An Apprentice and a Friend (FT: Attn Balrogga and OG)
Amidst an ocean of grass, a lone hunter lay prone against the cool ground as he scouted the surrounding landscape. Crawling along on his hands and knees, the hunter came upon a series of tracks belonging to the prey he had been tracking for several weeks now. Imprinted in the moist soil showed the tale of a large wolf-like creature padding along with the rest of the pack in tow.
The smell of grass, air, and dirt assaulted the man's nostrils as he bent lower to sniff at the ground to test its age. Jumping back to a squat, the man's steele blue eyes gazed out across the expanse to see if the creature was in sight. By the smell of the print left behind, his prey was not two days ahead of him. Even with that knowledge, he knew that the golden sea could hide this elusive creature just as easily as the great southern desert could swallow a man for all eternity.
Still, he chanced his location by pulling back the hem of his earthen brown hood ever so slightly and stood a little taller. All that moved were the tall stalks as they danced and rolled, ever playing in the wind. Autumn had come early to land and left in its wake a golden sea outside the walls of Mythrandir and a fiery colored forest in Caeralfar and around the mountains. For the hunter, the early autumn only increased his discomfort. Cold, wet, dirty, and tired; the shift in colors proved an excellent camouflage for his prey. The times that the blood wolf had eluded his traps were numerous and added to his agitation.
The warmth of his wife seemed like a distant memory since he had set out on this personal quest. Elder Sebastian stood to his full height to stretch the stiffness out of his legs. The hems of his cloak moved lazily in the cold mountain wind as his eyes spied his next path. A light drizzle began to fall upon the human, matching his spirits. Sebastian was not ready to surrender to the elements just yet. With his clothes soaking, Sebastian picked up an ornately carved spear that had been lying next to the parted grass outlining his figure.
Sebastian let out a short shrill whistle into the wind and stood his ground for a moment. The sound of a horse neighing in the distance answered the Elder's call. Pounding across the open plain, a chestnut colored charger rushed to its master's call. Sebastian greeted the beast with a smile and a pat on the nose. He reached into a leather pouch at his side and pulled out a few nuggets for the horse to crunch on. The Elder had not eaten in a day or so, but he understood that the horse was his life out in the wild so he had packed a far steadier supply of food for the animal.
Grabbing a hold of the saddle horn, Sebastian hoisted himself up and into the saddle. Sebastian picked up the reins and urged the horse further towards the mountains. The weather was driving the blood wolf for a place to rest and Sebastian wanted to be in a solid fighting position when it ventured back out. Cloak hood pulled low around his face to ward off the rain, the hunter sauntered on.
A second cloaked figure was active this day as its lithe form moved through the dark tunnels that ran through much of the Spine of Mythrandir. Picking a path of one that was well familiar with the layout, the cloaked figure soon heard the familiar sound of hammers banging against anvils.
Warmth of the forges soon greeted the fair skin as the shadow crept closer. Not wanting to alert the main dwarven city, Hammer Hall, the figure slipped off the main path and picked its way along a rocky edge that threatened to drop away into the endless abyss. Sure footed, the shadow found its way around the main city halls and into the forge works itself.
Filling the furnaces were countless dwarves tirelessly at work as they're heavy arms pounded away at heated metals. Weapons, armor, and trinkets were molded by some of the greatest smiths of all of Mythrandir in the dwarven hall. While the target this day was a dwarven smith, none of these would suffice. The smith had to be special, the greatest in fact.
Only one dwarf smith remained that could match the prowess of the ancients and their works of old. It was he that would have to do. Picking it's way carefully along the shadows, the dark figure moved with ease as the dwarves were more concerned about their work than they were about their current surroundings.
And so it was that a shadow crept into the private chambers of Mythgard, and dwarven smith that was renown for his works with the hammer and fire. Upon entering through the old wooden doorway, the figure was greeted by an old dwarf that had fallen asleep while smoking a pipe. Looking about, it was obvious to see that his personal forge had not been used for some time as the coals lay black and cool in the furnace.
The cloaked stranger began to take a step in but the dwarf's steady snoring was abruptly interrupted. Mythgard opened one bushy eyebrow ever so slightly to see who was sneaking about. "Bach, ye creep like one of'em assassins. I was wonderin' if ye were ever gonna show."
The figure stood straight, then bowed its head in apology. Fishing around through the pockets on the inside of the cloak, a delicate hand presented a piece of parchment to the dwarf. Mythgard looked at it suspiciously but took it in his meaty hands anyways.
Feeding some oil to the wick, the dwarf struck a match and shed a little light in the room. He rolled the parchment out upon his desk were a stack of old tomes and manuscripts had begun to seize control. The dwarf took a moment to scan over the writing and sketching.
His eyes stared back just below the abundant hair of his eyebrows. "Ye can't be serious."
"I am." The woman's voice answered with certainty and authority. She had been expecting the doubts since the start but was determined to go through with her plan.
Mythgard sighed and looked at the pattern again. "A'ight. It ain't impossible but it'll take me sometime. I need to get me the materials for it which ain't exactly common. It might not even come out right. Been some years since I've taken a project like this."
She knew that the dwarf was still trying to dissuade her but she wouldn't have any of it. Especially the lame attempt of the dwarf putting off the project as beyond his own skill. "Master Mythgard, I know your skill with the forge and time has not been so cruel that you have lost your touch. Your works are still some of the finest works of Mythrandir today. Please, just grant me this. You agreed to it earlier."
"It ain't that, girl. I can mold you a dragon outta hot wax and make it fly if ye want. What I want te know is why?"
The figure stood there silently with her head bowed. "Because. I am tired of being left behind."
The dwarf sighed and looked at the specifications for the armor. He slumped back down onto his stool and leaned heavily on the desk. "Come back in a month, but don't ye bother me if it ain't ready on time."
Bowing low, the figure closed the door as she left and allowed the dwarf to his thoughts. Mythgard watched the door close then turned his attention back to the armor on the parchment. When finished, it was going to be the finest piece of armor on the field of battle. Once in a dwarf's lifetime, they take on a project that they call their life's work. It is a project of such a grand scale that most dwarves quit the forge once it is complete as nothing can ever compare to that work once it is finished.
Mythgard shook his head realizing that this could very well be it. "What in a goblin's arse hair have I gotten meself into?"
Ever since the invasion by the Tannelornian knights, Mythrandir had spent countless time and effort on rebuilding what had been destroyed in the attack. Finally, the bodies had been cleared away, ship hulls were processed and recycled, and the forces that had been lost were rebuilt. A defensive network that had brought fear to the tyrannical knights and brought many of them low, was now improved upon as it remained hidden from all prying eyes and the unwary.
Floating over the precious treasure of all Myths, were two fleets of the Mythrandir Forge. Their eyes ever vigilant as they watched for any invaders trying to bring the torch to their lands once again. Admiral Haldir had hardened in the ensuing battle and had vowed to never let Mythrandir come to such harm again.
With everything rebuilt and people once again trying to return to their normal lives, the call for protection was ever more urgent. Still, there were a number of foreign ships in the area that were here to conduct business and cargo ships passed from and to Mythrandir space unhindered by the war ships. Mythrandir would not live in fear of agression and thus cripple its people but it would not allow tyrants to simply waltz in and take their freedoms on a whim.
When two unknown ships came into Mythrandir space, a general alarm was sounded throughout the two fleets. Ships moved into battle formations and prepared to defend their home but the call was soon cut short. Scans of the ships told a different tale, a tale of an encounter some time ago.
While only brief, the meeting left lasting impressions. Admiral Haldir easily recognized the one ship in his view. The elven Admiral eased back into his throne chair. "Stand down. It is a Balroggan vessel."
The Avenger Battleship's communication officer checked the screen and their records. The Balroggan vessel they had earlier encountered did not exactly match up with what was before them. "Admiral, if I may. Our records show a different silhouette."
Haldir raised a gauntlet hand to ease the woman. "I have heard that their ships tend to be unique so it is no wonder that it does not exactly match our records or our files. Nonetheless, it is Balroggan and Elder Sebastian has permitted free passage should one ever arrive in our space. Send our greetings."
Balroggan vessel and escort. I apologize for the alarm but we were not aware of your arrival. We have been informed that you would come to visit Mythrandir and thus you have been granted free passage. You may dock your ship at the planet side docking facilities in the mountains below or you may send down a shuttle to land outside the main city walls.
While you are welcome here, I must inform you that Mythrandir laws still apply to you as they do all people that walk our lands. We do not allow what some might consider conventional weapons. There is a list of acceptable accessories for defense though which we are sending along to you. Your safety is guaranteed while you are in our homes.
Please enjoy your stay and I will have the Elders notified of your arrival immediately.
Along side the command ship, was a smaller vessel. About the size of a viper, “Mary” waited next to her larger counterpart, the flagship of the “True” or New Sith. It’s silhouette glistened against the light from the near by star.
“My Lady” the ship mind called Mary mentioned to it’s passenger.
Hera Agatheon sat on the floor in what would be called a control room. Her legs crossed, her body covered by a white robe, with a red sash across her waste. Her legs were crossed indian style, as her right hand appeared to be within some liquid with a panel underneath that was constantly changing colors, flickering from Red to Green, with hints of yellow.
Her eyes were closed, as the information of the surrounding space flowed like the running water on her hand.
“Yes dear.” Lady Sunshine replied.
“We have received confirmation of landing coordinates. Our friends are requesting that certain items remain on board, how should I respond Lady?”
Hera opened her eyes and looked around the room. The walls were white like marble, with large columns that extended towards the red mosaic at the ceiling. “Tell them that we will comply, and let George (Bal’s Shipmind) know that we will begin to land.
“Yes my Lady. Should I prepare your armor?” Mary asked.
Lady Sunshine smiled, “Not now, but thank you. We do not need to send the wrong impression after all we are their guests. Please just take me to their coordinates, and we will see how it goes from there.”
“Of course, By your Command, lady.”
The small fighter sized craft then veered away towards the larger ship, and began to land. Once there, a small door opened up. A young woman seventeen to eighteen years old in appearance slowly descended the liquid metal like ramp, towards whatever greeting party would await them. She was armed with only a rapier, with a gold like metal hilt.
Ba’El watch through Shipmind’s sensors as the vessel left the wormhole he had employed to get to Mythrandir. It was a lot faster than T-Space. Since it took only ten minutes to pass through the wormhole and to navigate the twists and turns within the Throat, it was more efficient to leave the Order without leaving a trace for its enemies to trace. He could have used T-Space but the top speed they could traverse through the 7th dimension was only about four light years per minute. That means anything further than 40 light years was faster using a wormhole. The drawback was it is difficult to ignore a yawning hole in space/time or the ships using it to travel. When the Ta’Nar wanted to be sneaky, they would employ both modes of travel, appearing nearby and using T-Space to finish the journey.
Good thing this was not such a case. Lord Atrox was formally invited to visit Mythrandir back on Konoha when he had first met anyone from the stellar nation. His impression from that singular meeting was one of Honor and Integrity. It was too bad nothing came out of the proceedings on Konoha.
A presence disturbed his thoughts. It was Shipmind trying to contact him.
Advisor, we have arrived.
Thank you. Transmit a general greeting and remain in a holding pattern until they respond.
Yes Sir, anything else?
Prepare my ship, after we get permission I will be using it to get to the surface.
Ba’El rose from where he was resting and hovered over to the status chamber. They would be expecting Atrox so he had best don the insectoid body which was the personification of the Sith Lord. He could have just generated an image but without the body, he would be unable to employ any of the Force abilities other than several sensing techniques. Without a vessel to supply the Force, he could not use it to power any of the many abilities he had learned over the years through training or searching through Holocrons or the Ratakan computer buried deep under the Academy. He certainly was not powerless without those abilities but it is best to have every tool available whenever you might need them. The Ta’Nar race didn’t survive as long as it has by being sloppy.
Ba’El stepped through the heavy cover into the chamber and entered the reclined form. With a twitch, the four armed insect roused from the stupor. Atrox sent a mental command and triggered the device to begin the exit procedure. Moments later the door opened and Lord Atrox stepped out of the pod. He stretched both sets of arms to limber them after the rest, enjoying the feel of the internal muscles as the exoskeleton moved.
Again, Shipmind’s thought brushed against his.
We received a reply from the planet. We have been given permission to land but there is a list of weapons we are not allowed to bring.
That is fine; I was not planning on bringing any in the first place.
Your ship is ready whenever you are. Hera sent word she was going to meet you at the landing zone.
Tell her I will follow in a couple minutes.
Atrox walked over to a wall display where he kept his sabers. He looked over the two original ones he received while under Vader’s tutelage. He hasn’t used them in years. A Coredian saber was mounted near the top of the display. He could feel the emanations from the weapon for he had been granted it as a trophy by Admiral Cain and commanded to take its former owner to Kobol to carry out her sentence against Sakir. It was there the blade picked up the “Curse” which made anyone slain by the blade remain dead forever. He had never used it after that. The ebon hilted Opacus and the Platinum hilted Caecus rested in their holders at the center of his collection. He normally used them but today his attention was focused upon the last weapon in the display. It was a translucent hilted saber. He picked the saber up and looked at the weapon. It had taken him some time to create the thing, hollowing out precious stones and gems to create the individual mechanisms needed for the device to work. He had etched circuitry into the materials of the diamond and created a weapon that was not bejeweled but made out of gems itself. He only needed three stones, the foci of the weapon for it to work. He had seen a wondrous opal on the pommel of the weapon Sebastian’s companion long ago and figured there might be a chance to locate the three perfect stones here.
Placing the incomplete weapon on the table, he called his armor to himself. Black liquid flowed from the floor and enveloped him. The onyx fluid settled and contracted into the familiar form of Atrox standing in his armor. If the armor wasn’t part of the image of Atrox everyone expected he would have left without it, he was a guest here and should not need it. He picked up his saber again and placed it upon his belt. Perhaps he will be able to get some shopping done while he was visiting.
Atrox then willed himself to the flight deck across the ship and appeared moments later next to his ship. The vessel greeted him happily.
Atrox, it is great to see you again today.
It is also good to know you are taking me down to the planet.
Aww, if I could blush, I would.
Have you gotten the coordinates from The Abomination?
Yes, we are ready.
Take us down to the surface.
The ship lifted off the flight deck and exited it by passing through an energy field designed to keep both the air within the open space but also keep unwanted intruders from entering. The small ship followed the course forwarded by their hosts and silently landed next to Hera’s ship. The side of the shuttle melted and ran down the shuttle, coming to a halt as the metal formed three individually hovering steps below the newly revealed door. The hatch slid open and Atrox stepped out, sinking slightly as the shit adjusted the steps to account for the weight of the suit he was wearing.
Soon Atrox stood beside his friend Hera.
Elder Alurial stormed through the twin iron wrapped oaken doors as the tower guards held the great gates open for her. Infuriated at having been summoned at so late an hour, and in the rain no less, Alurial managed to adjust her fine silken robes just as she entered the main chambers of the White Tower. Of all the times to have a dignitary arrive, the elven Elder wondered why it had to be now when she believed she looked at her worst.
"Why didn't he give them a time chart of our world so they could call at a more appropriate hour?"
Occupying one of the four floating tear drop shaped seats was Elder Thrandur who studied the elf as she went on her tirade. "Bah! The lad was in da middle of a fight. When yer in a fight, ye ain't got time for the niceties. Ye yerself should know dat, elf."
Throwing up her hands in surrender, Alurial adjusted her circlet on her brow and took one of the floating seats that was further away from the dwarf. "Where is the boy anyways? This is his invitation and he should be here to greet his guests. For the life of me, I don't understand why he feels we should do all the work for him. It must be that human irresponsibility coming out in him."
Just then, two more figures crossed the threshold of the Elders' Hall. Elder Raigar filled half of the door frame with his massive wingspan and heavy lance gripped in a talon. The lightly tinted brown feathered griffon lord walked steadily towards his usual seat with the butt of the lance pounding the floor as he walked. Behind him stood Captain Lukien decorated in his brilliant bronze armor with an emblazoned phoenix on the breast plate. The elf captain bowed respectfully to the three Elders gathered.
Alurial narrowed her eyes somewhat threateningly at the captain. "Did you find him?"
Lukien rose from his bow and stood tall. Shaking his head, "I am afraid not Elder. We searched the outlying areas where some have seen him last but we have found no trace of Elder Sebastian."
"Preposterous. No human can hide his tracks from the eyes of an elf, especially none of our realm."
The elf knew the friction that existed between Alurial and Sebastian as did most. Regardless, Lukien would not be drawn into such a debate even if he did know the actual whereabouts of Sebastian. "Normally I would agree with you Elder, but you speak of an exceptional human. He has lived on this continent all his life and explored much of its great land. We do know that he is on horseback though. When he crosses the fields, we'll find him."
Alurial sat back in her seat, visibly more relaxed. "I hope so. Greeting a foreigner without all the Elders present would be a poor showing on our part. I prefer to show strength to others."
Lukien nodded his head, glad to have the Elder off on another track instead of worrying about Elder Sebastian. "Indeed. I have word that Wulfgar is moving out to greet our guests as we speak."
The elven Elder seemed pleased by the prospect but also somewhat distracted. Her gaze started drifting from one corner of the room to the next. Alurial seemed to shift her eyes as if she expected someone to leap out at her. "Where is War Mistress Shizra?"
Lukien shrugged his armored shoulders. "I don't know, Elder. I have not seen her all day."
Looking at the planet from the atmosphere, Mythrandir boasted of one massive continent accompanied by a few smaller islands. The rest of which was dominated by a sprawling blue ocean. Mountains broke up the continent and looked as if the bones of a giant had fallen across the land giving rise to the name "Spine of Mythrandir." The capital city, Mythrandir, snuggled up to the coast just south east of the mountains.
Flying down closer to the planet, the outline of the wall surrounding Mythrandir becomes more prominent as the shapes of the buildings become more prominent. A single tower rose high to pierce the sky as its seamless white marble caught every ray of sunlight and reflected it upon the city. Four greatly armored behemoths stood as sentries facing out in all four directions maintaining their constant vigilance over the land.
Forests dominated the land surrounding the mountains though a great sea of grass filled much of the central area. Great trees that grew taller than the White Tower itself anchored the center of the forest, mainly to the north east of the city.
As the two ships came to a rest in the soft grass, the citadel guards burst into motion. Armored guards ran to the walls and stood firm behind the pennants of Mythrandir snapping in the evening breeze. Wyverns and their riders were perched along the crenelated walls with great claws digging into the stone.
White stones made up the mason work as they were intricately laid to fit precisely so that there was no seam in the molding. So tight was the working that it required little to no mortar. Anchoring the wall was a massive gate tower filled with arrow slots and strong iron bands that came around to envelop the wooden doors. Carved into the door itself appeared to be a dragon and lion that were locked in eternal battle with one another.
When the two dignitaries made their exit from their ships, iron latches and gears grinding against one another sounded from the door as its locks were undone and a score of men pulled back the heavy portal. Striding out to quickly cover the distance was a mountain of man with naught but fox fur wrapping around his waist. Bare chested and tight cords of muscle glistening in the light rain, the Northman stopped short of the two. Long blond loches falling from his shoulders as he bowed, the man stood up straight once again a he looked to reach pass seven feet in height.
"I am Wulfgar, guardian of the gate and city walls. If you will follow me, a chariot is waiting to bring you to the Elders."
Not far inside the gate was a golden chariot hovering above the stone laid street. No horses were hitched to it but it appeared capable enough to make the journey through the city on its own.
Backed up to a copse of trees as protection from any attack in the rear, Sebastian kept his spear tip leveled at the three blood wolves that closed around him. A blood trail had led him deep into the forest where a small pack of the beasts had built their lair in a burrowed out hole. Much to the dismay of the Elder, the remains of the dead carcass that the wolves were feasting on; belonged to a young girl. Judging from the looks of her clothing, she must have slipped out of one of the houses in an outlying village to play in the field. Unfortunately, she was naive to the growing threat of these blood wolves and was caught out away from the villagers.
Now the Elder had the culprits at the end of his spear where they could only come at him one at a time in the thick foliage. Crimson eyes stared back at him as razor sharp teeth dripped with saliva from the waiting jaws of the wolves. Sebastian gripped the wooden shaft of the spear a little tighter while planting his back foot. The instinct of these beasts was to either go for the heart or the throat which had earned them the name "Blood Wolves" by many of the villagers.
Teeth gnashing accompanied by howls, the first wolf charged in at Sebastian. It closed the distance to the Elder with great strides as its massive paws padded the dirt where at the last possible second, the wolf leaped high for the throat of the Elder. Sebastian lined his spear perfectly, catching the wolf in its open mouth and piercing its skull. The metal spear tip blew through the top of the wolf's head sending fur, blood, and brain matter spraying across the forest floor.
However, the difficulty in killing the animals was how they hunted as a unit. The attack high was merely a feint as the second wolf came close in on the first's heels and leaped out for Sebastian's chest. It was not the first time that Sebastian had fought these monster's before so he was not entirely caught off guard by the attack. Using the dead wolf on the end of his spear to his advantage, the Elder swung the limp body down like a club sending the second wolf to the ground. Reestablishing his point of attack, Sebastian backed off a couple of steps to keep the second wolf at the tip of his spear.
Sebastian took a moment to shake the carcass loose from his spear in order to keep the weight distribution in its proper balance. Now one dead wolf lay at his feet while the other continued to pace back and forth before him. The forest stood still as both opponents halted their movements and even the wind and trees seemed to hold their breath as if waiting for the inevitable clash.
Legs bent ready to spring, the wolf charged in howling all the way. Sebastian studied its approach and it looked as if the beast was going to strike for his chest. Indeed, the wolf even snapped its jaws towards the area causing Sebastian to thrust his spear at the wolf.
It was all a mere feint though as the wolf planted and redirected off to the side allowing the human's spear tip to pass harmlessly by. Sebastian growled and whirled around just in time to catch a glancing blow on the shoulder. Claws raked deep, tearing through fabric and skin. A line of blood began to seep from the wound and dribble on the brown grass beneath his feet. The Elder ignored the pain and repositioned himself to face his attacker.
He knew the wolf was trying to wear him down while hoping he would make a mistake for an open kill. The wolf, not willing to let up, began to pick up speed as it ran around the Elder in circles. With enough speed, the wolf ran up the trunk of a tree and use its surface as a spring to leap at the back of the Elder. Ears attuned to the forest, Sebastian heard the tree give as the wolf jumped for him. Ducking at the last second, the wolf managed to grab a mouth full of Sebastian's cloak and tore several long gashes down the fabric.
Knowing that he was vulnerable, Sebastian gathered his wits and hoisted his spear for a quick strike. The wolf perceived the same predicament and leaped for the Elder as he was still on the ground. Spear and wolf met in mid-air as the tip pierced its hide and struck deep into the wolf's heart. Sebastian allowed the wolf to follow its original path with the help of his spear, sending the dying beast over his head to land with a loud thud on the dirt behind him.
Elder Sebastian breathed a heavy sigh with the second wolf dead and behind him. All that remained now was dealing with the last of the pack. Scanning the copse of trees, Sebastian saw no sign of the third wolf. Regaining his feet, he looked in every which direction trying to get a location. Nothing was there and he could hear nothing either.
Sebastian walked to the second wolf's body to retrieve his spear but a slight rustle in the trees above him stole his attention upward. From the cover of leaf burden boughs, the silhouette of a wolf dropped straight for Sebastian. There was no time for the Elder to move as the hulking form crashed down atop of him. Kicking and scrambling to get free, the young Elder crawled out from under the hairy wolf and reached for his spear.
Turning around to defend himself with spear level, Sebastian noticed something peculiar. Protruding from the beast's hide was an arrow shaft. The last of the pack had not attacked him, it had been shot out of the tree. Sebastian was left wondering who could have done such a thing as he didn't see anyone about.
"So, even the great Elder of Men does not have eyes in the back of his head. I expected more from such a fabled huntsman as Elder Sebastian."
Sebastian smiled and looked up towards the trees. Sure enough, perched lightly on of the higher limbs was an elf standing with bow in hand. "Tamariel! What brings you to this end of the forest? I thought I would be too far west for you and your kin."
"Wherever the woods grow, my people go. But I digress. I am out here hunting a human but I had no idea I would be adding blood wolves to my bag."
Laughing, Sebastian dipped a bow. "Then I am fairly caught. What is the price on my head and who is asking?"
"The price is that you owe me an arrow for my quiver but I must bring you straight to Lady Alurial. If you want to blame someone for being found out, I would speak with your horse. It couldn't fathom why a human would be crazy enough to travel alone to this place. Ah, but I tarry too long as it is. The next time you feel the need to hunt, be sure to look for the long bow of Tamariel."
Sebastian waved goodbye as the elf deftly moved from one branch to another and disappeared. "I will."
Sarah knelt down by the flower walls encircling the White Tower while wiping a few drops of sweat from her brow. It had been a long trek back but well worth the effort since tending to the Winter Roses was one of her favorite pass times. Seeing the pure white blooms during winter when all else has died off, was a truly beautiful sight. If nothing else, it kept her mind occupied while Sebastian was off on his own personal quest.
Hefting the hem of her dress up above her knees, Sarah knelt in the soft dirt and began pruning back some of the dead leaves and buds. She began humming softly to herself while the guards marched on patrol and kids ran through the gardens laughing.
On the other end of the gardens, a slab of stone pulled back from underneath and angelic statue. Stairs wound down into the darkness of the earth. Walking out from the concealed the pathway, Shizra breathed in the deep fall air while allowing her eyes time to adjust to the light. The stairs behind her allowed her to travel freely through a network of tunnels that connected Mythrandir with the Underdark and the dwarven halls. Few knew of its existence but it was a useful series of passages left over from the time of the Clan Wars.
"I am Wulfgar, guardian of the gate and city walls. If you will follow me, a chariot is waiting to bring you to the Elders."
Not far inside the gate was a golden chariot hovering above the stone laid street. No horses were hitched to it but it appeared capable enough to make the journey through the city on its own.
"I will be honored if you would lead the way."
Atrox followed Wulfgar inside the gate and approached the charriot. He wondered briefly if the grav system would be able to handle the weight of his suit. It contained the equivelent of three cubic meters of iron and would weigh a lot. If it appeared the device would not allow his weight, Atrox had planned on activating the levitation and bonding the soles of his feet to the surface. It did not pay to cause trouble with one's Hosts.
I waited for OG to return from his vacation (and recover from jetlag) before I posted so we would not leave him behind.
The wind slowly began to blow against the woman in white, as she stood next to her friend. Not a word was said, nothing needed to be. Darth Sunshine and Atrox were close enough that they need not speak, they knew each others actions well enough.
She stood, her hands grasped in front of her, her golden hilted rapier by her side. Her pale complection hidden under the white hood.
As the car pulled up, her face did not change. Her hands did not move, nor did she make any gestures. She knew her place, and the perceptions of those around her. To all but those in the know, Sunshine was Atrox’s hand, he was the leader. She waited, til he walked towards the car. Waiting til he took three steps, she followed him from behind, and entered the car.
(I understand. It is not a problem.)
Reptilian eyes stared down at the trio as they passed through the gate tower and entered the rim of Mythrandir. Armored guards lined the walls as they appeared to make up all walks of life from humans, to the squat but heavily armored dwarves, to the lithe elves and their great bows. They gave a passing glance to the new comers but continued on their duties and patrols.
The chariot itself was gilded to a golden polish with a few windows to allow its passengers to view the scenery as it passed by. Wulfgar held the door open for them as they entered. The chariot sunk a little as Atrox's weight had not been a factor in the craft's original programming. However, an automatic adjustment was made and it quickly returned to its normal level.
Once Hera was inside, Wulfgar stepped in and took a seat opposite them after closing the door. Without a word, the carriage darted off down the streets towards their destination. Meticulously laid stone work weaved the network of roads throughout the large city of Mythrandir. Each stone was cut, smoothed, and fit perfectly to the others around them as if each block of stone was a piece of some grander puzzle. The roads themselves were not laid out in an orderly grid as might be expected from a large city. Instead, the streets meandered in twisting routes. The city had been allowed to grow naturally, so the roads had to suit the city and the people.
Stores of business filled the outer circles of the city where merchants lived and conducted business. Large stone buildings stretched up to cast shadows over the roads in the dreary weather. Typically, the streets were filled with vendors competing to do business with the other merchants but the weather looked to have scattered most of the street cars. Still there were the determined who were out selling items that they fancied or specialized in, and there were a number of customers that made trudging through the light rain worth the wet clothes. Otherwise the streets were cleared for the most part this day.
Traveling further in to the government center of the city, business and stores gave way to the humans. It had always been a philosophy of the first Elders that the people should be close to the government and not the merchants and the hawkers. Smaller buildings soon took dominance along their path but they were perhaps the more intriguing of Mythrandir's architecture.
It was in the homes and lives of the Myths that their hopes and ideals came to fruition. Hand carved stones from the dwarven halls made up the foundation and walls of the homes where the elven talents for all things natural helped create the roofs to the structures. Growing along the side of each home, was a fungus that snaked up the side of the walls expanded across the tops of the homes. The plant allowed for occupants to heat their homes while at the same time keep moisture out. It all represented their ability to come together in harmony where they might live and call something their own. Mythrandir had become that jewel that all of the original races prized. More so among those that remembered the clan wars that plagued Mythrandir.
After a scenic trip, the guests were finally seeing an end to their trip. Houses soon gave way to a smaller cobbled path that plunged into a maze of hedges, rose bushes, and gardens. Mason fountains dotted the gardens as crystal clear water bubbled up from their wells and fell ornately carved basins. Some were large enough to contain exotic fish as water fell from a series of bowls into a large pool while others were little more a source of amusement for children.
Unaffected by the rain, children could be seen running through the gardens chasing after one another or causing havoc in the fountains. Regardless, they were left alone within sight of the White Tower that loomed before them.
The chariot crawled up the hill to the summit of the great tower where four large armored human like creatures stood guard around the tower. The tower itself stretch to pierce the clouds as the dominant structure in the city but the four guardians stopped halfway up and stood as sentinels in their armor adorned by golden capes.
When their carriage came to a stop, Wulfgar hopped out and held their door open for the others. Being a Northmen by tradition, he had remained relatively quiet throughout the trip and only offered a differential nod to the two as they exited.
Looking around, the guests could see a few other interests in the distance. Sitting atop two hills in the northern expanse of the city were the Diplomatic Palace and Christio Cathedral. Both looked to be fortresses onto themselves as tall twisting turrets anchored their foundation while an iron gate surrounded the Diplomatic Palace. Rose colored colored windows and flying buttresses gave the cathedral and archaic look while the crawling palace was an island among inferior buildings. Looking to the west and south, the ocean stretched out as far as the eye could see. Some ships were anchored in the harbor for the day with sails raised and crews unloading their cargo. Still there were a great number of the caravels with their sails catching the wind as the prow of the ships cut through the waves.
Armored guards milled about the doors to the Tower but when they saw the chariot come to a stop and its passengers disembark, they snapped to attention and hustled to line the way to the tower. Silver plated armor dripped with the light drizzle and their crimson capes hung limp at their shoulders from the rain but the men themselves stood tall and proud with weapons in hand. Banners of a phoenix rising out of a fire, hung from lance tips.
One of the armored knights walked down the path between his men. Under normal circumstances, the men might have been surprised by the sight of Atrox but adequately planning had gone into this ahead of time so as to not offend their guests. The man removed his winged helm allowing long brown hair to fall out from under it, then dipped a bow.
"Greetings. I am Brad, Captain of the Citadel Guards and guard contingent to Elder Sebastian. May I have your names as you would like to be announced?"
Sarah knelt off to the side by a winter rose bush and pruned back some of the dead limbs to make way for the life that would come in the winter. She was close enough that she could see the passengers from the chariot as well as the words of Brad when he greeted them. Children ran all around her, talking and laughing as they played without a care. It all brought a smile to her face to see the children so happy and carefree.
Having no children of her own, Sarah had made every child of Mythrandir hers as her and her husband allowed them free reign in the gardens and outside the Tower. If nothing else, it was Sebastian's hope that the children would be a constant reminder and temperament to the Elders' decisions.
Unfortunately it appeared as if the meeting was going to start and her husband was no where to be seen. Raising herself up, Sarah knew that she would have to represent her husband until he arrived in the city. She wiped the dirt and mud from the knees of her dress and did her best to clean her hands. It wasn't the most dignified way to greet foreign ambassadors, but it was better than being disrespectful.
Streaking across the Mythrandir sky, an armored shuttle was screaming towards the White Tower. Its armored plated doors were open affording Sebastian and Tamariel a view of the city from the air. The city itself appeared to sprawl the landscape like an infection but the Elder saw it much more than that. Sebastian was the first to admit a problem that they the Elders had or problem amongst the people, but the city was home to him and it stood for everything that he fought for. Here, his people could live in freedom without fear and go about their lives as they saw fit.
It didn't take them long to close the distance to the White Tower. Peering through the midst, Sebastian could already see that Atrox had arrived and with a guest. The young woman was unfamiliar to him but seemed to be familiar enough with Atrox.
Sebastian sighed while steadying himself with the cargo grips. He turned to the elf in cabin with him. "How do I look?"
The tall elf looked Sebastian up and down then frowned. "You look like hell. You need a bath and a change of clothes. At the very least a shaving."
Sebastian smiled at Tamariel's assessment but merely shrugged in his woodsmen garb. "Too late for that. The guests have arrived and I would be a poor host if I kept them waiting."
"Suit yourself, but I imagine they would suffer you a bath."
The transport began its decent some distance away from the welcoming guards who were already talking with Atrox and Hera. Sebastian preferred to settle some distance back from them so as to not disturb anything. Even before setting foot onto the stone path, Sebastian saw two prominent figures walking around from opposite ends of the Tower. Neither one, could he ever forget. From one side came the formidable but hardly dressed Shizra while his dirt covered wife came the rose gardens. Sebastian elbowed Tamariel and pointed up towards the Tower.
"My ladies in waiting come."
The elf shook his head. "I don't know whether to envy you or pity you."
Sebastian thought for a moment. "How about both? The dark elf will most likely be the death of me but no better woman is there than my wife."
"Aye. All the people love Sarah and honor your union. Let us go though. I do not wish to keep your friend waiting."
Standing in mud soaked boots with a rain drenched hood and cape hung around his shoulders, the Elder could only agree. His appearance was less than appropriate for greeting foreign friends with tears plaguing his clothes, blood from his wounds and those of his prey staining his leather tunic, and his overall dirty, scraggy looks would surely set an impression. Sebastian only hoped it would not be the wrong one as he and Tamariel hurried to greet Atrox for a second time.
The city was truly a marvel to Lady Sunshine as the chariot sped through the city. The white blocks, the perfectly round streets, the beautiful gardens were truly inspiring. She stared out the window, as she pressed her hand to the window. The flowers were in bloom, and despite the rain, their natural beauty could not be hidden, even under the darkest of clouds.
She smiled as she noticed the children playing unattended. Running with the innocence of youth, as they jumped in the ancient looking fountains, truly free from anything and everything that was wrong.
“This is a beautiful city, it is so clean and pure.” the Lady of the Sith told the guard as they speed through the city. “Your children are free to roam around, and you have so many people and different races.” she noted to the guard that she spoke to softly. “I assume that you do not have much crime then.” she half way asked the guard.
Turning her attention back outside, she watched the people scurry about. The elves, dwarves, men, and other races seeming to work together in one vast city. It was amazing to the young Colonial half breed as she looked out peering into the alien world like a fish trapped in a bowl.
“How is this possible?” she asked keeping her attention out towards the city. “Where I come from Humanity alone is a hair away from ripping itself in two, and here you all seem to work together. How did you manage this?” she asked as she took her hand off the window.
When the chariot finally stopped Lady Sunshine slowly got out of the vehicle. Her first step exposed her bare foot, as she pulled up her ceremonial white robe to step out. Gently and gracefully she soon exited. Looking at the guard who nodded, she shot him a quick and friendly smile, as she stood to the right side and one step behind Lord Atrox. The rain gently fell on her shoulders as the warm air wrapped itself around her like a blanket.
Gently Lady Sunshine took her hand and held it to the air. The warm drops of water gently fell into her hand as she watched the pure and clean water bounce in her hand then settle into a single drop. Her heart warmed at it’s touch, while the next drop fell from the sky.
As Brad spoke, she barely noticed, as she was distracted by the rain. It took her a minute for her to catch on, that Brad was speaking to her. “Oh.” she said looking startled. “Lady Sunshine will do.” she said with a coy smile to the guard, as she kept her hand cupped to the sky, letting the rain fall into it.
Sebastian and Tamariel bounded up not far from where the introductions were being given. Thankfully, they were not too late and would be able to avoid the embarrassment of not properly greeting guests. Sebastian did his best to try and wipe the mud from his clothing and straighten the tangled mess of long wet hair atop his head.
The elf at his side shook his head with a smile and gave the Elder a clap on the shoulder. "You are a lost cause, Elder. Might as well leave the mud, it adds character."
Sebastian answered back with a shrug. "No cause is lost, though I would prefer if mine was slightly cleaner. Still, I'll take whatever character our world can muster for me."
About the same time the duo was rounding the chariot that had carried Atrox and Sunshine to the White Tower, Sarah and the War Mistress Shizra both caught up to Sebastian and Tamariel. Happy to see her husband back, Sarah hooked an arm in with his and kept walking. The soaked couple shared a small smile, glad to be together again as they walked.
The dark elf fell in along with Tamariel and walked on with her attention up at the two new guests. "I'm glad you arrived on time, Elder. I would hate to see what would become of your friends if Alurial was allowed to run the introductions. No need to treat ones you favor so, in such horrible fashion."
Sebastian gave his friend knowing look. "You speak though as if Alurial would boil their skins and use their bones for her throne. But I am glad to have made it. I have been looking forward to this for some time."
With several agreements from the company, Sebastian and his entourage finally made it up behind Atrox and Sunshine. At the arrival of their Elder, the guards snapped even straighter (if at all possible) and brought their hands to their hearts. Brad managed a slight bow before all when he saw Sebastian.
"Elder Sebastian. I am sorry. I thought you were still out of the city. I would have left everything to you if I had known that you were..."
Sebastian silenced the man with an upraised hand. "There is no need for apologies. No offense is taken and you have committed non against my guests. I thank you for taking care of them in my absence though." Brad bowed in his acceptance then moved himself so as to fall in line with the rest of the soldiers.
The Elder turned to his guests and placed his hand upon his heart. "Well met again, Lord Atrox. I trust your travel was pleasant? If you had informed me ahead of time of your arrival, I would have sent a ship and escort to guide you hear. Regardless, I am pleased you have taken me up on my offer."
Sebastian turned to greet the young woman at Atrox's side. He scoured his memory of the time when he had first met Atrox on a far away world ravaged by war. For the life of him, he could not recall seeing a woman with Atrox. Sebastian could only assume though that it was a dear friend. "And what is your name my dear lady?"
From the row of soldiers, Brad called back. "She has announced herself as Lady Sunshine, m'Lord."
Sebastian smiled at her. "Such a fitting name for one so beautiful."
The Elder dipped a low bow in respect to her then stood straight and swept his arms out to his own entourage. "If I may introduce my own companions, Atrox I believe you have already met War Mistress Shizra. Next to her is Tamariel of Caeralfar and last but certainly not least my wife, Sarah."
Each of them bowed their heads when they were introduced. Sarah wrapped an arm around her husband's waist and smiled back at the both of them. "My apologies to you two. I try to keep my husband washed and trimmed but as of late, he seems to fancy the mud."
"Ah but there is nothing better than the feel of the earth on your feet, the wind blowing against your face, and the sounds of the earth. Sometimes, my sanity beckons me on beyond the walls of the city to old haunting grounds and the woods. But I digress and my manners are at stake. Come, let us get out of this drizzle and into some place warmer and more comfortable. Shall we?"
Sebastian had the guards at the wooden doors, open them wide for his guests and ushered them on inside.
“Unfortunately I cannot feel the wind on my face, I lack those types of receptors but yes, I do understand what you are meaning when you say that.”
Atrox was looking around at the sights and wonders that were hidden from orbit. The world was almost as beautiful as Home but the difference was his planet was an island studded world full of jungles and oceans. There were no great civilizations of multiple races working together harmoniously (or so it appeared) with each other like he saw on his way here from the landing pad. The different but primitive on a galactic standard of everyday life on this planet was surreal. You would never be able to tell this world commanded a single rocket much less than a territory containing several worlds. If he had not ridden his own shuttle down and instead awoke on the surface without memory of how he arrived, he would never know about the ships in orbit. Appearances are certainly not to be believed and he could tell Sebastian and those before him had worked hard to keep this place pristine.
“I must complement you on your planet. It is so beautiful and pristine. How have you kept it from succumbing to the disasters of industries and pollutants? You could never tell the level of civilization you have achieved unless one already knew beforehand.”
Darth Atrox entered the heavy doors following his escort with Hera at his side. While he was inside, he looked at the marvels of architecture, ignoring the electromagnetic fields pinpointing power feeds and other technological marvels disguised as part of the room. If the Host wanted something aesthetically hidden, it was polite to not point them out.
“Before we continue I should submit myself to inspection. I am carrying no weapons but for your safety I understand there are protocols that must be followed.”
Atrox raised his hands (all four of them) and allowed the guards to search him with both instruments and physically. The only thing they found other than his environmental suit was a disassembled light saber missing its focus crystals. The device was a work of art in its own way but without the crystals it was as offensive as a paperweight. The parts were encased within a velvet bag attached to the waist of his power suit. The instrumentation detected no weapons of any sort upon the Sith Lord. Of course, if he needed to defend himself it was common knowledge he had numerous abilities but it was also known Darth Atrox was one of the few Sith who possessed Honor and would never betray the trust of a Host without reason. After the guards were done, he nodded to Sebastian showing the Sith was clear of any detectable weapons.
When Sebastian looked at the velvet bag Atrox nodded to him. “It is part of the reason I am here. I will speak to you about it when the time is right, first I have to be the proper Guest and enjoy your marvelous city and its wondrous buildings. I am so happy I accepted your invitation and came here to visit you.”
That would be one of the remarks to be written into the history books, a Sith Lord truthfully saying he was happy. It might be eons before such a miracle happens again, unless it was one of the members of The New Sith Order. Fortunately two of the head members of the NSO were peacefully visiting.
Great oaken doors swung inward as Sebastian lead his friends inside and out of the damp weather. The chill from the wind was broken by the heat emanating from within as it greeted the new guests. "Things have not always appeared as they do now. It has taken a great effort on all of our parts to maintain such a level as you now see. Every race you see here has had to contribute in some way to keep our world clean from the muck and grime of industry.
In some regards, it also helps that we still adhere to the old ways. You may have seen our harbor on your way down. Every ship there still requires wind filled sails to propel them through the oceans surrounding our continent."
As they reached the second and last set of doors that lead into the inner chambers, the guards stopped up short. Two broke off from the company to prepare to open the doors for the Elder's guests but stopped when they heard Atrox speak.
“Before we continue I should submit myself to inspection. I am carrying no weapons but for your safety I understand there are protocols that must be followed.”
Sebastian nodded his head in understanding. "I appreciate your courtesy. It is rare these days that we entertain guests as polite as yourselves. While it is our custom to trust our guests, I won't deny your request."
The Elder signaled for one of the guards to proceed. Despite the medieval armor and weapons, one of the guards managed to produce a sophisticated piece of equipment. He reached for his belt loop and grabbed a hold of a weapons scanner which was trained to detect anything metal, explosive, or emitting energy signatures. The guard took the lightsaber and handed it to Elder Sebastian for his inspection.
Sebastian took great care of the weapon as he held and admired the workmanship while turning the hilt in his hands. "I have come across a few of these weapons in my time though fewer as of late. I believe the term is lightsaber though I could be mistaken."
When the scanning of both Atrox and Hera were complete, the guard informed the Elder that no weapons, other than those reported, were on the guests.
Sebastian smiled and handed the lightsaber parts back to Atrox. "I expected as much. Now, you're among friends here so there is no more reason to worry about protocol or each other's safety."
Iron hinges groaned from the weight and the effort as the doors were turned inward. On the other side of the portal was a great chamber with a vaulted ceiling. Hovering in the middle of the room were four tear drop shaped silver chairs. Occupying three of them were Elders that represented the respective races.
At the side of the door, a guard took up the announcement of the guests. "Announcing his excellency Lord Atrox and her excellency Lady Sunshine. Representing the races of Mythrandir: Elder Alurial of the Elven clans, Elder Thrandur, of the dwarven clans, Elder Raigar of the griffon tribes, and Elder Sebastian of the human families."
Resting in front of the floating Elders was a series a chairs though one was currently occupied. The elven Captain Lukien rose and placed a hand over his bronze armored breast plate. "Welcome back Elder."
Lukien held out his hand to the seats for the guests. "Please, sit."
The elf took his place off to the side of the other Elders as a retrospective guard while the dark elf Shizra did likewise. Sebastian in the mean time lead the rest of the company forward. "Sorry for my absence fellow Elders but I return with a most noble guest by me."
Alurial narrowed her green eyes at the human as she ticked her fingers along the arm rest of her chair. "Yes...but at least you could give them and us the proper respect by cleaning your appearances before appearing in these chambers."
"My apologies but there was little time for such formalities."
Thrandur waved a heavily gauntlet fist at the elven Elder. "Bah, da lads been off protecting the stead. A little mud ain't gonna hurt nothin'."
Alurial sighed. "So it won't. Now, where do your guests hail from?"
Curtly bowing, Sebastian stepped aside so that his guests could be better viewed. "Lord Atrox comes from the Empire of Balrogga and-"
"Balrogga?" Alurial was leaning forward in her seat now. "You have brought a member of the Galactic Empire in our midst? Have you gone mad you fool? Have you forgotten the scar the stains our lands and sends pain through the elves even to this day?"
Usually of a silent nature, Elder Raigar raised a talon to silence the fuming elf. A gold necklace decorated his feathery neck with a swirling crimson gem at its center which pulsated as it translated the high pitched bird like noises into an understandable language. "Be at peace. If harm he wished us, by now he would have struck. I would hear the tale, Elder, as to why you have brought your friends."
"Thank you, Elder." Sebastian began elaborating as to how Atrox and he had met for the first time. He told of the bombing of a planet that had belonged to the Coredians and how Sebastian traveled to try and talk the Balroggans out of causing anymore damage to the populace. The Elder reminded them all of the alliance that they had once shared with the Balroggans through the League though the alliance had ultimately failed and pointed out the fact that the Balroggans did not join the Galactic Empire until after the invasion of their homeworld.
Much of the fire raging in the elven Elders eyes died with Sebastian's arguments and logic though she still remained stoic in her disapproval of the situation. Elder Raigar on the other hand bobbed his birdlike head in thought then trained his raptor gaze on Sunshine and Atrox. "I see. No more do you need to justify their presence here; however, few come to Mythrandir simply for it scenery. You have come seeking something. As it is our custom to give gifts to friends, so shall it be for you. What is it that you seek here in our home?"
Her hair dripped, as the scanners went over her body. “Why had Atrox asked to be searched?” was all she could wonder, as the scanners went over her body. Her hair was dripping wet, and aside from the rapier, and her simple white gown, she had nothing else on her.
Did they believe she was here to for a mission? Did Atrox want to instill further trust? She didn’t know, as she followed the guards into the main hall, and why did they allow her to keep her rapier?
Sunshine decided it was not wise to question such things, as she followed the group of guards, and the leader of this fair and fantastic world to the great hall. She walked softly behind them, each step revealing nothing more than her bare feet.
As the great doors opened, and the guards introduced her, she could again only wonder at the significance of it all. The way the guards were acting, boasting her name, as if she was someone of note, as if she was someone of worth. It was all too unsettling for the first of God’s generation, as she tried to shrug away from Atrox’s side and take the role of the subserviant.
Atrox was the first to step forward, and Hera waited for his lead. Once he got three steps ahead, the Lady in White began to follow. She knew the perceptions of the hall, and despite being treated like a queen, she knew she had to fill her role. Why did Atrox trust these people? Why did he ask her to accompany him? Was he fearful of a mark against his life?
The room was lavish, and very well decorated, as Lady Sunshine walked in. Before her were four chairs, each representing the races of this surreal planet. The Elf, whose beauty was stunning, seconded only by the ego that Lady Sunshine sensed. Then there was the short bearded man, whom she knew had an enormous amount of pride. Then there was the ... thing... some sort of bird cat thing...
Hera soon found herself staring at it, as she walked in the room. “What in the frak?” she thought to herself as she looked helplessly at the strange creature. It’s feathers were very clean, as it’s fur was well groomed. Still though, what kind of ethereal world had she come to?
Then came the debate, as to the nature of Atrox. The words of the elf were cold, as she stabbed at Atrox with her questions of ill intent. Her glare at him, judging him for the sins of the Empire, her presumptions and arrogance began to irratate the lady in White. Who was this woman, to question Atrox. Had she not known who he was, the man who rebelled against his master, and lived to see this very day? Did she truly question the will of Sebastian, the ruler of this fair planet, on whom he thought were friends, and whom he thought were foes? Her hands gently went behind her back, as the bird of all things came to their defense. "So it can speak?" she thought to herself as it offered a gift.
"A gift?" she asked to the assembly before her. Lady Sunshine lowered her face towards the floor of the hall, "I am very sorry." she then spoke softly, with the voice of an innocent child, as she humbled herself to show respect to her hosts. "I was not aware of that custom, or many others here. The sights and beauty of this planet are memories I will always cherish. Walking in the rain, is an experience I rarely get these days. The gift of friendship, cooperation and knowledge is all I seek. For truly those are things that can never be taken away."
Atrox stood there taking the accusation from the elven diplomat. He replied in a calm voice devoid of negative emotions.
“I do not serve the Charlton on the Throne. I seek to rid the galaxy of that Rager once and for all. I renegade against his teaching and risked my life to flee and found my own Order to oppose the Children of Bane. No, if anyone in the Imperial navy would see me, they would try to kill me and drag my body back to Vader for a reward. If I went to Coruscant, I would not be well received and would only feel the warmth of blaster fire. You need not worry about me telling a single word to the Imperial Throne about anything I see here.”
Atrox watched as the velvet bag was discovered and the individual pieces were examined.
“Yes, it is a work of art, but unless you use it as a club it is harmless. Without the focusing crystals it will not function.”
Atrox took back the velvet bag holding the carefully wrapped pieces of the light saber and held it to his waist. The armor snapped open and attached itself to the fabric and held the bag securely.
“I had hoped to make a rare instrument using the most beautiful of crystalline materials. I have carefully shaped and polished every one into the shape to hold the inner workings. Where possible, I used crystalline substitutes for metal, rubber, or other materials. The circuitry has been engraved into the material itself and I have developed a crystal matrix power supply that is more efficient than the ones the Jedi use, in theory. I have been unable to finish the device for I have not discovered the proper foci, even on my world. I have located several but they were neither pure nor large enough.”
Atrox paused a moment before continuing.
“It was then I remembered our brief visit so long ago. Your companion possessed a sword with a large Opal inset into the pommel. I wished to take you up on your invitation to visit and while here go shopping for large Black Opals, three in number actually that will call out to me. This will of course wait until just before I leave. I desire to visit you and your nation mostly. Your wisdom, serenity, and values seem to be most calming and I wish to know more of this so I may teach their effects better to my students.”
Atrox paused for a few seconds, waiting for his answer to be properly digested before speaking one last time.
“Of course, I intend to pay fair market value upon them and expect no gifts of something as valuable as these stones I will seek out from your jewelers or miners.”
If it were in his power to smile, Elder Raigar certainly would have at the young woman. There were fewer things more precious than friendship and its lasting memories and even fewer weapons as powerful as knowledge. Instead of smiling, the griffon merely bobbed his birdlike head in acknowledgment of her request. The ever present jewel of his translator hummed with energy and cast a slight glow about him as if he were an other worldly being.
"Our knowledge is yours then as is our friendship. Strong are the ties that bind a relationship as such a nature. You are welcome to frequent the Cathedral of Knowledge during your stay and learn what you will. Perhaps some day, you could add to our own tomes of wisdom.
Still, before your time here is at an end maybe we could persuade you to part our company with a memento that will recall fond memories of our lands while you are gone. Do not hesitate to ask or fear of offense."
The proposal did not appear to bother any of the other Elders as most of them nodded their heads in agreement. "A fair offer I'd wager." Thrandur patted the warhammer resting at his side as he voiced his agreement.
Though one Elder was uneasier than the others. Sebastian exchanged looks with the War Mistress Shizra when Atrox informed them of his reason for visiting. His eyes drifted towards the dark elf's twin scimitars resting easily in their sheaths at her sides. There set in their pommels were the two black opals that the Balroggan was referring to. Tradition, honor, and hospitality demanded that they grant their guest such a seemingly easy request. In an outsider's eyes, a simple transaction was something hardly worthy of trepidation.
Unfortunately those two jewels were no ordinary jewels that simple miners brought from the ground. Shizra's two scimitars had been forged in the depths of the Underdark by master sword smiths of the dark elven race. While a journey to the realm of the dark elves was a long and arduous venture, it was not an impossible one. Still, there was the concern that it was only populated by dark elves who were fiercely prejudice against any other race.
Sebastian turned to respond to Atrox but was interrupted as a guard burst through the tower doors and ran into the main chamber. The guard, human by looks, moved surprisingly quick despite the armor adorning his body. He stopped short of Elder Sebastian and placed his hand over his heart in a deep bow while laboring to catch his breath.
"Catch your breath soldier."
The man nodded then stood taller. "Thank you Elder. A message from the frontier."
The guard handed Sebastian a rolled piece of parchment. Sebastian looked at it curiously then broke the seal to unravel it. Excusing himself, Sebastian stepped off to the side to read the message. His eyes scanned the parchment as he took in every word. Eventually, he turned back around and handed the scroll back to the messenger.
"Thank you. I'll attend to the matter personally."
The messenger bowed once more then hurried back out the doors as they closed behind him. Sebastian returned to the company with a great weight bearing on his shoulders while turning to face the other Elders and his friends. "I apologize for the interruption but I must take my leave. Something has happened in one of the outlying villages that I must attend to."
Tamariel looked as if he knew what the message had said, as if he had the mental ability to read the parchment through Sebastian's eyes. "It's the blood wolves again, isn't it?"
"I am afraid so. An elderly man was killed while taking his grandson for a walk outside the village. His body was discovered a few moments ago but the boy is no where to be found."
The elven ranger picked up his bow and hooked over his shoulders and down across his chest. "Then I'll accompany you. You could use the extra pair of eyes and tracking."
Brad perked up from the back of the room as well when he heard that Elder Sebastian would be heading back out of the city. "Allow me to assemble a few of the Citadel Guards and we shall go with you."
Sebastian smiled but held up his hand to stop the Captain. "Thank you Brad but no. Anymore than a handful and she will get wise of our presence. The fewer that accompany me the better."
However, the young Captain would not so easily be placated by the matter. "Then at least take the War Mistress with you as an extra blade."
"Very well. If that would please you." The Elder paused for a moment in contemplation. Suddenly, he twirled to face Atrox as if a solution to some problem had been presented.
"Lord Atrox, as soon as I return I will take you to collect your gems. Perhaps though you might like to accompany us? It will be a good chance for you to view more of Mythrandir's landscape and the charge of the jewels will not be credited to you. Though I do understand if you decline as I cannot guarantee your safety. The beast we hunt is one of the greatest hunters you'll find on this planet."
Sarah stared at her husband wondering if he had truly gone mad as Alurial had said. It was hardly proper to take a diplomatic guest on such a dangerous endeavor. What would the consequences be if Atrox were hurt or worse, killed?
Regardless of the looks he was receiving, Sebastian continued with his proposal. "As for your companion, my wife will be her escort to where ever she wishes to go and Captain Lukien will act as their guard. What say you?"
Most were now wondering where exactly he was going with all this. Payment for a gift was hardly needed as most had no doubt that the jewels would be given up freely to their guest. Though few knew exactly where the gems on Shizra's scimitars came from, there was still no reason to put someone's life at risk.
Atrox seemed to be pleased with the invitation but he was obviously unaware of the implications of what he might have caused asking about Black Opals.
“That would be marvelous. I fully accept your invitation but I will not accept any gifts of the opals. I insist paying full market value for the three that call out to me.”
Atrox walked over to where Sunshine was standing and handed her the felt bag. “Please take this, I do not want to lose it in the wilds so I entrust it to your safekeeping. I also want you to have fun and enjoy the beauties this world offers. It is rare for one to be accepted so openly and readily as our guests have.”
Atrox turned back to Sebastian.
“I am ready as I stand here, lead on and I will follow.”
Atrox followed his Host.
You can post for me if you wish. I give you permission.
Just don’t do anything I wouldn’t.
Sebastian smiled at Atrox's response. It was exactly what he had expected from the Balroggan which only made his friendship that much more important. With any luck, they could dispose of the problem and be on their way to the Underdark before night fell. "If all goes well, you will acquire what you need to pay for those gems. For now we should be off. Every second spent here allows the trail to grow cold."
Buttoning his cloak back around his shoulders, the Elder gathered up his belongings to head back out into the wild once more. Sarah caught his hand as he walked past which halted the Elder for a moment. They shared a look with one another where Sarah looked to be pleading and Sebastian's was one of apologies. It was a brief encounter that quickly ended as the Elder scooped his satchel up and threw the strap over his shoulders.
"Brad!" The Elder bellowed the order and had the young city Captain running to catch up.
As Atrox followed the human Elder, so to did the dark elf Shizra and the light elf, Tamariel. By the time they reached the door to the main chamber, Sebastian had accumulated an imposing group of companions that sent most of the armed guards stepping aside to make way out of respect. "Is the shuttle still around?"
"Yes Elder. It is resting outside along with all your and Tamariel's gear."
Sebastian nodded at the report as he lead on and out to the cold fall air. The essence of a world that surrounded him fed his fiber and refreshed his spirit as if he fed off of the world itself. He took a deep breath of the cleansing cool then sighed. "We'll need three-"
The Elder caught himself and looked at Atrox for a moment, studying the body composition. "Make that two horses and a kreel. Also our friend, Lord Atrox, needs a weapon. We cannot possibly send him into a fight armed naught else but an unfinished weapon."
Brad snapped to and saluted with a fist to the center of his breastplate. "As you command, Elder."
The armored guard rushed off to take care of the orders. Up ahead, the metal beast that had ferried Sebastian and Tamariel to the great city was still parked where they had left it. Inside, a horse neighed at the presence of its master as Sebastian walked up the plank into the belly of the transport. Saddle bags were half full of food from the previous journey but Sebastian did not appear overly concerned about restocking his supplies. He carried himself with an air of confidence that let the others know that this time, the hunt would be finished.
"I suppose you have never ridden a kreel?"
When Atrox answered in the negative, Sebastian merely nodded. Exactly what a kreel was, was answered a moment later as Brad rode up with two horses and a four-legged lizard with saddle. Brad dismounted and handed the reins over to Shizra and Tamariel for them to tether the beasts to ropes within the transport. Once they were taken care of, the guard handed two spears over.
One spear was completely covered with white cloth and tied at the spearhead with a golden rope. The other was ornately carved all along the shaft depicting great battles with a number of beasts indigenous to Mythrandir. Some of the engravings resembled great boars or stags while others were far more exotic. The spearhead itself was notched from many hunts and battles but the blade still held a fine edge attesting to its fine craftsmanship.
Sebastian unwrapped the other spear and tossed the cloth to Brad. The spear itself was rather plain though the shaft was of fine wood, it sported none of the carvings that Sebastian had. Both spearheads were similar in make and design though one was in far better condition.
The young Elder handed the spear over to Atrox with a smile. "A Tell-Tale Spear. These spears are reserved for the hunter and their tale is told along the shaft. After each successful hunt, their story is engraved into the shaft so that their tale is told in full and never forgotten. Who knows, perhaps after today the bards may sing of you in the inns."
Sebastian headed over to his own horse and secured the spear in its proper holding which allowed it to rest easily against the horse's side but be close enough for the Elder to call upon at will. "The kreel is one of the most agile animals between the two inhabited worlds of Mythrandir. They are a great beast to have alongside you in a fight. We'll have to move quickly though due to the cold weather. Pulling them from the desert or Thralk, is never wise in the winter time unless absolutely needed."
Fishing around in his saddlebags, Sebastian pulled out a handful of small thorny fruits then tossed them to Atrox. "Here, feed this to the kreel when we start. It will help keep him warm."
After all was settled, the ramp to the shuttle closed and they were lifted into the air. It was a short journey over the great plains surrounding the city and to the other end of the continent. Smaller cities and settlements flashed by as they flew onwards though none of them measured to the grandness or splendor of Mythrandir.
When the transport did begin to slow, they were leagues from Mythrandir and hovering over a small outpost village. A wooden wall and gate was all that appeared to protect the city. The shuttle began its decent in the village center which had many of the people scattering to get away from the rain and mud as it flew into the air.
Here the architecture and the makeup of the city changed greatly. The roads were not as fine of quality as those of Mythrandir and the homes were mostly made of wood or stone but nothing of the great blending in the multiple cultures. Once the transport settled on the stone pavement, the companions lead their mounts out. By now most of the villagers' faces wore warm smiles as they recognized their Elder walking amongst them. Here humans were the sole populace so all knew the face of Elder Sebastian while his companions were something of an attraction.
Not many had seen a light elf such as Tamariel and even fewer had seen one of the secretive dark elves. Whispers flooded the crowds as they wondered to what they owed their good fortune. While most dark elves carried a foul reputation, Shizra's name had spread far enough to accommodate her with a bit more respect than fear. Atrox was a sight all himself. He was obviously not of this world but where he came from none could say. A strange looking creature to be sure with his multiple arms though no one was willing to voice anything aloud. Little children hid behind their mother's skirts while their parents merely stared at the strange being.
Sebastian strode into the midst of the crowds without fear of any would be assassin or crazed man. "I am looking for George's family. Can anyone point me to their home?"
An elderly woman in the back of the crowd spoke up. "He be at the edge of town near the gate."
Sebastian bowed to the woman. "My thanks, mother."
The Elder lead his companions on through the village, trudging through washed out gravel and mud that soaked up the tops of their boots. Eventually they came to the house that the old woman had described. They tied their mounts up to a post and they walked up the wooden stairs to the door. Shizra pushed her way forward but Sebastian grabbed her by the arm.
He smiled slightly. "Let's not go for intimidation this time. How about we just try to have a civil conversation?"
Somewhat reluctantly, Shizra consented and fell back in line. Elder Sebastian stepped forward and knocked on the door. After a moments delay, a middle aged man with a haggard face answered the door.
"Yes? Whaddya want?" It wasn't long before the man recognized who stood before him as his eyes went wide.
"Elder Sebastian! Come in, come in. Please, sit." The man threw the door wide to his modest home and made way for the Elder and his companions.
Sebastian nodded his thanks and entered the home. The man's wife fetched a few glasses and prepared to draw some ale from the tap when Sebastian raised his hand to stop her. She sat the glasses down then scooped up her little daughter then brought her over to sit by the fire and play. One look at Atrox and the little girl ran back to her mother to hide. The little girl shook with fear as one eye peaked out from behind the hem of her mother's dress.
Sebastian turned his attention back to the man. "George, tell me what happened."
George rubbed the bushy beard covering his face then rocked back and forth in his chair. "Well, I was out in the field preparin' the wheat for the winter while me father took me little boy out to the woods to pick some mushrooms. We didn't see 'em all day and started to worry. Me and some of the other farmers went out searchin' the woods and couldn't find any trace of them.
It wasn't until we had gone further towards the mountains when we found a blood trail. I followed it until I found me pa all torn up off the side of an old deer trail. Weren't no sign of me boy and ain't seen him since."
Sebastian nodded as he listened to the man's tale. He had no children of his own so Sebastian could only imagine the pain and worry that George was feeling for his son. Sarah and Sebastian had not been able to have a child yet, so they had taken the care of all Mythrandir's children personally.
Pulling out a rough map of the surrounding area from his cloak's inner pocket, Sebastian handed the parchment over to George. "Can you mark the area where you found your father's body."
Nodding, George took the map and inked the area he found his father's body. A dark circle indicated an area at the foot of the mountains which was not far from where Sebastian had encounter the last pack of blood wolves.
"Thank you. I am sorry for your loss but we will be sure to bring your son back."
Bidding their farewells, the companions set out on their mounts for the pass to the mountains. With the map in hand, it would be easy for them to pick their way through the forest trails to where George's father had been discovered. Hopefully from there they could pick up the boy's trail or the beast that had killed the old man. The sound of hooves and claws thundered over the plains until they reached the edge of the forest. Their pace slowed until they could pick their way through the trees and onto one of the many deer paths. Once located, Sebastian lead the way while swinging his body from side to side looking for any signs of struggle or animal tracks.
Snapping the reins, he spurred his horse further. He looked back to check on how Atrox was handling the kreel. "My apologies if this is an inconvenience. Any machine or powerful energy source would alert the blood wolves of our presence. Some times, it is the old ways that yield the best results."
It was about an hour later when they reached the sight where George found his dead father. Sebastian dismounted and tied the end of his horses reins to a tree. Crouching low, Sebastian swept the area of tracks. Blood still soiled the earth and nearby vegetation. His hands swept through the dirt and brush until he centered in on a pair of tracks.
"A blood wolf and a large one at that. It looks as if it were dragging something."
Tamariel hopped down to study the mark in the dirt. "Looks as if whatever it was dragging was still alive."
The elf stuck his finger tips in a small droplet of blood at the wayside. He tasted the consistency of the contents then spat it out. "And bleeding. It's human blood. It seems that the beast was taking the boy back to the lair for a meal."
"Or to feed to her cubs." Sebastian managed to finish the thought for the elven ranger. "Or worse, to set a trap."
Sebastian had the rest dismount as he walked over to his horse. He pulled his quiver and bow free from their leather strapping then grabbed his spear. "Chances are the wolf's lair is not far if it is dragging a live meal. Tamariel and Shizra, take to the trees and be our eyes and scout ahead. Atrox, we'll walk on foot and follow the trail."
The Elder threw his bow across his shoulders then ran in a crouch as he kept steadying the trail that the blood wolf had left in its wake. "Don't forget your spear."
Sarah sighed as Sebastian left with the others. Her grief and anger were hidden from the rest as she was left behind again. Instead, she turned back to the gathering and walked up to Lady Sunshine with a pleasant smile on her face.
"It seems my husband has volunteered me as guide. Allow me to show you around, Lady Sunshine. What would you like to see?"
Captain Lukien walked over to the pair of women so he could be ready to move when they dead. The bronze elven knight was rarely regulated to guard duty but he understood the importance of not just Lady Sunshine but also protecting the Elder's wife.
So, the elven Captain crossed his arms across his phoenix emblazoned breast plate and waited to find out where they were off to first.
Lady Sunshine, nodded towards the Elder’s wife as she approached. Reaching down, and picking up the black bag of Atrox, Lady Sunshine seemed at a loss of words.
“May I call you Sarah?” she asked as she walked up close to the woman who was so kind as to offer to show her around. “I am very sorry.” she said as she lowered her eyes to the ground, showing humility towards the queen of the realm. “I do not know much about your splendid home.” she said politely.
“I do not really know what there is to see and what there is not. I am somewhat embarrassed to admit this, ma’am, but I didn’t research your fine home when I came here. Would you happen to have any suggestions on what we might do?”
“Sebastian, what do you mean by that? These creatures can sense technology?”
“Yes, they can sense its unnaturalness and will avoid it as best as they can.”
Atrox was concerned. He was wearing an environmental suit and if what Sebastian said was true, the Bloodwolf would sense him before he even got close. The only way to proceed was to leave the suit behind. The problem with that is it was cold outside. Insects and cold do not go well together. The temperature outside his suit could possibly send his body into hibernation, something not good during a dangerous hunt of a creature strong enough to drag grown men to their deaths. If he did not then the child would most likely perish.
Such a dilemma, to set aside all his Sith training of taking one’s personal safety into the foremost consideration above all else or to risk death because of a lone child. Oh how he hated the warm-blooded and their internal heating systems in times like this. All they needed was sufficient insulation and they would generate their own heat to remain alive and functional. Insects needed external sources like Atrox and his environmental suit. The temperature might be just warm enough for him to last a while but he would be losing too much body heat to remain unshielded or unprotected for long. He could use a psionic ability to keep warm but that would possibly scare away the Beast.
Atrox looked again at Sebastian. He was watching the Ta’Nar wondering what the problem was. His concern was easily visible on his face. He was worried about the child. He was worried what was wrong with his guest. He was wondering if Atrox was about to turn back for some unknown reason.
No. He could not turn away. He had given his word to Sebastian and even if it killed him, his Work was his Honor. He will not sacrifice his Honor just because of a little cold. He will just have to hurry.
“Sebastian, I am about to disclose to you some of my secrets. You must never reveal them to anyone for they could mean my death. I cannot continue forward as I am. Please do not take this as my deciding I am not going to help you, I gave you my Word of Honor I would assist you and I am not backing down. I must remove my environmental suit for its technology may spook the Bloodwolf. While I am not afraid of the claws or teeth of the beast, it is the cold that is my greatest enemy here. I do not know how long before the cold begins to slow me down and force my body into hibernation. It may be minutes or longer, I cannot say. Cold is a weakness I have and I cannot let those who may be my enemy know this. I place my trust in you.”
“Another secret I have is my suit is made of Kythons. They form my environmental suit but you do not have to worry, they are well behaved and cannot cause their infamous infection unless they are in their normal form and in Combat Mode. I will have them remain here as far as they can be from the Beast but still within range in case they are needed.”
Atrox spread his four arms wide and the black metal ran like ink, dripping off his form collecting into a puddle at his feet. The living ebon quicksilver flowed away from his feet and separated into three individuals as the Kythons took on their form. The three meter long monstrosities seemed to be a mixture of several creatures themselves. Their eyeless reptilian head sat atop the thorax of a mixture of insect and reptile. The abdomen was horizontal forming the familiar shape of a centaur but it was completely insect-like. They had four legs supporting their weight and four arms ending in ling human-like hands possessing an extra joint in their fingers. Running from the top of their heads to the end of their abdomen was a line of spikes or spines covering their back.
Atrox turned to the three and spoke to them. Without his suit there was no voice modulator so his voice was nothing but a series of clicks and clacks of an insect. Accompanying the unusual sounds was the familiar warm voice of Atrox, sent using his psionics into the minds of those nearby.
“Until we meet again, follow the commands of this individual. He is Sebastian, a man of great Honor. Stand down and stay back. There is prey ahead that may sense your presence.”
There was confirmation in three nods and a chorus of strange voices also speaking telepathically.
“We will obey.”
Atrox turned to face Sebastian. He looked deep into his eyes for a moment, his compound eyes glittering like jewels in the cold sunlight. Atrox stood in the bitter wind, his body was definitely insect. He possessed two legs vaguely humanoid but without feet of one, they were definitely insect with four toes each. His arms were four in number, one set larger than the other. The upper were thick and designed for strength. The lower were finer and more delicate. Each arm was ended in a hand consisting of three fingers and an opposable thumb, all covered in chitin as any insect would be. His head resembled a valentine heart, his narrowing jaw and thin neck forming the lower wedge and his large compound eyes adding the illusion of two rounded tops. Protruding from the top of his head was two antennas. He stood slightly less than two meters and vaguely smelled of cinnamon, his natural odor.
“Shall we continue? It seems the clock is ticking.”
If he could shiver, he would but that is a warming reaction possessed by other creatures. He only had time and it was ticking down. Picking up the Hunting Spear given to him, it felt natural in his hands. He knew he would wield it well and hoped to be able to get in at least a few shots before he was not able to help. The bitter wind seemed to sap the strength from his chitinous outer layers. He knew with the wind whistling through the trees he would have to hurry.
Atrox in a medative posture. (http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v248/beldragos/thri-med1.jpg)
Sebastian could well appreciate the depth of what Atrox was attempting to disclose to him. It wasn't the first time the Elder thought about the unique relationship that he and the Balroggan shared in an age where trust and friendship was so scarce. All Sebastian could do was hold to his beliefs and values as he built upon valuable friendships.
The Elder listened intently as Atrox disclosed his secrets to the human. Sebastian was not one to take away from such a showing of trust and respect. He understood greatly that Atrox was placing himself by allowing someone else to know a secret to his very well being. Surely in another's hands, this information could spell the downfall for his friend.
Sebastian marveled at the strange features of the Balroggan's suit and the exotic creatures that rose from the inky pools. How small Sebastian's world seemed to him then and how quaint their ways must appear to Atrox. Still, the Elder managed a smile for the now vulnerable Atrox.
"My friend, if I am the only one that is aware of your secret then it shall go to the grave with me. Though not after a certain blood wolf is dead and many more of our foes have fallen. Come. Our time is short and I'll not have that lad suffer any more than is necessary in the maws of such a beast."
Picking up the trail once again, Sebastian hurried along at a greater pace and urgency than before. He understood that every second was an ounce of Atrox's strength lost so time was of the essence. Sebastian kept crouched low to the earth as he studied every track and followed through thickets and briers but never lost the scent of his prey or the direction it was heading.
Eventually the sight of the mountain's peaks loomed through the gap in the canopy above their heads. They had to be drawing close by now. Sebastian stopped to gather his bearings and to check on Atrox's progress when he heard a series of whistles drift through the cold mountain air. To any other listener, the melody sounded nothing more than the call of the birds but to Sebastian it sounded much more than that. He heard the different pitches in the whistles and realized that Tamariel and Shizra had found the lair.
"Our scouts have found the lair."
And so it was true as the pair drew closer to the cave, the sounds of whimpering could be heard. Sebastian tilted his head to better hear and found the whimpering to be that of a young child crying. Crawling through the brush, the Elder came to a ridge that looked down over the wolf's den. A cave crawled out of the ground with a dark mouth open to the sky but other than the crying, there was no sign of the boy.
"Clever girl. She's laying a trap for anyone that might be trying to come save the boy. This means she is getting desperate. That small group I killed earlier today must have been her cubs."
Sebastian rolled over on his back and looked up into the tree tops. He couldn't see either Tamariel or Shizra, but he knew they were there watching over Atrox and Sebastian like angels on high. Sebastian's fingers flashed through a series of intricate signals to alert the ranger and War Mistress just what his plan was.
Rolling back over, Sebastian slung his bow and quiver them set them to the side. "Time to spring the trap. Chances are, she already knows some of us are here but I'm betting your foreign presence to this world will go unnoticed."
Sebastian started crawling down the ledge on his belly and headed for the cave entrance. When he reached it, he waved Atrox forward then crouched low to listen. "Stay alert and keep as quiet as possible."
The Elder lightly stepped over stones and headed into the darkness of the cave with spear tip level. Darkness closed in around the pair as they headed deeper into the depths of the earth. Cool dry mountain air gave way to the damp suffocating atmosphere of the cave though its only saving grace was that the cave provided a small measure of shelter against the cold outside. Sebastian continued to follow the sounds of the boy's crying as he moved softly but steadily deeper.
Sebastian stopped short at the end of a tunnel where it opened wide into an inner chamber. There at its center lay the boy in the heart of wisp of light creeping through a small opening in the earthen ceiling. Even at that distance, Sebastian could see blood covering the poor lad's body. A gash tore at his shoulder and teeth marks broke the flesh around the boy's ankle. Even in its twisted state, the wolf knew how to keep its bait in one place. It was impossible for the boy to move on his own with that ankle.
Eyes scanning the walls and ceiling around them, Sebastian could find little signs of the blood wolf though the poor lighting afforded him little view. There were little options though with the boy bleeding at this rate, who would be dead soon unless his wounds were tended to.
"Stay close. The boy is our goal so let's make it to him then try to work our way out of here."
Sebastian stepped out into the main lair with Atrox at his side. They continued their steady advance though ever vigilant of any danger that may be lurking in the darkness. Within arm reach of the boy, Sebastian stopped when he felt something amiss. From the darkness of the cave came a low threatening growl that rumbled over the cave walls and stones, shaking the very foundations that they stood on.
"Cover the boy."
Sebastian stood over the downed lad as he put his back up against Atrox's. It was a defensive stance that required trust from both warriors that each one would guard the other's back. Despite only meeting a few instances, Sebastian put his trust in Atrox's abilities as he stood with his own spear at the ready and searching for any signs of the wolf.
Sarah smiled at the shy young woman. "You may call me Sarah but only if you keep your eyes and head raised. I can't have a guest forever running into things. My reputation would be ruined as an honorable host. Besides, I imagine the dirt is the same here as it is elsewhere."
She hooked her arm in with Lady Sunshine's and lead her out through the doors to the open air of the city while Captain Lukien brought up the rear. "Let's stop by the Cathedral of Knowledge for a start. My husband is quite proud of the library and would be disheartened to find that I did not show it off to you. Perhaps then you might have other questions or sites you wish to visit."
Sarah lead them to a waiting chariot outside the double oaken doors where guards held the carriage doors open for the trio. "So where are you from originally?"
Her touch was warm, to the Lady in White, as Sarah took her by the arm. Sunshine looked over to her and gave her a warm smile, as the lady of this world took it upon herself to show Sunshine the marvels of the society she ruled over. She was truly a gracious leader, as they walked arm in arm down the long and beautiful decorated hall ways.
“Oh.” Hera asked seemingly surprised by the question of her origins, “You probably never heard of it. It is nothing grand like your world.” she said as she stopped looking at the ground and raised her eyes to the lady of the realm.
As she spoke, a beautiful carriage pulled up. Hera looked at it, it’s design was flawless, like it was hand sculpted by a master artesian. Sunshine’s eyes gazed upon it, as she reached out to touch the door, almost as if she was not sure if it was real or not. Gently cocking her head to the side, she examined it, watching the fine strokes of the wood. “Is everything here so beautiful?” Lady Sunshine asked as she turned towards Sarah with a gentle smile.
“My lady.” one of the guards said as he held his hand towards her to allow her to get in. “Oh right, I am sorry.” she said as she sat down in the carriage. “I am from Caprica, but most know it as the Twelve or United Colonies of Kobol.” she said to Sarah.
Their chariot hovered before them and only dipped lightly as the trio boarded their ride. Captain Lukien allowed the two women to sit next to each other as he took up a cushioned bench across from them. Windows adorned the interior in order to afford the passengers a wider view of Mythrandir as they traveled through the city.
A slight change in their direction and acceleration was only ever so slightly felt as their chariot headed down the stone laid road. Gardens fell away to the buildings of the city once more as they traversed the winding roads of the city.
“Oh right, I am sorry.” she said as she sat down in the carriage. “I am from Caprica, but most know it as the Twelve or United Colonies of Kobol.” she said to Sarah.
Sarah nodded with a smile as she listened to Hera speak. "Your home is not unfamiliar to us. It was only the pass season that we met one of your citizens for the first time. A handsome young man who could not have been much older than sixteen or seventeen harvests.
He was a part of a group called the Rangers that are based out of the Abh Empire. We required their assistance in a matter and they gladly came to our help. I got the impression that he was not quite a full member yet but was welcomed in their fold given their comradery.
I am ashamed to say that I never caught his name. Perhaps you would have known him if you saw him."
It must have been comical, as the Lady Sunshine, went from cordial and pleasant to very confused, in a short amount of time. Her eyes narrowed on Sarah, as she leaned forward slightly. How was that possible? She wondered to herself as she listened to the fact that she was not the first “Colonial” here on this planet.
Sunshine kept her mouth silent as she tried to work out the puzzle. It was obvious that Sarah would not lie about something like this, or if she would then it was of no benefit to her.
“A Colonial, working with the Abh, in a group called the rangers, who is about sixteen or seventeen?” She asked Sarah as Sunshine’s mind tried to figure out the puzzle. “That is very strange she said as she slumped back in her seat. “Well it can’t be a Colonial under Cain.” She thought to herself, as she gently gazed out the window. “All of them are in the fleet, and still sixteen is too young to be on a battlestar. So it has to be a Remnant Colonial.” she thought again.
“So a remnant Colonial, well yes that would make sense, I mean they do have relations with the Abh. But Sixteen? There is no one on the battlestars that are that young, the navy doesn’t take them unless they are legal, unless...” Hera paused for a moment. “Unless they were born on the ship and the CO never kicked the parents out...” she thought to herself. Then it began to click.
Anxiously Hera sat up and looked at Sarah. “Was he about 6'0- 6'2, dark brown hair, cut short, and wore a brown jacket?” she asked the lady of the realm. “He chain smokes, has a mouth like a sailor, and probably making a fool of himself around women?” she asked nervously.
The two stood in the middle of the den, a meatbag and a bug. Their backs pressed tightly against each other, each placing their trust and very lives in the other to keep them safe from the Huntress prowling somewhere in the darkness of the shadows. Atrox could Fazz the presence of the predator with his antennae but since the Ta’Nar was inside his cloned body, he was restricted to the compound eyes of Atrox.
Insect eyes are excellent for detecting motion but in the perpetual shadow of the cave the bitch used for her den, his advantages were quite easily canceled out by the light streaming in from the seemingly distant cave mouth. The diminished light from the cloudy day also made it hard to see in the darkness of the den.
Several feet away lat the maimed form of the human child, Atrox could smell the coppery blood in the cave over the stink of the beast which seemed to permeate everywhere. There is nothing worse than the smell of a wet dog provided you counted Wookies and Blood Wolves. The she-wolf was no exception. There was no way to determine her location in the scent saturated cave.
“What do you suggest we do? If one of us goes for the boy, she will have a clear shot at the other’s back.” Atrox was correct, the predicament was there, the safety of the boy was first but if the Hunters did not kill the Blood Wolf, the boy will not make it past the hour. There was no way they could wait for the wolf to grow impatient, the dank and chill of the cave was almost as bad if not worse than outside. Atrox could feel his limbs becoming sluggish from the ever present chill of this world. If the two heroes waited too long Atrox’s body will shut down into hibernation leaving Sebastian to handle the Blood Wolf alone. He gave his word he would do his best and falling asleep, even if the cause was environmental, it was no excuse.
His Word was preventing so many options. It would not be Honorable to use his Force abilities nor would it be to use his Psionics or his Magics. A simple low power pyrokinetic devotion to warm his body would do wonders to restore his sapped strength. Unfortunately it went against everything his Honor dictated, especially during a Hunt, the most sacred bond you can share.
Suddenly a shadow leapt from the darkness. The she-wolf somehow sensing Atrox’s distracted thoughts decided at this moment to pounce. With a snarl that shook the very foundations of the cave walls she threw her four foot body at the unknown foe, believing it was better to get the strange one out of the way first so she could eat the soft skinned one later. The heavy weight of the Beast struck Atrox hard. His slowed reflexes were unable to allow him to dodge the attack but he did get a yelp out, enough to warn Sebastian. The heavy weight of the predator bore the Sith Lord down to the floor sending the spear flying out of his hands.
Atrox felt a sickening crunch as the Beast bit down on one of his more powerful upper arms. The chitin was a natural armor but the bite pressure of the overgrown worg was far greater than anything his arm could withstand. Pain flashed through his limb like a raging inferno setting his nerves aflame in waves of agony. Pinkish fluids were leaking out of the crushed arm and the she-wolf was still trying to bite down. Se adjusted her grip and gave the arm a rending shake, tearing the arm completely off. The cry of pain from Atrox was only outdone by the yelp of pain as Sebastian jabbed with his own spear. The wolf dropped the amputated arm and turned to face the source of her pain. Sebastian held his spear in front of him and backed slowly away, drawing the huntress away from his downed partner.
Through the daze of pain, Atrox saw a flicker of movement to his right. He reached out with two of his good arms and grasped the boy, rolling away from the wolf and toward the mouth of the cave where a slight shadow stood. Rising to one knee, he shoved the injured boy into the arms of Shizra who hurried out of the cave with the boy. Turning back to the cave, Atrox stumbled toward the snarling beast. His foot hit something in the shadows and he reached down and picked up the lost spear knocked from his hands when the wolf attacked.
With a battle cry from his ancestors, he charged across the center of the den grasping the spear with his remaining three arms while his fourth dribbled pink fluids as his body began to seal off the damaged limb. Once he gets back aboard the ship it will get the medical attention needed but for now, he only had his natural body reactions to rely upon. Unfortunately, while the cold and now the removal of one of his arms, his body was going into shock and his time was clicking down even faster than before.
The she-wolf heard Atrox’s cry as he rushed toward her and the now down Sebastian. She leapt to the side allowing Sebastian to roll away and to get to his feet. The wolf, sensing the meaty foe was the most vulnerable and not really liking the taste of the large bug, jumped on Sebastian. Atrox adjusted his grips on the spear and with the last ounce of his failing strength struck the wolf. There was a great howl and a mighty thrashing about but Atrox would not see the end of the beast as consciousness became extremely blurry when he was thrown away by the violent thrashing of the Beast.
YOu can take over from here.
The wonders of the city of Mythrandir that had taken years to create, had been forged in the fires of civil war, had seen countless sieges but yet remained resolute against the tyranny that plagued the universe could not compare to the interest that was within the carriages windows. Lady Sunshine's slight change in demeanor had Sarah furrowing her brow to recall the what the young boy looked like. She had seen him on very few occasions and most of those were in passing.
"That descriptions seems to fit him though I'm not entirely sure. The first time I saw him was from a distance then later was while dancing with my husband. I'm afraid my focus was not entirely on him. Perhaps the Captain can help since he was on the battlefield with him. Lukien? Do you know who she speaks of?"
Lukien leaned back in his bronze armor as he looked out the window. It was as if the glass played the memories out for him so he could scrutinize them with a watchful eye. Eventually the fair elf turned his attention back to the two women in the carriage.
"I would wager that is as good a description as any. We stormed the Geth fortress together while their main army was battling Elders Sebastian and Thrandur at the foot of the mountains. If I remember correctly, they referred to him as Nick. Though whether that was his real name or a nickname, I can not be certain. The humans seemed to be quite friendly and rambunctious with each other."
Sarah nodded with every word as she looked back to Sunshine, pleased that Lukien was able to help their guest. "Then I guess that's it. It seems that you do know him. Was he a friend of yours?"
The woman frowned slightly. "I hope he wasn't a lover because he seemed to be quite fond of one of their crew members."
Only the long shaft of Sebastian's spear saved him from the ravaging jaws of the Blood Wolf as it fell over him. Teeth gnashed for the soft flesh of his throat while Sebastian's muscles flexed and strained to keep the monstrous beast from his vitals. Sebastain had his spear positioned so that the shaft held the massive paws at bay and prevented the she-wolf's maw from sinking into his throat. Rabid spittle fell upon his face as Sebastian pushed with all his might, lifting the wolf a little higher from his face. It was to little avail though as the monster wayed three times his own body weight. Locked in a stalemate, the Elder could only keep his arms locked so as to keep his own death at bay.
From the darkness, Sebastian heard Atrox's war cry as the Balroggan leaped back into the fight with abandon. Atrox's spear tip struck home sending the Blood Wolf reeling from the mortal blow and allowing Sebastian to roll out from under the burden. Thrashing from side to side, the wolf tried to shake the spear loose from its hide. Taking the momentary lull in the battle, Sebastian turned to Atrox just in time to catch him as Atrox stumbled to the floor. Sebastian eased the Balroggan down then scooped up his own spear.
By this time, the Blood Wolf had managed to tear Atrox's spear from its side. Blood ran thick from the wound and it was only inevitable before death came to claim the great beast. Despite its life blood pooling beneath its very paws, the Blood Wolf would not lay down so easily. Rage drove it on as it had for the past year or so and it would not surrender to the cold nothingness until all of its energies had been spent. Low rumbling growls came from the throat of the doomed wolf as it sulked slowly towards the Elder.
Sebastian raised his spear tip for the battle to renew once more but stopped himself as he saw how the beast limped and its very life essence slowly fading from the Blood Wolf's eyes. Now mercy took hold as the Elder realigned his spear to simply put the monster out of its misery. Storing all of its remaining strength for one last strike, the wolf leaped for Sebastian to burry the Elder down. Striking true, Sebastian thrust his spear tip straight into the open jaws of the wolf which exploded out of the top of the wolf's head sending blood and brain matter everywhere. Defeated, the Blood Wolf skidded across the cave floor and moved no more.
Air filled his lungs as Sebastian sucked in as much as he could. Eventually his breathing steadied and he remembered his fallen comrade. Sebastian ran to Atrox's side and dropped down to his knees. He knew the ways of healing around most of the races of Mythrandir but what life forces pumped through Atrox's insect body, Sebastian could not say.
"Tamariel! I need you!"
The cave walls vibrated just seconds before the slight crack in the cave ceiling blew into a generous sized hole. The elven ranger, Tamariel, soon descended in a flourish as he landed softly on his feet. Finding Sebastian in the now lit cave, the elf hurried to his side.
"What do you need?"
Sebastian took the water skin from his shoulders and set it as his side. Gripping the hem of his cloak in his teeth, Sebastian tore a length of the fabric off and handed it to Tamariel. "Wrap it around his arm and try to stop the bleeding."
Tamariel did just as he was instructed while Sebastian popped the stopper off the water skin. Looking down at his hand and the four runes that were scarred into his palm, the Elder poured water into his hand and onto Atrox's chest. The archaic rune for water began glowing and his hand pulsed with the energy that was building within his body. Sebastian placed his hand over Atrox's chest and just like on the plains of Aztiluth, the Elder allowed healing energies from his body to flow to Atrox.
Eventually Sebastian pulled away and shook his head. Despite this being far less severe than the Aztiluth plains, Sebastian still felt weary of the ordeal. "Stay with him and keep him comfortable. I shall return with more help."
The elf nodded and pulled his own cloak off and placed it under Atrox's head for a rest as Sebastian darted off groggily for the mouth of the cave. His senses quickly returned as his legs found renewed energy in their purpose. Sebastian followed the meandering path back to where Atrox had removed his suit and set it aside. There they awaited patiently for their master's return.
Sebastian was unsure of how to communicate with them but urgency overrode any thoughts of searching for alternate communication routes. He simply blurted to them in between labored breaths. "Quickly. Come with me. Your master needs you."
At first, he was not sure if they understood him but the creatures seemed to understand Sebastian's urgency and followed him. Sebastian moved through the forest as nimble as any elf might and kept the pace hurried as need drove him. The Elder did not know how seriously Atrox was hurt but he would not risk the chance of delay. Sebastian silently pleaded to his God that the Balroggan would be fine as he lead the Kythons to the cave entrance and down to where Atrox lay.
(Apologies for the lower quality than usual response. I have been battling a cold for a while now and it seems to be hindering my ideas.)
Her demeanor changed, where there was once happiness, and cheerfulness, soon came despair. Lady Sunshine sighed, as she heard the news that it was in fact Nick who this woman had somehow met. Of all the people in the Twelve Colonies to meet why did it have to be him.
Sunshine leaned forward, as she looked at Sarah. Her look was very serious, as she put her hands together in almost a prayer form. “I am so sorry.” she said as she lowered her head. “Whatever he did, truly I am sorry for. Not all Colonials are like him, I promise.” she said as she feared the worse of what his actions might have done to cast a shadow of doubt upon Sarah.
“And no, he is not my lover. Far from it, he is like my brother.”
As her words of sorrow, and apologies for any potential offenses came up, the carriage came to a complete stop, in front of a truly splendid building.
(Sorry for the low quality post as well.)
The two Myths shared a look with one another as Sunshine began to divulge the knowledge that she had of this young Colonial. Sarah began to laugh lightly while the elf captain returned to looking out the window.
"Oh my dear, the boy did nothing of a sort. He was completely respectful to us and his presence was well served on the battlefield. Besides, he was far too infatuated with one of the Abh to pay much attention to anyone else."
Lukien tilted his head ever so slightly at that last remark. "I would not go that far Sarah. There was the incident with the War Mistress..."
The memory of the story set into Sarah's face followed by a laugh from both her and Lukien. "Oh you are right. I had almost forgotten about that little incident with Shizra. Sebastian said he would never forget the look on that boy's face when Shizra spoke to him for the first time. It was as if her eyes froze him in place and her nails were as daggers on his chin."
A moment of mirth at Nick's expense passed leaving the two smiling as they sat around their guest. Sarah took up Sunshine's hand and patted it gently. "We were happy to entertain your brother. It seems your family has travelled quite a bit and you both seem to be aspiring for greatness. Perhaps we can talk more about you and your family later."
No sooner had Sarah finished speaking than the carriage came to a gentle hault. Lukien hunched over to unlock the hatch then hopped out. The elf turned around to help the two ladies out onto the finely laid mason roadwork that lead up to the Cathedral of Knowledge. The library itself was no less impressive as it stood like a fortress amongst the sprawling city. Four turrets anchored the massive structure with buttresses while the turrets threatened to pierce the clouds.
The main chamber of the library was a great domed structure with finely stone gargoyles carved along its brim. Gold colored stone shone brilliantly in the scant sun rays that managed to sneak through the cracks in the clouds. Banners of Mythrandir snapped in the breeze from the haughty perches. Standing in the shadow of such a staggering work, practically all other buildings in Mythrandir paled in comparison to its majesty.
"Welcome to the Cathedral of Knowledge. Let's go and see if we can find Fletch."
Sarah hooked her arm in with Sunshine and lead the way to the library while Lukien brought up the rear. Double ornately carved oaken doors were pulled open by a pair of guards standing outside the structure. Once inside the library, the true beauty of it could be experienced. The dome itself had an opening at its pinnacle where sunlight flooded through and somehow managed to illuminate the entire chamber that sprawled on like a sea of wooden shelves and scrolls.
Torches burned in iron sconces as the lined the circumference of the room while a few colored windows decorated afforded more light into the room. Tapestries hung upon the walls in great numbers with some depicting ancient battles of opposing armies while others were simpler in design showing some of the majestic aspects of Mythrandir's landscape and still others were of renowned figures in Mythrandir. Looking up, an engrossing mosaic of Mythrandir filled the ceiling. Ships sailed lazily on the ocean with their sails filled with a strong breeze while Mythrandir's harbor was a buzz with activity. Mythrandir itself sat imperiously overlooking it all with its high walls and the White Tower ever present at its center. The trees of Caeralfar and the elves living among their monstrous trees were given their respective place as carers of the earth while the dwarves in Hammer Hall pounded away eternally at their smiths forging great works of metal.
Sarah lead Sunshine in deeper to the library with the smell of parchment and leather bindings floating on the air. There were a few patrons sifting through the numerous tomes and scrolls as they looked for particular works pertaining to their study. Though while they saw few scholars, it was impossible to tell how many readers were in the library considering that it was conceivable to house a small army in the main chamber and none would ever know.
Sarah's voice echoed off the stone walls.
"Feltch? Come on now where are you hiding? Fletch."
"Shhh. Keep your voice down woman." An elderly man shuffled out from the maze of the book shelves. Dressed plainly, the man wore a simple brown robe and sandals with a tight leather cap on his balding head.
Sarah smiled sweetly at the man. "Sorry. You could have simply answered the first time I called."
"I'm old. I'll answer in me own good time." He looked to the elf and gave a curt nod of respect. "What can I do for you and the Captain today?"
"I was wondering if you could show our guest here around the library some. This is Lady Sunshine's first time to Mythrandir so we figured we would start here at the Cathedral of Knowledge."
Kindness seeped into the old man's wrinkles as his face relaxed a bit. "Well bless me, I thought you were here to pile more work on my desk. I'd love to show this pretty young thing around but I have only just recently crawled out from under a stack of scrolls to see the sunlight again. The entirety of the griffon's written history was thrown on my shoulders and I need to translate it to our language. I'm sorry but I simply can't."
Sarah looked slightly disappointed at the possibility of not fulfilling her word to the young woman. Seeing Sarah disappointed so seemed to work something in Fletch's heart. "Well now don't get all sad on me. Can't stand to see a woman turned down. Here. Let me send Daniel with you."
The monk turned back to where he had emerged earlier from the bookshelves. "Daniel! Come out here lad. I've a new task for you."
Working at one of the shelves was a young boy dressed nearly as simple as Fletch though minus the leather cap. He worked with a stack of books nestled in the cradle of his right arm while his left began placing them in their respective places on the shelf.
Daniel placed the rest of the books upon the shelf then walked over towards the gathering. The boy walked with a pronounced limp as he came out of his work with a smile. With further inspection, it was apparent that Daniel's left foot was deformed though a special shoe had been crafted to help him walk easier. Not only that, but his right hand was deformed as well with his fingers curling in towards his wrist. If Daniel's deformities bothered him, it did not show in his smile and sparkling blue eyes.
"What is it Fletch?"
"Lad, I need you to take our new guest on a tour of the library for me. I'm busy with deciphering bird talk so I need your help with this."
Daniel bobbed his head happily. "Of course."
Fletch gave a bow to the trio then welcomed Sunshine as he bid his farewells and apologies once more. With the old librarian gone, Daniel took up his duty as tour guide. "Well Lady Sunshine, what can I show you first? We have all manner of texts on hand from everything from Mythrandir history to the specialties of all the races. There are the sciences, poems, and fantasies all here."
As the three Kythons stood there, they conversed together. Anyone watching would not detect the rapid responses for their only outward appearance was the three shuffling around calmly examining their immediate surroundings. If they had a way to listen in on the Kython Link, they would have heard millions of conversations at once. Out of millions, three voices were calmly discussing things ranging from the moss underfoot to the possible reasons Ba’El placed the three of them under the charge of the human.
They were interrupted by the human running toward them. To their vision, he was a mass of thermal energies overlaid with a net of electro neuron readings and the sonic vibrations from its cardiovascular system as it raced to provide Sebastian with blood flow for his elevated body functions. The human stopped and panted sending clouds of thermal energy off him from heat radiating from his body as well as his breath. As he spoke, sonic vibrations were emitted from his upper respiratory system, the whole acting as a sound chamber. The three quickly read the energy patterns created by the human and decoded them into words.
"Quickly. Come with me. Your master needs you."
As the human turned to hurry back, the three began to talk again among themselves. They had no physical capabilities to make actual speech so again it was absolutely silent communication but none the less it was quite hurried and excited.
Follow the human
Not fast enough
Take human and we will follow
We must hurry
With that, the three Kythons retracted their legs and hovered. The lead one flew behind the running human, its upper arms grasping the human under his arms and across his chest and its lower arms around his abdomen. Sebastian quickly found himself speeding off the ground at the front of a levitating Kython speeding through the forest with its two comrades flanking them as he directed their progress with his gestures. Branches or trees that were in the way were removed with a purple flash of energy blades moments before they would have contacted with the Kythons or Sebastian. When he arrived at the cave mouth Sebastian would have experienced one of the most exciting rides of his live and would be glad to touch down safely but the three barged into the dark cave as if they could see in the dark as if it was bright daylight, which they could. As they entered the battlefield, their legs extended again and they set down quickly but without a jolt. Sebastian found himself standing again as the Kythons released him and rushed over to their fallen Master.
Without a moment’s hesitation, they leapt upon him barely missing Tamariel as she jumped backwards away from the three giant insects she had never seen before. The three Kythons melted as they leapt so what hit Atrox was a black liquid that quickly formed around his chill body. As his environmental suit formed around him Sebastian noticed it was missing one of the arms noting the suit must have adapted to the Sith’s current form instead of assuming the standard one of the suit, an interesting notion indeed.
After a few minutes of warming, the form of Atrox began to feebly move. The body attempted to sit up and after a couple attempts hampered by the missing arm, Atrox looked up at Sebastian and asked, “What happened?”
So gentle was their touch that it took Sebastian a moment to realize that he was no longer moving on his accord but was in fact being carried at a far greater speed. He looked back to see the appendages of one of the insect-like creatures wrapped around his waist. Trees flew by at an amazing rate and some were completely erased from existence by some strange power that the Kythons possessed. Sebastian winced as one such tree was sheared in half by the dark energy. While such a wound would mean the death of the tree, he understood that the need to save Atrox was far greater than any preservation of the trees around them.
Sebastian found his feet once again, albeit a little shaky, when the Kythons let him go. The Elder followed as quickly as he could through the cave to where Atrox lay. By the time he arrived, the Kythons had begun to merge with the Balroggan while Tamariel recovered his balance from being caught off guard by their sudden intrusion.
The two Myths stood off to the side to watch the wondrous work of the creatures as they set about covering Atrox's body and healing him. The body attempted to sit up and after a couple attempts hampered by the missing arm, Atrox looked up at Sebastian and asked, “What happened?”
Sebastian stood there for a time simply speechless. In all his years roaming over Mythrandir, he had never seen or witnessed a site such as what occurred right before his very own eyes. Tamariel was a little more grounded in his senses though. The elven ranger nudged Sebastian in the side.
The fog that clouded his minded soon slipped away. Sebastian walked over and scooped up Atrox's severed arm. He knelt down next to his wounded friend for a moment to try and think of what to say. Eventually Sebastian could only smile with relief and pat his friend's shoulder. "Let's just say that while she might have gotten your arm, you took her life. We managed to save the boy's life and you have helped me rid our world of a madness that was left over from a plague that struck our planet. To that, I owe you a great debt."
Standing once more, Sebastian lightly picked his way to where the fallen Blood Wolf lay. He plucked Atrox's spear from the beast's hide and gently lay it to the side. The wood carvers would have job for them when the companions returned and nothing short of a work of art would suffice for the deeds that were done here this day. Pulling a curved hunting knife from its sheath, Sebastian began gutting the beast.
Warm innards greeted the Elder's hands as he dove in deeper moving aside the meat and fat to reach his target. In the wolf's breast, Sebastian could still feel the last warmth of the heart. Taking his knife, the Elder cut the heart free. He pulled his satchel from his shoulders and rummaged through the contents until he pulled a glass jar free. Dropping the bloody heart in, Sebastian closed the lid tight and returned it to his leather bag.
Still squatting, the Elder turned to his elven ranger friend. "Tamariel, fetch the horses and check on Shizra. Make sure she is taking care of the boy."
The elf nodded then was off silently to do as the Elder had bidden him. With Tamariel gone and Atrox resting, Sebastian returned to the grisly work at hand. Sebastian stood to his full height then pulled a short side from the belt loop at his hip. In one fluid stroke, the Elder removed the Wolf's head from its body. Two gruesome trophies were now ready to be turned in when the time came though he realized how puzzled Atrox must be while watching such a procedure.
It was best to net let on too much until the time was ready. Instead, Sebastian made sure all was ready to go when Tamariel returned with their mounts. A few minutes passed by but soon the familiar sound of hooves clapping against rock could be heard at the mouth of the cave.
Sebastian knelt down to help Atrox stand and walked him to the Kreel that was patiently waiting next to the horses. Once Atrox was mounted up and steadied, Sebastian dove back into the cave to reclaim more of their possessions. He returned shortly with the headless carcass of the wolf on his shoulders while he held Atrox's spear in his right hand. Dangling from Atrox's spear tip was the severed head of the Blood Wolf. Razor sharp teeth gleamed in the dull light as lifeless eyes stared back at everyone else.
The beast's carcass was tied up on the back of Sebastian's horse while Tamariel took the two hunting spears and stored them away. Saddle bags were secured along with the other provisions that were brought along. All that remained was making the journey back to the village and returning the boy to his family.
Sebastian disappeared into the woods and followed the sound of a running creek. He dipped his hands in the water to rinse them of the blood and gored that covered his arms. There a few feet away knelt Shizra as she tended to the boy. Bandages covered the young lad's leg and arms. Sebastian could see the care that had gone into tending the boy's wounds.
He smiled slightly as he placed a hand on Shizra's slender shoulder. "You did well. In lesser hands, he would have most likely perished before we would have ever began the journey home."
The dark elf shrugged. "I would thank you for the compliment if it fitted me. My skill does not come from taking the time to study the healing arts. To be an efficient killer, you must know how the body works. A long time ago, I killed many of your kind. While it may have been forgotten by many of your kin, the memories are still fresh in my mind and that of the other elves."
Sebastian walked around and scooped up the boy in his gentle arms. "There is a balance in all life. Where there is the ability to give death, you also have the ability to give life and you should never think less of yourself for what you have come to be. I know my father thought very highly of you even during the Clan Wars and afterward when your father rose to power."
Shizra rose slowly with her eyes still focused on the boy. "Your father was a good man. I mourned his passing as did the rest of the world."
The Elder smiled sadly. "I did not have much of an opportunity to know my father but I'm sure his faith in you we well placed. As is mine. You have been there countless times to stand by my side in battle as well as provide me with your wisdom when I need it."
The War Mistress managed a smile for the Elder as she brushed some of the boy's hair back away from his face. "That is true. You have been in need of much wisdom as of late."
Sebastian held back a laugh as the young lad slipped into a deep sleep. "Come along old friend, let's go home."
Shizra smiled with an agreement and walked back with Sebastian to where Tamariel and Atrox were waiting. While Shizra mounted her own horse, Sebastian handed the boy over to Atrox. When he was greeted with a confused look, Sebastian merely nodded his head. "It's alright. The lad is asleep. You should be the one to deliver him back to his parents. It's time for the people of this world to see that not all foreigners are as evil as the ones that have come before. They need to see that someone out there can be a friend to us."
With that, Sebastian took to the saddle of his own horse and lead the way back through the forest. By the time they reached the village, the sun was already on its path of descent. The wooden gate was opened by the guards when they spotted the companions emerging out of the forest.
Villagers soon gathered near the gateway to see how the Elder and his friends had fared. Nervous murmurs rippled through the crowd all wondering if the boy had been lost or if the wolf had eluded them as she had with every other search party. Sebastian brought the party to a halt in the midst of the throng of people.
Silence fell over the crowd as they gazed up at their Elder, waiting for whatever word would come from his lips. "Where is George? I have news for him."
Someone from the back cried out, "Someone run and fetch him. The Elder wishes to speak with him." A young man rushed out from the crowd and disappeared amid the numerous buildings.
Quickly he returned with George in tow while the crowd parted to make way for him. Sebastian turned his horse to face Atrox. "We have brought your son back to you and with no small part due to Lord Atrox's heroism."
Excited murmurs and whispers could be heard as Sebastian revealed the news. George looked up at Atrox, hopeful, just as the little boy began to stir from his sleep.
Darth Atrox, the Horrible and Terrible, the Dark Lord of the Sith and Founder of the New Sith Order stepped forward in his ebon black environmental suit holding the child in his remaining three arms. His fourth arm hung limp from his lower shoulder and it did not move. Atrox spoke to George as the old man of the earth trembled.
“We have rescued your son. Please take him and treasure him.”
Atrox gently laid the stirring child in Georges trembling arms as tears washed down his wrinkled face, washing the dust in rivulets from his cheeks as he wept in joy.
“Thank you, oh thank you.”
George clasped his arms around his sun as the boy opened his eyes. “Da? Is that you?”
“Yes, my son, it is. I thought I had lost you.” Was all you could hear between the sobs of joy and relief. After what seemed as several minutes of holding each other, George looked up at Atrox, his gaze falling upon the black face of his environmental suit.
“My Lord, if there is any way I can ever repay you, any way at all for the life of my son, just ask and I will do everything in my power. I will…”
Atrox cut him off with a gesture. He placed one of his True Hands upon the lad’s head and again spoke to George.
“Raise your boy as best you can. Teach him Honor and to follow his Heart. There is nothing you can do for him better than that. I ask for nothing else in return.”
Atrox looked over to Sebastian.
“Speaking of returning, I think we should for I have some pressing matters which are urgent.”
Several minutes later once out of sight from the village, they were met by Atrox’s shuttle which would take the injured Sith Lord back to The Abomination for much needed repairs.
“I am sorry I must take your leave this way. I will return to you before you reach the city so I can ride in with you.”
Atrox chuckled. “You don’t want Sunshine to think you absconded with me somewhere and left me behind. She might get into trouble if she did.”
Atrox boarded his shuttle and waved at Sebastian. The levitating ship closed up and rose swiftly into orbit. As promised, out of sight of the city, the riders came around a bend to see the waiting shuttle. Standing beside it was Atrox with all four arms working properly. He seemed as if he was never injured and was in a rather cheerful mood, quite strange for someone who called themselves a Sith Lord. After greeting his comrades, he mounted his reptilian mount and returned to the city in triumph with the rest while the shuttle flew back to its post on its own.
A smile spread on the Elder’s face as he watched Atrox quickly transform from mysterious otherworlder to local hero of this small village. In the eyes of Sebastian, a local hero had been born as he watched father and son embracing from a long and painful separation. It was good for the people of Mythrandir to see that not all foreigners were evil. While there were certainly differences to be found, they were not all evil as Alurial would make them out to be nor were they constantly seeking the destruction of this world.
Atrox looked over to Sebastian.
“Speaking of returning, I think we should for I have some pressing matters which are urgent.”
Sebastian reined in his mount and turned to better face the Balroggan.
“Do not tarry then for your window of opportunity will not remain open forever. Where we must travel is likely unlike anything you have seen before. Be quick my friend and be well.”
The companions bid Atrox farewell for the time being before setting to the road again and back onto Mythrandir. Horses stomped the worn earth and gnawed at the bit, anxious to be underway. After fighting off Blood Wolves, the horses wanted no part of the woods again. Sebastian flicked the reins and had his mount trotting down the road.
Shizra and Tamariel were not far behind him. They clopped along at a gentle pace for a time, enjoying the cool breeze and the silence that always accompanied the open road. All seemed right with the three friends until Sebastian’s stomach roared with hunger. The young Elder could not remember the last time he had eaten a morsel of food since he left the city weeks ago. Reaching down into his sack, Sebastian pulled three ruby red apples free and tossed two of them to his companions.
Walking along now they crunched on apples and enjoyed each other’s presence. Between mouthfuls of apple, Sebastian looked over at his dear friend. “Well Shizra, what do you think of him?”
The dark elf swallowed the apple in her mouth before answering. “I am not sure yet. I see honor in him but I am not sure I trust him.”
“Aye.” Tamariel reached around and pulled his long bow from his shoulders and began unstringing the weapon. “Never trust anything that moves like those creatures through the woods. The fact that he wears them like a second skin does not encourage my faith.”
Sebastian accepted his friends’ criticisms, respecting their opinions and knowing that they only questioned out of protection for Mythrandir and the Elder himself. “I understand your concerns, but we cannot be afraid of everything that we do not understand. Such ideas invite ignorance into our society. As Mythrandir’s leaders, we must be vigilant against such thinking less we become tyrants of knowledge. We may not understand those strange creatures but they appeared to have aided us today. Not to mention that Atrox just helped us rescue a boy at a great risk to himself. If nothing else, he has earned our respect for that.”
The others fell silent at Sebastian’s words, taking them to reflect on. After a while, Shizra simply shook her head. “I will trust him because you do, Sebastian. Sometimes I think you are too trusting. I fear one day it may prove fatal to you.”
“Not while I have you protecting my back. I will take care of the enemies in front of us, you worry about the ones behind me, and Tamariel can pick off anything that we missed.” Sebastian smiled at Shizra and threw her a wink.
Worries aside, the trio continued on down the road reveling in old stories and tales that brought smiles and laughter to their lives. They remembered the fallen and recounted the deeds of their lives that kept them immortal in their hearts. On and on they talked into the better part of what was left of the day.
Eventually the outline of the White Tower grew tall in their sight as they drew closer to the city. Waiting for them a few leagues ahead was Atrox himself, now fully healed. The three shared a look at the quick regrowth of the missing arm. For Sebastian, at least he didn’t have to worry about another outburst from Elder Alurial as she would surely fume over a diplomat being maimed under Sebastian’s care. While he still had questions as to how such a miracle had occurred, he was grateful that Atrox was well and that he wouldn’t have to sit through another lecture.
They pulled up alongside Atrox as he mounted the Kreel. “It is good to see you in such fine of health. That leaves less explaining to the guards and other Elders.”
For the rest of the trip back to the city, the companions filled Atrox in on some of the history of Mythrandir. It mostly concerned how the city was first forged through dwarven mason work and the humans laying the foundations. The elves later came in to apply their knowledge of all things that grow to build the city up to an even greater splendor. He pointed out how the rare Mythrandir ore coursed through much of the stone work making up the great wall that surrounded the magnificent city.
After much talking from the others to fill in the holes of Sebastian’s tales, they stood outside the main gate of Mythrandir. Tamariel turned his horse sharply as the massive wooden doors swung outward. “This is where I must bid you all farewell. I have no fondness for the city and where you go, I cannot follow. My kind are not welcomed down there.
Farewell Atrox, since it is unlikely we will see each other again. It was an honor hunting with you.
Good day to you War Mistress. Elder.”
Sebastian smiled and clasped arms with Tamariel one last time. “Safe travels my friend. I shall see you again.”
Tamariel spurred his horse on towards the road that would lead him back home to Caeralfar. As his horse threw dirt from its hooves into the air, he shouted out to Sebastian’s last statement. “You’ll see me wherever the forest grows.”
Sebastian saddled up to the rest of his remaining friends. “Atrox, before we continue I need to know if you need to return to your Lady and assure her that you are well. If not, then we must be off to the mountains for that is where our next destination lies. Through the Warrior’s Institute then down to the Underdark.”
“No, I can inform Sunshine as we travel. I am your guest and subject to your travel schedule. Please lead me wherever you wish, I will follow.”
Atrox bowed to his host as best he could in the saddle of the mounted reptile. Using the reins, he turned the beast to match Sebastian’s own horse. While they traveled, Atrox reached out with his mind, seeking the one other he was familiar with. Range was not an issue for the Ta’Nar, even before he became one of the Warlord’s Advisors.
Easily locating her unique mind he made his presence known to her so she would feel his presence knowing it was him as he had done many times before.
Hera, I have finished hunting down the beast he was having trouble with and now we are heading to the mountains for the Opals. If you need to contact me, use the Kython Link and I will be there for you. Undoubtedly you will hear about the Hunt over dinner tonight and for some reason I believe it will be embellished somewhat. Try to enjoy yourself in the peacefulness of this place and enjoy yourself if you can. I will return as soon as possible. Too bad they don’t use shuttles to travel, it would be much faster than mounted beasts.
Atrox turned back to Sebastian.
“There, I have sent a message to her. She will not be expecting us for some time.”
“No, I can inform Sunshine as we travel. I am your guest and subject to your travel schedule. Please lead me wherever you wish, I will follow.”
Atrox bowed to his host as best he could in the saddle of the mounted reptile. Using the reins, he turned the beast to match Sebastian’s own horse. While they traveled, Atrox reached out with his mind, seeking the one other he was familiar with. Range was not an issue for the Ta’Nar, even before he became one of the Warlord’s Advisors.
Easily locating her unique mind he made his presence known to her so she would feel his presence knowing it was him as he had done many times before.
Hera, I have finished hunting down the beast he was having trouble with and now we are heading to the mountains for the Opals. If you need to contact me, use the Kython Link and I will be there for you. Undoubtedly you will hear about the Hunt over dinner tonight and for some reason I believe it will be embellished somewhat. Try to enjoy yourself in the peacefulness of this place and enjoy yourself if you can. I will return as soon as possible. Too bad they don’t use shuttles to travel, it would be much faster than mounted beasts.
Atrox turned back to Sebastian.
“There, I have sent a message to her. She will not be expecting us for some time.”
Sebastian nodded his head then spurred his horse on into the city. The Elder lead the now trio through the winding pathways of the cobblestone roads. Stone wrought mansions and halls made up the majority of the outer limits of the city as the wealthy merchants managed to build small estates for themselves. Several were very elaborate in their mason work while others were quaint but finely furnished.
Merchant shops were not much further down the road as they specialized in some of the finer goods and wares that Mythrandir could offer to customers while at a steep price. The overall scenery was more pristine than in areas of the city closer to the Tower. It was an odd thing to some to have the central part of government closer to the people that were less fortunate, though in the minds of Sebastian's father it made perfect sense.
They wound their way through the shops and homes and eventually made their way to one of the side gates that lead back out of the city. Standing at attention were a number of guards that had spotted the Elder and War Mistress riding up from a distance. The stables looked relatively empty at this time though the guards seemed no less vigilant because of it. Once they pulled up to the stable, Sebastian dismounted and bid his companions do likewise.
Registering the subtle hint, the guards rushed over to take hold of the reins of their mounted beasts. Sebastian thanked the guards for their help as he pulled two spears from the saddle harness. "If I could trouble one of you with two more requests?"
"Ask and it shall be, Elder."
Sebastian smiled as he handed over the spear used by Atrox during the hunt. "Have this sent to one of our story carvers and have the tale of Atrox's hunt engraved into it. I will be back shortly to relay the minor details for their handiwork. Also, we need a shuttle for the Warrior's Institute."
One of the guards took the spear with reverence and bowed his head while the other put a call out for the shuttle to ferry the noble group to their destination. It wasn't long before a similar shuttle that Hera and Atrox were greeted with, soon pulled up next to the gate. Guards rushed to open the doors for their beloved Elder and the respected though feared, War Mistress.
As soon as Atrox and Shizra were aboard, Sebastian took his seat as well next to the dark elf. The doors were shut and the shuttle was off through the open fields and sailing for the mountains. An ocean of prairie grass passed the riders by as they smoothly glided at a brilliant speed for the tree lines and then up paths for the foot of the mountains.
Sebastian smiled across at Atrox. "I hope you didn't believe we were going to ride all over creation. It would have taken all day to reach the Warrior's Institute on horse back barring any unexpected visitors like highwaymen or local villagers. This way we can reach our destination in a few short minutes and be on our way."
True to his word, the golden chariot arrived in a clearing at a low mountain pass where a fortress appeared to grow out from the mountain side. Towers and windows were carved into mountain side along with a number of windows and arrow slits. Strong iron covered the mouth of the might fortress as pennants of Mythrandir snapped high upon the uppermost towers.
Sebastian rose from his seat and opened the doors for his companions. After they had all exited, he lead them forward where they were greeted by a host of Warriors from all races known to Mythrandir. All paid their respects to the three with greetings and bows of respect.
"Welcome to the Warrior's Institute, Lord Atrox. This is the school that has been dedicated to our soldiers where they learn the arts of war and are taken care. You will see all ages roaming through this hall as we delve deeper into the earth. The training of our Warriors start at an early age in order to build the most proficient soldier and fighter for our people. Our numbers are not great, but the talent and determination that they wield accommodates for any lack of numbers."
Once inside the fortress, it was apparent that its actual size was far greater than the stonework on the outside. Halls and rooms branched off in all directions and the number of levels to the great school was dizzying. Trainers and their students walked everywhere as impromptu lessons were given. Small libraries and studies could be seen as the trio walked along and deeper into the school. Everything seemed as if it was provided for the Warriors with stockpiles of weapons, manuscripts to study, and food to keep them well fed and healthy.
But it was all to pass for the trio as this was not their true destination. It was what lay beyond that was the goal for Sebastian and ultimately Atrox as well. Stone worked stairs soon ended as did the rest of the Institute but the dark elf knew secrets that no others did. Leading the rest to an out of the way cellar with aging cheeses and wines, the War Mistress moved a sconce that opened a side passage into darkness. Sebastian grabbed the torch burning and checked the way. Everything appeared clear.
"Once we move from this room, you'll be surrounded in a complete darkness. I don't know if you have the ability to see in the darkness so you can stay close to me for light if you need."
The wall closed behind them and an utter darkness swallowed the companions save for the flickering of a torch that now seemed woefully inadequate. Shizra was not deterred by it all though. "I'll move ahead to scout the way but be sure to keep the light out of my eyes. Be on your guard as we traverse the Underdark. There are far more dangerous and fouler creatures that lurk in the depths of Mythrandir."
Atrox descended into the dark, he was using the senses of the Kythons composing his suit so he was able to see quite fine. He observed the red tinted hues depicting thermal radiation, electromagnetic emissions from anything charged as well as a myriad of other energy forms.
“Do not worry about me, I do not need light to see, I can use the senses of my Kythons. They detect energy itself be it your thermal body temperatures, the electromagnetic spectrum, radiation, sound waves, and many other types too numerous to mention. The absence of white light will not cause any problem for me. Please lead on.”
Atrox followed his guides into what Sebastian called The Underdark, a simplistic and accurate name for where it seemed they were heading.
The sounds of footsteps grew quiet as the once rhythmic clicking of Shizra's heels soon faded. It was only Sebastian's muffled steps that could be heard now as he masked his own progress. Having grown up in the ways of the woods, Sebastian excelled on hiding his tracks and walking quietly but he paled in comparison to the complete absence of sound as Shizra darted from rock crevice to outcroppings in high heels. It seemed that no sound would ever catch her as she lead them further into the Underdark.
As they continued on, Atrox would become acquainted with actual vegetation of this subterranean world. Dark mushrooms grew in abundance near trickles of water from stalactites with thick patches of moss making up the soil from which they fed on. Pools of dark water cast a small glow about the rocky walls as Sebastian's torch light spilled over them. For a moment, they could see slight ripples in the water as some unknown creature followed them underneath the surface.
On they walked as the otherworldly sense of the Underdark began bearing down on the companions. Alien gurgling noises could be heard echoing off the walls while the sounds of soft scrapings were everywhere. None dared break the silence for fear that some unseen horror would come crashing down on them.
Eventually they approached an underground lake that extended far beyond the limits of Sebastian's feeble light. It appeared to go on for miles in either direction. Sebastian called out to Shizra in a whisper.
"Do you see anyway across?"
His voice echoed off the walls turning what was a whisper into a call that echoed on for eternity. Sebastian winced at the sound though he himself could find no answer to their problem. The elf appeared in his light with her eyes shielded. Instead of speaking, she lead the other down the edges of the lake for a short distance. Light from Sebastian's torch fell on a narrow rock bridge that stretched on into the darkness. From the look on Shizra's face, this was the way across and most likely the only way across.
Water lapped up at their feet as they began crossing the bridge. The 'bridge' was little more than fallen stalactites that provided a means of crossing the lake though the precise measure that they had fallen brings to mind that it was not a natural occurrence. Still they trudged on with Sebastian keeping the light high to shine his own way and to also keep from blinding the dark elf.
A splash sounded off to their left stealing everyone's attention.
Shizra froze and bade everyone else to do so. The sound of water moving could be heard as it rushed alongside the bridge. Water washed over their feet as something rather large moved underneath the inky water. Apparently the time for silence was over as Shizra yelled back.
Sebastian nor Atrox hesitated in the command as they dashed off for the end of the bridge. The War Mistress was gone from their sight though the human knew she was near. Running as fast as he could, Sebastian felt water spray across his face. A second later, a slimy tentacle came crashing down across their path.
"Move! Move! Move!"
They ducked and rolled to evade the monster's grasp. Atrox unleashed a burst of energy that sent a shock through the tentacle as the monster withdraw for a moment. Such a feat might have surprised Sebastian but so focused was he on leaving the lake and beast behind, that he paid it little heed.
Unfortunately the shock was only a momentary reprieve as even more of the appendages lashed out for the trio. Sebastian slipped on a patch of slick rock and would have fallen into the water where awaited some unknown if Atrox had not grabbed the edge of his cloak and pulled him back. Without losing more momentum, they continued on towards the end of the bridge which was now insight.
From behind, a tentacle tripped up Atrox and sent the Balroggan stumbling. Sebastian wrapped his arms around Atrox's waist and lunged for the other bank just as more slimy arms came crashing down on top of them. Shizra was there to grab them both and hoist them further up the shore line towards the rock wall.
Sebastian rolled onto his back, breathing heavily. "I haven't even met your mother yet and I'm already dodging arms that want to choke the life out of me. Next time, she needs to keep her pets on a leash."
Shizra ignored the remark and simply helped them to their feet. "It's just right through this wall. Throw your torch aside."
The Elder sighed at having to be parted from his only source of vision. He doused the torch in the lake then tossed it to the side, hoping to come back for it when they leave. Sebastian stretched his hands out towards the rock wall trying to feel his way. Instead, he found Shizra's hand who held it tight as she guided them to a small opening in the wall. A winding cave path navigated the trio through the wall for a short time.
When they were wondering just when the maze would end, they stepped out into a high ceiling cavern. Sebastian could see little in the suffocating darkness but a bustling city waited for Shizra and Atrox. Heat permeated from the walls and the stalactites in the cavern. The massive heat sources allowed the dark elves to see so clearly in the darkness. Heat sources gave shape to the many buildings that made up the dark elf city.
Onyx castles were carved into the cavern walls while their towers appeared to be extensions of the stalactites. Every building appeared to be built in harmony with the rocky features surrounding them. Looking on, there were many more such castles and strongholds to be seen.
Shizra wasted little more time and guided the Elder and Atrox down to the city. Once they reached the clean cut streets, sentries along the walls and guards on the streets stared plainly at the new arrivals with suspicion. Some had their hands on sword belts while others had darts notched in bow strings. Following the trio was an aura of unwelcomeness that bubbled from every hateful stare.
Despite the stares and threats, Shizra brought them before a webbed iron gate sealing off one of the more grander palaces in the city. A troop of male dark elves stood on guard outside the walls and halted the advance. Shizra raised her hand and spoke to the guards in her native dialect.
"Go and fetch my mother. I wish to speak with her."
The guards relaxed their stances though they were suspicious of the entire troop. One guard sent a shrill whistle through the air which was returned throughout the palace grounds. The gate swung open and Shizra's guests were allowed to enter. They were met at the palace stairs by a more armored guard along with a woman resembling some of Shizra's features. The older woman of the two, though it was impossible to tell ages with elves, stood naked from the waist up with her long white hair falling over her front.
Unlike the guards at the gate, the dark elf woman used the common tongue of the land. "I do not see my daughter for spells on end and when she returns, she brings uninvited guests. To what do I owe such a burden?"
Shizra visibly tensed at the side of her mother as a vein on the side of her neck pulsed angrily. "The Elder Sebastian is free to come and go anywhere on Mythrandir as he sees fit."
Beatriz smirked back at her daughter. "We are not 'on' Mythrandir, but under it."
Sebastian stepped up to Shizra's side. "Lady Beatriz, we-"
Swords were drawn and spears were leveled at the Elder at such a sign of disrespect to think that he could address the mother of the household. Shizra's own scimitars appeared in her grasp at an instant. White teeth poked out from her lips like fangs as she sneered. "Drop your weapons! You dare draw a blade against one that serves the people? For every strand of hair that is harmed, I shall remove a limb from one of your bodies."
The dark elf matron tscked as she studied her daughter. Beatriz's dialect changed back to that of the dark elves. "You would chose the desire of your loins over the desire of your mother? Has your love so polluted you since you decided to be among the surface dwellers?"
"My love for him has nothing to do with this. He is an Elder and deserves your respect. He protects the humans just as he protects the dwarves, griffons, light elves, and the dark elves."
"Ah yes, the Elders. If that whore of an elven Elder is an example of what the Elders are, then I will have no part in them."
Shizra gritted her teeth as her dialect returned. "At least honor our guest. He has come a very long way to meet you."
Through it all, the weapons were never lowered as they remained pointed at Sebastian. At the possibility that an audience with the matron mother was being called for, some of the guards faltered. Beatriz looked amused by it all. "A guest you say?"
She studied the Balroggan as a small twinkle came to her eye. "I know your kind. Alright daughter, I'll humor you."
Beatriz walked towards Atrox. She circled around the Lord and studied him intently. Her sharpened fingernails dragged across his shoulders as she walked. "Well then. What is it that you could want from me? You have the look of Urshula about you though you are not one of her servants."
Days went by, as the young lady read the scrolls, of various topics and interests. Poor Daniel, it never seemed to cease for him, as she picked up one and read from it, and as soon as she was done, she requested another.
She seemed happy here, absorbing all that she could, absorbing the tid bits of Mythrindar culture, surrounded by books of various topics. Myths, sciences, magic, and the people, nothing was beyond her grasp, as she read each eagerly.
Until, she came to one, depicting an ancient battle from long ago. She read eagerly, as she read of the fantastic swords, and armors of old, the stuff of legend and heroes. Hera looked up at Daniel, with a strange look on her face. “Are these artifacts.... real?” she asked him.
(Sorry nearly forgot about this thread. Thanks to Abh for reminding me. Short post to get things moving again)
As Daniel handed Hera the first of the tomes that she requested, he nearly fainted from embarrassment when he saw the look on the attractive young woman's face. It was a look of confusion that he quickly solved the source of. The pages of practically every text in the library was filled with the runic alphabet of Mythrandir. So accustomed was he to serving old scholars from all parts of the Kingdom, that he had forgotten that his very special guest was not from this realm.
Daniel shuffled to Hera's side as quickly as he could manage in spite of his clubbed foot and special boot. He took his good hand reached into the depths of his robes and pulled out a small orb, smaller than the ones typically used by the Warriors of Mythrandir. The young scholar placed the orb in the crook of his elbow that was attached to the gnarled stump for a hand while his good hand went to work on making the modifications. Daniel worked efficiently despite his deformities as he had dealt with them ever since he was born. His left deftly turned portions of the orb in some unknown sequence until he smiled with triumph.
Handing the orb over to Hera, "There, that should help."
When Hera looked at the orb and then to Daniel still puzzled, the young boy smiled and told her to release the orb. Upon doing so, the orb floated just above Hera's head. Light spewed from when its inky black confines while a film of light fell over the pages she was reading. The archaic runes were then translated into the standard writing that most nations in the universe seemed to use. As Hera turned the pages, each page would appear translated as well.
Daniel stood back, quite proud of himself after helping someone. His physical uses were few so every time he could be of some use to someone, he took it as a small personal victory. Ever since he was a lad, Daniel had always wanted to join the Warriors but his infirmities prevented him from ever riding a horse or holding a sword. There had been little hope for Daniel in the world when he was born but Elder Sebastian and Sarah had come along and provided him an opportunity to work in the Cathedral of Knowledge. While he still couldn't do some of the things he dreamed about, Daniel could still read about all the greats. He had fastly become an intellectual himself and could hold his own among the scholars that frequented the library.
Sarah patted Lady Sunshine's shoulder affectionately. "I'll go get us something to eat and something to drink."
The woman left while Captain Lukien remained with Daniel who was there to do all that Hera asked. Daniel fetched every book asked for under whatever subject Hera desired to read more about. Sarah returned within the hour with a silver plate laden with breads and cheeses for them to snack on while her other hand carried a pitcher of warm tea and two glasses.
Sarah and Hera talked of whatever subject that seemed to fascinate them at the moment while laughing and giggling at each others stories. Daniel was on hand to explain or answer any questions that Hera had and it seemed that the boy was impossible to stump. Lukien was the only one that seemed to be left out of the group though he was content to simply sit off to the side and stay warm while protecting the two women.
As the day ended, Sarah placed a gentle hand atop Hera's. "It's late. We should turn in for the night. Come, I know a place where you can get a warm bath and a soft pillow."
It wasn't easy moving the woman from her studies but Sarah finally managed to coax Hera into seeing the relaxing qualities of a warm bath. Sarah turned around to tell the elven Captain that they needed a chariot but Lukien was already fast asleep. Shaking her head, Sarah slapped the armored shoulder plating on the elf. The loud metal clank shook the elf from his slumber as he sat bolt upright.
"Some guard." She could hardly suppress a smile. "Call a chariot. We’re heading to the mansion for the night so Lady Sunshine and I can get some sleep before we try at this again tomorrow."
Lukien stretched out and gave a great yawn. "Alright, alright. Just wait here for a spell and I'll call the chariot for you fine ladies."
The elf stalked off leaving Sarah, Hera, and Daniel as the flames resting in the sconces began to burn low. Daniel turned to the foreign dignitary. "Will you be here again tomorrow?"
When Hera told him that she would, he smiled back at her widely. "I'll be here waiting for you then."
Lukien was back to inform them that the chariot had arrived. Daniel walked the trio out of the Cathedral and waved goodbye to them as they rode off. He continued to stare even after the chariot had long disappeared as his breath made heavy clouds in front of his face. Daniel turned back into the library and closed the heavy wooden doors.
A hand dropped to his shoulders causing the boy to nearly stumble to the floor having jumped so high and lose his balance. Fortunately, a second hand was there to steady him. Daniel looked up into the soft brown eyes of Fletch as the old monk stood there trying to keep him from falling over.
"Fletch, you scared me."
The old monk looked down at the boy with a small frown painted on his face. His tired eyes looked worriedly on the boy that was the closest thing to kin he had. “Come along son, I want to talk to you.”
Fletch lead Daniel through the main vein of the library but remained conscious of the boy’s disability. Row upon row of book shelf passed by and Daniel mentally named every statue along the way without even looking at the inscriptions. The Cathedral was like home to him and he knew it as intimately as any other person here aside from Fletch.
At the end of their long trek awaited a number of doors that lead into private reading rooms and other wings of the Cathedral. Fletch took the central door that lead into his own private study. Clearing away an old dusty table laden with books, the old monk grabbed an untouched tray of smoked meats and cheeses that had been prepared by one of the cooks and set it down. He pulled the glass pitcher from the tray and set out two steel cups.
Daniel smiled and took a seat. “Fill it up.”
Fletch poured two glasses of milk and sat down across from the boy. The old man toyed with his glass for a moment and ignored the food. What he had to say was difficult and he knew it would hurt the lad. But the alternative was far more painful and Fletch didn’t want to see the boy go through such rejection.
“What do you think about our guest today?”
Daniel munched on a hunk of meat then chased it down with a drought of milk. “I like her. Pretty too. It’s the first outsider I’ve ever seen in our library and she seemed to be interested in just about every subject that we have to offer. I can’t wait to see her again tomorrow.”
A worried look passed over Fletch’s face. “Just try to remember that she is our guest and won’t be here forever.”
The young one look confused as he studied his mentor and paternal guide. “I know that Fletch. What does that have to do with anything?”
“I just don’t want you getting too attached to her. There’s something different about these folks and I just don’t want to see you getting hurt by the first pretty face you see.”
Daniel looked hurt as he put his good hand in his lap and stared at his clubbed fist. “You don’t think she’ll like me because I’m crippled.”
Fletch stood up and covered the ground to the wounded boy in an instant. “No. No. Not at all my boy. Any girl would be lucky to have you.”
“Then what is it?” Tears brimmed his eyes as he looked up at his mentor.
“How long have you known this girl? The better part of a day? You are young my boy and there is plenty of time for women. At least spend some time trying to get to know her and take things slow with your heart. I just want you to be careful. You don’t even know if you’ll ever see her again after she leaves.”
Daniel nodded somewhat dejectedly. “Alright Fletch.”
The two passed the remainder of their time together in silence as they ate their meal. Neither no longer had the appetite for it but they were not willing to waste it either. As the night wore on, Fletch bid goodnight and turned in for the evening leaving Daniel to himself. Daniel sat at the table for the longest of time staring at the candle burning low.
Grabbing a slice of meat and a few pieces of cheese, he headed for the eastern wing and made the slow journey up the stairs of the eastern tower. At the pinnacle of the tower, Daniel eased himself over the crenulated wall and sat atop the mason work. His feet dangled over the fall while the cold wind tore at his clothes. The weather did not seem to phase him at all as he stared out into the horizon. Upon the lonely tower, Daniel found his personal retreat. He didn’t know what his heart wanted, but at least up here in the cool night he could have some measure of freedom.
He looked down at the special boot that allowed him to walk albeit with a limp then to his useless hand. Despite the ridicule from children when he was younger, Daniel had never felt handicapped until now. His first affection for a girl in all of his infirmities came bearing down on his shoulders.
When the chariot came to a stop outside the gates of the Elder mansion, guards rushed to open the door and help the passengers out. Lukien simply leaned out the doorway and wished the two ladies goodnight and told them he would return in the morning to retrieve them. Once the Captain was off, the guards showed the ladies towards the house and allowed them their privacy once inside. Sarah took their coats and hung them up.
“Let me show you the guest room.” The main hall was quaint with a hearth and inviting furniture along with a few tapestries hanging upon the wall. Most of them depicted Sebastian’s father in some way. Sarah lead Hera upstairs to a room that was secluded from the others.
After opening the door, Hera could see a large, comfortable, double posted bed by a window that overlooked the city proper. A large hearth was off to the side to provide plenty of heat for the guest while they lounged in a chair or slept in the bed. Branching off the room was the guest bathroom with a large bath that Hera could almost loose herself in.
Sarah allowed her guest to take in everything. “Hopefully these quarters will do for now. My husband and I have the room at the end of the hall but it’s just us girls for the night. I’ll be back up in a little bit with some firewood. Don’t hesitate to let me know if you need anything.”
The Elder’s wife took her leave from Hera so that she could freshen up at her leisure and relax from the days events. Sarah was back as promised with an armful of firewood for the fireplace. A roaring fire was quickly going while Hera was soaking in the bath. Sarah retired to her own room. The night passed quietly while the guards outside the matron patrolled the grounds and kept a constant vigilance over the occupants of the house.
The next few days passed rather uneventfully with Daniel a little bit more quiet than on the first day. Sarah still enjoyed her time talking and laughing with Hera while Lukien kept watched over them all. The elven Captain didn’t expect any trouble but he knew duties to the Elders and would not risk any dishonor on them by allowing something to happen to one of their guests.
Daniel continued to move about as best he could by pulling books and scrolls from the shelf and handing them over to Hera. He kept quiet for the most part but was still polite and friendly as ever. When Hera called out to him with a question, Daniel moved with as best speed as possible.
“Are these artifacts.... real?” she asked him.
Daniel took hold of the book with his one good hand and turned the heavy tome over to look at the binding. The archaic language roughly translated into The War of Shadows. He placed the binding back on the desk and scrolled over the page quickly. “Ah yes, one of the ancient battles. It looks like one of the history texts telling of the early years back when the Elder council was first formed.”
He cleared his throat and began reading aloud.
“The two armies clashed in a great roar of battle cries and clashing of armor........At the center of the United Mythrandir line rode Elder David with his warrior companions as they took on the heart of the undead army. The Lance of Longinus pierced the dust clouded air with its heavenly aura. Each swing of the lance stole the souls from the decaying corpses and sent them back to their resting place. No armor could stop the blades strike.
Charging at the human's side was Elder Durbin leading all of the dwarven clans in one front. Dwarven calls to their gods rang loudest on the battlefield but the fear of the enemy was not in their song but in the dragon helm that Durbin wore atop his head. The dragon scaled armor turned aside spear and sword alike while feeding strength to the dwarfs limbs and warding against all fire attacks.
Tamariel’s arrows streaked through enemy ranks like lightning, leaving smoldering holes in the chests of goblin warriors and their followers. At the elf’s side was Shizra of the dark elf families, who fought alone of her people. Her twin scimitars were indestructible and all fell away from her fury on the battlefield.
Goblins and the undead were hewn by the score and the Warriors of Mythrandir pushed the darkness back into the desert. The day began to wane it appeared as if Elder David and his companions would hold the field but it was not to be. As dusk approached, the great demon’s greatest Captain strode out into the battle as the sun set behind him. Zaknarien challenged the Warriors as he stood against them alone.
The dark elf’s curved blade was otherworldly as it cut men down with single strokes. Men, elves, and dwarves fell like wheat at the harvest and the sands ran red with the blood of the brave that sacrificed themselves. By night’s end, the Warriors of Mythrandir would have to retreat with no further ground gained."
Daniel stopped reading then scratched his cheek as he tried to answer Hera’s question. “Well, these artifacts did exist at one point in time but most of these have been lost to us. The Lance of Longinus was given to Elder David, some say, by the angels of heaven. What happened to the Lance after his passing, none truly know. The dragon helm was forged by the ancient dwarven smiths of old but the dragon helm itself was lost during the fall of ancient dwarven stronghold. That dwarven fortress has never been found again and some say it is not even on this world.
As for Tamariel’s bow and Shizra’s scimitars, both elves still hold their weapons to this date. Zaknarien’s blade was never found after his death. Some say the dark elves in the Underdark hold onto it for some diabolical reason.
Most of the ancient weapons were forged by the master dwarven smiths who could wield a forge and hammer with such skill, that the finished product would get up and sing if that was what it was crafted to do. A few elves had similar skill but none were ever in great a number as the dwarves. They were the true masters of the forge.”
Daniel brightened with a smile. “Would you like to read more about them? There are plenty of texts here for you to read on the subject.”
Sarah leaned over to read the same book that Hera and Daniel had taken an interest in. “Unfortunately, all of the dwarves that held such a level skill have passed on.”
“Not by my reckoning.” Daniel shuffled closer to Hera and turned to the very end of the book where a family geniality of dwarven families was laid out. He pointed a good finger at the bottom of descendants. “From my research, there is still at least one dwarf left that could forge such items. Mythgard is the descendant of Elder Durbin who forged the Dragon Helm. Mythgard still lives in Hammer Hall, though he is approaching an advanced age.”
Lady Sunshine smiled at Daniel, as she gently placed the scroll on the table. It sounded very interesting, the magics and the armors of old. She gently placed the scroll in his good hand, as she heard the tale of only one person left alive held the knowledge.
Such a shame, soon when he died, that knowledge would die with him, forever lost to the dark depths of the grave.
Lady Sunshine gently got up. Her white dress, flowing around her. “It is a shame then, if he is the last to know it.” she said, as she looked at her hosts. “If something happened to him, such talents would be lost forever. Would it be possible to meet this master smith, and possibly learn these techniques? I would hate for them to be lost to the abyss of time.”
Atrox followed his two guides as they carefully wound their way through the darkness. To his suit’s Kython senses, there was no darkness but an ever-changing pattern of different energies. Thermal radiation painted the walls and floor with varying shades of color easily showing the surroundings. As his friends walked, trails of cooling footprints were left behind. Even the plume of heated air from the torch sent colors swirling upwards to dissipate quickly in the cool air of the cavern.
The silence of the Underdark was almost oppressive and Atrox adjusted the weight of his suit, slightly hovering to reduce the sound of the metal and not draw in curious prey. He followed Sebastian and Shizra as they walked past colonies of large mushrooms and other curious growths. When they had come across a lake he could see it was quite large. The far shore was beyond even his extended range. Shizra bade them to cross a narrow stone bridge created by felling of stalactites from the ceiling lost in the darkness above. He could see tool marks of some sort showing they were carefully cut and not broken off. Quite the feat considering they had to find ones large enough to reach bottom and then transport them to where they were needed.
Then a sound appeared to their side.
Atrox could sense the presence of a Hunter in the water but not the location. He knew something was there searching for a meal and it was probably eyeing them as snacks. “RUN” shouted the war mistress as she began to disappear into the darkness ahead of the torch. The wake of whatever it was in the water flooded the walkway making the stone slick. Ahead a massive tentacle as thick as a horse slammed down across their route. Thinking quickly Atrox sent a surge of electricity counting on the water to amplify and deliver a nasty shock throughout the body of whatever was on the other end. The appendage thrashed and slipped back into the dark water as the two fleeing comrades hurried on as fast as the wet stone would allow them.
Suddenly Sebastian found his leather boots sliding on the slick stone. As he skidded toward the edge he caught a glimpse of waiting slime covered ropes of tentacles awaiting him below. He felt a tug as Atrox made a desperate grab at his cloak to pull him back on balance.
“This is not the time to stop and take a swim. I think the water might be a bit too crowded for that today.”
The two hurried onward to the now visible distant shore. The Beast thrashed wildly after them, barely missing them several times. The darkness was lit by several more bright flashes of lightning as Atrox tried to dissuade whatever it was from eating them. He wanted it to think they were more trouble than it was worth but it was probably too late for that, when a Hunter locks onto a prey they will pursue it to the ends of the world. If only they could reach the shore, the boundary of the Things world. A chance glancing blow from one of the tentacles hit Atrox’s leg causing him to lose his balance. He stumbled forward but Sebastian grasped him by the waist and tried to throw him forward. Unfortunately even with the weight of the suit being partially negated by the antigrav unit it was not enough to throw them clear of the reach of the Beast on the far shore. Several tentacles crashed down on Atrox as he sheltered the human below his form. Shizra came to their rescue slashing at tentacles after pulling Sebastian free. The pain of the slices caused the tentacles to withdraw into the black inkiness of the lake and silence again smothered everything.
Sebastian rolled onto his back, breathing heavily. "I haven't even met your mother yet and I'm already dodging arms that want to choke the life out of me. Next time, she needs to keep her pets on a leash."
Shizra ignored the remark and simply helped them to their feet. "It's just right through this wall. Throw your torch aside."
Atrox watched as he extinguished his torch and tossed it aside incase they needed it again. He switched to his night vision when the light was gone and followed the two through a small cave opening through a warren of passageways. Atrox carefully charted his path through just in case but doubted he needed to. As he approached the ending, he could see heat radiating through the opening and when he stepped into a large cavern he was witness to a most magnificent vista of a massive cavern. Within the cavern were many buildings carved out of the living stone. Towers of stalactites and stalagmites were converted into massive living quarters all heated by dweomers that not only made the cavern habitable but lit it for those who would be able to see on the thermal spectrum. There was even artwork inscribed into the heat patterns showing giant glyphs and other icons.
Atrox watched the interactions of the dark elves as they noticed the newcomers. It was easy to see they not only distrusted the three but were openly hostile to them. Atrox sighed inward and readied himself in case he was about to battle. He had left his Sabers on his ship and only brought the dismantled one which was in the safe keeping of Hera. He would have to rely upon his thro of powers if it came to open battle. Force, Psionics, and Eldritch Magic were his weapons as well as his body itself. Of course he also had three Kythons but he did not want to use them, if they went into Battle Mode their Infection would start to eat the planet, something he wanted and would avoid at all costs.
When Shizra led them to the gates of the largest residence in sight Atrox knew things were going to get dramatic. He watched as she ordered the guards and followed when they were allowed to enter. He observed the interaction between what was obviously mother and daughter by their similar appearances but later confirmed by their conversation. It seemed Mommy did not like Daughter Dearest’s taste in men. Oh great, he was stuck watching a family dispute. Then attention was focused upon Atrox.
Beatriz walked towards Atrox. She circled around the Lord and studied him intently. Her sharpened fingernails dragged across his shoulders as she walked. "Well then. What is it that you could want from me? You have the look of Urshula about you though you are not one of her servants."
“I do not know what your Urshula are for I have never encountered that name before. You will have to elaborate somehow.”
Atrox really did not know of what the Matron was talking about but he could tell her presence was not only on this plane of existence. She contained great power and would most likely possess many abilities. This one was obviously used to getting her way when she wanted it.
As he looked around he noticed the main motif of the Manor was of arachnids. They were depicted everywhere in the stone, heat patterns, and even in the armor and weapons of the guards. He had heard of entire societies worshiping deities who were spiders or some sort of similar being. The Ta’Nar had evolved from a type of spider like being that hunted the endless Abyss striking fear into even the Demon Lords who dwelled there. The Crawling Chaos, Beblith, or Abyssal Creepers were the terms the demons used to describe the Ta’Nar and even made it Taboo to harm one after their genocidal hunts had made even the beings or Power who dwelled there tremble in fear. When the Beblith hunted, none escaped. Perhaps the Matron Mother was referring to his ancestors.
“Dwarves are generally not quick to take on new apprentices since an apprentice at a dwarven forge requires a life time of study. It is a hard lifestyle that many do not complete. But I see no problem in arranging a meeting between you and Mythgard.” Sarah didn’t need to say anything else. Lukien was already moving to make the arrangements and contact Hammer Hall while Daniel sort of drifted back from the group.
He wished he could go along with them but his foot would not allow him to move through the dwarven tunnels with ease and he would ultimately slow the others down. It would be a sad parting for the young scholar but one he knew was inevitable. He could not keep her locked within the library and buried underneath a heap of tomes and scrolls, no matter how much he wanted her to remain here with him. To do so would be like caging the summer sparrow. While her voice would be sweet on his ears and he would be able to see her whenever he desired, it was an injustice to keep something contained that was meant to be free. At least he had been able to help her in some way.
After a time, Lukien came back and nodded that everything had been set. Sarah smiled and clapped her hands. “Wonderful. Our chariot is still outside so we can have you in Hammer Hall within the hour.”
The Lady of Mythrandir gathered up her coat and prepared to leave. She saw the downcast look on Daniel’s face and lightly made her way over to him. Bending over, Sarah gave the young man a slight kiss on the cheek. “Thank you Daniel. We’re indebted to your services and your knowledge.”
Daniel stood there mutely with a small smile on his face as he watched the trio leave. He followed after a spell and waited by the main doors of the Cathedral. The young scholar waved good bye as they boarded their chariot. He called out one last time before they all left. “Come back and visit again.”
Captain Lukien closed the chariot door behind the ladies and set the destination for the shuttle. The golden vessel darted off through the city and streets and made a way for the city walls. Their next destination would now take them out of the main city and into the mountains where the many dwarven clans lived and thrived off the trade with the Northmen and the southern cities. Hammer Hall was all that remained of the great dwarven strongholds with even the legendary city of Myrn lost to the times.
The chariot continued on over the frost covered fields and into towering pines of the hills. Nestled in the heart of the Spine of Mythrandir, Hammer Hall had withstood countless attacks and several sieges. It was a fortress for all dwarven kind and by the looks of the snowy peaks as the shuttle drew closer, it was not difficult to see how it had lasted for so long. A trained dwarven eye could spot the numerous towers built out of rock on the mountain face that the dwarves had long ago strengthened as defensive battlements.
Outside the windows of the chariot, the mountain face reached high into the heavens as if it balanced the stars on its very peaks. A stone-worked bridge spanned the gulf from the hillside to the dwarven gates. Beneath the bridge roared the river Tarn in its furious rush down the hillside and through the fields, bringing fresh water to many settlements as well as the silver trout.
A group of dwarves had stopped the chariot before it could try and cross the bridge. Doing so would have likely tossed several passer biers over the edge.
Lukien was quick to open the door for Hera and Sarah then closed it as he touched ground. Sarah took Hera by the arm and lead her across the bridge while filling her in about various dwarven customs. Most were concerning dwarven mannerisms which Sarah advised Hera to not let it get to her. They were a bit more informal than most and could often be crude. Sarah laughed and carried on with her own personal experiences as if Hera was the oldest of friends while the main dwarven gates loomed before them.
The gates themselves were in fact part of the mountain face itself only reinforced with iron beams for added strength and several locking mechanisms to keep the gate shut against long sieges. But how the massive rock faces were moved, was not visible to the visitors as they entered the dwarven hall.
Once inside the hall, the beginning of understanding dwarven mastery over earthen works would begin to take shape. The main hall floor was perfectly flat with great square slabs of stone neatly fit against the others. Stone pillars as thick as a giant’s arm reached up to support a vaulted ceiling that was nearly lost to the darkness. Chisel work had smoothed away the ceiling while geometrical patterns decorated each pillar. All around them was the constant sounds of people talking and laughing. Some people had already set up shop on the hall and were selling what items they brought. Few argued over prices but there were plenty of ugly armored dwarves to keep disputes peaceful
Strong and free Northmen moved about the hall with their muscular frame and cut a swath through the crowd. They were the giant sea serpents parting the waters as they moved. Even the men of the south appeared small and frail in comparison to these barbarians. There were few of the elven families about and not a single dark elf to be seen. Further away from Mythrandir, the cities were less integrated and some still held to the mistrusts of old.
Sarah minded little of it though as she guided Hera through the hall and pointing out a few minor things about the workings of the market. Eventually they made their way to a grand stairwell, more than once Lukien had to shoulder through the crowd to make a path, which cast itself into the depths of the planet. Heat rose to greet the trio as they descended into the sanctuary of the dwarves. Hammers pounded rhythmically against ore and anvil. Songs drifted above the noise as they prayed over their work asking for the gods of the forge to bless their work. Some sang poems of ancient battles while others sang of food and ale and even a few dwarves sang crudely of their preference in dwarven women. There was some mention of hair and size. Not to be out done, a few of the dwarven women were not to be outdone and raised their voices-surprisingly feminine- and sang of their preferences in dwarven men and of size. A brief competition erupted between the opposing sides as each group tried to raise their voice above the other and it even seemed that it was a competition of who could be the crudest in their preference of a mate. All the while the rhythm of the hammers never faltered nor did their concentration.
There was little for Sarah to apologize for since she had warned Hera of all this before even entering the hall. Instead, she quickened their pace through the fiery forges and down another dark tunnel. A few sconces lit the way but it was still dim lighting all the way. Either dwarves knew every inch of stone in their hall, or they didn’t mind stubbed toes. Though by looking at a dwarf’s boot, it was doubtful that a dwarf would have felt anything.
In the depths of the roots of the mountains, the group found where several dwarves called home. Wooden doors plugged up holes in the rock walls though what lay beyond them was anyone’s guess. There was no break in the rock walls between doors except at path intersections but the layout of the cavern gave the feeling of a small neighborhood. Sarah followed every turn and twist as if she had some mental road map to the dwarven neighborhood. She finally came to a stop outside one particularly plain piece of wood.
Sarah knocked and waited a moment. There was only silence. She knocked again though this time with my force. Still silence. Sarah drew back and pounded on the door with all her might, threatening to unhinge the door from the doorframe.
A deep rumbling voice, like that of rock slide, called back. “Ye ain’t got to hit on the door so hard. I ain’t deaf ye know.”
Sarah turned the knob and pushed through to Mythgard’s home. It had a similar appearance to most homes with a low burning hearth and a few pieces of furniture for guests. Most of it was all very low to the ground and solidly built.
“Master Mythgard? It’s me, Sarah. May we have a moment with you?”
The dwarf came bounding out of a back room with dust covering his apron. At first glance, age appeared to sag his features and grey hair was now beginning to dominate the once dark brown curls of his youth. However, with further inspection there was still the sparkle in his dark eyes and strength in his forearms from years of working metal with the set of hammers that hung around his belt.
“I’m in the middle of somethin’ lass. What is it?”
Sarah held out her hand to Hera as an introduction. “I would like you to meet Lady Sunshine. She has come visiting our world and has taken an interest in your work. She would like to learn some of your secrets of the trade. An apprentice of sorts.”
Mythgard raised a pair of bushy eyebrows and stared through long fingered eyelashes. “She’s too young to be an apprentice. Besides, I’m retired. Plenty of other dwarves out there that can help ye.”
Not willing to let the matter go at that, Sarah stepped up to square off with the dwarf. “Surely there is something you can teach her.”
Sarah stared at him for a long moment as a silent debate between the two took off. It lasted for several minutes though nothing was said. Still, an entire conversation seemed to be carried out through their stares. Finally Mythgard harumphed and thumped his fists against his apron which promptly sent a cloud of dust into the air.
“A’ight, a’ight. What is it you want to learn girlie? Making toys and trinkets?”
Beatriz smiled like a fiend from the Abyss as she studied Atrox more deeply. She removed her dagger like nails and stood back from him. “Urshula is the goddess that rules these lands. We of the dark elves are her instruments of chaos and each Matron is her voice and hand in spreading Urshula’s will.
The will of chaos and destruction.”
The dark elf looked to grow bored with the conversation and crossed her arms over her bare stomach. “Now I ask again, what is it that you seek here?”
Not wanting a guest of his to go through such interrogation, Sebastian cleared his throat to turn the attention upon himself. “Matron Beatriz, my friend here has come on a social and business errand. He wishes to find-”
Beatriz’s facade turned into an icy death stare as she seethed at the human. “Silence ground walker!”
A blade from one of the male dark elf guards shot out for the Elder and grazed just under Sebastian’s chin. The sentry held the serrated blade there, lifting Sebastian ever so slightly, to keep the human from speaking. While the focus was on Sebastian, a second blade arced through the darkness.
Razor sharp teeth bit into the male’s flesh and sliced bone just below the elbow joint. The separated arm and blade fell to the floor with a clank as the owner of the arm fell back in a howl. Shizra’s scimitar tip dripped in warm blood as she stood in front of Sebastian while her free hand seamlessly moved to draw the second blade. Her dark violet eyes stared at the dark elf who clutched at the arm as it seeped blood through his fingers.
Shizra’s stare turned predatorily as she looked at the rest of the guards. “That’s one. Pray I do not find another hair missing from his chin.”
Perhaps what might be most surprising was that the dark elf guards were less worried about the War Mistress and more focused on Elder Sebastian. Despite their focus, none would be willing to move against the Elder once Shizra had drawn her blades and she knew this as well. Her voice lifted up in the sing songy dialect of the dark elves for the rest of the grounds to here.
“Senger Atrox zhah searching whol yorn Opals nindel z'arlathilu vaartur harl ghil. Gaer zhah mzild taga z'lonzic nindel udos ssrig'luin naut tangis' nou'hai udosstan xuil squabbling xor selg'tarnen d' payment. Izin l' Balroggan ulu inbal vel'bol uk ssrig'luinen lu' talinth ol natha belbol d' folggash xor xal natha elamshinae ruebusu.”
Lord Atrox is searching for power Opals that naturally form down here. There is more than enough that we need not even concern ourselves with squabbling or matters of payment. Allow the Balroggan to have what he needs and consider it a gift of friendship or perhaps a favor owed.
Silence followed Shizra’s words as they settled in amongst the other elves. None dare make a move without approval from their Matriarch but neither did they relish fighting the War Mistress who was prepared to defend someone she cared for. It was a struggle between fear and logic which had most of their minds locked in a bloody stalemate.
But it was Beatriz who broke the dead lock as she began laughing. Her laughter rose in tempo and eventually consumed the cavern as she laughed with all the sinister power of devils and demons at her call. Guards standing around eventually began joining in albeit timidly at first but soon gave in to the power of Beatriz’s laughter.
The Matriarch soon ceased her laughter and smiled demonically at her daughter. “Usstan kyon naut whol folggash. Usstan er'griff plynn isintol wun opportunities. Fortunately whol dos lu' dosst ‘abbilen’ ghil, Usstan kyorl biu opportunity. Gaer zhah nau payment required whol nindol.”
I care not for friendship. I only take interest in opportunities. Fortunately for you and your ‘friends’ here, I see an opportunity. There is no payment required for this.
Shizra’s was visibly suspicious of her mother but lowered her sword tips. Sebastian was completely clueless as to what was being spoken over him as he could never quite get the language of the dark elves. There were just some complexities that continued to frustrate him and effectively keeping his grasp on the language quite primitive. For now though, there appeared to have been some sort of truce reached. He could only assume that Shizra and her mother had reached an understanding and would allow Atrox to acquire the jewels that he sought.
Beatriz quickly switched tongues so that even Sebastian could understand what was being said. “Since your quest leads you away from my home, I seen no reason to impede you any longer. The sooner you are gone from here, the sooner the stench from the surface world will fade. Your path lies along the Wanderer’s Trail then deep into the Abyssal’s Caverns. Once you have managed your way through, simply follow the soft light. The light will lead you into a vaulted cavern where you should find the stones that you are seeking. If you can manage all this, then you may have your choice of jewels and be on your way.”
The Matron turned her back on the group and appeared to leave it simply at that. Sebastian appeared pleased that matters had worked out so well but Shizra was skeptical. As if in on cue, Beatriz turned around once she made the stairs leading back into the palace. “One last thing. It has been so long since I have seen my daughter, so she will remain here with me until you return.”
The thought struck Shizra like a dwarven hammer. There were few that knew the Underdark as well as she, and her mother was removing that asset from Sebastian. Sebastian was quite capable on the surface in the streets of Mythrandir or in the woods of covering the continent but down here, the Elder was still learning the basic dangers that faced any dark elf of the Underdark. And those weren’t even the more terrifying of the creatures that could be conjured.
Shizra turned a glare on her mother, silently accusing her. Beatriz only smiled and said, “That is my one condition.”
Before Shizra could even begin protesting, Sebastian spoke up. “Agreed. Lord Atrox and I will continue on for the jewels alone. We’ll return when we’ve finished.”
Shizra turned around to stare at the man she respected and admired above all else. Part of her wanted desperately to protect and argue that their must be some other way, but the other half of Shizra knew that if she shielded Sebastian then it would take away from him everything that she cared about and secretly loved. Aside from that, she knew there was little to be done once Sebastian made his mind up.
All that Shizra could do was embrace the Elder with all her might and give some final words of warning. “Please be cautious. I have not shown you all there is to see in the Underdark. Be mindful of your surroundings and what you already know of the creatures living here. I don’t want to have to look Sarah in the eyes and tell her that you died on some fool’s errand.”
Sebastian smiled and clasped her shoulders. “I’ll be careful. You have been a good mentor.”
The Elder gave Shizra one last look then turned to head out the gates of Matron Beatriz’s palace. Sebastian waved Atrox on to follow behind him for it seemed like the pair was to embark on another adventure that had no certain outcome for them or their well being. Together they would have to depend on one another for survival if they wished to return successful or return at all.
Sebastian lead them through the streets of the dark elf city and it seemed that a stigma had been placed over their heads as every dark elf avoided them, called out threats, or simply ignored their presence. Despite the hostility of the atmosphere, there was still plenty to be seen. There was still business to be done though shop keepers were far more covetous of their costumers than on the surface. Along the way there was also the typical slave train of drooling goblins scurrying along at the head of their masters whips. Even the city itself seemed to have a homeless class where dark elves had once been part of a powerful House that had been toppled by another. What dark elves were not assimilated into the victor’s fold, were cast out on the streets. Not belonging to a house for male dark elf only allowed for a few options. There was enlisting with the Warriors which many proud dark elves saw as a disgrace or there was waiting for death. Most tended to give into their grief and allowed it to consume them. Such thinking no longer made them part of Mythrandir in the sense of that most Myths were not governed by emotions and instead allowed logic to control their actions.
Once outside of the city’s realm, the two found themselves out of the familiar warmth and Sebastian was reliant on Atrox leading them. The Balroggan seemed to have similar abilities as the dark elves which made him the natural choice for blazing the path. Shizra had warned the young Elder numerous times on the dangers of starting a fire in the Underdark so he dare not light another. Even sound was a thing to be avoided once deeper in the caverns.
For now though, so close to the city, a little noise could be afforded. “Well it looks like we’re on our own again for a while. We have some time before we have to go silent. How about you tell me more about yourself and the world you come from? And that young woman you are traveling with, Sunshine, how did you two meet?”
Shizra knew she was stuck in her mother’s palace for as long as it took Sebastian and Atrox to return from their quest. The thought did not intrigue the woman. Following her mother up the stairs, Shizra stopped Beatriz before she entered the palace chambers.
“What did you mean by an opportunity?”
Beatriz followed the hand that kept the great doors shut until she reached Shizra’s eyes. The Matron mother smiled ever so slightly. “If your precious Elder manages to get a jewel through these trials, then good for him. His friend will have earned it and can be on their way.
If he should die, well then let’s say I won’t shed any tears for the loss. Then it would be my hope that my darling daughter would remain here with me where she belongs, among her people. I do so hate distractions. I only see that little human becoming more of a problem in the future. More of a problem than he is worth at any rate.”
A moan followed the two women up the stairs, the sound of the dark elf beginning to feel his life slipping away from the loss of blood. Beatriz sighed as she shook her head. “Such a bother.”
The Matriarch snapped her fingers which stole the other guards’ attention for a bit. But it was only briefly as the dying dark elf’s moans turned quickly into screams of pain. Pockets of flames burst free of the dark skin and began consuming the creature from the inside. Agonizing pain curdle from his throat as the elf screamed until his voice grew hoarse while his organs melted and his blood began boiling. No amount of rolling could control the fire leaping from his skin or the inner fire that consumed his body.
Fingers raked at his skin and his body thrashed around trying to find some measure of comfort. Only the scream of an elf mad with pain seemed to have any effect as his white hair caught fire. The stench of burning flesh drifted in the cavernous air while the elf was in his death throes mixing crying with screaming. It wasn’t until his skin became fully engulfed in flames that the noise finally subsided.
Beatriz looked to one of the guards standing outside the palace doors. “Make sure someone cleans up the mess.”
“Yes Matron Mother. Right away.” The dark elf hurried off, not wanting to fall under a similar fate.
The Matriarch opened the doors into her wide chambers and took a deep breath of the sickening smell of burnt flesh. To her, it was almost like perfume. She turned to her daughter now in a far better mood. “You must be famished from eating that surface food for so long. I’ll have something prepared for you.”
Shizra didn’t feel much like eating after that display. The dark elf only wanted to do her typical cure for spending time with her mother. Find a bottle of the blood red wine that dark elves fancied and drain its contents.
“Well, it would be a long story indeed so I guess since we have the time I might as well.”
Atrox looked around at the “gloom” of the Underdark. He could see why the human called it so because at best the light was very dim and everything was tightly closed in. That happens when you are traveling underground. To his senses, there was energy everywhere allowing him to use it as if a bright spotlight were following him around illuminating everything he look at. To be exact, everything the Kython suit perceived which was from any surface at all times. They were able to perceive sight in a full sphere, modeled off the senses of the Ta’Nar, their creators. When you create something you tend to make it see the same way you do for that is what you understand the most.
“The Ta’Nar are a civilization lost in this Universe. We are lost because of an accident we have been moved here, away from others of our kind. In our Home, our fleets numbered in the thousands as we spread across the universe uplifting every race we came across. We took those we Uplifted to man our ships so we could continue spreading our kind and those we Uplifted. First it was systems, then clusters, until we inhabited whole galaxies. From there we spread through Galactic Clusters, slowly expanding the presence of the Ta’Nar to every corner of the Universe.”
Atrox reached down and lifted Sebastian past a tough spot where the stone was weak and would have became loose if he had put his weight upon it.
“Over several millennia we actually were able to claim a whole percentage of the Universe. Of course it was not THIS Universe, but one that lies Elsewhere. Each Ta’Nar commanded an entire fleet allowing the Ta’Nar to spread out from where we first Emerged into that Universe.”
Atrox held out his hand to stop Sebastian from moving forward. Picking up a nearby rock, he tossed it on the trail ahead. Something lunged out of the darkness and through the floor which was easily seen to not be the same temperature of the stone around it since it was just a flap made of webbing and stones disguised to look like the path. The giant arachnid within got a hard rock instead of two tasty meals.
“You see, we came from an even further place where it was dark and peaceful. Then things began to appear that were at first composed of faint energies but the nature of our place allowed them to take form, becoming real in a sense. These beings were cruel and ruthless. For sport they hunted us until we turned the tables and hunted them back. It took millennia to gradually hone our skills so we kept to our own skulking in the shadows and corners of our own lands. Eventually our skills had grown that we turned the tables on the intruders and began hunting an entire species out of existence. At first the Intruders tried to strike back but they were unable to find us. If one happened to locate a solitary individual, we were able to experience the deeds they committed upon our kind and revisited the ones, taking ten for every unkind act upon our Kindred. After enough times, it became Taboo to harm us, but not in the other Worlds. Using our telepathy, we reached out and contacted the others on nearby planes to show them what we have learned and slowly plane by plane our influence spread under the fear of ultimate retaliation. Once, one of the Lords tried to organize an attack upon us through a show of might. He wanted to show the other Lord he was not afraid of us, making himself out to be superior above the others. When he had not decided to forgo his filly, we descended upon his Palace, an immense city of Iron and Death. When we left it, not a soul was left. When others arrived to investigate his disappearance, they only found an empty city covered in webs with not even any bodies left. The Taboo spread even faster after that and soon we were avoided at all costs. That particular plane was never resettled and it became ours again for none would enter it out of fear. Entire armies marched around a solitary Ta’Nar if it happened to be walking in their path, or they encamped and posted sentries to watch just in case a new route was taken.”
Atrox and Sebastian came to a ravine which was too wide to cross. Holding the human in his arms, Atrox levitated across the seemingly bottomless chasm to the other side. After setting him down, he continued.
“Over time, we became bored. One of us sensed in the greater Intruders, they possessed a power that if we devoured their essences, we would slowly build up their powers. The Hunts, or G’Than’Dehr as they were called in our mind speak, began again, partly to remind them to leave us alone and partly to regain a tiny fragment of this ability called Magic. Slowly we were able to discern the ability to recognize magic in its true form and bend it to our own will. We called this Eldritch Magic and it allowed us to manipulate spells and enchantment on a basic level. We used it to cause spell failure in our foes mostly.”
“While our numbers were steadily growing, we were still vastly outnumbered but we refused to be made the Victims and took another aspect to the battle. We found a few of us were developing new Psionic abilities, ones which allowed us to reach inside the minds of the Invaders. Using this, we soon discovered the Invaders were able to travel outside our reality through Gates into another, one they called loosely translated into Prime Material Plane. That is where we are now, well kinda. You will see later.”
“The Ta’Nar concentrated their attacks upon those who were able to open Gates to this Plane and bit by bit, mind by mind was able to finally steal the ability to travel to new existences. Of course, we were not fleeing; we were branching out to be sure we had a sizable population on both sides of the Rift.”
“Once through the Rift, we discovered a cooler place without the ever insistent threat of attack from the Enemy. The new place supported a myriad variation of life forms each on their own island floating in a sea of stars. This was actually the first time any Ta’Nar had ever seen the stars, in their old homelands there were not stars, just empty skies so you see how this was completely different. They came to realize each point of life was a new collection of worlds to explore. Not only that but they discovered in the world their rift opened up to dwelled a new life form that was not born out of hate and greed, what the Intruders whole existence seemed to consist of. It was truly new and strange indeed. Reaching out with our minds, we entered those of this new biped we discovered and found they were completely devoid of Magic. They did believe in their own deities but of magic, there was no sign. Instead they used tools they devised and constructed to do their bidding. The Ta’Nar wondered at these new marvels and their potential. Using their combined minds, they reached out and learned from those without them knowing. This allowed them to pick up the technology easily even though they at first did not understand anything but over time they quickly excelled mostly due to their shared consciousness. They were able to network the resources of an entire race to solve problems only the smartest individual within a vastly shorter time allowing accelerated scientific growth far exceeding their neighbors.”
“We took to calling these new being Childer and us the Watchers because we watched over them. As they grew, we carefully guided them by using gentle nudges and implanting ideas. Shortly while they were achieving their first primitive forms of air flight, the Ta’Nar were establishing colonies on other planets in the solar system. We quickly outgrew the system we were exploring and began to set off to other nearby stars, looking for other possible life forms. It was around this time we made the important discovery that led to our interest in Dimensional Technology in the Dalvizer Ring, a super collider the size of a solar system we built over decades to explore the secrets of the Universe we were now claiming as our own. Don’t get me wrong, we had not abandoned our brethren on the other side of the Rift, we kept in contact with them and exported some of our discoveries but quickly found the technological toys did not work in that environment. Instead we fortified our old homelands and used the new worlds we made as a colony of sorts; moving excess populations from one side of the Rift to the other until only what you would call our military remained eliminating the need to protect our mates and young from the Invaders. The only thing we really needed to protect was the Rift but we had driven all them from that plane long ago so it was unlikely even the self-proclaimed deities would be able to take our stronghold without us having enough time to shut it down.”
Atrox stopped and retrieved a canteen of water. Drinking some, he offered the container to Sebastian, placing it back on his utility belt when it was returned.
“Don’t worry about it running dry, it refills by condensing water vapor from the humidity in the air and then purifies it. Through technology we have potentially an ever full canteen. It’s very useful in exploring almost any climate except obviously dry desert conditions. We could supply you with some if you wish, just let me know when we get out of here.”
“Where was I? Oh yeah, sending our probes to neighboring systems. We discovered abundant life in those first systems; apparently the planet we found on the other side of the Rift was located in a particularly green section of the green zone for the immediate stars were rich and teeming with primitive civilizations. Using the Torq Drives we were able to send probes out to them in days to weeks depending upon distance. Soon we had colonies in a dozen systems around the one we claimed as our own and watching the other primitives we found there. After much deliberation, we decided it was our duty to raise these primitives to a level near ours. The first task was to expand their mental and physical levels to allow them to enjoy their improvements. We began a program of improvements we called Uplifting. Using knowledge of biological diversities we were able to develop way to evolve their genes and in turn their bodies themselves. We also worked on evolving the intellect of our Childer by using our Psionics to manipulate their thoughts and their very minds themselves giving them the gift of Telepathy and Telekinesis as well as emotional maturity so they would grow mentally as their physiological bodies grew.”
“After several centuries of this we were slowly uplifting entire civilizations while we ourselves slowly expanded. Building great ships from the massive resources locked away within the asteroid belts of the systems, we continuously reached out further and further searching for more areas to expand to, I suppose a trait from those early days where if we did not then we would have died out ourselves. To reach out was ingrained within our psyche and still is. We cannot sit still as a race and must ever move forwards. We continued to do so but we also knew caution and only expanded slowly, concentrating mostly upon developing our technologies and out Childer. That was when War had found us again.”
Again Atrox assisted the human ascend a tricky spot by using his levitation as they both ascended up a tricky crumbling bluff. They could have done it the hard way if Atrox was not wearing all the metal and they had extra time to waste.
“One of our scout ships was patrolling a sew sector we had just recently arrived when they came across another ship. Now remember, so far we had only encountered primitive races that had not achieved much on their own, this was the first space race we encountered. Upon a quick conference using our telepathy we decided to contact them. Broadcasting a binary signal to establish peaceful communication, we were immediately fired upon as soon as we were within range of their weapons.”
“That was their first mistake.”
“The dying screams of their death echoed across the telepathic channels and caused up to relive the ancient Fight instinct to well uncontrollably through the race as a whole. With our blood inflamed and the thirst for retaliation and vengeance being the only thing we could see, the Ta’Nar threw everything they had at their new Enemy. The weapons we have today are much worse than what we possessed all those millennia ago but that does not make it any less terrible. Fleets from the thirteen Childer Homeworlds located the territory of the aliens. They swept through the barbaric space empire like a plague. Millions died on each world as they swept it clean of the offensive aliens. The Childer decimated the primitive ships of the alien empire with their dimensional weaponry, tearing the very reality of the vessels causing ruptures in the hulls. Their weapons sliced through the ships like a vibro-knife through warm Blatkna.”
“Within two weeks the alien empire had completely fallen and they were wiped out off all but their last world. The alien fleet had withdrawn from each world as they fell, collecting at their home world for a final defense. The Childer fleet came rushing in from every direction. They were surrounded and completely out-gunned. The ships were cut to pieces and left floating wrecks. They were quickly cleaned up using newly developed Gravity technology so the approach to their home world was completely uncluttered with debris. The Ta’Nar ships closed in on the planet and the Childer made landfall.”
“The world was already decimated by the alien race. They had not done it out of spite, but they used it up in their own climb to the stars. The polluted lifeless world was dead. It would be thousands of years before life was able to exist there again. The Ta’Nar was puzzled why they would make their last stand at a dead world. There were no hidden worlds of survivors; they had made sure of that. None escaped the Ta’Nar when they are on a Genocidal Hunt. They had left worlds cleansed of the aliens behind them.”
“After searching through the wreckage of the strange primitive ships they used, we were finally able to figure out what happened. It seems the Enemy was merely a mammalian life form that was extremely xenophobic and hated any race they came across. Evidence showed they had swept worlds after them under total subjugation or destruction. While we Uplifted the primitives, they destroyed them out of fear and ignorance.”
“The Ta’Nar research showed the aliens realized there was no place left for them to retreat to. All their worlds were conquered, their great fleets were running out of fuel, their soldiers were starving from lack of supplies, and they had nothing to look for. They waited for the folly of their hatred to finally finish them off. Fully under the throes of their xenophobia, they even refused to contact the Childer fleet. They wished to die rather than to survive in a universe populated by creatures other than themselves. The Ta’Nar mourned their ignorance and returned to their own worlds. They changed their programs so their Childer would not make the same mistakes the aliens had.”
“Over the next millennium we slowly expanded the Uplift Program to include hundreds of more species. Life was rich in diversity in this area and it was even reintroduced into the blighted area the aliens caused. The Ta’Nar eventually noticed a change in themselves. Their strong telepathic abilities began to grow and spread out into different abilities. They were able to do many new things but the most extraordinary one was the ability to leave their bodies for a short time. In this pure form, they were able to expand their awareness without being hampered by their physical form. They understood more of the forces of the Multiverse.”
“They also noticed the emergence of rudimentary telepathy in some of their Childer. Seeing them in a primitive form back before they were known as the Hunters, they gained insight into the end goals of their Uplift Program. They would make themselves out of the Childer. The lesser races would evolve into energy beings like that already were. The Ta’Nar would lead the way for the others to follow.”
“Over the next few millenniums, the Ta’Nar continued to progress in their technologies and slowly over the hundreds of years, was able to remain away from their bodies an ever increasing length of time. They mastered all 26 dimensions and proceeded beyond into the proto-Universe from with all the others originated. There had been more wars and a couple was really bloody but through the whole thing, the Childer Fleet managed to pull through.”
“The larger number of the Childer worlds resulted in the Ta’Nar taking a firmer hand in controlling them. They had to become controlling, manipulative, and powerful. Through their actions, they were called the Overlords by their Childer servants. The fleets of the Childer competed for the favor of their Overlords. The Overlords sent out colony ships into neighboring galaxies to spread the Uplift Project, their one goal throughout their history.”
“After a few hundred years, the Overlords had established footholds within thousands of systems, dominating and controlling hundreds of civilizations. As each civilization fell under their control, they examined their technology and society for anything that might be adapted to make theirs better. They fought hundreds of empires, federations, and other alliances. They lost some of the battles but their sheer numbers and determination eventually won out and they eventually absorbed all they came across.”
“The Overlords, recognizing some races were better at certain aspects of the military than others, enacted a seperate program where the crew was redistributed to positions within the fleet that best utilized their talents. Races that excelled in Astronavigation were used for that purpose. The Tergains were efficient mechanics with their small size and multiple limbs. The Dervians were very efficient ground troops. Each race soon found they had a niche to fill in the Childer Fleets.”
“It was about this time the order came for all Ta’Nar to return to their Homeworld. IT came straight through their Psi Link so it remained a mystery to the Childer why their Masters suddenly had to leave. They left their orders and boarded their great ships and faded away into the realities between the Spaces, leaving abandoned colonies and bewildered Childer Fleets. They remained away for several years. A couple of the Childer ships decided to disobey orders and strike out upon their own but the rest of the fleets remained loyal.”
“When the Overlords returned, they were changed. They had completely given up every attachment to a mortal form. They had completely evolved from the dependence upon needing a body. They had evolved their already potent psionic abilities into something that was akin to god-like powers. They could cast their thoughts out to each other across the stars, they could possess both man and machine, and they could take or make life at their whim. They were truly the Overlords. The Overlords began their Uplift Project with renewed vigor while on the outlook for those couple ships that went renegade while they underwent their Genesis. “
“The centuries passed as the Childer fleets slowly expanded, uplifting the sentient races as they expanded their empire. The races were cataloged and shipped out to where they would serve The Overlords best. They were given their gene-altering cocktails and other treatments that would start them upon the fast track to evolution. They were watched for signs of resistance and dealt with if any developed. When the society was absorbed, the fleets continued onto the next.”
“It was around this time that the Bal Ro’Gga, a massive colony ship left the Riftworld headed for one of the newly expanded galaxies with six million Ta’Nar aboard. They were to be the new Overlords for the expanding Ta’Nar fleets but something happened. The ship was pulled out of transition and into the atmosphere of a world where it seemed Technology did not function. The Bal Ro’Gga crashed on an island that was part of a chain near the coast of a large continent. After it was determined the ship was dead, the Nhur, you might call him a captain or leader, decided waiting for help was not an option. He took command and sent out explorers and again we found a primitive society which was based on shamanism. The local mystics literally ran the place. Other than that, everyone was basically primitive human middle ages society.”
“Gal’Du, the Nhur of the ship decided we would try to use the Magic we possessed to open a gateway but we were not enough. We were unable to do so because together we were not strong enough and our Magic worked differently than what was needed probably because of the local conditions that also blocked technology. He surmised we needed to carry on our Uplifting program but with the locals and based upon magic instead of genetic and technological. They were to raise them from shamanism to a full blooded magical society.”
“Sending out agents, the Ta’Nar searched out and Inhabited those shamans from nearby tribes. By ‘Inhabited” I mean they entered their bodies much the same way a dead spirit would. While this sounds bad, it really wasn’t. We only rode them and offered hints to their subconscious, at most seeming like the little voice many people listen to when they decide to not do something dangerous or stupid, the voice of your conscious or of reason. Using this, we guided them from a stone tool using society of primitive humans to a society much simulate to 2th century Earth, except using Magic instead of technology. By the time we were finished; Magic had been included in every aspect of their society. Houses were lit using spheres of light that were cued to the sleeping patterns of the inhabitants. Their vehicles were propelled by magic and flew or rolled without needing horses or other beast, Aerodynamic carriages much resembling modern planes were powered by Alteration magic to make them fly extremely fast for intercontinental travel and even a network of teleportation gates set up allowing the entire planetary society to become one world. Located at the center were all six million Ta’Nar inhabiting important people whispering in the back of their minds, directing them to the next great leap that would move the society forward.”
“Unfortunately the society would be confined to the planet for when the first magic driven probes were levitated into orbit, they stopped functioning once they left the outer reaches of the atmosphere and fell back to the surface. We considered trying to levitate the fallen ship to into orbit but after much deliberation it was pointed out there was no way to fix the vessel or for that matter tell if the vessel was even broken without it being powered. Even if it was in pristine condition after sitting buried in a mountain for centuries, there was not enough time to restart the power core before it fell back and smashed to bits and was rendered worthless. Instead we moved the vessel and made it into our capital and we claimed the island chain as the capital. After some research, it was decided we needed to place several Points of Power around the islands and literally have several hundred mages perform a ceremony to open the gate we desired. The Power Nodes would transfer the whole island chain. We needed something to act as a platform in case we were placed within the middle of an ocean. It is easier to move a platform with objects upon it than six million individual people plus our ship.”
Well, it took a few centuries further to get everyone on the same page and arranged the Ceremony to occur upon the millennial anniversary of our arrival; it just seemed right at the time and had no special reason. The Ta’Nar Overlords called a worldwide festival where everyone had to return home with their families and perform a certain ceremony which would gather the power into the Nodes allowing the islands to make a transition to another world. Everything went perfectly well and the changeover went off without a hitch. Sometimes I wonder what became of those people. They were safe from invasion by any space faring race for as soon as they entered their atmosphere they would drop like rocks.”
Atrox stopped. “Did you wish to rest a bit? We could get some food in us while I continue our story.”
From a belt pouch Atrox pulled out some rations. Normally he just used his suit’s own systems for nourishment but he still kept a few glucose rich snacks just in case. Taking out some freeze dried pieces of apple, he began chewing upon them enjoying the sugars within. Offering some to Sebastian he said, “These are taken from the orchards Hera planted and nurtured them at our Academy. They are my favorite and even better when fresh. I suppose I should get on with my story.”
“Well, the Ceremony worked and we were no longer trapped on that world, the only problem is the mana field came along with us so on our new planet we were still stuck for the new place was certainly not as empty. The locals called it “dirt” and we were surrounded my other nations. It was Earth and in the 1950’s. There were superpowers running about threatening to blow each other up and here we were on a couple islands in the pacific near something called The Galapagos Islands. We sent out emissaries to collect things like can openers and toasters. Using mundane normal items and developing a way to make them work with Magic present was the first step on creating Hybrid Technology, the merging of both into something that will function in either. Eventually after a couple decades we were able to succeed and as a tribute to the achievement, we levitated part of one of our islands into orbit where Babylon became our first orbital city.”
“We actually named it Babylon for a reason. Eventually we brought in additional materials and extended Babylon downward while building up from below and constructed Earth’s first Space Tower and subsequently the largest structure on the planet. We offered the neighboring regions to allow them to use our elevators to take objects into orbit much cheaper than anything they could send themselves using booster technology. So while other nations were running around trying to make out how tough they were with their nuclear arsenals, we were heading to space. All that wasted effort they made when they could have grown instead.”
The Ta’Nar quickly expanded their presence in the asteroid belts creating mining colonies and setting up Sol Station, a huge shipyard high above polar orbit of the sun. From there we could gather energy emitted by the star from one of the “cooler” regions around the star. More energy is emitted from the equator regions because of the spin of the star itself while a noticeably less is emitted up. It also allowed a neutral place to aim the shipments from the mining colonies. We built massive maglev launchers and shot the cargo on electronically controlled sleds. They contained enough propellant for their engines to slow their descent and since they were aimed above the planetary disk, there was no danger of them colliding with anything. All the gas giants were in the outer system and Earth was the largest thing sunward. When they arrived, the Gravity Nets collected the sleds and the raw materials were used to build ships. Cargo Haulers, the equivalent of tugs would then drag the sleds back out system filled with supplies for the colonies. It worked quite well for a while. As far as energy goes, we seeded the orbit between Mercury and the sun with thousands of solar collectors and beamed the energy to where it was needed. We again steered clear of the main areas the planets received their emissions and mainly used the northern and southern hemispheres for collection.”
“Using our knowledge we possessed of our technologies we used to possess, we carefully steered the humans in our nation along carefully designated paths of research and development so we could reinvent the wheel from nothing. This allowed us to avoid the many dead ends we already abandoned long ago and only pursue correct avenues which greatly accelerated the rate we created “new” technologies. Before long we had recreated a primitive version of our Torq drive. And after a period of R&D along the Gravity technology path we had enough knowledge and the means to begin again the development of our Dimensional Technology. It was about this time Temporal Tech was all the rage but we already knew we did not appear here from a divergent timeline, we could only have came from a far off dimension. To us, Temporal was useless and besides, you cannot change the main Timeline, you can only create an alternate one and get yourself stuck there until it atrophies and fades away ensuring your eventual destruction. There was no future in that so we simply ignored it as folly.”
“Soon after we struck out to the stars and began colonizing systems we found heading in a direction away from Earth in the direction of the constellation Lepus. At our height we had 44 systems colonized scattered through the galaxy and in a couple neighboring ones. The humans, as well as AI, in our nation were evolved into Childer, and we created our own separate race, the Kythons. All that was undone in a single evening called The Night of Rage.”
Putting his apples away and taking another draw off the canteen, he got to his feet and after Sebastian was ready, they continued along the marked trail through the dim fungi-lit Underdark.
“About twenty years ago, Emperor Palpatine from the Galactic Empire invaded the system next to one of ours. Asfaltum was only ten light years away and you could understand why we took great interest in their presence. At that time I was the Admiral of the First Fleet routed there to provide defense in case they decided to move on our position. Leaving Commander D’Irk in charge, I went on a covert Intel mission with Emperor Masaki from Coredia and the Abh prince Doran. We even had a force of marines from the Colonies of Kobol with us. We needed to sneak down to the surface and discover what Palpatine and Vader were up to. They had left their own galaxy and came all the way to the Milky Way for something important and we needed to know what.”
“During the trip in, I protested the way Daniel was firing upon Asfaltum and not caring what the missed shots at the ship were doing to the planet. I told him he needed to actually aim instead of just firing and not caring who was hurt. For this I was confined to quarters like some ship’s crew and nearly attacked by Doran, I had noticed the power he gathered into his hand in preparation. Once on the surface, I put all that behind and ensured they all made it to the underground tomb which was the goal of Paplatine’s interest. Hell, while they were fighting, I had to teleport a nuclear grenade away, vastly taxing myself after all I already did for them. I was so weak I was unable to retain my consciousness and passed in and out of awareness. Laying there I was witness to how Palpatine was stabbed by Tarkin with a vibroblade. In order to save themselves, Daniel and Doran left the Colonials and myself down there.”
“You know what happened to Asfaltum after that, it was enveloped in the Forcestorm caused by Palpy’s death throws. The Marines were obliterated in the process and I was forced to take refuge within the insect body of a creature which was mutated and changed by the sudden out lashing of the Force. Helpless, I was taken captive by Vader and later made his Apprentice. My fall and the energies which back lashed through my unconscious form spread through the constant telepathic link to the rest of the Ta’Nar, and from them to the Childer and Kythons. In a single evening, the Childer born from human stock went into a berserk Rage and began devouring the other Childer. The Ta’Nar were only able to shelter ten Childer each meaning the six million Ta’Nar saved 60 million Childer. The Kythons also went out of control, devouring all our structures in those 44 systems we had leaving water filled holes where the foundations of our cities and space towers once stood. Over four billion Childer perished that night, consumed by Rage. Ever since then the Ta’Nar has been nomadic, continuously moving where it wanted.”
“Vader took me to Coruscant for training, which I will not say much of, it is better left unsaid. Trust me. The Ta’Nar came to the GE to be able to back me up in case something happened; we never leave one of us behind, not after the crash. That is one thing that can be counted on, Ta’Nar do not leave others behind. After years of training, I was sent back to the Colonies to ensure they joined the GE. I spoke to Admiral Cain and she told me there were spies detected on their capital world. If I were able to locate them and turn them over to her, she felt it would prove my integrity and she would consider the GE.”
“When I tracked down the Intruders, they were Abh who had conspired with the Coredians to manipulate the Cylons. The bombing of Colonial worlds was directly from Coredian manipulation of the Cylons and using one of their children as leverage to prevent them from giving me one of the Abh. I promised the mother I would seek out the child and protect her from the Coredians. Ten minutes later nuclear rain fell upon the Colonies. The only place left safe in the city was under the Embassy Shields the Coredians possessed. After many Colonials fled to their safety, the Coredians set off a singularity device murdering the few remaining survivors that fled there for safety. I chased the Abh spy Jessyka and the Coredian Master Sakir into a military base and through an underground monorail system finally after Sakir caused the train to crash we had it out. I ended the verbal confrontation after pointing out the explosives in the roof of the tunnel and demanded their surrender or I would leave them behind.”
“After some more dealings with Admiral Cain, who really was a nice person if you could get on her right side, I traveled to Konoha because that was where I was led in tracking down the child. The Cylons wanted to get back at the Coredians for their betrayal and if I was not there, they would have done worse than bombing of a single planet and then set up a treaty, they would have taken every raider or centurion they lost and made the Coredians pay in blood instead of allowing them to live. The Cylons have never done that before and I would like to think I had some sort of effect on that. It was during the treaty talks afterwards we first met. “
“It was back on the Ares when I first met Hera, the child I swore to protect. I have watched her grow over the years, always by her side so I could help her out if needed. It is kind of like a father and daughter thing, she is my greatest weakness and yet my greatest strength. I learn from her and teach her at the same time.”
Atrox stopped talking and looked at Sebastian
“I hope I have not talked your ear off, I tend to ramble at times. I have not told that to anyone but I know I can trust you with our History.”
Of all things that could be shared with another, Sebastian understood that an individual's history and origins were something of sacred matter at which trust was the only key that unlocked such a great responsibility. It was out of that respect that Atrox's was showing Sebastian that the young Elder listened intently as they traveled. The telling of an otherworldly plane intrigued him as it was something out of their own history where during an ancient time some myths of Mythrandir spoke of summoning beings from other planes of existence into their own. Sebastian had always wondered if the tales were true but it was nigh impossible to test such a theory as magic had been closed off to the Myths for an age.
As they continued on, the Elder offered up encouragement that he was still listening to Atrox and following along with the history. He listened closely to the tale of the persecution of Atrox's own race and of the rise to fight against such an injustice. It was in that that Sebastian saw that no matter the difference in plane of existence or race, slaves were not willingly made and he was pleased to find a people that were of the same mind as his own where they would not bow in the face of discrimination. So long as Sebastian lived, he would not see the chains of slavery and intolerance on his people.
It occurred to Sebastian, a bit further down the path, that it was Atrox who was doing more of the guiding now. The thought of it irked the Elder slightly, not because he minded the assistance, but because he felt completely helpless out in the engulfing darkness of oblivion. He thanked the Ta'Nar after landing safely on the opposite end of a ravine.
Every step they took, Sebastian was brought to closer to Atrox's present state with every word that was spoken. It was a history that spanned ages and filled their time on the trail admirably. Only the occasional obstacle ever broke the story for Atrox. When he reached closer to the present, it was the first time that Sebastian recognized names and places. The name Asfaltum was well known to him and other Myths as it was a nation that organized an alliance that ultimately failed. It was in that time when the Galactic Empire came to assert its tyranny over those it deemed weaker.
"I know of this war. We were preparing to send aid to Asfaltum when we were attacked by elements of the Galactic Empire. Tannelorn and the Fedral Union invaded our space but were ultimately fought back and forced to retreat. The fight raged on and cost us many good men and women. It seemed that to retreat was simply not enough for these cowards.
I imagine you saw the dark scar on our lands as your ship touched down on the surface. That is what once remained of a farming village after the Tannelornian "knights" buried a nuclear warhead at the village center. I was on the ground preparing for the final assault when it was detonated."
Sebastian stopped to rest for a moment against a stalactite as he recalled the events of that dark day.
"Hundreds of my Warriors died in that blast with many more injured. I tried to save as many lives as I could but there was so much death and sorrow that my abilities were taxed to their limits. I awoke a day later to learn that there was a blight upon my home and now a river runs black through it. All because we were viewed as a potential threat.
I feel sorry for Alurial's people. Where that scar is, nothing will grow and some of the wildlife has been perverted. You met one of its worse creations earlier today. But this world has been hurt and the elves live every day with its pain. Over time, they healed what of the land that they could but the stain remains and so does their pain."
The Elder shook his head sadly and continued on with Atrox. Atrox talked more of the events on Asfaltum some of which he had previously learned from the Ta'Nar when they first met but the tale now painted a more vivid picture. It seemed that Sebastian's Coredian friends were making enemies carelessly. But out of the story, the Elder was at least given an important detail.
"Then this is not what your race truly looks like? I see. No my friend, you did not talk too much. You manage to help the time pass quite nicely. All I can say is that I am not Daniel Masaki nor am I Doron of the Abh. The approach I take down here is the same as it is on the surface or among the stars. If we do not help one another or trust each other, then we will fail and most likely perish in the process. I appreciate you telling me your story. It helps me to understand you more."
They continued on their path for some time more coming out of the Wanderer's path and on to an intricate series of bridge work that spanned the breath of great ravines. Here Sebastian allowed Atrox to lead while he placed a hand on the Ta'Nar's shoulder to best follow in his footsteps. For the next leg of their journey, Sebastian kept quiet and muffled the fall of his footsteps as best he could knowing that any sound made here would only intensify as it travelled.
It seemed as if the rock walkway would carry on forever with the bridgework supported by great pillars that plummeted down into the abyss below. Time's meaning was lost on the travelers as all that remained was each others presence and the ever present darkness that closed in around them on all sides.
But while Sebastian's eyesight was practically useless, his other senses took over. As he walked along, he felt a change in the rock beneath his feet as it went from the telltale smooth of texture of worked earth to a rougher and more coarse material. The Elder lightly put a foot out to the side and found solid ground around him. He moved from behind Atrox up to the side and testing the ground until he was satisfied that the great chasm was behind them. All that remained was reaching the cavern that held the prized jewels to complete Atrox's lightsaber.
A bit further on they encountered the faint glow that Beatriz had mentioned. Soon with every step they took, more of their path became illuminated until eventually Sebastian no longer had to rely on Atrox's guidance. Even though they were so close to their goal, Sebastian still heeded caution. There were still plenty of dangers about and it would be foolish to die so close to their destination.
Carefully picking their way through the winding path, they reached a narrow breach in a rock wall from whence the light emanated. Sebastian managed to squeeze himself through then waved Atrox in once the cavern looked clear. Inside the cavern, an ethereal lamp rose from the center and gave off a faint glow but it was the multitude of jewels that magnified the light and illuminated the cavern and sent the beckoning light out into the abyss beyond the walls.
Sebastian stared at the walls in awe over the rich deposit and the beauty reflecting back at him in the green glow. He turned to Atrox with a small smile on his face. "Go ahead and take what you need."
While Atrox went to work harvesting the opals, Sebastian walked around the cavern to study the numerous gems making up the walls. As he walked though, he heard an odd clicking sound. He looked back at Atrox and assumed it must be some sort of tool he was using that was making the strange noise. Sebastian turned back to the gems and continued on with his musings.
Shizra left her mother's side and headed for the grand stair well in the matriarch's palace. Even though it had been a few years since she had last visited her mother's home, the War Mistress still knew the way to her own bedroom. The dark elf threw open the door and ran to the bed. She flopped down into the soft mattress and rolled over to stare up at the ceiling. Her thoughts drifted to the past of her childhood during the Clan Wars and to the constant arguing with her mother. So much turmoil and simply the thought of being back in this house sent the ceiling spinning in her vision.
Rolling over, Shizra found that a dress had been laid out. There was no knowing if her mother had foreseen this event or if this was wishful thinking that Shizra would return. Shizra highly doubted that this was wishful thinking. Picking up the dress, the dark elf saw the spider design of the woven silk that sent eight strands to wrap and meet around the back. There was no hiding in her room until Sebastian and Atrox returned. Eventually she would have to face her mother again.
After donning the dress, Shizra made her way back downstairs and into the dining room. There a long black onyx table filled the bulk of the room with only two chairs at either end. At one end, Matriarch Beatriz filled the chair while the other was left vacant for the War Mistress. Beatriz smiled as Shizra slid into the seat across from her.
"I am so glad you decided to do away with those rags you were wearing and put on something more appropriate. The smell of the surface world is not so foul now."
Shizra reached for the bottle of wine at the table and poured the blood red contents into a clear crystal glass. In one gulp she drained the contents of her glass then poured another. "You know if something were to happen to him, I would never forgive you."
The matriarch feigned innocence at the accusation. "My dear child, I have not harmed one hair on that human's head. Why should I hurt him when there are so many things down here in this beautiful world that could do it for me?"
Halfway through the liquor of her second glass, Shizra stopped drinking to look at her mother. "You do realize that that is a foreign ambassador with the Elder? If something were to happen to Atrox, there would most likely be war at our doorstep. Even you could not hide from that."
"Urshula's will guides us on our path. If it is her will that such should come, then so be it. But relax child, we have not had a report of an incident along the path to the mine for some time now."
Shizra finished off her glass and began pouring another, satisfied under the sense of relative safety. As she began to drink her next glass, she stopped suddenly. "You said along the path leading to the mine. What about in the mine? You know just as well as I do what you unleash when you delve deeper into the depths of the abyss."
Beatriz looked as if she had just remembered something as the meal was served. "Oh that reminds me. There were several miners that disappeared not too long ago."
The War Mistress looked at her skeptically. "Disappeared?"
The Matriarch began cutting into her steamed bulroot shroom while trying to recall the details. "Well eaten would probably be more accurate. It seems that a crustal ruk has taken up residence in the mine."
Shizra nearly dropped her glass. "A rock crab is in there? Why haven't you had it removed?"
"A rock crab? Is that what the surface dwellers call them? Such barbaric tongues. I don't understand why you insist on living up amongst the sun."
"The ruk, mother." Shizra was growing annoyed with the aloofness of mother with every passing minute. "Why is it not dead?"
"Well I was planning on sending some of my soldiers into the mine to deal with the problem when I realized, why should I waste my own troops. House Freel has been acting superior lately so I figured after we took their house over, any males that wished to remain alive would been given admittance into our house after the crustal ruk was disposed of.
But now your little Elder and his friend have come along. If they can manage the task, then all the better. Look at the bright side, should they actually survive his friend will have unlimited access to any of the jewel deposits in the cavern. Several high quality opals were unearthed before we had to abandon the mine."
The woman in white smiled, as she placed her hand to her mouth. Such a crude creature, so bigoted, so sexist. She liked him. She held her smile beneath her hand and looked this little man up and down. Then from the silence came her words.
“Aye.” she said, strangely, in more of a dwarven tone than what Sarah had heard earlier, ‘I hear ye are de best toy maker around. Laddie has skill in making the finest dollies, and horsies, with little pink tu-tus.” she said then laughed, “Now” she said returning to her normal voice, “You going to be a man and show me how it’s done, or are you too impotent and feeble now? I’m sure any of the younger dwarves can satisfy me in the way that I want.”
Her tone of course carried with it the various gruff overtones that were heard down here in the smithing forges, but Sunshine figured what could it hurt trying to speak their language.
Sarah covered her mouth to hide the smile that was spreading on her face. It seemed that their friend was not afraid of a little dwarven banter and could hold her own quite well. Even the dwarf's bushy eyebrows raised high enough for them to see the aged eyes looking back at them. Mythgard rubbed his face then pointed a leathery thumb back at the door behind him.
"Go in there and grab yerself a hammer. Put yer head on da anvil and bang away wit the hammer. Ye'll get about as much learnin' from that as ye will from being an apprentice fer a day.
Ye can find one of them younger smiths if ye like. Teach ye to make a hook for yer hubbies hat to rest on."
Sarah moved past Hera to reach Mythgard before more bantering could erupt between the two. The Elder's wife knew most of the races of Mythrandir and well understood that dwarven arguments could last well pass when the sun has fallen. She placed a hand gently on the dwarf's broad shoulders and tried to talk some peace into him.
"Master Mythgard, please. There has to be something that you could teach her. Lady Sunshine will stay the course as long as it is required for her to complete what ever training you deem necessary."
The dwarf seemed to pause for a moment to ponder Sarah's assurances. He grumbled something under his breath that sounded more like grating under iron tread. Eventually he looked up at Sarah while playing with his long white beard.
"A'ight, but you owe me lass. A great deal more than what's being paid for that other little favor."
Sarah smiled and bent down and gave the dwarf a kiss on the cheek. "How's that?"
Mythgard blubbered and pushed the woman away. "Damn girl, keep that to yerself or that Elder of yours. Fine consider the payment made in full."
Everything seemed to be arranged for Hera and so it was time for Sarah to take her leave with Hera's care being placed in an others hands. Usually such would not have been a cause for concern but since Hera had never been around dwarves before, a host's obligations demanded that more care was granted in this case.
"Since Mythgard will be taking care of you, I'll be heading back up to the surface then and wait for Sebastian and Atrox to return. Unless you would like me to stay with you."
Hera seemed unsure of herself for a moment being in a foreign land and around people she didn't know. Sarah had been the anchor of sorts that kept her feeling at home and making her feel at ease. Losing her now would lose that source of comfort and certainly this dwarf would not take up the slack.
"Well, I could use a translator. I don't always get the dialect of these dwarves and I wouldn't want to make a mistake during my apprenticeship."
For all of Hera's stoic attempt at hiding her emotions for whatever reason, Sarah could see it quite clearly. The woman smiled sweetly then nodded her head. "Very well. Allow me to send Captain Lukien home then I will return. The poor thing gets sick if I keep him down here too long."
Somewhere in the back of the room came the gruff voice of Mythgard. "Wonderful. I'm burdened with more unwanted company."
Sarah looked over her shoulder. "I heard that."
Patting Hera's arm, Sarah went to the door to handle the elven Captain and left the two alone. With Sarah gone, Mythgard studied Hera intently. He thumped his heavy hands on his hips and let out a low growl. "I'll agree to this under a few conditions. First ye'll change yer name. Sunshine don't work under a mountain girlie. I'll need your real name. Second is ye do what I say when I say it.
Lastly, if ye ever cut out on me 'fore yer training is finished; I'll break yer skinny little legs. Got it? Good. We're startin' now."
The dwarf turned to a heavily built rocking chair and moved a few rolled parchments aside so he could sit down. He took a wooden pipe from a table stand and dumped a bit of tobacco in it. Once he had it lit, the dwarf sent a few smoke rings hovering in the air.
"I'm workin' on a piece of armor now so that's what we'll teach ye to do. Ye'll need a bit of Myth ore for the forging and since I need some for my own armor ye'll need twice the amount."
Mythgard leaned forward in his rocker and reached down around the leg of the small coffee table. He leaned back producing a chunk of rock that had been keeping the table level. The dwarf tossed the rock over to Hera. From further study, the rock itself had dark swirls coursing through it like veins.
"That's what Myth ore looks like. Take it with ye so ye don't bring back crap rock. Wheel barrel is stored in the back, take it with ye."