When Bryran had woken up in the middle of the night to find his elven traveling companion gone, he had known that something was likely to go very, very wrong very soon. Somehow, the elven archer just seemed to attract trouble…The warrior had immediately stood up, grabbed the elf's walking stick, and poked his head out of the alcove, looking around quickly for any signs of trouble before slipping out into the shadows and heading towards the rock wall. There hadn't been any doubt in his mind that if Kellindil had gone anywhere under his own power, he would have headed straight to where there was the most danger.

Once an adventurer, always an adventurer, he'd thought wryly before pressing himself up against the natural wall in order to stay hidden while he waited for some sign that Kellindil was indeed in the orc camp.

He hadn't had to wait long, as sure enough he heard an angry orc's bellowing coming from somewhere in the center of the camp, and the orc sentry he could see guarding the space around the boulder wall run from his post and head towards the disturbance. The warrior wasn't foolish enough to rush around the natural barrier though, since if he remembered his strategy lessons there were always at least two sentries posted at each entrance and exit. He wasn't sure if orcs followed that protocol or not, but he wasn't taking any chances.

And it was a good thing he didn't because, sure enough, he had heard an orc roar right behind the natural wall. He had quickly drawn his sword and slipped through the small space between the stone wall and the river and seen one of the green-skinned monsters prepared to chop his wayward traveling companion into tiny pieces.

He hadn't thought twice before running the monster through and then helping the elf to escape the orc camp, returning the elf's walking stick to him shortly after they began running for their lives and listening to the angry bellows of the orc camp fade into the distance behind them.

The sun was up by the time they found a path that led up to the top of the cliff that formed one side of the Dead Orc Pass, and it was nearly noon by the time the two traveling companions finally deemed it safe to stop and try and catch their breath.

Kellindil was leaning forward and gasping for breath as sweat dripped down his face and he was leaning almost all of his weight on his walking stick, and he was seriously considering keeping the branch after he had completely healed and having it made into a proper staff. It had been far too useful for him to consider just tossing it away once he reached his kin in Coldwood. He continued gasping for breath as he glanced over at Bryran to see how the warrior was doing, and he was treated to the sight of the human leaning heavily against a tree with his chest heaving and his head tipped back as he gasped for breath.

The elven archer knew he was in for a tongue lashing to end all tongue lashings, but he was sure that Bryran would understand after the warrior read over what the papers he had stolen contained. He still had a hard time believing it himself, but he understood orcish well enough to know that he hadn't made a mistake in translating the script. Though, a second set of eyes couldn't hurt, he acknowledged, and after he was sure that he could stand up straight without risk of falling flat on his face he straightened up and looked over at Bryran, somewhat dreading the conversation to come.

The warrior did not disappoint, and as soon as he got his breath back he started in on Kellindil, lecturing the elf sharply, "What in the Nine Hells were you thinking, going off on your own?! If I hadn't woken up and saw that you were gone, you would have been killed! Of all the irresponsible-!" He continued along that line for almost fifteen minutes, scolding the elf who was doubtlessly decades his senior about being so reckless as to sneak into an orc camp and almost get himself caught, before he calmed down enough to take several deep breaths and be grateful that he had been around to save the trouble-magnet of an elf from what would no doubt be a very painful death at the hands of orcs.

Kellindil kept his gaze down throughout the blistering lecture, feeling rather like a young apprentice being lectured by an instructor about not looking around before shooting arrows after having accidentally shot that same instructor in the buttocks with a practice arrow. Now that had been something to explain to his parents after he came home after having been banished from the archery range for a full month…When Bryran paused for breath, the elf seized his chance and withdrew the papers he had stolen from the orcs from his pocket, unfolding them as he spoke earnestly to the warrior, "My friend, I know you are angry with me and you have every right to be, but I think we have more important problems right now than just my tendency to wander into danger!" He handed Bryran the papers and waited anxiously for his companion to decipher the text written on the documents.

Bryran silently read over what was written on the papers, his face becoming more shocked by the minute, and he silently lifted his brown eyes to lock with Kellindil's blue ones as they both realized just what the documents were describing:

Plans to invade and conquer Sundabar.

Both the elf and the warrior were quiet for several long minutes before Bryran murmured, "It appears that our trip to Coldwood will have to wait, my elven friend, because I think that alerting Helm Dwarf-Friend is more important." The elven archer merely nodded in agreement, having met the ruler of Sundabar and having a great deal of respect for him, as Bryran read further, trying to find out when the attack was supposed to take place and where it was coming from, only to find something much different but no less troubling.

Bryran frowned, an uneasy feeling gathering in the pit of his stomach, before he looked over at Kellindil, who looked just as uneasy because of the warrior's expression, and he said, "It seems that the orc leader Graul has been slain, and that a younger, more ambitious orc has taken his place. What's worse, this new leader, going by the name 'Brael', has apparently formed an alliance with several wandering goblin clans and an entire family of stone giants. Also, another orc clan from near Adbar has apparently promised to aid in the attack." That was most troubling, and judging by the look on Kellindil's face, the elf agreed that that was definitely not good.

Kellindil swallowed nervously, feeling the dread from the night before return even stronger than ever, and he nodded as he said, "Yes, we must warn Sundabar as soon as possible. And besides, Sundabar is a good place to stop for supplies before we begin the trek towards Coldwood." He tried to make light of the very serious situation, even though Sundabar was in the opposite direction from Coldwood, and he had to wonder if he had indeed offended a deity at some point and just failed to realize it. He had found more trouble in the past several tendays than he had in an entire year of adventuring with his friends.

He absently thought that he couldn't wait to tell his kin of this series of misadventures, as he and Bryran began discussing the best route to get to Sundabar as quickly as possible, because both companions understood that time was of the essence.

And enter the plot twist! What, you didn't think I'd let him make it to the mountains that easily, did you? Nope, he had to run into some kind of trouble! ^_^ I am so sorry that it has taken me this long to update, but the inspiration for this story has been buried under a pile of other plot bunnies. Consider this a belated Christmas present, and I hope you all had a happy holiday!

Also, I was looking through some of my FR books and it came to my attention that Sundabar was in the opposite direction of where Kellindil was going – apologies if I said otherwise at some point! XP As always, constructive criticism is welcome! Please review and tell me what you think!