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Old 02-20-2009, 07:25 PM   #121
OrochiGirl
Purgatory Shadow
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
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Default Re: Alternate Secrets

Chapter 25

A week after the raid, Laneele received a letter. It was a request from Flame Lord Kakai of the Orc Village to meet with him and the orc chiefs. Hand written from the Flame Lord himself, the reason for the meeting was obviously important, even though Laneele had no idea what it was. Although it would be an expensive trip, Laneele did not want to keep the orc leaders waiting; the letter was written five days ago and the messenger had some trouble locating her. Laneele rolled up the letter and put it in her satchel. She spoke to the gatekeeper who transported her to the Orc Village.

The moment Laneele appeared in the Orc Village, it was apparent that she was not welcome. Glares came from all orcs who laid eyes on her. Many stopped what they were doing to stare and point. Ignoring the looks, Laneele proceeded to The King's Hall entrance. However, the orcs began following her.

"Blasphemer!" yelled one orc.

"Desecrater!" yelled another orc who also threw something at Laneele. Laneele felt something hard hit her back. Reacting, she spun around to face the source. By that time, other orcs proceeded closer to Laneele, almost completely surrounding her. The orcs began screaming at her.

"How could you?!"

"We allowed you to learn one of our professions, and this is what you do behind our backs?!"

"Someone get an axe!"

Laneele looked around at the angry orcs. The scene was beginning to look like a mob. Orcs were beginning to throw small rocks and rotten food at her. What was going on? She couldn't understand where their anger was coming from. And the names they were calling her, what could they mean? She couldn't recall offending any of the orcs. Was this the reason why the orc leaders requested to see her?

Despite bringing up her hands to shield herself, Laneele couldn't avoid everything that was being thrown at her. The shouts and cries were beginning to fill the air. One orc came forward and shoved Laneele so hard that she fell to the ground. A small yelp escaped her lips.

"Please stop, I don't understand. What did I do?" Laneele pleaded. Every time she tried to look up at the orcs, she had to recoil from whatever was being thrown at her. For Eva's sake, she just arrived!

"You know exactly what you did, light elf," one orc yelled. "You should be executed for what you've done!"

Executed? Laneele didn't even know what she's being accused of. What could she have possibly done to anger the orcs so much? She was getting more confused by the second.

The yelling continued until a loud voice bellowed out, "Enough!"

The orcs immediately quieted down. Some of them parted to allow the Flame Lord through.

"What is going on here?!" demanded the Flame Lord. He looked down to see Laneele on the ground, scared and slightly disoriented. She had small bruises and cuts from the objects that were being thrown at her.

One orc exclaimed, "That blasphemer dared to show her face in the village. She must be punished for her crimes."

The Flame Lord looked up at the orcs and explained. "She is here because I requested her presence. She is my guest, and this is how you treat her?" The Flame Lord shook his head, angry and embarrassed. "I expected more from you. She hasn't even set foot in the village for five minutes!"

The orcs, guilt-ridden, said nothing at first, but one had the audacity to speak up.

"But my lord, you know that she—"

"Silence!" yelled the Flame Lord, his booming voice leaving a slight echo. When he was sure no one would dare speak again, he added, "We know only what the Warcryer told us. Laneele has a right to tell her side of the story. We are not barbarians. We will act in a civil matter and listen to both sides before coming to any judgments. I and the other chiefs will be the ones to handle this. Have I made myself clear?"

The orcs nodded, some responding with, "Yes, my lord."

The Flame Lord gave one last command. "Back to your previous duties, everyone."

While the crowd slowly dispersed, one of the Centurions helped Laneele to her feet. Laneele brushed foods and dirt off herself and bowed to the Flame Lord.

"Th...Thank you, my lord," Laneele said in a trembling voice.

The Flame Lord handed her a small towel. "I greatly apologize for my people's behavior. This wasn't supposed to happen."

Laneele took the towel and wiped off what she could from her hair and armor. Flanked by the Centurions, she followed the Flame Lord to The King's Hall. On the way, she tended to her wounds as best as she could. Thank Eva she still hung on to the bandages she kept in her satchel.

Laneele followed the Flame Lord up the incline, passing Atuba Chief Varkees and Neruga Chief Tantus, giving a small head bow to each of them. The Flame Lord took his place while the other orc chiefs gathered near him. The tall, stone chair the Flame Lord sat on had pillars, located on the left and right of the chair, with fire on top. Varkees and Tantus stood to the Flame Lord's left, and Uruto Chief Hatos stood to his right. Laneele stood in front the orc leaders, facing them. The Centurions exited The King's Hall and stood outside the entrance. One took the towel from Laneele before exiting.

"Are you all right?" asked the Flame Lord. "Would you like some time to yourself first?"

"I am fine," said Laneele. "The wounds are only light cuts. They're not serious." Laneele was eager to find out what this is all about and why the orcs acted so hostile to her.

The orc leaders nodded to each other. "Then let us begin," said the Flame Lord. "I'll get right to the point. A Warcryer claims to have seen you use a modified form of Tangsu, something that the trainers are absolutely sure they never taught you. Modifications of our sacred technique are considered sacrilege, which is why our people accosted you the way they did the moment you arrived."

Kakai paused to allow Laneele to comprehend what he was talking about. Laneele was somewhat confused. She altered their Tangsu?

"But my lord, I never trained in Tangsu," Laneele said. "I trained in the path of the Doomcryer. How can I alter something I never learned?"

Acknowledging this, Kakai further explained. "About a week ago, you took part in a raid. The Warcryer in that raid witnessed the way you disabled a raid boss' minion before killing it."

Laneele's head jerked back. The reaction in her face was obvious. The minion! Someone saw her? She was sure that the minion was far away enough from the party that no one would be able to see her. Her decision to disable the minion the way she did was to quickly save the unconscious Gladiator. She tried to distract the minion in any way she could, yet not even her archer skills were enough to deter it. With all other options exhausted and time running out, she used her backup skills as a last resort.

"Laneele, this is a great offense. Ever since rumor spread about what you did, our people felt betrayed." Tantus reached up and pointed outside, at the balcony behind Laneele. "They demand that you be stripped of the Doomcryer profession. And in case you hadn't noticed, they also demand your head."

Laneele tried to see things from the orcs' point of view. The Flame Lord and the orc chiefs were right. Laneele's techniques that she trained herself in did seem like a modified version of Tangsu. The only difference was the use of her legs and feet, in addition to what she called "holds" and "traps" meant to keep someone immobilized. Laneele knew that Tangsu focused on inflicting as much damage as possible using the fists. Her techniques were similar, except that they involved the use of her entire body in a more efficient manner. While her skills helped her develop a decent amount of strength, she also focused on her speed and moving her body in ways to gain an advantage. This included a lot of dodging and ducking while keeping her eyes on her opponent.

"Would you care to explain yourself, light elf?" asked Hatos.

Laneele lowered her head and closed her eyes, thinking about where to begin. There was no point in trying to hide her skills any longer. She was caught, and she didn't want to label the Warcryer a liar. She would have to confess. No lies this time; she already lied to Asterios. He too should have known the truth. Words had to be chosen carefully, as this was the first time she would be divulging such information to anyone.

Taking a deep breath, she lifted her head, opened her eyes, and began with Nathias. It was painful to reiterate what happened, as those memories still affected her after all those years. Laneele lowered her head again to keep the orc leaders from seeing the tears fall down her face.

When she finished, she wiped the tears from her eyes and lifted her head, continuing with her explanation; the decision to form the backup skills, the limitations, and why she kept them a secret. While this wasn't how she imagined her backup skills to be revealed, she felt a burden lift from her shoulders when she finally disclosed her secret, a secret she held for over 100 years.

The orc leaders listened attentively. This was a shock to them. What she was doing was practically going against the codes and ethics themselves.

When Laneele finished, the orc leaders huddled close to each other, whispering with the Flame Lord. When they finished their private discussion, Kakai spoke up.

"Laneele, all of us lost loved ones to Chaotics at some point or another. While we understand your feelings, do you realize that the creation of these backup skills stemmed from your own incompetence and selfishness?"

Laneele's forehead creased in slight confusion. She was shocked to hear that kind of response. Being called such things affected her pride, as a warrior and as a light elf. Her hands fisted at her sides. She had never felt so insulted before.

Kakai continued. "You and Nathias were responsible for keeping yourselves well protected, especially during those times. The codes and ethics were made for a warrior's protection, not to be heeded at your own convenience."

Laneele was getting more upset and hung her head down, unable to face the orc leaders. A lecture was the last thing she wanted to hear. She felt that they did not understand her at all. Laneele clenched her teeth. Incompetence? Selfishness? Fine. She admitted to herself that it was foolish of her and Nathias to not be equipped properly, but she refused to believe that her backup skills were created out of selfishness. Her skills saved the Gladiator, did they not?

"However," began Varkees. "The Kamael have proven to be formidable warriors, given their ability to disarm warriors, albeit temporarily. Your backup skills may be of some use."

Laneele lifted her head. The mood shift caught her attention.

"But as you said, these skills of yours have not been tested on warriors, is that correct?" asked Hatos.

"Yes, sire," Laneele replied hesitantly.

"Then how would you like the opportunity to test it against one of our own?" asked Kakai.

Laneele was dumbfounded. The chance to test her backup skills against a warrior? Did she hear correctly?

Kakai continued. "Laneele, we are in a new age. Many things seem to be happening all at once. We have seen a new race. Current warriors are learning new skills as well as learning professions from other races. And the new recruits are learning and training faster than before. Your backup skills couldn't have been discovered at a more appropriate time."

Laneele had trouble understanding the sudden shift in the orc leaders' moods. At first, they seemed to be berating her for her skills; now they sounded as if they were approving those same skills. Their quick change of view seemed suspicious to Laneele. Something seemed out of place. What did the discovery of her backup skills have to do with the "new age"?

"Why?" asked Laneele. "Why are you offering me this?"

Tantus said, "Because in order for us to keep up with the new age, Tangsu must also be modified. Your backup skills may be the change that Tangsu needs."

Things were beginning to make sense, but there was one issue that she had trouble putting in perspective.

"My lords, forgive me, but one thing bothers me," Laneele said. "If you need my skills, then why did the orcs treat me the way they did when I arrived?"

"Because they do not know our plans," said Varkees. "Although we've been planning this for some time, we have to tread carefully. We're talking about modifying a sacred technique that has been in our race for centuries."

So this was the real reason she was summoned; the orc leaders wished to learn her backup skills, the skills she held secret for so long, to improve Tangsu, something they have been secretly planning for quite some time. But her skills were far from perfect. The orc leaders' offer of giving Laneele a chance to test her backup skills against a warrior was a great opportunity to hone her skills. But could she succeed, especially if it was against one of their own? Was she ready? More importantly, was this the appropriate time for her skills to be made public?

"May I have some time to think about this?" asked Laneele.

"Of course," Kakai replied. "I'll have a Centurion take you to where you will stay. You will be under my protection."

The Flame Lord summoned a Centurion, who escorted Laneele to the room where she will be staying. When she was gone, the orc chiefs began asking questions amongst themselves.

"Is this acceptable? Laneele is only learning half the truth," said Hatos. Mentioning the Kamael's disarming skill and the "new age" to Laneele was just a ruse.

"But we're not exactly sure if she's the one," said Varkees. "We have yet to see her skills. She must be tested first."

"What if she doesn't accept our offer?" asked Tantus.

An orc soothsayer emerged from behind the Flame Lord's chair, apparently listening to the entire conversation. The orc chiefs faced the soothsayer when she emerged. "It is said that the prophecy will be fulfilled during this time," she said, placing herself next to Hatos. "The Warcryer witnessing Laneele was no accident. She must be the one."

The soothsayer was referring to a prophecy foreseeing someone of non-orcish blood showing the orcs the true way of Tangsu. When the soothsayer revealed this prophecy to the orc leaders, the Flame Lord restricted the soothsayer and the orc chiefs from revealing the prophecy to their people and the other races. He knew that there may be some backlash, especially if the one to show the true way of Tangsu was indeed an outsider. The Flame Lord did not want to stir up any controversy, especially amongst his own people. The prophecy had to be handled carefully.

The Flame Lord looked at the soothsayer. "Even if she is, our people will not easily accept the prophecy."

Truth be told, the orcs may never accept the prophecy, judging from the way they treated Laneele when she arrived. The Flame Lord had no reason to doubt the soothsayer; she predicted the arrival of the Kamael, among other things. Yet the soothsayer's prophecies have never caused a problem before. In this case, not only will his people feel betrayed as Tantus said, but they may feel intimidated by the other races, races that they deemed physically inferior.

The Flame Lord leaned forward in his chair, resting his elbows on his knees and bringing his hands to his chin.

"For now, all we can do is wait for Laneele's response."

Last edited by OrochiGirl; 09-23-2010 at 11:47 AM.
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Old 05-17-2009, 07:01 PM   #122
OrochiGirl
Purgatory Shadow
 
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Denial
Posts: 540
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Default Re: Alternate Secrets

Chapter 26

The group of light elves, minus Amras, sat at the table at the pub, each with their maps laid out across in front of them. They were discussing where they would hone their skills, putting their training to good use. Given the fact that they just passed their first tests, they decided to train near Gludin, a town known for its surrounding training lands meant for novice warriors. The plan was to choose a place now and begin training tomorrow morning.

“How about Windmill Hill? It’s really close by. We can just walk there,” said Idril.

“The Abandoned Camp is better; more challenging,” said Lenwe.

“What about the Orc Barracks?” asked Yreth.

“There’s too many, especially for us,” said Elrond. “We could try the Wastelands.”

“Ugh, no,” said Lúthien. “I hate basilisks.”

The discussion continued until an opened scroll was dropped in front of them, on top of their maps. Startled, everyone leaned back and looked up at the source of the dropped scroll.

“We’re not going to any of those places,” said Amras, now standing at the head of the table.

Everyone turned to the table to look at the scroll.

“What is this?” Lenwe asked, still staring at the scroll.

This is where we’ll be training tomorrow,” said Amras. “I signed up all of us to participate. I signed up just in time, too.”

Everyone looked over the scroll, reading its contents. It mentioned something called the Seven Signs and two factions: the Lords of Dawn and the Revolutionary Army of Dusk. One appeared to be having an advantage over the other in terms of seal stones.

Elrond leaned back in his chair. “I give up. I can’t make heads or tails of that scroll. Why don’t you just explain to us what this is and what exactly you signed us up for?”

Amras took his seat. “It’s a bit complicated, but I’ll give you the bottom line. We’re going to the Necropolis of Sacrifice tomorrow. It’s an underground dungeon and it’s perfect for us. Everything is stronger than normal, but we should be fine.”

Lúthien looked up from the scroll. “So, basically, you’re sending us to our underground graves.”

“You’re being paranoid. Everyone hunts there. Only fools go in alone. Since we’ll be together, we can handle it. Trust me.” Amras took the glass of wine that he ordered earlier and took a sip.

“What of these seal stones?” Yreth asked.

“Those determine which faction controls the dungeons. If we collect enough and turn them in, that faction gets control for a week. Today was the last day to sign up. The scroll indicated that the Lords of Dawn are in the lead, so I signed us up to fight for that faction. They’ll have full control of the dungeons for a week before the fight for control starts up again.”

“So, we collect seal stones for the faction. Is there any reward?” asked Elrond.

“Ancient adena,” said Amras.

“Ancient adena? What’s the difference?” asked Idril.

“Only certain people accept ancient adena. They sell items that can only be purchased with such currency. They’re actually worth it.”

“Says you,” Lenwe said.

“Look, let’s just try it out tomorrow. There’s nothing to lose.”

“Except our lives,” mumbled Lúthien.

Ignoring the comment, Amras continued. “If it doesn’t work out, then we’ll leave and we can hunt anywhere you want. All I’m asking is that we try it out.”

Everyone else looked at each other, gauging each other’s looks. Amras said he just wanted to try it out, plus he went to the trouble of signing up everyone. However, it was their curiosity of the necropolis that determined their decision. It was unanimous. The Necropolis of Sacrifice was to be tomorrow’s training ground.

The next morning, everyone gathered at the gatekeeper, fully equipped and prepared for whatever Amras had planned.

“We’re going to the Langk Lizardmen Dwellings since it’s the closest place to the necropolis,” Amras said.

With the help of the gatekeeper, everyone appeared near the dwellings and looked around. Idril spotted a large structure in the distance: four tall pillars with a square-like top. From the top, large, long flags hung down. The symbol on the center of the flag was that of a helmet and what looked like the sun. She pointed it out to Amras.

“Is that it?” she asked.

Amras turned to look. “Yes, that’s it.”

Everyone ran to the structure and stopped. A square-shaped pool of water was centered among the pillars. As they peered in, they noticed how deep it went.

“Now what do we do? If the entrance is blocked by the water, how do we get in?” asked Elrond.

Amras replied, “We swim down.”

All eyes looked at Amras.

“We what? We don’t know how far down the entrance goes!” exclaimed Elrond.

Amras rolled his eyes. “You are such an elpy. Then I’ll go.”

Amras secured his sword and shield, took a deep breath, and jumped in. The others peered down into the water, watching him swim deeper and deeper into the water.

As Amras swam deeper, he saw a large square opening and swam toward it. After he passed the opening, he broke the surface of the water. His first view was a stone incline sloping upwards. He swam towards it and stepped out of the water. In the distance was a white glowing ball hovering just above the floor, in front of a portcullis. On the other side, he could see another glowing ball, exactly like the one on his side. Amras wiped the water from his face and smoothed his hair back. He walked toward the glowing ball and lightly touched it with his hand. He then heard a voice speak.

“Behold the gateway to the Forbidden Sacred Area! My job is to guard it, and you cannot pass without my permission.”

Understanding that the glowing ball was the one talking to him, he replied, “Please, allow me to pass.”

The glowing ball said, “I see you have permission. Very well.”

Amras’ vision turned black, then light appeared again.

Amras was at the other side of the portcullis, standing next to the glowing ball that he saw earlier. He observed his surroundings. Though dark, the area was lit with torches attached to the wall. The ceiling seemed higher than normal for an underground dungeon. Everything seemed to be intricately carved. Engravings of animal heads with human bodies and eyes adorned the walls.

Amras walked down the only path in front of him. As he rounded the corner, he equipped his sword and shield. He immediately stopped when he saw a creature walk across; something very tall, with a type of pole weapon. Eventually, he saw a skeleton armed with a sword and shield walk by. He had seen enough. Amras ran back to the entrance and swam upwards.

The rest of the group saw him surface.

“It’s dark, but we can see. There are torches everywhere,” Amras said. “And it’s not that far down of a swim. Just follow me.”

Everyone looked at each other. Lenwe was the first to speak.

“I’ll go. I’m ready.” He then secured his weapon.

Amras re-submerged underwater, and Lenwe jumped in after him. One by one, the rest of the elves dove into the water. Yreth was the last to jump in.

When Amras reached the opening at the bottom, he stopped and looked up, making slow hand signals for Lenwe to go ahead. He waited until Yreth passed him, then followed her and broke through the surface. They stepped out of the water and looked around.

Following Amras, the group went to the glowing orb, and all were transported to the other side of the portcullis. Amras warned them about the next room he saw. He informed them to be ready, as he had no idea how many monsters there were, or if they were aggressive. The plan was for the group to stay in the hallway, and Amras will go investigate the room. If any aggressive monsters came after him, he would lead it back to the group where they would kill it. His father warned him earlier of the monsters in the catacombs and necropolises, so taking the monsters one by one would have to do.

Armed with his sword and shield, Amras slowly stepped in the room, the others watching from the hallway. He looked around. The room was larger than he thought, not to mention the amount of monsters in it. There was no way the group would be able to handle so many at once. Amras took a few more steps when one began to act suspiciously. It was an ugly monster, its arms bound behind it and blindfolded. It held its weapon by its teeth; a long chain with an axe-like blade at the end. He eyed the monster carefully. He heard it growl, then it began charging right at Amras. Even though it had a blindfold, it knew exactly where Amras was. Amras turned and ran towards the group.

“Incoming! And it’s really ugly!”

The group saw it, and Amras’ description was accurate. They had never seen a creature so grotesque before. When Amras reached the group, he turned to face the creature and stood ready. The monster swung its head, making the chained axe swing at a wide arc. Amras deflected the attack with his shield and began his own attack.

Lúthien ran to the monster’s back and began stabbing it. Idril joined Amras and began attacking the creature with her own sword and shield. Lenwe stayed back and fired his arrows on it. Yreth cast her spells on it. Elrond focused on Amras, keeping his health up. Eventually, the ugly monster fell to the ground with a groan.

“For Eva’s sake, that thing was strong,” Idril exclaimed. “It took practically all of us to kill it!”

“So, what do you all think?” Amras asked. “Did you want to go somewhere else or keep going?”

Lúthien answered, “I want to keep going. As long as we take these creatures one at a time, I think we’ll be fine. I just want to go back to the village in a few hours.”

Everyone else agreed.

For the next hour, this was the process they used. Amras lured one monster to the group, and they killed it in the hallway. Everything was going fine, until, while they were attacking one of the monsters in the hallway, a human ran by. He screamed at them.

“Stop! Run! Run!”

Behind the human came a slew of monsters. The human ran by the group and rounded the corner. However, the mob never followed him all the way.

Because the group of elves was attacking one of their own, the entire mob changed their attention from the human and turned on them.

Lúthien dodged one of their attacks and ran. Amras deflected the attack, provoking the monster. The mob turned their focus on Amras and Idril.

Elrond screamed, “We have to fall back! There’s too many of them! Go where that human went. They probably can’t follow us if we get to the other side of that gate!”

Amras screamed back, “Do what he said! I’ll hold them off! Idril, go!”

“But—”

“GO!”

Idril turned and ran, as did the others. Amras took the blows and deflected their attacks before he noticed he was surrounded. There was no way out.

Dammit! What do I do now? Amras thought. There was no room to get around. All he could do was dodge and keep his shield up, but the pummeling wouldn’t let up. There was too many. Was this truly to be his underground grave?

Suddenly, a flash of light exploded from each of the monsters, and three of them fell to the ground. Amras stared at the fallen monsters. What just happened? That couldn’t have come from him. His change of attention gave one of the monsters the opportunity to take a swing at him. Despite deflecting the attack with his shield at the last minute, the blow was enough to throw him back, forcing him to the ground. Amras began shuffling away. As the remaining three monsters raised their weapons, he saw a spell hit one of them, bringing it down instantly. Another spell, another one down, and the remaining monster swung its pole down, missing Amras’ legs before it too was hit by a spell and fell to the ground.

Amras stared at the mass of bodies down on the ground, panting heavily. He then fell backwards, lying down on the ground in a spread-eagle position.

“Thanks everyone. That was too close,” he said between breaths.

“Uh, Amras, that wasn’t us,” Lenwe said.

Amras replied, “What? What do you mean that wasn’t you?” Amras stood up and turned around. What he saw immediately answered his questions.

Standing at the end of the hall was Radorin, staff in hand and adorned in robes. The rest of the light elves stood there, facing him.

Radorin asked Amras, “Are you all right? Are you injured?”

Amras was shocked at seeing the sight of Radorin, and appalled at the fact that he was the one that saved him. Though it was the human’s fault for putting the group in a dangerous situation, he would have been more content to be saved by anyone but him.

Amras approached the group and answered, “I’m fine. Elrond can heal me, right Elrond?” He turned to face Elrond.

Elrond stopped staring at Radorin and turned his attention to Amras. “Oh, yes, of course.” He cast his healing spells on Amras.

“See? We’re fine. And we would have been fine if it weren’t for that human.”

Idril sensed Amras’ rudeness. “Well, we wouldn’t be fine if Radorin hadn’t been here. We owe him our thanks, Amras.”

Yreth curiously asked him, “What are you doing here?”

Amras also asked the same question. “Yes, what are you doing here?” Amras felt that he followed them here, just to get close to Yreth. He didn’t like the fact that the dark elf had an interest in her.

Radorin calmly answered, “I came here to find the Merchant of Mammon. There are items I needed to purchase from him. When I arrived, I saw a human run into the room, and I heard screams and loud noises, so I went to investigate. That’s when I saw you surrounded.”

Amras huffed at his response. “Oh. Well, as you can see now, we’re fine.” He wanted Radorin to leave.

Radorin took the hint. “Very well. I’ll leave you now.” Radorin turned and walked away, heading towards the merchant.

Yreth watched him round the corner, then turned to Amras. She couldn’t believe his rudeness. Radorin saved his life, and Amras just brushes him off? Feeling that Radorin wasn’t properly thanked, she ran after him.

Radorin was about to talk to the merchant when he heard his name called out. He looked up and saw Yreth walk towards him. He too approached her, curious as to why she called out to him. Both stopped at the center of the room.

“Please, on behalf of the group, accept my thanks for saving Amras.” Yreth bowed as she said this.

Radorin replied, “You’re welcome. Just tell him to be more careful, especially in these dungeons. Too often are there inexperienced warriors here taking on the monsters by themselves, only to get others killed, just like that human almost did to you and your friends.”

The human, who was still in the room, merely rolled his eyes and left the dungeon.

Yreth bowed again. “Yes. I will warn him of that. Thank you again.” Yreth turned and took two steps forward, then stopped.

Something didn’t feel right to Yreth. She felt as if a mere “thank you” wasn’t enough to express her gratitude for Radorin saving her friend. True, Amras was a bit rude to him, but that was the way Amras was; headstrong, proud, but caring. Even if it was another light elf that helped him, he would have acted the same way, though not as harsh.

Yreth began thinking of what to do to express her gratitude. A handshake seemed too familiar; everyone used that gesture, and it was already too late to do that. Her other option she had in mind was quick, but slightly more intimate. The thought of doing it made her blush. But seeing as she had to quickly return to her friends, and the fact that Radorin was most likely wondering why she was still standing there, she made her decision and turned around.

Radorin watched her turn and begin to make her way back to the group when she stopped and stood still. He pondered what she was doing, then saw her turn around and walk towards him. Very quickly, she leaned toward him, stood on her toes and gave him a quick peck on his cheek. She then turned around and ran, disappearing around the corner.

Radorin stood dumbfounded, shocked, but most of all, elated. He raised his hand and touched his cheek. She kissed him! She actually kissed him! A smile formed on Radorin’s face. She must have overcome her shyness during that moment to do that. His thoughts wandered back to the first time he held her in the Dark Elven Village, to the time when he spoke with her near the stream at the Elven Village, to his daring attempt to kiss her after he gave her his old jewelry at Giran. Her bold move of giving him such an intimate gesture increased his confidence at winning her over. Radorin lowered his hand and returned to the merchant, who was smiling at him.

“And what are you smiling at, merchant?” asked Radorin. He looked over the merchant’s items, looking for what he intended to purchase.

The merchant replied, “That was quite a daring gesture that young elf did. She seems like a fine lass.”

Radorin nodded. “Yes, she is.” Radorin saw what he wanted and reached in his satchel for payment.

“You must care for her that much if you saved her friends. I dare say that you may even be in love with her.”

Radorin stared at the merchant, pausing slightly before giving him his payment. “And what do you know about love?” he asked.

The merchant smiled again. “It was a very long time ago, even before your time. But in my travels, I’ve also seen it in enough people to know what it looks like.” The merchant took Radorin’s payment and gave him his purchase.

Radorin had to give him credit. He usually paid very little attention to the people around him to notice their actions. He began recalling his own actions. He thought about the time when Yreth returned his jewelry to him and how he sulked indoors afterwards. He remembered how content he felt when he saw her again in Giran and she accepted his jewelry again. He also remembered the butterfly hairpin he bought with the intention of giving it to her when the appropriate time came. That time was closer than he thought. The merchant could be right. He may be in love with her. But would she love him in return?

The merchant spoke as if he read Radorin’s mind. “Look, lad. She obviously has some feelings for you if she personally thanked you for saving her friends. Whatever it is you have in mind, there’s no reason for you to not go through with it. Just be sure you’re ready for the consequences, even if they don’t turn out in your favor.”

Radorin took his purchase from the merchant and put it in his satchel, responding with a rhetorical question. “Seeing as what just happened, do you really think the consequences would not be in my favor?”

The merchant gave a hearty laugh, and Radorin looked towards the hallway where Yreth ran to and stared in that direction for a few moments before leaving the dungeon with a smile.

Last edited by OrochiGirl; 09-23-2010 at 11:55 AM. Reason: Spelling correction.
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Old 05-17-2009, 08:23 PM   #123
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awww...how sweet
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Old 11-03-2009, 09:36 PM   #124
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Chapter 27

Asterios read the letter penned by the Queen of Aden. It mentioned a request to personally see him at her castle and to discuss the medal that he held.

She knows? Asterios thought as he read the first part of the letter. The second part explained why; she revealed herself to be a carrier of a similar medal.

Asterios finished reading the letter, then had it burned. The information contained in the letter could not be revealed to anyone. Asterios thought about the letter’s contents and wondered why the queen would request to see him and reveal such a secret to him. He also wondered how she knew he had such a medal in his possession.

While the letter asked to see him as soon as possible, Asterios hoped that he could see Laneele first before leaving the village. Elisor’s report of her gave him a slight worry, and he hadn’t heard anything more about her. Yet he had to brush off his concern, since it was obvious that she had somewhere to go due to her abrupt departure from the Elven Village. Elisor explained to Asterios that she said she had to meet some people in Giran. But was that the real reason she left?

Laneele’s discussion of warriors fighting unarmed gave him cause for concern. It wasn’t like her to suddenly question the codes and ethics, so something must have happened to her that would cause her to do so. Whatever it was, he wanted to help her, not as just a mentor, but also as a friend who cared deeply for her. Despite the fact that she fell in love with a human, a fact he learned from the gossiping humans who visited the Elven Village, his feelings for her never waned. Although two centuries had passed since the human’s death, Asterios sensed that Laneele still loved Nathias.

Nathias…

Perhaps he was the reason why Laneele brought up unarmed warriors. Asterios had heard how the human died so unusually easily against the Chaotic. He even got a glimpse of that same Chaotic when he tried to enter the Elven Village long ago. Asterios’ thoughts began to whirl in motion. Was Nathias’ death related to Laneele’s questioning of the codes and ethics? She did mention fighting back unarmed when she spoke with him outside the village that day, as he recalled.

After Nathias’ death, Laneele focused more on her training. Asterios received updates about her from the other elves and visitors who came to the village, learning about her supportive and generous attitude. Eventually he heard about her medal from a fellow medal carrier. When she returned to the Elven Village recently after completing her training, he came close to confessing his love for her, but every opportunity was abruptly taken away from him. Perhaps Eva was sending signs that the time was not right. Or was she sending signs that such a love was not meant to be?

Regardless, Asterios decided to wait until tomorrow morning to leave for Aden, in the hopes of seeing Laneele first. Pity, since Eva once again will be denying him another opportunity.
________________________________________

At the same time, in the Orc Village, Laneele paced back and forth in her room, contemplating the Flame Lord’s offer. A few days had already passed since her meeting with him and the orc chiefs, and she was sure they were awaiting her response. Laneele then went out to balcony, hopped up on the low wall, and sat on the edge, looking out into the field.

This was definitely an opportunity that Laneele couldn’t pass up. Finally, this was a chance for her to properly test, and even tweak, her skills. Eva knows her skills could use some improvement. Yet things haven’t been going well for her decision. Every time she came to a conclusion, something else got in the way, forcing her to rethink her decision.

She thought about the Flame Lord’s comments about the creation of her backup skills. He called it “selfish.” The more Laneele thought about it, the more it seemed true. She never asked for approval for the creation of such skills from any of the masters, and the only motivation for it was Nathias’ death. More of the Flame Lord’s words came back to haunt her: “You were responsible for keeping yourselves well protected, especially during those times.” That lack of responsibility cost Nathias his life. And it was that lack of responsibility that made her begin to assume that Nathias’ death was brought on himself. Even more painful was that she partly blamed herself for his death. Although still a novice back then, she knew the spells to help herself and Nathias; yet in her panicked state, she instead ran to town calling for help while Nathias stood his ground. She left Nathias unprotected against that Chaotic. If she didn’t, she believed he would have survived just long enough for the other warriors to intervene in time.

With Nathias’ death brought much hatred and blame to Eva for not protecting him. Laneele even blamed Einhasad for not protecting the human. If Einhasad was truly the humans’ goddess, why did she allow Nathias to die such an awful death? It took years for Laneele to come to terms with his death and stop blaming Eva and Einhasad for his death. Her creation of her skills wouldn’t bring Nathias back, but she continued her training in the hope that such skills will be used for a warrior’s protection in the worse case scenario.

The ramifications of the skills were the reasons she kept them secret, especially if the skills fell in the wrong hands, namely the Chaotics. It was this specific reason that she constantly changed her mind. Her skills would either work against them, or end up being used by them; a classic double-edged sword situation. The decision was too difficult to make.

However, she couldn’t keep the Flame Lord and orc chiefs waiting much longer. Heaving a sigh, she turned around and hopped off the balcony. She approached the door and opened it to address one of the two Centurions guarding her.

“I’m ready to see the Flame Lord. I have made my decision,” she said.

The Centurion nodded at her, nodded at the other Centurion, then left to inform the Flame Lord and the orc chiefs. Laneele closed the door and leaned her back against it. She closed her eyes and heaved another sigh.

Oh Eva. Please let this be the right decision.
________________________________________

Mayne sat in a corner table of the tavern, taking swigs from a mug of wheat barley beer. He sat with his elbows resting on the table, occasionally twirling an adena coin in front of him. He watched it spin on its edge, then watched it settle down on its side, coming to a slow stop. He picked it up again and twirled it, watching it spin on the table. He then abruptly grabbed it, pinching it between his fingers, then began tapping it repeatedly against the table.

He stared at one of the cracks on the table, thinking about a job offer from a few hours earlier. He had yet to make his final decision of whether to accept or not. The client was an old man claiming to be Queen Kaylin’s head scholar. After hearing the job, Mayne initially declined it right away, due to its “extreme” condition. But the old man seemed desperate, talking a lot and giving his reasons for the job. He even showed Mayne half the payment, an amount Mayne had never seen offered to him before. After hearing the old man plead his case, Mayne eased his mind by telling him that he’ll think about it and give him his answer later in the day. The old man settled for Mayne’s response and promised to return in the evening. While telling the old man this was actually a way to get rid of him and his constant prattle, there was a particular part of the old man’s story that made Mayne reconsider his earlier declination – something about history repeating itself.

Mayne stopped tapping the coin on the table and twirled it again. At that moment, a dark elf dressed in leather armor sat down across from him.

“Have you been waiting long?” asked the dark elf.

Mayne put his hand over the coin to stop it from spinning and looked up at his new client. “No, I have not. And even if I had, I probably lost track of time anyway.” He took his mug and drank the rest of its contents, then raised his mug in the air and yelled, “Hey beautiful, another round please.”

A brown-haired woman replied, “Coming right up, handsome.”

Mayne put his mug down at the edge of the table and focused his attention on his guest. “Would you like to try a round? It’s the best wheat barley beer ever, only found in this town.”

The dark elf looked at the mug with creased brows, then looked at Mayne. “No, thank you. I’m more of a wine drinker.”

“No problem,” Mayne said. With a louder voice, he yelled, “Hey beautiful, can you also get me a goblet of your fine wine for my guest here?”

The same woman replied, “No problem, dear.”

Mayne smiled and gave a slight laugh. “That girl, you have to love her.”

The dark elf stared at Mayne, not amused. Mayne saw the serious look on his face, then cleared his throat and sat upright.

“So, Dollar, was it?”

“Dalaar,” the dark elf corrected.

“Ah. Forgive me. You said you wish to hire me. Just give me a summary. Details come later.”

“I come on behalf of the Queen of Aden. She wishes for you to bring someone to her at her castle.”

Mayne leaned back against the wall at the dark elf’s words. This was the second time today that the queen’s named was mentioned, the first from the old man a few hours ago. It was typical for him to receive multiple requests in one day, but for two different requests to relate to the same person? This was strange, and it made him a little nervous. He hoped this wasn’t related to the old man’s request just hours earlier. As a test, Mayne asked, “This job comes from the queen? Why couldn’t she meet me herself?”

Dalaar answered, “I’m sure you would understand that, as Queen of Aden, she has difficulty prioritizing the important matters given what little time she has to personally deal with them. It’s normal for her to send a proxy in her place in these situations.”

Mayne thought about the dark elf’s answer. He wondered if the queen sent this proxy because she found out about her head scholar’s plan, or if she really didn’t have the time to meet him in person. Still unsure if there was some connection between this client and his earlier client, Mayne sat upright and began to ask for the details.

“You say this is an escort job. Who would I be escorting to the queen?”

Dalaar replied, “Laneele.”

Mayne’s eyebrows rose in curiosity. “Laneele? I know her. She’s my friend. What does the queen want with her?”

Friend? Dalaar wondered if Mayne really knew the meaning of the word, “friend.” From what he’d seen and heard about Mayne, all the females he met were his “friends.” Even the waitress who arrived to bring him his goblet of wine and replaced Mayne’s empty mug was a “friend.”

“That, you do not need to know. Only know that you are to bring Laneele to the Queen of Aden,” Dalaar replied.

Mayne was slightly annoyed at the dark elf’s answer. “That’s it? All I have to do is bring Laneele to the queen? You could just ask Laneele to come to her.”

“This involves more than just escorting Laneele to the queen.”

Now things were beginning to get interesting, and a bit confusing.

“I thought this was just an escort job. There’s more?”

“There’s something you must do before escorting Laneele to the queen.”

Dalaar took something from his satchel. He then placed a small, glass vial on the table, between him and Mayne.

Mayne looked at the vial. There appeared to be a white substance inside, like a powder. Mayne stared at it a bit longer before looking up at Dalaar.

“Are you asking me to drug Laneele?” Mayne didn’t like where this was going.

“It’s a sleeping powder. Even though it takes effect after a few minutes, the effect cannot last long. Use this on Laneele, then search her.”

Mayne’s eyes widened. “Pardon me? Search her? What the hell does that mean?”

Mayne felt insulted. He knew about his behavior with women, but he was no louse. He was also disturbed by the tone of voice the dark elf used, as to imply that Mayne would have no problem, or no decency, with “searching” Laneele. Mayne’s anger rose, and he didn’t bother to wait for Dalaar’s answer.

“Look, a******. I’m not uncouth towards women, or in general. And if I am, it’s because of people like you.”

Dalaar raised his hand in front of himself, his palm facing Mayne, in attempt to diffuse Mayne’s obvious anger. “Easy. It’s not as bad as you think.” Dalaar then put his hand down. “Just search her things. We just want to confirm if she’s in possession of a certain item.”

“So, now you want me to steal from her?”

“No, no.” Dalaar shook his head. “Just a confirmation. You don’t need to take anything from her.”

Mayne seemed to calm down a little, but only a little. “Fine. What am I supposed to look for?”

Dalaar explained. “A round, thin object, made of glass, similar to a medal. There should be a symbol in the center. If it’s not in her satchel, try around her neck, or belt. She has to have easy access to it.”

Mayne thought for a moment about this extra part of the escort job. A medal? This sounded somewhat familiar.

“I still don’t understand why you want me to do this,” Mayne said. Searching Laneele seemed a bit…invasive.

“You’re the only one who can get physically close to her,” Dalaar said. He remembered Reile’s report about seeing the way Mayne interacted with Laneele in Giran, and Kaylin said she needed someone that Laneele already knew, mercenary or not. Mayne was a perfect fit for this part of Kaylin’s plan.

“Why can’t I just ask her if she has this ‘medal’?” Mayne asked.

“Because she’ll deny it.”

“She will?”

“Absolutely.”

“Then if she said she doesn’t have it, she doesn’t have it. Why do I have to go to such lengths to find out?”

Dalaar was getting annoyed with Mayne’s questioning. “Don’t you perform jobs without question?”

“Not when it involves friends.”

“I thought mercenaries don’t have friends,” Dalaar said bluntly.

“You’re about to cross the line there, buddy,” Mayne said in a harsh tone, pointing his finger at Dalaar. “I highly suggest you choose your next words carefully.” Mayne wasn’t kidding. The dark elf’s attitude was beginning to further irritate him.

Dalaar put his hand to his chest and bowed his head. “My apologies. I was out of line.”

“D*** straight. See that it doesn’t happen again.” Mayne put his hand down and took a swig from his mug. He then put it down and wiped his chin using the back of his hand. Mayne leaned back, staring at the table.

The job was simple, yet questionable. Nevertheless, the dark elf was right. It was normal procedure for mercenaries to perform jobs without question. It was also normal for mercenaries to not have any close friends, but rather, acquaintances, usually for connections. More importantly, it seemed that this proxy had no inkling of Mayne’s meeting with the old man earlier. The only other connection between the two jobs that Mayne could see was the medal that the dark elf spoke of. The more he thought about it, the more it seemed like the old man knew about the queen’s plan than the queen knew about her head scholar’s plan.

Dalaar could sense that the human was currently contemplating the job. He eyed Mayne carefully. Was this human really the best mercenary in Aden? He did not like him at all.

Mayne shifted his eyes up to meet Dalaar’s. “So, what is this job worth to the queen?”

Dalaar was relieved. It was about time Mayne moved on to further discuss the job rather than his social status. Instead of answering Mayne with words, Dalaar placed a satchel on the table. He did this three more times, displaying a row of four satchels on the table in front of Mayne. Dalaar then reached for his goblet and sipped its contents.

Mayne stared at the satchels. Each one looked heavy and packed to the brim. He looked up at the dark elf, then back down at the satchels. This, all this, was payment for a mere escort job? He leaned forward and tugged at the opening of each, making sure of what was inside the satchels before giving an answer.

Dalaar gave a slight “humph” at the human’s obvious doubt of the payment. He really did not like the human at all.

“Do not worry. There’s no reason for me, or the queen, to deceive you. The job may be simple, but it has its value to the queen. And regarding your friend, she will not be harmed.”

Mayne looked up at Dalaar. As much as he wanted to know the reason behind the job, he knew that wasn’t allowed. Knowing too much about a job could get him involved in a situation more than he should, or would want. He preferred to stay out of any politics a job may have. He saw Laneele as a fellow warrior in arms, but what the queen wanted with her was really none of his business. Mayne asked one final question.

“When do you wish to have Laneele escorted to the castle?”

“As soon as possible,” Dalaar replied.

Mayne began taking the satchels off the table and placed them into his own satchel. He took the vial and held it between his fingers, eyeing it carefully. He then placed it in a special pocket in his glove. Mayne then began drinking from his mug again.

“I’ll bring Laneele to the queen when I see her next time,” Mayne said after putting down his mug. “I don’t know how long it will take. Laneele’s not one to sit still for very long whenever we meet.” Mayne’s forehead then creased in a small realization. “I think she doesn’t like me.”

Uninterested, Dalaar took another sip from his goblet, then placed a few adena coins next to it.

“Then it’s settled.” Dalaar took his leave. The meeting took a little longer than expected, but he received the desired results out of it. He headed to Aden Castle to inform Kaylin of the good news.

After Dalaar left, Mayne drank the last of the mug’s contents, then continued to fiddle with the adena coin from earlier. The waitress came by and took his empty mug, the half-filled wine goblet, and the adena coins next to it.

“Another round, handsome?” she asked.

“Of course. But make it a shot. I need something with a little more kick.”

“Sure. What did you have in mind?” The waitress asked.

“Oh, I don’t know. Surprise me.” Mayne then gave the waitress a wink.

“Right away, sweetie.”

After the waitress left to complete Mayne’s order, an old man in full white robes sat across from Mayne.

“Have you decided?” he asked Mayne after settling in his seat.

“You’re a persistent one, old man, if not crazy,” Mayne replied, not looking up from the adena coin he was playing with.

“Queen Kaylin must not get the last two medals. And there is only one way to guarantee that she doesn’t,” the old man said, referring to his earlier job offer to Mayne.

“Why couldn’t you ask an assassin to do it? They have stealth techniques to effectively perform this job of yours.” Mayne asked. He still didn’t lift his head.

“The fact that they have stealth techniques may arouse the queen’s suspicions. If it comes from you, she won’t suspect anything,” the old man explained. “She and her partner have spies. I’m risking my life, and possibly the lives of my fellow scholars, by coming here and asking you to do this. And it must be done soon. I don’t know how much longer I and the other scholars can stall the queen. She’s getting very impatient about knowing the full history of the medals.”

“And I suppose you know the full history of those medals?”

The old man replied, “I do. And I’m the only one that knows the entire story. The other scholars know some, but they agree with me that Queen Kaylin must not get all the medals, given her lineage. I’m begging you, please accept my request.”

Mayne thought for a moment. The dark elf’s job of escorting Laneele to the queen was highly convenient. It would get him inside the castle and close to the queen without arousing suspicion, making the old man’s job easier to complete. It was the reason why he accepted the dark elf’s job. But there was something he had to ask the old man. He stopped playing with the coin and looked up at him.

“Did you know that the queen, or rather, her proxy, just offered me a job?” Mayne asked bluntly.

The old man looked curiously at Mayne.

“No. I am not aware of that. What type of job?”

“It involved this medal of yours. Apparently the queen knows who has one of the medals and requested me to escort that person to her castle.”

The old man was surprised. The queen was acting rather quickly with her plans. He heard about how one of the last two medal carriers was the hierarch of the Elven Village, but he didn’t think the queen would find out who was in possession of the other medal so soon. The old man leaned forward toward Mayne.

“Does she suspect anything?”

“Judging from what her proxy told me, I highly doubt it.”

“So, you declined, yes?”

“No. I accepted.”

The old man looked at Mayne with wide eyes, stunned.

“You what?!” the old man exclaimed. “How could you do that? Queen Kaylin will certainly get her hands on all the medals! The reason I’m hiring you was to prevent her from doing so!”

The old man composed himself when the waitress came by to give Mayne his shot glass. She then turned to him and asked what he would like. After the old man told the waitress that he didn’t want anything from the bar, Mayne chugged his shot in one gulp. Mayne then cringed, yelling aloud at the same time, “Whew! Now that’s one hell of a kick!” He set the shot glass on the waitress’ tray and told her to keep them coming. The waitress nodded with a smile and left.

After recovering from the alcohol’s “kick,” Mayne replied, “Look. You need me to get close to the queen. That dark elf’s job is the only way for me to do so in an effective and efficient manner. Since that dark elf needs me to escort the person who has this medal to her, I’ll use that same person to get close to the queen. If she gets her hands on the medal, I’ll get it back …” Mayne paused for a moment before continuing, choosing his words carefully, “…and complete your job request.”

The old man shook his head. “It may be too late once she gets her hands on all the medals. She already has plans to get the other medal within a few days.”

“You’ll have to trust me on this. It’s the only way I can perform this ‘job’ of yours.”

The old man shook his head again, feeling even more hopeless. “You may have a hard time ‘completing my job request’ if she has all the medals in her possession by then. You have no idea what those medals can do.”

Mayne continued to argue, a little offended that the old man began to doubt his skills. “If the queen finds out that someone has been stopping her from getting the medals, who do you think she’ll begin to suspect first? You and the other scholars are the only ones researching these medals. You have to let her continue her plans. If she finds out someone has been interfering, then your life, and the lives of your fellow scholars, will truly be in danger. And I don’t think you want that on your conscience.”

The old man lowered his head, thinking about Mayne’s words. Mayne did have a point. He couldn’t arouse the queen’s suspicions, not while she was so close to getting all the medals. He actually didn’t care much about his life. He was old, and he believed he lived long enough in this world. His fellow scholars didn’t deserve to be in danger, which is why he didn’t disclose all the information he knew about the medals to the other scholars. Most of them had families to care for. The old man raised his head.

“So, you’ll accept my request?” asked the old man.

“That depends. Does the payment still stand?” Mayne responded.

The old man then put seven satchels on the table in front of Mayne. “Here is half of the payment. The other half is with my granddaughter. When the job is complete, I, or the other scholars, will let you know where she is to receive the rest of the payment,” the old man said.

Mayne nodded his head, satisfied. “Very well.” Mayne then took the satchels and stuffed them in his own satchel. Normally, payments were to be made in advance and in full, but given the old man’s job request, Mayne made an exception. He also hoped this would be the only time he would make such an exception. He didn’t like the job, but from what the old man told him, if it were true, it had to be done. He agreed with the old man’s earlier explanation that history cannot be repeated.

The old man heaved a sigh, relieved to know that all this will soon come to an end. It was a daring request, but under the circumstances, he knew it had to be done, and soon. The queen’s obsession with the medals was beginning to be unhealthy, and the secrets of the medals’ history had to be protected, no matter the cost. Too many lives were already lost at her hands, and Einhasad forbid two more lives will be lost. At that moment the waitress came by to give Mayne his second shot glass serving.

“Um, miss?” said the old man.

The waitress turned to face the old man. “Yes sir?”

“I think I’ll have a drink after all.”

“Of course. What would you like?”

The old man looked at Mayne, watching him cringe when he chugged his shot in one gulp. He then looked at the waitress and made a quick head tilt towards Mayne. “I’ll have what he’s having.”

Last edited by OrochiGirl; 09-23-2010 at 12:08 PM. Reason: Grammar correction
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Old 10-06-2010, 11:53 AM   #125
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Chapter 28

Laneele stood before the Flame Lord and the orc chiefs at The King’s Hall. Laneele however noticed another orc she had never seen before with the orc chiefs, standing closest to the Flame Lord. The orc held her gaze at Laneele, as if she knew exactly who she was. It was eerie. Laneele could feel the orc’s eyes peering into her, as if she was interpreting her soul, reading her very essence. Laneele then shifted her eyes to the Flame Lord as he began to speak.

“So, you have made your decision?”

“Yes, my lord,” said Laneele.

“And?”

“I agree to test my skills against one of your people.”

A wave of relief swept over the Flame Lord and the orc chiefs. Finally, their plan of improving Tangsu will become reality. They believed it was an important step in this day and age, as all the other races were learning new skills and gaining new abilities. The orc chiefs and Flame Lord believed that improving Tangsu was necessary to rival the new skills the other races were learning.

“However,” Laneele said aloud, catching the orcs attention and quite possibly short-changing their contentment of Laneele’s response. The orcs looked at Laneele, curious as to why she had something else to say. Her outburst and word choice gave them concern.

“Yes?” said Tantus.

“Despite the results of the ‘test,’ I will be relinquishing my Doomcryer profession.”

The orcs stood dumbfounded at first, then began whispering to each other.

After their discussion, the Flame Lord asked Laneele, “Is this a matter of pride?”

Laneele shook her head. “No. It’s a matter of respect. Not for me, but for your people.”

The soothsayer leaned down to the Flame Lord and whispered, “This was not in the prophecy. I’m afraid I cannot help you in this regard.” She then stepped back to leave this matter to the chiefs.

The facial expressions of the rest of the orcs were clear; they wanted an explanation.

Laneele took the silent hint and explained.

“The development of my skills was meant for the good of all warriors. Yet such a development resulted in offending you and your people, which was never my intention. I also never intended my skills to be a deliberate modification of Tangsu. Because of my inadvertent offense, I will be relinquishing my Doomcryer profession to appease your people. Although this is merely a misunderstanding, it is clear that the longer I retain the Doomcryer profession, the more I offend your people. They wanted my profession stripped away, as Chief Tantus once said. I will not deny their request.”

“You know that by relinquishing your Doomcryer position, you may end up severing ties with us, despite your best intention.” said Hatos.

Laneele nodded her head in response. “I am prepared for that. But I have hope that, despite severing such ties, I will be able to keep an agreeable relationship with you and your people.”

The orcs leaned in and whispered to each other again, this time longer than before. Laneele patiently stood still, waiting for them.

When they finished, Kakai asked Laneele, “If you will be relinquishing your Doomcryer profession, what will be its replacement?”

Laneele slightly lowered her head in contemplation, then raised her head before speaking to the Flame Lord.

“Actually, I haven’t thought that far ahead yet.”

The Flame Lord gave a slight laugh. “Well, we are disappointed at your decision, but such a decision is yours and yours alone. You still have the support of the orcs, no matter the result.”

Laneele breathed a sigh of relief. The orcs were good allies, and losing such good allies would not bode well for her and her race.

“The test will begin tomorrow at dawn. A Centurion will come to retrieve you. Do get some rest. You’ll need it,” said the Flame Lord.

Laneele bowed to the Flame Lord and the orc chiefs.

“Thank you, my lords.”

The next morning, Laneele was served a fine breakfast, then later escorted by a Centurion to the Flame Lord and the orc chiefs at The King’s Hall. Laneele then followed the Flame Lord and the orc chiefs to the Valley of Heroes below. The Valley of Heroes, between The Pa’agrio Temple and The King’s Hall, was large, with various stone structures and ruins scattered everywhere. The orc chiefs remained near The King’s Hall entrance, while the Flame Lord stepped into the Valley of Heroes. Laneele followed.

“These are our training grounds, used by our people for centuries,” the Flame Lord said as he walked through the valley. “It is here where many orcs come to test their Tangsu skills before progressing in their professions. Only those who have defeated their opponents with valor and dignity will progress through their training and continue to advance in their professions.”

Laneele looked around. She can sense that many battles, or tests, took place here. Rocks were strewn about. Stone pillars looked battered. Some of the grassy areas had bare brown spots. The wide open area allowed for plenty of movement. Yes, this was a good place to train.

While Laneele looked around, she asked the Flame Lord, “Who will I be sparring?”

The Flame Lord turned around to face Laneele. He merely looked at her.

Laneele returned the Flame Lord’s look, then slightly recoiled, taking a small step back.

“You? You will be the one to test me?”

The Flame Lord expected this reaction from Laneele. He began his explanation.

“As I said before, the orcs do not know our plans. This is the only way to test your skills without arousing suspicion. The orc chiefs and I will make the final judgment of whether your skills warrant modifying Tangsu. That is, of course, if your skills prove to be satisfactory.”

Laneele was still in slight shock seeing her opponent. She expected someone completely different, maybe a Centurion or a Grand Khavatari. But the Flame Lord himself? While she was honored that she will be sparring him, she was also frightened.

Kakai was the Flame Lord for a reason. His efforts of gathering the orcs from different tribes to humbly reside with one another with no internal animosity received great praise, as he was the only successful orc to do so. This action earned him the respect of all the orc chiefs and the tribes, thereby earning him the rightful title of Flame Lord. Besides having multiple professions, the Flame Lord was one of the few orcs who mastered Tangsu. His skills and experience knew no equal; his knowledge and wisdom knew no bounds.

He had a natural fighting spirit, quick reflexes, and great judgment. The numerous years of training he spent during his younger years molded him into the finest warrior many have seen. Because of this, rumors spread only among the medal carriers that he was offered a medal, but declined. While the Flame Lord would neither confirm nor deny such rumors, the medal carriers continued to gossip, even argue as to why the great orc would decline such an offer. Nevertheless, they still respected him.

Not only was he a great warrior, but he was also a good family man, raising his son by himself. His late wife, an Overlord, died when their son was two years old. His son, now an adult, was a practicing Overlord like his mother, and was hopeful in joining the ranks of the Dominators. The Flame Lord had never felt so proud.

Laneele was not prepared for this, and it showed. Kakai spoke to ease her discomfort.

“Laneele, we did not tell you this because we wanted you to get some rest and stay focused for the test. And remember, though we call this a ‘test,’ we merely wish to gauge your skills and see whether they are what we need to improve Tangsu. If we like what we see, then we will make arrangements for improving Tangsu. But if we do not like what we see, then you are free to leave and do what you wish. We merely ask that you keep our plans for Tangsu secret, and we will do the same with your skills.”

Laneele took multiple breaths to calm down, taking in what the Flame Lord said. Back when the Flame Lord made the offer to test her skills against one of his own, she never thought that he meant himself. If her skills were worthy enough to be considered for improving Tangsu, she had an obligation to show the Flame Lord what she trained in. This test would be quite a challenge, since this would be the very first time her skills would come into play against a warrior. She had every reason to give it her all.

The Flame Lord watched Laneele in quiet contemplation.

“Laneele, take your time. I understand the shock this must have on you.”

Laneele took one more breath.

“I am ready.”

Chief Hatos approached to lay the ground rules.

“The fight will begin at my signal. The fight will end when one yields. No magic of any kind is allowed, not even enhancements. We expect this to be a fair fight.”

Both nodded at Hatos.

“Assume your positions.”

Laneele and Kakai stood opposite each other. Laneele took her place, while Kakai stood his ground. Hatos took several steps back.

“Great Pa’agrio,” began Hatos. “We dedicate this battle to you and our ancestors.”

After Hatos said this, the orcs exclaimed, “Tejakar Pa’agrio!”

Hatos looked at the Flame Lord, then Laneele. “Ready?”

Laneele took her stance. Kakai merely stood in place.

“Begin!”

Right at that moment, Laneele rushed to Kakai at great speed. With her right hand, she aimed to punch Kakai at his head, but since he was so tall, she had to aim at his chest. Kakai folded both his arms inward to guard his chest, a mistake Laneele was expecting.

While she ended up punching his arms, Laneele quickly raised her left hand and punched his exposed mid-section. She used her forward momentum to quickly step past Kakai and turned to face him, stepping back a few steps to give her more room.

Kakai felt his mistake as Laneele rushed past him. He quickly turned around to face Laneele, seeing her back up.

A double punch, one high, then low. How interesting, thought Kakai. While her speed was extraordinary, it was her punches that caught his attention and forced him to be on higher guard; they were stronger than any he experienced, even from his own kind. Yet he did his best to not show any pain. The last minute flexing of his abdominal muscles helped only slightly.

Laneele quickly studied the Flame Lord. She was positive she threw those punches at her highest strength, yet the Flame Lord showed no reaction. This was going to be more difficult than she thought.

With no time to waste, she ran toward him and with her right leg, raised and chambered it, knee tucked towards her chest, then using her left leg, forced herself forward. When she was within range, she shot out her right leg, heel aimed at Kakai’s abdomen. Kakai instinctively lowered his guard to block her attack.

With his guard lowered, Laneele quickly lowered her leg and, while pushing off it to propel herself forward, repeated the same double punch as before. However, Kakai leaned his upper body back, forcing Laneele to miss her high punch. He adjusted his arms again to better block the lower punch from Laneele. Not wanting to miss an opportunity, he raised his right arm and shot it backwards towards Laneele as she stepped past him.

Not one to be outdone, Laneele ducked and rolled out of the way, forcing Kakai to miss. She noticed him beginning to extend his right arm before she completely passed him and expected something to happen. And she was right. Laneele quickly stood up and faced Kakai.

This was unusual. Kakai had never seen such movement before, or felt such power. If he hadn’t dug his heels in the ground, that leg move Laneele performed would definitely have knocked him over, seriously injuring him in the process.

With her arms up in defense, Laneele positioned herself in a sideways stance. She began shuffling back and forth, side to side.

What now, she wants to dance? thought Kakai. He couldn’t figure out what Laneele was exactly doing or planning. What was with the strange position she took? An answer, however, was already on its way.

As she inched her way closer to Kakai, Laneele raised her right leg again, using her left leg to propel herself forward, but instead of shooting her leg out like before, she repositioned her leg, this time aiming her knee at Kakai, and swung her foot at angle, hitting him in the side. As she put her foot down, she spun her body around. By the time she was facing Kakai again, she raised her left knee up, but put it down and quickly hopped up using her right leg, which swung at an arc towards Kakai’s face with more force than the previous kick. Because the spinning movement was too fast for Kakai to raise his arm and protect his head, her attack landed, her reach being better with the use of her legs. Using her momentum, she continued to spin, putting her right foot down but swinging her left leg up high, bending her leg at the knee and whipping her foot, striking Kakai in the face again.

Just as Laneele was putting her foot down behind her, Kakai moved in, stepping forward. Adrenaline rushing through his body, he took a swing at Laneele with his right hand, ignoring the pain from his face, his pride berating him for allowing Laneele to hit him in the face twice in a row.

This proved futile, as Laneele merely used her momentum to continue turning, pivoting on her left leg and spinning out of the way. Laneele chose to spin out of the way instead of block. Just looking at the orc gave her an idea of his massive strength. Who knows just how much damage Kakai can inflict.

Kakai stumbled forward, trying to regain his footing as fast as he can. However, the moment he turned to face Laneele, she was already charging at him. Laneele raised her right leg again and used the same angled kick as before, hitting him in the side. But instead of putting her foot down, she retracted her foot and swung her leg at the same angle, but this time aimed for Kakai’s head again. Kakai leaned back, Laneele’s foot just inches away from his face. Not yet finished, she chambered and shot out her right leg, heel digging into Kakai’s abdomen.

That last attack forced Kakai to stumble back, giving Laneele enough time to get in another attack. By the time Kakai stumbled back two steps, Laneele was in the air, her knee hitting Kakai in the chest.

This forced Kakai to stumble backwards even more, right into a stone wall. If it weren’t for the wall, he definitely would have fallen over. Leaning against the wall, Kakai eyed Laneele, who was back in her sideways stance, hopping back and forth. Kakai growled in a low frustration, ignoring his desire to massage his face and his chest from her attacks. He acknowledged her offensive skills. Now it was time to test her defensive skills.

Pushing off from the wall, Kakai charged at her. When he was in range, he threw his right fist at her.

While Laneele weaved out of the way to dodge his right arm, Kakai raised his left elbow and swung it at her face. Laneele quickly brought her right arm up to block, but the force was so great that her own arm ended up hitting her in the face. Laneele jumped back quickly to get out of range.

Laneele shook out her arm and massaged her face with her other hand, trying to ease the pain she felt. She cursed at herself for not moving fast enough, but then again, she was used to doing most of the attacking. Most of the humanoid monsters either used magic or swung a weapon only once before Laneele set in for a kill. Humanoid archer monsters were no problem since they took their time nocking an arrow in place and usually fired at most two arrows before Laneele dodged and dropped them to the ground.

Watching Laneele shake her arm gave Kakai a curious thought. Was she not used to receiving what she could give? Kakai hoped that wasn’t the case. If she trained without weapons and survived this long, surely she was able to take a few hits herself. Kakai began to charge again, this time with more aggressiveness.

Laneele began backing up, but due to Kakai’s range, he was able to reach her in no time. Kakai began throwing punches, forcing Laneele to take more steps back. Laneele, keeping a better focus, was able to successfully dodge all his punches while stepping back, until she found she could no longer move back.

Kakai had backed her into stone wall. Clever. So focused was she on dodging that she failed to stay aware of her surroundings. At Laneele’s surprised look at where she ended up, Kakai took the chance to pull back his arm and throw his punch with all his might.

Laneele ducked and rolled out of the way, diving under Kakai’s swinging arm. When she turned her head to look at Kakai, her eyes widened. Kakai’s arm was elbow-deep in the wall. She watched him pull his arm out of the wall, a giant hole in its place. Laneele stood up and stared. That was exactly where her head was! Kakai could have easily bashed her face in, killing her instantly.

Laneele was frightened with the same fear she felt when she witnessed Nathias’ demise. The fear made her body tense, practically to the point of paralyzing her. By the gods, what was going on? Wasn’t this supposed to be just a test? Regaining control of her body, Laneele briefly checked her surroundings before focusing on Kakai. Direct attacks appeared to have no effect. As she tried to think of her options, Kakai began charging at her again.

Instead of standing her ground, Laneele turned and ran towards two stone pillars standing side by side, a few feet apart. Running at full speed, she leaped at one side of the pillar, feet firmly on the wall, then pushed off. She quickly turned to grab the ledge of the opposite pillar. Planting her feet against its side, she pushed off again, grabbing the higher ledge of the original pillar. She continued jumping higher, back and forth between the pillars until she grabbed the top ledge of the higher of the two pillars, then pushed herself off and landed on top of the shorter pillar. From her crouched position, she stood up, watching Kakai catch up to her.

As Kakai ran to Laneele, he watched her nimbly jump between the two pillars and land on top of the shorter one. Just where did she learn to do that? She had reached the top of the pillar just as he was catching up to her.

Kakai stood at the foot of the shorter pillar and called out to her, “Running away?”

Laneele, looking down from her perch, hesitantly replied, “Not running, just…assessing the situation.” She never meant to run. She needed more time to figure out how to defeat Kakai. This sort of situation is unprecedented. Never had she come across a warrior so challenging, despite desiring such a challenge. Clearly she received more than she bargained for. True, she needed the challenge to hone her skills, but she secretly craved the challenge for her own selfish reasons, one of those reasons being her ego. Obviously her selfishness got the better of her, as it’s highly possible that she may be defeated by Kakai, the first warrior to experience her skills. This was not the result she was expecting. She expected defeating Kakai and impressing the orc chiefs enough to pass on her skills. But to lose her first match against a fellow warrior? Her pride would have none of that.

Kakai curiously looked up at Laneele. Assessing a situation? Could it be due to the fact that she’s never used her skills on a warrior before? Kakai decided to see just how well she could “assess a situation.”

Kakai called out to her, “Well, then assess this!”

Kakai threw a flurry of punches into the stone pillar Laneele was standing on. Laneele was forced to crouch down as the tremors from Kakai’s punches rumbled through the pillar. Keeping a steady position, she watched Kakai below.

After several punches, Kakai took several steps back and looked up at Laneele. At first, nothing seemed to happen.

Laneele kept a crouched position, wondering why Kakai stopped and stepped back. She then began to hear noises from below, ones that sounded like rocks crumbling. Eventually, she felt a jolt. She grabbed the sides of the platform, then felt herself leaning forward.

The lower area where Kakai punched the pillar began to crumble and collapse. This caused the pillar to begin leaning forward, top portion first.

Realizing what Kakai did, Laneele kept her balance and held onto the pillar. As she began to fall forward, the stacked rocks that formed the pillar began to fall and separate. Laneele knew she was too high up to jump down to the ground without incurring serious injury, so she hopped backwards onto the other rock that was already on its way down. She continued to hop backwards to the other rocks that were falling behind her.

The orc chiefs watched in the distance as Laneele hopped backwards onto the rocks behind her.

“Interesting,” Varkees said. “She’s jumping backward from rock to rock to slow down her descent as the rest of the rocks fall forward.”

Kakai watched as Laneele made the first jump backwards. He took several steps to the side to avoid the first falling stone. As it hit the ground and bounced away, the other stone came down near the spot where the previous one fell. As the other stones plummeted to the ground, they began to kick up dirt and sand, forming a cloud of dust around Kakai as they fell. He immediately saw this to his advantage.

Laneele landed safely on the ground, her guard up ready for any attack. However, because of the cloud of dust that formed from the falling stones, she was on high alert. Though she couldn’t get a good visual on Kakai, she kept her eyes and ears open, waiting for any kind of movement.

Laneele heard a noise, then what sounded like a grunt, then saw a large stone coming at her. As she quickly dodged to the side, she saw another large stone fly towards her. Quickly clasping her hands together into a fist, she raised it above her head and, with a downward force, smashed the stone to pieces before it hit her. She then silently moved to another location to try to throw off Kakai’s aim and figure out where the hell he was.

The orc chiefs saw her obliteration of the stone with surprised looks, as this was the first time to actually witness the destructiveness of her physical strength. It could possibly rival the Flame Lord’s.

Another stone was thrown, but not quite in Laneele’s direction. It was several feet away from Laneele’s current position. As she watched it fly in a different direction, her peripheral vision caught movement. When she turned her head to see what it was, all she saw was a large hand reaching for her. Too slow to react, Laneele found the hand wrapped around her neck. As she grabbed Kakai’s wrist with her left hand, she found herself being shoved backwards until her back hit a wall. On the moment of impact, her right hand was pinned to the wall by Kakai’s other hand. Opening eyes she didn’t realize she had closed, Laneele looked up to see Kakai’s face.

Kakai threw the first two stones to get an idea of Laneele’s position. Despite the light elf’s silent movement, he watched for the disturbance in the cloud of dust to give her away. When he figured out her position, he threw the third stone as a distraction and quickly charged at her.

Now he had her, surprised at how easy it was to catch her. Was this truly the outsider from the prophecy?

“Do you yield, light elf?” Kakai demanded.

The orc chiefs watched Laneele become trapped in the Flame Lord’s grip. One orc chief shook his head. Another stood with his mouth slightly open. Another orc chief stood silent, then turned around and began to walk away.

Laneele stared at Kakai in the face, eyes beginning to water and turn red from Kakai’s choke hold. The pressure was unbearable; she was having trouble breathing.

With one hand pinned and the other hand pulling on Kakai’s wrist so that she could somewhat breathe, Laneele tried to kick him away, but found she couldn’t lift her foot. Kakai used his legs to immobilize Laneele’s, pressing his knees against Laneele’s knees and using his shins to keep her from moving her feet. He knew he was crushing her against the wall, but this was the only way he could think of to quickly immobilize most of her limbs and have an advantage.

Being in this sort of situation was a predicament for Laneele. She knew what to do only if an enemy was at a distance. Kakai was much too close to her for her to do anything, and all her limbs were immobile, save for her left hand which she had to use to concentrate on Kakai’s grip on her throat. She was at a loss. The only thing left to do was to yield. She closed her eyes, ready to speak.

Don’t give up!

Laneele heard a voice. It definitely wasn’t Kakai’s. Maybe her conscience?

“But I’m trapped,” her mind’s voice responded. “I can’t break free. He’s much too strong.”

You can’t give up. The Laneele I fell in love with would never give up.

Laneele, upon hearing those words, opened her eyes in shock. But something was different. Kakai was no longer in front of her. Her arms were down to her sides, free to move around. She brought her arms up and looked at them. She began to notice that she was no longer pushed up against a wall, but rather standing in an open field. Laneele looked around to gauge her surroundings. Nothing seemed familiar. As she looked around, all she could see was grass. The field seemed to go on forever in every direction. This was not the Valley of Heroes. By the gods, where was she?

As the wind blew through, Laneele tried to recall what happened just moments before. She remembered being forced up against a wall by Kakai. She remembered the choke hold he had on her. She was about to yield when she heard a voice speak to her. That voice sounded very familiar.

Right then, the same voice called out, “You are stronger than you think, Laneele.”

Laneele turned towards the sound of the voice. Her mouth dropped open at what she saw. Standing in the field several feet away from her was someone she never thought she’d ever see again.

Nathias.
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Old 10-08-2010, 04:43 PM   #126
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Old 07-11-2011, 02:23 PM   #127
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Default Re: Alternate Secrets

Due to current events in my real life and the future of Lineage II, it is unfortunate that I will no longer be continuing this thread.

I cannot continue to write a story I no longer have time for, and the upcoming update for the game is making it difficult for me to adjust the story accordingly.

If anyone would like to take over this thread and continue the story in his/her own way, by all means, go nuts.

It was good to see such positive comments about the story. I'm sorry that it has to end here.
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