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Quest for the Blade of Ataros-Part II
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 PostPosted: Wed Mar 20, 2002 2:18 am    Post subject: Quest for the Blade of Ataros-Part II Reply with quote Back to top

The cliffs of the Silver Island drew closer and closer. As the Firebolt coasting along beneath the cliffs, greenery become apparent at their tops. The steep sides of the Island became lower as they progressed west; eventually they came to a deep natural harbour. This was filled was filled with tall ships of every rig and size; the Archipelago and especially its capital was a centre of trade for realms far outside the knowledge of Ardania. Above the tall masts loomed white walls and towers, marble minarets and silver spires; Temples, Guilds, and, above all, the massive tiers and domes of a great Palace.
"Behold!" cried S'cherque, grandly extending his arm toward the city. "Argentilun, capital of the Archipelago!"
"Magnificent," said Divinia, eyes shining.
"Awesome," murmured Darnath.
"Quite amazing," said Tauridus. "I had no idea that such wonders existed beyond the bounds of Ardania."
"Well, actually," said Lozol, "the Guild in Valmorgen has heard wisps of rumours about such places. But the reality! Think of the Libraries, the Gardens of such a metropolis!"
Divinia was basking in the radiance of a city that surpassed all that she had imagined. Her reflections were disturbed by atug on her arm. Kliven was pulling on the Paladin's sleeve, a frown creasing his forward.
"All is not right here," he whispered in her ear.
S'cherque, too, seemed disconcerted. "That's funny," he muttered. "I don't see any ships bearing the Royal Crest. King Hermenistar always had ships on hand, to greet newcomers, collect duties, make inspections, and everything else."
"Is that the Royal Crest?" asked Tasty, pointed to a long, sleek one-masted vessel which was rapidly being propelled toward them by some twoscore oars. The hull and mast were fashioned of some golden-hued wood. The sailors who could be seen on the decks wore silver-grey tunics, wih some, with some, apparently officers or officials, wearing rich purple cloaks. The single great sail, and well as the flags at the masthead and over the sterncastle, depicted a silver crescent moon, gleaming against the same, deep purple.
"No, that's not Hermenistar's symbol," said S'cherque. "Nothing like it. The Royal Crest of the Archipelago was a golden lion's head, crowned and under six stars and the moon, on a crimson field."
"You're well-versed in heraldry," said Tauridus.
"Heh. Despite my appearance, I'm pretty well-versed in most topics. You have to be in the privateering trade."
"Ho there!" cried a deep voice from the approaching vessel. "What is your business in the Archipelago?"
"Give me something to amplify my voice," ordered Divinia.
"Don't bother," Lozol said to the Captain. The aging Wizard fished around in his robes, muttering, "Where did I put thar spellbok?" Finaly he came up with a battered, dog-eared tome and began flipping through its pages.
"What delays you?" said the voice.
"Aha!" cried Lozol in triumph. He mumbled something, producing a subdued flash. "There you go."
"Thank you," said Divinia. She looked to the oncoming ship. "Hello to you! We are but travellers, wayfarers on the sea in pursuit of a great Quest. We bear no ill intent toward your nation."
"A Quest?" replied the voice. They could now see a man, in golden robes, with purple cloak, holding a trumpet to his mouth. "For whom is this Quest done, and in pursuit of what?"
"Truly," replied Divinia, with a trace of frost, "I do not think that it is your concern. If you must know, however, we seek the Blade of Ataros. We are sponsored by the Law Giver, Dauros Himself!"
The ships drew even. There was silence for a while, as the speaker conferred with another man, this one holding a staff of the golden wood. At last the first man spoke.
"Welcome, then, to the City of Argentilun, in the name of the Divine Lunord and of His Imerperial Majesty Ellixar, first Emperor of the House of Ranas!"
"Emperor?" whispered Tauridus to S'cherque. "I thought you said they were ruled by a King?"
"I did. Of House Silveras."
"We thank you!" said Divinia to the man.
"Again, we welcome you to our city. As we do not often receive visitors from the northern lands, I extend to you the hospitality of the Imperial Palace. Please, alow our vessel to conduct you to the pier."
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 PostPosted: Wed Mar 20, 2002 5:45 pm    Post subject: Quest for the Blade of Ataros-Part II Reply with quote Back to top

The Firebolt followed the imperial ship through the maze of vessels in the harbour. The heroes, as wel as S'cherque, had all lapsed into a gloomy silence. The information that neither King Hermenistar nor one of his relatives ruled was disturbing. Divinia, too, puzzled over Kliven's whispered warning.
"Here we are!" said the man in the golden robe. His ship was being moored on one side of a long pier; the Firebolt nudged into position on the other side. Several sailors, led by Ferrik, leapt overboard, and began to tie up the privateering ship. Divinia and her companion descended a gangplank onto the pier. There they were joined by the man in the golden robe, and his friend with the golden staff.
"Again, welcome to Argentilun," said the first man. He was a moderate sized man, with a well-combed mass of black hair. "I am Zilmer Acrail, Chief Harbourmaster. Which of you is the owner or captain of this ship?"
"I am," said S'cherque, coming down the gangplank after the others.
"Good!" Zilmer clapped a hand to the other man's shoulder. "Would you mind accompanying me to my office? We must have your ship registered, as well as a few things."
"Naturally," said S'cherque, allowing himself to be led away. The second man, the one with the golden-hued staff, watched the two as they walked off the pier, then turned to the Questors.
"I am Mitteras D'Nivir, Captain of the Emperor's Guard," he said stiffly. Slightly taller and thinner than Zilmer, he reminded the two Valmorgans of the late, unlamented Captain Horman, though the treacherous Palace Guard had not been so unbending in appearance. "I will accompany you to the Imperial Palace."
"I fear you honour us too greatly, Captain," said Divinia sharply. She was becoming suspicious, as well as irritated by this man's demeanor. "Although we are not poor, we are also not accustomed to staying with royalty."
"Oh, I assure you that you need not fear staying at the Palace," said Mitteras. "You are only going to be interviewed by His Imperial Majesty. Afterwards, you wll be free to choose whatever accomodations you wish in the city. Now come." He turned and marched up the pier.
"Nice try, Divinia," whispered Tauridus. Divinia snorted softly. "No, I mean it. Something is wrong in this city. You were right to try to keep us away from this 'Emperor'."
"Perhaps," she whispered back. "However it may be, I failed." She looked up to see tha they were passing an ornate Guardhouse; Captain Mitteras made a gesture, and ten more men, bearing staves also, fell in behind them.
"What are they doing?" demanded the Paladin. Mitteras answered without turning.
"They are our escort. Recently, the city has been having trouble with rebels and troublemakers. I do not wish you to come to harm."
"We could take care of ourselves," said Darnath.
"Maybe, but I do not take chances."

They ascended the slowly climbing streets. Every now and then, stairs were cut into the slope; these had wide, broad steps and were easily negotiated. The roads were also broad, though densely packed. This proved no obstacle, however; the people moved quickly aside at the sigt of the silver-grey uniforms of the Guards.
"'Rebels' my foot," muttered Tauridus. "Everyone's too afraid to be rebellious!"
After many hours, they reached the Palace. A great gatehouse stretched out from the main structure towards them, gleaming in the sunlight. This was flanked by two massive towers. Beyond that was a tiny city of balconies, turrets, towers, battlements, and colonades.
"Quite impressive," said Lozol. The old Wizard sighed wistfully; he had not really ben paying attention to the events around him and regreted not being abe to spend a while in the Palace.
The marched into the shaded interior of the gatehouse, which at least brought some relief from the Southern sun - it had been getting hotter with every day in their voyage. No relief was brought to their aching feet, however. They and their escort continued on, deeper into the labyrinthine halls of the Palace.
Seemingly an hour snce the entered the Palace, they came to two giant double doors.
"The Throne Room," declared Mitteras. He dismissed the guards, then conferred with a herald who stodin an alcove to one side of the doors. The herald vanished into his alcove. On the other side of the doors, they could hear it being announced that the Champion of Dauros and her companions had come from distant Ardania to see the Emperor. Divinia gritted her teeth at the last remark.
"Let them enter!" commanded a regal voice from beyond the portal. Mitteras stood back as the doors were slowly pushed outwards. The party walked in, stunned by what they saw.
The Throne Room was some two hundred feet long, and more then fifty feet wide. The floor was made of either silver or mithril; the light reflected from it dazzled the Questors. The light came both from rows of tall, arched, clear-glass windows down either side of the hall, and from six golden chandeliers, bearing a hundred candles each, which were spaced down the middle of the hall. Beneath them ran a thick purple carpet, like a bridge across a silver sea. This bridge connected the great double doors at one end, and a purple-draped pavillion at the other. This pavillion covered the whole east wall - the far wall - of the hall; in its center sat a massive golden throne. And on the throne sat the Emperor.
"Come forward!" cried the Emperor. The party advanced, Divinia leading. Some fifty feet from the throne she stopped, eyeing the dozens of staff-bearing guards to either side of the Emperor. They were the only others in the pavillion besides their ruler; there was no advisor, no herald, and no Empress. Obviously, this Ellixar thought he could rule by himself. "Declare your names!"
"I am Divinia of the Swift Blade," said Divinia, stepping still further out in front of the others, "Paladin and chosen Champion of Dauros. These are my companions and helpers on my Quest: Kliven the Calm One, Monk of Dauros and First Elder of the High Sanctum in Mawhew; Sir Tauridus, Guildmaster of the First Mayhew Warriors' Guild; Darnath Trackcutter, a Ranger of the Second Mayhew Rangers' Guild; Lozol, Wizard and Loremaster of the Royal Valmorgen Wizards' Guild; and, lastly, Tasty Rock, a Cultist of Fervus." Tauridus grunted softly at the lack of a resounding title for Tasty; still, the Cultist didn't seem to mind.
The Emperor rose from his throne. Perhaps he felt compelled to show his superiority to these wanderers; Divinia's introductions had been given in a proud voice, and neither she nor any of the others had so much as bowed.
"And I," said the man, "am His Imperial Majesty, Ellixar Ranas, Sublime Emperor of the Archipelago by the grace of Lunord!" He held up a staff that he held. for the first time, Divinia noticed that it was no plain staff. It was made of some intricately carved black wood, topped by a crescent of some blueish-white stone. This crescent now glowed, illuminated its bearer.He stared down at them. "Why have you neglected to kneel? Are the Ardanians so proud, or do the younger gods teach their followers no respect for the rulers of the world?"
"I am the Champion of Dauros," returned Divinia, suddenly cold. "I do not bow to those whose claim to authority is questionable, only to those whose power I recognize."
Silence descended on the Throne Room. Darnath groaned; Lozol stared at the Paladin's back in shock. Even the Calm One showed signs of alarm. The Emperor's countenance twisted in anger.
"What words are these you speak, woman?" he said, slowly and softly. "You are guests in my country, and you dare have the affrontery to question my right to rule! Never in all history has such a deed been done! You shall pay dearly for this insult!" He raised his staff. A brilliant blue-white light gathered around the crescent, then shot out in a beam towards the Paladin. The Blade of Ataros shone suddenly bright in response as the beam hit; the two lights seemed to strive, then the beam from the Emperor's staff vanished. Ellixar staggered backwards and fell onto his throne; Divinia simply staggered.
"Fool Paladin!" said Tauridus angrily, as Divinia began to fall. He rushed forward and held her. "What possessed you to say that?" He looked up to where the Emperor sat. "Forgive her, Your Majesty. My friend has been tired by our journey, and, as you saw, is inclined to be both suspicious and proud. We do not mean your Empire any harm, whatever she said."
"Indeed," said the Emperor. "Let me give you some advice, Guildmaster. From now on, restrain your Paladin from speaking with rulers. She is no diplomat!"
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 PostPosted: Tue Jul 09, 2002 10:12 pm    Post subject: Quest for the Blade of Ataros-Part II Reply with quote Back to top

"What came over you?" demanded Tauridus. The companions were in Argentilun's Temple to Dauros, where the D'Nivir had guided them after their encounter with the Emperor. Divinia was laying on a bed; normally, the room would have housed an aspiring Monk or Paladin. Tauridus stood over her, a scowl on his face. The others stood quietly in one corner - even Tasty was unusually subdued, no doubt due to being in an opposed Temple.
Divinia opened her eyes, surprise etched on her face. She had rarely seen Tauridus become angry, and never with her. "I - I don't know. I - I suppose - that man is a tyrant!"
"What of it?" asked Tauridus. "You could have gotten us all killed!"
Her mouth set. "Unlikely, Guildmaster. The Champion of Dauros is not defeated so easily."
"Oh really? Why, then, are you in that bed? If it were not for your swod, Lady Champion, you might very well be in the grave!"
"Or worse," said Lozol. "That was no ordinary spell."
"Yeah!" chimed in Tasty. Divinia swung her legs out of the bed, sat up, and fixed the Cultist with one of her icy glares. He subsided, to her mild surprise. Then she glanced around, at the golden-hued walls and somber purple hangings, and gasped. "A Temple to Dauros! How in Ardania did that little heathen get in?"
"Kliven's persuasive powers," said Darnath. "Apparently, he's got quite a bit of influence."
"Quite remarkable," said Lozol, "considering he's a foreignor, and a newly arrived one at that . . ."
"Ah, but the brothers were expecting you." A servant came in, followed by four Monks. "A divine message, so I understand. And now I come with a message from a lesser origin - if barely lesser. His Imperial Majesty has sent for you - all except the Monk, and the Paladin. If the rest of you will follow me?"
"As the Emperor wishes," said Tauridus, warily. He motioned to the others. The Monks moved aside, drawing back with disdain as Tasty slunk by.
When they were gone, a Monk - the Templemaster by his garments - turned to Kliven and Divinia.
"Greetings, fellow believers. Welcome to the Argentilun Sanctum." He bowed in the traditional greeting of one Monk to another.
"Thank you for your welcome." Kliven bowed in return.
"May I introduce myself? I am Father Retark, Templemaster of the Argentilun Sanctum. Your names?"
"I am Kliven, Second Elder of the High Sanctum in Mayhew."
Divinia stood, and bowed her head in greeting. "And I am Divinia, lately a Paladin and now Champion of Dauros."
"Ah." Retark bowed his head in return. He fixed her with considering eyes. "I hear you had an unfortunate interview with Ellixar. A pity." And, without warning, the other three Monks jumped upon Divinia, knocking her senseless. Kliven stepped forward, but Retark moved to bar his way.
"What are you doing?" demanded Kliven.
"The Emperor's command," explained Retark smoothly.
"But this is the Champion of Dauros!" Kliven was angry. "Even were this man a legitimate king, he could not command one Daurosian to harm or hinder another!"
"Are you implying that Ellixar is not legitimate? But then, of course, he is not." Retark signed to his Monks to remove the unconscious Paladin. "Even so, his word is law, and must therefore be obeyed."
"An unjust law!" answered Kliven. "It need not be obeyed, and should not!"
"Ah, but there are . . . advantages to obeying the law."
"What do you mean?"
"When Leovistar ruled, our temple was in disfavour. There were no donations, few people came to our services; now, things our differnet. We have the patronage of the Emperor himself!"
"At what price?" asked Kliven quietly.
"Ah, there you have it. But all we need do is obey the law, and that is what Dauros requires, is it not?"
"You mean obey the wil of a despot; and one who apparently usurped the position of the rightful ruler at that. That is not in accord with the Law of Dauros."
"A technicality." Retark fluttered his hand, as if to dispell such trivialities. "Besides, think of the good we can do. With the Emperor's favour, we can bring Dauros' light to the poeple. Slowly, we can work toward reform. All shall see us for what we truly are, and we shall get the rewards of our labours! But we must be patient. We must not struggle against the set order, merely try to reshape it. Well? You could aid us, you know. You have travelled; you could go as a missionary to lands where Dauros is unknown. You would get your onw reward, and it would be great.
Kliven was silent for a long time. He saw clearly all that Retark had said. He saw the golden faith of Dauros spread to all corners of the world. He saw the aid that the temples would give to the poor and suffering. The knowledge that would be gathered. The evils that would be stopped. And he would receive honour and glory. If only he would join these Monks, if nly he would abandon Divinia to her fate . . .
"No." Kliven's brow cleared. "I have been chosen as Divinia's guide. I will not falter. You see people shall see us for what we are; that we will get our reward? So it would be: for people are not so blind as to not be able to see through a veneer of false piety to the shallow greed within; and the Lawgiver is even more keen-sighted. Your words are empty, Templemaster, and so is your faith. I would not participate in spreading its blighting touch even at the cost of my own life."
"Would you not." Retark shook his head sadly. "You would have been a great asset, Kliven of Mayhew - you say you would not, even at the cost of your life? So be it."
"I think not." Kliven raised his hands, assuming a defensive stance. Retark smiled.
"Fight me, will you? It is against the Code to harm a Templemaster."
"You have abandoned the Code, Retark; the Code has abandoned you."
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 PostPosted: Thu Aug 22, 2002 4:27 pm    Post subject: Quest for the Blade of Ataros-Part II Reply with quote Back to top

Ellixar walked smoothly down the halls of his Palace. Deeper he descended, by stairs that curved and twisted; down, down into darkness. Finally, he came a long row of iron doors, each locked and bolted by a half-dozen locks. The walls were well-lit by glowing torches, which illuminated the rough but clean stonework. Unlike some dungeons, Ellixar kept his as clean as the Throne Room above, for his civilised nature abhorred disorder and chaos. He continued walking down the corridor, his magical staff measuring his even tread.
The staff was not some mere Wizard's toy. It was not even a powerful magical artifact. It was something far greater: a relic of Lunord, Master of Moon and Wind, and it channeled the energies of that enigmatic god as few other objects did in the mortal lands.
He came to the end of the passageway, which was merely sealed off by more stonework. He raised his staff, his fine voice intoning a mystic spell that opened a gateway in the stone, through which he walked.
Here, now, was his purpose. He was slightly tired from navigating the miles of halls that formed the maze of his Palace; much as he would have liked to, he could not simply teleport, for a binding of the ether winds prevented such magical transport within the confines of his home. The magical door behind him vanished, leaving him alone in another corridor. It was much like the first, save that, rather than torches, enchanted moon-scultures illuminated the passage, and the walls were made of rare, magical materials. This was the place where he held archmagi, capturd fiends and the like. Presently it was empty. Or rather, not quite empty, and Ellixar was not quite alone. He turned to the first door on his left, whispered a word, causing the magic seal to drop away, and pushed it open.
Hanging on the wall opposite him was Divinia. She wore no armour. Her hair fell bedraggled around her face. She was bound to the magic-deadening wall by reinforced shackles of enchanted mithril. Ellixar stepped forward, causing the Champion of Dauros to look up.
"What do you want with me, varlet?" she asked coldly. Ellixar smiled.
"Why, vengeance. I should think that were perfectly obvious to a smart girl like you." He pursed his lips mockingly. "Or are you so smart? You seem rather untidy."
"Your ruffians dragged me here," she spat. His voice was like frozen acid, but the Emperor was unaffected.
"Ruffians? Dragged? I gave orders that you were to be shown the most gracious treatment - considerng your position."
"I ask again, what do you want?" Her voice was like the very Blade of Ataros coated with ice, but Ellixar's smile merely broadened.
"You challenged my authority. It would be poetic justice to show you, in your punishment, that upon which my authority is based." He raised his staff. Once again, magic gathered around its lunar head.
"It failed once -" she began, her voice like a poisoned avalanche, but Ellixar, eyes sparkling cruelly, cut her off, his own voice like flames reflected from the Moon and fanned by the winds.
" - And it will not fail again," he finished. The light fell around her. She screamed, and this time did not faint. She drew breath, and screamed again, as the magic seeped through her. Her scream drew out, and changed . . .

[ 29 August 2002, 12:46 AM: Message edited by: Falotar ]
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 PostPosted: Fri Aug 23, 2002 1:10 am    Post subject: Quest for the Blade of Ataros-Part II Reply with quote Back to top

Tauridus leaped up, drawing his sword involuntary as a long, melancholy howl echoed through the corridors of Ellixar's Palace.
"What in the name of the gods?" he said.
"Sounds like a wolf," commented Darnath. "Or worse."
"Doesn't sound happy," added Tasty.
"Hmmm?" said Lozol, roused from his book. The companions, minus Kliven and Divinia, were in an antechamber outside the Emperor's Minor Audience Hall. It was well-stocked with books and scrolls, ranging from light entertainment to deep studies on the effect of the Moon on magic.
Tauridus sheathed his sword. "Well, I suppose we're safe enough."
"Most certainly." Mitteras D'Nivir sat in the antechamber with them. "There is nothing amiss."
"Sounds like there is," said Darnath, unconvinced.
"I thought you said it sounded like a wolf?"
"Hush, Tasty." Tauridus paced around the room. "Where is His Majesty? He summons us, and then is late for his own audience?"
"My apologies." Ellixar Ranas, Emperor of the Archipelago, stepped into the chamber. "I had urgent business to attend to. But, come now! You have waited long enough." He strode toward the door into the Minor Audience Hall. The Heroes followed, uncertainly.
"May I ask, Imperial Majesty," said Tauridus when they were all arrayed in chairs within the Hall, which seemed to resemble a large sitting room, "what you wish of us?"
"Why, to give you my apologies." Ellixar smiled at the shocked look on their faces.
"Pardon, Your Majesty," said the Ranger, "but shouldn't we be apologizing to you? After all, it was Divinia that did the insulting."
"Ah, but what can you expect from a Paladin? Righteous, yes, but sometimes their judgement gets in the way of their better judgement - if you know what I mean."
"I do indeed," said Darnath.
"So I take full responsibility for losing my temper. If you are worried that I shall hinder you in your Quest - do not be."
"That is a relief," said Tauridus gratefully. He started to get up. "Well, then, if that is all -"
"Wait!" Ellixar raised one hand. "I shall not stop you, but your friends may."
"What?" said Tauridus, collapsing again.
"Divinia - given up?" said Darnath. "It's not like her - sure, she's bossy, but determined."
"And what about Klivie?" asked Tasty. The Cultist had found he had a friend in the Monk - however strange that might be.
"The Monk? I fear he has decided to stay here, in Argentilun. Retark - Templemaster of the Daurosian Sanctum in my city - reported that Kliven has decided his tasks are finished."
"And Divinia?" asked Tauridus.
"Ah, there we have it. She has decided to depart, to finish her Quest alone, without your aid."
"Silly girl," remarked Lozol. "She's wounded."
"And she needs us!" cried Tauridus. "We must pursue her!"
"If she's dumb enough to go off on her own, I'm tempted to say let her," said Darnath.
"Think it through before you make any decisions," urged Ellixar, concern on his face. "Tauridus, your loyalty is admirible, but perhaps your Ranger is right. If she no longer needs you. . ." Ellixar shrugged. "Well, I can detain you no more. You may go, and do as you wish."
The companions filed out, stunned. They walked through the antechamber. Tauridus, last in line, felt a hand on his arm.
"Wait," said Mitteras.
"What do you want?" asked Tauridus.
"You were a Guildmaster in your own country, correct?"
Tauridus nodded.
"Quite skilled with your sword."
"Yes." The Warrior studied the Guard. "What are you driving at?"
"We have need of such men. Your Champion does not. Why not join the city, as a Guard or a Warrior?"
Tauridus was staggered by the suggestion. "Swear allegiance to . . . Ellixar?" he said. "But - what about Divinia? What about my oaths to the King of Mayhew?"
"What of them? The Paladin has deserted you, and the Ardanians have probably forgotten you. In the service of the Emperor, you will win glory and fame. Immortal you shall be, in song and ballad and historical record. If you are skiled enough." Mitteras glanced at the sword. "Perhaps I misjudged you, and you are not valourous enough?"
"I was one of the best Warriors in Mayhew," answered Tauridus hotly.
"Then, why delay? The Archipelago holds much in the way of adventure; glorious honour for yourself and the Empire . . ."
The Captain's words droned on and on. Slowly, the flat sound began somehow to come alive in Tauridus' mind. Fields of battle, with himself standing victorious over fallen and captured foes. Rising through the ranks of the Warriors of Argentilun, until he came to be Elixar's most trusted military advisor.Then, in old age, a snug fortress, hung with trophies won in combat.
"I . . ." he faltered.
"We need you; no one else does," repeated Mitteras.
Tauridus thought again. Glory and honour were all very fine . . . but did not he have all he needed of them in his own country? And Divinia - headstrong, arrogant - she still needed him. Then he recalled the look on the faces of the townsfolk as the Questors had walked up the main street of Argentilun.
"Well?" pressed Mitteras.
"Never, D'Nivir!" he said, with so much vehemence that Mitteras was taken aback. "I will not spend my life in crushing the peasantry! Service to the Emperor? What glory is there in aiding a tyrant? As for Divinia; she may think she does't need me, but Kliven chose me for a reason!"
"Kliven has already -"
"I don't believe you, D'Nivir," cut in Tauridus. His temper cooled; he was never angry long. "Truly, I do not."
"Very well." The Captain's eyes flashed. "I will show you to the gates."

[ 09 September 2002, 01:14 AM: Message edited by: Falotar ]
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 PostPosted: Mon Sep 09, 2002 12:50 am    Post subject: Quest for the Blade of Ataros-Part II Reply with quote Back to top

The three companions emerged from the maze of the palace. Darnath breathed deeply, as did Tasty. Lozol seemed wrapped in thought - not unusual for him, to be sure.
"Funny," he muttered.
"What?" asked Darnath, not paying much attention, being so glad to be in the open air again.
"I felt something, in there, you know. Even though studying that intriguing volume, I still could sense the ether winds. Out of the corner of my eye, as you might say. Anyway, I felt something - a great twisting and roiling of the winds. But it was so muffled! Like a thunderstorm in a box."
"Sounds nice," said Tasty. "I wish I were in that box."
"Box?" said Lozol.
"With the storm inside!"
"Ah." The Wizard's face cleared. "That box. So do I, my boy, so do I."
Darnath rolled his eyes. "They're both as mad as each other."
"Pardon, gallant champions!" They turned. Having walked several yards down from the gates, they now looked up to see the Emperor smiling down on them.
"Hello, Your Majesty," said Darnath. "Pardon myself, but what are you doing? And where's Tauridus?"
"Oh, he shall be along presently," replied Ellixar. "I myself was just on my way to inform my people of the good news."
"What good news?" inquired Tasty eagerly. "An invasion by club-wielding frostweeds?
"Eh?" said Lozol, pulling out his copy of Ulindre's Encyclopedia of Ardania Flora.
"Not that, I fear," said the Emperor, turning his smile upon the Cultist. "And perhaps it is not good news for you. But Sir Tauridus no longer hails from Mayhew, but from Argentilun!"
"Say what?" said Lozol, so startled he dropped the Encyclopedia.
"Sir Tauridus joined you?" cried Darnath.
"I'll miss him," said Tasty wistfully.
"Perhaps not." The Emperor descended towards them. "Wizard, Cultist, you may go; I will have words with you later. Ranger Darnath, come with me now. I have a proposition."
"Do you have any botanical gardens?" asked Wizard.
"The Imperial Herborium. Follow the main road, until you come to Yarril Street. Turn right."
"Right!" Tasty skipped off, trailed by the Wizard. Ellixar turned to Darnath.
"Come," he said. He raised an eyebrow. "Unless you have an engagement elsewhere?"
"Nothing pressing."
"Good." The Emperor raised his staff -
- And Darnath found the two of them standing on a promitory behind the Palace. Beneath them spread A valley, shrouded by mists out of which poked the green heads of a forest.
"The Reve Vale," said Ellixar, sweeping his arm out over the expanse. "You may not believe it, Ranger, but the Vale has never been completely explored. Even those who survived its hidden treachery to bringf me word of it accomplished little. Their maps are useless, for there is enchantment laid on the Vale so that paths and courses shift completely."
"Sounds interesting," alowed Darnath.
"It is a truly trackless place." Ellixar studied him shrewdly. "Trackcutter is your name. If you live up to it, you might be just the man who can defeat the bogs and beasts, the mists and enchantments."
"I wish I could," said Darnath, watching the shifting shadows of the mists.
"You can! You will your friend, Sir Tauridus, to help you - yea, and Kliven too. And who can say but that the others might not join?"
"Maybe after the Quest . . ." Darnath half turned.
Ellixar laid a hand on him. In a voice as smooth as the velvet robes he wore, he said, "Quest? For the Blade? What need does a Ranger have for a sword? Your bow suffices for all that you meet. Divinia does not need you - in fact, perhaps she never needed you." The imperial eyes stared deep into those of the woodsman. "She can find your way - she has said as much to you, has she not?"
"Yes," agreed Darnath, nodding slowly. He turned again to face the Vale.
"Adventure awaits," whispered Ellixar. "And not just here. Tere are other islands in the Archipelago - pristine lands, where your foot would be the first to touch the sod."
Darnath closed his eyes. He thought of islands untouched by men, of hidden valleys which he could find and unclimable mountains which he could scale. He thought of monsters and beasts unseen by human eyes save his own. And the trophies he would take home from the hunt - trophies that he could not, however, bear to look at too long, for they would be lost in the winding corridors of Ellixar's hearts, more devious than even an enchanted wood.
"Oh, I don't know," he said casually. "The forests of Ardania are wider, I think."
"You turn me down?"
"To be short: yes." Darnath turned fully, scanning the castle walls behind him. "How do you get back to the city?"
"There is only one way, Ranger." Ellixar raised his staff. "And, I fear, only room for one."
"You mean to leave me here?"
"Think my offer over, won't you?" And Ellixar Ranas was gone.
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 PostPosted: Tue Sep 24, 2002 8:37 pm    Post subject: Quest for the Blade of Ataros-Part II Reply with quote Back to top

Lozol and Tasty strolled about in the Herborium, conferring as to what they should do next.
"I suppose," said Lozol as he straightened up from examining a flower not to be found in Ardania, "that we should head back to that Temple to Dauros."
"Why?" asked Tasty, disgruntled.
"It's the logical place for us to regroup. But I don't suppose you want to go there..." the old Wizard looked wistfully out over the gardens.
"You don't either, do you?" asked the Cultist.
"Oh, I don't mind. But I prefer the gardens to the Temple."
"I prefer the ship." Tasty kicked at the ground with a bare foot. "This place is so tame."
"Aha!" Lozol raised a gnarled finger. "I know! I'll teleport you back to the ship, and then tell the others when I meet them at the Temple."
"Brilliant!" Tasty bounced up and down eagerly. "Hurry up! I've never been teleported before!"
"Just a minute." Lozol frowned. "Didn't the Emperor say Divinia had left? To do that, she must have taken the ship..."
"Who cares?" Tasty began dancing around the old man, to the startlement of other studious herbalists.
"I truly can't remember..." the Wizard's face slowly cleared. "Oh well. I'll teleport you to our cabin. She can't have sailed out of range yet, and I remember the cabin quite distinctly." He mumbled something, waved his arms about, and the flowerpot next to Tasty vanished.
Lozol frowned. "I need to practice," he mumbled. Again he cast the spell, this time sending Tasty away.
"Now then," said the Wizard to himself. "Where to...? Oh yes. The Temple." He allowed himself a few minutes to recover his magical sttength, then teleported himself outside the Argentilun Temple.
What he saw there amazed him. Kliven stood on the doorstep, engaged in battle with three other Monks.
"Sacred Petals of Chaoswort!" exclaimed Lozol. "What in Krolm's name?" Quickly he began spell-casting, having noted that the other Monks lacked the aura of Dauros' protection.
Soon the Monks were reduced to a pile of purple robes, and the Wizard hurried over to his friend.
"What were you doing?" he demanded angrily "This is no time for fighting!"
Kliven shook his head.
"Oh, that's right. You can't talk. Well." Lozol's brow once more wrinkled in thought. "I know! To the ship! There you can have paper and pen, and tell me that way what transpires!"
He set off slowly for the Firebolt, forgetting altogether the fact that Divinia had supposedly sailed away on it. Kliven came behind, a troubled cloud behind the calm mask of his face.
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 PostPosted: Wed Oct 30, 2002 12:13 am    Post subject: Quest for the Blade of Ataros-Part II Reply with quote Back to top

"Are you certain that you wish to turn down the Emperor's proposal?" Captain D'Nivir's eyes bored into Tauridus. Tauridus averted his gaze, shaking his head.
"Quite cerain," he said.
"Farewell, then," said D'Nivir. They were standing in the gatehouse; before them the great doors stood closed. D'Nivir turned and passed back into the Palace by another set of doors, which closed behind him. Tauridus waited for the doors to the outside to open, but they did not. Impatient, he pushed on one, but found it locked. To his consternation, there was no bolt or keyhole on it; it must be sealed by magic.
"D'Nivir!" he shouted. "Have these doors unlocked!" There was no reply. Tauridus glanced uneasily around the little space. Fortunately he looked up at the ceiling, for it was thus he saw the openings appropriately named murder holes open.
He threw up his shield. Burning oil poured down from above, but was deflected by the steel-backed wood. The shield, however, was not undamaged. Tauridus threw the burning thing away from him. Apparently the enemy was unprepared for this; they poured no more oil. Instead, when it seemed they had discovered he still lived, they repaired to other tactics. Arrows whizzed down, most of them rebounding from his chestpiece.
Tauridus thought quickly. He ran across the oil, which was blazing from his fallen, ignited shield. He slammed his bulk on the inner doors, hoping that they, at least, were not magicked shut. To his satisfaction, they gave a little. Also, the archers were being forced from their positions above by the smoke. Tauridus drew his sword. He hacked down the weakened door, and was back inside the Palace. Now he was confronted with the maze of stairs and corridors. Choosing one, he set off, hoping to find an alternate way out before he was located by too large a force of the Emperor's Guards.
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 PostPosted: Tue Dec 10, 2002 4:25 pm    Post subject: Quest for the Blade of Ataros-Part II Reply with quote Back to top

"That's funny," remarked Tasty as they boarded the Frirebolt, "I wonder where everyone's gotten to?"
"Most puzzling," agreed Lozol. Kliven's features grew more troubled.
They walked to their cabins. Inside Kliven's, the Monk produced the implements needed for him to communicate.
Lozol read aloud the story of the treachery in the Temple, eyebrows coming together.
"I didn't know Monks were capable of such things," said Tasty with interest.
"Shut up!" snapped the Wizard. Tasty blinked at the unwonted anger in Lozol's tones. "It is obvious," continued the Wizard, "that Emperor Ellixar wants to do . . . something." Kliven handed him a scrap of paper. "'Divide and conquer.' Yes. Precisely. And he's done an excellant job, too."
"He didn't divide us - at least, I don't think he did." Tasty was rather unsure of the meaning of "divide".
"No, he didn't. Probably discounted us. Typical youngster: they always underestimate those smaller or older then themselves. Well, we'll show him!" Lozol shook his aged fist in the direction of the Palace. Kliven handed him another paper.
"Eh? Oh. 'We need to discover what happened to Captain S'cherque, and the crew. Possibly also rescue them.' Of course! In fact, we can do that first. Then, back to the Palace and give Master Ranas a thrashing!" His beard jutting, Lozol set out. Tasty skipped along behind them, and the Monk fllowed, his heavy face lightened by the beginnings of a smile.
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 PostPosted: Thu Jun 12, 2003 12:01 am    Post subject: Quest for the Blade of Ataros-Part II Reply with quote Back to top

"What is the meaning of this outrage?" demanded Zilmer Acrail. He was standing behind his desk, his chair knocked over behind him. It testified to the startled speed with which he had arisen when the three Companions burst into the customs office.
"I could ask the same of you," retorted Lozol. "What do you mean, kidnapping our crew?"
"I beg your pardon," spat the Harbourmaster. "I did not realize you owned a crew."
"I am referring to Captain S'cherque's crew!" Lozol's beard bristled, his eyes - and his staff -blazed. Zilmer looked taken aback.
"Please," he said hastily, "I have had nothing to do with them! Even if they were being held, it would not be here - "
"You lie!" Lozol pointed the staff at him; the tip snapped and popped ominously. "I can sense their auras."
"Well . . . " Zilmer licked his lips. Then he slumped in defeat. "All right. Yes, they are within. I had to take them into custody when I learned that they were pirates. But I see you're perfectly capable of handling them. Please, follow me." He turned and bobbed his way over a door behind his desk. The threesome followed.
"You were bluffing, weren't you?" whispered Tasty.
"So I was," agreed Lozol, smirking. "I - "
"You may handle pirates," shouted Zilmer, unknowingly interrupting the Wizard, "but see if you handle these!" He ducked into the door, and several dozen Guards poured out.
"Oh boy," sighed Lozol, preparing a spell.
"Oh boy!" shouted Tasy, preparing his knives.
As it turned out, neither of them struck first. Kliven glided to stand in front of them. He tripped one Guard, broke another's jaw, and sent the rest back in a tumbled mess.
Lozol unleashed his spell, frying the flailing mass with a wave of fire. Most of the mass stopped flailing. A mere six Guards pushed their charred comrades off of them, standing up and grimly preparing for another charge. But they were taken out in quick succession by Tasty's knives.
"So," said Lozol triumphantly, marching around the remains of the Guards, "we did deal with them after all. Now, Zilmer, lead us to our friends."
The Harbourmaster, who was shaking and sweating in every member of his body, was forced to concede the Wizard's victory. He led them to quarantine cells where suspect goods - or in this case personages - were kept.
"Well, so you finally decided to see what's become of your shipmates," said S'cherque as his cell was unlocked. He eyed the three Companions. "Where's the Paladin? Didn't she come to see me get my just results?"
"No," said Lozol, shaking his head. "In fact, she and the others are up in the Palace - probably prisoners of this dratted Emperor. We'e heading there next. Go back to the ship." Then the three vanished.
S'cherque whistled. "When that old guy says he's goin' someplace, he goes." The Privateer Captain gazed at the shuddering Zilmer. "Ferrik, take this piece of rubbish with us. We'll hold him to insure the authorities don't try any more funny business. See that you don't kill him, but don't worry overmuch about his health either."
"Yessir," said the big man, grinning.

[ 08. July 2003, 10:50 PM: Message edited by: Falotar ]
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 PostPosted: Sat Aug 30, 2003 1:07 am    Post subject: Quest for the Blade of Ataros-Part II Reply with quote Back to top

Tauridus collapsed against the side of the corridor in which he was currently lost. His breath had nearly left him, and he needed to collect it. It seemed hours since he left the front gate, and he was farther from finding an exit than before. Winded from searching the corridors and fighting the Emperor's guards, he felt he could go no further. But, when he heard boots pounding up the corridor in his direction, he shoved himself from the wall and willed his feet to motion.
He stumbled along, the boots coming up rapidly behind him. He was not giving much heed to his course, and so fetched up head first against a door. The corridor ended in it.
"Just what I need," he muttered. "A dead-end. Oh well, if I must die, at least it'll be heroic. He thrust open the door, and was dazzled by the light that burst out.
Alarmed, he tried to shut the the door. At first he could not find the handle, and pulled several levers and handles before he found the right one. There was the off chance that the guards were unaware of his presence, and he did not need this light to reveal him. When at length his eyes adjusted, he saw what at first he thought was a window was actually a glowing map. It showed, black lines against the white that had blinded him, the outline of the Palace.
"This would be useful," he said ruefully, "if only I had time to study it." He turned his back to the map and waited for the guards to come in through the door. And waited.
There was no sign of the uards. Cautiously Tauridus pened the door, and to his amazement saw a set of stairs heading down!
"Merciful Agrela!" he gasped. "I swear there was a straight corridor here!" He closed the door and examined the chamber more closely.
The wals were filled with levers, handles, and knobs. Words in some arcane language were written above panels of these devices. In the centre of the far wall, underneath the map, was a large wheel surrounded by the strange inscriptions. An idea formed in Tauridus' mind, and he turned the wheel slightly to the left. The map reconfigured, the maze of corridors becoming even more bewildering. He turned it the other way, and the maze was simplified. Smiling, he turned it all the way to the right.

In his chamber, the Emperor cursed as he felt the magis controlling the Palace shift and realign themselves.
"Curse that Warrior! He must have found the Configuration Chamber!" he hissed. He flung open the door, summoning two guards. He informed them of the matter, and dispatched them to the Barracks Quarter. At least now they knew where he was, and it would prove easy to trap him.

Out on the promitory, Darnath was getting cold. There was a biting wind which played around the back of the Palace; it would nip at him from one direction, then another, then from both sides at once. He was huddled against the Palace wall, cursing the Emperor and his cruel tricks. Thus it was that, when the open door appeared there, he fell with a startled oath back into the Palace.
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 PostPosted: Tue Sep 09, 2003 2:31 pm    Post subject: Quest for the Blade of Ataros-Part II Reply with quote Back to top

Lozol, tasty, and Kliven tunbled eight feet down from midair to land in a tangled heap just before the Palace gates.
"I guess you can't teleport into the Palace," said Lozol wistfully. Then he picked up his staff and righted himself. "Oh well, if I can't go past the door, I'll go through!" He raised his arms, then swept his staff in an arc before him. Energy crackled out, leaping to the doors and exploding. When the wood chips and stone dust had settled, a gaping hole was left where the great gates had stood a moment earlier.
"Let's go!" cried Lozol excitedly, catching up his robes and dashing within. Tasty, shouting with incoherent joy, dashed in after him. Kliven followed, smiling to himself and shaking his head.
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 PostPosted: Tue Nov 25, 2003 10:09 pm    Post subject: Quest for the Blade of Ataros-Part II Reply with quote Back to top

"Well," said Darnath aloud as he examined the corridor before him, "anyplace is better than this place." He began walking down, back into the treacherous Palace.

Tauridus opened the door, not surprised to find that it was now only one of a series of doors that lined the dorridor which now ran perpendicular to the chamber with the wheel.
"Which way," he mused, "left or right?" Thankfully he had left the door opened; the light from the luminous map was still the only light that shone. He was pondering yet when he became aware that the Guards were alerted to him.
The sound of pounding boots were coming from both ends of the corridor. He cursed under his breath, but then thought. He closed the door and began moving stealthily to the left. Ahead he saw a torch-bearing Guard come round a corner, followed by three more. He drew his sword, and waited for them to to draw close
Even though they knew he was here, they were foolishly unprepared for his sudden attack. Dazzled by their own light, they did not see him coming. Then the Guard next to the torch-bearer was down, and Tauridus was battling the other two. Crowded together in the narrow corridor, they could not use their long staves to great effect, and Tauridus hacked right through them. They broke and fled as their weapons splintered. Then he turned on the torch-bearer, who was fumbling with his light and trying to draw a dagger. Tauridus raised his sword, then stopped his blow and hilt the man on the chin with his hilt. The Guard fell, unconscious.
Then, behind him, he caught the glow of more torches. He turned to face them, though the weariness that had fled briefly came over him tenfold.

Darnath felt his way along the walls, cursing silently. Even for his keen eyes, there was no light by which to see. Therefore, when an orange glow grew in the corridor before him, he thought his eyes were failing him -- or his mind. But after he blinked several times, he concluded that they must be real. He began to move more cautiously, and as his own tread quieted, he heard the tramp of heavy boots ahead.
Slowly he drew closer to them. He could see a company of six Imperial Guards, the two in the middle bearing torches. Ahead of them marched none other than Mitteras D'Nivir. Darnat whistled softly, and drew an arrow.
"A servant of the Emperor's," he whispered, setting shaft to string, "can expect no mercy from me!" He raised his bow.

Tauridus groaned as he recognized the man who was leading the Guards. D'Nivir was in fine form -- he looked as if he had just cleaned his uniform for the occasion! He stopped several yards from Tauridus, holding up his hand. The Warrior was illuminated, if dimly, by the torch which guttered on the floor. The other two torches threw his shadow forward, and it flickered over the dim light of the fallen torch -- much like, Tauridus thought, the shadow of death hung over his flickering soul.
"Hail and well met," said D'Nivir. "I ask you again: will you not join the Emperor's cause?"
"Never," repeated Tauridus wearily.
"Then," said D'Nivir, raising his spiked staff above his head, "Prepare!"
The flames of the torches behind him quivered in a slight wind. D'Nivir raised one foot, then fell to the floor. His staff slipped from his grasp and rolled to Tauridus feet. A green-feathered arrow protruded from the back of his neck.
The Guards cried out in fear. They cast down their weapons, afraid lest the unseen marksmen take them next. Tauridus began to laugh.
"Good shot, Darnath!" he called. "Again I owe my life to your bow!"
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