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Ulthuan, Home of the Asur
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PostPosted: Tue May 05, 2015 4:42 am 
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Great story. Thanks for sharing this. I have enjoyed with them so much.


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PostPosted: Tue May 05, 2015 8:31 am 
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Well played Sir
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Bears, there are wolves in Yvresse, but no bears, not in an eternity.

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Beastly member of The Mage Knight Guild.
Narrin’Tim wrote:
These may be the last days of the Asur, but if we are to leave this world let us do it as the heroes of old, sword raised against evil!


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PostPosted: Tue May 05, 2015 5:23 pm 
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Makiwara wrote:
But also... wouldn't the elves of Athel Loren technically be north of and therefore northerners to even the Nagarathi?


I'm afraid that according to Tanith, colonials, feral or otherwise, are still soft. No matter the latitude. Or the degree of inbreeding. :D

And yes, please do. That's Palin'Tanith. With two 'T's!


@addseo

My pleasure! And welcome!

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PostPosted: Tue May 05, 2015 10:52 pm 
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Headshot wrote:
I'm afraid that according to Tanith, colonials, feral or otherwise, are still soft. No matter the latitude. Or the degree of inbreeding. :D


Valraith is telling me that he should have bundled the old crab up in a sack and dropped him off in the wildwood with Drycha when he had the chance years ago...

:lol:

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Headshot wrote:
Makiwara wrote:
Smiths in Nagarythe that can repair the holiest piece of armour worn by the Shadow Prince himself... 0 apparently.


Duct tape counts!!


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PostPosted: Wed May 06, 2015 6:58 am 
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Headshot wrote:
I'm afraid that according to Tanith, colonials, feral or otherwise, are still soft.

They might be soft, but their beach parties are much better...

Rod

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PostPosted: Thu May 07, 2015 4:04 pm 
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Well played Sir
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We tried beach parties one time in Yvresse, my cousin was lost for seven weeks. We were lucky he returned at all, four others disappeared into the mist without a trace.

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Beastly member of The Mage Knight Guild.
Narrin’Tim wrote:
These may be the last days of the Asur, but if we are to leave this world let us do it as the heroes of old, sword raised against evil!


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PostPosted: Sat May 09, 2015 5:32 pm 
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Day Three – Part Two


Tim pulled himself further up the muddy bank. He was drenched to the bone, so scarcely now noticed the pouring rain. He gasped, blinked, and tried to sit up. When that failed he just flopped on his back and lay there, sucking air and raindrops alike.

The Lowlander moaned and was lying a little ways to his side. Gradually the shaven head boy managed to struggle into a seated position and look back at the carcass of the mighty predator overhead. His eyes fixed on it even as the rain pattered across his face and bald plate. Finally he turned towards Tim:

“I think…I think you might have saved my life, Romani.”

Tim managed a half sit with a grunt and a moan. His back throbbed from where he had hit the bottom of the pool. He shook his head. “If you hadn’t have stopped the bear upstream, he would’ve….” He paused and took a few shaky breaths. In death the beast didn’t seem quite as massive as it had when rage-filled and charging – it was diminished now, almost sad looking. And yet still, it hung across the waterfall like a boulder, and the steam rising from its haunches filled the air above like a misty cloud. “I think you saved my life,” he finally managed.

The Lowlander sat and stared upwards. After a minute he shook his head, slowly, solemnly. “No. I could feel its fetid breath on the back of my neck. If you hadn’t have taken that shot when you did…my next heartbeat would have been my last.” His face turned blank, like a sculpture of stone. “I owe you,” he said at last. “And…I won’t forget that.”

Tim was too tired and too shaken to argue anymore. He lay there knowing that he needed to do something about his bow and soaked quiver: the mud and rain and water was going to do damage if he didn’t. But just this once his father’s commanding voice, and stern look, that always seemed to linger just outside his vision did not move him to action. He sat and breathed, and that was almost too much.

The Lowlander reached out towards him, a sudden awkward gesture; the boy’s eyes not quite looking in his direction. The hand was out in a tentative greeting, almost shyly. “I am…. My name is Layk,” he said, quietly, holding the hand there as if he was stretching it out toward the fire. After a moment of quivering stillness he added:

“Shado’Layk.”

Tim looked and blinked trying to comprehend the words and the hand held up in the rain. Shado….? Shadow…? The inbetween. The warrior caught between life and death. The Shadow Warrior…. The kingdom without a king…. The Shadowlands…. Shadow was the space between this world and the next. The contested dominion of Khaine, Asuryan, and Lilieath. Where fate was decided upon a knife’s edge. And yet the name…. The name ‘Shado’ meant the boy beside him was of this place. It meant he had no standing within the Nagarathi. No clan that stood behind and before him. No history. No blood….

Which could only mean one of two things. He was a foundling; an orphan bereft of kin and home by calamity of war or nature. Such things happened, albeit rarely. Druchii raids would sometimes sweep across entire villages, leaving only empty beds or the bodies of the slain and tortured in their wake. Occasionally there were tells of a child that had been off in the woods, alone and hidden under a log. A tiny survivor hidden from the hungry gaze of the witch elves and corsairs. A victim and witness to the screams of their family, as the Dark Elves made sport of their kin. Bleeding, impaling, crucifying. A father…. A brother… A mother…. Oftentimes such children went mad, or soon took their own lives. But sometimes they would wander, bereft and with eyes filled with haunted dread, to another distant part of Nagarythe. They would come out of the darkness of the forest, alone and starving, the last of a dead clan. And they were called ‘Shado’: a ‘gift of Khaine’; one of his cruel jokes, of life mixed with equal measure pain and sadness.

Tim had heard the stories, though they were something he could scarce believe. To lose one’s entire clan. To be cut off from all that history. That strength. That love. It was like a madness made out of wind. Something to be felt, dreaded, but never seen. He WAS his clan; he missed them every day. They gave him strength and succor when he most needed it. Their collective wisdom was what organized his daily life, and the very thoughts inside his head. To be deprived that….

Of course there was another possible explanation to the name Shado. That the shaven headed, sullen boy beside him, had been cast out. That he had done something so vile, so beyond condemnation, that the clan had exiled him. Struck from him his clan name and identity. Tossed him into the world alone, neither living nor dead. A shadow of an elf…..

The hand still hung there waiting in the rain, and Tim could see the tortured thoughts racing behind the averted eyes. He waited no longer: he stretched out and seized the offered hand, gripping it in the forearm clasp of Nagarythe. “I am Narrin’Tim. And….We saved each other,” he said again in a soft voice. “Thank you…brother.”

The Lowlander simply held the grip and nodded, eyes still fixed upon the ground. After a moment he released the grip, and then said, “We had best…best get up.”

Tim nodded and then groaned as he tried halfheartedly to get to his feet. In the end it took both the boy beside him and the use of his longbow stave to get him. His back was burning like a smoldering campfire. But he was on his feet.

“Now what?” he mumbled aloud.

***

“Well you two didn’t have to scream quite so loudly,” Caleb called out to them as he left the undergrowth. “It sounded like a pair of schoolgirls being chased by a lusty Eatainian guildmaster!” he finished with a laugh. With him came the two Easterlings and Willem, all with bows in hand.

They had only had to wait a few minutes for the others to arrive, but Tim was already busy trying to salvage what arrows he could (after having wiped down the bow and its precious string to the best of his ability). “Did you find anything?” he asked as the others drew close.

“No, not yet, and we’ve searched most of a league by now,” Caleb answered his eyes sweeping across the pool, and then up the stained waterfall. His face went blank as he saw what lay at its apex. He stared at the slain bear for a handful of heartbeats, then finally said:

“Damn.” He shook his head. “Couldn’t you have killed something smaller?”

Tim and Layk shared an uncomprehending look. “You…wanted us to kill something smaller?” Tim asked, confused.

“Why yes, of course! Don’t you see? We are Nagarathi,” Caleb said with a laugh. “We can’t just leave the bloody thing here to dirty up our forest. Waste not want not! As the old saying goes.” He glanced upwards to the carcass again with a clinical eye. “We are going to have to carve that beast up and take it back to camp. And it looks…damn heavy….”

Tim and Layk shared another look.

“Oh well, that’s mostly a problem for the mighty hunters,” Caleb added with a sardonic chuckle. He turned to the boys with him. “Willem, you know the forest best. Make back towards the camp and see about rounding up some of the lads. Bring em out here and say we got a black waiting for em.” He turned back to the rest. “I’ll take the Easterling lads and finish our sweep for Tanith. Though I don’t think we will find anything at this point. Even a deaf, dumb, and blind druchii riven with gout would have heard you two shrieking. And probably would’ve come just to watch and laugh if for no other reason,” he said, chuckling once more.

“So…what do we do?” Layk asked after a few moments.

The veteran pointed up to the bear. “Get out your knives, and start carving.” At their daunted expressions he said, “Look at it this way: it looks like some group of warriors is off the muskrat meat!” He laughed again and then led the two Easterners out into the forest. Quill and Quinn sent them imploring looks as they vanished into the rain. Willem was already gone.

Tim sighed. “Back to work.”

***


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PostPosted: Sun May 10, 2015 1:44 am 
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From what I hear the best way to cook black bear is deep frying the back straps in it's own fat, quite tasty I hear. Also smoked bear hams a quite a treat. Or so the asrai tell me.

Assuming those barbarous Nagarathi southerners don't just eat it raw.

:lol:

Interested in this new Shado'Layk character, will be looking forward to see what happens with him.

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Makiwara wrote:
Smiths in Nagarythe that can repair the holiest piece of armour worn by the Shadow Prince himself... 0 apparently.


Duct tape counts!!


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PostPosted: Sun May 10, 2015 5:33 pm 
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@Maki

Wait! You guys eat those tiny bears in your forest?! The ones with the little rainbow designs on their chests!? Is this when they don't sing kumbaya loud enough??? :shock:

Oh and I spoke to Tanith. He said colonials don't get to use cardinal points. That they 'barely get to use metal or fire'. And should 'just be grateful for the lands that the Hosts of Nagarythe conquered for them....squatters!'

(Though an interesting thought is to wonder how many of those original settlers were actual Nagarathi? Perhaps granted land in the conquered territories for their service to the Ever Empire? That would mean so many of the cousin-humper....excuse me, I mean, wood elves, would actually be descended from the Nagarathi!! Wow. Tanith would have an aneurysm....)

@Rod

Bikini elves! Mmmmmmmmm......... [-o<



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PostPosted: Sun May 10, 2015 10:25 pm 
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Headshot wrote:
@Maki

Wait! You guys eat those tiny bears in your forest?!


:D

Headshot wrote:
The ones with the little rainbow designs on their chests!?


That's a complex scoring system we use on all our moving targets, it's commonly misconstrued as a rainbow. We also tattoo it on to elves we capture and release back in to nature to grow up big and strong before we shoot them; it's catch and release waywatching.

Headshot wrote:
Is this when they don't sing kumbaya loud enough??? :shock:


What can I say, music critique is murder in Athel Loren. :mrgreen:

Or if they stare, there's something about those little neon coloured bears and their stare.

Headshot wrote:
Oh and I spoke to Tanith. He said colonials don't get to use cardinal points. That they 'barely get to use metal or fire'. And should 'just be grateful for the lands that the Hosts of Nagarythe conquered for them....squatters!'


Smiths in Athel Loren who created the Dragon Armour of Aenarion: 1 (Well at least before the End Times, where he died protecting the Everqueen because for some reason no Asur could get the job done). Smiths in Nagarythe that can repair the holiest piece of armour worn by the Shadow Prince himself... 0 apparently. :lol:

Ask Tanith if he needs Belac Agaith to send someone out to fix that, we don't charge much and we'll have that armour repaired in a jiffy, promise.

:wink:

Headshot wrote:
(Though an interesting thought is to wonder how many of those original settlers were actual Nagarathi? Perhaps granted land in the conquered territories for their service to the Ever Empire? That would mean so many of the cousin-humper....excuse me, I mean, wood elves, would actually be descended from the Nagarathi!! Wow. Tanith would have an aneurysm....)

headshot


Most of the original colonies were populated by Nagarathi, that's how the druchii came to use the repeating crossbow; it was originally a colonial weapon, adapted from the Dwarves for use against the masses of orcs and such. It was also the first big swing in the civil war when Malekith stripped the colonies of their armies and returned them to Ulthuan because they were the best armies of the time, the most hardened from wars against the orcs and beastmen. Look at that; colonial armies, getting the job done from the Sundering to the End Times! :lol:

Athel Loren was founded by all the elves that remained on Elthin Arvan who were smart enough to realise that shanking your kin was probably a bad plan for the future of your race and brave enough to jump in to Athel Loren because the original Nagarathi colonists had some great fear of a forest that habitually tries to kill you apparently. Personally I find it quite homey once you get used to the dappled light.

I would even contest that it was the very best of the Nagarathi archers that must have been part of the original settlers of Athel Loren; I mean in a couple of generations we got waywatchers and everyone else got... well, yeah.

And then strangely and completely unrelated the term 'Asur' became interchangeable with the word for 'lousy shot'.

It may just be a coincidence.

I'll ask the scouts and wardancers to have an ask around for Tanith, I'm sure if there is some daring, some courage and some ability in the Palin line then they certainly must have been a part of the settlers of Athel Loren and he might indeed have some Asrai cousins.

Then again, perhaps he doesn't.

:lol:

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Headshot wrote:
Makiwara wrote:
Smiths in Nagarythe that can repair the holiest piece of armour worn by the Shadow Prince himself... 0 apparently.


Duct tape counts!!


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PostPosted: Sun May 10, 2015 11:58 pm 
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Makiwara wrote:
What can I say, music critique is murder in Athel Loren


Hehe!

Makiwara wrote:
Smiths in Nagarythe that can repair the holiest piece of armour worn by the Shadow Prince himself... 0 apparently.


Duct tape counts!!

Makiwara wrote:
that's how the druchii came to use the repeating crossbow; it was originally a colonial weapon, adapted from the Dwarves for use against the masses of orcs and such.


Oh no! It was invented by the 'Artisan': one of the original Band of Five (which included Petra'Sif and the first Shadow Prince, Woe). He was the same who designed the first Eagle Claw as a child prodigy. Sadly, he went North, where later in life he perfected his repeater crossbow design for Malek'Kith's new armies....

Dwarf contributing to Asur civilization?! Wow, what they teach you in school. Scandalous! [-X

Makiwara wrote:
getting the job done


I suppose hiding behind the bulwark of the Hosts of Nagarythe and the Legions of the Phoenix counts as getting 'something done'. :D

Makiwara wrote:
hardened from wars against the orcs and beastmen.


Hey! The Hosts of Nagarythe cleared all that out of your forest back in the day (plus a daemon invasion - thank you very much). You should've kept pruning! :wink:

Makiwara wrote:
and everyone else got


Narrin'Tim and his merry band of Shadow Warriors!! Huzzah!! :wink:

Makiwara wrote:
'Asur' became interchangeable with the word for 'lousy shot'


Because the way watchers are shooting at things that don't shoot back? The profound archery skills of orcs and beast men being world renowned after all. Hehe! Oh and I asked what Asrai stood for among the Nagarathi.... they just went 'huh? what's that?'

(I asked them what 'colonial' meant as slang and it apparently is interchangeable with various forms of 'venereal disease'. Oh, and 'bureaucracy'. Ask Rod.....)

Makiwara wrote:
I'll ask the scouts and wardancers to have an ask around for Tanith


No need! Tanith was there! And he was happy to report the answer is....

No.

:P


Ok, now as much fun as trading barbs here with you is I'll have to ask you to please cease and desist (or start another thread in the culture section!) so that I can keep this thread story-focused. Thanks!

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PostPosted: Mon May 11, 2015 7:14 pm 
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Day Three – Part Three


It was sundown and finally the rain had broke, and the glorious reds and russets of the sinking sun drifting to his bed in the far west painted the marsh into a whorl of golds and ochers; the sky into bands of pink and violet. The breeze was clean, and carried a strong scent of the sea. As the boy cocked his head he could hear the sound of the waves over the noise of the camp. Just barely, but he could hear it soft and lulling.

It was Tim’s turn to stand watch, and he had climbed up a tall stack of barrels just outside their small lean-to tent to do so. Inside he could hear Willem regaling the others with tales of their childhood hunts. Currently, the falcon roost. That brought back memories…. Dangling vines above the Drop. The indigo gashes of the chasms below. The smell of the wind at ten thousand feet. The shrill cry of the hunting birds. The leap of faith from the Great Stone to the Little Brother…. And the surge of ice and fear as nothing but oblivion surrounded him….

He shook his head. He had to stay aware: he was their picket now. He glanced around at the surrounding camp. The grey smoke of the cook fires were in full bloom now. He could see them covering much of the southern camp – unusual for the Host he had heard. Usually the smoke was kept small and minimal – any cooking was done in deep pits or within shelters. But they were moving out soon, or so he had heard. And the Host of Nagarythe no longer cared if the enemy knew its location. Now there was a bustle of new recruits – archers from the Mountains and the Vales – hurriedly carving and smoking meat. With them the camp followers: women and men from the nearest village – more than a league’s march away – that had come to help as they could around the army camp. It was the Nagarathi way – to help your neighbors in need – and a luxury not always to be had: earlier Caleb had warned him that when they were in foreign countries they would have to do the cooking themselves. ‘Or trust the foreign food’, he had said with a shudder. So Tim had vowed to himself to start adding to his repertoire of dishes he could prepare. He didn’t need to hear any more what the Saphery did to squid. One time from Caleb was plenty.

He glanced down. Next to him on the top barrel was a plane metal plate adorned with boiled tubers, lightly salted, and a trio of strips of bear meat. HIS bear meat, he guessed. Each strip cut wafer thin and then pounded flat on a salted board. There was no time to cook it, and so the old hunter’s fare would have to do for tonight. That was why the cooks labored so feverishly to cure as much of the meat as possible before they departed. Tim reached down and picked up one of the raw slices. He placed it upon his tongue: it was delicious, melting in his mouth like butter. Just the hint of blood and salt. He couldn’t remember the last time he had tasted game so fine….

I must be really hungry, he thought, and laughed at himself. He turned back to the work in his hands, using the resin-sap mixed with a bit of twine to cover and patch his bow string. He did that absentmindedly, rolling the string between his outstretched palms while his head continued to survey the world around them on a swivel.

There was a grunt, and he saw Shado’Layk ducking out under the lean-to and coming up to the barrel stack. He held two mugs in his hands, and with some careful footwork, managed to clamber up next to Tim. Proffering one of the mugs, Tim smelt the apple cider, and drank it greedily. Layk sat down next to him.

“So, any of that true?” he said and gestured with his mug back to the tent from where the raucous laughter of the Easterling brothers rang out.

“Some of it, I guess,” Tim answered. “Though I don’t remember falling and hitting my head as much as Willem said I did. Though,” he paused and thought, “Maybe I did.”

The Lowlander chuckled. “It’s hard to imagine. I’ve only seen the Skystones from afar. Just dirty black dots up in the sky. At least that’s what all the village said. We never went that far south.” He took a long draft from his mug. “I don’t know how anyone can manage living up there with all that….nothingness around you. I mean, how do you keep the children from falling off?”

Tim laughed at that, thinking it an odd question. Then paused and thought. “Well mostly the small ones are kept indoors until they are old enough. And then, I don’t know, I guess everyone keeps an eye on them. The whole village. It’s not very large and wherever anyone goes there’s always someone there to keep an eye on you. I almost fell off when I was little. Once. Wait, twice! Oh no, three times! I learned real quickly to grab onto the vines or roots,” he finished with another laugh.

“The thought of all that space gives me the shivers,” Layk said with another shake of his head. “You know, in the Lowlands, most of the village is underground. In caves and tunnels.”

“Like a Dawii?” Tim blurted out before he could think better of it.

Fortunately, Layk simply nodded. “Aye. At least I suppose. I’ve never met a Dawii. My old village…. Ku’Chi… We had tunnels and caves running for hundreds and hundreds of feet beneath the forest floor. And a cistern down there for water. Never too deep; if you go deep there are….things down there. But it was wide. Ran fro a long way throughout the hills and forest. There were deadfalls and traps at the entrances. And hidden spider-doors spread throughout the forest. The village within the palisades was only the smallest part. Most lived underground in the tunnels. Little houses carved from rock and earth. Why I remember one of the elders, who had lived there the longest, his house was carved out underneath a lake in the forest!” The boy said and there was wonder in his eyes and voice. “The roof of his home was some sort of crystal or glass. Ancient he had said. From a time before. But you could look up… you could look up and see the lake fish swimming over your head. The sunlight as it was bent in the water. It was amazing.”

Tim could scarcely imagine, though he tried. Fish and water were scarce on the skystones. The Great Stone had a fishpond, but it was small, and jammed fat with red skinned rudders. He had gone there a few times to help the elders feed the fish. All those gulping mouths. There hadn’t been much light or wonder to it, just thrashing water. Still he smiled at Layk’s obvious enthusiasm, and wondered again why the boy had not spoken more about his home.

He stopped. Somewhere within the camp a lone tenor had begun to sing slowly and softly, in a clear notes. A rendition of ‘Raining in Nagarythe’. The voice was so strong, so clean, that even in its softness it carried. And as if enchanted, the rest of the camp noise began to dwindle into nothingness. The two boys sat and listened, and when the voice finally reached the concluding bars of the song, they continued to sit in silence.

Tim waited, letting the evening sounds of the forest return and wash over him. “Whoever that is, they certainly can sing,” he commented.

“I wonder,” Layk started, then stopped. He frowned, and his face turned dark. He rubbed the back of his shaved skull and rotated his broad burly shoulders. “I wonder,” he began again, “if they will be coming with us. When we leave I mean. To…battle. Wherever that is.”

Tim could only shake his head in answer. Part of him hoped so – perhaps to hear that bittersweet song on some distant shore. Maybe as far off as Yvresse…the magical kingdom of mists he had heard tell of. And griffons! Griffons soaring through the sky. To think….

But then another part of him hoped that the singer was just a camp follower. That they would stay here, in Nagarythe. And the song would stay too. Safe. At home.

“Uh oh,” he stopped his scattered thoughts. He turned towards the tent and called out, “Caleb’s coming!” At the same time he pointed and gestured for the benefit of the boy next to him. Both of them got up from the barrels and scrambled down to the ground and waited for the veteran to approach.

Caleb had the same enigmatic smirk on his face as he sauntered up. “It’s a good perch,” he greeted abruptly and waved towards the barrels, “but not a wise one. The Druchii could see your silhouettes against the sky. Stick you full of quarrels they would. Better to keep in motion, or to lie in cover.”

The other boys were pouring out of the tent now, Willem still swallowing the last bit of bear meat. Caleb glanced at them then handed a soaked piece of cloth to Tim. “There for your back. Slap it on tonight, and sleep on your belly. It’s got the Kingswort in it and will help heal the abrasions.”

Tim looked at the wet rag, nodded, and mumbled, “Thanks.”

“You should be grateful,” Caleb said with a laugh. “That’s all fresh herb we collected here in Nagarythe. Last time we were in foreign lands,” he said the last two words with a snort and a grimace, “and we had to buy our salves from a colonial trader from some eastern city. Those bastards had watered it down so much that we were better off treating our wounds with buckets of piss!” he finished with a belly laugh. “In the end that’s what we did! Cheap colonial bastards,” he added with another shake of his head.

The others were all lined up now so the veteran turned to them. “Ok, back to the range. You all better start hitting the target or Tanith is gonna be real unhappy. Follow me.”

***

Tim still hadn’t hit the target. The damn white cloth out there in that tiny pool of light just taunted him. He had shot and shot at it again, tried to keep his mind and nerves steady under the barrage of deadly whistles from out of the dark, but no matter what he did his shots flew wide. Some of them embarrassingly so; one landing in the dirt only half way to the target. Even the Talyn brothers had managed a few hits by now. And Willem was scoring a strike almost every time he stepped up to loose. Only Layk was struggling as much as he now. And Caleb’s constant jibes, mixed with the sore pain in his back, were not helping at all.

How can he be a Shadow Warrior without hitting the target?

Would they send me home? He thought and the shame filled him with a burning dread. It looked like they needed every able body they could muster. Even after the knights that had arrived yesterday, and the cohort of archers today, he could tell from the expression on the face of the old Shadow Walker that that wasn’t nearly enough. For….whatever.

But he could also tell that even Caleb was starting to get frustrated with his lack of progress with the target. And it was clear that the old Walker didn’t want him there. Would they send him home? Could he live with that shame?

He didn’t think so. He had to hit the target. Somehow.

He frowned and thought as he watched Layk step up to shoot. At least the scarred Walker wasn’t there, shrieking at them. After the first two patrols had returned without sighting any Druchii the old Islander took out yet another patrol earlier that evening. It seemed like too much effort for one sighting of a corsair vessel – something that happened far too often in these parts of Nagarythe – and yet that was what was done. And the Host was always on a battle footing, waiting for the Shadow Warrior’s signal. It was exhausting.

Exhaustion. Fear. Dread. Anticipation. Tim thought. All these things flowing through my blood. Sending the shakes through me. If only I could calm that. I could make that shot. I know I could. But how?

It is the whistle from the dark. That was the answer. The shots from the hidden watchers. No matter how often they flew past him, tearing at his cloak, one time even at his long queue, he could not get used to it. He knew they were coming. He should be able to steady his nerves. It’s just the sight of those black shots leaping out of some unexpected patch of night….

He frowned. There was something there. The sight. And the night. The Warriors were spread out in the dark around and beyond the target. They were waiting, waiting for the next shooter to step up…. Always to the same patch of bare grass. They knew where their target was going to be; which he guessed made the shot easier. Safer even for the ones training. But, somehow it struck him as unfair. Unfair that they should sit safe, just waiting for a target to step right where they knew it would.

His frown deepened. There was something there, he could feel it. They knew where he was going to be. So…that wasn’t good.

Caleb was waiving him over. It was his turn. Layk was looking dejected as he stepped away from the shooter’s position. Caleb was looking bored and irritated. The night was getting on. Pretty soon they would send them for the run. The run to find the pickets and it would be burning lungs and failure once more. It was now or never.

His arms were sore. His back hurt. His legs were throbbing. It had been a long night and an even longer day. He needed to do this, now. He couldn’t be sent home, a failure. His mom and dad would forgive him, but…he never could. He had to do this.

But it wasn’t fair.

Screw fair!!

He stepped up to the line and readied his bow as he ever did. He could almost feel the strings being drawn back by the hidden archers. They were waiting for him. Waiting for him to step into his shooter’s stance. To draw the string back to his ear. Waiting to taunt him with those near misses, letting him know how easy it would be for them to pierce his heart.

He ground his teeth. He felt the anger burning in his belly. Hated the helplessness. Hated the contempt. He had to do this.

He put the arrow to the string, and stepped forward into his shooting stance….

Then immediately dropped to one knee. He could hear twin whistles of loosed shots passing overhead!! Heard the snorts of surprise behind him.

He let loose!!! His own arrow flew out…

And struck the torch stave in the center! Snapping it in half and sending the burning brand falling and tumbling! The light in the clearing went into a wild tumble with the brand, throwing shadow and burning yellows up in ripples!!

More shots were loosed!! But he was up and moving elsewhere, into the Shadows. All his mind could shout was ‘it wasn’t fair!! It wasn’t fair!!!’ And the bow was in his hands, his eyes seeking that patch of white.

The arrow was on the string. And then it was gone.

He heard the thud of bodkin tip into wood. Saw the fluttering white…

And then realized that the black feathered haft that pinned it to the stave….was his.

More whistles as shots were released from the dark. He could feel one pass through the hood of his cloak. He let out a squeal of surprise.

“ENOUGH!!!”

Everything in the clearing went quiet with the bellowed voice. In the sputtering light Tim turned and saw the old Shadow Walker, scarred face twisted with rage, striding out of the blackness. Caleb jogged over to greet him. Tim could see the whispered conversation. See Caleb gesturing and pointing towards him, his face unreadable. But not so the Islander: there, there was only anger and contempt. He could see the scarred lips twist into a snarl, and the Islander looked ready to step forward and unleash a hell upon him.

But then the old elf stopped. Froze in his tracks. He turned and looked back over his shoulder, his black eyes wide…. Tim followed his gaze and saw….under the trees…

A long dark figure, wrapped in black and gold….

He could see the ebon eyes within the white face. Saw the wispy long black hair tugged at by the wind. The figure’s eyes were upon him, and it felt like looking into the blackest part of the dark moon. Cold and alien beyond thought. The figure said something to the scarred Shadow Walker, while still holding the young boy’s eyes, then turned and departed. The Islander hesitated, face frozen in disbelief for a moment, then snapped something to Caleb and stormed off.

Caleb was shaking his head as he walked back.

“What have you done now Tim?” Willem whispered beside him. “Stupid. Stupid.”

“Alright, shooting’s over!” Caleb called out. “Go out and find the pickets, fast. Maybe tonight you will finally get all their names.”

They turned and ran out into the forest. But even as he ran, Tim could feel Caleb’s eyes following him.


***


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PostPosted: Tue May 12, 2015 9:32 am 
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Well played Sir
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It took Tim far too long to see what he had to do, he is still young though.

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PostPosted: Tue May 12, 2015 9:47 am 
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Nice reference to the Ku'Chi tunnels :) Visited there?

And Tanith is still sore about the colonial elf maiden who stood him up (I can't really blame her). Which gives rise to his colorful language... He sure knows how to carry a grudge. You'd think he would have gotten over her after a couple of centuries. Then again, we do have exceptionally lovely elf maidens here in the colonies.

But that's a whole different adventure, dating before even this one.

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PostPosted: Tue May 12, 2015 5:06 pm 
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Prince of Spires wrote:
Nice reference to the Ku'Chi tunnels Visited there?


Hehe! Caught that did you? Yes, indeed. Many a moon ago.... :)


Prince of Spires wrote:
But that's a whole different adventure, dating before even this one.


Sounds like a story! :wink:


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PostPosted: Wed May 13, 2015 6:48 pm 
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Day Four


Tim stood on the beach alongside the four other recruits. His ‘brothers’ now, he guessed. It was early morning and the sun had yet to burn off the night’s fog; the sea was one thick gray soup. He could just barely make out the jut of black rocks from which he had first spied the Shadow Prince.

The Shadow Prince…. There was no sign of the elf. Despite what the old Shadow Walker had said that morning. “The Prince asked for you lot,” he had said as he roused them from their bedrolls (Quill had fallen asleep at his post – something that the Islander had not let them forget in the least, yelling about Witch Elf caresses and Druchii stomach slits. It had been unpleasant.). Still after all that running last night, Tim couldn’t blame Quill. They still hadn’t been able to identify all the pickets in the forest. Though now they were getting better at spotting them; at least he hoped so. They seemed to be picking up some of the tricks at least that were used to blend into branch or bush. And yet still somehow those last pickets continued to elude them.

The Shadow Prince asked for you…. Tim looked down. He reached down and adjusted a buckle on the new leather jerkin he wore. “If you lot are gonna pose as Shadow Warriors, you might as well look the part,” the old elf had said, and he had produced a stack of folded armor. Leather – still with the raw stench of the tanners work about it – fixed with just a few pieces of metal; some interlocking rings here, a few flat scales there. On one shoulder was fixed a piece of bear plate. “That will stop an arrow,” Caleb had said. “Maybe an axe too. If you catch it just right. Though I wouldn’t want to be the elf to test it….”

He stared at the bone plate, knowing all too well where that had come from. The hasty stitching along the bore-holes just confirmed what he already suspected: the armor was recent and rushed work. And yet…this was his armor. HIS armor. His first suit of armor. Ever. It felt…strange. But it also made him feel…taller. He bit his lip and adjusted another strap.

With the armor came the other new accouterment: dangling from a strap was a new Nagarathi Hanger. It was too long to be a knife; too short to be a proper long blade like the heroes wielded in the tapestries back home. It was slightly curved and had a cutting edge along its under length, but ended at a heavy chisel tip, almost triangulated, with cutting edges on all three sides. It felt strange; almost like a cross between a hatchet and a sword. Heavy enough to chop wood, and yet with the chisel tip, could also be used to thrust and stab. The cross-guard was minimal but somehow gave weight – it had sat across his hand like a set of brass knuckles, and he had wondered if that was what its purpose was? Not protection, but another weapon. Just in case.

Still, it felt strange to wear the hanger. It bumped his side and kept getting tangled with the bow on his back. (“You keep that bow strung and ready from here on out,” the Islander had snarled. “We are going to war! Be ready!”) He didn’t really know what to do with it. The ones he had seen before were mostly kept in the Militia Barracks. But that wasn’t on his home stone. And the few he had seen there were in the homes of older veterans; elves that had served their time in the Host of Nagarythe, or the Militias, in their own youth, and kept the blades as mementos. There was little chance to use them, or need, in the Skystones. Invaders never made it that far.

The Hanger whacked his leg again and he fiddled with the strap, adjusting its length. It just felt…weird. Uncomfortable. He wasn’t sure where he should wear it.

“Where is that Shadow Prince?” Quill grumbled, still irritated from this morning. He was clutching at his own jerkin trying to adjust the fit around his neck.

“I haven’t seen him,” his brother answered, eyes sweeping along the length of the beach.

“So we get up all early to stand here in the cold and wet and mist for nothing?” Quill continued to grouse.

“You know,” Willem said slowly, “I heard tell of the lords from the other kingdoms. You know, some travelers stories from the ‘Rathi who came back. Traders with far Tiranoc. And they say…. Well they say that the armies there are a lot different. That there the generals are different.”

Quill snorted. “I don’t doubt it.” He grunted and struggled with his shoulder pauldron, then adjusted a buckle and strap. “I heard tell that the generals there are clad in silver armor, and that they lead from horseback. Horseback! That they charge with the knights and the sound of trumpets!”

Layk was rubbing the back of his neck, he alone among the five didn’t seem to be discomfited by the new armor, just stretching and sleepy eyed in the early dawn. “I heard that they give speeches. That they ride in front of their armies and give rousing speeches to rally the warriors. I heard tell that when Tyrion speaks his men cheer. Cheer!”

Quill snorted again. “I can’t even imagine it. Have you even seen that Shadow Prince speak to anyone that wasn’t Palin’Tanith. He hardly even looks at the warriors. Let alone addresses us! Just sulking off in his tent or disappearing into the woods for hours on end.” He shook his head in disgust. “The other kingdoms get knights like Tyrion! And we… we get some sort of freak. That barely speaks! Nutter, that one….”

Suddenly Quill let out a yelp of pain and went sprawling into the sand. He clutched at the side of his head and stared back wide-eyed. The Shadow Walker was standing there, having come upon them unawares as they spoke.

“I hear you talking like that again, Easterling, and you’ll be swallowing teeth,” the Islander snarled. “Now get up, and get ready. They should be here soon.”

Quill looked like he wanted to say something but simply held onto his injured ear and staggered back into line. The Shadow Walker moved out a little ahead of the rest and began pacing up and down the beach, eyes sweeping over the ocean and its grey mists.

Tim waited. Almost breathless. ‘They should be here soon.’ They? Who? What were they waiting for?

As the seconds stretched into minutes and the cold began to turn his fingers numb and set his feet to chattering, he finally found the courage to speak:

“Who are we waiting for…Shadow Walker?” he called out.

The scarred elf continued his pacing. “Them,” he barked. “Them lot. They’ll be here soon. Should at least.” He spat on the beach. Then stopped and glared at the boys lined up. “Mind yourselves now you hear? When that lot gets here. You mind yourselves and remember that you are Shadow Warriors now. And warriors of the Host of Nagarythe! Don’t you forget that! And don’t you dare embarrass me! You all are representing Nagarythe this morning, by the Prince’s own orders! And if you mess this up….I’ll gut you myself.” He snarled and returned pacing, his black eyes probing the mists. His tangled braids waving as he walked, like the mane of some mountain lion. After a moment he continued:

“Just remember. This lot…. They aint like us. They’re altrais…outsiders. They don’t think like us. They don’t feel like us. You gotta watch em. Can’t trust em. Always remember to keep your guard up. Don’t matter their oaths. They ain’t ‘Rathi. And the only ones you can trust in this big wide world are your ‘Rathi brothers. Remember that!”

There was a chorus of murmured assents at that. Tim frowned in thought. Altrais. Outsiders. From the other kingdoms of Ulthuan! So distant as to be almost legend! But what…where…why???

“Ah finally,” Palin’Tanith said with a grimace and a grunt and stopped his pacing.

Tim looked up but all he could see were the slow swirling mists. No wait. He turned his head. There upon the rocks among the waves….the solitary figure, cloak clad. It stood there facing the sea, seemingly oblivious to the ocean that smashed and grinded about it. And….

There in the mists past the figure. Something huge. Something black. It filled the grey like a whale fills the blue depths of the ocean! Something gigantic of shadows and darkness was swimming there way through the mists. He gasped. Could feel the tension in Willem beside him. And then…coming out of the mists…a bronzed head, gleaming in the wan morning light! He saw it! He saw it!! A great guilded bird of prey, stretching forth its beak and talons, tearing apart the mist as it jutted and soared forward. Forging the path for the mighty wooden prow behind it. It rose and crested over the waves, with a smash and a geyser of white foam! And he could see it. Walls of wood, and timber stretching to the sky! Sails half furled white, and gold, and red! They towered taller then the trees of the Chasms! And it stretched on and on! He could scarce believe that elves had built something so vast!! But there they were!! Tiny figures clambering up the rigging or moving about on deck! Elves!! Foreign elves!! They must be!! He had never seen…never imagined that anyone could build something so huge!! So massive!!!

“What is it?” he said in awe.

Quill, still fidgeting with his bruised ear, grimaced and said, “A Hawkship. Of the Fleet. They dock at Anlec sometimes.”

“A Hawkship,” Tim said, tasting and relishing the word as he uttered it. It was amazing. Something of fantasy!

And it was at a stop in the waters before the beach. He could see a centipede’s worth of oars out and struggling to slow the behemoth. Could see chains being lowered into the water, with sea and bottom anchors affixed. (Chains of metal!! So much metal!! Iron and steel and bronze!! He hadn’t imagined there was that much metal in all the world!! But there it was!!) And boats were being lowered down its side. Boats filled with elves!! Each one larger than his home cottage, they hit the waves and started pulling with long oars gently shaped in elegant curves. Pulling towards the beach, and where they waited.

“Look lively now lads,” the scarred Palin’Tanith now barked in his gravely voice. He could hear the wariness in the old elf’s harsh tones. Tim adjusted his stance, wishing his boots fit better (he needed to patch that one heel), and fidgeted once more with the strap on his hanger.

The black figure of the Shadow Prince had left the rocks and was striding across the beach and coming towards them. The ancient elf’s eyes out towards the waves and the approaching boats.

The boats were soaring across the waves, cresting and diving down with each roller. They moved with speed he could scarce believe, and soon he could see elves leaping out from their sides, hands on railing, guiding the longboats into the shore, pushing, pulling, and heaving as they did so. And then others leapt from the boats. These carried spears in their hands and wore shirts of glimmering mail, and robes of long white, that dangled down past their knees. They leapt from the boats into the shallows and sprinted forward up the beach with practiced gaits. Dozens of them!! They drew up before the five and with a precision that was nearly clockwork, formed ranks, shields held at the ready before them, spears nestled at perfected upright angles within the crook of their opposite arms. They wore helms! Helms tall and conical! Made of metal! Pure silver metal! And he could see gems affixed to the brows. Huge lustrous stones of azure and cerulean! Sapphire and crimson in the sword belts! Hair, long and unkempt, and burnished blonde more often than not, swept out from under the helms. And the eyes stared straight ahead, from each face, as if not seeing the line of boys before them.

The strangest thing of all was that each of these warriors – for what else could they be? – had a bow on his back. A short bow. A SHORT bow?! The thing was maybe half the size of a Nagarathi long bow, and curved twice around its center – like the stave had wings or something. But it was so small, so slender, it looked like a child’s toy. So much about the warriors took his breath away, but then he saw them armed with these tiny bows and Tim had to fight down a chuckle.

And then coming up and around the side of the regiment a single elf. He was dressed as the others, in mail and white robes, but did not have a helm on his head. Instead he had blonde hair tied back into a tail behind his head, so long that it hung to the small of his back. His armor was affixed with more sapphires and guilded leaf. He strode up and around the regiment coming towards the line of Nagarathi.

“You!” Palin’Tanith snorted and spat once more. “What happened to Captain Talius?”

Without seeming to take offense at the abrupt question, the strange elf smiled, his handsome face lighting up with amusement, and said, “Promoted! I heard. Stationed off with a new fleet and a Commodore’s badge near the Island of Dusk, was the envious scuttlebutt.” The elf then made a tsking sound. “And I…I got to learn what happens when one makes a liaison with a Fleet Admiral’s daughter behind the barrels of salted cod,” he said, then paused dramatically. “Apparently the answer is…one gets stationed to fair Nagarythe!” The elf stopped, smile still in place, his eyes bright he looked around at the grey beach and marsh behind. “Charming!” he said.

Tanith said nothing, but spat once more. The Shadow Prince now stood at the end of the line of youths, his arms folded across his chest, black eyes surveying the newcomer.

“Ah! My manners!” the newcomer said, smile stretching even broader. “I believe we have not met,” he addressed the tall Nagarathi lord and dropped into a bow with a flourish. “I am Aerion Ogustis Cumberlyn Flynn…the Third!! Captain, out of Lothern. Though I must say, that the Fleet is my true home. And you are… well…. We all know who you are,” he said, and the smile on his face slipped just the slightest of fractions. He stood straight once more. “A pleasure.”

The Nagarathi lord nodded, and said nothing. The newcomer, smile still in place, licked his lips and said, “I bring word of the enemy’s movements, and fresh commands from the Eastern Fleet.” He paused. “Oh and reinforcements to bolster the Host of Nagarythe,” he said and gestured at the ranks behind him. The foreign elves had not moved during the entire exchange. Tim wasn’t even sure they had blinked! Just standing there on the cold beach, all gleaming and arms straight.

“We need to discuss things,” Tanith muttered, eyeing the still silent Shadow Lord beside him. “And we had best start loading up the provisions,” the last was added half to the tall Nagarathi prince, and half to the foreign captain.

“Of course,” the handsome stranger said with a smile. “My men and my boats stand ready to start the hauling!” he finished with a laugh. “You can come on board and I can show you the maps and tell you about the latest sighting while that is done. Oh and I almost forgot….” The elf turned and looked back towards the gigantic ship. He raised his hand above his eyes and squinted. “Ah there!” he called out, and then added with a rueful chuckle, “Hoeth has sent its reinforcements as well.”

Tim followed his gaze, out across the water to the waiting vessel. His grey eyes probing the grey mists. He tried to see… There! A figure. A tiny figure standing alone on the deck of the ship. Dressed in whites and greens. The long robes were caught in the wind swirling about a slender body… A slender body that even at this distance he could see had curves where none should be! And the hair atop the head, gold and shinning, and curly about a moon shaped face!! What the….?!

A girl??!


***


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PostPosted: Wed May 13, 2015 9:00 pm 
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Well played Sir
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Ah, this is that story, nice.

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PostPosted: Wed May 13, 2015 10:48 pm 
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“I am Aerion Ogustis Cumberlyn Flynn…the Third!!”


I don't know why but I got such a chuckle from this.

Oh Tim you poor besotted lad.

Though I do wonder if the boy fell in love with the first female he saw that he wasn't related to.

:lol:

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PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2015 7:08 pm 
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Day Four – Part Two


“Why do they wear dresses?” Tim wondered aloud.

There were a series of grunts around him as the other recruits struggled loading one of the heavy provision barrels into the beached longboat. The barrel was filled to the brim with rope and mat-work and weighed a ton. Finally, with a shove, they managed to get it into place. Pausing, Willem wiped the sweat from his brow and stared out across the beach and to the ocean and the mighty Hawkship beyond.

“Because she’s a girl, Tim. That’s why,” he said halfway between amusement and annoyance.

Tim flushed bright red and his eyes went to the distant vessel and the lone occupant of the forecastle. The late morning sun gleamed about her like a halo; the white of her robes seemed to shimmer with the light.

“No, not her,” he quickly corrected. “I wasn’t talking about her.”

“How was I supposed to know that?” Willem snapped back. “That’s all you’ve been staring at all morning!”

Tim hastened to add, “I was talking about them. The Altrais. The….ummm Eataini. Why do they wear dresses?” He nodded with his head to the next longboat down the beach where a group of foreign sailors were busy replicating what the Nagarathi were doing in this one. It took a lot of arms, and a lot of strong backs, to move the provisions of an entire army, and the entire camp and crew had been at it for several hours already.

Caleb chuckled from where he was ‘managing’ a little ways away (though that seemed to Tim to mostly consist of sitting on the said barrels and chewing on a bit of reed). “My young Romani, you have just posed one of the great questions of the day! Tis a mystery, perhaps never to be solved!” He peered over to the foreign elves. “And its not just them. I hear it is so in all the other Nine.” He explained referring to the Kingdoms of Ulthuan, the heart of the Ever Empire. There were ten Kingdoms, and so when a Nagarathi spoke of the ‘Nine’ everyone knew they meant the others…over there, past the mountains. Foreign, and yet still part of the ancient pact. Better than colonials, Tim guessed. “I heard even the Ellyria wear dresses. Which must lead to an awful lot of chafing!” More chuckles. “Still it seems that the Hosts of Nagarythe conquered the world, wearing pants, thank you very much. And then the rest showed up afterwards….in dresses!” He finished with a shake of his head.

There were snorts of disgust and contempt from the young Shadow Warriors. Everyone knew of the laziness and ingratitude of the Nine…

“Uh oh,” Caleb muttered then hopped down from a barrel.

Tim immediately realized the source of the senior Shadow Warrior’s distress as Palin’Tanith walked up to them. “You lot, drop what you are doing! Got orders for you! From the Prince,” he said with a snarl and a glare. The boys quickly set the barrel back into place and stood there warily. Tanith was chomping on something, and he continued between smacks, “Want you lot to make your way down to Aenarion’s Passage, to the Steps. You hear me? You get down there right quick. Word is that an envoy will be meeting you there. The Prince wants you to wait and intercept them, hear? Then hurry back here with what word they have.”

“An envoy? From where?” Willem blurted.

“Don’t know. He didn’t say. And if he didn’t say, then you don’t need to know. Understand?” the Islander scowled.

“You want us to head out immediately?” Caleb asked.

“No, not you. Got plans for you and the Warriors. Just the pups this time.” The two senior Shadow Warriors shared a look and then sent blank stares in the boys’ direction.

“We can handle it,” Willem declared confidently.

“Good. You better! Cause if you mess this up….”

“I know,” Willem interrupted with a smirk. “You’ll gut us.”

The Islander stared at him coldly. “No. If you mess this up, you’ll wish I had gutted you, Romani. I promise you that.” He stared hard at the boy, his black eyes frozen and savage. Willem averted his gaze and swallowed a bit. The Islander continued, “And I want you back by nightfall.”

“But,” Layk was frowning. “The maps say the Steps are near three leagues from here!”

Ah so that’s what the Lowlander had been staring at in the nights, Tim thought. He had noticed Layk had a sheaf of parchments in his pack that he pulled out every evening and rummaged through. Tim had assumed they were letters from home – and had felt a twinge of jealousy at that; he still struggled with his letters. Not nearly good enough to write much more than a line or two – or to read more from his mother. But no, the boy must have maps in his satchel. That seemed a practical thing to bring. He wished he had thought of that.

“That’s right,” the Shadow Walker said. “And I want you back by first dark, so you had better get running!”

***

Aenarion’s Passage. The Great Road. The Way. It had many names among the People, but it all referred to the same thing: the old Imperial Highway that stretched from Anlec in the North, through the Hinterlands, and down south to the Annulis, where it terminated at the Phoenix Gate itself, a fortress wrought of bronze and iron, built as high as the White Mountain, and as strong as the bones of the earth. Tim had never seen it, but had heard legends of it all his life: how beyond it lay Avelorn, the motherland. The great forest from which it was said that all the elder race had come into being. There the fabled Everqueen ruled the Enchanted Court, and wove magics that slipped through the veils of time and fate. It was the most sacred of places to the Nagarathi, and he would guess, even the Altrais must feel something for there as well.

But he doubted he would ever know that for sure, or ever go to that distant country…no matter how much he might want to see it. Still today was an adventure in itself, making his way through the thick oak and ash of the lowland forest, until the ground began to slope upwards and the trees turned to black pines, thick and menacing. For today he would get to see Aenarion’s Passage: the road built by command of the Great King himself. It was said that the cobblestones of the Imperial Highway commemorated the passing that Aenarion first made, when he crossed over the mountains and first came into these lands, here to found a new Capital City and birth the Ever Empire. This road marked the birth of his nation, Tim thought as he put one boot down upon the cobbles among the pines. It felt almost disrespectful to him, to step on such an heirloom, such a site of heritage. Asuryan knew the Nagarathi had precious few such things remaining. But even the Druchii could not steal a highway, and Aenarion’s passage, albeit a bit overgrown, and crumbling in places, remained one of the few remaining paved passages within all of Nagarythe.

He put another foot in front of the other. It was…humbling. Exhilarating. Awe inspiring. To be here. To be where the Great King walked. To be touching history. He almost wanted to take his boots off just so the skin of his feet could feel the hardened stones, but the others were still moving at a quick pace; it had been a long jog to get here, only stopping for water and strips of jerky, and their goal was almost in sight: the Steps.

Tim looked down the Passage. The entire road was at an incline, steep, almost thirty degrees. And surrounded thick with black pines and forest growth, so much that the Passage almost looked a tunnel. Wet ferns clustered about and atop the cobblestones, and moss shone thick on the tree trunks ahead and above them. Climb they had to do…but this was nothing as to the shelf ahead. For there the land broke abruptly, and the mighty plateau that signaled the start of the Annulis, the Everwhites, began. It was a drop of hundreds of feet, that ran for near score of leagues. All along the shelf was marked by cascades of falling water, where the mountain streams gained strength and fell into the lowlands below. Some roared and raged year round, mighty torrents of white water that could be heard for a league or more. Others froze during the winter, turning into columns of glittering ice for months on end. The shelf ran west, almost to Romani territory, and twice had Tim come across it in his hunting forays. It always inspired him.

But never before had he been to Aenarion’s Passage. Nor the Steps.

And there they were! He could see them now. A great causeway built of white marble, crossing and crisscrossing the face of the black cliff that rose out of the forest. It was a gentle sweeping turn down the mighty rock face, following the path of the mountain face; the same slender trail that Aenarion himself had used to come this way. Now though it was forged in mighty slabs of marble, with tall columns every hundred feet along its length. Each column was bedecked with the stone bust of an eagle, and the rune of one of the Heroes.

Tim was standing there now at the base of the Steps. A slender waterfall fell into a pool just off the side of the Passage; it was clear and rock bottomed – he could see silver fish darting about its shallow waters. The Easterling brothers dropped their packs and unhooked their bows, and went to drink and wash their faces in the pool. But the two Romani, and the Lowlander, stayed quiet and solemn upon the stones of the Passage, looking up. Up to the white stones of the Step itself, each marble step a hundred feet long, and wide enough for a pair of wagons…. And the eagle bedecked columns along its length. Each one carrying the name of a Hero.

Tim swallowed as he looked at the columns. They seemed so tall, so massive; like the ancient pines of the forest, but more weighty, and more brilliant – they gleamed in the afternoon sun. To think each one was unique. Each column eagle slightly different. They all represented one of the Peers. Those mighty warriors that had banded with Aenarion to fight the Daemon’s from beyond and cast them back into the Outer Dark. They were the oldest of the legends he knew, and as he stood there, listening to the sound of the morning’s rain dripping through the nettles of the forest about him, he couldn’t help but feel he was someplace sacred. His heart slowed in his chest, and his breath caught in his throat. The Heroes that had saved the world from Eternal Damnation; the founders of the noble houses of all Ulthuan. Column after column, stood for one name. One elf. A real person, at one time. Someone brave enough to…. To stand before the Nightmare alongside the Great King. It was breathtaking.

He wasn’t sure if he should bow his head or weep with gratitude. So he just stood there and stared, letting the light trickle down the Steps, and letting his eyes drink it all in.

For if battle is coming, I may never be able to see this again.

Or anything at all….


***


It was a stillness that alerted them to the presence. Not a sound, but…a feeling. A feeling of quiet and calm, the likes of which was strange to these forests. The Black Pines were as filled with predators and savagery as any other part of the Shadowlands. It was no stranger to the conflict of war either. And yet, as the boys sat there poolside and waited, they felt the calm descend all about them – as if a tension had gone out of the very trees themselves.

It was unexpected, so it made them wary. As one they stood to their feet, and though the calm spoke to them of peace and quiet, they each held their bow in their hands, and looked about suspiciously.

“There!” Layk called out, his voice sounding strangely subdued.

Tim followed the indicating gesture. Up, up to the Steps of Aenarion’s Passage. His eyes swept along turn and marble flight, until… He saw it then: a procession, coming down the Steps! A group of…people in cloaks as white as snow. Four in all. And before them, a single midnight black steed, tall of shoulder and long of leg, upon which a rider sat. They came down the Steps in an unhurried passing – those on foot easily keeping stride with the gentle steps of the black horse. Their cloaks barely stirred with their passing. It was…unearthly.

“Should we…. Should we get ready? Or something?” Willem asked, and licked his lips. Tim shook his head only in response. Meet the Envoy was all they had been told. This must be them. He? But… Who were they? What should they do? Prudence dictated the bows in their hands. But should they send some of their number into the forest to wait and watch…just in case?

‘Be calm’ a voice whispered in his ear. The boy nearly jumped from his skin.

“What did you say?” he asked Willem.

“Just if we should get ready?” the boy snapped back and sent him an irritated look.

“Too late now,” Quinn murmured. Tim looked back: the coming party was on the last of the Steps, making their way down the steep slope to the waiting Passage below. The forest was absolutely silent now – only the gentle whispering of the slender waterfall caused a stir in the still air. Tim hesitated, and stilled his breath even further.

‘Be calm…’

He shivered as he felt as if someone had drawn a finger upon the back of his neck.

The procession was almost upon them now. Four figures in white, faces hidden under hoods. And then a matching figure in black, upon a black steed.

And then they were there, stopping upon the road. Still as figures frozen in ice. The boys hesitated and shared some glances.

“Well, do something,” Willem instructed him, and gave him a shove.

Tim winced, then stepped out to the road before the procession. He swallowed, and licked at his dry lips. What to say?

“I am… I am Narrin’Tim,” he began. “Of the….” He had started to say of the Romani Clans, but then bit that down. “Shadow Warrior…of the Host of Nagarythe.” Yes, that sounded better. What to say now? “Who are you? And why do you cross our lands?”

As one the figures pulled back their hoods. Tim gasped. He saw four beautiful maidens standing before him, maidens dressed in white and silver mail! But no! Not maidens. Their alabaster skin was as perfect as a young girl’s but there was a…luminescence to it. A light that almost seemed to cling to their flesh, the way the aura hung about the Silver Moon of Lileath. And their hair was long and as white as a dove’s breast! Pure and unmarked, unbound and as long as to hang nearly to their thighs. But it was their eyes…white as the hair, and devoid of iris or pupil, that marked their age. White eyes…a sign of an elder Asur. A sign of wisdom and learning, of time spent contemplating the truth of song and the lore of ancients. And there were four of them!! Each carried a longbow curved and carved, strange and foreign upon her back. And had a blade at their side, long and straight and gleaming with stones and silver inlay. Nothing like a Nagarathi tulwar or saber. It was magnificent! And odd!

But the rider was even stranger still. Tim turned to look as the figure dismounted from the horse. Where the maidens surrounding her were white as the heavens, the rider’s hair was dark, black as raven’s wing. As were the robes the figure wore. And then she turned and revealed a face that threatened to seize his heart and stop it, so beautiful it was. A maiden’s beauty etched perfect in time. Yet this woman’s eyes too were those of an elder. Not white like the others, but a purest silver. A deep, shining color, that if he stared into it long enough, could see his own reflection there, staring back, open mouthed and astonished.

Silver eyes. The mark of the Seer…. One beloved of Lileath and the Fates themselves.

“We are come, Shadow Warrior,” the rider said in a voice solemn and soft, “From the Ward Forge of the Eternal Mountain. And from the distant shores of Gaen Vale…to bring this.”

She turned to the saddle of the black steed. Tim could see it now, a leather carrying case as tall as an elf. It was bound securely along the horse’s side. The woman swiftly and with a sure touch undid the straps securing the case to saddle. And then, she reached inside and withdrew its contents….

A sword. A sword like none he had ever seen before. It was easily six feet long, and sheathed in a scabbard of black leather set with silver bands. The handled of the blade was a foot and a half in length, and garbed in black shark skin. Upon the pommel but a single blue stone, translucent and glistening, sat.

With a stretch of her arms the woman withdrew the sword from its scabbard, and a blade nearly as tall as he swept out, and gleamed in the afternoon sun. She held it up before her so that all could see the smooth unmarked surface of the blade.

“Behold!!” she declared. “The shards of the Guardian Blade of Tor Vaal have been reforged!! Once more to stand watch upon the walls of the North! I call her Sithel… Spite…. And she is returned to this world by the Grace of the Everqueen to the hand….” The woman faltered and took a deep breath. “To the hand of He That Lives No More…. The Shadow Lord.”

Tim gasped and stared at the blade. Saw the might of its length. The shine of the silver-steel upon its edge. It was Nagarathi. That much he could tell. But ancient in design. Like the writings on the tapestries of his elder’s house. He could see it there in the hands of one of the Heroes standing beside the golden figure of the Great King, as they tossed down the Daemon Lords of the City of Brass!

The woman’s arms were trembling as she struggled to hold the heavy weight of metal before her. He wasn’t sure what to do, so he reached out his arms before him, waiting for the burden. She returned the sword to its scabbard and then laid it upon his outstretched arms. He grunted when he received it: the blade was heavy indeed! He marveled that this slight maiden had conjured the strength to hold it at all!

“Tell him,” the black haired women said, her silver eyes fixed upon him. “Tell your lord, that I have walked the Sea of Stars, and watched the hidden strands being wove.” She paused, her strangely metallic eyes seeming to bore into him. “Tell him that the hour grows late and soon night will fall. That there are seas of blood and forests of flame waiting in the black. And that…Sithel shall see the End of Days….”

Tim stared at the woman uncomprehending. His eyes shifted to the blade laying upon his outstretched arms. It suddenly felt heavy. So heavy as if a great weight of stone and steel had been laid upon him. His arms trembled and he struggled to keep them upright. The raven-haired woman’s hand leapt out and closed upon his own. He felt a warmth spread through his fingers. Felt a strength renew to his arms.

The woman’s eyes were locked upon him with seeming surprise. Her lips parted in a silent O. Her hand still on his arm, she watched him saying nothing. Until then, the mouth came to a stillness. A small, sad smile upon the lips.

“And tell him…. That there is hope still,” she whispered. “That the greatest of the Unliving…. comes….”

“…And Nagarythe shall be avenged!!”

With that the woman returned her hood to her head, and turned back to the mount, climbing once more into the saddle. She turned the steed about to the Steps once more. The maidens of her guard drew their own hoods and formed up around her. Without any sign or gesture they began to move back the way they come, a silent procession once more, as the boy Shadow Warriors watched them depart with confusion and awe.

But then the horse stopped. The black hood turned back to them, and Tim could just barely make out the silver eyes hidden within.

“And tell him one last thing,” she called out in a voice quiet and riven with sadness. “Tell him that…”

“…We miss him…”



***


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PostPosted: Tue May 19, 2015 11:05 pm 
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=D>

Beautiful.

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PostPosted: Wed May 20, 2015 6:47 am 
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Well played Sir
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Not esur i've heard spite described, always assumed it was just a great weapon. I guess we know he's a prince now, with an heirloom like that.

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PostPosted: Wed May 20, 2015 9:54 am 
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Is the blade an heirloom? It sounded as though it were freshly forged in the Ward Forge.

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Makiwara wrote:
Smiths in Nagarythe that can repair the holiest piece of armour worn by the Shadow Prince himself... 0 apparently.


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PostPosted: Wed May 20, 2015 11:52 am 
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Well played Sir
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Headshot wrote:
“Behold!!” she declared. “The shards of the Guardian Blade of Tor Vaal have been reforged!! Once more to stand watch upon the walls of the North!

By the sounds of it, it was once an heirloom.

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PostPosted: Wed May 20, 2015 9:39 pm 
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Yeah, good point.

Does that make him a prince though? Was it his house's heirloom or did it have another purpose? That's more what I meant. Should've phrased it better.

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Makiwara wrote:
Smiths in Nagarythe that can repair the holiest piece of armour worn by the Shadow Prince himself... 0 apparently.


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PostPosted: Thu May 21, 2015 4:56 pm 
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@T and M

Hmmm, I'm not sure if I can shed much light on this discussion. :-k When I was among them, the Nagarathi were noticeably reluctant to speak about Spite's background. There was a lot of talk the likes of "If Spite were here...." or "What would Spite do...." but almost nothing about where, whence, and whom. And this current tale was pieced together from a series of much later remembrances by Regret (when he had been in his cups late into the night), so I wonder at some of the details.

However, there is one clue that may be of some use to you. I spent a small amount of time in the Phoenix Archives in Lothern. Now my elvish is spotty at best, especially when it comes to the regional and ancient dialects before Aenarion united the people and made the 'King's Speech'. The elves were such a fractured and clannish people before then that there are just too many weird conventions of spelling, local words, and odd grammar, not to mention the runes can be radically different. Very frustrating! ](*,) (Aicanor is much better at this sort of historiography; I saw her in the archives once). Still that being said, I did come across one ancient map that I was able to make a bit of. The archivist assured me it was pre-Sundering, so many thousands of years old, and given my predilections, my eye was immediately drawn to ancient Nagarythe. It was much different! (As you are well aware of). And yet to see the change in the coastline and the sheer shape and size of the country was shocking, to say the least. Anyways, while I was perusing this map and trying to make out the little runes on it, I noticed a marking for a 'Tor' in the northeastern coasts (not that far from Anlec): it was labeled (and again forgive my imperfect eyes, but I'm pretty sure) 'Tor Vaal', and it seemed to be a small port citadel of no great renown or import, other than its proximity to the capital.

Now I didn't think much of this at the time. It wasn't until much later that I remembered that Tim had mentioned in one of his tellings (almost off hand) that before the First Death, Spite had been called 'Vaal'. When I remembered that, and thought of that map, I thought that it was too strange to be mere coincidence. But what the exact significance could be, I am not certain. Why did he share a name with this ancient citadel? And why, among all the Nagarathi I have known or read about, he was the only one to lack a Taish, a clan name? Very peculiar. Tanith was of the Rover clan Palin. Tim of course was of the Romani Narrin. Pol was of the Avyn clan, etc, etc. But Vaal....was just Vaal. Nobody ever mentioned the clan name (not that they mentioned the given name much at all; just 'Spite').

Now here's where we get to supposition on my part (mixed with a dose of inference and a smidge of deduction). I am wondering if Spite, or Vaal, was named for this ancient Tor, which sunk beneath the seas long before he was born. If so, why? Perhaps.... again supposition... but perhaps his family was a noble of the city. Or THE noble family of the city. Which was either destroyed in the Sundering along with their land, or (even worse) fled north with Malek'Kith? Perhaps the remaining line in Nagarythe kept the name of the city as a reminder of what they had lost? Perhaps it was some sort of charge on the boy?

It still doesn't explain the absence of a clan name. Maybe the clan was wiped out? Still, you would think the survivors would cling to the name? Or perhaps he had a clan name and just he is so well known that it is dropped? (Though every other Nagarathi I know keeps it no matter what, so....). Hmmmm... A thought just occurred to me that perhaps he was a 'Shado' - a clan-less - which would be shocking to think, but would explain that why later in life after he had become well known and respected the speakers simply referred to him by his given name.

Sadly, I'm afraid I don't know the answer. Perhaps some day someone will spill the beans. I will keep an ear to the ground. :)

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PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2015 8:19 am 
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Perhaps I can shed some light on the matter (if I may be so bold). The colonial libraries offer some interesting insights in the matter. The library of the City doesn't come close to the Phoenix Archives in terms of size. However, when it comes to obscurity and rarity, it can give the Archives a run for its money. After all, knowledge is power. And the rarer your knowledge is, the more it's worth. So Spires invests heavily in finding the most obscure pieces of knowledge out there.

In ancient days, Tor Vaal was one of the naval stations for Malek'ith and of his father before him. It was by no means the biggest or the most important of naval bases. But it offered a nice deep water port and it was close enough to Anlec to be considered an outpost for the city. It was a military town. The naval base was the main reason anyone would live there.

As a consequence, Tor Vaal suffered more heavily then most cities in the sundering, and not because it sank beneath the sea. Almost the entire population of Vaal, all military or ex-military men serving under Malek'ith, followed Malek'ith north. Those who refused were slain. Tor Vaal was wiped off the map before it sank. Here lies the reason why Vaal doesn't have a clan name. If an entire clan went north, then they were stricken from all records. They no longer had any claim to Nagarathi lands or titles. In effect, they seized to exist and were marked as casualties of the sundering. This was applied to the entire city of Vaal as they went north. All clans living in Vaal just ended.

As happens in such a case someone survived. The younger son of the ruling family of Tor Vaal remained loyal to the Everqueen and refused to go North. His father and brothers, instead of simply slaying him, found a more cruel punishment. As Tor Vaal began sinking beneath the waves, they tied him up in the main hall, placing him on his knees before the empty throne. They left him to drown before his fathers seat as they sailed forth.

The Everqueen herself it was who rescued the last true son of Tor Vaal. She could not let someone drown who remained this loyal to her and the Phoenix. Someone who would rather die then betray her. Someone who loved her and what she stood for this deeply. As the water in the hall was rising towards the sons chest, Yvraine, Everqueen and half sister of Malek'ith strode forth like the wrath of Isha, the water parting in front of her. She carried him out of Tor Vaal as the city slid beneath the waves. The only artefact she took with her out of Tor Vaal was the ancient Guardian Blade of Tor Vaal, which she had used to cut him loose. When the city had disappeared completely, the Guardian Blade snapped and splintered. Its magic had been tied too deeply with that city.

The son of Vaal, as he became known, was taken to the court of the Everqueen. He was not just clanless, but his clan had never existed and his line has remained so. His line never prospered. Always there were only one or two children. But it never died out either. They never took on another clan title, not trusting in the bonds of a clan to protect them. They remembered, even when everyone else forgot, what a clan could do without love, and that service to the Everqueen was more important then any bond of clan or kin. All that linked them to their past was the name, common for sons born in the line, Son of Vaal. Over the centuries, this shortened to just Vaal.

The shards of the Guardian Blade were kept in the courts of Gaen Vale, waiting for when they would be needed. When Vaal became Spite, the Everqueen remembered. The Guardian Blade would serve once more to defend Nagarythe.

This also explains why it's not a good idea to speak ill of the Everqueen to Spite, even more so then to any other Nagarathi. He remembers. I've even heard a rumor that this was the reason why he became Shadow Prince. Not duty to Nagarythe or the Host, nor loyalty to the Phoenix and the Everempire. "The Everqueen needs you" was what called him back to the Host. But that's only a rumor of course. And I don't dare to ask Spite if it's true. And Tanith isn't telling.

How much of this is true I cannot tell. Records from those days are sketchy, and the court of Avelorn is secretive about the moves and motives of the Everqueen. But it is what I've patched together from what records I have found. So make of it what you will.

Rod

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PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2015 8:51 am 
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Well played Sir
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Thanks a lot for that, an interesting read.

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PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2015 12:40 pm 
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Makiwara wrote:
Does that make him a prince though?
Was this ever a question?

Spires and his famous need to know everything about everyone! It was always my guess that Vaal was not Spite's true name, anyway.

@Headshot, was that you, hiding in a corner behind a heap of dictionaries, muttering that reading Asur scripts is worse than trying to make sense of Tarot card spread?

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PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2015 2:25 pm 
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Aicanor wrote:
Makiwara wrote:
Does that make him a prince though?
Was this ever a question?

Actually, I think that the army full of fanatical, permanently angry shadow warriors looking for any excuse to 'teach' someone about Nagarythe makes him a prince. If you disagree you can take it up with Tanith and friends... The heirloom sword is just decoration.

It pays to know the finer details about everyone. And Spires and Vaal go way back. So I'm pretty sure they've been keeping an eye on each other over the past 2 millennia or so.

Rod

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PostPosted: Fri May 22, 2015 5:47 pm 
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Prince of Spires wrote:
if I may be so bold


A lack of boldness never was Spires' problem! :D
(I mean, he sank Ulthuan after all.... :roll: )


(And denied me my fuchsia! For which I...shall...be...avenged!!! :twisted: )


@Aicanor

You remember that 'coffee spilt' incident? Yeah. Well I was the one being dragged out by the ear. :oops:

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