The Kul'Shar Legacy, Part 2: Inversions



  • Ranari stirred, stretching her slender form. A glance around revealed the metal spires to still be there, but this time they were some copperish color. She also found most of the group to be asleep...except Lemenath, who seemed to be missing. Worried, she walked over the low rise, up onto what appeared to be the rim of the bowl.

    Ranari found Lemenath standing at the edge of what appeared to be a cliff, ending the rim of the bowl. Appearantly this portal wasn't meant to be hidden like the last one.

    "Its beautiful isn't it?" Ranari had come up silently beside him.

    "Yes it is," she admitted looking over the twilight desert in front of them, stretching for what seemed to be eons before it ended in a mountain range, barely visible in the distance. The full white moon peeking through the dark blue clouds in the sky added contrast to the full range of blues that covered the land.

    "I'm afraid it might be the last beautiful sight I see," Lemenath sighed and turned to Ranari, "Except for you of course." He managed a smile here.

    The elf hugged him, holding him in her arms. They looked into each others' face, smiling, relishing in a moment of joy. Lemenath was a bit startled when Ranari pressed close and kissed him. Time waited a moment, giving them hope before it would take it away. But all good things must come to an end.

    Lemenath opened his eyes, and gently, but forcibly, pushed Ranari backwards. "You shouldn't have done that."

    Ranari frowned, partly at his return to desparation.

    "Now you've got it too." Lemenath looked downcast.

    "At least we'll be together, that's what matters." Ranari replied, sitting next to him, staring out at the landscape as if ignoring it would send it away.

    ------------------
    "Travel with an alert eye and a drawn sword."


  • Global Moderator

    Few things. Yes this is a "closed" (restricted) story like the last part. Also, yes in the above post Ranari and Lemenath were talking in elven, but its no fun to read an entire diologue in a language nobody else would understand, so when the elves are alone I'll translate into human for you.

    And yes, there's more that will happen than meets the eye to the above...
    (I was referring to the illness)

    ------------------
    "I'm a controversial figure. My friends either dislike me or hate me."

    (This message has been edited by Avatara (edited 01-30-2002).)



  • Note:
    I did not write this post, cache did. But for some reason, ASW didn't let him post it, so now I'm trying. I hope this works...

    *** OoC ***

    OK, this is just the first installment. It was getting way too long, and hasn't covered a fraction of what I needed to, yet. Feel free to post now, but please don't move the group too far! I'll work in the other components at appropriate times.

    *** BiC ***

    Contrary to her normal behaviour, Moonshadow returned to awareness slowly. Other than a feeling of extreme grogginess, she didn't seem to be suffering fom any other ill effects. She sat up gradually, squinting around at her companions; for the most part, they still seemed to be unconscious. Ranari and Lemenath were missing, but her keen ears soon picked up the quiet sound of their voices in the distance. There didn't seem to be any indication of danger, so she turned her attention to Flynn, who was lying next to her.

    As she'd expected, his vital signs were strong and steady. It was just going to be a matter of waiting for him to wake up. A slight movement from elsewhere in the group drew her attention, and the looked up to see Salmaris yawning, and stretching luxuriously. She sat up, and turned to face Moonshadow.

    "Good morning! Isn't it a glorious day? I don't know what that device was, but I feel so refreshed!"

    "It seems to have had different effects on everybody," Moonshadow commented. "We elves all awoke first, then you. I don't know about the other two, but I found it hard to wake up. Now we just have to wait for the humans to surface."

    Salmaris nodded. "Makes sense; different physiologies."

    At that moment Flynn's eyes sprang open, and he sat bolt upright. "Wow, that felt - familiar! "

    Moonshadow studied him crtically. He was looking around intensely, seeming to be full of restless energy. His skin was slightly flushed, and his pupils were more dilated than was normal, but otherwise he seemed to be fine.

    "What do you mean?" she asked.

    "Well, it felt a lot like the energy flash that transported us to Cythera in the first place. We never found out what that was." He stood up, and began pacing back and forth. Moonshadow went to him, taking him by the arm and forcing him to stop. He grinned at her, brushing a stray lock of hair back from her face.

    "What's gotten into you?" she queried, trying her best to ignore the warm feeling that pulsed from the centre of her chest at his touch.

    "I don't know," he shrugged. "I just find this place so very energising! "

    Moonshadow nodded in understanding. "You're on an adrenaline high, probably an effect of the gate. It'll soon pass."

    "Really? That's too bad," he replied, grinning mischievously. He slipped his free arm around her waist, pulling her closer. Moonshadow gasped - but before she could react further, they were distracted by a loud cry.

    " Hai! "

    Flynn dropped his hold on her as he turned towards the sound, and Moonshadow took a step back, blushing deeply.

    Kwon had sprung to his feet, striking a classic fighting pose. He was now looking about, somewhat bewildered, and apparently trying extremely hard to relax. "I see we have arrived in safety," he commented, trying to sound his usual calm self - but not quite managing.

    Flynn laughed, walked over and slapped his friend on the shoulder. "Don't worry, Kwon, it's just an adrenaline high. I'm told it'll pass." He winked at Moonshadow.

    -----------

    The first thing Troyen became aware of was pain. It was an intense, sharp pain, somewhere behind his eyes; he could feel it throb with every beat of his pulse. He groaned, and forced his eyelids to open just a crack. A bright white light pierced his vision, and he screwed his eyes shut again.

    "Take it easy," said a gentle and somewhat familiar voice. "The portal seems to have affected us all differently. Half of us ended up feeling energised, and the rest got splitting headaches - like you, I'd guess."

    Troyen groaned again. "OK Flynn, why am I so lucky?" He tried opening his eyes again, and discovered that the formerly blinding light was merely the moon. Flynn was sitting on a rock, leaning on one knee. He was staring thoughtfully out at the skyline.

    "It seems to be the normal humans that were worst affected," he commented, after a while.

    "Normal? Who's not normal?"

    "Hmm? Oh, me and the other Ronin." Flynn sighed, wondering how best to explain it. "It's probably because we've been through something like this before - whatever it was that took us to Cythera in the first place." He paused, staring into the distance over the desert. "Unless it was whatever Kronos did..." he muttered under his breath.

    Troyen didn't quite catch what he said, but he didn't ask - he'd gotten the impression that he wasn't meant to.

    Flynn returned his gaze to the younger man, observing him intently. "How come you're still with us, Troyen? I expected you to leave before we went through the portal."

    Troyen bit his lip. That wasn't a question he felt comfortable examining, but now that it'd been asked, he had little choice. "I'm not sure. I guess, when it came down to it - I just didn't want to." Flynn quirked one eyebrow, waiting for him to continue. "Don't get me wrong, I still haven't made up my mind about all of you yet. But suddenly, I really didn't like the idea of going back to the enforcers."

    Flynn nodded. "I understand, I think. Anyway, remember this: you're a free agent here. It's a different world, with different rules, and you're free to make your own destiny." Troyen stared wide-eyed after Flynn as he went to help Sideline, who was just beginning to stir painfully.

    ------------------
    As l lay in my bed staring at the sky I asked myself:
    Where the hell did the roof go?


  • Global Moderator

    Hergat silently walked over to the nearest rise. Coming over the top, he saw Lemenath and Ranari together, sitting on the edge of the cliff. Hergat left them to themselves and looked around. The scene was dazzling, but he tried to see if there was something out there that might help pinpoint his location, more or less what planet he randomly jumped to. His eyes swept across the horizon, until they settled on something...unnerving.

    He turned and hurried back to the group.

    ------------------

    "What do you think that is?" Hergat pointed off to the left of the mountains.

    "It is smoke." Kwon replied, squinting his eyes at the object in the distance.

    "We need to tell the others." Talm sighed.

    ------------------
    "I'm a controversial figure. My friends either dislike me or hate me."



  • *** OoC ***
    OK, here's the next bit. There's more to come, but feel free to explore the temple if you want.
    *** BiC ***

    Kwon and Hergat led Flynn to the rim of the cliff, and pointed. Flynn squinted at the thin, wispy column of smoke, then turned to Hergat. "Do you know anything at all about this world?"

    Hergat shook his head. "Sorry, I've never been here before. I don't even know where to begin looking for the exit portal!"

    Flynn folded his arms and frowned, staring out over the dark and oddly coloured desert. From the way the moon had moved across the sky, the smoke appeared to be roughly due North. "We should probably avoid the locals until we know a bit more about them, but we also need to find out where to go."

    "I know the problems, you don't need to list them all!" Hergat growled.

    "Sorry," Flynn replied. "To us, this kind of situation is pretty new."

    "I think there's a path over here," Sideline called out, from somewhere to their left. they wandered over to see what he was pointing at. There did indeed seem to be a trail leading from the rim of the portal area and leading off westward, but it was old and not well travelled.

    Flynn looked at Hergat. "What do you think?"

    Hergat was a little taken aback, since Flynn had never shown any interest in his opinions before. "Uh, we follow it, I guess. There doesn't seem to be any obvious way down from this rock; maybe this path is it."

    Flynn nodded in agreement, then looked around at the rest of the group as they assembled. "Everybody got their gear? Good. Somebody get Lemenath and Ranari, and I guess we should get moving." His eyes briefly locked with Moonshadow's, then he blushed and hastily looked away. He rubbed one temple with his fingers, as a confused expression came over his face.

    A few minutes later, the portal was once again deserted, save for the sound of the wind blowing mournfully through it's structure.

    --------

    After less than an hour of walking, they reached a point where the path doubles back hard on its course, and began to wend its way down the face of the cliff. It was quite steep, but the worst parts had had steps cut into the rock. Most of it was wide enough to make them feel safe, but a few spots had them hugging the cliff walls, for fear of falling.

    At the first such stricture, Flynn had led Sideline purposefully toward Lemenath, carrying a coil of rope.

    "And just what do you think you're going to do with that?" Ranari objected.

    "If Lemenath stumbles here, he'll be gone before any of us can so much as blink," Flynn explained, with superhuman patience. "He needs to be anchored."

    "Then I'll be his anchor! Tie him to me!"

    Flynn and Sideline exchanged exasperated glances, and Flynn sighed heavily. "Ranari, do you really think you could hold his weight if he fell? Chances are you'd both go over. That's not likely to be a problem if he's tied between Sideline and me."

    Surprisingly, Lemenath forestalled any further argument. "He's right, Ranari. Now let him do what needs to be done." He lowered his voice, indicating his next words were meant just for her. "Besides, I wouldn't want anything to happen to you."

    Ranari pursed her lips, but remained silent. She stepped back next to Moonshadow, out of the way, watching critically as the three men roped themselves together. They edged past the narrow section of the path, Sideline in the lead. Ranari made to follow closely after them, but Moonshadow held her back.

    "Flynn's really trying hard to be nice, you know," she whispered in her sister's ear. "Everything he's done is for everyone's best interest. When are you going to start giving him some credit?" With that, she released Ranari's arm and stalked off after the others.

    Ranari stared after her, perplexed.

    --------

    Although the section of the track leading down the cliff-face was shorter than the leg at the top, it still took them several hours longer to traverse. Troyen sighed in relief as he reached the foot of the cliffs, and flopped down with the others, exhausted. Kwon alone seemed unaffected, much to Troyen's annoyance; the small oriental stood at the edge of the group, gazing out at the desert.

    "There is something out there," Kwon called, pointing. Flynn and Hergat struggled to their feet and joined him. Not too far in the distance, they could make out a structure. It was hard to tell from that distance, but it's design reminded Flynn of a cathedral.

    He turned to Hergat. "What do you think? Good place to start?"

    Hergat shrugged. "Good as any - once we're rested!" He returned to his place, lay down, and gave every appearance of falling fast asleep.

    ------------------
    I will classify my lieutenants in three categories: untrusted, trusted, and completely trusted. Promotion to the third category will be awarded posthumously.

    (This message has been edited by Avatara (edited 02-02-2002).)



  • Ranari sat down in the shadow of the cliff, finding the heat and the dry desert air almost unbearable after the journey down. Absent-mindedly, she ran her fingers through the sand, while looking at Lemenath, recalling the day's events.
    You shouldn't have done that. Nonsense. Ranari shook her head. Even though she'd acted without thinking twice - or even only once, for that matter - she did not feel sorry. She took a handful of sand, lifting it up and watching curiously as it ran through her fingers. She definately wasn't going to give up.
    "What are you thinking about?" A female voice asked softly. Ranari turned her head, startled, to see her sister sit down next to her.
    "Nothing special." She replied, looking away, a clear sign that she didn't want to talk.
    "Look, I didn't mean to be so harsh." Moonshadow said gently, but to no immediate effect. Ranari simply ignored her. With a sigh, Moonshadow got up again. As silently as she had come she disappeared.
    Ranari leaned back against the rock. She knew that her behavior on their way down had been stupid, but she couldn't help it. She had just been so unwilling to let that Flynn guy get close to Lemenath. 'So selfish...' she scolded herselft with a frown. Looking at Lemenath again, she saw he had fallen asleep. A smile crossed her face as she bent forward and kissed his cheek lightly. Then she got up.


    Flynn looked around the camp, if a camp it could be called. An agglomeration of sleeping people would be more accurate. As far as he could see, only Kwon, Salmaris and himself were still awake.
    "Uhm... Flynn?"
    Flynn looked up, and to his surprise saw Ranari standing next to him. "Yes?"
    "About today..." Ranari said hesitantly. "On the cliff, you know?"
    Flynn nodded, wondering where she was getting at and hoping she hadn't come to express her ingratitude once again.
    "I..." Ranari took a deep breath. "I'm sorry."
    "You - what?" Flynn blinked, aghast. If he'd heard correctly, the elven girl had just apologized. Maybe his mind was playing tricks on him.
    "You heard me." Ranari stated, unwilling to repeat her words.
    "Yeah, sure, but -"
    "You can sleep now." Ranari continued, abruptly changing the topic. "I'm going to take the first watch." She turned away and walked a few steps, then stopped and looked back over her shoulder. "Truce," she said, with a smile, and as long as Flynn didn't make any further approaches on her sister, she was willing to keep it. Time would reveal whether he was actually worth the effort. Then she proceeded down the path, moving with the soundless and fluent grace of a cat.


    "Hello, Kwon Chen. Mind if I join you?"
    "No."
    Ranari smiled, and sat down beside him, on a flat rock at the edge of the desert. She tucked up her legs and wrapped her arms around them, putting her chin on her knees.

    ------------------
    As l lay in my bed staring at the sky I asked myself:
    Where the hell did the roof go?

    (This message has been edited by Moonshadow (edited 02-04-2002).)



  • Dawn crept over the distant horizon in a blaze of far distant colour. The morning clouds seemed somehow reluctant to encroach on the desert, shying away from its pale sands; the day promised to be extremely hot.

    Flynn scanned the dunes around them as far as he could, then glanced back at Moonshadow. She hadn't said anything, but it was obvious that she and Ranari were both already beginning to feel the effects of the heat - and the day had scarcely begun; the heat was all too apt to become too much for the rest of them, let alone the sisters from Fir'dha.

    "We need to find shade, and water" he murmured to Hergat, nodding in Moonshadow's direction. "This heat is going to get too much for some of us. That building is all I can see - unless you have another idea?"

    Hergat shook his head. "Nothing comes to mind. We'd better make it fast, those two are already looking about done in."

    Flynn and Hergat set about rousting the rest of the group, amid a smattering of complaints; nevertheless, the group soon found themselves walking steadily after Hergat, in the direction of the odd building they'd seen the previous night.

    --------

    After almost an hour, Flynn paused to loosen the bindings of his armour, letting his skin breathe. Moonshadow stopped beside him, but scarcely seemed aware of what she was doing. Ranari and Lemenath also halted nearby.

    Flynn checked Moonshadow's water bottle, and frowned; it was already empty. He took his own from his pack and held it to her lips until she drank a few mouthfuls, then swapped it for hers.

    "Wait, you'll need that!" she exclaimed hoarsely, the first sign of life she'd shown.

    Flynn smiled at her gently. "You need it more. I'll be all right, it's not that much further now."

    A quick glance at Ranari showed she was in slightly better condition than Moonshadow. Flynn raised one eyebrow quizzically towards Lemenath.

    "I've been seeing to it that she gets plenty of water," Lemenath replied to his unspoken query. "I thought it best it come from my bottle. She's infected too, you see, and the risk of contamination would render anyone else's useless, after she'd drunk from it."

    An expression of deep sadness settled on Flynn's features. "How did it happen?"

    "She- when-" Lemenath caught himself, and shook his head. "I didn't realise what she intended at first, and then - I wasn't quick enough to stop her."

    Flynn nodded in understanding. "Yes, she's headstrong. It runs in the family, I think." He smiled slightly, but his heart wasn't really in it.

    "We'd best be moving, don't you think?" Lemenath queried.

    "Almost ready. Remember this, Lemenath: I'll do everything I can to find some way to cure you - both of you. I owe you my life; but I'd still promise that, even if I didn't."

    Lemenath made no reply; there was really none to be said.

    "Sideline! Can you help me out here?" Flynn called, as Sideline wandered past.

    "Sure," Sideline replied. "How?"

    Flynn explained what he had in mind.

    --------

    The members of the group that had arrived at the structure were finding the cool shade inside a tremendous relief; only for Flynn, Sideline, Moonshadow, Ranari and Lemenath were still to arrive.

    Kwon suddenly broke the silence. "They are coming; minutes more, only."

    Sure enough, when Hergat moved to the entrance to look, he could see them clearly. Moonshadow, Ranari and Lemenath were in the middle, with Flynn in the lead, and Sideline bringing up the rear. Between them was stretched a blanket, forming a canopy over the others.

    They made their way inside through the narrow entrance, and collectively allowed themselves to collapsed to the ground.

    Moonshadow swiftly regained a measure of strength. "Quickly someone, Flynn needs water - he made me drink his!" Kwon passed her a half-full bottle. She lifted Flynn's head a little, and pressed the lip of the bottle to his mouth.

    "Thanks," he commented after a taking a few sips.

    "I'm happy to return the favour," she smiled back.

    Talm, meanwhile, had been wandering around the room, poking into corners and studying everything with intense curiosity. "There's a door back here; maybe there's a supply of water."

    A few of the others joined him, as he made his way deeper into the building.

    *** OoC ***
    I know I sort of promised a bit more than this - but It's already quite long, it's getting late, and I'm running low on ideas. Next time, I promise! ;)
    *** BiC ***

    ------------------
    I will classify my lieutenants in three categories: untrusted, trusted, and completely trusted. Promotion to the third category will be awarded posthumously.



  • Talm looked at the strange writing on the walls. Blackish, Oxidized runes studded the wall in many areas. As they walked through the doorway, Talm couldn’t help but notice Salmaris’ interest in the runes.

    She stood there, staring at the blackened letters for nearly twenty seconds, then ran up to the group, meeting them in a large, central chamber.

    In the Center of the chamber stood a huge, blackened monolith, it seemed to be the same color as the runes.

    Surrounding the monolith were a variety of shrines and tools, and a bloody altar was situated at the obelisk’s base.

    As the others inspected the various periphery, Talm approached Salmaris.
    “What was so interesting about those runes?” He asked.

    “They were not paint. They were cut metal strips.” She replied.

    “Yes, I noticed that to. Do you think that is significant?”

    “Considering the precision with which they are cut, I would have to say so. It appears straight to me, and I have a sense of sight one-point-six times better than a human. Further, even without it being perfectly straight, it’s still clear that it wasn’t made by primitive tools. Evidence suggests at very least a oxygen-hydrocarbon welder of great quality, if not a laser or plasma cutter, was used to make these.”

    Talm knew what oxygen and hydrocarbons were, thanks to previous conversations with Salmaris, but she’d lost him at ‘plasma’ and ‘laser’

    “Anything else?” he added.

    “The Letters look like they are made of Jorbritite. It is not a naturally occurring mineral, it must be made in a laboratory. An (iadvanced(/i) laboratory, the kind made by people with laser cutters and plasma welders.” Salmaris finished.

    Talm nodded, pondering the implications.

    "Hey, Over here!!" Sideline called. At the opisite end of the chamber was a water trough, filled by a runing spring.
    The thought of clean, cool water appeled greatly to the weary adventuers.

    ------------------
    Ein weasel hat Sie Gehirn!

    Those online traslators just don't live up to the hype.



  • Thirst thoroughly quenched, Talm and Wolmark resumed satisfying their curiosities by inspecting everything they came across. Wolmark slowly made his way behind the monolith to the rear of the room, where he found a door. Without stopping to think, he opened it.

    Fortunately, nothing happened.

    The room beyond was small and dark, with just a hint of light shining in from a small hole in the peak of the conical ceiling. In the centre of the room stood a pedestal. It appeared to be designed to hold something, but the space was now empty; judging by the dust around the edges, and the lack of it in the centre, it hadn't long been removed.

    Wolmark shrugged, and moved on. He found nothing more of interest, and returned to the group.

    "We can't travel by day, that much is clear," Flynn was saying, concern in his eyes as he glanced at Moonshadow. "We'll just have to rest up here, and travel by night."

    Hergat frowned, but nodded in agreement. Wolmark was a little surprised at how well Hergat and Flynn seemed to be getting along lately, but was relieved at the easing of tension; in their present predicament, they really couldn't afford to alienate each other.

    "Makes sense," Wolmark added. "We've got shelter, and a good supply of water. We should wait."

    No-one objected to the suggestion. After dividing up the watches in pairs, they settled in to rest.

    --------

    Flynn and Kwon stood in the doorway, enjoying the unusual sunset. The fading sun had painted the high clouds a shade of violet, as the blue sky darkened to black, and the stars began to peek through. The desert itself was fading from its pale yellow into an equally pale, almost luminous blue. As enchanting as it was, it also reminded them that they were no longer in the world they knew, and that a single mis-step could be their doom.

    A hand came to rest gently on Flynn's shoulder; he didn't need to look, to know who it was. "Isn't this a beautiful sight?" he commented, gesturing outward at the array of unfamiliar colours.

    "Yes, indeed," Moonshadow sighed. "But it's also very alien."

    Kwon quietly left them, and began to make breakfast.

    By the time night had really fallen, everyone had eaten well, packed up and filled all the containers they could find that would hold water.

    "Right, is everyone ready?" Flynn queried, at last. He was answered by nods and murmurs of assent. They filed out of the temple.

    --------

    "We should make for a high point, to try and get our bearings," Hergat suggested, a short while later. "We need something to aim for, I haven't a clue where we should be heading."

    Flynn nodded. "Wait here," he called to the rest of the group, and he and Hergat began to climb diagonally up the next large dune.

    At the top, they found they had a largely unobstructed view of the surrounding area. Behind them, to the southeast, were the cliffs they'd descended the previous night. To the south lay the temple, and roughly north by northwest, they could just make out snow on the peaks of the distant mountain range.

    "I'd say make for the mountains," Hergat said. "There's just nothing else I can see to head for."

    "I agree," Flynn replied. "We have to aim somewhere, or we'll just go around in circles. Let's get back."

    They slid easily back down the dune, and rejoined the group. "We'll head for the mountains, unless anyone has an objection?" Everyone shook their heads. "Then let's move."

    "Wait," Kwon said quietly, before they'd walked more than a few metres. "People are coming." They stopped, peering around intently.

    Even though they'd been forewarned, the sudden, silent appearance of the strangers all around them still caught them by surprise. One moment the way was clear, and the next, they were surrounded. They were a strange group, dressed in a mixture of animal skins and coarsely woven material. A few had bows, but most were armed with primitive spears.

    Hergat quickly raised his phasor, but Flynn grasped his arm and held it down. "We're the strangers here, we don't want to start a war - even if we can wipe them all out!"

    Hergat frowned, but nodded. His instinct for self preservation was still strong, but he was beginning to see that there were sometimes alternatives to wholesale slaughter.

    One of the strange figures approached the group. As he drew closer, he began to look rather catlike; his eyes were vertically slitted, and a pair of sharp fangs were visible, peeking out from under his upper lip. He towered over them, standing at least six and a half feet tall; even Katze had to peer slightly upwards to meet his eyes. His hair was long and wild; Flynn was tempted to think of it as a mane.

    "I am Anzor, of the Shomani," he said, in an oddly rasping voice. "Why have you violated our sacred ground?"

    Flynn took a pace forward, arms held wide in a show of peaceful intent. "We didn't mean to trespass. We arrived in this place only a day ago, and we don't know the lay of the land yet. We're seeking a way out of this desert, and perhaps to a city or town. Can you help us?"

    Anzor continued as if Flynn had never spoken. "Why did you desecrate the Temple of Lights?"

    "The temple? We needed a place to shelter from the sun, some of our people couldn't survive even one day in its heat. If that was a desecration, we can do no more than apologise."

    "Your cause may sound just; yet the lights of the temple no longer shine, and the Stone of Mikos is gone! What excuse have you for that!?"

    Flynn looked around the rest of the group in perplexity, before replying to Anzor's accusation. His gaze lingered on Wolmark, and then Talm, who both shook their heads. "I swear, all we took from the temple was shelter and water. Search our things, you won't find what you're looking for."

    "We shall," Anzor responded, harshly, "but not here. We will take you to our village, and find the truth of the matter there. You may keep your swords; our archers will watch you from a distance, and if you draw steel, you will die."

    Flynn didn't think this was the time to inform Anzor about their high-tech and magical weapons. He sighed, and turned to the rest of the group. "Best do as he says. They'll soon find out we were telling the truth, and then they may even be able to help us. Until then, offer no provocation!"

    They gathered up their things, and followed after Anzor, trying hard not to think about the weapons that were trained on their backs.

    --------

    The village was a small agglomeration of small tents, mostly beehive shaped, and large enough for two or three people at most to sleep in. There was a large communal fire in the centre, and a couple of larger tents close by - Flynn guessed the largest was a sort of town hall, and the other was probably the chief's. Anzor bade them halt; but before they could sit to rest their exhausted legs, some of their Shomani guards made to separate the elves from the rest of them.

    "No!" Flynn shouted. "We stay together!"

    Anzor looked at him in surprise, but gestured to the guards to desist. He then pointed to the larger tent. "Wait in there," he ordered, "but leave your things outside."

    Flynn obediently dropped his pack, and even his swords as a gesture of goodwill. The rest of the group, with varying degrees of reluctance, followed suit. Flynn then led the group into the tent.

    It was quite roomy, even for a group of their size, and there was plenty of room for them to stretch out and rest. Before long, most of them were slumbering deeply.

    Some time later, Salmaris sleepily opened her eyes to see a young Shomani girl sitting nearby, staring at her intently. Salmaris blinked, and the girl was gone; she began to wonder if she was still dreaming.

    --------

    Flynn awoke to find Anzor kneeling next to him, shaking his shoulder. "We are ready. Please gather your people, and come outside."

    Flynn nodded, blinking tiredly, and Anzor silently left. "He might even be quiet enough to sneak up on an elf," Flynn thought to himself, as he heaved himself to his feet.

    Outside, they found many Shomani seated around the fire. Several places had been left, enough for each of the adventurers to find a place; Flynn took a spot in the middle, with Moonshadow on one side, and Hergat on the other.

    A greying, elderly Shomani spoke first. "We have examined your possessions, and the Stone of Mikos is not among them. Further, we have followed your trail as far as we may, and we believe you are telling the truth." Flynn smiled in satisfaction.

    "However," the Shomani continued, giving Flynn pause, "the desecration of the Temple of Lights coincides so closely with your arrival, that we believe it must be an omen. Therefore, we set upon you this task: find the Stone of Mikos, and return it to its rightful place in the Temple, that the lights may once again shine!"

    "Seems like we're getting off easy," Hergat murmured in Flynn's ear. "Once we're clear, we can just keep going."

    The old man continued. "To give you incentive in this task, four of you will remain here, as a safeguard."

    Flynn turned to Hergat, and smiled slightly. "You were saying?"

    "Which four, we leave to you. Choose now, and set off on your quest as you will. We leave it in your hands."

    With that, the Shomani rose and left the fire, returning to their tents.

    Flynn looked around the group. "I don't see that we have a choice, unless we wipe these people out - and I refuse to do that."

    Hergat frowned. "So then - who stays?"

    *** OoC ***
    OK, here's the deal: everybody chooses one of their characters to stay behind. Whether the group all draws straws, or throw dice or whatever, I leave up to the first person to post. ;)
    *** BiC ***

    ------------------
    There are three kinds of computer users: those that use Macintoshes, those that wish they used Macintoshes, and those that don't know any better.



  • "Ranari will stay." Moonshadow said, without hesitation, causing her sister to look up sharply. "And no discussion on that one," she added sternly.
    "Why me?" Ranari protested. "There's no reason for that!"
    Moonshadow looked at her with raised eyebrows. "Of course there is... several reasons, in fact." She narrowed her eyes, a look of distinct disapproval in them. "Do you want me to recount them?"
    Ranari bit her lower lip. She was sure her sister's disapproval was not so much based on what Ranari had done, but that she had refused to tell her. "No." She replied quietly, taking Lemenath's hand. "But I'm only staying if he stays."
    Moonshadow nodded, knowing that was the best offer she'd get and hoping Lemenath would agree to stay behind. He seemed to be getting better, but Moonshadow didn't want to take any chances.

    ------------------
    As l lay in my bed staring at the sky I asked myself:
    Where the hell did the roof go?


  • Global Moderator

    "I guess we could draw straws, or roll dice, or something." Talm suggusted.

    "I'll volunteer to stay behind." Hergat offered.

    "What do you..." Sasha began, but was cut off.

    Hergat lowered his voice, "I personally don't trust these people. If they for some reason chose not to keep their end of the deal, I can be of some help here."

    "I suppose I'll stay as well, for her behalf." Lemenath indicated Ranari, sensing another argument brewing.

    ------------------
    "I'm a controversial figure. My friends either dislike me or hate me."

    (This message has been edited by Avatara (edited 02-11-2002).)



  • *** OoC ***
    OK, with Ranari and Avatara's two, there's only one slot left; I'll fill that, and both of Bryce's characters can stay with the main group. I'll take up from the end of Avatara's post. Now, can we consider the matter closed and move on?
    *** BiC ***

    "Well, that's three," Flynn commented. "Any other volunteers?" His question was greeted with silence.

    After a few moments, Kwon cleared his throat. "I feel I am in need of some solitude," he said. "I would like the opportunity to stay a while with these people."

    Flynn stood up, and motioned Kwon to join him, some distance away.

    "Are you sure about this?" he asked quietly, when they were out earshot of most of the group. "We could certainly use you out there, you know."

    "I am sure, my friend. I do not know how long I would be a help, and not a hindrance. We have seen much violence in the past few days; I feel the darkness straining to control me once more. I need peace, and time, to re-centre myself. This appears to be the best opportunity I will have."

    Flynn nodded, concern showing in his eyes. "I understand. We'd hate for anything bad to happen to you. Very well, you're number four."

    They returned to where the group was seated by the fire. "OK, that's settled then," Flynn said. "We can start out whenever we're ready."

    "It will be dawn soon," Leandra remarked. "We'd best wait, and travel at night again - at least until we're out of the desert. Agreed?"

    There were nods all round. The meeting broke up, as they each went about their individual concerns.

    *** OoC ***
    I might do a bit more later, but feel free to jump in now if you want.
    *** BiC ***

    ------------------
    There are three kinds of computer users: those that use Macintoshes, those that wish they used Macintoshes, and those that don't know any better.



  • As the group dispersed, Flynn stood up and began looking around intently. Moonshadow watched him curiously for a few minutes, before stepping quietly up behind him.

    "What are you doing?"

    "Looking for Anzor," Flynn replied, with no hint of surprise; he was growing used to Moonshadow's silent approaches. "I want to inform him of our decision - and also get as much information about this world as I can."

    Moonshadow nodded, smiling. "Sensible. Keep quiet a moment." She closed her eyes, turned her head this way and that for a few seconds, then grew still. She raised her arm and pointed. "I believe I hear him over that way."

    "Thanks. Coming?"

    "Of course!"

    Anzor dismissed the Shomani he was talking to - a young girl - as he saw the two of them approaching. "Come," he said, before they could speak, and led them a short distance to a small tent.

    "You wished to speak with me?" Anzor resumed, once they were all inside and seated.

    "Yes," Flynn replied. "I wanted to let you know we've chosen the four who will remain behind; their names won't mean much to you I'm afraid, but I'll try to describe them."

    "I will tell you if that is necessary," Anzor interrupted. "We have learned many of your names, Flynn and Moon-shadow , by listening to you speak with one another. Please, continue."

    Flynn nodded. "The four that will stay are Hergat, Lemenath, Ranari and Kwon. Do you know them?"

    Anzor frowned. "Yes, I see their faces. But some of these choices worry me, slightly." He leaned closer, lowering his voice conspiratorially. "I feel I must tell you, my people are not fond of elves."

    "But why?" Moonshadow demanded, eyes wide. Flynn's expression mirrored the surprise on hers.

    Anzor bared his upper teeth. The action looked so fierce, that it was a moment before they realised he was actually smiling. A hoarse chuckle reverberated from deep in his throat. "Now more than ever, I am convinced you come from outside this world. That is good! It is a good omen."

    Human and elf exchanged puzzled glances, but waited for Anzor to continue.

    "The elves here are cruel, tyranical. They steal what they can make use of, and destroy what they they cannot. They tried to enslave many of us once, but we do not long survive in captivity. It is not like this, where you come from?"

    "No, it most definately isn't!" Flynn exclaimed. "For the most part, the elves I know are people of honour, and courage. Some, I am pleased to call 'friend'." He glanced briefly at Moonshadow, then back at Anzor.

    "Merely 'friend'?" Anzor queried, glancing curiously from one to the other. Both reddened slightly, but held his gaze. Anzor once again grinned ferociously, and touch of amusement showing in his eyes. "Some of us have speculated... Well, it is no great matter. You should know, Flynn, that it is for your sake that we tolerate the presence of these three elves. You took their part, when your own safety was not certain; such an action from a human, for an elf , is unheard of here. That gave the wise among us much to think on."

    "Thank you, Anzor," Flynn said, uncertain what else there was to say. "Now, is there anything else you can tell us about this world? Where should we begin looking for the Stone, and what kind of dangers might we face along the way?"

    "Yes, I will tell you what I know," Anzor replied. "But I warn you, the Shomani do not often leave the desert, so our knowledge of the outside is limited."

    He talked for many hours, with many interruptions as either Flynn or Moonshadow thought of specific questions. By the time they were done, the morning was half over.

    ------------------
    The only substitute for good manners, is fast reflexes.



  • Comfortably seated in the shadow of 'their' tent, Katze watched everyday life in the village. Despite their strange visitors, the Shomani went about their business as usual, casting the occasional curious - or suspicious - glance at them. Usually, only children would stop to look or approach them, but they kept a respectful distance. Katze smiled at that. They weren't taking chances. Sensible. And boring.
    She had briefly toyed with the idea of asking either Hergat or Troyen about how to properly use their technical equipment again, but had dismissed that quickly. The Shomani might not take kindly to strangers burning down their village, no matter how accidentally it had happened.
    Still, something had to happen. Just what?
    Taking another look around, Katze spotted Moonshadow and Flynn, leaving the small tent they had entered hours before with Anzor. Finally. Hopefully that meant something was going to happen soon.
    Talking quietly to each other, they approached their tent. As they drew nearer, Katze heard they were reviewing what they knew about this world. It was considerably more than Katze knew, which hinted at a briefing. Brushing strands of her short hair out of her face, Katze got up, sighing. Sure, she had wished for something to happen... but did it have to be a briefing? They were, as a rule, never brief, and almost more boring than just sitting around, no matter how important they were. Flynn entered the tent, but Moonshadow stopped in front of it, looking at, or more specifically through, the entrance absent-mindedly.
    She was so lost in her contemplations that Katze managed to step up next to her unnoticed. She glanced briefly at the closed entrance, then looked back at Moonshadow. "Maybe you should just tell him." She suggested casually.
    Moonshadow blinked, turning around to face Katze. "Sorry?"
    "Tell him." The dark-haired woman repeated.
    Moonshadow's cheeks turned a light red. "What... would there be to tell him?" She asked.
    Sighing, Katze put her hand to her forehead. "Are you -?"
    "Look, there's Wolmark and Leandra! Hey!" Moonshadow smiled, waving enthusiastically.
    Fleetingly, Katze wondered whether the two Ronin had apeared at that exact moment only to annoy her. Seeing how, since she had awoken in that metal cell, about nothing had worked in her favor, Katze was well inclined to believe that; she hated feeling useless. Shaking her head, she returned her attention to the conversation.
    "We got some useful information from Anzor," Moonshadow was saying. "And it'd be best to relate it now, before we depart." She paused a moment, then continued. "Flynn's in there. I'll go get the others."
    Leandra and Wolmark nodded in agreement, then entered the tent.
    "Somebody should do something about those two, don't you think?" Moonshadow asked thoughtfully, tilting her head.
    Katze, standing silently next to her, refrained from commenting.


    Soon everybody was gathered inside the tent, even those who had chosen to stay behind were present.
    Only Moonshadow was missing, because she had gone to ask Anzor for provisions. They would need more water and additional food supplies, too.
    Having trusted them with this mission, the Shomani were willing to provide the necessary supplies.


    By the time Flynn had finished recounting everything of importance that Anzor had told Moonshadow and him, several hours had passed. Once, around midday, a few Shomani had entered, bringing with them food and water, which the group had accepted gratefully, only then noticing that they had had their last meal at the temple.
    It was decided they'd depart at sunset, so Flynn suggested everybody should get their supplies and make sure they had everything they needed, before meeting back at the tent.

    ------------------
    As l lay in my bed staring at the sky I asked myself:
    Where the hell did the roof go?



  • Meanwhile, on a world very far away...

    Sasha leaned back in her chair, looked around the tavern, and sighed worriedly.

    "What's wrong?" Trinias queried, familiar enough with his friend's moods.

    "It's Flynn and the others, they've been gone too long. I think we should go looking for them."

    Trinias nodded thoughtfully, then turned to Ulf. "What do you think?"

    "Help Flynn!" the huge man rumbled, without hesitation.

    Sasha grinned. "Why did you even ask? Very well, we'll stock up and go south. Flynn was heading for that cave; we'll see if there's anything there for you to see."

    Trinias frowned. "It'll be several days since they've been there; tracking will be difficult. But I'll do my best. Just a minute, I'll be right back." He left the table, making his way over to where Brianna was serving drinks.

    "Brianna, we're worried about our missing friends, so we're going looking for them. If we don't return in a week, will you send help?"

    Brianna nodded, concern in her eyes. "Of course, I'll come myself."

    "Thanks," Trinias grinned. "But don't come alone. If it's something the seven of us can't handle, you'll need all the help you can get."

    Brianna nodded in turn. "I can believe that. I just hope it's nothing like those Undine, they were tough! Anyway, I wish you an uneventful trip."

    "Thanks," Trinias called back over his shoulder, as the three Ronin exited the tavern.

    ------------------
    There are three kinds of computer users: those that use Macintoshes, those that wish they used Macintoshes, and those that don't know any better.



  • The afternoon passed surprisingly fast, at least for those who were going to depart in the evening. Those who stayed behind had little more to do than idle about and watch their companions get ready, packing additional water skins and food supplies, repairing or replacing equipment that had been damaged, and generally looking very busy.
    At length everything was prepared, and the group gathered at the tent. A group of Shomani, led by Anzor, came to remind them of their mission once again, before seeing them off. They were to make for the temple, to examine it for possible traces of who had stolen the Stone of Mikos. With luck, they would arrive there before sunrise.

    ------------------
    As l lay in my bed staring at the sky I asked myself:
    Where the hell did the roof go?



  • Anzor looked at the four outlanders in the tent they were confined to. The dark-haired human sat quietly, watching Anzor with an unmenacing look that made him feel slightly unnerved. The other human sat silently, eyes closed, as if he was wrapped deeply in thought, or some inner struggle. The two elves were on the opposite side of the tent, sitting close together, but with impassive faces, hiding their inner emotions.

    "Your friend made quite an impression on the wise. We have decided to give you more freedom than we originally intended. You will be free to move around the village as you will, as long as you respect our ways and customs. And do not forget, your honor is at stake, do not break your promise in staying here. If you do, things will become unpleasant..." Anzor finally broke the silence, and plainly directing the latter part of his brief speech towards the elves. With that, he turned and left.

    Nobody moved for a moment, Hergat remained content with staring at the spot Anzor was standing, Kwon with brooding on whatever inner struggle he was fighting with. Ranari broke the akward silence by standing up, "I think I'll go outside, its hot in here." She walked over, followed silently by Lemenath, out into the night.

    The night was surprisingly cool, and a calm breeze pushed away the stiffing heat of the day. The sand twinkled with a bluish light, and the cloudless night revealed a vast scene full of twinkling stars that added to the romantic atmosphere. The domed tent they had been in for the last few hours lay on the outskirts of the village. Behind them they could hear bustling activity from the Shomani as they performed mundane tasks in the cool of night, before the scorching sun would recast its harsh rays on the barren ground.

    Lemenath stretched to his full height, being cramped inside a small tent for hours had stiffened his joints. Ranari sighed, taking in the pleasant aroma of fresh air and basking in the coolness of the night.

    "They're beautiful, aren't they?" Ranari smiled, staring at the vast expanse of sky that was stretched out before them.

    "Hmm?" Lemenath turned towards her, smiling.

    "The stars, they remind me of fresh snow glittering on a night back home." Ranari seemed happily wistful.

    "Oh, yes they are. They remind me of home too." Lemenath looked up at them for a minute, taking in the cosmic arrangement on the canvas of night. "They had stars on Dalmar, unlikely as it seems. Something so beautiful on so dreadful a place. I used to sit on the marble balcony outside my window when I was young, and stare at the stars in the cloudy blueish-grey sky. Back then they reminded me of my hopes and dreams. I thought I could actually go visit the stars one day.

    "I never did tell you about Dalmar." Lemenath turned to Ranari again, "I don't like to remember it. As soon as I could I left, I couldn't stand the arguements between the man who was a father to me and the others... So horrible, how they tried to hurt him in every way imaginable. I see now I never really thanked him for his hospitality, I just left one night. I remember it now, that night was worse than most. Osmar, he...no, that was my fault. But, I knew I had to leave that night, something inside told me.

    "I had packed my most precious posessions and anything I figured I might desperately need. I slipped aboard the slave ship and hid in the gallery, where they keep the Human slaves. From that point onward, I did follow my dreams, I did chase them to the stars...and beyond.

    "I left Dalmar, headed to the closest spaceport nearby, and slipped off, uncertain of the future I had carved for myself. At first I didn't know what to do, I wandered around uncertainly, hoping for an opportunity. At last I found one, one of the elves there needed crew for his trade ship. I joined him and spent years aboard that vessel. He had humans he trusted with his life, and that's where I gained my ability to tolerate them, if not befriend them. And then...then I met Hergat and Phinril." Lemenath paused, as if catching his breath, but instead he stared ahead for a minute at the mountains leering at him in the distance.

    "I still remember that first day too. We were all on the moon, resting from our recent travel when suddenly we were attacked by pirates. Phinril he..." Lemenath stopped, afraid his voice would fail him, and remained transfixed at a point on the horizon.

    Ranari didn't understand portions of the story, but still she understood its intent, and the feelings he must be struggling with. She tried to imagine how much of a friend Phinril could be to Lemenath, after all he was a human. Still, she said nothing, and quietly sat down beside him, putting her arm around him and resting her head on his shoulder as they shared a moment of peace together.

    ------------------
    "Travel with an alert eye and a drawn sword."

    (This message has been edited by Lemenath (edited 02-20-2002).)



  • At last, it came time to depart. The Ronin said their farewells to Kwon, then Flynn shook hands with Hergat and Lemenath.

    Moonshadow hugged Ranari goodbye. "You behave now, understand? Just keep telling yourself that you're a guest."

    Ranari bit back a retort, and nodded. "You take care yourself, and come back safe!" She glanced at the rest of the group, and lowered her voice before continuing. "You stay alert around them, won't you?"

    "Of course! I enjoy watching them in action, and I may see an opportunity to help," Moonshadow replied, deliberately misinterpreting Ranari's meaning.

    Ranari shook her head in frustration, but resigned herself to giving her sister another hug. They parted, and the Shomani and the four who were remaining watched as the adventurers disappeared into the distance.

    ---------

    At the temple, Wolmark showed the others the pedestal, on which the Stone must have sat. Moving outside and fanning out, they soon found the traces of many hoof prints on the ground. The shifting sands had dulled the imprints, so it wasn't possible for any of them to tell if the horses were shod or not, but their course was plain - it stretched out in a broad swath of disturbed sand, heading in a straight North-West line across the dunes.

    "I wish Trinias were here," Flynn murmured to Moonshadow. "At least then we might have some idea of numbers."

    "Yes," she replied, "but at least it's clear where they went."

    They refilled their water containers in the temple, then set off purposefully after the long-departed horsemen.

    Bringing up the rear, Salmaris glanced nervously behind; she could almost have sworn that someone was surreptitiously watching her.

    ---------

    After walking half the night, they hardly seemed to have made any progress at all; the horizon was still filled with nothing more than sand dunes.

    Talm stood at the top of a dune, gazing worriedly at the sky to the West, while the others rested. Noticing Wolmark nearby, he called his friend over and drew his attention to the dark, menacing, cloud-like formation that was forming in the distance, low to the ground. "What do you think that is? It doesn't look quite like any clouds I've seen before."

    "I'm not sure," Wolmark replied. "Flynn, what do you think of that," he called, pointing.

    Flynn joined them where they were standing on the crest of the dune. "I'd guess it was a sand storm," he said, worriedly. "Anzor warned us about them; they can be quite rough."

    He turned around and called to the rest of the group. "Everybody break out tents and coverings; there's a sand storm brewing, and we need to take shelter! Dig in halfway up this dune; if you shelter at the bottom, you might get buried! Stay in groups, no less than two; an individual might be too hard to find afterwards."

    Talm and Wolmark glanced at each other, then quickly made their way down the dune, shucking their packs as they went.

    ---------

    Troyen watched the hustle, feeling highly unsure of himself. Flynn had said to at least stay in pairs, but who was there in this group that he could approach? The answer was none. Instead, he could only watch as they all paired off, seemingly instinctively acting on alliances that he'd never suspected existed.

    Wolmark and Talm were well on the way to digging a satisfactory indentation in the side of the dune, and lining it with the fabric of their tents. their packs were already in place, and the supplies of food and water they were carrying were easily accessible.

    As the import of Flynn's shouted warning had sunk in, Leandra had grasped Moonshadow by the hand and dragged her off to gather their gear. Salmaris and Katze had followed, but more sedately. That left Flynn and Sideline, who were now just finishing digging their sheltering hollow.

    Flynn glanced quickly around, seeing Troyen standing alone. "Come on, kid, there's plenty of room in here!"

    Troyen smiled gratefully, and made his way up to them. Flynn made sure that he was settled, before joining Sideline in a last inspection of the others' preparations.

    ---------

    Some time later, Salmaris awoke with a start. She was surprised to realise that the sound of the wind had lulled her off to sleep. There seemed to be a fair weight of sand on top of her, but not enough to be dangerous; with some difficulty, she managed to force a corner of the tent up, revealing a clear sky full of stars.

    She blinked, adjusting quickly to the light. She suddenly realised someone was crouching nearby, watching her - the Shomani girl she thought she'd dreamed, the night before.

    "Hello," Salmaris greeted her.

    "Hello," the girl replied, in the slightly rough voice common to her people. "I am Mia - I have been sent to show you the way."

    "But we have a clear trail to follow," Salmaris replied, getting to her feet. She turned around, raising her arm to point along the trail of hoof prints - and realised for the first time, that the storm had scrubbed the desert clean. There was nothing but smooth dunes, as far as the eye could see.

    <edit> most interaction with Avatara's characters removed, at his request. </edit>

    ------------------
    I will classify my lieutenants in three categories: untrusted, trusted, and completely trusted. Promotion to the third category will be awarded posthumously.

    (This message has been edited by Overmind (edited 02-23-2002).)



  • Sasha, Trinias and Ulf cautiously approached Temrel's cave, but they were several days too late.

    "They were here all right," Trinias commented, "there's ample evidence of their horses back there. But from what I could see, they never returned - the horses broke their tethers, and ran off by themselves - probably dehydrated, and in search of water."

    Sasha grew worried, but that was nothing unusual. "Flynn would never willingly leave them like that, he respects horses too much. Whatever could have happened?"

    Trinias scouted around, searching for signs; but too much time had passed. "It's no good, the signs have faded."

    "Wonderful," Sasha scowled. " Now what do we do?"

    Before either of the others could think of an answer, they heard someone forcing their way through the stiff brush. A heavily built man, somewhere around fifty-five years of age, judging by his greying hair and wrinkled complection, emerged from the dense scrub. He halted as he entered into the clearing, looked up and gasped.

    " Illyana! " He passed a hand over his ashen face, and continued quietly, as if speaking to himself. "No, of course not, she's long gone."

    "Greetings sir," Sasha said into the silence. "I am Sasha, my companions are Trinias and Ulf. Who might you be?"

    "My name is Lucas; Major Lucas Hart," the stranger replied, stepping closer, with his gauntleted hands slightly raised in a gesture of friendliness. As he approached, Sasha noticed that his left eye gleamed a silvery colour, like polished metal. The Socket around that eye appeared to have been horribly scarred.

    "And what brings you to this out-of-the-way place, Major Hart?" Sasha was nothing if not consistent; she never let her better judgement get in the way of her suspicions.

    "Looking for something to ease the boredom, I guess," Lucas drawled. "If you don't mind me saying so, you look like you're in a bit of a quandary; maybe I can help."

    "We're looking for some friends of hours, seven in all," Trinias responded. "They were here a few days ago, but it was too long ago for their tracks to be visible."

    "Let me take a look." Trinias watched sceptically, as the confident-sounding Lucas scanned the ground around them. After a few moments he stopped, and pointed towards the nearby mountains. "They went up that-a-way, but I couldn't tell you why."

    Trinias raised his eyebrows, either in amazement or disbelief.

    "Well, we don't seem to have any other leads," Sasha sighed, "we might as well follow that one."

    "Mind if I tag along?" Lucas enquired.

    "Very well, and thank you for your help."

    As they hiked up the mountain, Sasha noticed that Lucas kept glancing in her direction. "Is something wrong?"

    "No, sorry - it's just that you remind me of someone I knew, long ago."

    "Oh? Who was she, and what was she like?"

    Lucas sighed nostalgically, and a sad expression came over his remaining eye. "She was a soldier in my command; Captain Illyana Berenskya. She was a great fighter, and a good friend - but she's lost now, like so many others."

    "Sounds like you were close," Sasha murmured, softly.

    "Close? You might say that. But that's the past, we've got other things to worry about, now - we have to find those friends of yours."

    "Hey, there's a clearing up ahead," Trinias called back to them. "There's stuff here like nothing I've ever seen."

    Sasha and Lucas joined Trinias and Ulf at the clearing, standing at the edge and gazing around.

    "There was a fight here, all right," Lucas commented. "Looks like beam weapons were used. There were four others here besides your friends, and one of them was struggling. Strange thing is, there's no sign of anyone leaving."

    "Look, here's Leandra's dagger!" Trinias exclaimed, picking up the weapon from where it had landed after being thrown.

    "They entered the clearing, but they never left? How is that possible?" Sasha's native scepticism was showing again.

    "I never said they didn't leave," Lucas replied, squinting up into the sky. "I just said there was no sign of them leaving."

    Sasha glanced up in the direction of Lucas' gaze, puzzled, seeing nothing but a circling hawk.

    Lucas looked back at Sasha. "Well, wherever Flynn and the others have got to, they're out of our reach. Nothing more we can do but wait. Do you know someplace we can go?"

    "Yes, we have a place back in Cademia; it's only a day or so's ride."

    "Great. Hope you don't mind if I impose - just until I find someplace myself, you understand."

    "Of course, you've been most helpful; you'll be welcome."

    "Thanks."

    The four of them left the clearing, making for where they'd left the horses. As she walked, Sasha was thinking deeply.

    Try as she might, she couldn't remember even once mentioning Flynn's name.

    ------------------
    I will classify my lieutenants in three categories: untrusted, trusted, and completely trusted. Promotion to the third category will be awarded posthumously.

    (This message has been edited by Overmind (edited 03-06-2002).)



  • Hergat slipped out of the domed cage and snuck out into the night. Kwon remained inside, concentrating on some inner demon that plagued him. Hergat easily vanished into the night, unsure of what he felt, but guiding himself along. After wandering around, scouting out the place, he found himself across the village, near the headsmen huts, a place he probably shouldn't be at this time of night.

    A slight noise startled him, and he jumped back into the shadows, moving as silent as a wisp of air. He saw the source of the disturbance, someone had come around the corner. It turned out to be one of the Shomani, a high-ranking male in the tribe at that.

    The catlike man crept walked around the tent carrying something in his arms that Hergat could not make out. Hergat held his breath as the Shomani suddenly stopped right in front of him, and began looking around. When he turned towards Hergat, he saw the object was a metal oval device of some type, not something these people were inclined to have. Something inside Hergatwarned him of an impeding danger, and he slipped back another step.

    The strange creature glanced around once more, before sliding into the tent and vanishing out of sight. Everything inside Hergat screamed at him to leave while he could, so he turned around the tent...and ran smack into Anzor.

    ------------------
    "Travel with an alert eye and a drawn sword."


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