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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 06-29-00 00:48 ET (US)     126 / 150       
After sharing a quick laugh about the disguises they were wearing, they stopped at the main square. There in the village, Eme-Redser and Wendolin conferred to see what they should do first......

"I think I will go and visit the marketplace, I might just be able to find some answers there," the Elven Queen said.

"Good idea," replied Wendolin. "I was thinking about going into a pub to see what I could find out there."

They whisphered to one another for a few more minutes, firming up plans to meet after their excursions, and then turned and went their separate ways.

They had both stopped just before the village, and changed into what Thoren had told them was more the style of dress that they would find in the village. Now they were virtually indistinguishable from the rest of the villagers.....

[This message has been edited by MRed94 (edited 06-29-2000).]

Eminence Grise
posted 06-29-00 07:00 ET (US)     127 / 150       
Benson's hands went for his bow as the Norse cavalry charged. With twenty warriors on the Norse side he did not have much hope, but was prepared to fight and go down fighting. Jayhawk leaned over and stayed his hand.
"I think there's a better way, young Benson."

Jayhawk nudged Aran and rode a horse's length forward then halted. He raised both hands, palms outward and then his trained voice rang through the forest.
"Yield! Men of Morded, yield or face the consequences."

Somewhat stupified the horsemen drew to a halt several yards from the minstrel. The trees next to the road were tall and dark and eerily silent.

The Norse looked around in confusion, some cursed, then their leader snarled:
"Just who do you think you are, that you can command the Lodge of Morveld to yield?"

Jayhawk didn't answer. The tall minstrel seemed concentrated on the forest. Gurri edged his horse closer to Lysette's and whispered.
"Something's coming...I can feel it."

"By Loki and the Utgard jotün, why are you men standing there? There's only three of them and a runt. Only the green looking kid's armed.
By the Worldtree, you idjits, why don't you kill them?"

A shadow seemed to sweep forward from where the minstrel stood, all limbs and tangles. The forest seemed to move as a shape appeaered to his left. Tall as a tree and tree slender, it's skin was white and patchy with black strips, black twiggy tangles formed something like hair above a face with liquid black eyes. The arms divided into branches and more branches until the tiniest twigs dragged the ground.

A darker shape appeared on his other side, taller and wider, covered with moss and pine needle hair.

"Tree guardians..."
The Norse troop mumbled as the two creatures moved forward with a long legged gait. A raven landed on one of the leshy, a second one sought out the other leshy.
"Odin!" one of the guardsmen shouted. He wheeled his horse around and fled back the road from where he'd come.

A scream sounded and was cut off seconds after he roudned a bend in the road.

Their leader tried to rally his men and shouted.
"It's an illusions you pig-begotten fools! Can't you see?"
He raised his swords and charged towards the minstrel followed by one or two of his men. As he reached the birch spirit it's hands moved outward and picked the hapless captain from his sadle, the tendrils bored through chinks in the mans armour. Then the man emitted a high-pitched scream and started trashing in the spirit's embrace. A second rider was caught in a swipe from the pinespirit and crashed into a tree. The other man hesitated and turned, then fell forwards one of Benson's arrows sticking out between his shoulder blades. The captain's screams broke of suddenly and the leshy dropped the lifeless husk on the ground.

Lysette shivered as the creatures moved inexorably forward. The death of their leader had broken the Norse moral and as one the turned and fled. Another few fell to arrows fired by the wanderer then they were gone.

The taller spirit turned and flowed towards the minstrel, it's voice sounded like a breeze rippling through the forest.
Jayhawk bowed his head in greeting and spoke:
"Our thanks go with you, Guardian."
"These treekillers will not go far, " the leshy sighed, "they burned the forests to the North and killed our brothers. They violated the Pact...
Vengeance was sweet!"
Then it looked at Lysette and continued.
"Tell your man, the Pact still stands. Tell him he'll leave us our forest if he knows what's good for him."

The leshy looked up and seemed to sniff the wind. Then it moved of and moments later it had disappeared into the depths of the forest.
As the companions looked round they noticed they other leshy had disappeared as well.

"Come, " Jayhawk spoke as he nudged his horse into a canter,
"we still have miles to go."

Civis Romanus
posted 06-29-00 16:00 ET (US)     128 / 150       
Ragnar rode up to Thoren at the site where he and the Norse cavalry had set up their camp on the western edge of the Thing Field. Across the field they could see in the distance the walls of Torvgold. To the right near the Field's southern edge stood the sacred tree.

Ragnar dismounted and walked through the camp looking for Thoren. He found him sitting near the grazing Vorth sharpening his sword blade's edges. "Thoren, I have delivered the Challenge. It has been accepted." Ragnar paused not wanting to give Thoren the bad news. "Are you... are aware you will fight a champion of Morded? And do you know it will be a troll?"

"Yes, Ragnar. So I've been told," replied Thoren, continuing to stroke the edge of each side of his sword with the oilstone.

"May Odin guide your hand and protect you, Thoren."

"Thank you, Ragnar. I hope it will be so."


The time for the Challenge arrived on the swiftest of wings. Norse from the city and field lined the edges of the field to see the Challenge executed. Many brought beverages and food items to relieve thirst and hunger. These ordeals were few and far between, but had a history of long, drawn out confrontations. In the early stages, the opponents would often confront each other without lifting weapons to see if pure intimidation might carry the day. (What better way to incur no damage on oneself and see the entire family of the other eliminated from contention by execution.)

All knew Thoren faced a troll. Expectations among them of a long day's conflict were few; but most expected the agile Norse warrior to entertain them for enough time to make the drink and food well worth the bringing.

The High Priest of the Druids would be the judge and moderator. He would decide winner, loser and enforce the rules of the Challenge. He would decide when confrontation would begin, pause or would cease. Pause? Yes, The Challenge permitted pause. Either contestant could petition for a brief pause if not engaged in direct combat. However, during a pause, neither individual could pass the perimeter of the Thing Field at risk of being declared in violation of The Challenge with all of its resulting penalties to the family of the faulted combatant.

These were the rules of The Challenge which the people relearned for the occasion and Thoren repeated in his mind until he was sure he understood them instinctively. Beyond these, there were no other rules, and therein is where the gravest danger to either opponent lay; for in the history of The Challenge, more battles were won through guile than with the final stroke of a sword or stab of a knife. Indeed, the sword stroke or stab that dispatched the loser was usually anticlimactic to the struggle that preceeded it.

Thoren knew it would be a struggle to the bitter end for him to survive. No Norse had ever faced a champion such as a troll in the course of the Challenge. No Norse, including Thoren, knew what to expect from the vile creature.

He had no more time to ponder the alternatives, for the gates of the city opened wide and Norse Cavalry wearing the symbol of the Skewered Boar escorted Morded, his mother and the terrifying figure of the troll, himself, towards the eastern edge of the Thing Field. The High Priest had already arrived and even now was observing the activity from under the broadest branch of the Sacred Oak.

The minstrel and the others hurried their horses forward. The incident with Morded's cavalry had cost them precious time. And Eme-Redser and Wendolin did their very best to discover the whereabouts of Thoren's mother and sisters before it was too late.

posted 06-30-00 01:00 ET (US)     129 / 150       
Eme-Redser and Wendolin had spent hours in their chosen places, watching, listening, and asking simple questions of the inhabitants of the market and the pub.

Eme-Redser had found that all of the women were held in different places, making it so much harder to attempt a rescue.

Thoren's sister Magdala (the oldest of the two) was held in the keep dungeon, and guarded heavily. His other sister Maryana was held in the farthest of the far homes, in a safe room that was virtually impossible to get into without a key of some sort, that the master of the home carried on his person at all times.

Thoren's mother, Marenya, had been taken to another village not too distant, but far enough away to make rescue difficult.

Eme-Redser and Wendolin met up at their designated place and time, and compared notes.

They knew it was going to be a very hard task to rescue all of the women, and they knew they couldn't do it alone........

[This message has been edited by MRed94 (edited 06-30-2000).]

Civis Romanus
posted 06-30-00 21:02 ET (US)     130 / 150       
It seems so appropriate that my next (and some would say milestone) post should be a reflection of my first ever post to CAESAR III HEAVEN. You see, I started my time here with an episode in a story and now, with 999 posts to my name, the next is an episode in a story as well. To those who read these stories others and I write - Thank You! We all hope you enjoy reading them as much as we enjoy writing them.



Thoren's Norse cavalrymen brought his weapons to the western edge of Thing Field. They consisted of his heavy two-hand sword, battle axe, bow and quiver of arrows, hunting knife and a curious little object looking like a leather scrap and strings with a filled leather bag one could hold in his hand. These were the weapons with which he was most skilled. One other weapon was added, a weapon with a handle and chain and hanging from the chain a studded iron ball. For defense Thoren wore chain mail over his usual heavy leather belted chest covering; an iron helmet that covered his head and most of his face, but not his eyes, and plumed with gaudy colored feathers for distraction; and he carried a round leather covered wood shield. He could use any of these weapons at any time. His opponent could pick them up and use them only if Thoren first handled them in battle.

For the troll the rules on weapons were the same, but his weapons were different. The men of the Skewered Boar laid the troll's weapons on the ground on the eastern edge of the field. The troll chose to fight with a mace, a knife, a thick wooden club and a massive two-hand broadsword. He wore thick metal plates on his chest and back over chain mail that hung to his knees. His helmet of metal cupped his head and a thick, wide metal strip extended downwards from the helmet guarding the more vulnerable areas on and around his nose. The troll also carried a round shield fashioned in the same manner as Thoren's, only much larger in diameter.

The sun finished its climb into the sky over Torvald. Now at zenith, it became the signal for the Challenge to begin. The High Priest called the combatants together. They walked towards the Sacred Oak along their respective perimeters thus ensuring neither one would be close enought to take advantage of the opportunity and inflict "accidental" damage on the other. Thoren glanced around the area as he walked. Where was Lysette? Where was Jayhawk? Where was Benson? Where were his "friends"?

"Thoren of Torvald," began the High Priest. "You have issued The Challenge to Morded. Do you still persist in issuing The Challenge?" Everyone knew the answer, but the proprieties must be observed. If Thoren withdrew from the Challenge, he and his family would be executed. "I maintain the Challenge," responded Thoren in as bold a voice as he could muster. The majority of the onlookers erupted into boisterous cheering. It appeared this pleased them in great measure. Thoren wasn't sure why at that moment.

"Morded of Grimhold, you have been issued The Challenge. Do you accept?" Morded's confident answer came immediately. "I accept and name the troll, Gristle to be my champion." The men of the Skewered Boar cheered, but few others joined in. This disturbed Morded and Ragnhild, but they succesfully hid this from all of the Norse around them.

The High Priest addressed the troll. "Gristle, do you serve as champion of Morded?" From somewhere deep within the over eight foot troll the answer came in an ear deafening, gut wrenching rumble... "IIII DOOOOO..."

"Then you both shall now select your weapons and The Challenge shall commence!"

Thoren turned and immediately jogged back to his cache of weapons and selected his hunting knife (which he buried in his leather vest through a slit in his chain mail) and his bow and quiver of arrows. The troll confidently strolled back to the eastern edge and picked up his club.

Then both turned to face each other as The Challenge commenced.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 07-01-2000).]

posted 07-01-00 01:01 ET (US)     131 / 150       
Way to go, Civis! And the stories just keep getting better, even without my help.... Keep em coming!

Eme-Redser, meanwhile, had formulated some plans...

Wendolin was to go to the place where Thoren's mother was being held, and attempt to rescue her. Wendolin had found someone to help her, and they were on their way.

Eme-Redser, calling on her knowledge of dark and damp places, had cast a few spells and was making her way to the dungeon of the keep, intent on rescueing Magdala....

On the way to the dungeon, she had not been accosted by any of the guards that she was certain were stationed throughout the keep. She was aware that the Challenge had started, and that most of the people were gathered around the windows that faced the Thing field, and that most of their concentration was focused there.

She kept a few tricks up her sleeve, so to speak, nevertheless, and was constantly on guard for danger......

Meanwhile, Wendolin was approaching the house where Maryena was held...........

[This message has been edited by MRed94 (edited 07-01-2000).]

Civis Romanus
posted 07-01-00 14:44 ET (US)     132 / 150       
Thanks MRed, but what truly makes them better IS your help. BTW, I fixed some continuity errors of my own in post 1,000. I got the troll's name right this time. Well, here we go...

The excitement in the crowd climbed with each deliberate step the combatants took towards each other. The strategies of each became very apparent to the onlookers. The huge, lumbering troll was equipped to fight close in where his brute strength would take its toll on the smaller man. Thoren's strategy was to avoid hand-to-hand battle, wear his bigger opponent's endurance down and then strike from afar, or so the Norse thought. But the gathered Norse were in for a big surprise. To the bewilderment of all, including the troll, Thoren merely sat down on the field, put his chin in his hands and stared at the dumbfounded creature opposing him. Then Thoren spoke in a loud voice so the troll could hear across the distance between them.

"Gristle, why are you doing that little man's fighting for him? What do you hope to gain?"

The troll who had stopped moving towards Thoren replied, "I am a warrior among my people."

"No doubt, and a great warrior I surmise."

The troll beamed at the complement, but continued. "That is so, Norseman."

"So why are you not among your people right now where you will be showered with respect and honor."

"I have been called," answered the troll.

"By whom?" asked Thoren.

"I don't know, but I have been called."

"I see no other troll here; who calls you?" persisted Thoren.

Almost by unthinking habit, Gristle began to look around him to see who it might be who calls him to this duty. Thoren watch the troll swivvle his huge, ugly face left, then right. Forward, then behind. In the split second the troll looked behind himself, Thoren grabbed for his bow, snatched an arrow from his quiver and let it fly at the troll. It struck home.................................
but in striking the troll the arrow found the creature's breastplate too thick, resounded with a clang and fell to the earth at the creature's feet. Stupidly, the troll stared at Thoren, looked down and saw the arrow on the ground. Ponderously he crouched down with his shield in front of him, layed down his club, picked up the arrow, looked at its pointed end and snapped the shaft in two with one hand. He threw the useless missle onto the ground and picked up his club once more.

The expression on the troll's face changed from passive interest to cruel intentions. He had nearly been duped by this peanut of a man, and his anger grew the more he thought about it. Nonetheless, deep in the recesses of his dull, black mind a thought had been planted. Tell me someone, the thought itched and irritated, tell me why I am here.

But the troll's body was intent on action and the creature advanced on Thoren without further hesitation. The Norseman leapt to his feet and unleashed a flurry of feathered missles at the advancing troll. Thoren's aim was as true as ever and all of them struck the huge creature. Some struck his breastplate once more, others the top of his helmet; most stuck in the troll's shield that he held in front for protection. Every arrow in reach the troll destroyed as he advanced making them unusable ever again.

Thoren reached into his quiver once more... no more arrows. He cast his bow to the ground and prepared to retreat. Too late... Gristle stepped up the pace of his walk into a lumbering jog and managed to place himself between Thoren and his weapons. The troll closed the distance quickly for being so big.

Thoren struggled to dodge the ponderous club as swing after swing whoooshed overhead and near his body causing air blasts to hit him after each miss of the great wooden club. THOR'S FURNACE! So much for guile thought the beleagered Norseman.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 07-01-2000).]

posted 07-01-00 16:02 ET (US)     133 / 150       
Just a bit of poetic license taken here by the author of this particular piece of the story...

Eme-Redser, hearing the shouts of dismay coming from the Thing field, hurried to a nearby window. There she saw the helplessness of Thoren, he being prevented from reaching his weapons by the huge troll.

She stood still, and started to concentrate with all her being.

All of a sudden Thoren felt a weight on his back, and turning his head for a second, noticed feathered shafts sticking out of the quiver on his back..........

Eme-Redser smiled to herself, knowing that she had evened the battle between the combatants, at least for now.........

She turned once more, and hurried on her way....

[This message has been edited by MRed94 (edited 07-01-2000).]

Civis Romanus
posted 07-03-00 21:10 ET (US)     134 / 150       
Suddenly, the quiver of arrows became heavier on Thoren's shoulder. He ducked once more as a great piece of knobby lumber flew by over his head. Gristle's swing was the most vigorous so far, even if poorly aimed. The troll swung the club so hard he nearly spun full circle. This gave Thoren an opportunity to put a few steps in between himself and the troll.

As he ran he put his hand in his quiver just because he felt weight where there had been none moments before. He touched the feathered end of what felt like another dozen arrows. Surprised, he stopped and looked around. Nobody. Who could have resupplied his quiver?

He didn't have time to consider it further as he could feel as well as hear Gristle's lumbering steps approaching. Out of the corner of his eye he saw two stones on the ground. These stones were irregular, the size of oranges and populated with sharp, pointed outcroppings. Thoren turned then crouched. With each free hand he picked up one stone.

On came Gristle. The troll's club was poised for yet another swing. And this time his target made no effort to get away! Gristle sensed his victory was near. He lifted his club only to see Thoren suddenly hurl two objects at Gristle's open sandaled feet. Direct hits!

The trolls eyes opened wide with the rush of excruciating pain. The club coursed downwards, but in his shock the troll failed to guide it correctly and smashed its broad end into his own shins. A great bellow erupted and travelled in all directions at once. The troll's eyes clouded over momentarily and he dropped the club onto the ground of the Thing Field, then he himself sat down hard on the ground. As he sat there he noticed little silvery things floating before his eyes then disappearing. In a very short time they were completely gone, but the pain persisted.

Thoren wasted no time. He grabbed the troll's club and attempted to swing it at Gristle. It was too heavy for Thoren to swing. He immediately decided to simply remove it from the contest. He raced for the western edge of the field dragging the club behind him. At the western edge he mustered up all of the strength he had and heaved the club outside of the boundaries of the field. Now the troll could not retreive his club, for leaving the Thing Field at any time was considered a concession of defeat.

For the first time in the contest, with no combat underway, one of the combatants called for a pause. "PAAAUUUSSSSSE" the voice of Gristle could be heard rumbling out its request. The Norse erupted into cheers. Any request for pause signaled one combatant had suffered more than the other. That it was Gristle who requested pause was as much a surprise as a relief to the gathered towns and country folk. Thoren took note of the request and looked to the Druid under the Sacred Oak. "Pause is requested and pause is granted for a count of 100... One... Two..."

Thoren ran towards his discarded bow and carried it back to his weapons cache. Now he set his mind to devising the next part of his battle strategy and selecting a weapon to serve its purpose.

In the distance, riders spurred their horses over a shallow hill and headed straight for Thing Field. Among the riders were two women, one much younger than the other; a warrior holding a panther cub; and a tall, slender man riding the largest horse among them all.

"Ninety-Nine... One Hundred. The Challenge resumes," called out the Druid High Priest.

Thoren grabbed the chained weapon with the studded iron ball at the end. He would gamble, thought Thoren. He hoped he would not be gambling foolishly.

Gristle, with a noticeable limp, re-entered the field carrying his mace. There was a look of murder in his eyes.

The Challenge began again.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 07-03-2000).]

posted 07-03-00 23:58 ET (US)     135 / 150       
As the roar from the crowd permeated the keep, Eme-Redser recognized the accent as coming from the Norse that she was familiar with.

She smiled to herself, and hurried on.

She came to a door set into the wall, almost hidden behind a great statue of a horse set in the hallway.

She looked round her, to make sure that she was still undetected. As no-one was paying any attention to the ugly old woman that she had become, she was safe to venture farther on.

She felt all around the edges of the door, trying to determine exactly how the door opened. Suddenly, she felt a small draft of cooler air against her fingertips.

She smiled again.

Reaching into a small pocket on the side of her ever-present carrier, she drew forth a slender rod of the finest steel ever seen.

Taking the rod in her left hand, and reaching with her right hand into yet another pocket, she drew out a small vial of what appeared to be water......

Taking the cork out of the bottle with her teeth, she tipped the vial out over the end of the rod, and a fine clear oil came out.

She ran the oil along the length of the rod, and inserting the rod into the small crevice she had found, she slid the rod along the edge of the door.

Civis Romanus
posted 07-04-00 12:26 ET (US)     136 / 150       
Will this work? Thoren wasn't sure. His successful rock throw at Gristle had accomplished two things: It slowed the lumbering giant down even further; it made Gristle angrier than an ankle-trapped bear.

Gristle had his mace at the ready. Thoren's weapon with its handle and chain could reach farther, but demanded more careful use as the direction the studded iron ball would fly was sometimes unpredictable. Both he and Gristle had their shields in hand.

They closed. Just as before Gristle's mace moved volumes of air over and around the agile Norse prince. However, Gristle's swings were not as vigorous as before. Tiredness? Was the giant tiring of chasing Thoren and swinging first the heavy club and now the dead weight of the iron mace. Thoren made a mental note of these observations.

A stone! Thoren's right foot found the smooth round stone even as his battle sense said, "Avoid it!" Too late. His sandaled foot lost traction and his right leg slid out from under him. Gristle was on him in a blaze of fury bringing his mace down with all of a troll's might. The weapon smashed into Thoren's shield, raised immediately to protect his vulnerable body.

Splinters flew in all directions. Stout as the oaken shield was, it could not weather the hammering blows indefinitely. Cracks appeared in the shield side facing Thoren. Each blow drove the shield against the Norsemans arm and body. Thoren knew these would be bruises. He hoped he would live to see them heal.

One final blow shattered the shield into a dozen shards of wood and ripped leather. Gristle raised his mace to deliver the first of what he expected to be several mortal blows. The crowd held its breath as the mace rose high above the giant's head.

posted 07-04-00 17:36 ET (US)     137 / 150       
Eme-Redser continued to slide the rod along the edge of the door..

Suddenly, she felt, rather than heard, a small click. She slid the rod just a bit farther, and the small click became slightly larger. Then the lock that held the door gave way, and the door swung inward on noiseless hinges.....

Beyond the door was darkness, and no sound issued from the opening.

She stood there for a few minutes, waiting for whatever might happen...............

Meanwhile, at the farthest house, Wendolin had succeeded in finding the room where Thoren's mother was held.

She peered into the window cut in the door, and saw Maryena sitting on a stool in front of the fireplace, crying as if her heart would break.

"Maryena?" Wendolin whisphered.

When she received no answer, she called just a bit louder.

Maryena jumped as if she had been badly frightened, and looked wildly around her. She finally noticed Wendolin's face peering at her from the window, and came running to the door.

"Who are you, and what do you want?" Maryena demanded breathlessly.

"I am Wendolin, come from Thoren to rescue you." Wendolin didn't want to waste the time explaining things, she just wanted to get Maryena out of there, and away from the house.

"How do I open the door?" Wendolin wanted to know.

"I think there is only the one key, and the Master of the house wears it on a chain about his waist." Maryena was looking around her fearfully, expecting to see guards at any moment.

"Don't worry, we are alone in this house, and most likely will be for quite a while." Wendolin smiled encouragingly at Maryena, knowing that she had taken care of the guards, and that they would sleep for a long time to come...........

[This message has been edited by MRed94 (edited 07-04-2000).]

[This message has been edited by MRed94 (edited 07-04-2000).]

Civis Romanus
posted 07-04-00 21:45 ET (US)     138 / 150       
The mace began its downward stroke heading straight for the shieldless Norseman. At nearly the last minute Thoren swung his weapon and saw its chain wrap itself around the approaching mace. The impact of the studded iron ball on the head of the mace diverted the weapon into the ground inches from Thoren's head.

Gristle tugged sharply on his mace ripping Thoren's weapon from his hand. The troll stopped his assault to disentangle
the chain weapon from his mace. Thoren saw his opportunity and jumped to his feet then ran in the direction of his cache of weapons. Gristle, meanwhile, had separated Thoren's weapon from his. The troll hurled his mace at Thoren.

The weapon struck Thoren a glancing blow on his lower left side. Though not struck by the weapon fully in the back, nonetheless, Thoren was knocked forward and felt the mace tear at his chain mail and leather protection. He did not know what damage it wrought, but expected the worse as he lay on the ground, dirt in his face. Gristle was on him immediately, Thoren's weapon raised to deliver a blow.

A hunting knife with runic markings suddenly appeared in Thoren's hand. The Norseman rolled on his damaged side ignoring the pain and struck at the troll's outer left calf below the chain mail. The knife penetrated to the hilt in the fleshy part of the troll's calf.

Gristle staggered back swimming in pain once more. This ripped the knife from Thoren's grip. Gristle dropped Thoren's captured weapon and reached down with both hands to pull the knife out. Thoren gained his feet, somewhat more unsteady than before. He disregarded the sensation of something sticky at the point the mace struck him and instead found his abandoned chained weapon. He raised it and brought it down with all of his might on the downed troll.

This time the ripping of leather covering and flying splinters of wood came from the troll's shield. Just as Thoren's shield had shattered, so now Gristle's shield shattered; but the more sluggish troll couldn't ward off the blows on his armor as easily as Thoren earlier dodged the troll's swinging mace. Blow after blow rained down on
the troll. Smooth fitting armor now looked cupped and torn. Here and there holes had been poked in the thick metal of the breastplate. Drops of blood began to trickle down the armor.

Thoren changed his attack by striking at the troll's shoulder armor. The studded ball on the end of the chain bruised here more than penetrated the armor. Thoren hoped this would drain the power out of the troll's muscular arms and shoulders. It would have... except Thoren made the mistake of getting too close on one of his swings.

Gristle raised his good leg and caught Thoren in the midsection sending the Norseman sprawling backwards. The beleagered troll was now able to struggle to his feet. He reached behind himself and drew out his two-handed sword. Limping badly, blood flowing as a rivulet from the stab wound in his calf, he closed the distance between himself and the sprawled Norseman.

Thoren gained his feet in time to see the sword swing aimed at his midsection. He stepped backwards to avoid the swing, but not far enough. The sword crossed at his chest, tore at the chain mail he wore and there the point of the sword ripped a cut across his leather armor and into the flesh of his chest. The burning sensation of the cut was almost intollerable. He felt something moist begin to run down the outer skin of his stomach and pool in his leather armor above the waist.

Now Thoren's tactics of striking the giant's shoulders began to pay off. As strong as he was, loss of blood and pummeling of shoulder and arm muscles made it impossible for Gristle to swing the sword without limitation. He brought the sword up for another blow, but under its weight he staggered backwards. Then still holding the sword in both hands, the panting troll put the sword point down into the dirt of the field and leaned into it for support. Thoren rose to his feet thinking to end the contest there and then, but as he rose he felt the earth move under his feet and the sky begin to spin. His vision narrowed and blurred. He knew the signs of helplessness beginning to take over his body and knew what he must do. "PAUSE!" he called out, and pause was granted. The gathered Norse observed in puzzled silence as Thoren staggered over to the western edge of the field and though the sky's spinning seemed to increase and dizziness to hold sway, he hardly noticed when he stumbled and fell into the waiting arms of

He remained in the field as Lysette brought a goblet of purple liquid to his mouth and he drank its full measure. Strength returned in relentless waves. He looked deeply into her eyes but said nothing. He looked beyond her and saw the minstrel, Benson and Gillandra. They were here, at last. It is time to end this, he thought. One way or another, it is time to end this. He wearily rose to his feet and walked towards his cache of weapons. This time he selected the leather stringed object and small leather pouch, nothing else, just these objects.

Gristle had wrapped his damaged calf in cloth to close the wound and stop the bleeding. He too had taken draughts of the water lying in a cannister by his weapons. These things were permitted, so long as they were on the field with each cache of weapons. He turned holding his hunting knife in his hand. No stand-off fighting for him anymore. He would end the contest now with one swipe of his knife across the Norseman's throat.

The pause ended and the Challenge began again.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 07-05-2000).]

Civis Romanus
posted 07-05-00 16:08 ET (US)     139 / 150       
The thought placed in the troll's mind early in the contest by Thoren continued to knaw at Gristle like a persistent rodent trying to find its way out of a wooden trap. "Why am I doing this" the nibbling thought seemed to be saying. So it was with diminished interest and diminished ability that Gristle re-entered The Challenge to face Thoren.

Refreshed by the elixir and carrying no heavy weapons, Thoren's remaining strength was sufficient to make best use
of the small, very light weapon he now carried in his hand. He appraised the state of the much wounded troll and judged that the creature remained formidable indeed, even if nothing as formidable as when the contest began.

The High Priest called out once more, "BEGIN!" The troll began a limping advance on his smaller antagonist. Then suddenly, the troll stopped and looked around heedless of Thoren standing not far away. The troll bellowed at the top of his prodigious lungs, "WHY AM I HERRRRRE? WHY DO I FIGHT THIS MAN?"

Morded's face turned pale and looks of fear and uncertainty crossed the face of his mother. No, she thought, the spell is breaking down. It musn't be. She closed her eyes and began to recite the ancient words. Thoren watched as the troll suddenly stiffened and turned back to face him, its eyes glazed over and looking more through him than at him.

Now, he realized, the time is now. The troll began to walk towards Thoren dragging his injured leg along the ground, his hunter's knife in his right hand. Thoren opened the small bag and drew out three cast lead balls each the size of walnuts. He placed one in the leather pouch of his weapon then swung the pouch around his head by the strings. With a quick release of his hand the pouch opened and permitted the lead ball to escape. It travelled at tremendous velocity and slammed into the left shoulder of the troll.

Gristle staggered back under the impact, felt for the wound but found only a hole in his armor where the ball had penetrated. His left shoulder was dead. A second ball slammed into his chest. He felt two ribs break underneath what again was a hole in his breastplate and chain mail armor. Then, dazed, the troll looked up just in time to see the grey blur of a third ball just before it crashed itself against the helmet covering his forehead. Gristle saw an explosion of light before his eyes, then darkness.

Thoren saw the third ball strike home where the other two had missed. He then watched the troll's eyes roll back into his head and the greater than 8 foot body fall backwards onto the dirt of the field. He raced to the fallen troll and grabbed the creature's hunters knife that now lay on the ground near the troll's open and unmoving right hand. He raised the knife and prepared to plunge it into the troll's exposed throat. The Norse around him raised a great cry of support that echoed off of the walls of Torvgold.

Then a voice with a familiar ring entered his mind from a place unknown. "He is not your enemy... Spare the troll... He is not your enemy... Spare the troll..." it said repeatedly. Thoren looked around for the source and saw no obvious speaker. The minstrel stood by Lysette, saying nothing, just staring at Thoren. It couldn't be him, thought Thoren, he makes no show of speaking.

But the words worked effectively on Thoren's conscience and he pushed himself back from the body of the unconscious troll then threw the knife onto the field. It fell near the unconscious troll's right hand. To the Druid High Priest Thoren said, "I cannot do this. The troll is not doing this of its own free will. If I kill him, I kill an automaton and prove nothing."

The Druid High Priest stared at Thoren in a quandary. Never before had an obvious victor refused to complete the Challenge by showing mercy. There was no precedent, no rule. What should he do?

Meanwhile, the troll was regaining consciousness. He looked up at Thoren. "Whooo Arrrre Youuuu!" it rumbled deep in its wounded chest. "Why am I herrrre? I hurt very deep inside. Help meeeeeee." Then the troll sat up by pushing itself up with its good right hand and arm. "The old woman gave me something to drink last night. I remember nothing else."

"What old woman?" asked Thoren.

"Herrrrrr," said the troll pointing to Ragnhild with his good right arm. Morded bellowed in anger and grasped a lance from a nearby cavalry man. He spurred his horse and charged, lance lowered. Thoren leaped out of the way, but there had been no need. Morded's target was the hapless troll. When Thoren regained his feet he saw the troll lying on the ground with a lance protruding from its side. A foot from the troll's right hand was the hunting knife Thoren discarded earlier. The troll was not dead, but its labored breathing said death was not far away.

Morded turned his horse to face Thoren, his sword drawn and ready for use.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 07-05-2000).]

Civis Romanus
posted 07-05-00 16:19 ET (US)     140 / 150       
Mred & Wendoolicus: Ragnhild is yours to do with as you see fit.
posted 07-05-00 20:38 ET (US)     141 / 150       
As Thoren and Morded faced one another, neither of them was paying any attention to the mortally wounded troll lying behind Morded on the field.

As Morded continued to stare at Thoren, the troll slowly grasped the knife lying next to his hand. With all of the strength he had left, he threw the knife as hard as he could, and the people around the field watched as the blade flashed as the knife spun in the air, coming closer and closer to Morded's back........................

I didn't kill him just in case some one has another idea...............

[This message has been edited by MRed94 (edited 07-05-2000).]

Civis Romanus
posted 07-05-00 21:55 ET (US)     142 / 150       

His mother's scream of warning came too late. Blocked from the view as he was by Morded's mounted menacing figure, Thoren didn't see Gristle reach for the hunter's knife and hurl it at Morded; nor did Morded, concentrating as he was on Thoren and thinking the troll was finished.

A sickening thud sounded as the blade of the hunter's knife struck Morded in the back and sank hilt deep into his body. The Norseman's eyes opened wide and his hand loosened its grip on his sword. The weapon fell to the ground. Morded leaned forward onto the neck of the horse, toppled from his saddle and fell to ground on top of his sword.

Thoren stood stunned at these turn of events. He looked at the troll. The creature had sat up again to throw the knife, the lance still embedded deep in his body. Gristle's ugly face broke into a tortured grin at the destruction he had just wrought. "Thissss issss why I ammmmm herrrre," he said. Then the grin froze on his face as his eyes rolled back into his head and the troll's now lifeless body fell backwards one last time onto the field.

The Norse all around the field stood in stunned silence. Eyes slowly turned to the High Priest and then to Ragnhild and back again to the High Priest. Out from under the shade of the Sacred Oak walked the High Priest. He strode to the fallen troll and checked for life, finding none. He next walked to the fallen Morded and equally found no life there.

The High Priest turned to Thoren, who stood there leaning in the direction of his damaged side to ease the pain, blood slowly dripping down outside and below his leather armor from the cut from Gristle's sword. The High Priest studied the wounded man for only a brief moment. The look in his eyes suggested satisfaction mixed with concern, even pity. He turned and spoke to the Norse.

"The Challenge has been answered and the contest is ended. Thoren is the rightful Leader of the People of Torvald. Neither he nor his right to be Leader shall ever be challenged again, so long as he lives."

The cheers of the Norse resounded across the Thing Field and reverberated against the nearby hills and off the walls of Torvgold. Ragnhild spurred her horse forward and approached the High Priest and Thoren, who by now was standing on nearly shaking legs. "This isn't over, Thoren," Ragnhild said venemously through clenched teeth, tears streaming down the old woman's face. She looked down at her fallen son. "On my son's dead body I swear this isn't over!" She turned her horse only to see behind her Thoren's mother and two sisters standing there with two old women she did not know. Startled, Ragnhild could only stare as one of the old women spoke to the High Priest.

"The rules of the Challenge don't apply to this despicable woman, do they High Priest?" asked Eme-Redser.

The High Priest responded promptly, "The Challenge is concluded. The rules do not apply."

"Good," said the Elven Queen.

Thoren was to learn later what happened for at that moment his vision began to narrow and the earth and sky began to fade away to blackness. The only image in his mind was the worried face of Lysette who appeared before him just as his vision faded to black; and the only feeling he had was the feeling of strong arms catching him before he hit the ground. Exhaustion and loss of blood had finally taken their collective toll.

MRed: go for it.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 07-05-2000).]

posted 07-06-00 19:56 ET (US)     143 / 150       
Eme-Redser stood in silence, her head bowed in concentration.

She finally looked up, to see the entire crowd's eyes focused on her in bewilderment. She looked down at her body, and noticed that the clothes that she was wearing had somehow become her usual attire once again.

She looked at Wendolin, standing close by her. The silence surrounding her was almost deafening. Wendolin inclined her head, indicating her compliance with the Elven Queen's authority.

The people of Torvald had, many, many years ago, pledged their devotion to the Queen of the Elves, as she had led her elven army in their defense that long ago, in the time of Thoren's great-great grandfather. So, they waited to see what she was going to say.

The Elven Queen looked all around her, turning in a complete circle, so she could see all of the people. Then she opened her mouth to speak.

"I, Eme-Redser, also known as Wintersong, and also known by a secret name that only the oldest of the old know, do declare my authority over this woman." She indicated Morded's mother with her left hand, upon which the Alexandrite ring was glowing with a fierce purple green fire.

"All ye who know me, know that my authority here over-rides any other authority in this land. I will take this woman with me, and justice shall be done in the manner of the Elven people."

With this proclamation, the people of Torvald began to murmur their agreement, and the small murmur soon grew to a resounding shout.

Ragnhild's face grew paler and paler, because even she knew what the legends had foretold, that one day the Elven Queen would be all powerful, and that any evil in the village that day would be in her power forever, and that the wrath of the Elven Queen was a formidable thing. Anything that would come under the rule of the Elven Queen would rue the day that evil was done.

Eme-Redser turned to face Ragnhild, and, seeing the expression on the face of the woman, began to smile ever so slightly.........

She then turned and walked from the Thing field, and the entire village watched as Ragnhild suddenly dropped to her knees, and upon them, began to follow the Elven Queen. The crowd began to cheer, as they had seen more evil from this woman than anyone could ever remember.........

Thoren's people also knew the power that Eme-Redser commanded, and all of the creatures great and small that came under that power.......And their minds shrank from all of the thoughts of what could possibly be in store for that evilest of women......

Meanwhile, Thoren's mother and sisters stood quietly by, watching as Lysette and Gillandra cared for Thoren, hoping to stabilize his condition enough to permit them to move him to a place where they could repair his wounds and await his awakening.

[This message has been edited by MRed94 (edited 07-06-2000).]

[This message has been edited by MRed94 (edited 07-06-2000).]

Civis Romanus
posted 07-06-00 22:11 ET (US)     144 / 150       
Thanks, MRed, for picking up the plot and ridding us of Ragnhild. Thoren should be viewed as recovering (with help from Gillandra, Jayhawk and a lot of TLC from Lysette)and generally out of action. BTW, Lysette has never met Thoren's mother or two sisters. Hint. Lysette has elven blood. Hint, hint. Everyone, I will be away for a few days and will not be able to post, but don't let that stop you (as if it should, right?). So go ahead and don't wait for me. I'll look forward to seeing what happened when I return. - Civis Romanus
posted 07-06-00 23:04 ET (US)     145 / 150       
Lysette, crouching by the side of her beloved, wasn't paying much attention to the events happening behind her. When the roar of the crowd grew to a crescendo, however, she looked up.

Seeing Eme-Redser walking away from them to the edge of Thing field, Lysette called out, "Wait!"

When Eme-Redser heard Lysette's voice, she stopped and turned around, glancing to where Ragnhild was kneeling about 10 feet from her.

Lysette hurried to the Elven Queen's side.

"Eme-Redser, you have done us all a great favor. I beg to be able to go with you for a few minutes, and discuss something."

Eme-Redser looked fondly at Lysette, and agreed to her request. Ragnhild, as Lysette came closer to her, seemed almost to shrink in size.........

Lysette didn't spare the evil woman as much as a glance, and walked along with the Elven Queen.

"I want to help you rid us of this horrid woman for good, and I think I know a way that will ensure that she will stay gone forever......." She bent her head closer to Eme-Redser, and as they walked, the two women continued a low conversation, with an occasional laugh ringing out.

Ragnhild struggled to get to her feet, but some mysterious force was keeping her on her knees.

When the small party reached the great gates of the town, they stopped for a few minutes to finish their conversation. As they talked, they could hear Ragnhild muttering to herself.

When Lysette bid Eme-Redser goodbye, the townspeople who had followed them gathered close round them. They all had gifts for Eme-Redser, things that they had gathered as the group traveled through the town.

Eme-Redser asked for a cart to carry the things in, and requested someone to go and get the horses that she had acquired somehow along the way...(Remember the farthest house? He is now out of horses.)

While people ran to do her bidding, Eme-Redser and Lysette finished their conversation.

After the things she had requested had been gathered, Eme-Redser bid the townspeople goodbye, and gave Wendolin last minute instructions for things she needed done while she was gone.

With a final wave, the Elven Queen mounted R'daine, and with a shout of "Godspeed", the party moved out of the gates. She had an entourage of Elves that had mysteriously appeared at the edge of the forest.

All of the town knew that the Elven warriors are the best in the world, and they had no fear for Eme-Redser's safety. That, of course, could not be said of the safety of Ragnhild............

[This message has been edited by MRed94 (edited 07-06-2000).]

Civis Romanus
posted 07-10-00 16:16 ET (US)     146 / 150       
Gillandra and Jayhawk were kneeling near Thoren who lay unconscious on the ground. Gillandra had placed a folded blanket under Thoren's head and was gingerly removing the tatters of leather that covered his wounded chest. Her container of salve was at her side and ready for use.

Lysette walked back to the place where Thoren lay, but as she walked she looked about at the scene unfolding before her. Thoren's men-at-arms were lined all around the area preventing the curious among the townsfolk from getting too close. A few of the wearer's of the Skewered Boar were being led away in chains. Some had bolted for the open country the minute they saw Morded fall. The rest had gleefully cast off their jerkins when they realized Ragnhild and her son had lost. They surrendered their weapons to Thoren's men as quickly as their horses could get them across the field.

Ragnar at first didn't quite know what to do with these prisoners, but decided to tell them to dismount and wait. There seemed no fight in them so there was little to fear. He felt he should see to Thoren first. Gillandra, Benson and Jayhawk made that unnecessary.

Some of Thoren's men were building a large conveyance to carry the troll from the field and to the pyre being built outside of the walls of the city. Morded lay where he fell, largely ignored, except by a few crows picking at this or that or whatever caught their fancy. The son of Ragnhild could wait while the assuredly more valiant troll is given a warrior's send off. The Norse would deal with what the crows left afterwards. These were the commands given by Ragnar as Thoren lay on the ground being attended to by his friends.

"Jayhawk, he has lost a lot of blood. He has two broken ribs where he was struck by the mace. The salve will help with the deep cuts, but it cannot reach the ribs. There may be internal damage," said Gillandra.

Jayhawk frowned. He saw Lysette in the distance walking towards them. Benson was busy with the men building the carrier for the troll. Wendolin and the gnome was standing with Ragnar. It was Gillandra and himself only at Thoren's side. "Now," he said. "The time is now."

Gillandra looked at him with a puzzled expression. Jayhawk saw this and said, "Never mind, just please do as I ask. Hold his shoulders to the ground and don't let him move. Watch his eyes for any sign of consciousness." Gillandra did as she was told.

Jayhawk knelt down at Thoren's side and placed one hand on the area of the damaged ribs and the other over the foot long slice in Thoren's chest. Gillandra stared into Thoren's face watching for movement. She placed one hand on each shoulder to hold the warrior down should he move. She saw nothing of what Jayhawk did in the next moment or two.

Lysette stopped in her tracks as she saw Jayhawk kneel down and Gillandra take her position near Thoren. Curiously, the air around all three suddenly began to shimmer and waver ever so slightly so that the figures seemed to become unfocused and less clear, but still distinctly recognizable. From her position Lysette could see only Jayhawk's back, not his face. She could not see the minstrel close his seagreen eyes hiding them as they changed from their normal color to golden blue and back again. Nor could she see the strange aura of light that seemed to spread from the area of the minstrel's hands and course up Thoren's body in all directions.

Lysette restarted her walk and hurried her step just as Jayhawk removed his hands and let out a deep, strain ridden breath. "Will he live, Minstrel?" she asked. Jayhawk looked up and nodded. "He will now, Lysette." Then he said to Gillandra, "Apply the salve if you wish. It should have the desired effect." Then Jayhawk rose to his feet, turning to face Lysette. "He will need a lot of rest to rebuild himself, but the cut will heal and so will his other wounds. He will need a gentle hand in the meanwhile to care for him."

"I am here," said Lysette.

"Then his recovery will be all the swifter, I'm sure," replied Jayhawk, a smile forming on his face.

A cart filled with fresh, sweet smelling straw pulled up near Thoren only moments later. Thoren's mother and two sisters enlisted the help of Jayhawk, Benson and a group of soldiers to lift Thoren onto a long blanket and then to lift the blanket carrying Thoren onto the back of the cart and onto the straw.

Thoren's mother looked at her son. "He will need someone to ride with him in the back." She looked at her daughters seeing them both smiling and looking at Lysette. Acceptance. Thoren's mother knew what to say next. "Would you be so kind, Lysette, as to ride with him back to the Lodge? I think he would like to know you are with him."

"Yes, Mother... I mean, I mean, Oh! I'm so sorry, I..."

"That's quite all right, Lysette. I suspect I should begin getting used to it, don't you think?"

Lysette didn't know what to say. Her cheeks simply pinkened and she smiled nervously. Then she did as she was bid and climbed into the back of the cart riding with Thoren back to his family's lodge in Torvgold.

Meanwhile, Eme-Redser on R'daine disappeared into the edge of the south forest with her troup of elves around her and a very discouraged, miserable Ragnhild in tow, the old woman's final destiny unknown to all except the Elven Queen.

posted 07-10-00 20:17 ET (US)     147 / 150       
As the band of Elves surrounding their Queen and prisoner rode over the hills surrounding Torvald, Eme-Redser looked back over her shoulder.

She could see the faint glow surrounding Thoren and those caring for him, and knowing what that meant, knew she didn't have to think further on that situation.

She had decided to keep the conversation between Lysette and her to herself, as she knew Lysette would. There wasn't a need for anyone else to know what they had talked about.

There also wasn't a need for anyone but the group with her to know the final fate of Ragnhild..............

Maybe she would tell the story someday around the campfire, maybe not.

posted 07-11-00 19:38 ET (US)     148 / 150       
As the group of friends caring for Thoren neared their destination, they all suddenly turned and looked at one another.

A sudden chill in the air sent shivers up the spines of those closest to the Elven Queen. The minstrel looked at Gillandra, and they exchanged a knowing smile.

Echos of faint screams came to them on the still night air, not quite human screams...................

Civis Romanus
posted 07-11-00 20:45 ET (US)     149 / 150       
Wendolin stopped and turned about. "Jayhawk, Did you hear that?"

"Yes, Wendolin."

"It sounded... sounded... unhuman."

"It did, Paladin."

"I wonder if..." considered Wendolin, but she was cut off in mid sentence by a pointed question from Jayhawk.

"Do you think it best at this time to wonder about the Elven Way?" he said, left eyebrow raised.

She searched his eyes for the meaning of his words and began to understand. "Maybe not, Jayhawk. Maybe not."

"Then let's not, my friend. It is beyond any possible thing we can understand or do. We still have a vow to fulfill, do we not?"

Wendolin answered immediately. "Of course, to return the Silver Chalice to the Hill People filled with water from the Sacred Spring. We can go there directly with Thoren and..."

"In a week or so, Paladin. Thoren must recover before he can travel any distance. The Hill People will wait. They have waited a great time already." Jayhawk and Wendolin concluded their conversation as Thoren's Lodge loomed before them. Now it was time to carry the sleeping warrior into his home and place him on his bed. Rest is what he needed, along with Lysette's tender caring.


One week later:

"Farewell, Thoren. My people will hear about all that I have seen. There will be peace between us and friendship once more." Gurri offered his small gnomish hand to Thoren.

The Norseman carefully accepted Gurri's hand and said, "That is how it should be between our people. Farewell, Gurri." And to his troop of Norse cavalry, "See that he arrives safely at his home and honor his requests at all times."

"Yes, Thoren," replied the cavalry commander. Then Gurri was helped onto his pony and he and his Norse escort departed Torvgold.

Then Thoren turned to Wendolin. "Paladin, there is still one promise to keep and its keeping is long overdue. I am ready to travel. Will you lead us once again on this Quest, this time to the spring and the place of the Hill People?"

Wendolin looked at the Norseman questioningly, "Are you sure you're ready?"

Thoren blinked his blue eyes at Wendolin. "Why of course, why wouldn't I be?"

Wendolin just shook her head. "Oh, never mind... What about Lysette?"

Thoren was about to answer, but Wendolin took the words right out of his mouth, "I know," she said. "She goes where you go, right?"

"That is right."

"Well, if we must, we must."

Two days later, Thoren, Benson, Lysette, Gillandra and Jayhawk were riding side by side towards the south of Torvald, with Wendolin leading once more.

[This message has been edited by Civis Romanus (edited 07-11-2000).]

Eminence Grise
posted 07-12-00 05:04 ET (US)     150 / 150       
Seems I missed the action...still horribly busy here. So I'll just add a little continuation bit and will fire up a new thread.

The six riders rode along on a steady pace, passing fields and homesteads, small villages and keeps as they made for the Trickledown river once more. A few quiet days past and soon the wide river came into view, yellowish with silt it winded along side them on it's way to the far off Bitter Sea.

The land by now was deserted of structures of man and the barren hills, bracken growing in the crags stuck out their knobbly heads from the marshy fenland between them. The trail along the river, however remained firm and wound it's way closer to the dark pine forests in the distance.

"How are we going to cross the river?" Lysette asked.
"We should come to a ferr at the edge of the forest, " Jayhawk replied.
"What's a ferry doing here, so far removed from all other people?" Benson wondered.
"It's ran by the Brother's of Belmont. They serve their god in a monastary and offer passage for those that travel south to Lisendonaire. They also offer rooms at their inn."
"Wonderful, " Gillandra replied,
"I'd love to sleep in a bed for a change."

As they rode on, Thoren asked.
"What's that smoke rising there?"
The minstrel looked and muttered something under his breath.
"The abbey should be there."
He looked at Wendolin, who nodded. The riders spurred their horses to a gallop.

Soon it became clear that the ferry was no longer there, just the gutted ruin of it's building. The abbey to lay in ruins, burned in places, collapsed in others. The bodies of the monks lay scattered around, some of them killed by sword, other with arrows sticking out. From the looks of the bodies and the damage, what ever had laid waste to the monastary had done so no more than a few days ago.

The travellers dismounted and, weapons drawn advanced towards the abbey gate. A low moan sounded from inside. As they entered Benson looked in the little guardhouse.
"Thoren, Wendolin...I think this one's still alive."

-- to be continued.

[This message has been edited by Jayhawk (edited 07-12-2000).]

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