Author's Note: It's been about 2 years since I've actually played DAOC. I have no idea if my character still exists, although I hope she does. I played on Midgard/Bedevere server; my character's name was Solain Strakesbane, and when I left I was a level 48 thane and belonged to the Omen guild.

I write all this because I haven't experienced DAOC with all the expansions, the new worlds, the new housing, the new whatever. I've been out of the loop a long time. I was still around for Darkness Falls, however. I wrote this a long time ago as response to a challenge on one of the DAOC boards; all characters included were actual at the time. The events written about also happened, and this was my spin on them.

The Thane exhaled slowly, quietly; a ghostlike slip of steam escaping her mouth was the only indication she'd moved. She was crouched at the base of a large conifer, well behind the large draping snow laden boughs. Pressed tight against the tree trunk, she could still see the Albion mile gate looming some distance away. She'd been watching it, uninterrupted, for many hours. As if to remind her just how long she'd been in this cramped position, a muscle in her left leg began to spasm, and she winced at the pain. Very carefully she shifted her weight; moving so that she leaned almost completely upon the tree trunk. She couldn't stop the gentle clinking noises her armor made as she moved; it was with bated breath she waited for long moments upon being settled securely once again. The only sounds to be heard were that of the birds surrounding the area, and upon occasion the shuddering howl of the winter wolves which roamed the area to the north.

Satisfied she was alone, she allowed tense muscles to relax. This close to the Albion Portal, she couldn't afford to be compliant. Archers and assassins possessed the skill to move through this pine forest almost undetected, and she had been unfortunate enough to run amok of them many times before. This was, however, her first time in the frontier alone since attaining her new power – she was now a force to be reckoned with. Said power, however, wouldn't avail her if she were to be paralyzed or stunned from a distance, and that was the reason she was kneeling now beneath the snow cover of an enormous tree.

Eyes bleary from the chill wind which blew incessantly here in the frigid north, the thane allowed her gaze to wander, and it fell upon her kite shield lying face up close by. It was too cumbersome to manoeuvre in this closed space; she could quickly retrieve it if she had need. The guild emblem on the shield, that of a raven against a yellow background and underlined in grey, brought a momentary rush of pride to the thane. Omen was a guild of many powerful and influential people throughout Midgard, and it was an honor to have been asked to join. She was relatively new to the ranks; she'd only belonged for several days, and before that had been one of the heads of Frey's Alfheim ... Abruptly her train of thought derailed as with a screeching sound which resounded throughout the stillness of the forest, the enormous double doors of the Albion mile gate swung open. She watched with nervous anticipation as a form emerged from behind the doors ... and felt relief flood through her as she recognized the man clad all in black and red. He was a Shadowblade, one of the most prominent in the realm, who went by the name of Jagar Santovenia. Resisting the urge to call out, her eyes followed the assassin as he walked completely in the open with a confidence only thousands of kills could bring away from the mile gate and further into Odin's Gate. He had been staking out targets, she knew, for that was how he attained his status. It would be nice, she thought a little wistfully, to posess the skills he had; to be able to blend in perfectly with surroundings until you were almost invisible ...

She waited until Jagar had rounded the bend, and then stood. Her legs protested the sudden movement, but she ignored their complaint and bent to retrieve her shield. Once it was again fastened to her arm, she tried with as much stealth as she could muster to navigate out from under the tree with some measure of silence. Every nerve in her body was fraught with tension; who was to say an archer wasn't waiting in the towers of the mile gate to take her down with one shot? She would have felt safer with another of her brethren; indeed, had she told her guild mates where she was going they would have been pleased to accompany ...

But she had said nothing, and there was a reason. She was going to cross the mile gate, and meet on the other side one of the enemy Albs for a formal duel. While duelling wasn't frowned upon, to let others know would be to invite them all, and this was to be strictly a one on one. Some couldn't resist interfering in such things, and it would be rude to say the least to have her opponent suddenly swarmed with allies eager for realm glory.

Anxious, the Thane walked quickly to the mile gate. Before pushing the great doors open, she cast a glance behind her to ascertain that she was, indeed alone. She heard it before she saw it; the sound of many voices and the rattling of heavy armor. She sighed. A large group was headed this way from her side of the mile gate, and they were making no effort at all to hide their approach. Her duel would have to wait.


At the sound of her name, she turned. The smirk on her face was genuine, and she said in reply, "Dekroth."

The man in question was a Runemaster, obviously so in robes of vivid crimson and carrying with him an ebony staff. He had attained highest power available, and while Solain in fact wasn't far behind him in that aspect she still found him intimidating. He was surrounded by other members of his guild, Cavalry of Vengeance, and recognizing some of them made her smile grow wider.

"Just what," demanded a Norsewoman healer known as Ashleigh with an easy smile, "are you doing out here by yourself?"

"Wandering around," Solain replied.

"She's lost." Supplied one of the hulking trolls –Boand- bringing up the rear, his voice so deep it was almost painful to listen to. With a toothy grin he bowed to Solain, and she mockingly returned the gesture.

The group halted upon reaching Solain, and she took a head count. Eight people, excluding herself, were here, and more than half were warriors like herself. This wasn't a keep raiding party. This was a hunting party.

"Join us?" asked a kobold caster she didn't recognize.

She opened her mouth to reply when suddenly her knees gave, and she found herself on the ground, with a searing, rending pain radiating through her side. Unable to breathe for the constricting agony, her stunned eyes travelled down her body to wear a feathered shaft protruded from her side. Shouts erupted all around her, and as her vision faded she could see -barely- heavily armored figures pouring through the milegate.

Her last breath was a bitter laugh. The Albs had arrived, and they'd come in force.

"Solain? Are you alright?"

She was sitting in the snow, propped up by Ashleigh. Heavy disorientation plagued her, and she felt nauseous; it was always this way after being resurrected. Around them the battle still waged; the Midgardians, while being thoroughly taken off guard, were putting up a vicious fight. Ashleigh and the other Norsewoman healer, Cora, had retreated to the tree line where they were still in range to cast their healing magic. The kobold Runemaster and Dekroth stood not far away; their power was causing fire to rain down upon the enemy. As the sickness faded, Solain came to her feet and withdrew from her side her war hammer. It was a cherished weapon; it had been a gift from fellow Thane Jurand, and when used in battle the iron head was always bathed in deadly purple flame. She cast a grateful glance at Ashleigh, took a deep breath, brought her shield up to bear, and sprinted towards the mass of fighting bodies ...

Chaos. She was immediately surrounded by chaos. All around her where sounds; screams, the harsh clang of metal on metal, the repetitive chanting of the casters and healers. Solain had launched herself at a target she realized to be a target similar in power to herself; it was a male Paladin in burnished copper armor. He saw her coming and met her charge; her hammer collided with his enormous sword and skittered along its edge. For a moment they circled each other thus; knowing she would lose when it came to brute strength she cried out to Mjollnir for her magic. The skies thundered with his reply; lightning crashed down between Thane and Paladin and sent them both flying.

Breathless, Solain scrambled to her feet. The Paladin was several feet away, climbing slowly to his feet, and she leapt at him. Stunned by the previous attack, he was no contest for her now, and it was with relative ease she brought her hammer hard against his head and watched as he collapsed. An enraged cry brought her head around, to see that Dekroth was being swarmed by the Alb, and everyone else, including Boand, had fallen. The two healers, Ashleigh and Cora had retreated, and Solain knew then that they had lost the battle.

"Sol, RUN!" Dekroth screamed, and she complied instantly. A Skald known to her only as Val joined her in retreat, and seconds later they were reunited with the Healers. The Skald began to sing; her magic settled upon all of them and gifted them with preternatural speed. As they rapidly left the mile gate behind, Solain cast a glance back. Dekroth had fallen, but the Albs weren't in pursuit. They had survived.

And, she mused, moving about to bring up the rear lest they happen upon some of the more unpleasant creatures inhabiting the frontier, there would be time enough later for vengeance.

An: Well, that's that. I have more; I may post it. I found this story on backup disk I forgot I had which also contained all sorts of screenshots of my Thane and her friends. Seeing them made me wish fervently that I could play again.