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You are here: Home --> Forum Home --> Recent posts by Almerin
Topic: The Chakran Portal - an Adventure in Audalis
Subject: the key is just under the door mat, wuhahahaa.... not really

Alloryen Kingdom
The Exaulted Tower
2nd day of the 8th month: Temoth Ore
5:09 pm

Malius sent his two ferrets up the walls to investigate the top window. Using the ivy and rough stone, the animals scurried up quickly.

Thondrek, in the mean time, decided not to wait on two animals if he could go see for himself. Explaining his actions, he asked his magic wielding companions for an extra layer of protection before attempting to enter the tower. Alyssia abided by granting him an impenetrable magical armor, but after casting the spell, she could feel that the benefit of the spell was cancelled by Thondrek’s breastplate.

The Sylvari bladesinger had dismounted her horse in the meantime, and she too approached Thondrek with ready hands. As she weaved a pattern in the air, Thondrek’s outline lost its stark contour, and a blurry haze came over him. His companions had some difficulty to locate his exact position now.

“The best of luck, brave Khord.” Quilanday whispered, but her words seemed more intended towards herself than the Duskblade.

Malius peered up to the high window, and noticed his ferrets had almost reached it now. They were indeed fast climbers.

Thondrek positioned himself in front of the wall, and soothed it with words of bonding. Then he activated his magic and disappeared from sight. An instance later he reappeared, only inches closer to the wall. Something had blocked his passage; a magical protection equal in strength to the one on the door, though different in nature.

Then a loud squeaking sounded from above. Malius’ two ferrets came running down the wall, leaving a trail of dark red paw-prints as they went. Something had upset them greatly. In their panic they toppled over each other and fell the last 7 feet, to land on top of the Khord that stood waiting at the wall. They bounced from his breastplate and fell to the earth, where Malius picked them up.
After calming them down a bit, they told him as much as their animal brains could muster. There was something big and furry in the tower, bipedal according to one ferret, four legged according to the other. Red glowing eyes and red covered floors was all they could tell the Ranger, and the retold their findings to his companions.

“I have to get in there.” The lady Bladesinger stated. “There might be survivors, hiding from that monster. There might be valuable information. I need to find out what’s causing all of this!” Does anybody have any other ideas?”

Londelirinen Kingdom
Elven village
3rd day of the 8th month: Temoth Ore
7:51 pm

"Here, help my with my saddle bags I do not want to leave them unguarded."
Elessarae was planning on luring the goblin closer, to lash out at him before he could call for backup. The creature looked over his shoulder for a moment, into the inn. Then he turned and grinned widely.

“Now don’t you worry about your saddle bags. Leave them right there on your horsy, and I’ll guard them. You just go in and… what!”

The bladesinger’s flare spell had hit the goblin right in the face. Before the creature could more, Elessar’s hand was over his foul mouth. Touching the thing was horrific, like placing your hand in a cold plate of porridge, but with a thick, old membrane over it. The creature struggled to get loose. And indeed succeeded to wriggle its way out. It opened its mouth to cry desperately for help, but Elessar had found her belt pouch and hit the goblin on the forehead. A strange look of astonishment crossed the creature’s face and then it fell down face first into the mud.

Elessarae of Megilindar Nost crept up to the inn’s window, and peered inside.
Once, this building had been a fine establishment of Sylvari taste, but it had been utterly transformed into the hell holes that goblinoid usually seemed to prefer. The floor was muddy and covered in filth and litter. Two goblins were fighting over a big bubbling pot on the fire, and another one, bigger, and clad in armor was pacing around the room, yelling in Draconic. Elessar could barely see the common room, but she noticed that the elves that were sitting at the tables, were already decomposing in places. This village hadn’t been Sylvari for quite some time. The amount of noise that came from inside hinted that more goblins were wandering about, and explained why they hadn’t heard the troll breaking free.
Concentrating hard, Elessar could hear what the bigger goblin yelled at the two at the fire.

“Where’s Frustuuk? It’s his duty to care for the tree! He better not be sleeping again. I’ll rip his head from his skull if he forgot my orders.”

“But captain, isn’t his head and his skull the same thing?” Peeped one of the cooks, but after an intense snarl from the captain, it fled away into another room.

At that moment the troll began to howl loudly, and the goblin captain looked out the doorway suspiciously. Slowly he started to pace towards the inn’s entrance.

Posted on 2007-08-25 at 10:41:37.

Topic: The Chakran Portal - Q/A
Subject: wooooops

Sorry Tann... I just now saw it, hehe... I'll go read!

Posted on 2007-08-24 at 20:25:11.

Topic: The Chakran Portal - Q/A
Subject: ferrets

So you're sending your ferrets up there? You know you don't have any direct contact with them, like a sorcerer has a telepathic link... but they can go up there and come back down... I need a post about that though

Posted on 2007-08-24 at 16:46:41.

Topic: The Chakran Portal - Q/A
Subject: oh

I liked the spiderclimb one... I was always a big fan of that spell... but you can also try Dimension door, or hop, or whatever it is called

Posted on 2007-08-24 at 16:20:28.

Topic: The Chakran Portal - Q/A
Subject: actually

If you read this Q/A some pages back... probably previous page... you'll see that I was not posting for you to give you a shot to reconsider your actions. I don't know the outcome of the battle, but there is a BIG chance Vidar will get knocked under -10 HP and then it is over, you know.

Perhaps you've got some other plan to steal your equipment back? I thought you had read that warning already.

Posted on 2007-08-23 at 18:21:49.

Topic: The Chakran Portal - Q/A
Subject: read it

I've read your post, and I'll have to see how the goblin will react... my first instinct is that the goblin will not 'act as a slave to the elf'.
Knocking the goblin down without being seen and heard will be up to the dice and your ability to move silently.

With what are you hitting him?

Posted on 2007-08-22 at 18:04:04.

Topic: The Chakran Portal - Q/A
Subject: ok

thanks for the notice, Chris.

Posted on 2007-08-22 at 12:45:50.

Topic: The Chakran Portal - an Adventure in Audalis
Subject: didn't make it past Spell Resistance

Alloryen Kingdom
The Exaulted Tower
2nd day of the 8th month: Temoth Ore
5:09 pm

Alyssia acted instinctively fast. Concentrating hard on the door she released a bolt of lightning big enough to electrocute any normal man. The door was webbed with light as electricity rushed over it. When the intensity of the flash and the smoke faded, the door remained unharmed.
The bladesinger, still on top of her horse, looked baffled at the sorceress. Apparently she hadn’t expected such raw power from somebody that looked as ragged as Alyssia.

“I don’t think magic will get you inside that tower. It’s a tower constructed with magic for mortar, and carries the most powerful magical researchers of the Sylvari empire. We have to get in a different way.”

Posted on 2007-08-22 at 12:45:20.

Topic: Book - Diamonds of Spring and Fall
Subject: reply

yeah, I miss my Lion... he suited me as well. But I'm also glad the Toad King is back. I've grown attached to it.

Anyways... Thanks a lot for taking the time to read through this. Speed-bump; that's exactly what I've hit. I couldn't describe it any better. I also feel like the story is in a low-speed section, which is necessary for the continuation and development of the characters, but can be quite boring to write.

I hope I'll find my spirit again. Thanks for the comments.

Posted on 2007-08-20 at 20:38:02.

Topic: The Chakran Portal - Q/A
Subject: questions

As for time of day: see my update, it's always included.

There was only smoke coming from the building the Goblin indicated as an inn.

There were no pets, animals or even birds around

The troll is about as big as the stables are, but is tied with a chain to a big wooden beam inside the building. There are no other horses or other occupants visible.

Oh, and I'm back at the Toad King again... I missed it too much.

Posted on 2007-08-19 at 17:08:39.

Topic: yet another movie thread...
Subject: PL

Pan's Labyrinth is Spanish, not Italian.

I found it to be quite awesome.

Posted on 2007-08-19 at 09:42:11.

Topic: The Chakran Portal - Q/A
Subject: posts

updated for both the main group and Elessar.

I'm waiting with an update for Vidar in case Skari wants to revise his plan, which I strongly advice.

Posted on 2007-08-18 at 10:45:29.

Topic: The Chakran Portal - an Adventure in Audalis
Subject: the bloody tower, goblin village

Alloryen Kingdom
The Exaulted Tower
2nd day of the 8th month: Temoth Ore
5:09 pm

The bladesinger abruptly snapped her head towards Loda. Her expression portrayed her heated surprise, but she calmed down drastically seeing the nature of the companions. She listened to the words of the Khordish druid and nodded politely to her and Alyssia.

“Thank you, travellers. Apparently the hospitality and valour of the Sylvari has taken too much of a punching lately. I’m glad to find you still carry bright spirits in these dusky woods.”

She looked up to the tower and shouted: “You hear that!? There is still some spirit left in your Kingdom. Now open up!”

Returning to the group, Loda and Alyssia in particular since the rest seemed to hold back, she introduced herself.

“I am Quilanday, from the Order of the Bladesingers. I have been appointed the task of investigating the recent animal attacks. I am sure you’ve heard rumours of this? Apparently they’ve been starting out here in the Alloryen Kingdom, but the plague is steadily spreading across the Empire. I was hoping the sages of this tower could help me find out what the source of this unrest is, but they’re n….”

At that moment a red liquid drop splashed on the bladesinger’s forehead. She looked up, and following her gaze the companions noted one of the high windows, ninety feet from the ground. A sleeved arm was hanging from the white sill, lifeless. From its limp fingers fell another scarlet drop. Then a stream of red liquid started pouring from the window onto the stone walls. Like an inversion of the ivy, it crawled its way down. For a moment, they could perceive a dark form behind the opening of the window. Then it was gone.

Londelirinen Kingdom
Elven village
3rd day of the 8th month: Temoth Ore
7:51 pm

Elessar didn’t like the feeling she got in this village. It was quiet, and the Goblin had clearly dropped hints that more of his species were located in this village. As to not arouse the creature, she complied with its invitation. Riding Gharion towards a bigger building that could be a stables, she peered into the inn.

It was poorly lit, but she perceived several Sylvari sitting at tables, though none of them moved. In the few seconds she had, she caught a silhouette of a large goblinoid creature moving around, and a large pot on the fireplace, with two Goblins attending whatever was cooking.

Then she dismounted Gharion and pretended to tie his rein. The knot she made was simple though, and he could break loose without an effort.

The Goblin was still waiting for her, grinning as politely as it could at her. Then suddenly the wall of the stables broke open and a troll came bursting from it. It sprang straight at Elessar, but was yanked back in midair and landed hard on the muddy ground. A big chain was wrapped around its neck, and leather leashes had been bound to its arms to restrain it further. The Goblin at the door squeaked, and yelled out feverishly in common.

“Please, Sylvari, Goroptk doesn’t mean harm. He’s upset that he’s been bound, but that’s for his own good. Just come in to our inn, and we’ll fix you some soup.”

Goroptk the troll got up and tried to get closer to Elessar and Gharion, but he could not reach either of them. His calls were loud enough for anyone to hear, but so far, nobody had come running or even shown a hint at interest in what was happening.

(OOC: I need to know pretty specifically what you intend to do, and what you intend not to do at all.)

Posted on 2007-08-18 at 10:44:05.

Topic: yet another movie thread...
Subject: Dreamgirls

Yeah, that's right... we watched Dreamgirls. And we didn't even feel like it.

The thing was: I was in the videostore and called Fantasy with her cell that I use mostly. We had seen all the big things we needed to see, f.i. 'the prestige' (GREAT movie), so I named some titles that we hadn't seen yet. She wanted to see 'Norbit' (just out of curiosity), and I didn't feel like any of the left-overs. So I pick the DVD from the shelf, go to the counter, pay, get in my car, and drive back home.

Halfway, I look at the Norbit DVD to discover that I picked the wrong one. I was stupified... Dreamgirls was smiling up at me from the passenger seat.

... we decided to watch it anyway.
I really didn't get what the big deal is about that movie. It starts out like your typical bio-pic, but not that bad at all. But it goes wrong rapidly. The support actress was nominated for an Oscar, but for what? For singing better than Beyonce, probably. Because her acting wasn't that special at all, or at least not so special that she deserved nomination.
The songs weren't so great, the acting wasn't so great, the whole movie wasn't so great.

Don't waste your time on it.

Posted on 2007-08-17 at 23:02:22.
Edited on 2007-08-17 at 23:04:33 by Almerin

Topic: The Chakran Portal - Q/A
Subject: ehm...ok

first of all... I picked a new Avatar. It's taken me years, but I really really liked this one

Skari: I must warn you that I will not hesitate to kill Vidar if the fishmen overpower him. If you want to revise or expand your plan, I'll give you some time.

Posted on 2007-08-17 at 17:18:52.

Topic: Audalis: afterlife
Subject: but

the question is: is death definitively the end? I think that if you put all followers of Rydor's way into the same 'plane' or 'heaven', you get a bit of an afterlife that sounds extremely boring. Perhaps we can spice things up a bit? You know, will all good and righteous beings still be good and righteous once they are put in an environment where everything is peaceful? Won't a dead soul be bored?

That's why reincarnation is so interesting: you have something to look forward to. And I think Vanadia's approach is good: you don't always reincarnate into whatever you were close to.

Or perhaps a totally different idea: your body decomposes and becomes worm-food, then worm-poo, and eventually returns to the earth.
But how about the soul? Does it also decompose, while in a invigorating delerious state? Is that state what we perceive as heaven? Does it eventually desolve back into the earth's being to be taken up again into another soul after years, weeks, decades? Is death really definitive, or is there a short time-limit to retrieve a soul?

well... just a bunch of musings and thoughts, nothing concrete really...

Posted on 2007-08-17 at 15:33:32.

Topic: The Chakran Portal - Q/A
Subject: hmmm

I really thought there was a new post... but I don't see anything.... STRAAAAAAAAANGE

Posted on 2007-08-15 at 18:02:40.

Topic: The Chakran Portal - Q/A
Subject: post post post

I need more posts people. I see lots of you guys online, so do something!!!

Posted on 2007-08-15 at 17:58:38.

Topic: The Tyrant - short story
Subject: hehe

Nice short story Skari! There are some minor grammar 'errors', but I think those mostly come from translating. Otherwise a very entertaining point of view. And I usually don't like stories written in the first person.

One tip: Make paragraphs

Posted on 2007-08-13 at 16:12:43.

Topic: The Chakran Portal - Q/A
Subject: sense motive

Dragon M, you don't have to roll your own dice for skill-checks. I do that for my players, just to make sure they don't cheat.
Sense motive is pretty much an exeption to this rule, since your character senses whatever the player senses. So if you think the goblin is tricking you, you can make your character think the same. No sense motive check required. You can always request a SM-check if you are in doubt.

Posted on 2007-08-12 at 19:32:08.

Topic: Book - Diamonds of Spring and Fall
Subject: Chapter IV - or what's in it so far

Chapter IV

One after the other, the companions entered the chamber next to the great hall. Before them a room opened that was supplied with all the luxury available to the elven palace. The decoration was rich, with long veils in soft beige draping from the ceiling onto the walls. A large oak table flaunted in the middle of the room, its surface hidden under a layer of bowls and plates, and its side rich in an organically flowing design. A glorious meal was spread out over the table, and chairs and dishes stood waiting for them to attend.

Above the table hung a chandelier, which sprouted a warm light. Several beds were placed against the wall opposing the entry from the great hall. They were crowned with large, red velvet pillows, topping thin sheets of linen. Dark curtains hung above the beds, to shelter any who used them from the light and waking eyes in the room.
There were two windows in that wall, and another door, leading to a small balcony.

Gilliad took a chair and settled himself next to Jerily. He was careful not to position himself at the head of the table. Though he was supposed to be the group’s leader, he had no apatite for claiming the title by display of importance.

Well, that's what I have so far. Let me know what you think.

Posted on 2007-08-12 at 16:56:40.

Topic: Book - Diamonds of Spring and Fall
Subject: Chapter III - the mission

Chapter III

The councillor came to meet them as the transports lowered their passengers onto a wooden walkway. Lumindiel was the only one that eagerly stepped up to the elf, and smiled as she bowed. Before she could say anything, the man overdid her bow even lower, thus evading direct interaction with the priestess. Then he regarded them all coolly, and stated: “Welcome heroes. We are sorry for the inconvenience this flight brought you. It was deemed necessary. Please follow me, the King awaits you.”

It was obviously a rehearsed line, for the welcome felt bitter, and the apology lacked any sign of sincerity. The councillor didn’t wish to be here, and he would not hide his contempt. Still, etiquette and orders instructed him to be polite enough to not offend his guests. Therefore he waited until all of them properly descended their transports, and gathered to follow him.

Velowyn started picking up the wooden eagles one by one, and readied himself to put them away in the designated compartments. He glanced at the dragon once more. It was most certainly the last time he would see the magnificent creature, and he wanted to observe it for clear memory. The tales and songs of the Sky-battles never spoke of the beauty these dreaded creatures possessed. Perhaps they were not a species that deserved to be feared. So far the dragon prince had been quite harmless.
Lost in thought and occupied with his work, Velowyn didn’t hear the councillor’s call until its very last words: “… too master Ranger.”
The young elf’s gaze went up from a vague stare of mesmerization to the surprised recognition of faces turned his way. He dropped the wooden eagle he was carrying, and met up with them in steady pace. He stared at the councillor with an almost threatening attitude.

“Excuse me, councillor Seravan. Was there anything you needed from me?”

He had been caught off guard, and felt a certain shame. But he would not allow himself to feel guilty or embarrassed. Better to blame somebody else for his lack of attention. In this case, the councillor made an excellent target. Velowyn and his fellow rangers mistrusted every member of council by prejudice. A councillor could either prove itself worthy of the King, and therefore gain the respect of the rangers, or be deemed liability. The fact that the councillors had been chosen from the highest ranks of Uriéna’s society didn’t change a thing.

The councillor returned the cold stare. The young ranger did not fall under his command, and would never answer to his wishes or reprimands for indecent behaviour. A simple answer would do, for now.
“The King requests your presence as well.” He spoke evenly. His robes twisted under the sudden turn, and the councillor made for one of the tunnels that ended at the docks.
The group followed suit, cornered by the four guards. The tunnel they walked through was damp and old. No decoration adorned the walls, and only sporadically did a lantern brighten the way. Gilliad felt like he was inside an ant-nest. Chips of wood splintered from the ceiling, and the lines of old wormholes swarmed over the walls. The smell of old bark clung heavily on the air. It reminded the old warrior of decaying wood, a dangerous smell. Behind him, Lumindiel moved closer to Velowyn, and whispered in the ranger’s ear. The words were loud enough for all of them to hear.

“How can you address a member of council with such impudence? I admire his patience with you, for had I such power and responsibility, I would teach you to properly respect my elders. Be glad it is not in my place to do so right now.”

Velowyn glanced at her sideways. He did not respond with more than a thin smile. None of them said anything, pretending not to have heard. The grin on the councillor’s face betrayed enough of his thoughts, and the dragon prince shook his head at the emotional outburst. Gilliad partially agreed with the priestess, though he would not have said anything. He knew not the reasons for the ranger’s reaction, though he could guess.
Idomias was not even aware of what exactly the priestess had whispered. He had heard her voice, but had not been able to keen his ears on their meaning. Strength was slipping from him with every step. The ride on the eagles, and acting like he was perfectly fine, had tapped greatly from his energy reserves. They were running out. He stumbled, and caught himself on the dragon’s front leg. The creature halted instantly and looked at Id.

“You look terrible, even for an elf.” The prince stated shocked. Had he had any eyebrows, they would now be lifted high. “I hate to do this, trust me, I really do, but you’re going to have to sling yourself over my back. I’ll carry you.”

Id was too weary to reject. The thief was broken by exhaustion, and would’ve agreed on anything concerning resting and being carried. With Gilliad’s help, he hauled himself over the slender back of the dragon, and gave in to the gentle rocking of the creature’s movement. Once certain that Id wouldn’t fall off, the dragon sped up until it walked alongside the councillor. The elf peered at the prince cautiously, but the latter didn’t look back.
“Please tell me this is not why I was summoned here? To carry your weakest flesh from one end to another?”

Instead of responding to the sarcastic question, the councillor pointed at a side tunnel and changed direction.

“We’re almost there.”

And indeed, five minutes later they had steadily ascended the branch through several tunnels and hallways. The walls were less damaged, and some even decorated. They passed a section with many fortified doors, a library, and a laundry room. All of these rooms were deserted, though they looked like they had been recently cleared of activity. Books lay open in the library, and steam still rose from the freshly washed laundry. Gilliad wondered what was so important that it justified all this secrecy. Lumindiel must have been unsettled by the same thing, for she bend close to Gilliad as they turned into another hallway void of life.
“I have a feeling we’ve been summoned here to aid in finding a cure for the Savage Flue.” She said in a low voice.
“This emptiness chills my bones, and I’ve dealt with many nasty situations.”

Gilliad nodded. He held the rest of his response to himself. He was judging the priestess, and found he didn’t exactly know where to place her. At times she seemed genuinely disarming, but she also seemed picky on how to use her powers. She hadn’t lifted a finger when Id fell down and was carried by the dragon. And he knew she was capable of clearing the young elf’s weariness.

His pondering was cut short when the councillor suddenly turned in a late reaction to their apparent unease.
“Do not be fearful, heroes. These tunnels and halls have been cleared to maintain certain that nobody knows that you’re here. Your mission must not be known to the public. Come now, we are here.”

Before them lay just another tunnel, but the councillor indicated one of the walls as if it was a door. They all stared at it in confusion, except for the dragon prince. He pushed any who stood before him out of the way, and lazily trudged towards the wall. Id pushed himself up on the dragon’s back, and took a sitting position. The young elf opened his mouth to say something, but the dragon’s neck ducked low and pierced the wooden wall. With a few more steps the dragon was absorbed by the wood up to his shoulders, as if the wall engulfed him.
Id stuck out a hand to touch the surface. It too disappeared into the wood, like the wall was nothing but a horizontal puddle of grained water. He looked back.

“It’s not real.” he stated weakly, but with an excited undertone. Gilliad was glad to see some of the life growing back in the young elf, who now completely went out of sight as the dragon moved further into the wall.

“I suggest you follow.” The councillor stated coolly. His words pulled the group into motion, and one by one they followed the dragon. Gilliad was amazed by the presentation of arcane magic. This part of the wall was not really there, but he could see it. He stretched out a finger to touch the surface, expecting to find thin air, but to his astonishment he could feel the rough texture. Putting a little more pressure he punctured through the wood as if it was a thin membrane. Resolutely he stepped forward to meet the others.
Crossing the bark gave him a strange sensation. It was like slamming your face into the solid wood of a tree deliberately. But no sharp impact followed. Instead, Gilliad felt as if he was pushed into a soft, feathered pillow, with the exception that he could breathe freely. It wasn’t suffocating or unpleasant. It was merely odd.
He wondered if any of the servants ever realized there was an opening right under their noses, or if the illusion could be lifted or solidified.

Then he stepped out of the wall, and entered an enormous hall. It took Gilliad a second to recognize that he had been there before. Only one hall existed with an immense floor made of granite. But he remembered it so differently.
Last time he had been here the hall was filled with elves in colourful clothes, seeking council or paying respect to the King. The sense of joy surrounded all, enhanced by companionship and excessive food and wine. Laughter and chit-chat had filled the room, guided by soft, gentle music played by bards on a centred stage. Now the only sound he heard was the loud tapping of the party’s boots on the hard floor.
Gilliad looked around and felt insignificant in the deserted hall. Giant tapestries hung from the walls. They had been colourful and vibrant before, but in the weak torchlight that now illuminated the room they seemed to hover over them, as if they would not only suck in the echoes of their footfall, but their beings as well.
Pillars rose high, carved like trees spreading their branches to support the ceiling. In merrier times and atmospheres they were marvellous ornamentation, but in the duskiness they were foreboding nothing grand.
The centred stage was dark and deserted, and lay like a scaffold waiting for the guilty to attend it. Beyond its bulky form Gilliad could see the far end of the hall. It was the incredible emptiness that pressed upon him, and he could see the others tensing too. Velowyn had been in the great hall before, but it had been in the safety of the crowds. He had been able to remain inconspicuous, blending in with his surroundings, which was the way he preferred it.
Lumindiel had been a young girl the last time she had addressed the King’s court. Her parents had taken her to the celebrations after the victory of the sky-battles, which had announced the ending of the dragon invasion. On that occasion the halls had been full of merriment, almost suffocatingly crowded.
The rest of the party was unfamiliar with the royal palace, and even the dragon prince felt humbled.

Councillor Seravan passed by, and when their gaze followed him, they perceived the throne on the north side of the stone floor. Admandyr, King of Uriéna, the elven capital, sat there with his chin in his hand, not making the slightest move, but looking at the group with serious features.
He was dressed in dark blue cloths with golden hems and wide sleeves. His hair was dark, the colour of wet oak, and hung loosely over his shoulders. His eyes were blue like the skies at a clear day. Upon his head he wore a crown made of gold. It didn’t form a complete circle, but ended in two branches at the back. Silver leaves hung from the branches and covered the base of Admandyr’s head and a large part of his neck. The king’s councilmen stood in a semi-circle around the throne, facing the newcomers.

Gilliad cast a look over his shoulder, aiming at the tunnel where they came from. He expected to see a solid wall, but to his surprise his gaze bounced up a statue of a bathing dryad. Had they walked through that sculpture as well? Not knowing what to think he followed the rest of the group, walking proud but cautious. Something strange was going on, he could feel the tension that lay like a thick mist in these halls. This secrecy had been unsettling, but the King’s expression was unnerving.

The group followed councillor Seravan and halted before the throne while their guide took his place amongst the other councillors. All eyes were on them now, and the dragon prince reacted to the attention by turning his head to face Idomias and whispering a little too loud: “Hey kid, I think it’s time you got off my back now. We’re in the presence of an important elf.”

He put some emphasis on those last words, but it was unclear if he tried to mock the King, or if he really meant what he said. The King seemed to take it positively, for he stately straightened his back, and regarded them all with a hopeful smile.
Gilliad felt some relief when he saw the King lower his veil of concern, and wondered why he reacted so strongly to Admandyr’s expressions. Perhaps it was ground into his being after so many years of serving, like the bedding of a river in hard rock after the water dried out. Or perhaps it was the King’s position and charisma that made everything he did seem like the right thing? The old warrior decided not to let himself be caught up too much in what the King would bring. Then the King spoke, and Gilliad felt his back tighten as he automatically assumed a perpendicular stance. The light and clear voice, trained by many years of discussion, seemed to work soothingly.

“Welcome, brave heroes. I am king Admandyr as most of you may already know. Your summoning was for a special reason and we,” he made a gesture towards the members of council, who were all looking straight and seriously at the party, “are sorry for any inconvenience this secrecy has caused. Let us explain why you are here and I’m sure you will understand our reasons. Larthani?”

On hearing her name, one of the councillors stepped forward, and gave a slight nod to the group. She was dressed in the same dark red and purple as all the other members of council, but distinguished herself by wearing a wide belt with a silver buckle.
The group eyed her with full attention. Even Id, who had been leaning against the dragon, traded his weariness for curiosity, and released his hold on the scaled prince’s shoulder.

The elven lady named Larthani faced the group sternly.
“As you know the trees we live in are ancient and have stood through the many tests nature has given them. Storms and attacks by dragons could not make them falter.”
She looked at the dragon prince, but he remained invariable.

“Recently, sages have discovered very old tomes, that speak of tidings that bring danger beyond comprehension. It is not danger that comes from other species, nor is there anybody else we could punish, but nature itself. The discovered tomes speak of something called ‘Seasons’; tidings that will bring nature in an unsteady balance. What we understand of it is that some natural force will cause the sun to lessen its amount of light. The reduction of sunlight will eventually affect the mighty trees we live in. They will have to release their leaves into the wild winds that will roam our lands at that time, because of the changing temperatures. We cannot imagine the damage these falling leaves will do to our city, and consider the vulnerability we’d face would these natural barriers no longer protect what would be left of Uriéna. Total chaos and destruction would wipe away our beloved capital.”

Larthani paused there, letting the news slowly get a hold on the brains of the party. She had told the facts in a steady tone. And not a tremble was heard in her voice as she continued.

“We have assigned a special team of elves of great wisdom, to find a way to save us from these doomed tides. And we must pray to our gods, for they have found an old legend that can announce our salvation. This legend speaks of two diamonds, both needed in a ritual that can stop this change in Season to manifest. They are both lost to the jungles of the forest ground. I think you can guess what your part in this whole situation will be.”

Gilliad sighed heavily. It was perfectly clear to him what their part would be, but he doubted he would be very willing to set foot on the forest ground. He had risked his life many times for the good of the elven capital and suffered severely doing so. Everybody knew that entering the jungles below was like trotting a one-way path leading towards death. Gilliad was old, but not yet ready to face his final battle.

Larthani stepped back, to fill the empty spot in the line of councillors. King Admandyr sat silently on his throne, giving the party time to react.

Gilliad did not take this time. He reclused into an inner well of thoughts, his eyes lowered, to shelter him from distraction. He was not the only one who remained silent. All of them took a moment to realize what such a task would mean for them. For Idomias and Lumindiel the choice was self-evident, and the priestess was swift to step forward. She kneeled down before the King and bowed her head.

“I would gladly assist in such an inevitable task. You have my powers.” She got up and returned to the ranks of her companions. She did not hint out loud that this quest would exalt her status as high priestess. She would be held in the highest esteem, returning a saviour of the elven civilization. That thought was what pushed her into commission rather than the will to do good.

Id stumbled forward after Lumindiel’s example. He remembered the contents of the letter he had received. The letter that had been given to Evanion, but who in this room was aware of that fact? This could be his time to justify the murder of his former partner. There would be much to gain in this quest: wealth, renown, and of course time. By the time he came back, the lasts wisps of Evanion’s memory would’ve been evaporated, his thuggish life and sudden disappearance forgotten. Id almost believed that their first meeting had been the start of Evanion’s demise. He was meant to die by Id’s hand, so Id could go on this remarkable journey. He suddenly felt more happy and confident than he had felt for a long time.

“Mrs Bellavon Shadowbred sends her finest, your Majesty.” Id stated, and bowed awkwardly, doing his best to hide the pain and stiffness in his body.
“My stealth is at your command.”

As the thief fell back, the dragon stepped forward. Gilliad felt the nudge of an elbow in his left arm. He looked up from his pondering, and noticed Velowyn staring at him. The young ranger bowed in and whispered: “Gilliad Oakbast, so far you have not lived up to my expectations. Of all elves gathered here, I would’ve guessed you, former general of the elven army, to be the first to pledge service.”

Gilliad responded quietly, as the dragon announced in confidence that the forest ground would be nothing compared to the hardship of a dragon’s childhood.
“You are young, Velowyn, and yet to endure the hardship that I have survived. I am old, and thought I could finally enjoy the peace and comfort of the rocking branches.”

The answer was only partially truthful, for Gilliad had often sworn never to settle down as did other elves his age. Still, he wasn’t looking forward to what youth found to be ‘adventure’. The ranger replied with a disdainful snicker.

“So would you go back to your home, knowing what is coming? In the waves of destruction you would perish, knowing that you let the only chance to do something go by.” His words had been louder than intended, since fed by proud conviction Velowyn didn’t care. The dragon had stepped back, and while the ranger’s words had drawn all attention to him, Velowyn paced over to stand in front of the King. In the spur of the moment he drew out his two weapons, a curved dagger and a sword, and crossed them as he sank down grotesquely on two knees before the King.

“I do no need to renew my vow of protection. You knòw you have me at your command.”

Gilliad was now the last one to address the King with his intentions. He felt unsure, though part of him had already decided which course to take. He stepped forward, at the same time Velowyn got up.

“I need to know, my King, what we can expect from the humans and the dwarves. They face the same dire future as us elves. Are they to be involved in this journey?”

Admandyr nodded approvingly of Gilliad’s remark.
“Yes, Gilliad, tactician and diplomat, we have sent word to the dwarves, and sought even the primitive help of humans. They have us know that they are sending their bravest warriors up into the branches. It will take another day for them to arrive at the palace.”

He regarded his old military advisor for a moment. It was hard to say if Admandyr noticed the hesitation in the veteran, but whether to convince Gilliad or to continue introductions, the King added:
“Finally, one of our councillors will join you. He was one of the sages that discovered the existence of the two gems. I believe you’ve met Jerily, our head elven magi?”

From the line of councillors, an old elf with long grey hair stepped forward. He scratched his right ear as if he had a terrible itch, and muttered softly: “how d’you do, everybody.”
Gilliad knew Jerliy fairly well, although they hadn’t seen each other for a long time. Jerily had been an aspiring mage at the time of the Sky-Battles. He had spun his magic aiding Gilliad’s troups, and fought under his close command at that time. They had become good friends after that experience.
Gilliad was older than the mage, but the years had not been too kind on Jerily either. He had strong wrinkles in his forehead and carried a long beard, which was a very unelvish trait. It suited him though, and Gilliad smiled upon seeing his old friend. He stepped forward, and kneeled in front of the throne, even though he knew he was going to regret it later. He could feel the coldness of the stone ground through his legs, enhancing their stiffness. It had been too long since he had marched the streets and swung his sword.

“Admandyr, I don’t need further persuasion. I am here at your service, and I will side with who ever you deem valuable, even if it’s a dragon.”

He stepped back, to stand between the others who had sworn their service, avoiding the dragon’s stare. They watched Admandyr leave his sitting position to rise high above the group. His deep-blue mantle was cast off and lay as a wild see over the seat. Then Admandyr descended the stairs that led up the throne and walked to stand closely to the party. He made a second inspection and smiled politely.

“I have confidence in all of you. You have been chosen for your special talents; divine magic, stealth, knowledge of the forest, strength and leadership. Though you are strangers now, your acquaintance is the last remaining step in functioning as a team.”

The King looked at Gilliad.
“This group will need a leader, Gilliad. I know you are the best of the generals that have fought in the sky-battles. Your men praised your leadership like no other. That reputation, combined with your skills as a warrior is what is needed to keep this group together. Every ship needs a captain; every team needs someone to keep in eye the goals and the ways to get there. That will be your duty in this search.”

Gracefully, Admandyr distanced himself from the group with a few steps.
“You will be informed of further details by my council. I must leave you now, but know that my thoughts are with you, as well as my prayers. Fare you well; let us not lay our final hopes in your hands in vain. Goodbye.”

With that the king bowed deeply, turned on his heels and left the room through a doorway behind the throne. The semi-circle of councillors flowed after him like an inversed dark red and purple echo.
Only two member of council remained in the marble hall. One was a younger elf, by far the youngest member of the council. His apparel waved widely around him as he approached the group, as if some intangible wind flung itself under the cloth. He didn’t stop but strode right through their midst and with a soft but commanding “Follow me, please.” bade the party to join him.
The second councillor was Jerily, who moved over to Gilliad. The old mage tugged his earlobe repeatedly, and nodded with a naughty smile in the direction of his fellow.
“This is going to be good.”

The young councillor led them in the same direction they had come from, until they reached the wooden stage in the middle of the enormous halls, which he ascended. The musical area was like a watchtower over the calm and cold ocean that was the palace floor. He halted in the centre of the stage and solemnly stood there with his hands centered in front of him, palms touching. Slowly he bent his knees to the side and brought his hands down, still pushing the palms together, until the fingertips touched the wooden surface of the stage. Eyes closed, and a humming incantation started, which he continued while getting up stately. As he rose again he released the palms of his hands and lifted them up in two semi circles. When they touched each other again above his head, a darkness sprouted from them, that vaporized and spread quickly over the entire hall. The torches on the walls dimmed under the heavy invasion of night. Even the soft glow of Lumindiel’s brooch was smothered. The darkness was so complete that none of the companions could see any of the others.

Then suddenly a green glow appeared around the tops of the pillars supporting the ceiling. The glow spread outwards like a rapidly growing moss. Its colour intensified, until the complete ceiling was clad in shades of radiating green. In the middle of the ceiling, right above the stage, a small circle of blue light appeared. Somewhere, far to the left, a small but easily seen, red glowing spot arose in a dark green area. A similar spot, but made of bright yellow energy, emerged somewhere on the right.

It was only now that the councillor spoke again.
“Above your head you see a map of the Enforna Forrest. The blue circle is our city Uriéna, where we are now. I have centred the map around it. The two aberrating dots symbolize the positions of the two diamonds you are to collect, on your left the ‘Diamond of Fall’, on your right the ‘Diamond of Spring’. They are named after several stages in the change of Season you were informed of earlier. Your quest will be to collect the ‘Diamond of Fall’ first, and bring it back to Uriéna. That way, we can begin preparations for the ceremony to stop the dreadful changes that hang above our heads. If you succeed, you will aim for the ‘Diamond of Spring’, and bring it back so that we can complete the ceremony. I realize this map is vague, but it is all we can give you. I trust you’ll find your way and return successfully.”

As the magical light showed the location of the two diamonds, Gilliad closed his eyes for a moment and bowed his head. If he guessed the scale of the map correctly then the distance to either diamonds was huge. Gilliad didn't know much of the dangers of the jungle but he knew that they would need all the luck in the world, for skill alone would not bring them success.
He stood there, with his heavy two-handed sword tied to his back. Suddenly the weight of the steel hung heavily on his shoulders, as a representation of his sinking motivations. The thought of visiting the forest floor was frightening, but this journey would certainly take months. He took a deep breath and looked around.

None of his companions said anything. In the green glow, Gilliad could see Velowyn peering at the map, taking in details. He saw Id, gaping at the enormity of the task they had been appointed. Next to him, the dragon seemed to radiate the green light as well. Its snout was bathed in confident enjoyment of the show. Beyond them, Lumindiel was staring into the darkness. Her expression was vacant, lost in thought. Gilliad turned to Jerily, to share his inconfidence. He found the old wizard wringing his hands and biting his lip, but his friend’s eyes revealed that these were signs of eager anticipation, rather than dread.

With another hint at the magical abilities of the elf, the councillor released the hall from the thick darkness by flicking his wrist. The glowing map faded, and all returned to normal.
“You are free to leave through that door on the right. It will lead to a room that’s been specially arranged for you. You will be given food and bedding there. We would have provided a little party had the circumstances been happier and less secretive. Please forgive us our poor hospitality.”

After this evenly uttered apology, the councillor left the stage, and walked to the door he had indicated. The group followed, most of them still baffled by what lay ahead of them.

Posted on 2007-08-12 at 16:53:08.

Topic: Book - Diamonds of Spring and Fall
Subject: Chapter II - more introductions

Chapter II

Conepile Avenue bathed peacefully and deserted in the soft twinkling of lights and fires from other branches. The cool night air soothed the thumping pressure of hundreds of feet and carts that had passed over its road that day. Nocturnal insects hummed around its branch, attracted to the homes of sleeping elves, or their ever gentle rocking. Calmly the branch sighed and creaked as it dozed off to sleep on the rustle of leaves around it.
A platform had been built halfway the avenue. It could be reached by a small flight of wooden stairs. During the day elves gathered here for a breathtaking view of the city, but in particular the branch that held the royal palace. It was one of the few buildings in Uriena that was not simply carved from wood. Rumours told that a special unit of dwarves had cooperated in its construction, explaining the stone foundation of the royal residence, and its slightly unelvish, tight build. Behind the arched windows, dancing lights revealed the many activities that were going on in the chambers and towers. Quiet peace was a luxury unwelcome in the palace, it seemed, making the Branch of Royalty, as passed generations had named it, stand as a sharp contrast to the platform’s serenity.

In the darkness, a lone elf slowly ascended the stairs and mounted the platform. His silhouette betrayed his interest in the palace, for he stared at it for a long time, hands on the platform’s railing.
Several moments later he withdrew a paper from under his cloak and unfolded it. The elf seemed hesitant in his actions, considering every next step with great care. He examined the paper, at several moments regarding his surroundings. The platform’s balcony was heavily decorated with sculpting, but a single ornament seemed to interest the elf the most. It was a wooden statue of an eagle, staring inward instead of overlooking the view. He stepped up to it, and held the paper in front of the eagle’s head. Slowly the eagle’s eyelids came up, and revealed bright red eyes that radiated an eerie glow.
Suddenly the elf turned, and instantly lowered the paper. The eagle’s eyes narrowed, and darkness claimed the platform once more. The steps of the stairs creaked as somebody else entered the scene. The elf cursed under his breath and stepped quickly towards the railing and pretended to look at the lights of the sleeping city.
The newcomer was shorter, and more frail, but most certainly an elf. Although he tried to mask it, he paused slightly with every step he took, and one of his legs seemed stiffer than the other. With a firm grip on the railing for support he hauled himself on the platform and halted right there. He had discovered the presence of another elf.

“Good evening,” he mumbled, barely audible. Cautiously he went over to the railing and stood close to the taller elf, who returned his greeting without looking at him.

“Nice night, isn’t it?” the shorter one asked. Slyly he peeked at the hilt of the sword that was strapped to the other elf’s back. He slowly pushed himself in the opposing direction and stuck a hand in his vest. His motion became more feverish, and his face tensioned into an irritated grin. The taller elf turned his head and one hand slowly went to the hilt between his shoulders. After a moment of fumbling the shorter elf protruded his hand from his vest again, and with an aggressive gesture held it out to the taller one.

“I don’t know how this is supposed to go, but I know you have something to do with it!” He spat in an angry tone. “Here’s the letter, and here…” he pointed at the bottom of the paper, “is the seal of the King. Tell me what’s going to happen!”

The taller elf lowered his hand from his sword and smiled.
“Calm down, young one. I know as much as you do about why we were asked to come here. But I do know the way to take. I can show you, if you like?”

By now he was facing the younger elf completely. He took out the paper he had used earlier and held it up for the other to see.

“But first, let’s introduce shall we? So you can pay me the proper respect, and I can do the same to you. My name is Gilliad Oakbast, and it appears we have both been summoned by the King.”

Gilliad looked down upon the younger elf as he had looked upon new soldiers and guards under his command; with a mix of amusement and unwillingness to be understanding. If the kid understood his error of addressing another elf so rudely, their company would be pleasant. If he decided to continue his manners of nervous disrespect, the old veteran would teach him a valuable lesson. When the answer came, Gilliad was most pleased.

“My apologies, master Oakbast. I reacted both rude and overly hasty. My name is Idomias, and I would very much appreciate it if you would show me how to advance on this mission.”
Id despised the slime that had flown from his tongue, but he knew better than to show his contempt in the face of a warrior, even if he was an old one. He needed the information and would suck up to this Gilliad until he didn’t need him anymore. Tired as he was, he had to keep his patience.

Both elves took a step backwards on the sound of creaking stairs that lead to the platform. Another late night wanderer was approaching. Idomias crouched into the shadows of a far corner, while Gilliad regained his place overlooking the nightly treescape of Uriena.

A figure in a velvet green cloak passed like a hooded shadow onto the platform. It looked around for several moments before realizing it was not alone. A slender hand went up to an ivy-shaped brooch, which pinned the two ends of the cloak together. Gentle fingers barely touched its shiny surface, but when the hand sunk down again the leaves of the brooch started glowing with a white and pure light. Under the velvet hood, red strands of hair fell alongside slim cheeks. It was a woman, dressed in white robes, such as a priest’s. She looked at Gilliad, for he had turned around on the increasing light.

“I had almost mistaken you for a royal guard, ready to escort me. But then I’m wondering what your little friend would be doing in the corner.”
She pointed at the little thief, but didn’t take her eyes off the old warrior. Idomias rose, his curtain of shadows punctured by the sharp light that still seemed to grow in strength.
“I suggest you leave this platform right away,” the woman continued. “I have some urgent business here. You’d both do wise not to interrupt a high priestess!”

It was more than a bluff, although she didn’t desire to actually use any of her divine magic. Lumindiel hoped it would be enough to scare the two elves away, so she could figure out what it was, that she was supposed to be doing on this platform.

Id looked at Gilliad, hoping the warrior would take the decision for him. He could always run off alone, if the old elf proved to be as stubborn as he was grey. As it was, Gilliad seemed to be hesitant as how to respond. The former general could not resist wondering about the coincidence of them all showing up on the platform at the same time. He had been lucky with the boy, for Id had taken the initiative to betray himself and given away that he was also summoned by the King. There seemed to be a pattern forming, for this priestess also talked about royalty, and had also refused to give them any respect. Was this how people dealt with each other nowadays? Had he, in his daydreaming freefall, lost grip on current etiquette?
Despite her warning and the fact that these meetings were a little too coincidentally successive, he let age, rank and habit rule over reason.

“I am very sorry to inform you, my Lady, that we will not move away from this balcony.” He saw Idomias shrug and prepare to leave, but his raising hand stopped the young elf.
“We have also been summoned by King Admandyr, who holds soft judgement and proper respect to fellow elves in high esteem. He is an example of kindness and resolute rulership. I suggest that when we arrive at the palace you take good note of this, and that you will learn a valuable lesson in it.”

He had not forgotten how to tirade, but the elven woman seemed not impressed. Her reply dripped with haughty confidence.

“Excuse me, but I only chose boldness as a way to safety; offence to gain the better hand in the situation. It shall not happen again. Not to you anyway.”

Her eyes cornered as she glanced at Idomias. The rogue felt uncomfortable in the bright light. The conversation seemed to go in a direction he didn’t understand. There was too much talk, and not enough action for his taste. He was desperate for the day to end. The long climb and the events before that had worn him out. Only the thought of wealth kept his legs from snapping under his own weight. He held a hand in front of his face to shield off the bright light, and tried to find a way to dodge the woman’s stare. She made him nervous, again. Then her eyes shot upwards and a distraction caused the woman to forget about Id altogether.

A big form came crackling through overhanging side-branches and leaves, directed straight at the platform. Id limped closer to the stairs, his first instinct was escaping. The priestess and Gilliad both stepped backward and peered in astonishment at what was coming down. The form was blurred by speed and swooping branches, but seemed to slow down rather than gain speed as it came towards them. Then, with a heavy thud that quaked the platform, the thing slammed in their midst and came to a steady halt.
It was a dragon, the size of a small horse. For a second it had to recover from the landing impact, but then it popped up its head and lazily gazed at Id, than at the priestess. Both elves stood like they were part of the ornamentation of the platform: nailed to the ground, and holding on to the balcony for support. A dragon had not been seen since the old Sky-battles, when the dragons and the elves fought in and above the crowns of the Enforna trees.
People had forgotten how it felt to be in the presence of a dragon. Id learned fast enough though, and he tried to bow. The hardship of the day, and the shock of what he was seeing, became too much for him and he tumbled on his knees. Exhausted he lowered his head in a greeting.
Lumindiel also felt humbled and in awe. The beauty of the creature was breathtaking. The slender, almost feline build and heavy muscles under brown, pearly scales made it a swift predator. But a raw attraction radiated from the promise of strength and the graceful dragon’s face. The priestess could almost forget how dangerous this creature was. As its attention turned from the young elf to her, she found her mind stammering for words. She had heard of the intelligence of dragons, and for once felt like she could not use her charismatic appearance to her benefit.
It was Gilliad who had no trouble in judging his next step. With full confidence he slung his two-handed sword from his back and brought its sharp edge at a halt above the dragon’s thin neck. Cold steel scraped over pearly scales. The creature stiffened, but the veteran knew that it was not a reaction of fear, but a readying of muscles. His next words were a well chosen counter-threat.

“I have killed your kind before, and will have your head if you dare lift as much as your eyelids.”
“Yes, Gilliad Oakbast, you have killed my kind, and I am most familiar with your achieved victories.” The dragon quickly replied. His voice carried determination and confidence, choosing words of the common tongue that everybody understood.
“Yet I have never killed or threatened any elf myself, and did not come here to do so.”

Despite the diplomatic neutrality in the dragon’s voice Gilliad knew that the words cut two different ways. They were aimed at his mind, but also meant to hit his heart. But the old warrior wouldn’t let shame for possibly rash actions displace his sword. Emotions he had tucked away under a thick blanket of reason were surfacing, stirred up by this dragon’s presence. He felt how a pressure started to build up behind his eyes. Tears of old heart ache were rising.

“Gilliad? Lower the sword, please.” It was Lumindiel that spoke. “The dragon must have a reason for being here. Don’t let old wounds get in the way of your judgement.”
He looked at her, fighting his eyes dry. She was still holding the railing of the platform firmly.
“What do you know about judgement! These things killed …”
He didn’t finish his sentence, but instead raised his sword for a strong hew. The dragon’s eyes widened.
“I was sent by your King!” he yelled, voice filled with fear.

Gilliad lowered the sword, slowly, until its tip rested on the wooden boards of the platform. He felt powerless and weak. To make things worse, the priestess let go of the railing and walked over to him. She raised a hesitant hand to comfort him, but he pushed it away. He held his hand up in silent defence. Don’t come close.
The dragon stepped away from the warrior and turned to face him. Pride was no longer present in its glare and posture.

“I thought you were here to welcome me. We received a message from your king, asking for our aid. This platform was brightly lit, so I descended here.”
Lumindiel touched her brooch on these words, and the light softened to a warm glow. The dragon’s head cautiously moved towards the glow, and then back to the warrior.
“It was never my intention to fuel old rivalries. My apologies.”

Id had regained enough strength to get up on his feet. He grabbed his smudged letter and held it out for all of them to see.
“It seems like we’re all here for the same purpose. Now can anybody tell me what we’re supposed to do on this platform?”
He didn’t want to sound too demanding after what had just transpired. He still had trouble believing there was an actual dragon standing six feet away from him, but he felt like he had to break the confrontation to push things forward a little. He couldn’t allow things to turn bad, not when he had almost reached his target. Changing the subject seemed the best way to get everybody’s mind off the friction. And it looked like his tactics worked.

“Hold your letter up to that wooden eagle there.” Gilliad stated dismayed. “That should get us a ride to the palace.”
Id stumbled up to the eagle and held the royal seal at the bottom of his letter in front of the statue’s face. Even through the stains and wrinkled cracks the seal seemed to do its work. The eagle opened its eyes, the bright red light overpowering Lumindiel’s brooch. As soon as the eyelids uncovered the entire eye, a loud screech erupted from within the wooden bird. The sound bounced against the wood of houses and branches and eventually died down. In the silence that followed, the gathered letter bearers looked at each other.
Then the dragon peered over Gilliad’s shoulder, and nodded in the direction of the palace. “Something’s coming this way.”

Gliding over a magical path through the air came a wooden eagle, its wings spread as if ready to embrace the deep darkness below. The bird was obviously carved by the same hand that sculpted the eagle at the platform.
On the bird sat the crouched figure of an elf, clad in hunter’s green and black clothes, the outfit of a ranger, a keeper of the forest. Of all elven admirers of nature’s grace, they were the most involved in its elegant power. Of all races that lived in and on the enforna trees, the rangers of elven blood stood closest to nature, and embraced the savage anger that was its present state. They were a force of elite warriors, their loyalty lying closer to the King than any other military group. Their task: defending the city from the dangers of the forest grounds.
Long, silvery hair frantically fingered the edges of the ranger’s hood in the strong winds. Velowyn had a firm hold on the eagle, and he closed his eyes for a moment, enjoying the breeze. The journey on this transport covered quite a distance, leading from the Branch of Royalty to Conepile Avenue, flying over nothing but a very deep fall, down to the tops of the smaller trees. Although the magical flight was comfortable, it was not beyond danger. If he wasn’t careful, Velowyn might slip, lose his balance, and make a sudden dip with the eagle that would send him to a certain death. Still, he loved the ride every time he was privileged enough to make it.

Soon the platform on Conepile Avenue came into view. Several figures seemed to be already anticipating his arrival. He looked over his shoulder, which made his hair fly in his face. Through the strands he saw only one other eagle-transport trailing behind him. He had received one calling, which meant that only one letter had been shown. Then why was there a small gathering on the platform? Had this not been a secret mission?
For a moment Velowyn considered turning around. He knew that normal commoners were not allowed knowledge of the existence of the eagle-transport. It was a secret way of getting into the royal palace, reserved only for emergencies, or special occasions such as now. He gritted his teeth in indecision but then noticed how the figures were staring at him. He had been spotted, and could only continue onward.

The branch that carried Conepile Avenue grew in front of him as he came closer. The ranger kept his eyes on the platform as the eagle evaded its straight path, to make a smoother connection with the wooden balcony. An unlikely group of companions stood on the wooden boards of the overview point. One of them was a dragon, but Velowyn had been pre-informed of its coming. Therefore he knew to keep his composure around the creature.
When his transport, and the one trailing behind it, lined up to the railing, Velowyn jumped off gracefully and landed in their midst.

“Welcome, my fellow elves.” He bowed to the dragon, “Your Highness.”

He noted the letter in the hands of the young elf. He had used it for the others to see. Velowyn drew his conclusions fast and continued:
“My name is Velowyn Moonstrands. I came on the eagle’s summoning. But I expected only one of you to be here. If you would be so kind to hand me the rest of your letters?”
He held the other two seals in front of the eagle’s face and waited for its echoing call to fade away. He explained that two more transports would arrive soon, and turned his attention towards the distance to see them coming.

Gilliad took this time to stand next to the ranger. His temper was a volcano of anger, and it surfaced from his throat in a hissing whisper.
“What are you thinking, addressing a dragon with a royal title? Did you not learn what they have done to our city? Do you not remember how many of your forefathers died fighting them?”

Velowyn looked sideways at the infuriated warrior.
“And are you aware that you are dealing with one of the draconic princes? King Admandyr himself requested his presence. Who are you to deny him courtesy?”

Gilliad looked away. The ranger was right. If the King himself had called for a dragon than there must have been a good reason. But the wounds of the serpents still ran deep in his soul. Betraying his reasons for hatred, by feigning tolerance, felt like a crime. He served Admandyr, had served him for decades and his father before that. Would he be a criminal if the King demanded it? In any other case the question need not be asked. Many orders had been dubious, but Gilliad was not one to demand explanation. He was a soldier after all. Why should he be selfish now then?

Because you are retired. You have your own feelings to deal with now, not the entire city’s.

He buried the voice of tainted self-preservation away as well as he could. Finally he spoke again, no longer hissing and infuriated.

“You are right, Velowyn Moonsands. I should learn to better contain my emotions.”

The ranger looked at the veteran warrior with interrogating confusion.
“I was warned of your unpredictability, Gilliad. But I’ve never seen expressions change this fast. Or did my words strike that intensely?”

His gaze went to Idomias, who had stumbled towards them, and was now resting against the railing next to Gilliad.
“Besides,” Velowyn added, while looking out over the dark night, “my name is Velowyn Moonstrànds. It was given to me when I was accepted with the Ranger Elites. I suppose they weren’t feeling very inspired that day, since the name obviously refers to my silver hair. Or perhaps it was just an easy thing for them to remember me by.”

The blunt remark towards the ranger’s kinsmen made Gilliad chuckle. It was the first non hostile utterance the warrior had made that evening. The fact that it had been sarcasm provoking that reaction somehow fitted the circumstances.

Without warning, Velowyn jumped on top of the wooden railing and pointed in the distance.

“Your transports are coming.” He stated.
Both Lumindiel and the dragon prince came forward from their sole positions. They had been drifting their gaze out towards the sky and the mighty tree, not knowing what to say or do otherwise. The arrival of the transports was a welcome diversion from silence and uncomfortable looks. Three additional wooden eagles came gliding through the air, halted at the balcony where the two Velowyn had brought along where still hovering in the air. One was particularly bigger than the others, obviously sent to bear the dragon.

“Why doesn’t the dragon simply fly to the palace?” It was Lumindiel who gave life to the question. She was looking at the ranger with sincere interest. Gilliad smiled, for he had thought the exact same thing, though he would’ve asked in a different tone. Velowyn sprang from the balcony’s edge onto one of the transports. Wind caught his hair and his cloak, and for a moment they both looked alive, engulfing the elf like a strange entity. He made a pointing gesture towards the palace as he sought to balance his feet.

“Our trip will bring us close to overhanging branches. The magic of these transports is bound to the tree, and they have to stay in close range to its bark. Since we glide softly we do not make much noise and we do not draw to much attention to us. The wing-beat of a dragon would surely draw attention and start gossip. Gossip tends to turn into factual stories, and soon we’ll have a crowd at the palace demanding an explanation.”

He put out a hand to aid Gilliad in conquering the balcony’s wooden railing. It was quite an achievement for the rigid veteran, climbing up a tight edge and mastering a hold on one of the transports. When he finally sat, hands and knees, he was glad that he had been the first to board. Now he would have some time to get used to the soft rocking of the wooden eagle, and the sight of deep darkness only inches below him.

Lumindiel was next to board. Despite her long dress she managed to climb the balcony elegantly, and with Velowyn’s help crouched on top of her transport.
Then came the dragon. Velowyn beckoned it to approach, but was unsure of how to help the creature. With a smooth jump, the scaled prince avoided any aid offered. For a second he set on the railing, like a peacock on a branch, tail curled for balance. With another feline leap he sprang on top of the larger transport, and dug his nails deep into the wood. Like a child with a new toy, he started testing the wooden air-float, rocking it back and forth with no visible fear of falling.

Last to board was Idomias. The thief had deliberately waited, not only to gain a little more strength, but also to observe the others. He had closely watched, and secretly enjoyed Gilliad’s clumsy climb. Lumindiel’s fluent approach had taught him more about how to deal with these hovering statues. Though he would never be as smooth as the dragon, he had a clear picture of how to step and where to hold. Boarding the transport proved no real challenge after he had finally pushed himself on the railing of the balcony. He grinned at Velowyn as he passed him. He wanted them all to think this was an easy feat for him. So far, they had seen him in a terrible condition. Id still felt like every muscle in his body had been torn and stretched farther than it should have. But he knew better than to overly display his weakness in their presence. Gritting his teeth he grabbed a firm hold on the wooden wings and waited for the next step.

Gilliad regarded the others as they adjusted themselves to the bird-shaped transports. They were all occupied and apparently not afraid to fall down. Things had been different the first time Gilliad had used these transports. The years didn’t show in his face then, nor in the faces of his fellow guards, soon to be soldiers. They had been on a special mission, and though they were accustomed to the height of living in a gargantuan tree, he remembered they had all been afraid to step on the wobbly statues.
Like that first time, he saw the illusion of the branch gliding away, when it was really himself that was moving. So gradually did the transport start, it took them all several seconds to realize they had taken off. In the distance, the royal palace was waiting for them. Slowly the wooden birds picked up speed, their load now comfortably amazed by the sensation of flying.

Halfway to the palace, a small branch came up on their path. Its leaves and buds were rimmed with light, and there was movement of many elves, most likely feasting and frolicking. Velowyn held up his hand, then made a motion for them to duck on their transports. They could not be seen.
Gilliad had already been crouching low in anticipation of the approaching branch. He now tried to sink even further into the wood and looked around to see if they all abided by the ranger’s warning. He noted Lumindiel dousing the light of her brooch. Right in front of her flew Idomias. Gilliad wondered how the young elf managed to adapt to the darkness so well. Especially now the priestess’ illumination didn’t brush his cloak, Id’s float seemed empty. It didn’t take much more for the veteran warrior to guess the occupation of the young elf.

Closer and closer they came to the bright branch. The smell of warm wine and roasted bread with herbs had a firm grip on the air surrounding it. Music played softly; a guitar and a cello in a game of hide and seek. Gilliad didn’t recognize the melody, and rather concentrated on the movement of elves. The transports would glide only several yards under the branch. There was a very high risk of being spotted.

Despite their efforts of passing unnoticed, a call came from above. A half-drunken elf hung with his arms and head over a fence, looking down. His watery eyes spotted the group and he instantly started calling for his friends: “Hey, come look at this! A group of eagles with riders flies down there. Hey, come see this!!”
The elf moved away from the balustrade and pulled one of his friends closer to join him in the spectacle.
The sky below was empty. There were no riders, no eagles, only empty air now filling with the laughter of his fellow.
“No more wine for you, Sileäs.”

The moment the elf had looked away, the transports had dropped in a perpendicular freefall. Into the darkness below they went, grabbing onto the wooden edges not to fall off. Velowyn had warned them before hand, but it was a terrible sensation. Id could not believe he had agreed on doing this. He had spent enough time tumbling into dark depths already. A chilling wind was rushing over them, and they had to shut their eyes against its sting. Only the dragon prince was not troubled by the sudden drop. Years of flying had given him harder times than this. He held his smile upon seeing the elves’ attempts at holding on to the boards. Elves weren’t made to fly. They weren’t even meant to live so high in the trees.

Gradually the transports regained their steady course, and headed once more for the royal palace. The companions let out a heavy sigh, and even Velowyn seemed slightly distressed by the sudden drop. It had been risky, but very necessary.
Gilliad had been clawing himself against the wooden platform, his cloak fluttering behind him. Now he steadily opened his slender hands, the knuckles white from grasping the wooden wings, and crept up again. He opened and closed his hands several times, trying to bring life in his old joints. He looked at the branch with the drunken elves and saw that they had dropped no less then sixty yards. In his left ear he heard Idomias gasp: “I can’t take another one of those”

But the airborne journey was almost at its end, for Gilliad noticed that they moved in continuous speed, in the direction of a hole in the enormous branch that supported the elven palace. The hole was scarcely lit, hardly noticeable under the omnipresent walls of the royal abode. He knew the hole functioned as a dock for the wooden transports and real eagle-riders.
Several minutes later they entered the entrance to the insides of the branch, where four guards in heavy armor stood waiting for them. They were the only passengers using the secret entry at this time, and in the dim light the deserted docks looked ominously bare.

A fifth elf stood waiting for them. He was older than even Gilliad, and dressed in dark red robes with purple embroidering. This outfit told them that he was a member of the King’s council, an elf of power.

Posted on 2007-08-12 at 16:51:15.

Topic: Book - Diamonds of Spring and Fall
Subject: Chapter I - introduction of 3 characters

Chapter I

Gilliad Oakbast gave a firm pull at the leather band that strapped his two-handed sword to his back. When he was sure that it was secured tightly, he strode out of his wooden hut and set foot on the wooden balcony that surrounded it.
He descended the dimly lit steps leading to a main road of the elven city he lived in. The defuse light from neighbouring houses deepened the lines of ages on his face. He was old, and felt the years with every step he took. His head turned to inspect any passers by. There were few, for at night the roads were mostly deserted. The ones he noticed did not pay him any attention. To them he was just another elder, with his head lost in better times.

He started pacing over the wooden branch that bore their homes. He passed their front doors and heard their music and chattering. He was glad there was still time and room for merrymaking, he thought. He had shared in the innocent enjoyments of life; laughing, artistry and loving. But it had been a long time since he had visited one of the wooden platforms, built between the forks of branches. The tree they lived in had aged and grown. Gilliad had aged too, but had he become a better man? His hair had changed colour while the tree was still green. He wondered if it would ever wear down like the races that lived in it.
He focused on the road before him, to drag himself back into the reality of now. The time for philosophy and dreaming had passed.

Earlier that day, a letter had been pushed under his door. He had been dozing off after chewing sugared leaves in his hammock. He spilled the remains of the delicacy on his floor, as he awoke from the unexpected rustle. Lifting his numbed feet from the hammock was always a test of balance lately. This time he barely caught himself, rushing to see what so secretly had been handed to him. With a wry smile he picked up the letter and took it over to a window, where he turned it over several times. There was no writing on the back, and the paper had been folded carefully. Gilliad sat down on the wooden bench in front of the opening and angrily flicked some sugar crumbs from his vest.
He felt ashamed of himself. He was turning into an old elf, your average elder that fell asleep listening to the ever-tuning choir of birds outside his window, the last traces of poetic thoughts slipping from his mind. He had caught himself, bathing in a luxurious nothingness that was absolutely contemptible. What would he have done if somebody had walked in on his aged body in the hammock, sleeping with his sugar-coated lips in a satisfied grin? With a resolute determination he grabbed the pouch that held his candy, and threw it out of the window.
He regretted his action immediately. His candy was a comfort; he had made peace with that fact long ago. Throwing it out the window meant dishonouring it. He had paid good money for it at Avulan’s Forge of Honey. For a moment his mind tempted him to go over the lovely flavours he had experienced in that shop, but his hand still held the letter. And he was still mad at himself for being carried away by his own sluggishness.

The brief contents of the letter put his life upside down. Gilliad didn’t know whether he liked that or not, for though he hated sinking in a life of languor, he had also grown fond of his privacy.
While his heart was struggling to choose side, he read the letter again.

Dearest Gilliad Oakbast,

It has been a long time since we’ve last traded words. I regret not having made the time to do so. Still, I do not address you now for the sake of mere conversation.
Your services are required at the Branch of Royalty. Bring this letter to the platform on Conepile Avenue that oversees my palace. You must be able to recall protocol from there.

I have to urge you not to inform anybody of this calling. We are dealing with enough panic now the Savage Flue has taken so many victims.

Hoping that wind speeds your heels,

King Admandyr

Oh, Gilliad was very much familiar with the protocol. He had been a general during the times of the Great Sky-battles. At that time he had been allowed to walk the main road to visit the royal residences. But the time before that he had served on missions of secrecy. There were always conspiracies going on in the elven city. When a large host of people lives together, there will always be conspiracies. Lately it had been whispered that the Savage Flue had been set loose by a secret organization, to demand the rise of a new king.
Gilliad didn’t believe these rumours. And he didn’t believe that the Savage Flue had any cause in his summoning either. Still, he found the note unsettling, and he pondered over reasons as he continued his walk towards Conepile Avenue.

The worn wooden road led over an immense branch that supported several houses on either side, and split off in numerous side-branches. Some of those branches held huts too, but others ended in springs of leaves the size of a giant.
The old elven warrior could feel the cool wind of the high nightly air rushing through his cloths. It played with the hem of his hooded cloak, sending it up and down like the waves of a restless ocean, and pulling on it securely. Gilliad shivered, imagining what would happen if the wind would become a storm, blowing him over the railing that fenced every road. Luckily, storms were very rare, and Gilliad could not remember a storm ever doing any severe damage to the town.
The road brought him to where two main-branches connected into a larger and wider one. A small platform had been built there, surrounded by public buildings. Gilliad noticed the slightly crowded “Severe Heart Inn”, which was the best visited establishment at this side of Uriéna, as the elven city was called. He had been there several times, like he had been to the blacksmith that accompanied the inn on the left side of the platform. The right side contained a general store and some shops.

What marked this platform was the large glass plate that formed the center of the otherwise wooden build. The glass was magically enhanced and strong enough to support a party of raging dwarfs. Elves, especially young poets, loved lying on the cool surface, admiring the downward view it provided. It felt like being cradled weightlessly on the breezes below, seeing nothing but spinning depth and feeling the soft constant rocking of the large branches in the wind. It was a step away from everyday safety and solidity.
Gilliad passed the plate without even casting a look upon its wonder. He’d seen it many times before, and was eager to learn what destination his king had in mind for him.

The city he lived in was the capital of all elven civilization. It was built on the branches of an enormous tree, and went up and down in the organic growth of nature’s way. The tree stood higher than the tallest giant, and overlooked a vast forest that the elves hadn’t dared enter for centuries. In fact, none of the humanoid races had lived on the forest floor for as long as most of them could remember.
There were more of these gargantuan trees, and they spotted the landscape like silent guardians, their branches hovering high over the rest of the forest. Cities were made in many of them. The elves lived in the branches, where it was relatively safe. Dwarves, in their burrowing focus, built their halls inside the massive tree trunks. Humans had used the side of the trees to build their villages, which consisted of many platforms bearing wooden houses. These villages were relatively low to the ground, out of fear of falling, but never low enough to be exposed to the dangers of the forest ground.

A long time ago, these races had lived in the forest. The dwarves fulfilled their crafting needs in cities underground, the humans mostly lived a free life of nomads, and the elves rose beautiful organic villages in perfect balance with nature. But nature started turning its back on them all. The creatures of the forest grew offensive and distorted, angry at men and elf alike. Normally harmless animals threw off hair and sprouted horns over the years. A competition for survival started between species that had lived in harmony for ages.
Gradually, life became dangerous on the forest grounds. Plants too started taking their turn in the savagery. Poisonous flowers felled many well intended romantics. Ivies started crushing the houses that supported them. One by one, the old races realized that something had to be done, in order to survive.

The elves were the first to leave their cities. Their pride was shattered, and so where many of their people as they fled through the wilderness and into the highest reaches of the enormous trees.
The humans, and finally the dwarves, followed the example and chose safety over tradition. They all had to adapt to this new way of living, but over time, old habits and complaints faded and were replaced by new ones. Humans settled down, dwarves learned to craft wood instead of metal, and the elves taught themselves the ways of the branches. As the turmoil in the forest below them raged on, life in the trees smoothed out into a normal state.

Idomias withdrew his knife from Evanion’s leaking throat. The arms of his former partner and friend glided form his shoulders as he stood up. Panting heavily, he staggered backwards two steps and coughed, into his sleeve to cover the noise. He felt like his throat was burning, and the coughing only made it worse. He turned around frantically, and looked behind him to inspect the alley. Sharp shadows and moist, filthy garbage only inhabited the walkway between these two deserted buildings. The Savage Flue had cleared out the families that once lived in these streets. This part of Uriena was left behind to rot in its place, until priests and druids declared it safe once more. Id liked walking these streets. He wasn’t afraid to catch the flue. He told himself that it couldn’t make his actions any more horrid then they already were. He was a thief and a murderer, and a lousy one, he had to admit to himself.
Still, something good had come his way, and he had not lingered in doubtful friendship. Surviving was important, and climbing the ladder of competence within his thieves guild would surely aid him.

He only had to find that cursed letter. During the struggle with Evanion it had been cast aside, forgotten for the slightest of moments. With his friend’s last gurgle Id’s mind forced the possession of the letter back to priority number one. It was a way of dealing with his conscience. Greed smoothed out the pain and numbed the trembling of his muscles. Determined to find the letter he didn’t think about the terror of the act he just committed.
While the body of his former friend coloured the street red with its blood, Id found the letter and chased it through the alley as a breeze picked it up. The paper swirled up, and Idomias growled as he jumped up. His fingers brushed the smooth texture of the sheet, but didn’t come close enough to grab a hold of it.
Further and further he chased the letter, moving away from the scene of his crime. His friend’s body was vanishing into the feint depths of old memories, overpowered by the white paper frolicking in the air above Id’s head.
He followed it through streets and around houses. It climbed higher, descended again, disappeared behind rooftops and popped up around corners. Their journey brought them dangerously close to the edge of the branch. Id noticed this and paced a little faster, hoping he would be able to outsmart the random movements of the letter on the winds. The sheet flew around a corner, gained speed as it whirled up, and suddenly its pursuer faced an empty alley.

Panic grabbed Id’s heart and squeezed. He ran to the end of the street, but again saw no sign of the paper. He narrowed his eyes in despair and breathed a curse. Had his scheming been for nothing? How could he ever go back, now he killed his friend? The other members of the thieves’ guild would banish him. He had sworn an oath never to kill another member of the guild, on penalty of death if he ever broke it. The letter and the possibility to earn a lot of money would’ve compensated for the danger. In his head, the excuse for Evanion’s death had been planned out securely. Id would take over this mission of which the letter spoke. Once he came back from the job, he would tell them all that Evanion had been attacked by an elf carrying the Savage Flue. If they knew his friend died by Id’s blade, he would tell them Evanion had been bitten, and had begged for him to kill him swiftly before the Flue got the better of him. If they didn’t know, he would blame everything on the Savage elf, and take pride in supposedly killing the offender.
The plan had seemed so perfect. If that stupid letter hadn’t flown off like this….

He looked at the blade that was still in his hand, a large part of it was covered in blood, but some of the knife’s metal still reflected his own tormented face. Suddenly a glimpse of white flashed through the reflection. Id jumped into a sprint without looking up, rounded two corners, and was just in time to see the wind carrying the letter over the edge of the branch he was standing on.

He should’ve known the maps of the branches by heart, being a thief. As it was, he had no idea how many branches would be below this one.
In an act of desperation he ran straight at the edge of the branch, almost twisted his leg on the curved side of it, and jumped after the paper. He had nothing to lose, but the certainty of that idea was promptly overruled by regret. As he tumbled forward in his momentum he noticed the letter, down in the depths. He fell face first, and the world was all of a sudden an unfamiliar pandemonium of rushing winds, and silent city lights growing distant.
Id tried to focus on the letter that was now right below him, or right above him in this twisted world of rapid falling. It was softly floating downwards. The wind seemed tired of its game, and permitted Id to come close enough to grab it.
For a moment the thief feared he might not be able to reach the paper, but his fingers crumpled the letter in a firm hold. With his target out of the way, Id’s brain felt like it was bursting under the pressure of emotions racing through it. Flashes of the life he had lived before the fall sparkled before his eyes. In the distance he heard somebody scream, but he could not tell if it were a memory or himself.
Then a small branch, no more than a twig in size, compared to the others that bore the city, came closer with incredible speed. It bore several leaves at its end. As Id fell passed the wooden appendix, he jammed his knife hard onto its bark. The blade bounced off, hit the bark again and got stuck in a deep crevice of the twigs skin. Idomias held fast to the knife’s handle while his body fell down further. The sudden stop that followed almost broke his arm, and would’ve dislocated his shoulder if the twig hadn’t bent with the impact. Still, Id’s torso was flung into the branch with full force. It was a miracle he didn’t let go under the pressure of the collision.

The twig started bending down further, and Id could feel how his knife started losing its grip. A layer of grease had already formed between its handle and his hand. It wouldn’t be long before either slipped, and he would continue the dizzying fall until death took him.
He brought the letter up to his mouth and bit hard into the paper. Wind rushed over him and slapped him in the face repeatedly. Frantically he rubbed his free hand over his vest to roughen the skin, and brought it up. Gravity was pulling him down, and he barely got his fingers around a knot on the branch. The bark was cold and rough and provided a steady hold. But Id doubted it would be enough to save his life. His feet were kicking in an insane attempt to find a hold on the air. Deep in his muscles the first trembling of acidification became apparent.
More out of desperation than bravery he let go of his knife’s handle and instantly fingered for grip on the bark. His hand found a hold on the crevice in the bark, but a sharp pain also shot through his palm as he tightened his grip. A thorn the size of Id’s nose had punctured his skin, and was running blood in exchange for his safety.
With an effort that made even his brain cramp he hauled himself up and grabbed the top of the branch.

A minute later he was laying flat on the twig, too weary to even snatch the paper from his mouth, even though it was hindering his breathing. A paralyzing nausea spread from his stomach to reach all ends of his body. His body felt limp, like all his muscles had been reduced to pudding. There was no feeling in his lower arms, and Id would not have been surprised if the winds had carried them off already. He opened his eyes to see if they were still in one piece. Just the effort of moving his head was the drop that made his bucket of stamina go over, and Id fainted into a deep state of sleep.

He could not remember how long he had been laying there. It was still night when he opened his eyes, but fewer lights burned on the branches around him. The darkness had turned to a later stadium already.
Drops of cold sweat clung underneath his clothes and on his forehead. In his mouth he tasted a foul smell of vomit and paper. The letter!
Now completely returned to his senses he remembered why he had ever embarked on the idiocy of jumping off the edge of a branch. He crawled over the enormous twig, to the place where it was connected to the trees trunk. The winds didn’t hit him as hard there, and he had a wider base to sit on, though it was still not comfortable. At least it would give him some time to read the letter completely.
He unfolded the paper. It had once been a royal papyrus but was reduced to the disgusting filth of a rag. Part of it was now mush, and dripping with saliva from his desperate jaw-lock on the letter earlier. Its contents, as well as the royal seal, were still in good state though, and that was of greater importance then. Still shivering from devastating fall and the hardship from breaking it, he read the words that had caused all of this. They were addressing the leader of his thieves’ guild:

Mrs Bellavon Shadowbred,

I realise that in happier times we find ourselves on different sides of events. But a serious situation requires me to call for your aid. Please give this letter to your best man, with the instruction of great secrecy.

Let your guild member bring this letter to the platform on Conepile Avenue that oversees the royal palace, two nights from now. Of course your services will be rewarded accordingly.

Don’t let caution stand in the way of this operation,

King Admandyr

Idomias bundled himself into a foetus position, resting against the immense trunk. He was in no shape to climb down towards the next branch, and cursed himself for not wearing his thick cloak. He tried to press himself closer to the tree, as if that were possible. The cold night air pushed past him like birds diving into a handful of seeds; with wings of wind and beaks pecking with cold. It was a different wind then the one that had swept over the branches while Id grew up. It was sharper and not of the same kind nature. He had never realized the difference until now, when he was fully exposed to its strength. There were no leaves there to protect him from its undirected fury.
To keep his mind from his uncomfortable state, he turned his attention back to the letter. It was written with a clever hand, he noticed. There were several implications that this operation was not a trap to catch a wanted man. Also, it was short, and left plenty of room for speculation. Of course no thief could really resist the mentioning of ‘great secrecy’. But what really found his interest was the fact that Bellavon was addressed as Mrs. He breathed the title and smiled in self-content. He had just stumbled upon a piece of valuable information, because as far as any of the thieves knew, their leader, the founder of their guild, would never commit herself to a man. Idomias doubted the King’s informants were incorrect in their research into the habits of the leader of the thieves’ guild. If they could find out who she was, they could find out that she was married. And Id truly didn’t mind that specific knowledge.

As he sat there, hunched and alone, he rewound the hands of his inner clock. The letter spoke of meeting in two days. He had first heard of its existence earlier that day, when Evanion let him in on the fact that he had been given a specific job. Evanion had shared this with Id, because normally they were assigned to do jobs together. His friend had to leave on his own for this remarkable little quest, and told Id about the letter. Bellavon had stated that this could be a dangerous yet fruitful mission, and one that had to be done by her best man alone.
That was when jealousy and self adoration initiated their hold on Idomias’ thoughts. He had learned much from Evanion. He had grown from a blunt window-breaker into that gust of wind that passes when you realize your heartbeat is coming to a halt. But his friend and partner was getting older, and soon Id would strive past him. Killing him only saved Evanion the humiliation, and proved that he had taught Id well. The only regret the young thief felt, was that he had killed his partner before he could tell Id when exactly he was supposed to be at the appointed place. It might be the coming evening, or it may be this very night.
He could not risk wasting all this effort on missing the job.

The notion that everything might have been for nothing opened a reserve of energy somewhere deep in Id’s being. Perhaps it was despair and fear. Perhaps it was the prospect of adventure and a great reward. But Idomias pulled himself up on the tree bark, and started a long and terrible descend towards the next inhabited branch.

Urgency had been the essence of the call she had received. The note with information had been handed to her by one of the temple’s lower priests, a simple man with a good voice for ceremonies, but with little true power yet.
Lumindiel herself was a priest of high power. She bore a close connection to the gods of nature, and she was not surprised this kind of calling had been made to her. Although other priests would probably suffice, she was the most glorious, and people usually requested her presence over others.
Of course it was no competition, but Lumindiel secretly loved the fact that her name was being passed on the streets with adoration and respect. Every time she walked the branches in her full priest outfit, people stopped and stared after her. She was not supposed to feel any other pride than the satisfaction of helping other elves. But with a self content smile she let the wind play with her hair, emphasising its red beauty. The jewellery that shaped its strands was marvellous, but also served as a religious symbol. It consisted of golden vines with emerald leaves, which partially pinned her hair up, but also revealed that she was a servant of the gods of nature. Her dress was white, with green and silver embroidering in organically flowing patterns. She allowed its hem to be swept up playfully by the wind, for it gave a fractional display of her pale ankles and lower legs. Men always seemed to notice, while she pretended not to.

Feeling warm and utterly in peace with herself she followed the smoothed out wood that made the street on this branch. The road visibly narrowed as she was reaching the outer parts of this neighbourhood. The houses around her were built on the very end of the tree’s arms, and their poverty resembled the nature of these elves. They were the most poor, dirty and hungry of all of Uriena’s inhabitants. These people did the filthy jobs in the city that nobody else would do. But they were still of the same blood, and Lumindiel understood that. She felt the need to bathe herself, and perfume her hair and clothes, to get rid of the stench that seemed to absorb itself into her very skin. She pictured tiny bugs being carried by the winds, their hordes spreading the dilapidation of this place onto anybody that visited the area.
Still, she walked on, her face in a professional calm state. A smile still stood firmly on her lips, fed by her feeling of superiority.

She was getting close to her destination, and now followed the guidance of a constant screaming, coming from a nearby group of houses. In front of one of the most ruined of homes, an old woman was waiting for the priestess. She started a humble greeting, but Lumindiel sped up her pace and passed the woman into the wooden building. Once it had been a beautifully carved residence, but now boards were missing, fungi feasted on once magnificent designs, and somebody had ripped all the interior walls down, to make it one big room.
Two elves turned when Lumindiel entered. They were kneeling in a corner, hunched over a mouldy mattress. On the mattress lay an elven child, the source of the raging screams that filled the neighbourhood. It was tied down with ropes, but squirmed and turned its body as far as possible. It took Lumindiel a few moments to recognize that it was a boy. So twisted and wicked was his face that gender was no longer evident. She noticed the anger, and though she had seen it before, the image of this child on the edge of breaking slapped her from the pedestal of her own making. In an instance she was at his side and kneeled between the two elves. They were probably the boy’s parents, but her attention was now fully on the child and saving it from the worst clutches of the Savage Flue. If she was still in time, she would be able to cure this youngling.

She grabbed his little head in her hands and pushed it down hard. Her palms were over his eyes, and her thumbs searching for grip on his sweaty forehead. She closed her eyes and tried to forget the fact that he was trying to bite her. Focusing on her thumbs alone, and the position they were in, she started a prayer to Fiandor, God of the wind, to ease the turmoil in the boy’s mind. To sweep it clean of destructive thoughts.
She repeated the prayer, and felt the magical force of Fiandor’s element grow in her fingers. The boy reacted with a sudden jerk of his head, and his jaws closed on her left hand, right below the thumb. Sharp teeth pressed down with too much strength for such a young child, and Lumindiel had to resist the urge to slap him across the face. Instead, she pried the fingers from her right hand into the boy’s mouth and pulled his jaws apart, enough to free her left. The bite-marks would leave a temporary print, but her skin was intact.

Again she brought down her palms upon the boy’s face, and pressed hard. With strong determination she shut out the apologies of the two elves and the old woman, and restarted her praying. Her thumbs started rubbing the boy’s forehead, and she could feel a magical energy seeping into his mind. The child’s head no longer tried to escape her firm grasp. It eased down on the mattress, bereft of its anger.
She released her hands from the little head, and in a fluent gesture went for his chest. Her palms pressed down, but the ropes that bound the boy were hindering her greatly. She could not focus as long as she didn’t have a good hold. She ordered the two elves to untie the child and pin his arms down with all their weight. While they hurried to do her bidding she picked up her dress, and hauled her legs on either side of the boy. Strands of her own sweaty hair clung to her cheeks. She wiped them away in feverish annoyance before placing her hands on the child once more.
The ropes were gone now, and a sense of freedom seemed to heighten the angry spasms in the small body. The screaming had stopped, but there were many other symptoms that the Savage Flue still had control of the young elf.

Lumindiel’s palms were flat on the child’s chest as she called upon Kor, God of the earth, to strengthen the roots of the boy’s heart, to steady his trembling and supply a solid base of peace. But even before she could finish her first prayer, the child pried loose his right arm from his father’s hold. With a wild flick he slashed his nails across the priestess’ abdomen and ripped her dress and her skin alike. A second, backhand slash followed immediately and furthered the blood flow with new, deep scratches. The child’s face was an emotionless contrast to the wild frenzy of his clawing arm. Lumindiel tried to grab the arm, but received several wounds before succeeding with the help of the boy’s father. The child’s disease had deformed his fingers into sharp talons, now covered in the priestess’ blood.

Once more she placed her palms in the proper position. On her ripped dress, a red stain was rapidly expanding, but she neglected her own injury for the time being. Setting peace into the heart of this boy seemed more important right now.
Her hands stiffened as Kor’s magic flowed through them and turned into a healing energy. The boy also paralyzed under her touch, as if the magic turned his skin to granite immobility.
The priestess released her connection with the divine, and suddenly realized she had stopped breathing. The notion was unsettling, and sheer panic made her hands grip her own throat. She widened her mouth and greedily let the air flood her lungs. The pain in her stomach, where the boy had cut her, was beckoning her into reality. The child was safe, for now, and even though his parents still didn’t dare release their hold on his arms, she knew she had banished the Flue from his body. She got on her feet, and regarded the clawed hands. They would never fully turn back to normal, but the child would be able to use them, and live to see happier times.

“He’ll wake up in a few hours. Let him be for now.” She told the parents.
She pushed herself past the old woman, who was trying to get a hold of her arm while muttering gratefulness in an endless stream. Lumindiel was no longer in need of adoration. But she knew that would change again soon.

Outside the ruined home she muttered the incantation of a simple healing spell. As she walked back over the branch, her wounds closed, her skin tightened again and her hair returned to its perfect state. The sweat, that had dripped from her face and streamed over her body, evaporated and vanished. A minute later, even her dress was fully repaired and stainless, by a magic of her own conjuring.
Of course she should have only healed her worst wounds. She had been taught that suffering was part of life, and that she as a priestess should embrace pain. But she had a long walk to go, and she was in no mood to be seen in rags, carrying her own blood on display. To be truly honest, was anybody ever in such a mood?

There were many cases of the kind she had encountered today. Many children had died from the Flue, or were now in the hands of priests and wizards, who were studying them. For those little boys and girls it was too late to be cured. Their brains had been bewildered, their bodies distorted. It was the unsettling change in behaviour that named the Savage Flue. Its victims became as wild and blood lusting as the creatures down on the forest floor. A cure for elves that had been completely turned had not been discovered yet, but it was direly needed.
More and more cases of the Flue erupted all over Uriena. Lumindiel had heard similar reports from other elven cities. It made her somewhat nervous, but it was not the first time she had battled a plague or a disease. Eventually, a way to counter it had always been found. Therefore she decided to spend a little more time on her walk; to take a small detour on her way to the temple. She felt the urge to treat herself, to celebrate her small victory.

Half an hour later she entered Yllonda’s Winery and pointed at a bottle of dark red liquid. Yllonda herself brought her the purchase, and with it, handed over a folded paper. The saleswoman explained that it had been delivered a few minutes earlier, with the instruction to hand it to Lumindiel unopened.
Her curiosity had been raised now, and with a borrowed glass and her bottle of wine, Lumindiel sat herself on one of the benches outside Yllonda’s store of fine-drinking. She opened the paper with a full glass in her hand. It appeared to be a letter, with an elegant royal seal on the bottom of the page. With calm interest she read the words on the paper. Then she put down her glass, and without tasting any of its content left the bench and the store behind.

Something important had come up.

Posted on 2007-08-12 at 16:48:43.

Topic: Book - Diamonds of Spring and Fall
Subject: Book - Diamonds of Spring and Fall

Some time ago, I hosted a game here on the inn, named Diamonds of Spring and Fall. Now, I'm converting it into a novel, but I find myself unmotivated to continue. Please read this and tell me if you're as unmotivated to finish it as I am. Or let me know what should be improved, or what should never be changed, or anything helpful to feed my fire to a rise again.

And of couse, all this stuff is mine, so don't go sneaking away with my ideas, ok?

Posted on 2007-08-12 at 16:45:30.
Edited on 2007-08-12 at 16:54:07 by Almerin


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