!”.

 

If the speaker went on to say anything else, it was drowned out with the tumultuous roar from the crowd as the Arena gates swung open and Count Killzum emerged. Moving slowly to the centre of the huge circle of sand, Killzum did not acknowledge the crowd, his head hung low and his arm raised to block the blindingly bright sun. From the Lanistas balcony,  Shadowraethe saw The Count grab something from his waist and then tie a thin band of gausian strip across his own eyes. More than likely to shade them from the sun. She watched him as he waited. Still and silent.

 

Listening to the shouts of the crowd, Shadowraethe could only discern part of conversations as they were eventually drowned out by the overall noise..and even that was drowned out by Al’Rid once again leaning his fat sweaty body over Shadowraethe as he shouted in her ear, “He’s not even armed look, apart from that poxy kni….”

 

In turn, the Lanistas’ voice was literally swamped. This time by a new noise. A cross between a large dog growling and the challenge roar of a male lion.  The crowd instantly went quiet and attendants to the Arena flipped open the three cage doors directly beneath the Lanistas Balcony.  Leaping back in to their protected archways, the attendants poked the immense beasts with long spears, aggravating them beyond their capacity to endure. Shadowraethe leant over the balcony and watched as one Warg, slightly smaller than the other two, managed to jam it’s muzzle in to the small archway. Screams could be heard and as the Warg pulled it’s head back, she could see the attendants arm in its jaws, ripped from the socket and bathing the dull spiked armour of the Warg in crimson red.

 

Raising her eyes to the centre of the Arena, Shadowraethe saw that The Count had not moved. Still with his head bowed and his eyes covered, her interest was piqued as the three forms of raw power prowled the sands, snapping at each other, but yet seemingly ignoring the Troll. With the crowd now muttering its displeasure at the lack of action, seconds only passed before one of the beasts caught Killzums scent above the stench of the crowd and slowly, the Warg loomed over the still unmoving Troll.  Bending it’s head carefully down towards Killzum, it’s nostrils flaring as it sniffed the air it’s muzzle now scant inches away from Killzums head. Shadowraethe marvelled at the difference in size. The Count a huge figure himself was dwarfed by these creatures, his head looking tiny compared to the hugely proportioned Warg.

 

Shadowraethe had her doubts. As the Warg sniffed at The Counts head, it’s nose brushing against his face she came to the opinion that the troll had finally broken.  Suffering beyond belief during most of his life it seems had now taken it’s toll. Had his mind finally collapsed under the pressure? Was he willing to die so easily?  Shadowraethe knew she could not let this happen. If the Count was destroyed it was yet another rung removed from the ladder, bringing Shahlai Vah’Khan closer to her goal of reeking vengeance upon her. She had to protect the Troll and knew that he had been placed here to torment and torture the poor creature, again by the Vah’Khan, and again for the sole purpose of vengeance.

 

Closing her eyes and silently gathering her powers, Shadowraethe gently began an incantation in a bid to save Count Killzum, or as he was known here, Brakkarg, Warg-Wrestler.  The crowd was getting more and more restless as the Warg that had approached The Count seemed to now be losing interest.

 

As it took one last deep sniff right in Killzums diabolical face, unknown to all watching The Counts eyes suddenly flicked wide open behind the gauze.  Channelling his berserk abilities had now become second nature to him, and for the entire time he had stood, silent upon the centre of the circle, Killzum had been collecting the chaos within himself. Holding it, watching it grow to a terrifying mountain of uncontrollable rage, ready to be released.

 

Ready now to release on the Wargs the cloud of poisonous disease she had been creating, Shadowraethes concentration was suddenly ripped apart by the most disturbing noise the crowd had yet heard during this day of games, and she instantly shot her gaze to the centre of the Arena, towards what can only be described as a chaotic inhuman bellow.  She saw The Count, in the centre of the sand, crouched with his arms stretched out, taught. His fists clenched and his jaws wide showing rows of sharp teeth as he roared his battle cry directly at the Wargs snout. The source of the terrifying sound.

 

The Warg had taken a hesitant step back at the sound, startled just for a moment. The other two wargs now alarmed by the Counts guttural shout began to circle behind him, crouching as they stalked their prey. The first, now recovered from its shock began a crouch to pounce on the smaller Troll.  Once again the crowd came alive shouting, cheering, jeering, waiting for blood to be spilt.

 

The creature in front of The Count began to leap and Shadowraethe watched, the spell still held on her lips, ready to be released. But there was no need. The crowd roared it’s appreciation as Killzum leapt forward to meet the Wargs pounce and was knocked off his feet by the force of the larger weight as it bore down on him. But the crowd was stunned as the charge of the Warg continued until it became apparent it was no longer a charge but a fight for its own life. As the sand billowed up in clouds, it was impossible to see Killzum beneath the huge form.  The other two Wargs began circling the fight, waiting for a chance to feed.

 

The dust settled and the crowd saw the warg now lay still in the centre of the Arena, the Count nowhere to be seen. Suddenly the corpse of the huge creature rocked and from underneath it the terrifying bellow began once more. As The Count emerged he was barely recognisable. His face twisted in rage, his already red skin, now crimson bathed in blood, he turned, bellowed at the two other wargs and charged without a moments thought.

 

Shadowraethe watched the spectacle as the crowd bayed for more blood to be spilt. Watching  Count Killzum with curiosity she saw he was now truly a berserk. His eyes showed no thought just blood fuelled action as he leapt on to a wargs back. Not just content to stab his fighting blade into the head of the spine to incapacitate his quarry. She saw him first plunge the blade deep into each of the wargs eyes as it bucked and weaved trying to dislodge him, before he severed it’s spine.

 

With only one of the creatures left, Count Killzum did not appear to use tactics or even plan his moves. He simply launched himself still enraged, at the final creature. The crowd gasped as they saw Killzum leap high in the air and as he did so he sheathed his knife and brutally punched the creature full on the snout as he landed. The roar of pain from the warg almost matching Killzums now crazy and constant bellowing.  Startled by the move the warg moved back, unsure of his attacker and it soon became apparent the creature was no longer intent on fighting and lunch, but on escape.  As it turned to run, Killzum gave it no such chance and violently jumped on it’s hind quarters plunging his now again unsheathed blade into the rump. The result was instantaneous with the rear legs of the Warg collapsing, Killzum rolled then gained his feet.  Standing over the flailing creature, Killzum spread his arms wide and roared at the skies, “ MEEZ UZ BRAKKARG! MEEZ UZ DA WARG WRESTLER!!”.

 

Shadowraethe had seen enough. It seemed more than apparent to her that The Counts mind had snapped. His torment too intense to bear. She had to remove him from the Arena, from his torrid life here in Maj’Dul.  Standing, Al’Rid looked up at her.

 

“Is something wrong lady? A fine spectacle was it not?”, he asked, clapping loudly and quite obviously enjoying the slaughter.

 

Ignoring him, Shadowraethe looked across at the hooded figure, still seated amongst the mob and nodded slightly.  The tiny form stood, still dwarfed by the humans around it and the hooded cloak fell away from it’s shoulders.  Even in the shade of the covered stands the crowd could not fail to notice the blinding iridescent green wings as they unfolded, fluttering slightly.  Calmly and slowly the completely green Arasai walked down to the low wall that separated the stands from the Arena below and stepped up on to it.  The baying crowd, now stood in stunned silence as all eyes eventually found the almost glowing tiny green creature balanced on the wall.

 

Emarald Green knew her part in this and took one last glance up at the Lanistas Balcony, only to see Shadowraethe disappearing through the archway at the rear and in to the shadows beyond.  Knowing it was now her time, Emarald looked down in to the Arena and at the form of The Count who now also stood silent, looking up at her.  Spreading her wings Emarald gently glided down to the blood soaked sand, landing directly in front of the huge Troll.  Standing calmly and barely reaching his knees, she looked up at the terrifying form staring down at her, the gaussian strip now discarded behind him on the sand, and she smiled.

 

Softly, Emarald reached out and took hold of Count Killzums hand, her small fingers barely visibly in his massive palm. Still smiling up at his bemused face, she spoke.

 

“My my. You are an ugly one my sweet” her gentle voice whispered. She added “You’ll never be tormented again Killzy. I promise”, Emaralds earnest quiet voice showing truth in her words.

 

 

The crowd no longer silent, began jeering and shouting at the two figures in centre of the Arena. As they began to throw any items available to them at the pair in disgust and confusion at what was happening, Emarald saw Arena guards slowly making their way towards them, pikes raised.  Her wings flapped slightly and raised her up off the sand until she was looking directly in to Killzums eyes. Leaning forward and whispering in his ear, she then gently kissed his scarred cheek.

 

In a moment they were gone.  Leaving behind the baying crowd and the guards, who would never know the words she whispered in his ear.

 

 “I’m taking you home”.

 

In the silence that followed their departure, the miniature tornados danced in the sand.

 

______________________________________________________________________________________

This Storyline is one crafted by my RL Brother and myself concerning our two EQ1 characters, Merecraft Oakenheart and Udrath Stormheart. This story revolves around Merecrafts hunt for his Mother and the treachery of his half brother. If there are any holes, please try to remember that the stories ran in conjunction with RP sessions. The story is pretty comprehensive though;

Friends, Family, and Broken Promises: Part 1 of 3 – All 3 parts by Merecraft (my Brother)


To a casual adventurer the night may have sounded quiet, but to the druid camped under the lee of a small hill the still air was alive with the songs of Tunare’s children. Crickets chirped softly at odd intervals, a badger scurried out of its set searching for food, and the dark shape of a bat flitted overhead.Merecraft smiled contentedly to himself and leaned back on the grassy slope, pulling his cloak tighter to keep out the chill. Before him the last few embers of a small cooking fire glowed briefly before fading into darkness. The half-elf liked this time of night, a few brief hours before dawn brought the clamour of civilisation to the farmers’ fields. The clean air and the soft murmur of the night’s creatures brought a calm peace to his mind.

After a while, his meditations complete, Merecraft stood up and stretched. He took a few moments to gather his packs together and cover up the remains of his camp, then headed north at a steady lope. His destination was not that much further away, in fact he hoped to arrive in Surefall Glade by the next evening. Of course he could have prayed to the Mother, beseeching her to bestow a miracle on him to cut the journey down by a day or so, but Merecraft often liked to take the time to make his journeys on foot. It allowed him to feel in touch with the earth, and the hours spent jogging along gave him time to think things through. On this journey however there was another reason for not teleporting. He had a slight detour to make.

The bright winter sun was almost directly overhead by the time Merecraft arrived at a small pool of water, surrounded on all sides by low cliffs. He had skirted the bandit camp and the ogre shrine to reach this place unnoticed. He doubted that even Caninel and his gnoll bodyguards visited this remote place.Bending to fill his flask with the cool clear water he stared at his reflection, distorted by the ripples he made. There were definitely a few more grey hairs in the beard, a few more creased lines around the steely grey eyes. The druid sighed heavily. Some unknown sense told him that there was a great change coming that would affect all of the Knights Templar. He did not know whether it would be a change for good or evil, but he knew things would not stay as they were for much longer.

Merecraft tried to think back to what could be causing this nagging at his thoughts, but nothing specific sprang to mind. Sighing again he stood up and strode over to a small clump of swaying giant cowslips. After a few moments contemplation he picked up a large stone and reached into the hole that was hidden behind it.His arm withdrew from the hole and in his hand was a small scroll of bound vellum. Someone had left him a message, one of his closest friends obviously as few knew of this dead letter box he used for the transfer of important information. He did not trust the public message boards found in the inns of Qeynos and Freeport. Replacing the stone carefully, Merecraft sat down and unrolled the vellum scroll.

“Dearest Brother,” the letter began. Merecraft winced slightly at the words. He could imagine the slightly sarcastic tone his half-brother Kaide would have used had the message been spoken. Shaking his head slightly Merecraft was lost in thought for a moment, his mind drifting back to the last time he had seen his half-brother. It had been raining that day as he arrived at the gates of Kaladim…To be continued…

Friends, Family, and Broken Promises: Part 2 of 3


As Merecraft read the letter from Kaide his thoughts drifted back to the last time they had seen each other. It had been raining that day several months back, when he had arrived at the gates of Kaladim…

___________________ 

No matter how often he visited this place Merecraft always felt uncomfortable. The narrow tunnels, hewn and shaped out of the rock by years of loving labour by the dwarves, felt claustrophobic and threatening. It did not matter that this area of Kaladim had been excavated and formed to allow large races to walk upright, or that there was plenty of light from the ornate torches which were positioned to refract their warm glow through the myriad crystals. The half-elf still disliked the feeling of huge weight which seemed to press down from the mountain above. He much preferred the open sky.

The feelings of discomfort were even more pronounced on this visit however. It was the first time Merecraft had visited his old friend Udrath at his home since the schism that had grown between them. There was another reason for feeling uneasy too. Merecraft’s half-brother Kaide had been mortally wounded in battle against the goblins of Butcherblock and was being tended by Udrath’s wife, Megan. So, it was with worry and trepidation that the half-elf knocked on the low wooden door of Udrath’s house.

After a few moments the door was opened from the inside to reveal a dwarf woman dressed in neat leather clothing. She smiled up at Merecraft. “Welcome old friend,” she said in a soft voice.Merecraft stood there a moment, tears beginning to well in his eyes. In his early days as an adventurer, when he travelled the lands with Udrath, Megan had become like family to him. The two companions had often stayed for weeks at a time here, sharing the quiet moments between battle with the kind dwarf. It really had been too long since he had visited.

Without saying a word Merecraft bent down on one knee and hugged Megan closely to his chest. After a short while Megan pushed him away and grinned. “Look at you Merecraft, all dressed up in that wonderful armour!” she said smiling, “I see you wear the buckle of a Knight now!”

“Aye, and there is a tale,” the half-elf answered, “but lets go indoors shall we? I find doorsteps a most uncomfortable place for the telling of tales,” the druid grinned back.

The easy part was over. Seeing Megan had taken some of the worry from Merecraft’s heart. Now he had to face Udrath.

As many of Merecraft’s closest friends in the Knights knew, Udrath had been one of the druid’s closest friends. They had been like brothers, hunting goblins and orcs together for many seasons. It was during their time with the Mithril Empire that the schism between them had appeared, when Udrath had joined the Dark Ritual, entranced by promises of power and wealth.

What the Knights did not know was how close the old friends had come to blows at that time. Merecraft had felt betrayed by Udrath’s turn to dark powers, and the dwarf had mocked his “blind devotion to the light”. For a long time they had not spoken to each other at all.

They had met occasionally during those dark days, but Merecraft had joined the Knights Templar and was too involved with his new friends to spend much time thinking of his blood-brother. The few times that they did meet passed with bitter, acrimonious words spoken. Only now did the half-elf realise how wrong he had been to ignore and leave his friend as he turned to darkness. His duty should have been to stay with Udrath and show him the error of his ways, to help him see the light again. It was an unpleasant thing to realise that in actual fact he had been scared by the ease with which Udrath had turned, and was fearful of how he himself would have reacted had he been in the dwarf’s place.

Recently Merecraft had heard the tales of how the Dark Ritual had dissolved. He had heard of how Udrath had left them to their dark plots and struck out again, renewed in mind and soul. Merecraft had done nothing however, had not contacted his old friend, and the guilt weighed heavily on his heart.

Then he had received a message from Lord Moraden and Lady Greystorm. They had hunted with Udrath in the Rathe Mountains, not knowing of who he was at the time, and Udrath had asked them to pass on a message. Merecraft’s half-brother Kaide had been badly wounded and his recovery was not a certainty. He was being tended by Megan, Udrath’s wife. It was this news that had caused Merecraft to return to this place once more and face the ghosts of his past.

So it was that Merecraft strode into the hearth-room of Udrath’s home, ducking under the low wooden lintel, his head lost in these thoughts of past tales. As his eyes adjusted to the lower light his saw Udrath sitting comfortably in a deep red armchair, sucking on a long wooden pipe.

The dwarf and half-elf stood quietly for a moment, staring at each other, not knowing what to say. “I-I-,” Merecraft stuttered, but Udrath interrupted him. “I know lad, I know,” he sighed. “Go see to your brother then we can talk. He’s in the next room.”

Merecraft nodded once then ducked under a curtain that led to the adjoining chamber. The walls of the raw stone room had been covered in long weaved pieces of cloth bearing leaf and tree motifs. They were undoubtedly of elven origin. Across from the curtained doorway was a low bed, illuminated by a single scented candle that sputtered on a small table nearby. Lying on the bed was a young wood-elf, Kaide.

As Merecraft went in and sat down cross-legged on the stone floor and began to talk to the woodelf in low quiet tones, Udrath stood in the doorway and watched them, a smile on his face.

___________________

Later the two old friends sat chatting in the hearth-room. Merecraft has spent some time with his half-brother, and the dwarf could tell that there was still some unease between them. He guessed it was to do with their shared heritage. They had only met relatively recently, whilst Merecraft had been searching for his missing Mother whom the two brothers shared. Their fathers had been as different as could be however. Merecraft’s father had been human, whereas Kaide’s had been another wood elf, a “pure breed” as Kaide himself had put it.

Still, that mattered little to the dwarf now. He was only glad that his old friend was here after the recent years of silence and accusation that had been between them. They spoke long into the night, reliving old adventures and shared jokes, and the candles had burned down to mere stumps by the time they made ready for bed.

___________________

Smiling to himself at these thoughts Merecraft continued to read the letter from Kaide that he had found in the secret letter box. It had been good to see Udrath again, the darkness really did appear to have left the dwarf, and he seemed more balanced, more at ease somehow. He hoped that their friendship could now begin to grow back to what it once had been. What’s more his half-brother Kaide had made a full, if slow recovery from his wounds, aided by Merecraft’s prayers.

Merecraft’s thoughts were shattered as he continued to read the letter.

To be continued…

Friends, Family, and Broken Promises: Part 3 of 3


Merecraft looked up to watch a brilliant green dragonfly dart across the surface of the small pond. He sat there, staring blankly as the insect hovered and buzzed over the lilypads. The half-elf was still in a state of shock, the letter from Kaide held loosely in his hand.

After a while Merecraft looked down and read the letter once again, absorbing its message more carefully. He still could not quite believe it.

According to the letter, Kaide had recovered from his wound, no doubt aided by Merecraft’s prayers and ministrations. After staying with Udrath and Megan for a few weeks he had left for Kelethin. It was there that he had stumbled onto the information that had lead him to write the letter.

Whilst browsing the stalls of Kelethin’s many merchants in search of components for fletching, he had spotted a familiar looking golden pendant for sale. Examining it more closely Kaide had realised that the pendant bore his family crest, and on the back, inscribed with elvish runes, was the name Marissa. This pendant had belonged to Marissa, the mother that Kaide and Merecraft shared, who had disappeared without trace many years ago.

According to the letter Kaide had questioned the vendor and discovered that he had obtained the pendant off Nitpik, a gnome merchant in Ak’Anon.

The young wood elf decided there and then to go to the subterranean city of the gnomes and follow the lead that might at last reveal what had happened to their mother. First however he had taken the time to write the letter to Merecraft and pass it on via Udrath.

Merecraft sighed once more after reading the letter from kaide. So, it was obviously Udrath who had left the letter here for him. That meant that at least a week had passed since Kaide had written the note and gone in search of their mother.Reaching a decision the druid stood up. He took a last look around. The dragonfly was still zipping around, oblivious to the half-elf. Merecraft had left the search for his mother too long, and at last there was a real clue to follow. Maybe he would finally have a chance to keep the promise he made to his dying father all those years ago.He hated to leave the Knights like this. He would try to get word to them if he could. He sighed inwardly. Worse still he hated to leave without saying goodbye to… to one who had become very dear to him recently. He hoped she, and they, would understand.

Closing his eyes Merecraft began to chant the prayer that would transport him to the Steamfont Mountains. Maybe he could catch up with Kaide, and together they might find their mother…

An Unexpected Visit – by Udrath (me)


It started to rain, and Udrath Stormheart looked skyward sighing as he knew another two hours this evening would be spent cleaning his armour, instead of at his ale pot with his friends and Megan his wife in Kaladim. On top of that was the long run home from the Lesser of the Faydark forests. Udrath was hunting for signs of Goblin migration in his ever going quest to be a thorn in the side of the Evil creatures who murdered his son more than 140 years ago. He knew in his heart he would not rest until he had single handedly brought down the creatures who polluted the face of Norrath.

It was beginning to get dark and Udrath sat down for a bite to eat before completing his journey home. He liked the forest at night, it gave him a peace that only the halls of Kaladim could rival. A rabbit hopped past him , pausing only for a moment to chew some plants at his feet. Udrath smiled and let his thoughts drift to the warm hearth of his Longhall, and the sweet smell of Megans perfume as she sat beside him…Udrath was brought forth from his daydream by a shout for help coming from his right. He quickly shouldered his bag, placing his helm upon his head, and grabbing his Axe from his side he rose moving silently in to the darkness toward the sound.

Udrath Stormheart moved through the darkness toward the sound making no noise in the night. This was his element, battle sharpened senses hightened by an almost magical skill with a blade. At times like this he knew no fear, only a lust for the fight. A light appeared in the distance and Udrath increased his pace through the woodland, knowing now that this was the place of origin of the cries for help. Something nagged at the back of his mind, it was something about the voice that he had heard. Unsure what it was he pushed the thought from his mind, as it was at times like this a clear head needed to be kept. As he got nearer he could see a small group of tents and standing stones, and in the middle the form of a collapsed Wood Elf on the floor.

However, this was not what drew his attention. Udrath crouched behind one of the tents looking from the darkness into the camp, surveying the scene. Seven Dark Elves with weapons drawn and some blooded already stood in a circle around the slumped form on the cold earth. No words were necessary between them as they grinned at each other…Udrath knew the final kill was about to take place.Udrath grinned to himself in the darkness, as he knew what the Dark ones did not, they were all about to die. Slitting the rear of the tent with his boot knife, Udrath silently slipped inside, being careful not to make a sound as he approached the flaps. Taking a deep breath he sprang forth into the centre of the camp.

The first three Dark Elves died before they even knew he was there, his Axe swinging through air as a blur, their blood spraying their comrades. The other four raised their weapons and moved into a circle around him, smiling at him knowing they had him, like their previous victim surrounded. Udrath grinned right back as he knew this only brought his prey within his deadly fighting arc.

The first Dark one made his move screaming a battle cry and slashed at Udraths left side. But over reaching, it was his last ever move. Udrath stepped inside his reach smashing his Axe butt into the thin face crushing its skull instantly. Following his momentum he swept back over his left shoulder removing anothers head before the first had even fallen to the floor.

The odds lessened and the two remaining Dark Elves looked less sure of their skill, but still slowly advanced on Udrath, one to his front the other to his rear. As they lunged simulaneously Udrath dropped to his knee chopping the facing opponents feet from under him, then spun standing as he did so bringing his Axe down between the neck and shoulder of the last unfortunate of Neriaks spawn.

Kicking the body off his Axe it fell next to the crumpled form of the Wood elf, and for the first time this night fear and pain ripped into Udraths soul….

Kneeling down next to the body, wiping the tears from his face Udrath whimpered through gritted teeth ” Kaide, oh my poor poor Kaide”. Feeling for a pulse he immediately thought of his oldest friend Merecraft, then looked at Meres half brothers blooded face. He could feel no pulse, and bowed his head saying a silent prayer for the young ranger.

He had not heard the movement from behind, and was blinded by a flash of light. Turning he saw the sillhouette of a robed figure in the middle of a cast, and began to stand moving toward the figure. But no sooner had he done so the figure dissapeared into the blinding light, and turning back to the still form of Kaide, cold struck Udraths heart….for Kaide had dissapeared also!………..

” I hate this bloody city” the blood smeared Dwarf muttered as one of Lucans Guards pushed him aside. ” Learn some manners human” Udrath shouted after the Guard, who glanced back at the Dwarf as though he were a bug on his boot. ” You bloody well owe me for this Mere lad, bringing me to this God forsaken place” Udrath thought. In truth he was in bad humour…hating sea travel, yet another sad and too short farewell with Megan his long suffering wife, and on top of all that being jumped by muggers on Freeport docks had done nothing to lighten his mood. “It comes to something when I have to do the militias bloody job!” he thought, oh well at least he had shown them a quick death.

Udrath Stormheart took a deep breath before he pushed open the Guild house door, hoping that Merecraft would be present at the home of The Knights Templar. An accomplished looking halfling who Udrath recognised as Oakroot, a close friend of Meres, approached.

” Can I help you?” he said looking distastfully at the blood smeared figure..

“Yes you can lad” Udrath replied, “I need to speak with Merecraft…. I bear the gravest of news!”….

——————————————————————————

Treachery! Continues from “An unexpected visit”. – by Merecraft (my Brother)


<OOC this story carries on from “An Unexpected Visit” >

Udrath leaned back in the chair and slowly sipped the ale from his flagon, eyeing his friend over the top of the beer’s froth. He had been able to wash and clean himself in the Knight’s washroom, and now sitting before the warm fire in the hearth he was almost feeling at home. He looked up and peered around at the tapestries that covered the stone walls of the chamber.

He could understand why Merecraft had been drawn to the Knights, the half-elf had lost the only real family he had known, and the Knights gave him something to fight for, something bigger than he could achieve on his own. Still, the dwarf felt a little uncomfortable amongst the closeness of the other Knights, he suspected that he may be a lone warrior for some time to come, a guild would just get in the way of his life’s work, the complete and utter annihilation of the goblin races.

Oakroot had made sure that the dwarf was comfortable before going and rousing Merecraft from his chamber. The half elf had known something was wrong from the tone of Oakroot’s voice, but he waitied patiently as Udrath finished his story. When the old dwarf had told Merecraft the news the half elf had just sat there, staring blankly at his old friend. After a few moments tears had begun to form in the half elf’s eyes, and his head slumped down onto his arms, resting on the table. A great shudder shook his shoulders as he wept silently.

So, Udrath sat and waited, sipping his ale. His eyes met those of Oakroot, who sat patiently just behind the two friends in case he was needed. The shaking of Merecraft’s shoulders slowly subsided, then his head raised and he slowly looked at the dwarf and the halfling. There were no tears in his eyes now, but something else was there, something cold.Merecraft looked at Oakroot.

“I apologise Lord Oakroot that I have not been myself since I returned from my journey,” he said, his voice flat, almost emotionless. “It is time I explained where I have been, and what I saw”.

Then, in a dull monotone, the druid began to explain what had happened after he had read the letter from Kaide, the one that had revealed the clue to their mother’s whereabouts. He described how Kaide had travelled to Ak’Anon in search of a merchant who had found the locket of Marissa Oakenheart. Merecraft had decided to follow his half-brother to the Steamfont Mountains and aid in the search…

_____________

The bubbles of magic dissipated and Merecraft opened his eyes, the last vestiges of Tunare’s power seeping away. He had arrived at the ancient druid ring in the Steamfont Mountains. He took a brief moment to whisper a prayer of thanks to the Mother for her aid, then with a brief nod and smile to Crisyn, the druidess attending the ring, he ran off along the side of the great valley.

It had been a while since he had journeyed this far, the last time had been when he had helped Lady Ashden and Lady Nindyilied fight the necromancer Meldrath in the dark caves of the minotaurs. The half elf smiled at the memory, the battles that day had been particularly valiant.

Merecraft headed South along the old dirt track, waving briefly to the guards as he entered the underground city of the gnomes. He was not sure where to start his search. The merchants quarter would seem the obvious place, but he decided to check in with his old friend Drekon Vebnedder the merchant in Gemchoppers Hall.

Drekon was overjoyed to see the druid. “Merecraft! You still carrying round that old backpack I gave you?” he asked grinning, whilst pointing at the pack on Merecraft’s back. The half-elf smiled and patted the worn pack. “Aye my friend. How could I not? This pack was made by Bootstrutter himself, as well you know!” he chuckled.

Merecraft’s face hardened slightly. “However, tis not to sit and talk about the finer types of luggage that I have come to see you Drekon. I need your help, or your advice at least.”

The gnome nodded and rubbed his hands together. “Well, lets have it then Mere. What can I do for you?”

The druid explained that he was looking for Kaide, his half-brother, or for the merchant who had sold his mothers locket to a visiting wood elf, but Drekon was nonplussed. “I can’t help you Mere, sorry. I would certainly have remembered your half-brother had he come here, we don’t get many wood elves in Gemchoppers Hall. All I can suggest is you try the merchants quarter,” he said, then noticing the disappointed look on the half-elf’s face he added, “but I’ll have a word with the guards and ask if they have seen him. I’ll send word if I come up with anything.”

The druid smiled, resigned to a long search. “Alright then Drekon. Take care of yourself. I’ll be in Ak’Anon a day or two if you come up with anything.” With that Merecraft made his goodbyes and headed off to the merchants quarter.

_____________

It had been another long day. Merecraft had spoken to just about every merchant in Ak’Anon now, and none of them could remember Marissa’s locket or seeing Kaide. This journey wasn’t going as well as he had hoped. Surely after all this time the simple fact that his mothers locket had turned up was a sign that she was still alive somewhere. Merecraft whispered a prayer to Tunare that it was so, for if Marissa was dead it would be impossible for him to keep the promise he had made to his dying father.

Just as he was about to give up the search for the day there was a slight tug at the back of his tunic. Merecraft turned round to see a young gnome dressed in the plate armour of a Gemchopper.

“Is you Mister Merecraft of the Templars sir?” the gnome asked. Merecraft nodded in reply and the young warrior continued. “Drekon sent me to tell you that your brother was spotted a few days ago talking to the Dark Ones in the Mines of Malfunction.”

Merecraft’s face grew stern as he thanked the young guard for the information. He was surprised that the maze of mines that the necromancers and dark clerics of Ak’Anon inhabited had not yet been cleared out by the Gemchoppers. Shrugging inwardly he decided to visit them immediately, his search had already taken longer than expected.

So it was that only an hour later Merecraft was slowly creeping down one of the dark tunnels in the Mines. His half-elven eyes could pick out the cold stone walls, despite the almost total darkness, but a flicker of heat up ahead suggested that this part of the Mines at least was inhabited. As he approached closer he could see that the heat was caused by the flicker of flames in a chamber, and the low mumble of voices could be heard. Something about the voices struck a chord with the half-elf. There was something odd about them.

It took a moment for the realisation to dawn on him. The voices were speaking Teir Dal! Then an explosion of light blinded the druid, a heavy weight pressed on the back of his skull, and the world faded into blackness.

_____________

There was a deep red point of light. The light grew and faded with a primeval rhythm, and with each pulse there was pain.

There was something else besides the red light. A sound, again rising and falling, a beat of pain with every peak.

Then there was blackness again.

_____________

“He’s awake! Thank Tunare, he’s awake. I thought you’d killed him Carinus.”

Merecraft peeled his eyes open. The dim light of the chamber hurt his eyes, his head throbbed from the blow which had knocked him unconscious. His throat was dry, his lips split and parched.

“K… Kaide?” he mumbled at the sound of the voice.

The chamber slowly came into focus. He was sitting in the middle of a cold stone room lit by a single torch. His armour and weapons were in a pile in one corner. He looked up at his captors and the colour drained from his face.

Two Teir Dal, an old gnome in the black robes of a necromancer, and his half-brother Kaide stood around him.

“Kaide?” he asked again.

“Aye brother! Tis me, you have found me at last,” the wood elf answered, his tone strangely mocking. “By the Gods Merecraft, it took you long enough to find me, I thought you were never going to fall into our trap!”

One of the Dark Elves snickered and muttered something in his foul language. Merecraft cursed himself. How could he have been so stupid?! His desire to find his mother and become closer to his half-brother had blinded him, made him careless. He should have suspected something was wrong when he had learned that Kaide had been down here in the Mines of Malfunction. He shook his head to clear it some more, and he felt the slow trickle of blood down the back of his neck.

“Kaide? What are you doing here with these servants of Shadow?” he mumbled.

Kaide laughed. “Aye Brother, they may serve the Darkness, but they are helping me! They know where our mother is! They are going to take me to her, and all they asked for in return is you, the mighty Merecraft Oakenheart of the Eastern Commandery!” It was impossible to miss the sarcasm in Kaide’s voice. Merecraft looked up at him, wincing as he saw the cold light of madness in the ranger’s eyes.

“Don’t be a fool Kaide! They will kill you as soon as they have what they want from me,” Merecraft cried in desperation. He could see it all so clearly now.

“No Brother, they would not dare to harm one of Tunare’s servants. They do not lie, they have shown me more of mother’s trinkets.”

“For the Mother’s sake Kaide! You don’t understand what you are doing!” Merecraft muttered. His reply was a swift kick in the belly from the gnome. “Shut it scum!” the necromancer threatened, “you’ll be talking more than you want soon enough.”

Kaide moved forwards to look down on the beaten druid. His voice dropped to a low whisper, and his eyes sparkled. “No brother, it is you that does not understand. I will find our mother and return with her in glory to Kelethin. I will be a hero! You, you arrogant half-breed think you are better than I, just because mother loved your father, whilst she hated mine! She married yours for love, and mine for politics. Even after that bastard human’s death she still loved him! Well no longer! She will love me more than you when I have rescued her. I will be her son, her only son!”

Merecraft could see that his half-brother was quite insane. “Kaide… what have they done to you?” he asked.

The wood elf just snickered. “Enough! I am off to Lesser Faydark to find mother, whilst you rot here like the bastard half-breed you are.” He turned to face one of the Teir Dal. “Let’s go Carinus. I’ve given you the Templar, now take me to my mother.”

The Dark Elf bowed before the ranger. “As you wish”.

“For Tunare’s sake Kaide!” Merecraft screamed in frustration. “Don’t trust them!”

“I said SHUT IT SCUM!” shouted the gnome. He brought down his staff hard on the back of Merecraft’s head and things went dark once more.

_____________

Merecraft raced out into the cold night air. His mind was ablaze with dark thoughts. He had to return to the Knights Halls in Freeport, he was not sure how long he had been held captive, and Kaide’s misguided treachery had put them all in danger. He was lucky to be alive, he knew that, and he prayed that his half-brother would find the same luck. His face and armour was shredded, long scars bled from his arms.

He had awoken later in the same cell to the sound of the necromancer’s droning incantations. Carefully opening his eyes he realised that his captor still thought him unconscious. He scanned the room slowly, and breathed a sigh of relief when he saw that his armour and weapons were still lying in the corner.

The gnome was hunched over a large cauldron from which green steam rose, fleetingly forming dark twisted shapes. His attention seemed wholly on the spell he was weaving and Merecraft acted quickly. He crawled slowly across the floor to his equipment.

Just as the druid was about to gather his belongings and make a run for it a horrifying voice spoke behind him, “Masssterrr… masssterrr… it lives masssterrr…”

Turning slowly Merecraft saw the diabolical skeletal pet of the necromancer advancing on him, its sick frame held together by sinews of dark magic. He drew his falchion slowly, and whispering a prayer to Tunare saluted his foe.

The hours that had followed were dark and best forgotten. Desperate fights in low dank corridors against hordes of undead, swift flight down unknown tunnels, pensive moments spent hiding in dark shadows as patrols of dark gnomes raced by looking for him. Eventually he had escaped by diving into a deep stream and following it to the lakes in the city above.

_____________

The half-elf looked at Udrath and Oakroot, his tale now told.

“Mere, I had no idea, I’m so sorry Brother!” the halfling said, concern in his voice.

Udrath just sat and stared at his friend, his beer long untouched on the table. Things were going to get worse before they got better he thought. Merecraft had not only lost his mother again, but now he had lost his half-brother too, to either darkness or death. He hoped the half-elf had enough strength to cope.

The dwarf glanced round the chamber again, spying the shields and tapestries of the Knights. “Well,” he thought, “at least he has another family now. He won’t be alone in the battles ahead.”
—————————————————————————————

Decisions in the Aftermath – by Udrath


Udrath sat on his favourite chair silently watching Megan as she stitched her Tapestry, adding the latest chronicles from their family history.

“I can feel your thoughts from here my sweet” Megan said without looking up,”Why don’t you tell me what is bothering you?”

Udrath smiled at his wife who had always been able to read his thoughts like they were her own. Taking a swig from his home brew, he wiped the froth from his beard and told Megan of all that had happened to Merecraft in these recent times, and of Kaide.

Megan sighed for she knew that her beloved would be at this very moment hatching some plot to help his and indeed her very close friend.”You must do what you can my love” was all she said, now looking up at him and smiling.

“And whatever it is, I know that you shall do right by us” meaning her and Merecraft both.”I shall be going away for a while my dear” Udrath explained, “And you will not be able to contact me or see me for quite some time I fear”.

Hurting again as she had so many times before at the thought of long winters without her true love beside her Megan stood, walking over to Udrath and kissed him softly upon the lips, stroking his beard and said “I will ready your armour” and with that she left the room.

Udrath sat still watching the flames dance in the hearth, lost for a moment in his thoughts. He knew he was about to tread a deadly path into the dark as he had once before in his past, from which he had by the Gods chance returned unscathed by the blackness of evil. But he also knew that there was none more suited to the task at hand, and he knew he was strong of spirit and resolve.

This time however his following of the dark was not by being weak minded or seeking some answers in this reasonless world, but by a basic instinct..to help one whom he loved as a brother in his darkest hour.

For Udrath Stormheart was not purely of muscle, but a Dwarf of guile and cleverness, and his plan would lead him deep into the Heart of Neriak to seek out an old aquaintance. Masquerading as one still following the dark path, Uddy would surely find more answers to Kaides dissapearance, Kaides trust that he had placed in the Dark elves that had nearly cost Merecraft his life, and the all important question…Who was the robed figure that he had seen in the Lesser Faydark forests that night, that had stolen Kaides still form away?……………..

“Udrath my old friend, it has been an elves age…where the devil have you been old chap?”

Udrath grinned evilly at Dyvim the Dark Elven Shadowknight, slapping him on shoulder…..” Why carving Wood Elf heads for my collection you motherless dog!” He laughed ” Now lets catch up over some ale then you can take me to hunt the hairy feet before we roast them for dinner!”

———————————————————————————————
The Power of Deception – by Udrath


Udrath sat silently across from the shadowed figure that Dyvim had introduced him to. Carinus Dhrak, was his name and he stared now at Udrath, barely concealing his hate for the fairer race. Udrath remembered his name from Merecrafts account of his capture and Kaides fall into the dark. After spinning a ruse to Dyvim of how Udraths life was forfeit should he show his face to the world, having supposedly betrayed the Knights and most of all Merecraft. He had again recounted this ficticious tale to Carinus, who now sat digesting the story.Udrath hoped he had no way of telling his lies from truth , and gently fingered his axe at his side should trouble begin. Udrath knew this was futile, as Carinus could destroy him as soon as look at him. This was a great a danger as any he had faced, but the reward should he suceed…….

“Well Dwarf,” Carinus broke the silence “I feel that you now are safe, for I have magically changed Merecrafts demeanour, and as we speak he sows seeds of doubt and hate amongst the Templars. It shall not be long before they begin to splinter, for he still has his followers” Carinus sneered, obviously pleased with himself, and happy to share his actions.

Udrath inwardly smiled as he now knew he had this egomaniac just where he wanted him, but also fear was creeping into his heart for he also knew time was now of the essesnce.”I thankyou Lord Carinus, for now I may walk the face of Norrath again not fearing for my life. Should you ever need me, Dyvim knows how to find me.” Udrath replied. Trying to shake the feeling of ice creeping up his neck as he left, he knew Carinus watched his departure.

——————

Udrath Stromheart whispered a prayer to Brell for allowing him to enter Neriak and leave alive once more, as he broke into a run through the forests of Nektulos, making Freeport will all haste. He knew he had to gain an ear in The Templars, but he knew not who still trusted Merecraft. He also hoped that when he reached the Guildhall, Merecraft would not be present, for that was a test he was not yet ready to face.

He entered Freeport and went directly to the guild hall, and knocked upon the door. He took a step back as the door opened beneath his knock, and to his surprise Merecraft walked out into the day. Steeling himself for the up coming situation he knew was inevitable, Udrath was again surprised when Merecraft did not even acknowledge him and strode off down the street, puffed with his own importance. “Well,” he said to himself, “Carinus did his work well”, and entered into the hall.

A young woman aproached him whom he did not recognise, and inquired as to his business…”Lady, you know not who I am, but I beg of you now….take me to Lithian for I have information that is only for his ear…..”

—————————————————————————————-
A new path… – by Merecraft


– OOC- this carries on the recent story lines concerning Merecraft: An Unexpected Visit, and The Power of Deception. >

Merecraft stood in the doorway of the Eastern Commandery and glanced round at the devastation he had left behind him. The door had been replaced, but there were still scorch marks onthe walls and crumbled masonry lay on the floor, stark reminders of the fight he had had with Lady Ashden. The furniture was still temporary and there were no decorations. Those had been destroyed by the magic.Sighing softly he strode across to the table in the corner. He placed a bag of heavy coins down on its scarred surface. This would at least go some way towards making reparations for what he had done. If only all the harm he had caused could be paid off so easily.

The half-elf paused, then bent down on one knee. Slowly he unclipped the spurs from his boots that proclaimed his membership of the Knights. Silently he placed them on the table next to the bag of coins. He paused for a second, as if reconsidering what he was doing…No, there was too much history. Too much had been done and said. He, Merecraft Oakenheart, had deliberately set out to destroy the Knights Templar from the inside. He had spread gossip about the supposed treachery of Sria, he had driven Greystorm and others away from him. The Knights were weaker when those people had left and he had abandoned his duties so that they did not regain their strength. His mission had succeeded, the Knights were a shadow of their former glory.

So what if he had not been in control of himself? So what if the Teir Dal maggot had been controlling the strings? Carinus had captured Merecraft and changed him, and the half elf had carried out his instructions to the letter. Oh, he didnt have a choice of course, he was completely helpless before the shadowknights power, and he had screamed inside his own skull as he saw himself doing the evil work.

None of that mattered. He had not been in control of his actions, but they had been carried out nonetheless. Merecraft had failed his own family, a family that had taken him in when he needed them most, and he had betrayed them with his failure to resist the magics of Carinus Dhrak.

His lifelong friend, Udrath Stormheart, the dwarf who he had known for years had been the only one to actively search out the truth. It had nearly killed him, but the dwarf had succeeded in uncovering the plot of the Teir Dal. Using Kaide, Merecraft’s own half-brother, as bait Carinus had captured the druid and possessed his soul, forcing him to work from the inside to weaken the Knights. When Udrath finally confronted the Neriakspawn, Carinus had merely laughed at him and cancelled the geas. The damage had already been done.

The experience had changed both the Knights and the half elf. Merecraft could see that the Knights were weak now, merely a committee who sat and discussed the threat of Darkness but who did nothing about it. It was time to take action in the only way he knew how. He would take revenge on the shadowknight that had caused him to betray his family then he would destroy utterly any source of evil he found on Norrath. He could not do what needed to be done as part of the Knights, he would need to operate outside their petty rules and regulations. He would become a dark avenger, fighting on the side of Light but not shirking away from the unsavoury deeds that would be required. He would dress only in black now, and carry claws covered in dried blood rather than the druidic totems he had used to wield. Let the servants of Innoruuk beware.

Shaking his head with a final moment of regret, Merecraft turned and left the halls of the Knights. He hoped they would understand that he had not been himself, and maybe, one day, forgive him. But if they did not life would still go on. And so would the war.

—————————————————————————-

Enough is enough……….. – by Udrath


Udrath sat silently reading the lastest report from Stormguard Hall on the progress of his former weapons training pupils, newly recruited to the Stormguard. He smiled to himself in a silent pride as he read how his students only weeks in training, had destroyed a goblin camp close to Kaladim. His mind wandered, and instantly he thought of his oldest and most trusted friend Merecraft. No longer smiling, Udrath looked at Megan sitting next to him. For a long moment the silence remained, until Megan spoke,

“What is wrong Darling?”

Udrath shaken from his thoughts, said,”Ahhh, it is nothing dear”

Megan’s expression changed to worry saying, ” You must help him you know Uddy. He is your oldest companion, and you his, he has NO ONE right now, he has isolated himself from the Knights by his own deeds. This curse must stop my husband, or Mere may just about destroy everything he holds dear. It falls to you Udrath Stormheart. Go help your brother.”

Uddy looked at his wife with tears in his eyes. He knew she risked mush at showing him these truths, as helping Merecraft meant confronting Carinus D’hrak, which was akin to building your own coffin. Slowly closing his eyes forcing back his tears he held Megans hand, both knew it may be their last Farewell.

______________________________________________________

The rain poured as was usual in the Mountains, and Udrath blinked away rain drops from his eyes. Standing at the front of the Chessboard he waited for Carinus to come.It was a simple plan, and one borne of what Udrath Stormheart knew best…Bladecraft. He had arranged to meet Carinus, on the pretence that he had Urgent news on Merecraft and The Knights Templar. Carinus had immediately agreed to meet Udrath, so thick was his thirst for the destruction of the Knights. Again Udrath laughed at how people with dark power lose sight of all but power, neglecting to even consider the truths around them.As Uddy stared into the misty rain, leaning upon his axe, He saw the mists part and Carinus strode forward stopping in front of Udrath.

“Well my devious little Dwarf, what News?”

“You have tallied to long Carinus in the affairs of Merecraft Oakenheart, and I tell you now…..it ends here.” Udrath replied.

Carinus stared at Uddy for a long moment then, smiled “You cannot stop what is already happening my little friend, for to try would be sheer folly, and I do not think that you are as stupid as that”

“Well….what you say is true Carinus D’hrak, for even I know a lost fight before it is begun. ” Udrath grinned at the Shadowknight who was beginning to draw his Sword slowly from it’s scabbard. As he did so, from the mist, silent as the night, twenty stout well armoured Dwarves stepped to surround Carinus.

Staring Carinus in the eye Uddy lifted his weapon in unison with the unit of Dwarves, and said “Do you?”

Slowly glancing around him Carinus knew he had no other choices remaining, “This will not change anything Stormheart. The seed has been sown, and even now the Knights grow rotten from the core,” He incanted a slow spell sending the smell of death over the ready Dwarves. “It is done. Merecraft is no longer in torment….He is just alone”.

Laughing at Udrath, Carinus incanted another spell and in a moment was gone.

Udrath stood silent in the rain….

“He will never be alone”

Sighing inwardly, he looked about him….”Boys…nice work, lets go home”.

The End.

<afterword> It was not of course the end for our two best friends Udrath and Merecraft. They went on to be closer than ever, their brotherhood strong as a dragon and just as deadly…

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One Response to “RP Stories”

  1. Great Stories Love them…

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