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Caesar IV Heaven » Forums » Story Archives » Quest for the Cloak of Zal - Part 2
Topic Subject:Quest for the Cloak of Zal - Part 2
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posted 05-09-00 16:45 ET (US)         
Chunky - a weather worn traveller, Chunky has seen much of the known world. Either moving by himself, or in a small group, Chunky likes nothing better than to remove himself from civilisation and surround himself with the wonders of nature. A loyal and honourable man.
Jayhawk - Wandering minstrel, troubadour, tall (6'4") slender, dark haired, sea green eyes, that seem to be able to change colour. Plays a 12 stringed lute, with fair competence. Has travelled the realms extensively and has an incredile knowledge of lore and myth. Some of his travels have been with Chunky. There may be more to him than meets the eye. Rides a black stallion by the name of Aran.
Wendolin - Clonmaire County Palladin. Somewhat of a mystic, experienced traveller, adventurous by nature. Friend to kings, noblemen and townsfolk of all races and types, but prefers the company of travellers. Fights for Right. Wears a long black dress made out enchanted material,
which may look like a fine gossamer web, but is in fact as hard as steel. Wears a ruby-red cloak, with deep purple & gold trim. Jet black hair - dark eyes, pale face. Also wears a magical ring on her right hand - amethyst in colour, it seems to glow when danger is near. Rides a gold coloured horse named Whispering. Close friend of Gillandra the High Priestess. Has prowess in sword and mace, and carries a golden shield.
Benson - Benson has traveled extensively never staying in one place to long but often revisiting many of the places he passes through. He prefers to be in nature and tends to befriend animals wherever he goes. He is tend to be a loner and even in when traveling with groups tries to find way to spend time alone. He does not make friends easily but is very loyal if you gain his friendship. Travels with trusted friend - the panther.
Thoren of Torvald - Norseman from the Lodge of Torvald. Son of the Lodges' Leader and heir apparent. Chooses adventure over rule. Younger brother murdered by Zordemon The Black. Is single-mindedly pursuing revenge, but can be diverted or distracted by a just cause or a woman in distress. Gruff and somewhat belligerent exterior hides a thoughtful, sometimes sensitive nature. Skilled in long sword, battle axe, short bow and knife. Unusual ancestry. Some say he is descendant from Roman and Norse stock. Rides Vorth, his Norse-bred stallion.
Marcus Lindicus - shapechanger and sometime cherub. Though only small in stature, has a heart as large as a mountain. Shapechanging ability inherent - natural shape as a cherub, but has been known to turn into an elephant. Unfortunately also eats and drinks copious amounts of food
and wine, and does a fair amount of burping. Happy and jolly by nature, tends towards some practical joking.
Randorian - Youngest apprentice to the great mage Flahdorean, Randorian studies only the magic of illusion. He has a mysterious past...not even he knows who his parents are. However, he is blessed with a magical gift, though he has no power to directly hurt anyone or anything with it.
Eme-Redser - the current alias of Wintersong, the Elven Queen. She is in the guise of a mysterious stranger. She wears trousers, a long shirt, and a long, bulky cloak. All of her clothing is muted green and brown. She carries a large bundle of things, all wrapped in a mysterious fabric that no one has seen before. She rides a beautiful horse, one that is warm cream in color, and whose mane and tail are a rich chocolate color. The horse's name is R'edaine, the meaning of which is undisclosed at present. Eme-Redser is an unknown entity at present, and her guise of The Elven Queen is also unknown at this time. She has the ability to disappear at will, and her other diverse talents will be revealed as the story progresses.
Lysette - Orphaned daughter of a Frankish family burned out of their home and murdered by renegade soldiers. Now 15, almost 16 years of age. Barely escaped enslavement by the soldiers. Attached herself, foolishly and too trustingly, to a cruel traveler she came to know as her "master." Thoren freed her from that attachment. She is bewitched by an obedience/servitude spell the origin of
which she cannot remember. Has survival skills like any road-wise child, but is relatively innocent at heart. Rides Leeta, her chestnut mare, given to her by Thoren.
Gillandra - High Priestess of Coranmaire. Mysterious character - fights for good over evil. Known throughout the realm for magical healing and spiritual abilities. Soothing voice. Wear's a deep purple and white gown, and long silver cloak, showing her coat of arms on the back. Rides a silver-grey mare named Misty. Worships at the temples of Eir. Also has a pack-horse, carrying essential supplies.
Tomas - am still waiting on your background description Titanicus!!!
Incontinentia The Wise - same for you too Incon


Wendolin has been given a Quest from the King of Mordor to retrieve the Cloak of Z'al, which was stolen from his palace in Madrigold, and has somehow fallen into the hands of the evil king, Zordemon the Black, who resides in a palace in Zordark in the Realm of Sataerold (if the quest
fails, the 5Realms will be cloaked in cold and darkness, a world where children may not play, where life will be full of gloom and doom for evermore, where laughter does not exist.


Party to ensure the Staff of Purgatory is still buried deeply below the Glooming Mountains (these two items combined would give Zordemon the Black evil power over all of the 5 Realms). This wuest has been solved.

Party to retrieve the Silver Challice from Zordemon the Black (to be filled with spring water and allow the spirits of the dead Hill people to pass through and be released from their half-state).

Party to remove the "spell of eternal servitude" from Lysette (placed on her by Zordemon the Black)

Wendolin's New Map - FIXED THE LINK

Quest Part 1

[This message has been edited by Wendoolicus (edited 06-26-2000).]

posted 06-20-00 00:02 ET (US)     101 / 150       
Shortly after that, Eme-Redser felt a faint stirring in front of her face. Being out of touch with her people for such a long time, and having gone through the experiences of the last few weeks had dulled her senses somewhat. She swatted at the stirring, without thinking.

Gillandra was the one to notice the noise first......

"Eme-Redser, what is that high-pitched noise that I can hear over by you? I think it was louder when you were waving your hand in front of your face....."

"OH MY WORD! Everybody STOP where you are and don't move a muscle!"

The Elven Queen vaulted over R'edaine's head to land in front of him. She then dropped to her knees and very carefully started crawling between his feet.

The rest of the group halted their horses, and were watching her in fascination.

"Whew!!! I found her, you can move now...!" Eme-Redser stood up, carefully cradling something in her hands.

"Wendolin, reach into the pocket of my left hand saddle bag and give me the vial there, please."

Wendolin hurried to do her bidding, noting the expression on Eme-Redser's face.

"What is it?" The group all seemed to be talking at once.

"Hold on a minute, and let me take care of her, and I will explain, ok?"

The Elven Queen took the vial that Wendolin handed her, and walking carefully over to a fallen tree, sat down, and rested whatever was in her hand on her lap. She opened the vial carefully, and dipping a corner of her handkerchief into the vial, started dabbing at the thing in her lap............

When she looked up, with a look of profound relief on her face, she noticed that the group was watching her every movement with fascination.

"Oh, I am so sorry!" she said. "I wasn't thinking, and I knocked poor Risetta for a loop or three."

She held up her hands, and the group slowly got down from their horses and approached her.

When they were all gathered around, they could see the tiny young woman standing in the palm of the Elven Queen's hand. She was no more than 2 inches tall, but appeared to be about 18 years old.

"My daughter, Risetta Aurora," she stated. "Risetta, your manners, please!"

At those words, Risetta reached into a bag hanging at her waist, withdrew it, and tossed a small amount of a sparkly powder up over her head. With a small step backward, Eme-Redser lowered her hand, and the beautiful young woman appeared in front of them, almost as tall as her mother.

"Mother, I came to give you greetings and a warning from our land," Risetta spoke, and her voice was as beautiful as she was. Gillandra was reminded of the tinkling of the bells in a cathedral that she had once visited.

"The gnomes are restless right now, and have been gathering for about a week now. They have heard of the vanquishing of Zordemon, and have decided what they are going to do about all of the unrest in the valley. They are at odds with Thoren's people, and my brother has sent me to tell you of this."

Eme-Redser had frowned at this news, and spoke quietly with her daughter for a few minutes. She then said, "We need to camp for the night and discuss this latest development.."


[This message has been edited by MRed94 (edited 06-20-2000).]

Eminence Grise
posted 06-20-00 05:27 ET (US)     102 / 150       
Jayhawk seemed to have cheered up a bit these last few days. The weather was fine for travelling, a bit nippy in the morning, but clear and sunny during the day. Autumn was slowly creeping up on the forest making some of the trees change their deep green dress for those of gold and fiery red. Gossamer threads of spider silk glittered between the trees and the first toadstools were pushing their many-coloured hats through the ground.

He just loved the seasons and autumn, with it's riot of colours and smells was on of his favourites. As they rode on to find a comfortable spot to spend the night Lysette pulled her horse up with his. Jayhawk offered the young woman a bright smile as his fingers picked out a jolly little jig on the lute.
"Do you miss her?" Lysette asked without preamble.
"Always..." the minstrel answered with a bittersweet smile.
"Where did you meet?"
"Long ago and faraway...we've shared travels and those seem travels keep us apart, yet we always meet again, somehow, somewhere, somewhen...
Fate really is an uncaring mistress." The minstrel looked at her and his eyes were darker than Lysette had ever seen them.

"Have you seen the Trickle Gorge before?" he said, changing subjects.
"" Lysette answered.
"What's that?"
"It's where we're heading. The Trickledown River has cut a chasm through the mountains, where the water rages, through the narrows. The path along the canyon's edge is narrow, but the beauty of the landscape is without pareil.
Most impressive are the Angel Falls a little after entering the Gorge from this side,the water cascades down a 1000 feet."
"Why is it called Angel Falls?"
"Long ago, in the previous era, it was said angels gathered in a chamber beneath the falls. One of the Kings of Myrandis had two large statues carved on either side. They depict two angels, one male, one female, their wings spread back into the cliffs gazing over the the water cascading down and the rainbows that arise from the air."
"That sounds beautiful..."
"It is, it's one of my best beloved places."
"Were there really angels?"

Jayhawk was silent for a while, then looked at her, his eyes back to their regular seagreen colour and smiled.
"Who knows..."
Then, looking ahead at the trail, continued
"I think we've found our camping spot."

O Lord, Lycia is yours and lovely Maeonia and Miletus, charming city by the sea, but over wave-girt Delos you greatly reign your own self.
-- Hymn to the Pythian Apollo (Hesiod)

Civis Romanus
posted 06-20-00 16:05 ET (US)     103 / 150       
Flames licked at the uppermost log newly placed on the campfire by Thoren. Benson dropped his load of wood on the earth nearby so that each piece would be close when needed. Both had just returned from a firewood collection expedition. Despite a growing friendship, first kindled when together they fought the lake snakes on the rise near Shimmering Lake, both said little to each other on this occasion. True, unknowingly, they both had shared a common destiny in the confrontation with Adolphus and Zordemon. Nonetheless, both were preoccupied with the day's events and found nothing to share that evening except the task itself.

Thoren sat down by the minstrel and Wendolin. "I'm troubled by this turn of events," he said matter-of-factly. "It makes no sense to me why the gnomes would suddenly be ill-disposed towards Torvald. We have co-habitated in the area for centuries. We respect each other's ways and never warred on each other. In fact, Torvald battled Goblins once because those vile creatures were found to be deliberately trespassing on gnome lands and preying on them. Why, now, should the gnomes turn on Torvald? No, it makes no sense at all." Thoren shook his head. "There's something else behind this and I don't think it will be found in gnome villages, caves or campsites."

"Is there something you know, Thoren, that might shed a different light on what we have seen and heard today?" asked Wendolin. Jayhawk continued to study Thoren's face as the Norseman answered Wendolin's question.

"There were rumors when I left. Something about a maverick lodge and its young leader. There was ambition there the rumors suggested." Thoren looked at Wendolin. "But Paladin, I saw and heard nothing that would suggest which lodge, what leader or even what form its ambition would take. There was no evidence so I disregarded the rumors as being false. Yet I am their specific target, the last male leader of the Torvald Lodge. Maybe there is a connection. But why the gnomes? I simply don't understand."

"Maybe we can best find out somehow along the way. You are willing to re-enter Torvald are you not?" asked Wendolin.

"Of course."

"I thought as much. You have friends here Thoren. Together we'll learn why there is trouble in Torvald and we'll be by your side if you need us."

There was nothing more Thoren could say. He smiled appreciatively at Wendolin and returned to his normal place by the campfire. Lysette joined him and together they talked quietly into the late hours of the evening.

posted 06-20-00 20:23 ET (US)     104 / 150       
If I am ruining the story, let me know....I am just following the wind...

"My mother, I have more news," Risetta said. "The young leader who has been spoken of is a follower of Zordemon, and seeks to take control of Torvald.....He has weaknesses, tho....He is terribly afraid of the Elven People, and has always gone out of his way to avoid them. He seems to think that they are capable of great evil, tho the evil he encounters comes from his own doing. He also has a fear of panthers, as he was attacked by one as a child."

"Well, there you have it. Not all of the reason, but reason enough for me." Eme-Redser sat back, absently stroking the chestnut hair of her daughter.

As the night wore on, the group continued to discuss the situation, and also talked of the things that they could do to combat it.

Off in the distance, a lonely wailing of an animal could be heard......................

[This message has been edited by MRed94 (edited 06-20-2000).]

Eminence Grise
posted 06-21-00 05:47 ET (US)     105 / 150       
Maybe a few too many coincidences there, MRed, sounds like the guy will die from fright the minute he sees us appear.
I think I've got a nice idea about an extra layer...listen

The companions spent a quite night at their campsite and were wakened by the song of birds the next morning. They had a quick breakfast of griddle cakes and honey, then mounted again. The weather was still bright as the rode along the river, that gradually became narrower and wilder. Mountains rose on either side, sheer cliffs casting sharp shadows. Lush vines with bright purple blossems clung to the rockface as did huge eagle ferns.

Then after a bend in the road the rocks seemed to fall away and a blue expanse of sky was framed between jagged peeks and what looked like a couple of giant figures.
"Behold, " Jayhawk said.
"We've reached Angel Falls."

They rode closer and could clearly see the two winged shapes. Even weathered the faces had a stern yet beatific quality to them, longhair was shaped from the stone and the massive wings swept back against the cliffs. As the path narrowed to barely wide enough for two horses they appraoched the edge, where a platform was carved out of the lving rock. A low, carved railing was all that kept them from a thousand foot drop, the water cascaded down, shattering on the rocks and rainbows shone through the mist, the roar of teh water was defening, drowning out all other noise.
Breathless they watched nature's art as it merged with the art of long forgotten men.

Jayhawk looked up from his reverie and softly said
"We seem to be no longer alone here."
As his companions looked up they saw the were surrounded by what seemed at first glance children.

A closer look showed the 3' tall people were anything but children. Dressed in tans and greys, scale mail vests and armed with short recurved bows and long knives, their faces were ashen, with bright blue eyes and sand coloured hair, ornamented with feathers and coloured stones, worn braided to one side of their head.

Their leader stepped forward and hands went to weapons.
Jayhawk motioned them to stay calm.
"If they had wanted our lives, we'd be dead by now, without having seen a single one of them."

"Hail Thoren, " the gnome said, then looked at the group and his eyes widened when his glance found the minstrel.
"Hail Blessed One, " he said as he bowed down low.
Lysette looked at the exchange and wondered, for the little man seemed to ignore the minstrel after that one myserious greeting.

"Thoren, son of Thorbrand, " the gnome spoke in his gravelly voice.
"My name is Nisse and I carry word from your land."
Thoren dismounted and, after a look at the gnome, sat down.
"Speak, for I would hear your news. Know my father died up on the battlefield, this summer."
"I know, Thoren, but know too, that countrymen of yours wage war upon the gnomes. They have wiped out two of our Burrows and killed many an innocent gnome and gnomeling."

Thoren blanched.
"Who would dare such a thing?"
"They are led by a man named Morded, but he is not your main adversary."

Thoren waited.
"It is his mother Ragnhild, once spurned by your father and embittered beyond ken, that has goaded him into usurping your throne. She's convinced Morded, he's a bastard of your father, as he is a year older than you she hold he's got as much if not more rights to the throne as you have. Some of the other lords, dissattisfied with the changes your father made, support her claim."

The young Norseman cursed.
"We will fight, young king, but only in our mountains. However, my son, Gurri" he called a young gnome to his side, "wishes to accompany you.
He has my blessing."

Thoren bowed to the gnome leader and answered.
"This will stop. I will not have my father's work denied."
Nisse nodded and spoke.
"Fare well, Thoren."
He turned and walked away then he looked back at the minstrel.
"Farewell Blessed One, protect my kin."
Jayhawk raised a hand, that for a minute seemed to dazzle like his eyes and nodded. Then the gnomes were gone.

Civis Romanus
posted 06-21-00 16:16 ET (US)     106 / 150       
MRed: No harm done from my point of view. Evil intentions often mask or spring from deep personal insecurities. I appreciate you all picked up on the intricate conspiracy involving the Norse and the gnomes implied by my text. I know I don't pre-warn you that twists like that are coming; but then again, that's part of the fun of these stories. (I'll even admit to getting a bit of a writer's zing from tossing in a bit of an unexpected twist now and then. Forgive, please ) Regardless, I think we had a nice, soft landing on the "conspiracy" twist.
So away we go!

Gurri, the Gnome, mounted his pony and rode along a narrow ledge that led to the place where the Companions were halted by the appearance of Gurri's people. Lysette watched the gnome progress down the path, then glanced up at the carvings of the two angels that graced the cliffside. Odd. She looked again at the male figure. She observed its shape and studied its face. Then she turned in her saddle and studied the face of the minstrel. Very odd. There was a distinct resemblance. How very,very odd, she thought. She must ask the minstrel why there was such a resemblance when next they made camp.

Thoren was deep in conversation with Wendolin. "My father warned me about Ragnhild, but in all these years there was never any trouble with her or her son Morded. It appears they were biding their time, quietly conspiring, until my father died. Now they intend to lay claim to the land. But Wendolin, there is evil in their hearts. Why else would they stir up the gnomes against my people? If not for the minstrel, I think the gnomes would have laid us low right where they found us in this mountain pass."

Wendolin nodded. "I think you are correct. The minstrel's presence bought you time to state your case and added credibility to your words in the eyes of the gnomes. Now they send one with us. Be assured that Gurri is also with us to observe and report. This is the gnomes' way of keeping track of our progress and acts. We must show this gnome we are trustworthy or it will not fare well for us in the future."

"Yes, your words make good sense." They ended the conversation just as Gurri met them. The 3 foot gnome looked quite small even though he rode a pony and not the large horses ridden by the Companions. He looked about the Company and decided he would ride near Eme-Redser. Gnomes placed little trust in other folk and only a limited level of trust in elves; but lately, their trust in humans was at an all time low due to the attacks they weathered from the Norse allied with Morded.

They put spur to horse and pony, and resumed their travel through the Glooming Mountains and into the land of Torvald.

posted 06-22-00 00:48 ET (US)     107 / 150       
Eme-Redser was carefully watching Gurri out of the corner of her eye, and when it appeared that he wasn't afraid of her, began to engage him in conversation. They soon found a measure of commonality in their personalities and lives, and shortly were talking rapidly between themselves.

Laughter came from the two of them, and soon clouds of smoke came from where they were riding.

The rest of the group emitted small sighs of relief, knowing that, of all of the group, Eme-Redser was the one who could make the gnome the most comfortable.

She didn't relax, though, and kept her senses completely tuned to danger or changes in the scenery. She could feel immediately if something was different within the trees.


Eminence Grise
posted 06-22-00 08:56 ET (US)     108 / 150       
Slowly but steadily they followed the Trickledown along it's cascading route down to the forested plains of Torvold.

The canyon on either hid them from the day ligh most of the time, and Lysette thought the gloom oppressive. To ease her mind she pondered upon the uncanny resemblance the minstrel had to the carved figures atop Angels Fall. However, she hadn't yet gathered the courage to ask him.

The minstrel seemed unaware of any of Lysette's thoughts and rode along singing merry tunes and even managed to convince Gurri in teaching him some of the jigs his people loved. The young gnome seemed to have lost some of his awe for the tall minstrel and could be found riding either next to the Elven Queen or the minstrel. One evening Jayhawk had convinced him to tell some of his gnomish tales and Lysette had shuddered at the stories of cunning dragons and clever gnomes.

Several days later they emerged from the mountains. Rain wept down from the cloudridden sky. Around and before them lay the tall pineforest of Torvald. A deep and rich smell of resin and pineneedles rose around them. Lysette wrapped herself closer in her cloak.

Thoren looked around and took a deeep, deep breath. Then looked round.
"It's good to be home again.

posted 06-22-00 14:17 ET (US)     109 / 150       
Benson road-up beside Thoren and took a deep breath and surveyed the land. "It has been many years since I have been here." He turned to Thoren, "It is good to return to the land of my birth. It is to bad it had to be during such trying times." With that the party slowly started forward into the land of Tovald. They all were on their guard waiting and wandering when the first attach would come. As they walked Benson continued to talk to Thoren.

"My father was a Norse Noble and my Mother was not Norse but daughter of a Powerful Mage that my father met while on a quest. They feel deeply in love and she came back to Norse County with him. As young boys out father taught us the way of the warrior until his death." He paused. "It was also thought my oldest brother was killed at that time but now I know he was not. I wander if my brother has anything to do with my farther death..."Benson stopped for a moment and sat quietly petting the Panther cub. "I guess it is something I will never know." With that he stopped talking and lapsed into silence.

Civis Romanus
posted 06-22-00 15:46 ET (US)     110 / 150       
Thoren's association with Benson during the quest for the cloak taught the Norseman to accept without comment any revelation about his background made by the Wanderer. Benson seldom revealed anything about his past unless he was under stress or crises and a strong bond of trust had formed. Thoren knew the silence that followed was to be expected and respected. This he did as the Company continued to follow the path along the Trickledown River.

Then Thoren saw the fork in the pathway and the branch that led east. He put spur to horse and urged Vorth to catch up with Wendolin and the minstrel. In doing so, he passed close to Eme-Redser and the gnome. Gurri hurriedly edged his pony as close as possible to Eme-Redser for protection. The gnome trusted some of them for now, but trusted Thoren least among them all. Wasn't it Thoren's Norse who made war on the gnomes in the past? That's what his leaders thought. Only the appearance of the minstrel (angel) with this group had put any doubt into their gnomish minds about what they believed before to be true. Nonetheless, he must be cautious and not put much trust in this Norse leader.

"Wendolin, we turn to the east here to go to Torgold," said Thoren when he caught up with the Paladin.

"To the left then," replied Wendolin; and she raised then waved her hand to signal to the others to take the left branch in the path.

"We should arrive there tomorrow. We can replenish supplies and I can consult with my advisors on the situation." Wendolin nodded her understanding and agreement.

But they had travelled only a few leagues when ahead they saw a disheveled party of about 25 Norse cavalry led by two older men, both of whom appeared hurt and weary. Thoren left the Company to swiftly ride ahead and greet his fellow Norse. Benson rode part way ahead and sat on his horse at the ready, prepared to put arrow to bow if these Norse turned out to be less than friendly.

Thoren finally could see clearly that the two leading the party were Ragnar and Gorsten, two of his military advisors. He greeted them warmly, but they in turn wearily returned his greeting. "What fares in Torgold?" asked a very concerned Thoren. It was Ragnar who answered.

"Not anything favorable. We no longer hold Torgold, Thoren."

Surprise registered promptly on Thoren's face. "Not hold Torgold? Who holds Torgold, then." Thoren feared the answer he would hear, and his fear was well placed.

"Morded," came the one-word reply. Thoren's thoughts promptly turned to his family. "My mother, is she..."

"We don't know, Lodge Leader. We fear the worst."
Now, so did Thoren.

Civis Romanus
posted 06-24-00 23:20 ET (US)     111 / 150       
This story's been a little quiet lately. Are some adjustments needed, or are we just a little preoccupied with things in Mundania for the moment? Cheers, all.


"Ragnar, are you supplied?" asked Thoren.

"Well enough, Lodge Leader. We were packed for a patrol when the assault came. They alowed us to cross their lines while they hid. Then they entered the city under the cover of darkness, took your mother hostage and forced the Lodge Elders to bend to their will. When we returned the gates were closed to us. We tried an assault but were driven back. Those with me are all who are left.

"Your wounded will be cared for. We have a healer with us. Bring your men forward and join my companions. Gillandra will see to their wounds. One caution, Ragnar."

"Yes, Thoren."

"Among my companions is a gnome named Gurri. He is of nobility among the gnomes. Tell your men the gnomes are not our enemy and Gurri is to be treated well at all times. Because of Morded, the gnomes' trust in us is diminished. Gurri is their representative and he must be shown that we are trustworthy. Is that understood, Ragnar?"

"Clearly, Lodge Leader," replied Ragnar.

"Good, now please see to your men... Oh, and Ragnar..."

"Lodge Leader?"

"I am relieved and very pleased that you are at my side once more."

Ragnar smiled. He knew he did not need to answer but did anyway. "I would want to be nowhere else, Thoren of Torvald."

At camp that night the three Norsemen of Torvald and the companions discussed their options. The followers of Morded were not many, but enough to hold the walls of Torgold. The battle with Zordemon had stripped the entire lands surrounding it of most of their fighting men. Neither goblin, varg nor man could muster enough among them to create what could be called an army.

"All that's left to us is the Challenge," noted Thoren.

Lysette looked puzzled. "Why only the Challenge, whatever that is. Cannot we seek help from the Elves?"

"No, Lysette. I think not. Their vital interests are not at stake." Eme-Redser nodded her head. "Thoren is right, my dear. The Elves aided us against Zordemon because he threatened their safety through Goblin attacks. This is a matter among the Norse and no other people."

Lysette persisted. "Then let us find the enchanted creek and take the water to the Hill People and leave this land behind."

Thoren looked at her aghast. "Lysette! Shall I leave my mother in the hands of Morded to be enslaved and my Lodge abandoned? How can you suggest such a thing?!"

Lysette hung her head in shame. "Forgive me, Thoren. I... I am so afraid for you that I forgot the plight of your mother." Tears began to roll down her cheeks.

"Forgiven, Lysette. Do not cry now."

Benson broke the uncomfortable silence following the exchange between Thoren and Lysette. "Thoren, what is the Challenge?"

"Single combat between two claimants to the role of Lodge Leader, fought by the claimant's themselves or their loyal champions. No Norseman may decline the Challenge lest he be considered unworthy of his claim. The Challenge may be issued and received only once in the lifetime of any claimant. The one who survives remains free of the Challenge for the rest of his days."

Lysette frowned at his explanation. "The one who survives? Can't both survive?"

Thoren shook his head. "No, Lysette. It is a battle to the death. Only one may survive."

Jayhawk and the others sat quietly observing the conversation deep in their own thoughts.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 06-24-2000).]

posted 06-25-00 01:30 ET (US)     112 / 150       
Brain fried at the moment, carry on.....Once I find an opening, you know I will jump back in........
Eminence Grise
posted 06-26-00 04:05 ET (US)     113 / 150       
Torvgold, Main hall of the Lodge.
"Lord Morded, our scouts have reported Thoren's advisors escaped. There are rumours that Thoren has returned from his journey to the Northlands."
"So" it wasn't the young noble that replied, but the elder lady next to the throne. Even though she was getting on in age, Ragnhild still cut a striking figure, her long dark hair, shot with grey was braided, her eyes a piecing grey.
The Grimhold warchief blanched.
"What if Thoren Challenges your son?"

Morded, a tall muscular man, with bright eyes and golden hair glanced at his mother. Ragnhild's lips thinned into a sneer.
"We will call on our champion.

Movement could be seen behind the throne and what looked like a pile of weapons and armour moved and slowly unfolded to a height well above eight feet. Rock like skin was covered with mail and leather. A two-handed sword was slung in a baldric over the creature's shoulder. Coal black eyes looked out from under a heavy brow ridge covered with bristly eyebrows. It's hair was knotted and covered with lime.

"A troll..." the warchief gasped, then bowed deeply.
Morded smiled, but the smile never reached his cold eyes.

posted 06-26-00 12:30 ET (US)     114 / 150       
Eme-Redser, sitting by the campfire talking quietly with Gurri, suddenly stiffened and cried out!

"No, it can't be.......!"

Gurri sat back in fear, watching her face change expression, and watching the others in the group gather round her.

"Eme-Redser, what is it?" Jayhawk, the first to reach her side, asked the question on all of their minds.....

Eme-Redser, shaking her head to clear it, and sitting there shaking with her emotions, looked into the minstrel's eyes.

"Great danger, great danger," she kept repeating. Then she seemed to come aware of what was happening around her.

"I saw it," she said, trembling anew. "The Great Room of your keep, Thoren. There is great evil in that room. What I felt was the presence of an evil troll in that room."

The entire group gasped, knowing that the trolls were the enemy of every one of the peoples represented in the group. The trolls were afraid of none, and were capable of numerous atrocities. They had long been the enemy of all of the souls in the known world.

"But, why? How? And what is a troll doing in my keep?" Thoren's words tripped over one another.

"I sense that this troll is somehow under some evil influence not of his own doing, and that is how he comes to be in the keep......But I know not what it is." the Elven Queen replied.

The others looked at one another in consternation, each trying to come to an understanding of this recent development........

[This message has been edited by MRed94 (edited 06-26-2000).]

posted 06-26-00 15:00 ET (US)     115 / 150       
Civis - just to let you know I'm still 'with you' - have been a little dry of late - will get back in there shortly
Civis Romanus
posted 06-26-00 16:33 ET (US)     116 / 150       
Thoren felt true fear for the first time in his life. Meeting the troll at the bridge did not bring on this kind of fear. In fact, seeing Lysette deftly handle the troll with her singing, aided by Eme-Redser, dispelled any notion of fear he had on that occasion. Even the battle on the ridge near Shimmering Lake had not caused him to fear. Frankly, he would have admitted afterwards, he was so busy fending off the lake snakes he didn't have time to generate a very good personal fright.

Thoren felt many eyes turn and look at him. He raised his head to meet their look. These were not looks of curiousity or comparative self-interest. On all faces the look was one of pain, sorrow, fear and the deepest concern. He read true friendship in each face. He found little relief. They will want to help, but they cannot.

At last Thoren responded. "It is too late, my friends. The die is cast. I sent Ragnar back to Torgold to issue The Challenge on my behalf. Even now he should be before the gates making himself heard to Morded."

Lysette struggled to control herself. "Withdraw The Challenge, Thoren. Let us do this another way."

"I'm sorry, Lysette. I cannot. Once The Challenge is issued it cannot be withdrawn. If The Challenge is not met in the prescribed manner of my people the family of the violater is put to death in the place of the one who failed to honor The Challenge. My mother would be killed for sure and those of my Lodge would be slaughtered with her. I have sisters, Lysette, whom you have never met."

Lysette searched for words to argue her side, but could not find any that would help. She lapsed into sad silence. He will do this thing, she thought, and he will be lost to me forever. Finally she rose to her feet and left the fireside to find a private side of the encampment, there to cry her eyes out until she could make no more tears fall on his behalf. Sleep was all she could do, and it was as troubled a sleep as she had ever experienced.

The others eventually sought sleep, even Thoren. All except the minstrel. He found a place of comfort and there he sat, resting, eyes closed, but not with sleep.

Thoren cowered trembling in a corner of the world gazing at the haze of the unknown. From out of the haze horrible sounds escaped and vague, ugly misty figures glided out then back into the haze. One towering figure, trollish in look and unbearably vile in behavior, emerged and began to solidify. It called Thoren's name in a bass rumble that sounded as if it came from the bowels of a fire mountain. "Thooorrren," it called and then continued to repeat the call. The Norseman squeezed himself back into his corner and began to shake uncontrollably.

Even as the calls continued from the garrish figure from the mist a change occurred before Thoren's eyes. Two new figures appeared between himself and the Mist Troll. One was a tallish man with ebony wings dressed in a white gown and the other was a man dressed in the custom of antiquity. The second man was of medium heighth, had light brown hair and blue eyes. He was muscularly built, but not overly so. He wore gleaming polished armor over blue cloth. Sandals protected his feet and a short sword hanging at his side, no doubt, protected the man.

Thoren shivered anew. "Who, who... Who are you?"

The winged man said nothing. The man from antiquity responded. "Don't you recognize me, Thoren?"

"No, apparition, I do not. Who are you?"

"Why, Thoren, do you not recognize me? We are of the same blood, the same purpose and the same mind."

Thoren shook his head. "You are not Norse. How can we be of the same blood?"

"True, you have Norse blood; but you also have the blood of a long line of warriors that stretches into times long past, into the days of a great empire that once held the land you now hold."

"Are you from that empire?" asked Thoren.

"I am," the apparition replied. "So are you, by virtue of the bloodline you represent. Your ancestor, Romana, is the source. I am but one of its many bearers. You, Thoren, are the last and maybe the final bearer of the bloodline. Is it your will that it be so?"

"NO! Apparition, it is not my will," protested Thoren. "I.. I am frightened, that is all."

"It's to be expected. When I fought to save my Apolita on the Isle of Celtia, I was frightened too."


"Yes, Thoren. On Celtia... Is Lysette well?"

"Uh, yes... I believe so."

"Thoren, are you so sure. If you flee who will protect her. Who will become her consort. Not you I expect. I like her, Thoren."

"I love her," said Thoren, never expecting to utter these words and admit to such a thing.

"Then fight for her Thoren; fight for your mother and your sisters; fight to carry on the bloodline you were born into. You are the only one left who can."

Thoren understood. The shivering stopped. The fear abated. But still the warrior wondered. "Who are you? I must know."

"The husband of the woman of Celtia named Apolita. I am Civis Romanus and you are my descendant. Now go, Thoren... Be brave, be strong." It was then the winged man uttered the only words he would speak. "And have Faith, Thoren of Torvald." Then both apparitions faded away.

Thoren rose, unsheathed his sword with his right hand and seized his bow and quiver with his left. He walked forward and prepared to meet the Mist Troll. Then his mind cleared and he awoke to the chill dawn of another day. This would be the day of The Challenge. The Norseman was prepared and committed. "As you command, Civis of Rome," he said in a whisper to himself.

The minstrel saw him rise and make preparations. You are free of their Spell of Debillitating Fear, the minstrel thought. Go now, and have Faith. We will be there with you.

Civis Romanus
posted 06-26-00 21:18 ET (US)     117 / 150       
Thoren extracted himself from Lysette's desperate embrace. He looked into her eyes, then he said. "Lysette of man and elves, when this is over you will be my bride and then my consort. I make my vow to you this day. Will you accept?"

Surprise and shock crossed Lysette's face. She knew this was what she wanted most of all, but she never expected it to happen now and under these circumstances. She stammered out an answer tinged with joy and melancholy. "Y,y,yes, Thoren. I accept. But come back to me, Thoren of Torvald, alive and well. If you truly love me, come back just as you are now!"

"I will try, Lysette. I will surely try."

Thoren mounted Vorth and rode out of the camp accompanied by the remainder of his cavalry. So preoccupied with his pending battle with Morded's champion, he didn't notice that Wendolin and Eme-Redser were missing among them. The others among the companions hadn't bothered to tell him for a number of reasons. Primarily because they didn't want him to know about the help they were planning to render.

Even now Eme-Redser and Wendolin were approaching the guarded gate of Torvgold as part of a plan hatched among themselves with the minstrel's participation. The two women, one human one elven, were to enter the city, locate Thoren's mother and two sisters, and do what they could to set them free. What other help they could provide would be determined on the spot.

The guards challenged them immediately upon their appearing at the gate. "Your purpose wenches!" called out one of them.

"To see The Challenge resolved, of course. All of the countryside knows about it." Eme-Redser, disguised as an old farm woman, manufactured a cackle that rankled the spine of the guards. "Did you think it could remain a secret?" she added. Requests to see the conduct of The Challenge could not be refused.

"Let them pass..." the guard said to the gatemen, and to his companion, " quickly as possible before my senses are assaulted any further."

Eme-Redser and Wendolin entered the city of Torvgold intent on their mission. Meanwhile, the minstrel provided what comfort he could to Lysette while Benson led the rest on the other facets of the companions' plan.

The gnome stayed by the minstrel's side. Gurri's mind was troubled about this Norse Lodge Leader. Maybe my people are wrong about him. This elf/human woman has pledged herself to him and the Elven Queen speaks highly of him. Elves seldom trust unless they are sure. It seems only we gnomes are unsure, not the others. Could we be mistaken?

Gurri steeled himself to participate in their plan to the extent a gnome possibly could. The minstrel looked kindly upon the gnome as if sensing his thoughts, and smiled at Gurri. Then the minstrel turned his attention to Lysette and Benson.

Civis Romanus
posted 06-26-00 21:20 ET (US)     118 / 150       
Wendi: I seem to be having trouble opening the map through the link in the header. Is it me or is there something wrong with the link? Please check it out when you can. - Civis
Eminence Grise
posted 06-27-00 06:11 ET (US)     119 / 150       
"What is going to happen?" Lysette asked, tears brimming in her eyes.
"Thoren will ride to Torvgold and call out his challenge. Morded will accept have his troll do the fighting. Thoren will fight...and die..."
Lysette gasped
"...unless we can even the fight.
We are not allowed to actively partake in this mortal combat, but there are a few other things we can do."

"What can we do?" Benson asked.
"First of all we should mount and ride for the city. The Challenge should start at noon on the Thing Field, underneath the Sacred Oak. Once there Lysette needs to be where Thoren can see her, as her presence will lend him courage beyond his normal strength.
Benson, you should be ready to halt any interference Morded or his mother should call on."

"But she's a witch, " Benson blanched.
The minstrel turned and his eyes glowed,
"Do not fear her magic, for it will not touch you."
His slender hand reached out and the three center fingers softly touched the Wanderer's forehead. As Jayhawk removed his hand Benson could still feel the touch, tickling his skin as an approaching storm would, yet he felt a calm and peace of mind he hadn't felt before.
He nodded to the tall minstrel and spoke.
"My arms are yours to guide."

Then the minstrel turned to Gurri and sank into a squat, his eyes level with the little gnome's.
"Gurri, it seems faith has delt you the hardest task."
Gurri swallowed hard.
"Blessed One?"
Jayhawk laid his hands on the gnome's shoulders.
"Trolls have hunted your kind as long as either race's memory goes back. They've maimed and killed your kind without mercy. If you come with us and the troll sees you, his hatred might over come the spell ties that bind him. Your presence should provoke him enough to break of the Challenge and give chase, Morded would have to forfeit the throne.
Will you come with us and see justice done?"

Gurri's dark eyes lost themselves in the minstrel's sea-green gaze.
He nodded once, then whispered.
"I will not fail you, Blessed One."
Jayhawk smiled.
"Your heart is big a a mountain, Gurri."

posted 06-27-00 11:45 ET (US)     120 / 150       
Before she and Wendolin left, Eme-Redser had come up to the group from where she had been sitting by the fire.

"Here, drink this before we go....." she said. "It will give you strength, and a measure of resistance to magic. And, Lysette, be sure that Thoren has some, there is a goblet for him here, keep it safe."

She had handed each of them a goblet full of a slightly purple fluid, handing Lysette two of them.

Each of them had drunk deeply of the potion, knowing that Eme-Redser was full of surprises.

After drinking, they had all felt a slight tingling, and a wonderful sense of well-being.

"It is all I can do at the moment, but I am sure that I can come up with something else once we get there and I can see what is going to happen," the Elven Queen said, as she mounted R'edaine, and she and Wendolin left......

[This message has been edited by MRed94 (edited 06-28-2000).]

[This message has been edited by MRed94 (edited 06-28-2000).]

Civis Romanus
posted 06-27-00 12:07 ET (US)     121 / 150       
Thoren trotted his horse out of the edge of the copse of trees before the Thing Field. In the center of the field stood the Sacred Oak, a symbol and place of high importance and much ceremony for the people of Torvald.

Druidic influence still affected the beliefs of these people, eventhough a new faith in their western world was beginning to make itself known. The Sacred Oak was reverred for its ties to the old faith. The occasional appearance of two pieces of wood, the shorter piece crossed near the top of the longer piece gave evidence of the growth of new ties to a new faith.

'Have Faith' the winged one said, thought Thoren. Faith in what, wondered the Norseman. Faith in himself, in the Druids, in the 'Cross' or in something else? Right now his faith was placed in his sword, his bow and quiver and in his knife. Against the troll, these might prove to be poor talismans. Civis, I will try, but I would rather face a dozen Zordemons than this troll. Thoren sighed even as he raised his hand to signal the others to stop. "We rest here until the contest," Thoren said to the others.

Already, a few of the commoners among the Norse were beginning to gather near and around Thing Field to view the outcome of The Challenge.

Civis Romanus
posted 06-27-00 12:12 ET (US)     122 / 150       
Oooops, MRed94. Continuity error. Unknown to Thoren, Eme-Redser is in Torvgold with Wendolin trying to find out where Thoren's mother and sisters are being held. Try retelling the 'goblet' scene in retrospective via a post edit.
posted 06-28-00 01:16 ET (US)     123 / 150       
Oh, duh...told you I was brain dead.....attempted fix....might just work....
Civis Romanus
posted 06-28-00 15:55 ET (US)     124 / 150       
Good recovery, MRed. Easy to work with the change so no harm done. Wendoolicus: Thanks for fixing the map. I refer to it fairly often because my memory is either overtaxed, under capacity or simply dysfunctional from time to time. The map is extremely helpful when... when... See, I already forgot what I was going to say.


Lysette carried the flask under her cloak and felt for it now and then to be sure it was safe from the jostling it was taking as her chestnut mare, Leeta, bore her to Thing Field.
In the flask was Thoren's portion of the purple liquid left for him by Eme-Redser. He had been in restless sleep when the liquid was distributed and so had not yet received his draught. In Lysette's saddle pouch she carried the goblet into which she would pour the liquid for Thoren to drink before he undertook The Challenge.

The Minstrel, Lysette, Benson and the others had departed the camp later than Thoren and so were farther behind the path to the field. There had been much to do that could only be done once Thoren and the Norse had left. This indeed delayed their departure; but so far, it appeared time would be sufficient so that they would arrive at the field before The Challenge would begin.

Their confidence remained strong... until they met the troop of Norse cavalry on the very same path they were travelling. These were not the same men who spent the evening with them last night. The companions' fears were confirmed when the Norse drew their swords and prepared to attack. The symbol of the Skewered Boar on their vests confirmed these were men of Morded and not of the Lodge of Torvald.

Meanwhile, in Torvgold, Eme-Redser and Wendolin continued their search for the mother and two sisters of Thoren...

posted 06-28-00 17:55 ET (US)     125 / 150       
Great story guys I can't wait to hear how the Challenge will end. Makes me think of some good D&D sessions that I've had the pleasure of being involved in
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