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In the Failing Light (PGish... Dark, Violent)

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  • In the Failing Light (PGish... Dark, Violent)

    ((A word about the setting... though this a Norrath setting, it's an alternate universe "what if" setting, and a very dark one at that. But I just wanted to explain that it's seperate and set apart from any background character stuffs we've ever done. That is, you won't see any references to this one in anything else we do.))

    Part 1: (by Wychwethl), posted with his permission

    A lithe form darted between trunks of thousand year old trees as it made its way through the tangled forest. The shadow leapt over massive roots lying exposed on top of the fertile leaf covered ground and ducked under low hanging branches without breaking stride. The agile feet covered the ground as surely they might a flat street, making neither sound nor disturbing barely a pebble or twig.

    Wychwethl’s heart pounded against his lungs like a great tree crashing to the ground with each beat. Adrenaline coursed through his veins, riding his blood to reach every part of his body. Panic washed over him, an uncontrollable sense of alarm. He felt utterly powerless. The sounds of battle echoed in sensitive elf ears, the sounds of his friends, the people he loved, doing battle against an impossible foe. He heard the sounds of slaughter.

    He just had to get there.

    The elf broke into the clearing welcomed by a sight of hell. Innoruuk’s army swarmed over the blood spattered field. Foul creations, bodies of Dark Elves with heads of birds, decaying feathers running down their back, cruelly mimicking the hair possessed by the living, attacking their foes without mercy. Groups of fighters clustered together to ward the attackers off as best they could, but the half bird, half elf abominations attacked with no regard for their own existence, often a single bird headed monster would drag a warrior to the ground with no effort to deflect strikes at itself while its friends attacked the helpless soul.

    The haze of smoke from the burning castle at the other end of the clearing burned his eyes and dulled his sense of smell. A grunt from the side caught his attention and he turned to see Abinormal take the head clean off of one attacker and then stab another in the chest. The skewered creature let out what sounded like a cry of agony, but soon turned out to be a type of alarm, others disengaged from nearby struggles and gathered around the Troll. Abinormal tried to dislodge his sword but the foul thing held it inside itself, pulling the Troll even closer to him, snapping at him with its foul beak. As one the group descended on Abinormal, mortally wounding him many times before finally leaving him to die of the many gaping wounds that seeped blood into the earth.

    It was the same everywhere. Friend after friend of his was cut down in bloody swathes. Wychwethl had to watch and hear the dying screams of people he had cared for so much of his long life. The Phoenix Crusaders were losing, giving as good as they got but not able to give enough.

    A flash of blinding light flared from the center of the battlefield with the intensity of a star. The holy light incinerated dozens of the foul creatures, spilling ash into the gusting wind that cut through the clearing, scattering it across the forest.

    Lukaria stood isolated from the rest of the Crusaders, dead and wounded friends piled around her. Her eyes flared fiercely, the protectiveness of a mother bear guarding her cubs bringing out power she rarely hinted at having. Blast after blast thundered from her outstretched palm and Innoruuk’s creations died in waves before her, but they were without number and she was but one woman. A final white blast felled scores more but the power was gone. Wychwethl ran as fast as he could, faster than he had ever run in his life but the battle seemed to get no closer. His mind raced, throwing up images of his life before his eyes. Happy times, times of laughter and joy, times of celebration, and times of victory. As he ran he saw the faces, those he had fought side by side with for greatest portion of his life, cut down and lying in crimson pools, never to laugh again.

    Lukaria’s blood streaked face snarled in rage and she spoke a single word that shook the ground and dashed the assembled hoard like water upon rock. But there were those that avoided the woman’s wrath. Wychwethl could hear himself screaming at her to turn around, pleading, begging, but the sound only rolled around in his own head. She couldn’t see the group of Innoruuk’s chosen approaching, couldn’t see the thrown spear that arced at her back. She fell to the ground, her scream cut short by the spear lodged in her lungs.

    The ranger slowed to a stop and dropped to his knees as they descended on her with their weapons, which rose and fell like a ghastly drum. Tearing at her with their beaks like carrion would a week old corpse.

    * * *

    Wychwethl awoke in a cold sweat, his knife gripped by white knuckles, probing the darkness. His short choppy breaths filled the small ill-adorned room with an eerie non-silence that lasted until the ranger’s eyes adjusted to the dim light. He set the knife down on the bed next to him and cupped his hands around his face as he tried to calm himself. Sound from the tavern below him seeped up through the floor boards, the laughter of women, singing, and the occasional crash of broken glass. That dream felt more real than his current life. He was used to being on the road, waking up somewhere new each day, but now his travels had a different feel. Forced to sleep in shady inns and gutters, his travels now revolved around base survival, not adventure. How long had he been running?

    He sighed and started to mutter a hushed prayer to Tunare, but stopped. The Wood Elf smiled bitterly, she hadn’t answered him for years, he wasn’t sure she could. The last five years had been hard, Innoruuk made his move on Tunare, invading the plane of Growth and expelling her, throwing her into hiding. The Dark Prince then scoured Norrath, hunting those still loyal to the Mother of All, few were spared, and only the most fortified areas were safe. His home in Kelethin and the mystical city of Felwithe had become impenetrable fortresses, no longer the whimsical lands of hope and peace that he knew, they were filled with inhabitants not knowing whether they would live to see the next day. Mentally oppressed they lived the lives of a population under siege, an invisible siege that could become more real than anything at the snap of a finger.

    Wychwethl looked up, noticing for the first time something new in his rented room. On a table across the planked floor sat a vial filled with dull bluish liquid that shimmered in the moonlight washing into the room from the window. He turned and got out of the bed slowly, instinctively trying to keep the bed from creaking and eased himself carefully across the room. As he approached Wychwethl felt power emanating from the vial, he could tell it was a magical brew. He was about to pick it up when he could feel someone else was in the room with him.

    He whirled around to see a cloaked figure standing in the corner by the door. The person was tall and slender, even under the cloak which hung to the floor. The hair on the back of Wychwethl’s neck stood on end, a combination of fearful anticipation and the power emanating from the intruder. He was experienced enough to know that rushing for his weapon would be more than a bad idea.

    “Who are you?” He asked pointedly. “If you’re going to kill me, just do it.”

    “You know who I am,” replied a soothing female’s voice, “I have no intentions of killing you, but of giving you your life back.” The woman pulled the cowl of the cloak from her head, revealing a river of golden hair that flowed behind her under the black cloak.

    “Tunare!” Wychwethl exclaimed in an even mixture of shock, awe, and complete exasperation as he took a knee and bowed his head out of respect.

    “I thought we were past that my child,” she said forcefully, slightly annoyed.

    “It’s just been so long since I’ve prayed to you,” he said, coming back to his feet, “so long since I’ve felt like I believed.” He looked his Goddess straight in her brilliant green eyes, “I’ve done some terrible things, I’ve-“

    “I know everything.” She stated simply, all hints of prior anger fading immediately from her melodic voice. “You have been forgiven for them all, though I suspect you won’t accept even my word on that.” Tunare smirked playfully. “So I’ve come to you with a quest. Five years ago Kallysti was taken from this plane by Innoruuk, for what purposes we knew not. Recently it has been discovered that not only is she alive, but she is also the key to overcoming Innoruuk and restoring balance.”

    “I thought it was likely she was alive,” Wychwethl gulped, “the curse that was placed on me would be of little consequence if she weren’t.”

    Tunare nodded, “Take that vial and have her drink the contents, its magic will return her to me, and begin the process of renewal that will wash this world clean. You’ll find her in Innoruuk’s palace in his plane of Hate,” she finished, her voice full of fire and vigor. “You’ve walked a path separate from mine these last years.”

    The Wood Elf averted his eyes again, this time in shame. As he did so Tunare reached out, grabbing him lightly by the chin and turning his face toward her once more, as a mother might a sheepish child.

    “Through your life you have walked the path of the devout, the friend, the hunter, and now you tread the path of the hunted. You’ve survived, you’ve become the embodiment of nature’s balance.” She stepped closer, pressing her lips softly against his forehead, much like she did when he had first visited her realm which seemed like an age ago, “You’ve done nothing in your life to earn my disappointment.”

    Tunare stepped back, raising the cowl over her head again. “My time here nears its end I’m afraid. I can’t stay exposed like this long, else I’ll be discovered, and I cannot risk you being captured now either,” she said quickly gesturing toward the vial as she began to fade away, “my blessing is with you, you cannot fail so long as their memory is in your heart!”

    She disappeared as she arrived, as if she had ridden the wind itself. Wychwethl looked around at the room he was in. The sense of a purpose greater than merely surviving filling him with a strength of spirit he hadn’t felt in years.

    Wychwethl turned and walked to his packs that sat in a pile next to the bed. He rummaged around in them for some time until he found an object wrapped in red velvet cloth. Opening the little bundle he held in his hand a pendant fitted with a sparkling gem at its center. Engraved below the gem were two names, names he thought of often among so many others. Closing his hand around it he shut his eyes, seeing again that day five years.

    He was paralyzed, shocked by what he had seen done to the others. Selquinn and Kallysti were standing on a low hill, trying their best to fight their way to a group of wounded. Suddenly a hole in the universe tore open behind them. Wychwethl could still see the look of horror on Kallysti’s face as she was grabbed by a pack of diminutive robed figures and dragged screaming into the doorway. She cried out for help, but as Selquinn turned and grabbed her arm to fight to pull her back he was pounced on by two of the bird headed fiends, torn from his life forever.

    Feeling driven to get started he carefully packed the pendant away in his bags. He quickly got dressed, putting his articulately made armor on over his worn leather clothing. He finished gathering his gear and quietly left the room, making sure he had the mystical vial tucked away at his side before shutting the door and stepping out into the deep dark night.

    * * *

    “Don’t be discouraged dear,” the short woman said as she scurried inside the little home, hanging her dripping overcoat onto the rack next to the door, “with times as they are, it’s a wonder any of the children are showing up at all, there’ll be more soon.” She smiled lovingly as the man behind her ducked inside out of the pouring rain.

    “I know, but I just can’t help but feel I could be doing something more important, like-“

    “More important than teaching these children about the wonderful things magic can do for them?” She said behind a beaming smile.

    “You always find a way to make things seem better Cait,” Loreat said with a smile, “but I just can’t help but feel I’m raising their hopes only to have them dashed. Telling them stories about the old days, the adventures…” he trailed off, staring sadly at the burnt and torn banner that hung on the far wall over their fireplace, it was emblazoned with a fiery phoenix rising toward the heavens. “I can’t help but feel that I should be making them ready for what awaits them in just a few years, war and pain and sorrow.”

    “They need to know what it is they’ll be fighting for to make it worth fighting for,” she spoke softly, handing him a cup of hot tea, trying desperately to raise his spirits, “the children that come seem to enjoy your lessons, and they may as well be happy now, while they can.”

    Thunder crashed outside and rain beat against the domed roof of their quaint home. It rained often in the Misty Thicket, but rarely like this. Many of the Halflings they passed on their way home from Rivervale had warned them that it was some kind of omen. A sign that great change was on the horizon and for many of them that meant war was on its way. It was widely known that Innoruuk had made his move against Tunare and those that worshipped her, but rumblings of mortal powers looking to create their own power bases flooded the gossip groups as well. Caittune and Loreat, both experienced adventurers knew better than to take such rumors seriously and calmly tried to tell the others that they had more to worry about from the Gods than from other mortals. Hysterics are difficult to calm however, and many were claiming they had had visions of a dark traveler coming in the night, whether a portent of good or ill though none knew.

    Caittune shivered and nestled into one of the large fluffy chairs that sat just in front of the stone fireplace and pulled a throw over herself. Loreat knelt down beside her and worked on getting a fire started. He put some wood and some kindling inside the stone cubby and reached for the lighting tools but Caittune stopped him with a petite clearing of her throat.

    “Right,” Loreat said, standing up and heading for his own chair.

    Caittune furrowed her brow and a spark started above the wood in the fireplace, the spark split and showered over the dry kindling, igniting the wood and getting the fire going at a low roar almost instantly. She smiled mischievously at Loreat and giggled into her tea. With a grunt Loreat sat down in his chair, as he did though a wrapping at the door cut through the roar of the rain and crackle of the fire.

    “Who could that be?” Caittune inquired out loud as she hopped up and made a bee-line for the door, always excited to have company.

    “Wait a moment Cait.”

    Loreat looked to the wall where a pair of swords hung crossed, and with a wave of his hand they came to life, floating behind Caittune to the door, who gave him a sour look.

    She grabbed the knob at the center of the door and turned it. The round door opened with a groan and the sound of the storm outside roared louder through the open portal.

    Caittune dropped her cup of tea with a crash.

    “By the Gods,” she breathed, “Wych!”
    "Dance like it hurts, Love like you need money, Work only when people are watching." ~Scott Adams

  • #2
    Part 2: (by Wychwethl)

    “Been a long time Cait,” Wychwethl said over the pounding rain. “Lore,” he said with a nod as Caittune let him in the house.

    He set his packs down by the door and took off his cloak, hanging it on the rack by the door. He started into the house but stopped, looking down at his muddy boots, he smiled awkwardly at Caittune and slipped them off so as to not track in mud. Wychwethl looked up, realizing they were still staring at him in disbelief.

    “You two look like you’ve seen a ghost,” Wychwethl said, trying himself to get used to the idea of seeing his old friends again.

    “Aren’t we seeing one?” Cait whispered, her face smeared with unease.

    “No, no I’m alive,” the ranger said somberly and trailed off.

    The three stood in the living room in silence, none knowing quite what to say. The rain continued to beat upon the roof in waves and lightning forked with a crash outside the window and Caittune jumped at the noise. She couldn’t stand it anymore and she roared in laughter.

    “This is silly,” she said waving a hand at the storm outside and walking around to the pot of tea that sat on the stove in the kitchen, “would you like some tea Wych? You must be absolutely frozen!” She poured herself a new cup and looked over at the Wood Elf.

    “No, I’m fine thank you.”

    “Well, why don’t you come in here by the fire,” Loreat spoke for the first time, walking back into the fire lit room.

    “Yes,” said Cait in an overly motherly voice, “I want to get a good look at you! We haven’t seen you in… oh how long has it been Lore? Why it’s been five years!”

    Caittune pushed Wychwethl deeper into the room and sat him down in a third chair, and gasped.

    “This scar,” Caittune said absently, “what happened?

    “A lot has happened in five years,” Wychwethl said, looking down at the floor. “I’ve made some bad choices, one of them earned me this,” he said coldly, running his finger along the six inch scar that ran down the left side of his face, over his eye and along his cheek.

    Looking up he saw the banner hanging above the fireplace for the first time. Wychwethl stood up and walked over to the mantle without a word. He placed his hand on the ancient fabric letting his fingers roam freely over the faded and torn symbol at its center. His hand traveled down to the mantle and found a dented helmet, faded pink steel and chipped and splintered horns betrayed its age and use. Next his hand found shattered bow, stained and frayed at the breaks. Other such items lined the mantle, magical trinkets, partially destroyed armor, things that were important, things left intact by Innoruuk’s army, a dulled dagger sitting on top of a torn patch of chain tunic. He turned and saw that both Caittune and Loreat were looking into their tea.

    “We should have been there,” Loreat said, looking up at Wychwethl, “I had this nagging doubt about going to Knowledge that day. If we had been there maybe things would have been different.”

    “No,” Wychwethl said, nearly cutting him off, “you would have been killed like the rest.”

    “How can you know for sure-” Loreat started to say.

    “I was there!” He said through clenched teeth. “I was there! I saw everything. Celibate, Amroth, Mehlok, Sulas, and Sahaj were the lucky ones, they were killed when Innoruuk focused his power on the keep and it collapsed on them. The rest were set upon by his horde, they stood no chance. They fought on though, through the pain and loss they fought to the end. Innoruuk’s newest creations, part Dark Elf part carrion bird were too fast, too strong for them. They swept across the field in a murderous rampage, literally tearing them apart before my eyes!” His fists were clenched at his sides in anger, beginning to choke on his words, “Poor Lukaria,” tears began forming in his eyes, “they sensed Tunare’s power in her, they- they dragged her down, ripped her apart and they…”he trailed off, unwilling to go any further.

    “I know it’s hard, but, how did you survive- I mean, why did they spare you?” Caittune inquired, on the brink of tears herself.

    “The worst thing about the creatures,” Wychwethl began, sitting down again, “is their intelligence. They do the most barbaric things without batting an eye,” his lip curled up in hatred, “but the do precisely what they are told, they are controlled madness, filled with the purest of hate. They left me alive because they were ordered to. I was no threat…”

    “What do you mean?” Caittune peeped. “You’re one of the most dangerous people I’ve ever known.”

    “It was too much for me, I quailed in fear. It was a vision straight out of some nightmare, out of hell. I was running to them, and- and I just stopped. Just stopped and dropped down to my knees because I knew we were beaten. They all died in front of me,” he snorted a stiff, bitter laugh, “I didn’t even have my sword drawn. Abinormal was cut to ribbons, left to die and I didn’t move. Lukaria was butchered, I didn’t move. Kallysti was taken and Selquinn was dragged down screaming her name. I was a coward,” he said flatly.

    “Innoruuk appeared as his monsters closed in around me,” he continued. “I was on my knees, trembling before him. He smiled and told me he was going to take pity on me, allow me to live. He laid a curse upon me, one that would turn my blood to foul oil and end my life should I not renounce my faith in Tunare.”

    “Kallysti,” Loreat said, putting the pieces together.

    Wychwethl nodded. “So I did, I threw Tunare by the wayside, just like I abandoned everyone else.”

    “No, no you did it to survive, it can’t be held against you!” Caittune said softly.

    “It can’t be excused Cait,” he said, looking her straight in the eyes, “I’ve always lived by a code where I’d rather die than surrender what I believed in.”

    “I was contacted the other night by Tunare,” Wychwethl continued. “Kally is alive.” He paused to allow Caittune and Loreat to trade shocked expressions. “She possesses some inner power that Tunare can use to restore balance and push Innoruuk back into his realm. I’m going after her, curse be damned” he said with fiery eyes. “I just don’t know any wizards that aren’t now connected to Innoruuk in some way, I was hoping you two knew one so that I could get to Hate in secret.”

    “I know one,” Loreat said quietly, “but, we’re coming with you.”

    Caittune nodded quickly in agreement.

    “We owe it to her, we owe it to them all.”

    “I won’t tell you who the wizard is Wych if you don’t let us come. We won’t take no for an answer,” he stated firmly, crossing his arms over his chest.

    “One last adventure then,” Wychwethl said finally.

    Caittune got up quickly and rushed off to dig out their old adventuring equipment while Loreat gathered a few spell components. Blowing a hefty amount of dust from a thick, well worn spell book Loreat looked up at Wychwethl who was gathering his own gear from the pile of packs he had dumped down just inside the house. Wychwethl could tell both Cait and Lore missed the adventures their old lives often flung them into. He emptied his belt pouches, replacing the contents with the vial of magical liquid and the red velvet package. Everything else was put into his larger packs which he hung with care on the series of hooks on the wall near the door. Loreat looked at him quizzically.

    “What are you doing Wych?”

    Wychwethl looked deeper into the house for Caittune, but he couldn’t see her.

    “You can make better use of this stuff than I Lore.”

    “I don’t understand Wych.”

    “You have to promise you won’t tell Cait,” Wychwethl said, peering down the hall again, “I won’t be coming back,” his voice matter of fact. “The curse Innoruuk laid upon me will take my life, that’s why I’d prefer to do this alone. I can tell this is important for you two to do as well though.”

    Caittune entered the room again bubbling and cheery, weighed down with packs of gear and spell books. Loreat gave Wychwethl and understanding look and put on a false façade of cheeriness.

    “Ready to go?” Loreat asked the Halfling as he had hundreds of times over the years with the Phoenix Crusaders.

    “Yep! Wait- Wych, why are you leaving all your stuff here?”

    “We won’t be long,” Wychwethl lied, “It’d be best if I travel as light as possible.”

    The tiny woman shrugged in acceptance, “We should get going then!”

    Wychwethl and Loreat nodded, following the Halfling into the raging storm outside, stopping only to lock the door behind them before leaving their home possibly for the last time.
    "Dance like it hurts, Love like you need money, Work only when people are watching." ~Scott Adams


    • #3
      Part 3 (by Wychwethl)

      “It is truly a puzzle, how fragile and yet so resilient you mortals are,” the words snaked themselves out into the stale air. “A testament to my handiwork,” wicked teeth filled his mouth in a cruel smile as he spoke, “time and time again I’ve broken you,” Innoruuk cooed, “but each time you’re brought back to me, your true creator, to provide me with more entertainment.”

      The Dark Prince ran his hand along the side of the woman’s face, “Marvelous really.”

      “You still will not forsake your love for that Elf pup I had destroyed five years ago?” The God of Hate knew well that she would not, could not at this point, Kallysti had ceased being able to speak coherently years ago.

      She twitched involuntarily and stared into the wall with glossed over eyes, the effects of the mental torture Innoruuk was carrying out on her. She turned her head absently to the sound of dripping water somewhere behind her in the stone room she was being held in. The only thing holding her upright were the chains stretching up to the ceiling that held her arms up above here head and those bolting her feet to the floor. She shivered slightly, wearing only a white gossamer robe, worn with age and slashed horribly in the back.

      The click of boots echoed down the hall and Innoruuk turned his head as D’inkat, Innoruuk’s dungeon guard strode into the room flanked by two of the bird headed Elf-daemons. D’inkat was a large man, a nine foot tall dark elf with the muscle mass of a barbarian, but all the cruelty and intelligence of the race he was molded from. He wore an elegant tiger fur cape that fell off his shoulders in thick folds and dragged on the floor several feet behind him. D’inkat met his God’s eye and dropped to one knee in reverence.

      “What would you have me do my Lord?”

      * * *

      A brief flash of light and the overwhelming smell of charred ozone were the only indications they were there. The four dark figures looked right at home in shadows of the tall stone buildings, but they soon ducked into the black alley just a few feet from where they appeared.

      “This is far as I go,” the wizard whispered looking around nervously, “you all are on your own.”

      “Your help is much appreciated, you took a great risk doing this,” Wychwethl whispered,” this will not be forgotten.

      Loreat nodded politely in thanks to his acquaintance.

      “Good luck and be safe,” the wizard said before mumbling a few words and disappearing into a fiery portal.

      “What now?” Caittune squeaked.

      “We find Kally and we get out,” Loreat said, eyeing Wychwethl. “In and out.”

      The ranger nodded, poking his head out into the street. He craned his neck to the sky and smelled at the air, then kneeled down and sniffed at the air closer to the ground.

      “Can you tell where she is Wych?” Caittune asked amazed.

      “Believe it or not…” Wychwethl winked. “This way.”

      The three friends hurried down the cobblestone street, skirting large cathedral like buildings devoted to Innoruuk’s worship. Twisted black spires reached into the sky like an infernal hand, warped and disfigured into a menacing claw. High above viscous fog shrouded the stone sky that was the thick stone floor of another level of hate-filled architecture.

      The group came to a corner and Wychwethl motioned for them to stop. He slinked up to the sharp stone corner and poked his head around. His ears perked up at the sound of clack and clatter of bone scraping against stone and he saw a shadow skip across the rough stone floor and disappear into the shadows of an alley around the corner, which ran to the alley that broke off from their side of the corner.

      “Lore! Behind you!” Wychwethl warned as he whirled around to see that the ashenbone drake had already made it through the alley and was stalking toward Caittune with great broad strides.

      Loreat turned and, grabbing Caittune dove into the street as a solid bone claw crashed to the street, throwing shards of bone and stone into the air. Dust fell through the bone cage of the beasts neck with as the vibrations from its shriveled vocal chords created a throaty roar that echoed off the stone around them. Rearing up on its hind legs the bone mimic of a dragon prepared to crush the Halfling and Dark Elf under its heavy, jagged mass.

      The construct’s head was struck with a hollow “thok!” at the last minute by an arrow that shattered against its skull and showered the area behind it in wooden splinters. The beast hesitated for a moment, just long enough for the man and woman to scramble out of the way before the beast came crashing down in the spot they had just previously occupied.

      Caittune, an expression of shock still plastered on her face raised her hand, and with a word flash of lightning left her palm and struck the ashenbone drake in the ribs, firing splinters in every direction. Sensing the nature of the peril it was in the drake raised its head high into the air, stretching its neck to the limit it prepared to cry out to the silent city for help. But before it could utter even a single sound another arrow spliced the air and lodged itself in the creature’s neck bones, severing the long dried out vocal chords that would call for their doom.

      The drake whirled around to face its newest threat, forcing Caittune and Loreat to the ground once more lest the bony tail sheer their heads from their bodies. The ashenbone drake opened its mouth as its wild gait brought it closer to the ranger, hungry for Elf blood. Wychwethl calmly drew back the string of his bow, aimed, and let fly once more. This arrow caught the drake on the bottom of its jaw and pierced the top of its head, adhering the beast’s mighty jaws together. Another sorcerous blast shook the beast and again it turned its attentions on the Dark Elf and the Halfling.

      The bone claw of the drake arced toward Loreat and he raised his hand, desperately throwing up a series of protective runes that hung about him in the air like lazy clouds and braced himself for the coming blow. The claw hit the cloud of runes and slowed, the runes pushing back, forcing the air around them to move in great gusts that grabbed Loreat’s robe and sent it rippling around him in the eddies of wind. The shimmering cloud of runes lit up like fireflies as the claw was pulled back and thrust against the shield again. This time the wall of runes buckled and sweat beaded on his face as he fought to keep the mystical shield in front of him.

      The claw punched through.

      It struck Loreat in the gut with its full force and threw him into the wall of the building directly behind him, where it crashed into him again, throwing a spider-web of cracks running up the length of breadth of the wall. The drake stepped forward, dragging the Dark Elf along the wall, pressing his frail form flatter against the harsh stone before flinging his body clear and into the street.

      “Lore! Oh Gods Lore!” Caittune screamed and ran to him where he lay on the cobblestone.

      Wychwethl sprinted around the drake and took a position between Caittune and the fallen Loreat as she kneeled beside him.

      “Cait, can you move him?” The ranger asked as he drew his blade with a muffled metallic click.

      “He’s still alive!” The dams of her tear ducts broke and tears streamed down her face.

      The presence of the ashenbone drake kept Wychwethl from seeing just what kind of condition Loreat was in. He gulped, not sure they would survive this encounter to rescue Kallysti.

      The drake leaned in close, bringing its pair of dead eye sockets in line with the Wood Elf’s silvery gray eyes. Suddenly behind him he felt something. Slowly the hair on the back of his neck began to stand on end, then his long silver hair began to float over his shoulder as he was engulfed in a wave of static electricity that flooded the space between the two sides of the street. He turned and saw the diminutive Caittune standing over Loreat’s prone form. Fire burned in her eyes like a pair of glowing coals.

      Flashes of lightning convulsed and danced across the black stone buildings like a pair of lightning rods in the middle of a super-storm. Arcs of lightning broke off from the walls and burned black streaks in the street around them. Wychwethl backed up slowly until he was behind the Halfling.

      Two points of light on opposite walls flared up and met in the air above the street, cutting through the ashenbone drake’s back, snapping it in two and flinging it several yards to side like a pair of bolos. Another flash of light marked another strike which destroyed the bone shaped creature, peppering Wychwethl and Caittune with tiny shards of bone, leaving a black scorch mark and a ring a fire where the drake lay.

      Once again the city was silent, except for the sobbing and harsh breathing of the tiny woman in front of Wychwethl. She turned and brushed a mess of red hair from her eyes and knelt down beside the still man. His chest rose and fell with shallow breaths, his body scraped and broken in a bloody ruin.

      “Lore, you’re going to be ok.” Caittune whispered in his ear, sobs still racking her tiny frame.

      “Cait…” Wychwethl said softly, kneeling down next to her.

      “You’re going to be ok Lore, please just hang on,” she croaked through the tears still streaming down her face.

      “Cait, you can save him,” he started, “but you’ll have to take him out of here.”

      Caittune sniffed and rubbed some of the tears from her face, “I can’t leave you here Wych.”

      “You have to Cait. He’ll die here if you don’t take him somewhere for healing now! Just go Cait, don’t think about. You two still have a part to play in the coming war, we can’t afford to lose you here.”

      Caittune nodded slowly and wrapped her arms carefully around Loreat’s body. “Good luck, we’ll be waiting for you when this is all over,” she said as her teleportation spell began to take effect.

      “No you won’t,” Wychwethl said sadly to the vaporous after effects of the spell. Slowly black tendrils grew from the scar on the side of his face and began to spread out like a vine. He grimaced in pain and concentrated on his regrowth spell, the only thing keeping him up and moving at the moment. Soon the effects of the regenerative magical fungus had spread through his blood and halted the curses movement. But the dark tracks still remained, a callous reminder of how little time he had.

      He slid his long curved blade back into its sheath with a leathery click, spoke a word and concealed himself instantly with a camouflage spell, and stalked along the cobbled street again toward his goal, the black marble spire of Innoruuk that lay in the city’s center.

      * * *

      Getting into the spire had been easier than Wychwethl had thought it would be. The guards posted outside had grown lax in their master’s rise to dominance; none had challenged this plane in some time. He was able to slip by them without effort, using only his mystical camouflage to avoid detection.

      Now he found himself jogging down a long corridor moving down farther into the ground. The corridor was dark, and the farther down he went the farther it was between pools of light cast from the few torches mounted on the heavy walls. The ranger rounded a corner and nearly ran head long into the light pouring out of a large doorway in the wall. He heard voices inside.

      “M’lord, we’ve discovered evidence of an incursion,” an avian voice rasped.

      Wychwethl poked his head around the corner, he saw three of Innoruuk’s Elf/bird abominations, a huge muscular Dark Elf, and Innoruuk himself gathered around a slight blue skinned woman chained in place to the floor in the center of the room, Kallysti! He nearly spoke her name aloud, he covered his mouth with his hand and ducked back behind the wall.

      “I should attend to this D’inkat.” Innoruuk said smoothly, “Just give her twenty-five today, it’s really no fun if I can’t be present to witness those joyous screams of agony,” he beamed with a lecherous smile.

      D’inkat grinned wickedly and unfurled a long black whip, deep red pin-pricks of light appearing in the segmented leather where it came in contact with ground as it moved in his hand.

      “Well, maybe I’ll watch a little bit,” Innoruuk mused.

      Wychwethl peered back into the room as D’inkat moved gracefully behind Kallysti, bowing slightly to Innoruuk before beginning. Kallysti saw him and made eye contact for just a moment before her head lulled to the side, as if she were battling something in her own mind.

      “Go away…” she said weakly.

      D’inkat looked quizzically at Innoruuk, who shrugged and nodded at him to begin. Grinning madly D’inkat threw his whip arm behind him and then forward again and the lash curved cruelly toward the restrained woman.

      She screamed, and Wychwethl shut his eyes, fist clenched tightly around his sword until his knuckles groaned.

      “Go away!” She said at Wychwethl again, “Stop tormenting me!”

      Another scream and flash of pallid red light marked another strike.

      “Leave me alone,” she sobbed, looking Wychwethl right in the eyes. “Get out of my head…”

      Several more strikes reverberated down the hall before the third Innoruuk’s chosen in the room reminded him that he had a possible attack to contend with. The Dark Prince scowled at his servant but decided the safety of his domain came before pleasure, she would be resurrected again. He gave one more gruesome smile and left the room. Wychwethl ducked behind the wall again and curled up inside a small cubby made by the pillar framing the huge door. Innoruuk walked up the hall towards the surface, skirted by his faithful creation, there were still two inside plus D’inkat.

      Kallysti screamed again in agony and the Wood Elf flinched instinctively, he hated his delay. Maybe he wouldn’t have waited so long in the past, but this was too important for Innoruuk to hear the battle and return. Did he have it in him to do this?

      Another crack. Another scream.

      He could wait no longer, Wychwethl stood and ran into the room, drawing his menacing blade as he crossed the threshold of the room. The two avian creations rushed the ranger and D’inkat wore a look of utter surprise on his face. The ranger spoke a single word and was gone, vanished into nothingness. Innoruuk’s chosen stopped, unable to hear their prey. Suddenly the ranger phased back into existence beside one of the horrible creatures, blade already cutting through his target. Wychwethl’s arms met resistance mid-way through the beast but he snarled and blade snapped free, slicing the bird-headed Elf creature in two with a gout of blood firing off onto the back wall at high pressure.

      The second avian creation raced to the ranger, whose face was as feral and dangerous as it’s own. Again Wychwethl winked out of sight, appearing suddenly behind the would be attacker. He grabbed the back of the creature’s feathered head and pulled it back while pushing the tip of his blade through its chest. He shoved the still writhing thing off his blade with his foot and turned to face D’inkat who was now in a position to strike.

      Images of that dark day five years ago flashed in his mind, he was running on pure animalistic instinct. He had lost focus on his regeneration spell and the black tracks of veins crept freely across his body. He didn’t care, he only wanted blood.

      Wychwethl sprinted at D’inkat who lashed out with his whip, aiming for the ranger’s legs. The ranger leapt from his feet and twisted and turned in mid-air while the whip struck just beneath his head as he completed his flip, leaving a charred trail of stone five feet long.

      Wychwethl landed and vanished.

      Kallysti watched with glazed eyes as D’inkat lashed uncontrollably at random points in the cell, leaving black burns all over the room. She watched as D’inkat began to suddenly struggle with something on top of him, as if a great weight was dropped onto his shoulders. In an instant Wychwethl’s image appeared on top of the dungeon master’s shoulders, blade held above his head, his menacing snarl in combination with the disfiguring marking of the scar twisted his face into something unrecognizable.

      His arm dropped and the blade plunged into D’inkat’s head and into his body through the neck. Wychwethl’s snarl turned into a beaming grin of satisfaction as he felt the life force drain from the torturous monster. Still not completely without fight D’inkat struck at Wychwethl with his hands, landing powerful blows to the ranger’s ribs and back. With an audible grunt Wychwethl twisted the blade in his hands, torking D’inkat’s neck and snapping it halfway around with a sickening series of cracks.

      D’inkat dropped down to his knees, now silent as though he were a giant doll and fell belly down onto the stone in a pool of his own gathering blood. Freeing his blade and wiping it quickly on his fallen enemy Wychwethl walked over to where Kallysti stood chained. A look of awe plastered her face, he was saddened to notice that it was not an awe of recognition but that of a two year old child who had just seen fireworks for the very first time. Or in this case, that of a delirious woman who had been tortured to death dozen’s of times and resurrected for more, and was now seeing a ghost from her past.

      He looked at her sadly, “C’mon Kally, it’s time to go.”

      He cut her down in a shower of sparks as his stained blade ripped through the ancient chains that bound her. Surprisingly she found herself able to stand as the chains fell around her. She stared around her, the realization that this was not a figment of her delirious imagination slowly dawning on her. She swayed slightly and Wychwethl caught her, and half dragged, half walked her over to the wall where she could lean on it for support.

      “Is this really happening?” Kallysti struggled.

      She was shivering, he took off his long cloak and draped it over her shoulders.

      “Yes it is Kally, but right now I need to you help me-”

      “But you were killed, you were all killed,” she slid down the wall and held her face in her hands, “he made me watch Sel die… over and over again,” she started weeping, “I can’t do this anymore, I just want it all to end.”

      “It will Kally, it will end, and you are going to bring about that end, you are going to help Tunare defeat Innoruuk for good!”

      “I can’t, I don’t have the strength I had anymore,” she looked him the eyes, “ever since he was torn from me I’ve lost anything I ever had to live for I-”

      Wychwethl reached into his hip pouch pocket, the curse slowly spreading across his body, and pulled out the amulet he had retrieved on that bloodied field. He knelt down and held it up in front of her. Her jaw dropped and her eyes cleared up and became as sharp as ever in an instant.

      “Wh- where did you find this?” She stammered looping the silver chain around her hand and taking the object from him with great care, eyes locked on the amulet, she slowly ran her slender fingers over the engraved surface.

      “It isn’t important, maybe I’ll get to tell you one day,” he said quickly, helping her back to her feet. “But right now I need you to drink this.” He said calmly, producing the glowing vial from another pouch.

      “What is it?”

      “It’s a potion, Tunare gave it to me herself, and it will steal you away from this place and take you to her.”

      She looked around, the situation becoming more apparent to her, her surroundings more defined in her head.

      “What’s happened to your face Wych?”

      “A curse, Innoruuk cursed me. It is slowly killing me, we don’t have a lot of time Kally, you need to drink this now.”

      “How will you get out?” She asked softly, her voice no more than a faint whisper.

      “This was a one way trip for me,” he said, his tone softening a bit. “I’m playing my part now, you still have one to play. Innoruuk killed me-”

      “No, we are both walking out or neither of us does.”

      “Damnit! Listen, I died five years ago, but it’s only just now catching up to me and in the state you are in now there is nothing you can do.” His voice took a harsher tone.

      The click of steps echoed down the hallway and a single one of Innoruuk’s elite appeared at the doorway. It scanned the room, its highly intelligent brain working furiously. It didn’t enter; instead it opened its beaky mouth and let out a scream that could be heard throughout the city. It just stood and waited for help to arrive.

      Kallysti was crying, her shoulders visibly trembling under the heavy cloak draped around them. Wychwethl knew this was simply too much for her to take in at once.

      “Kally, I need you to focus. Think back to all the great times we had all those years ago. The adventures we shared with all the other Phoenix Crusaders. Can you remember how happy everyone was back then?”

      “Yes I do,” she said meekly, thinking back to what felt like a dozen life times ago.

      “You trusted me then, remember?”


      “You know I’d never do anything to hurt you or that would put you in a position to be hurt right?”

      “Sel would’ve kicked your green ass if you ever did Wych,” Kallysti said with some humor in her voice, the tears beginning to clear up. Wychwethl was relieved that a measure of his old friend was coming back.

      Boots echoed down the hall, Innoruuk’s horde was coming like a cloud of locusts preparing to squeeze the life from a fruit grove.

      “I think maybe he’ll forgive me for this,” Wychwethl said, his eyes suddenly turning hard and cold as stone.

      Kallysti gasped as the ranger’s hand darted out from his side like a snake’s strike and grasped onto the Dark Elf woman’s jaw and pushed it open like a vise. She squirmed in his grip as he pushed her against the wall, and with his other he popped the lid off of the vial of magical liquid. The blacked veins now spread across his face like a wildfire out of control. He tilted her head back and poured the glowing potion into her mouth, pinching her nose until she swallowed.

      “You son of a bitch!” She screamed, slapping him.

      “Maybe one day I’ll have your forgiveness too,” he said sadly as dozens of Innoruuk’s chosen crowded to the door.

      Something burned in her stomach and Kallysti doubled over in pain. The spell taking effect, she felt herself being torn from Innoruuk’s plane. She looked at her hand through clenched teeth and began to see stone floor beneath as the warm feeling spread through her body, carried through her in her blood. She looked up and saw Wychwethl looking down at her, skin quickly being consumed by the foul black poison that crawled across him like a devilish hell vine. His arm trembled and shook with the weight of his sword which he was having difficulty keeping from dropping to the cold stone.

      Her anger faded as she saw the look on Wychwethl’s face, “They’re all waiting for you. Time for you all to some amazing, great things again.”

      And then she was all but gone, a mere ghost in the room before vanishing into the ether, to return home.

      Wychwethl turned to see Innoruuk’s chosen surrounding him curiously unsure what their next move should be. The Elf standing before them began coughing harshly, each rattling spasm forcing blood from his mouth. He groaned and fell to his knees, the last of his life stolen away by the curse and he fell, the fourth body in the room, to sleep for all time.
      "Dance like it hurts, Love like you need money, Work only when people are watching." ~Scott Adams


      • #4
        ((This is from a few pages back. I apologise if "re-surfacing" it is a breach of forum ettiquette/rules... but in the last couple of days I've been getting the urge to continue and add onto this. So, with the original author, Wychwethl's, permission, here's my own continuation.

        It's been written rather quickly (for me), and I'll still probably fiddle with it a bit but what the heck. One thing I will not apologise for, though, is the dark, depressing melodrama. It's just so fun to write! Here ya go...))

        Gray. The world around Kallysti was gray. From the uniform slate colored ground in every direction to the unchanging leaden sky above... to the ashes of her heart.

        Gone. Everything was gone in a wash of blood and pain over the years: the world, her friends, her love. Selquinn. At the thought of his name, the image of his death cycled through her mind yet again... and again... and again. She'd seen it a thousand times now. Even if they hadn't mader her watch... repeatedly... she would still have kept seeing it. The tears no longer came. They'd stopped years ago. All that remained was the weight: the unbearable dead weight of loss that never left her.

        She closed her eyes and pulled the cloak Wych had given her tightly around herself as she curled up as small as she could on her side. Wych... the cloak... his final gesture... the sacrifices. All the sacrifices... for nothing. Why?

        Still, the tears wouldn't come. She would try to sleep then. Maybe she wouldn't wake up this time...


        Traitorously, her eyes opened again. Kallysti reached up to drag the cloak away from her face and surveyed the landscape once again. Nothing had changed, not even the quality or brightness of whatever sourceless light revealed her strange surroundings.

        With one arm she tried to push herself upright but the wasted and disused muscles were not enough and it quickly buckled under her. She stayed on her side for a moment and studied it's emaciated length before rolling forward. Now bracing both hands against the ground, she managed to lever herself into a sitting position with both legs folded beneath her. After a few slow, shaky attempts she managed to then get to her feet. Randomly, she began to slowly shuffle in the direction she was facing...


        The patrol had set out a couple hours previous, so they were still pretty fresh. Drinow, after much training, had finally been allowed out scouting with the two older, hardened veterans. He continued to range far out ahead of them and back again, still testing his sense of direction in this featureless place.

        The other two were content to let him. Full Fier'dal to Drinow's half, the male and female scouts looked as though they could be siblings. With shoulder-length blonde hair pulled neatly back, they moved with the smooth, silent grace of their people. Neither said a word, relying on the confidence only brought on by long experience. The female would occasionally almost smile when the ranging half elf brought back his continuous reports of 'nothing yet' but the male's face remained stony and cold. Until Drinow came running back sooner than he had been, waving his arms frantically.

        The two Fier'dal went simultaneously into action: daggers appeared as if by magic in her, the rogue's, hands while he, the ranger, quickly unslung the bow from his back with practiced ease. "What is it?" she asked the panting half elf as he stopped in front of them.

        "Tier'dal," he answered, catching his breath.

        "How many?"

        "Just... just one," he swallowed, "and she seems to be injured. I watched as she fell and didn't get back up..."

        "And you came back here to tell us that?" she snapped.

        "My job," he said calmly, "is to report back anything unusual. A single injured dark elf is quite so, as I was told they only come here themselves in armies. Anything that comes here by itself can only be an oddity of a dark elf or else it's one of Hate's... abominations."

        "I suppose..."

        The half elf continued past the interuption, "She didn't seem to be going anywhere when I left, so I came back for you two. I didn't know whether I should kill her or capture her."

        "Kill her," came the rogue's disgusted answer.

        The ranger, silent and still until now, shook his head, "There's just one and easily taken, from what you're saying."

        "It could be a trap!" the rogue and the half elf said together.

        "It could," he nodded in agreement, "let's go check it out..."


        She had finally been able to go no further. Kallysti let her breathing grow more shallow as she lay face-down in the dirt, Wych's old cloak covering her from the neck down. Even turning her head hurt but she did so as she heard the first thing in this place besides her own shuffling movement and ragged breathing. She opened her eyes as she turned her head. A sickening wave of dizzying nausea hit her full-force but not before she made out three figures, rapidly yet warily approaching her. She closed her eyes again and let them come. It didn't matter.

        A young voice floated down to her, feeling harsh in her ears after the silence, "Here, let's get a better look," it said as it grabbed the edge of the cloak to lift it up.

        An ear-piercing shriek tore from her throat as the thick material was ripped from the dried blood across her unhealed back. Her eyes flew open and her swimming vision made out a strangely tanned blur that was suddenly knocked aside. Her eyes closed again.

        Strong yet infinitely gentle hands lifted her. She gasped a little in involuntary pain as she was turned over to rest in a protective embrace. Kallysti opened her eyes yet again to find herself staring into a field of a depthless golden-green gaze. "Kal," the familiar voice was soft and choked but it was still the one imprinted into her heart and her mind, "Kal, is it really you?"


        Drinow stood up, brushing himself off and shared a confused look with the Fier'dal woman now standing beside him. They both stared, stunned, at the strange scene before them: Captain Thornwood- a man who, until this very moment, had always been utterly devoid of emotion- sitting on the ground, gently rocking the unconscious Tier'dal woman, tears streaming down his face.
        "Dance like it hurts, Love like you need money, Work only when people are watching." ~Scott Adams


        • #5
          Awesome story, can't wait to read more.
          Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night. May become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.” (“The Wolf Man” – 1941)


          • #6
            ((Thanks, Clareon ))

            The large, dank chamber was strangely quiet in the aftermath of the Dark Prince's anger; the occasional drip of some unidentifiable liquid was the only sound that dared make itself known.

            The pain in Drazharr's knees was incredible. The young shadowknight had been kneeling, motionless, since he'd been summoned. For countless hours he had been there and would stay countless more until his god bid him rise. Nearby, the crushed, shapeless forms of what were once two of Innoruuk's guards had been left behind to remind Hate's denizens of the price of failure. How had the ranger snuck past them? Drazharr wondered. He still could not believe that one as inferior as that white-haired Fier'dal had not only made it to the inner sanctum but had also managed to free the traitorous priestess, Kallysti.

            Finally, the Dark Lord spoke, his grating voice drilling into the armored Tier'dal's mind, "You know why you're here." Drazharr nodded once, eyes on the polished stone floor. "Look at me, boy," Hate's avatar rasped, "and say it. Why have you been summoned to me?"

            He looked up and the fanatical hatred in his eyes nearly matched that of his god, "I must find Kallysti," he whispered and his mouth twisted, "and... Selquinn," he spat out, disgusted by having to utter the names aloud.

            The corners of Innoruuk's mouth drew up and split into a hideous parody of a smile. A pale, sickly finger of unnatural bony length extended and pressed against the shadowknight's forehead. He shuddered with the ecstatic pain that felt as though it would split his skull. "Bring them back to me alive. How is up to you." Drazharr's image shimmered and grew transparent as he left the Plane of Hate for the earthly realms.

            I will not fail you, my lord... he promised that to himself as much as anything.


            Kallysti awoke somewhere soft. Pillows were piled under her head and she felt the warm weight of many blankets pulled to her chin. Sweet, musical laughter filled her and she could feel it deep within, healing what she had forgotten was ever broken. That was the strangest thing: the healing. The pain of existance, hopeless and alone, had been a part of her for so long that she'd forgotten all else. Though that was mainly because...

            "Sel," she whispered hoarsely, remembering. Had it been real? Or had she fallen into hopeless insanity? Maybe it was one of their tricks, though it was much different than anything else they'd put into her mind.

            She opened her eyes. The dizziness and the nausea were gone. Sel was not. He leaned over her now, the concern in his bright, emerald eyes quickly replaced by a smile as he realised she was only confused. "This is real. Believe me," he told her softly. It sounded as if he was still trying to convince himself, too.

            "But... you're dead," she said weakly. Her head was swimming, this was all too much. "You died. I saw," one bony hand clawed free of its blanketed confines and extended towards him, "I saw."

            Selquinn took her hand in both of his, "Yes, I did. Kally, don't you know where we are?"

            She shook her head, "Wych.." tears threatened at the corners of her eyes, "Wych said Tunare... he said that..."

            "...that I sent for you. Wychwethl made sure you came here, to my realm, for I have need of you," said a soft, musical voice from the doorway, "and now I must explain."

            "Mother," the ranger's blonde head lowered respectfully, though his voice was a tad stiff, "please excuse me, then." He leaned forward and kissed Kallysti on the top of her head before rising.

            "My most wayward child," she answered him fondly, and Kallysti once again heard that healing laughter echo in her head, "stay. For this concerns you as well."
            "Dance like it hurts, Love like you need money, Work only when people are watching." ~Scott Adams


            • #7
              AHHHH! Too short too short! I need more!
              Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night. May become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.” (“The Wolf Man” – 1941)


              • #8
                ((Usually I don't write this fast... yikes. It's just all coming to me a lot lately. Let me know if this bit doesn't make sense. Sometimes I suck at explaining religious-y stuffs.

                "The Plane of Growth is dying?" Kallysti asked, disbelief threaded through her tone. She then remembered the endless grey expanse she'd wandered through and considered. "How did this happen? Did the war spill over into the alter planes as well?"

                The slender, elven goddess sat profiled against the room's only window. The spun gold of her hair appeared lusterless in the dull gray light. In a courtyard outside the window, a few hardy trees remained, giving dots of color to the landscape. One would have to study them closely to see that they had already begun to wilt but there was no doubt that the Plane was failing; it was clear as soon as one took a few steps beyond the large stone structure that served as what was perhaps Tunare's last great stronghold.

                That golden head swiveled on her long, graceful neck until she stared directly at the Tier'dal priestess and she addressed Kallysti directly, "Do you know what gives the gods their powers?"

                If her bearing had seemed saddened before, that was forgotten in the heat of the goddess's fiercely protective gaze. Kallysti dropped her eyes, though she answered as if by rote, "The followers. Their faith." It was the first thing any priest learned; for it was how their own powers worked, though to a much lesser degree.

                "Just so," Tunare agreed, "Now, you're wondering: how is it that the Fier'dal, my own creations, deserted their faith?" Kallysti nodded. "It's not that simple."

                The silence stretched for a few long moments. Tunare looked back out the window and sighed, "In the past, there were always skirmishes between the alter realms. The balance then shifts slightly, from one side to the other and back again. Over the last few years, however, this has not been the case." She sighed, a sad yet somehow still musical sound, "Kallysti, do you also know about the cycle?"

                A puzzled look crossed the cleric's face until she looked sharply over to Selquinn. The dark ranger looked down at his hands, unbound blonde hair a curtain that hid his face now. "I think so," Kallysti answered, "you mean the cycle of life, death, and... rebirth? All the gods treat it differently, though. Don't they?" She smiled to herself as she reached out to gently brush Sel's hair back. He cocked his head a little to meet her eyes and smiled back.

                "Perhaps they do, at that," the goddess answered, "my own way, however, has always been the mirror to that of the seasons: a soul is born, lives, dies, and returns to me to be born again. A few I allow to stay for as long as they like, for one reason or another," Kallysti swore she saw Sel blush a little. Tunare continued to stare out the window, perhaps looking beyond the tiny courtyard, "Such has always been my way," she repeated, "but in recent years, the souls I have sent back have not returned to me. I don't know what it is," Her anguish was now palpable, "Something is happening to my children and I am helpless to it!"

                A light knock sounded at the door, "Mother?" came a quiet, respectful voice. Kallysti and Selquinn both looked up to see a slender, blonde Fier'dal woman in black chainmail armor standing outlined in the doorway.

                "Come in, Xenith," the elven goddess said quietly.

                The woman crossed the room on silent feet, looking neither left nor right. When she stopped in front of her, Tunare held out her cupped hands. Xenith dropped something into them, "It was right where you said it would be, Mother," she said.

                Tunare rose and stood beside the other woman for a moment. Then, she seemed to float over to the bed and stood before Selquinn, where he sat beside Kallysti who still lay propped up on pillows. "Perhaps I haven't the right to ask this, after all you've both been through, but our need is great." She reached out and took Selquinn's right hand in her own. Turning it over to face palm up, she then took the object that Xenith had given her, and fastened it around his wrist. "I believe the two of you, together, can find out what is happening to my followers. The choice to go, however, is up to you."

                Sel felt something strange wash over him: a feeling of... being whole again. Something that felt so completely right that he could not understand how he'd lived without it. He turned his hand around and his eyes widened as he discovered the 'gift' his goddess had given him. Golden-green eyes fixed, unblinking, upon her, "I... " he closed his other hand around his wrist, as if holding it in place, "I thought this was... gone."

                "No," Tunare answered simply. She glided towards the door, Xenith a step behind her. When she got to the doorway she turned back a moment, "I will give you two time to talk. Let me know what you decide... however you decide." Then she was gone.

                Sel turned towards the woman still in the bed beside him and Kallysti leaned forward, curious. Fastened securely to the ranger's wrist was a simple velium bracelet, containing a single, simple stone. One that swirled strangely emerald and sapphire, one that almost glowed with it's own inner light. A stone like no other in the world, save one: the one in the pendant that Wych had returned to Kallysti in the Plane of Hate, just before she'd left. The stones that were a combination and division of the souls of the two seated on the bed.


                Something was bothering Xenith, though she was unsure how to approach it. "Mother?" she began.

                Tunare smiled, though the little rogue could not see, as she still walked a respectful step behind her goddess. "My daughter," she replied, "you are wondering why I asked those two on this mission. Why ask those who may decline me, when so many of you have already offered yourselves?"

                Xenith nodded. Tunare continued, "Simply this: no others could ever succeed," the little rogue began to interupt, almost angrily, but the Mother of All continued as if she hadn't heard it, "I know this in my heart."

                "And why do you believe these two would return?" a touch of bitterness crept into her voice, "How do you know?"

                Both continued their pace down the corridor away from Kallysti's room. Xenith was still a bit behind and could not see the tears that momentarily threatened her goddess, "Because, my child, they are the ones of whom the prophecy spoke..."
                "Dance like it hurts, Love like you need money, Work only when people are watching." ~Scott Adams


                • #9
                  Excellant, well done, the religous or reincarnation aspect was desribed perfectly.
                  Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night. May become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.” (“The Wolf Man” – 1941)


                  • #10
                    Wow, i am impressed. Awesome work!


                    • #11
                      ((Bet you all thought I'd forgotten this one! Sorry about that. It does need a bit of editting but I'm such a bum about that. I'll do it eventually ))

                      The last two days had passed them by in a rush, as restful times do. Kallysti felt and looked much better than the day she had arrived. Tunare's best healers had tended her. That in itself had been interesting but what was more amazing was that they had done so without prejudice. The Tier'dal woman was unsure if their polite attentiveness was at their goddess's orders or if it was largely due to Selquinn, who had sat a fierce and constant vigil by her side. Perhaps it had been a combination of the two.

                      Initially, the two of them had shared stories. She told what she recalled of her time in Hate. It was not much. Until Wychwethl had arrived, her world had been blanked out in pain and madness. Mercifully, perhaps, those memories had not returned. She did talk of Wych and what had transpired. They had cried together over his sacrifice, unashamed at the loss they both felt so keenly.

                      Selquinn's side had taken a little longer to tell. Kallysti had asked after their friends. As it turned out, only two others of the Crusaders had arrived in Growth with him: and Sulamarath and Lukaria were missing, presumed dead. He'd said this last with great frustration. Lately, many were 'presumed' dead as they could never find a trace of the body, nor could any clerics perceive any part of the spirit either departing or returning. Tunare had really already explained as much, though Kallysti wondered how much had been left unsaid.

                      So, the realm of Growth was failing, Tunare herself weakening along with it. The two of them had already decided that they would return to the mortal lands and they had told the goddess as much but Selquinn had insisted that Kallysti be completely rested and ready, no matter how long it took. It had been agreed. There had been no pressure put on them to hurry, not overtly, but they both still felt an urgency nonetheless.

                      Each of them tried to savor every peaceful moment together. When words ran dry, they simply stayed silently together. In fact, for the last couple of hours, now, neither had said a word. Selquinn sat on the bed, his back to the wall. Kallysti, half-laying beside him, had her head resting on his shoulder, her eyes closed. It was thus that the messenger found them.

                      The tap on the door was quick and the girl did not even wait for an answer, immediately opening it to poke her head inside. The blonde ranger on the bed sat up in an instant, the dozing Tier'dal woman beside him taking a moment longer to realise that they had a new visitor.

                      "I'm sorry to disturb you," she began without preamble, in a matter-of-fact voice that sounded anything but apologetic. The slender wood elf who edged her way inside was dressed all in dark green leathers, a scimitar on one hip with a small wooden shield strapped to her back. Dark reddish-brown hair was pulled back from her face in a simple pony tail.

                      "What is it?" Selquinn asked, springing from the bed in one graceful motion to pick up his armor from a chair in the corner of the room, "Has another siege begun?" He thought he knew the answer, though, as he was already dressing for it. Pointedly, he was not looking at Kally, hoping they would not ask her to help but knowing they would need all they could get. She still seemed so fragile to him.

                      The druid shook her head, though she said, still in that calm and even voice, "Yes, or at least there will be soon. And there are more than ever this time. But that is not why I have come for the two of you."

                      "I'm sorry?" he froze, bright green eyes narrowed a little, his hands hovering close to the pair of sheathed swords that sat on another chair.

                      "Hate's army still only approaches. The Mother is making her preparations for the battle ahead and regrets that she was unable to see to you herself," the girl's terse explanation seemed forced, it was clear that she saw her place on the battlements and not here, running errands. "Please, there is little time. The Mother says that I must send you now, that there may not be another chance after..." the young wood elf seemed to consciously force something from her mind before continuing, "She also says that if you go now, you may just save an old friend from an almost certain damnation."

                      "We knew this time would come, Sel, just not how or exactly when," came Kallysti's voice from behind him. He turned to see that she was up and almost completely ready to leave herself. Though she had no armor, she had quickly dressed for travel in sturdy cotton clothes and a long, dark blue woolen cloak. She sat back on the bed to pull on her boots. As she finished, she looked up at him expectantly.

                      Selquinn smiled a little, as he, himself, finished strapping on his swords. It was almost like old times, circumstances flinging the two of them off on some dangerous and exciting adventure. The smile slid from his face. This time, the consequences would be much more dire if they failed. He shook his head and looked to the impatient woman who stood with her arms crossed, watching them. Taking Kally by the hand as she stood up beside him, he told the young druid, "Send us there."


                      The ground under Drazharr squished unpleasantly. Warm, moist air surrounded him, seeped beneath his plate armor and raised a sweat before he'd even sat up. Swamp. He was clearly in some kind of swamp. The young shadowknight found himself staring at intricately laced branches high above his head. Innothule? he thought, still groggy from the teleport he'd received, but why...?

                      He started to sit up but alarmingly discovered that he couldn't. Someone.. or something... had bound his hands behind him. His feet as well, seemed lashed together. Panic tightened his chest and he turned his head to see what he could make of his surroundings. The thick, swamp stench that he usually associated with trolls assaulted his olfactory senses like a large blugeoning weapon. The immediate source of this smell was soon apparant in a most unpleasant fashion.

                      "Hello, blue elf-man," a hideously green and warty face suddenly filled his vision. It grinned at him, exposing huge, yellow teeth.

                      Drazharr's tongue glued itself to the roof of his mouth, though he may not have spoken even if could. Righteous anger quickly replaced his initial shock and fear. His disgust, though, only intensified.

                      Why? Why had he been sent back on this mission if it was only to end up in a troll's belly or worse? Or was this some kind of strange test? Yes, that had to be it. Or perhaps....

                      Drazharr, the high, grating voice of the Dark Prince was almost an echo, a tiny sharp stone bouncing around in his skull, have you no faith in me?

                      "My... my Lord?" his voice was a choked whisper.

                      Look, Drazharr. Look at her now.

                      Obediently, the young dark elf turned his head to find the troll again, for it had gone from his sight while his attention had been turned inward. He saw that it had not left, merely sat back on its... her... haunches, looking up at the sky. He saw that the thing wore tight, worn leathers that mercilessly left little to the imagination. Yellowish drool leaked from one corner of her mouth. He shuddered involuntarily. One of their crude beastlords then, or perhaps a shaman. Then, out of nowhere, it... she... started muttering indiscernably, as if having a conversation with someone who wasn't there. Drazharr had a sinking feeling he knew what was happening.

                      His suspicions were confirmed when she turned her attention back to where the shadowknight still lay on the damp, stinking ground. Lifting him by an arm, nearly dislocating his shoulder, she pulled him up to a sitting position. Her eyes narrowed and mean, the smile now vanished, she addressed him again, "Voice say you not for eating. Teeny know that, though elf do taste good roasted in armors," she shook her head regretfully. Something sliced through the bonds at his wrists and he began to flex his hands to bring the feeling back. She continued, now sounding as angry as she looked, "Voice also say... he say to do what blue elf-man say. Voice say, it important." She sat back again, watching him with an expectant glare, as if daring him to argue with the voice.

                      Use this gift wisely, Drazharr, came his god's confirmation. Yes, he knew better than to argue with the voice.
                      "Dance like it hurts, Love like you need money, Work only when people are watching." ~Scott Adams


                      • #12
                        ((Again, there's been very little editing. You know, cause I'm lazy. For all (both) of you reading this... hope you still like it anyway ))

                        Buckets of water poured from the sky plastered their hair to their skulls the moment they stepped out of the portal. Kallysti unconsciously reached up to tuck the wet, white strands behind delicately pointed ears as she surveyed the landscape. It was clearly a forest, though which forest or where, she was uncertain. The only thing she was certain of was that they were well into it. Massive trees surrounded them, their interwoven branches extending up to touch the charcoal sky above. She wondered why the rain still pounded down on them, when they should have been at least partially protected. Shielding her eyes, she scanned the branches nearby. Leafless. Well, that would explain it, she supposed. She turned to Selquinn.

                        The slender, blonde ranger stood frozen to the spot where they had first stepped over. Indeed, he did not even seem able to move. Confusion filled his emerald eyes as he stared past her.

                        It was a disconcerting sight. "Sel?" she asked uneasily.

                        His eyes found hers, no other part of his body moved. "Kally," he answered, his soft voice filled with what was almost a child-like fear, "I don't know where we are."

                        Automatically, she reached out and put a reassuring hand on his shoulder. "It's all right, Sel," she said slowly, as if realisation were just dawning on her, "everything has changed so much..."

                        He nodded. It was more than that, though. More than what Kallysti would sense. Every breath he took was heavy with corruption. There was no escaping its taint. The falling rain coated him like a rancid oil. Certainly, it was her time in Hate that made Kallysti oblivious to all of this. Maybe he was just over-reacting to it, himself, but he didn't think so. He couldn't articulate the depth of his revulsion, "It all feels... wrong." He gave an involuntary shiver that had nothing to do with the chilly rain.

                        Kallysti reached down and took his hand, now looking very critically around her. "It's not Nektulos. I think."

                        "I... I'm almost certain it's not the Faydark," he stopped suddenly, looking down. Eyes widening, he quickly knelt in the mud, pulling Kally with him. She saw the tracks immediately, more than the fact that there were tracks, though, was beyond her. Selquinn, naturally, saw much more. "Tiny tracks, mostly," he told her, not taking his eyes from the muddy ground, "children. Or halflings. Both. And there are... others. I've seen them before," He paused a moment, not wanting to tell her that those 'others' were most likely some of Hate's abominations, "Only a couple hours old. Much longer than that and they would be erased. There's a newer set atop them, too. Our size," he stood back up, still holding Kally's hand.

                        Simultaneously, they both knew where they were. Their eyes locked.

                        "The Misty Thicket," Selquinn whispered.

                        Just as Kallysti said, "Cait!"

                        She held his gaze for just a second, her unspoken question as plain as the sky above. "This way," he pointed and the two of them took off at a dead run.

                        It occurred to her, too, as they ran, what the young druid had told them. The girl- she had never given her name, nor had either of them asked- had told them that if they left right then an old friend might just be saved from... how had she put it? An almost certain damnation? Oh, gods, she thought, please let it be alright.

                        That thought repeated itself like a litany as they ran. Then, her mind went blank, her feet skidded to a halt. What had they been chasing? Or had something been chasing them? She heard an inarticulate shout and the ground shook beneath them, throwing both elves to the ground, stunned. Kallysti found that she could think again, if just for a second.

                        She heard Sel's frantic voice from somewhere nearby, "Kally! It's a mez spell. Try to..." Then it all blanked out again. As the ground tossed her a second time, she found that Sel had managed to get behind her. Pulling her to her feet in front of him he pointed up into a tree not far from where they now stood. A slender figure was visible above them.

                        "GET OUT!" it screamed without a trace of sanity.

                        Kallysti recognised the voice, which made it all the more imperative to end this quickly. She smiled grimly as she felt the mezmerization spell wash over her without effect. Selquinn's hands had dropped, he had not been so lucky.

                        With a little concentration of her own mixed with a single, simple word of power, angry red energy flew from her hand and sped unerringly to her target. There was a squack from above and a series of crashes as something large fell from the tree.

                        As the spell's caster fell, so did Selquinn wake up and dash right after Kallysti to the fallen figure's side. They knew him immediately. In fact, it was just who Kallysti had suspected. For there in front of them, laying on his back, was an old friend.

                        "Loreat," she addressed him, "what happened?" His robe was ripped to shreds in some places, and the dark elf beneath didn't look much better. He groaned as he tried to sit up.

                        "Kallysti? Is it really you? I heard you coming. I thought you were one of..." his eyes widened, shuddering at the thought of what he had almost done, "He did it. Did Wych actually... is it you?"

                        "It's me," she nodded. She brought up a hand to heal him but he shook his head.

                        "No, Kal. No healing. Sometimes they... sense it," He winced a little as he turned his head and also recognised the blonde wood elf kneeling on his other side. "Selquinn? Now I know I'm still asleep. You died years ago."

                        "I did," he answered simply.

                        The Tier'dal enchanter began another question but Kallysti interupted him. Something was not right here. "Where's Cait?"

                        She immediately regretted asking so bluntly. The expression that was etched into their friend's features was one she knew intimately. For she had worn it until very recently.

                        "Oh, Lore.." she began but it was Selquinn who explained.

                        Kallysti had been focused on Loreat, making sure he was alright but Sel had not ceased his inspection of their surroundings. Kally had helped the other dark elf into a sitting position as the blonde wood elf prowled the immediate area, "There was quite a battle here," Selquinn said with certainty, walking softly around and under the tree. Kally tried to follow his steps, to see what he saw, as he traced his way around the small clearing but Loreat only watched the ranger with a fierce, silent intensity. "One out in front and many smaller prints behind. Children, perhaps." Loreat nodded slightly and Sel continued, "She burned them down. Several," he paused.

                        Following the edge of the clearing he eventually ducked behind another tree, where the others could not see him. The earth where he now stood was charred and blackened with such force that even the rain had washed little of it away. The soil itself was lumpy and turned, trees stood at cockeyed angles. Sel knew that only a few hours ago, the dirt had moved like waves upon the ocean with a druid's earth-shaking spells. He also found two dark and unidentifiable lumps of burned flesh. There were many more footprints here. It wasn't long before he found the spot where the battle had ended.

                        There was something caught in his throat when he returned to Kally and Loreat. He shook his head, "The children escaped. Cait didn't." The enchanter nodded. "There was no body there..."

                        "Buried it," Lore replied dully, "there wasn't much left anyway." He coughed and shook his head as if to clear it. He pointed in the opposite direction that Kally and Sel had come from, "over there. 'Returned to the earth', as she would have said. As she would have wanted..." he trailed off. The three of them all seemed unwilling or unable to continue with any conversation at that point. Loreat had gotten to his feet, Kally standing beside him with a hand on his shoulder. Selquinn stood with his head down, as if defeated.

                        The rain poured down, hard and steady, as if it would never end. Kallysti sneezed, shattering the dripping tableau. Selquinn crossed the distance between himself and the two Tier'dal. He put an arm around Kally's shoulders. "Maybe we should get out of the rain," he looked at the robed man beside her questioningly.

                        Lore nodded, "Yes. I think I can provide that." He closed his eyes a moment, though, and took a deep breath, "We have much to discuss."
                        "Dance like it hurts, Love like you need money, Work only when people are watching." ~Scott Adams


                        • #13

                          Loreat shook his head, "Gone, by all accounts..."

                          "What do you mean 'gone'? And by whose accounts? Have you seen?" An intent Selquinn leaned forward, water from his shoulder-length blonde hair dripping onto the carpet in front of the newly lit fire. Loreat's home had been a bit of a hike from where they'd found the enchanter and all three of them were soaked through. The storm had not abated the entire time. It had, if anything, grown stronger. They'd lit a fire and sat down to talk.

                          Now Kallysti stood in the open doorway of the little cottage's pantry. Her original intention had been to grab the three of them some tea and perhaps something to eat. She'd opened the door, though, and just stopped. The neat little rows of preserves, the ordered jars and tins on the shelves... every detail of it's contents shouted of the loss of the bright, cheery soul who had lovingly organized it. Momentarily, it overwhelmed her, hit her like a blow to the stomach. What she saw inside was so homey and normal, for a moment it represented more than Caittune's absence: it represented vividly, the epitome of the loss in the world around them. How could she reach in there and disturb something so neat and yet so fragile?

                          "Kally?" came Sel's soft inquiry from the other room.

                          "She meant for it to be used, Kally," came Loreat's voice from behind her, "and Cait would not have wanted any guests to go hungry. Least of all the two of you."

                          The Tier'dal woman nodded mutely, reaching out to take down a tin marked "Peppermint Tea" in a careful script and a large jar marked simply "Cookies". She brought her finds out to the sitting room and set the tin on the flagstones near the warming teapot. She opened the lid of the large jar and was greeted with the scent of the halfling's berry muffins. 'Cookies', indeed. The jar had been lying. Kallysti smiled a little to herself as she set it on the low table next to the chairs.

                          "As I was saying," Loreat cleared his throat a little. "I've only had secondhand stories of Kelethin's last battle. And the youngster I talked to did call it just that, with great finality: The Last Battle. According to him, it has been utterly destroyed. Burned to the ground." He had taken the lid off the teapot and was sprinkling the leaves from the tin into the hot water. The piercing scent of the peppermint felt cleansing. Kallysti realized that she had forgotten something, though, and got up to go back into the kitchen.

                          Taking down three sturdy, clay cups from a cupboard, she heard Selquinn arguing, stubbornly refusing to believe something that their friend had not even seen with his own eyes. Kallysti knew without a doubt that he would want to go back to the wood elves' home city no matter what the stories said or who who told them.

                          She set the cups down beside the pot and went to stand next to where Selquinn sat. One hand reached down to cover his on the arm of the chair. When she spoke, it seemed that she talked into the flames. Her voice felt far away, "Given our task, I think Kelethin is the best place to start, despite the difficulties." Selquinn nodded, his other hand covering hers, so that dusky blue fingers were sandwiched between his bronzed ones.

                          Loreat sighed and handed her a cup, she took it in both hands. Pleasant warmth sank into her, she hadn't even noticed how cold she'd been. "You don't understand," the enchanter's voice had a defeated note to it, "you've seen what it's like here. We have to be careful. That's it. Just watch out for the occasional patrols through the forest. Rivervale, High Hold Keep? They think they're prepared. But Faydwer? Faydwer is a war zone. The Dark Prince's armies are focused on bringing down both Felwithe and Kaladim. Both of which are now fortified far beyond what they ever were in our lifetime. It's a stand-off at the moment, neither side is making any progress. There's no telling when the tide will turn for one or the other but I'm not particularly optimistic."

                          "Is that all it is?" Selquinn asked skeptically, "because we've been through that sort of..."

                          "Not like this," the enchanter interrupted. "What you saw, when you both left this world five years ago? That was just the first taste."

                          "But we knew it wouldn't be easy," Kallysti persisted, "We knew we would not just be walking in, getting an answer and going back again."

                          Loreat nodded, "Naturally. And to answer your question, Sel: no. The fighting is not all there is." He took a sip of his tea. Kallysti noticed how thin the other dark elf was, how intense. In the past, their friend had ever been consumed by his interests, vehement in achieving his tasks, but this was different. There was a hardness to him now, an edge. Another clear symptom of the redheaded halfling's absence. He looked into his cup, "The Plane of Knowledge is theirs. Wholly and completely. You cannot step in via any of the portals without being immediately taken, or in the case of any of the light races, immediately run through with cold steel. So our travel would have to be over land and sea. Unless..."

                          "You know of someone who could take us somehow?" Kallysti asked. Selquinn said nothing, the ranger was deep in thought, staring into the flames.

                          "Yes. The druid portals and the wizard spires are also closely watched. Though I hear that the little-used one in The Steamfont Mountains is as deserted as it ever was. They don't care about it, that area is almost as 'safe' as we are here. Ak'Anon is... " he paused, searching for the proper word, finally just settling on, "strange."


                          "Nobody goes in, nobody comes out. There has been almost no fighting there."

                          The statement seemed to shake Sel from his reverie, "Then why doesn't anyone use the portal there? Bring in help to send on to Felwithe!"

                          Loreat sighed, "The small pass through the mountains to the Lesser Faydark is caved in. And heavily guarded on the forest side. The armies of Hate are not taking any chances, even if they're not in a hurry to move in that direction."

                          "So," Kally concluded, "you know of a druid who might be persuaded to take us to Steamfont?"

                          "Yes. I may just know of one who is crazy enough to do it..."


                          They stopped on the Southern edge of the Desert of Ro. Though there was still another couple of hours until sunset, Drazharr's new and unlikely companion had refused to go another step. Voices had told her to stop, she said. Voices told her to sleep here. The young shadowknight was beginning to wonder just how much of 'the voices' was the Dark Prince's command and how much was delusion brought about by living alone for so long. He decided he didn't want to take any chances.

                          Besides, he'd had his own parting message, not long before the two of them had began their run through the swamp. In his frustration during their departure, he had formed a sort of half-prayer for help. He had not expected the immediate response. You will find my traitorous child when first she attempts to draw upon her power. She will become as a beacon. Do not disturb me again lest you have them both in your possession. And in a flash of ecstatic blind agony, he was gone. "Yes, my Lord," the spare Tier'dal had whispered fervently.

                          So 'Teeny' could take them wherever she liked, their destination at this time made little difference. Perhaps the vile beastlord and the animal companion that Drazharr had only had glimpses of had instructions of their own. Perhaps they were even going where he was hoping.
                          "Dance like it hurts, Love like you need money, Work only when people are watching." ~Scott Adams


                          • #14
                            Awesome. I love your writing! Keep it up.
                            Even a man who is pure in heart and says his prayers by night. May become a wolf when the wolfbane blooms and the autumn moon is bright.” (“The Wolf Man” – 1941)


                            • #15
                              Very nice i really like
                              It is sad that we pride ourself on being mentally well adjusted to such a profoundly sick society.