Taking her helm off, Chrysania shook her head a bit to try to loosen the hair that had been plastered to her head. Realizing it had little effect; she set the hem down on the sand of the beach and began removing her armor in pieces.
"A swim in this ocean might be nice," she mumbled to herself as she battled with the buckle on one of her sleeves. "You would think a trip to the ocean would be a bit more enjoyable than this." Finally free of the sleeves, the boots were next. Sitting on the shore the tugging began. "Damn, I must have half the beach in here," she stated as she finally got one boot removed and watched the sand run from it when she held it upside down.
Finally free of all the armor Chrysania stood up and started walking into the waves. The water was not as cool as she expected, but it was still better than her armor. Slowly the water rose around her, as she walked out further. At last she dunked her head under the water and began to slowly swim in a lazy circle. She began to wonder how she got so far from where she had started. Closing her eyes, she turned over and floated on her back, enjoying the warm caress of the sunbeams on her face.
The waves rose and fell in a sleepy rhythm, and Chrysania realized that she was tired. The ocean might not be the best place for a nap. Turning back to her stomach, she looked to see that somehow the shore was nowhere near her. "That's odd, I haven't been out here that long." Moving her arms back and forth she spun in a small circle, trying to decide which way would be best to swim to find the beach. She saw nothing. "West!" she said and spun a bit and began her swimming. Waves continued to move in their pace and seemed to be quickening, which usually meant shore. Chrysania continued and just ahead spied a bit of land. Finally she landed on the beach and realized this was not where she started from.
"Well now," she said in amazement. A large tower loomed on a hill. "I wonder who lives in a place like this in the middle of the ocean. Glancing down she realized she was not exactly attired to be a house guest. She combed her hair the best she could with her fingers and brushed the sand off her leather tunic and breeches. Well breeches if you could call them that, Chrysania had modified them so they were more comfortable to wear in armor and to be sure they didn't cover much.
"Well, time to go a calling," she smirked and began walking towards the tower. As she continued towards the tower she noticed many animals and plants that she could not identify. All were quite different than any she had seen in all her travels. The flowers seemed to move with more than the wind, almost as if they were alive. "Alive, how silly is that?" Chrysania laughed to herself and continued walking. The plants cleared and she found herself standing in front of the tower. It loomed above her and the doors were enormous.
"My," she gasped. "Well time to find out who lives inside." She smiled and continued up to the doors. She knocked on the door and waited. Slowly the door opened and a cool darkness slid from behind the barriers of the door. Chrysania began to realize that this was perhaps not the best place to be and began to back up only to find the way blocked by the flower she had thought were alive. There was no other way to go but into the tower where the darkness swirled with something she could not ascertain.
"Come," rasped a low voice. "We have been waiting for you young one. Yes we have been waiting quite a long time indeed." Rustling and whispers filtered from the darkness. Chrysania began to feel the strength in her will begin to ebb. She shut her eyes, yet the whispers continued and she found herself walking towards the darkness. She knew she should not go yet found herself unable to stop. Slowly the shadows gathered her in and the doors closed.
On the ocean, the boat for Freeport passed dangerously close to the island. A young deck hand stood in confusion. He could have sworn he saw an island there a moment ago, but it seemed to shimmer out of sight. Shaking his head he continued on muttering to himself, "Illusions, I be sure glad t'take a break from this sea. I am beginnin' to see ole wives tales. Island that disappears indeed!"
A dark figure smiled malevolently from the shadows. She knew the master had plans for the fair haired, lavender-eyed half-elf that arrived on the doorstep this afternoon. Not many ever found this island, and those that did, were never here on accident. Slowly gliding from shadow to shadow with silken grace, Iliania had a purpose this evening. She was the Master's shadow, his eyes, his ears, his extension of self. When the moon rose to its fullness in one week, she would have all that was needed to ensure that the fair haired one would either be one with the shadows or she would be dead.
"NOOO!" Chrysania sat up with a start. All she could see was shadows and of that she was glad. These shadows were alive. They swirled around her, touching her ever so softly and briefly. They were a madness. She began to breathe slower and began to wonder if the shadows were not the madness, but that perhaps her mind had slipped. She could remember nothing of how she had arrived here, but this is not where she belonged. The question was where did she belong? Was somebody looking for her? Was there nobody to worry after? Was she even in a prison? Could she move about as she wished?
Deciding it was enough of the questioning, she pushed back the covers and stood from the bed. Blinking a few more times, her eyes began to adjust to the constant grayness. She saw that she had no clothing, and wondered where she had put it. As if her thoughts formed, she noticed a garment lay carefully across a high-backed chair. She walked over and ran her hands over it; it was a silver velvet dress. Puzzled, she tried to remember when she had last worn it. Shrugging, she slowly began to get dressed. The velvet clung to her upper torso with a high neckline and tight long sleeves that ended in long dripping lace. The heavy skirts flowed from her waist in wave of shimmering sparkles. To any observing, they would think she moved on the foam of a crested wave. Chrysania spun about in a circle, smiling dreamily enjoying the feel of the skirts bellowing out from her. She let her head fall back and she began to laugh as she continued to spin.
"Master," rasped the voice, "it appears so far the serum is working. The young one is not afraid."
"Yesssss," hissed the darkness. "I will own her. Seven days hence, she will be mine and then we can begin the step to spread the shadows across Norrath."
"Yes Master and Iliania has already begun her travels."
"Exccccelllent!" The shadows gathered closer to the being and continued their whispers of praise. Self-satisfied the being smiled, and those that whispered saw the fangs of the being exposed. They knew that soon they would see blood on those fangs. When the full moon rose they would be free from their banishment of shadows, and they would storm across Norrath with a vengeance.
Iliania gathered the cape about her, the hood hung low and if one looked hard enough they could just see the flint grey eyes looking from the shadows. She made a gesture with her hand the front door to the tower opened. She was off to Freeport to gather the last of the ingredients for the ceremony this coming Friday night. She was so excited that the full moon would bring about her final release from the constant shadows of the island. Not that she could not go places but her Master could not. She did not like to travel far from him. Even this small trip to Freeport was hard on her. But it had to be done.
As she walked down the path the bloodthorne slid back, clearing the way for her. Finally, she stepped onto the sand of the beach. Murmuring to herself she levitated and began walking out onto the water. She stood in the path the boat took on its trip back to Freeport. When it passed she would gain passage.
Chrysania slowly walked down the hallway, taking in her surroundings. How odd that there were no windows or doors. The entire tower was in a constant state of grey. Periodically, one of the shadows would flit by, caressing her arm softly, reassuringly. Up ahead there was a room that seemed to be somehow different. It called to her. Curious, she walked forward to the summons. As she stepped into the room, she saw a very large table. Around the table were several chairs, but they were not set close, rather they were arranged back a bit, as to offer somebody sitting in them a clear view of the entire table.
"How odd," she whispered as she walked around the table, trailing her fingertips along the surface. Finally at the end of the table she noticed there was a series of steps. "Ah, this is not a table it is a stage of sorts." She smiled softly and gathered her skirts in her hands. Slowly walking up the steps, she finally stood on top of the stage. She walked the length and began humming softly to herself.
Suddenly she was surrounded by shadows. They swirled around her and rustled. They twined around her torso and neck. They covered her face and smothered her. Panicking, she tried to scream but could not. She collapsed to the stage and began to cry. Just as swift as the shadows had appeared they were gone. All but one. It whispered to her softly, reassuringly. Slowly Chrysania smiled again and took the small wineglass offered to her. She sipped, its thick sweetness coated her mouth and ran down her throat.
"Yes, I understand," she smiled at the shadow. "I must never ever sing or hum. I will not anger the Master." Her eyes glazed over and she stood again. Walking the length of stage she returned to the steps and descended to the floor. Slowly she swayed across the room and out the door. "I will know everything soon," she murmured. Trailing her hand along the wall as she went, she continued wandering the halls.
Red eyes watched the girl as she wandered. The serum had almost been broken. Only his minions had prevented it and at the last moment. He had to have something else that could hold her attention. But what? Taking one of his sharp talons, he traced it across his wrist, drawing blood. The droplets began to form a small pool. The Master whispered a few words and the wound closed up. Then he withdrew a vial of powder from the folds of his cloak. He began an incantation while sprinkling the powder over the blood. As he finished the last word, the blood began to slowly move. It began to take shape and then, standing in front of the Master was a small bear cub.
"Find her in the halls. Watch her. Never let her sing." The cub lowered its head slightly and then turned to find the one it was commanded to. Then Master narrowed its eyes as the cub left. Not much longer. Soon he would be free to travel Norrath.
Chrysania turned a corner and continued along another endless hallway. Just up ahead she saw a small form moving. Puzzled, she walked towards it. This one was not one of the shadows. As she got closer she saw it was a small bear cub. "Why hello small one. How did you get here?" She knelt down trying to coax the cub closer. Slowly the cub inched closer. She held out her hand and the cub sniffed her fingertips. Suddenly the cub licked her hand and she laughed. "Why feeling a bit braver are we?" The cub came closer and then all but knocker her over trying to crawl onto her lap. "Well now," she smiled as she pushed her way to standing. She gathered the cub in her arms. "Now I have somebody to keep me company. Did you know these halls never end?" The cub licked her face. Laughing, Chrysania continued on down the hall.
"My you sure are a sweet little thing," Chrysania smiled rubbing the belly of the bear cub. "Well time for our walk, to see how the halls have changed today." She scooped up the cub and headed out the door. Stopping a moment, she looked first left than right. "Hmmm, which way today my little friend? Let's try left."
Iliania walked down the street of Freeport and headed to the run-down section of the city. It was there she would find the final ingredients. Passing dilapidated tents and broken wooden crates she finally stood in front of the shop she was seeking. Pushing the door open, she entered.
"Wot ya wantin ladeee?" a small figure asked from behind a pair of soot-covered curtains. Iliania walked over to the shelf and began inspecting the contents of the various. Picking up one clay jar and trying to read the scrawling on the side she shook her head in disgust and set it back down.
"Well, since cleanliness is not going to happen, take this list and gather all the items on it. If you don't have it, find it. You have two hours." Iliania handed the parchment to the dirty little gnome.
"Wot be in dis fer me? Why I be wantin' ta be gittin' dis here list complete in two hours?" the gnome glanced at the list and then at the figure cloaked in shadows. Suddenly he saw an ivory gleam from within the darkness of the hood.
"I am so glad you asked me that my little one," Iliania grinned wickedly. "If you gather the list in a timely fashion, not only will you have a nice purse of platinum, but you have the opportunity to offer your undying gratitude of your miserable little existence to the Master."
"Wwh, wh, why yes M'lady," stammered the little gnome. Searching about the room frantically, looking in the corners for the hidden shadows. He had heard of this Master, and here in his shop was one of his servants. "Where shall I send the gathered components?"
"My you are a smart little thing," Iliania smiled. "You can find me in the tavern across the way. You have two hours." Bowing so that his forehead scraped the floor, the little gnome screwed his eyes shut waiting for a blow. Finally, sensing the room was empty again he stood up. Looking at the list, he frantically began filling a crate with what he had on his shelves.
Shadows swirled about the Master, whispering praises. "Masssterrr, the all powerful, you shall very soon walk the realms." rasped one. "How could any oppose you, you are so powerful," hissed another. "Soon we will cover the lands in shadows," all the shadows said in unison.
The Master listened to them speak and his confidence grew. "Indeed! None could possibly stop me. I have become the all powerful. Soon I will rule the entire lands of Norrath!" Around him the shadows rustled.
Chrysania awoke to a cold, wet nose on her cheek. "Well good morning little one," she mumbled sleepily. Stretching and yawning, she turned back over and tried to go back to sleep. The little cub continued pushing its cold nose into her neck. "Aw, what is so important that we have to get up now?" she said. She reached over and starred scratching the cub behind the ears. Suddenly she was wised awake. "It's Friday!" She sat up and and swiftly brushed away the covers placing her feet on the floor.
"What do I get to wear today?" Chrysania smiled. Each day was a surprise, new clothes came and went, each more beautiful than the last. Looking about the room she realized nothing had been set out for her. Frowning, she turned to the cub. "I think you got me up too early, the servants haven't even been here yet."
"Well, fair-haired one," Iliania pushed the door open and walked into the room carrying a sapphire blue bundle of cloth. "Yes you are up a bit early, but I think most of us are. This is a very important day." Smiling, Iliania unrolled the cloth across the bed. Chrysania gasped.
"Why it is the most beautiful dress I have ever seen!" She ran her fingers over the satin bodice and velvet skirts. The skirts shimmered, and looked blue at one glance, black at another, and even deep violet at yet another. "Did you make this Iliania?"
"Aye, I did." She turned as a shadow flitted to the door carrying a tray. She walked over to the door and took the tray. "I made the dress, as the Master did bid me. This is a very special dress. Here, drink your morning tonic." She handed Chrysania the glass, which Chrysania drank without hesitation. Iliania set the tray down on the table and walked over to the bed and started undoing the pearl buttons that went down the back of the dress. "Come, let us see if we made this right," she smiled another of her rare smiles.
Chrysania felt a bit hazy but walked over to where Iliania bid her. "Should I eat my breakfast first? I would hate to ruin such a wonderful dress." Chrysania looked around the room, puzzled, trying to figure out why everything suddenly sounded so hollow. It was almost as if she had managed to crawl inside a drum. "Why does everything sound so muffled Iliania? Do you notice it?" She glanced at Iliania, who just smiled at her again. It must be the special day, Iliania never smiled.
"Why Chrysania," whispered Iliania, "it is the special wards being woven for the day. There is much preparation that needs to be done today. Some things will seem odd to you, others very commonplace. Don't let them trouble you." She picked up the dress and walked over to Chrysania. She put it over Chrysania's head and started fitting everything in place. She fitted the sleeves in the right position so that the tops of the hands were covered in the dripping blue lace but that the inner wrist was exposed. She whispered a small cantrip and the fabric went taught, holding it in place. She walked behind Chrysania and inspected the fit across the shoulders and back. Nodding to herself she started on the hardest part. She tugged the bodice snug with the hidden strings sewn inside, pulling them tighter and tighter.
"Iliania, I can barely breathe," Chrysania protested. Iliania just smiled to herself and continued tightening all the strings. Chrysania frowned but thought that the Master must want it to be this way if he had commanded Iliania to fashion it so. Finally done with the tugging, Iliania began with the pearl buttons. As she fastened each one, she said an incantation very quietly. Chrysania just stood there, listening to the whisperings of Iliania, the rustling of the shadows, which had begun to get louder and the slow breathing of the bear cub lying on her bed. This is a very exciting day, if she understood right. Perhaps the Master would allow her to sing. She had been working on a lovely ballad, but had to keep it all in her memory, since she had no parchment or a quill to write with. She hoped she could remember it all, seems she forgot things rather easily lately.
"There," Iliania said smugly. "Very nice, if I do say so myself. Yes the shadows were right on your measurements. For once they were a help and not a hindrance." She walked around inspecting Chrysania, making sure that everything was in place. There was a bit of lace out of place on the plunging neckline, and she frowned angrily. "What did you do to the lace?" she spat. Confused, Chrysania merely stood there gaping at Iliania.
"I did nothing," She finally managed." Iliania narrowed her eyes and sneered at Chrysania.
"You've done nothing?" Iliania slapped Chrysania across the face, leaving a burning red mark. "You have done everything! All the Master talks about is Chrysania. Chrysania this, Chrysania that. Well you will not be spoken much of after the moon rises, except in fond remembrance in your noble sacrifice. Then once more I will be all that the Master thinks of. I was here first!"
Chrysania stood holding a hand against her burning cheek. She tried to make sense of what Iliania had just told her. There was something wrong, but it was just out of grasp of her sliding mind. Sacrifice? What noble sacrifice? Iliania composed herself and pulled a sewing kit from one of the folds of her dress.
"Come, let me fix what you have ruined!" She forced Chrysania to her knees so she could re-sew the lace that had been torn from the neckline. Chrysania knelt silently; watching the flashing of the needle as Iliania deftly sewed the lace back in place. Nodding, satisfied to herself that she had repaired the dress, Iliania told Chrysania to stand again. She noticed that Chrysania appeared to be trying to figure something out. "What is it dear fair-haired one?" she said sarcastically. "Discovering you are not in paradise after all are you?"
"But," Chrysania began, still puzzled "why am I here than? I thought I was to help you with something very important." She looked about the room and saw the shadows were beginning to fill it from all sides. They slid from the corners, across the floor, down the walls. Somewhere inside, Chrysania knew she should be terrified. Shadows continued to come, they circled around her and wrapped her in their whispers and rustling. Next all she saw was blackness.
Deral finally waded onto the shore of the Spectre Isle. Smelling the air, he noticed the cloying scent of ritual candles. Following the scent he came upon the slumped form of Tanaddar. He frowned and looked about. He spied a parchment weighted down with a rock and knelt down to pick it up.
By the time you have reached me I will have begun my journeys to the plane of Shadows to find Chrysania. It is very important that you do not try to wake me. No matter what I say, or how I may appear to be pained, I must remain as such. Traversing the Shadow Plane is dangerous, and can be fatal. Unfortunately, this is the only way to recover Chrysania. Once I finally have her, be ready for battle, for when my battle ends in the shadows, your battle will just begin. I will be in no condition to aide you, and I am unsure of how Chrysania will be.
Deral cursed under his breath that Tanaddar had not awaited his arrival. He could hear the keening of the spectres and the rattling bones of wandering skeletons. Muttering under his breath as he took out his fletching kit, Deral sat down and made ready for a long wait, for it was midday, and from all his recollections, the Shadows did not gain true power until after sunset.
Tanaddar stood in the realms of swirling shadows and mists. Formless creatures swept by him on tasks and errands. So far the aura of protection was strong enough that he was still undetected. Now he had to focus his thoughts to find the Lady Chrysania. Closing his eyes and whispering under his breath, he could barely detect the slight glow of the Avatar. He had to hurry, for although the glow signified a being that was not of the shadows, the glow was fading fast.
Chrysania stood on the stage. Seated before her were what appeared to be hundreds of beings surrounded in shadow, or perhaps they were shadow. It was hard to think clearly. Somewhere in the back of her mind she knew that something was going to happen. If she could just remember. To her left stood Iliania, holding a medium sized box. All appeared to be waiting for something.
All at once the rustling and whispers stopped. The silence was thick, as the back doors of the room opened and a dark figure stood in the doorway. All sat, holding their breath, not wanting to gain the slightest attention to them self. Slowly, the form moved forward. Shadows gathered around it, making its true form indiscernible. All that any could tell was that the being was tall and had glowing red eyes. It appeared to be floating across the floor. Deliberately, it mounted the steps to the stage. Finally, it came to rest just in front of Chrysania. One clawed had rose up and touched Chrysania's cheek, a sharp talon slowly traced her lips, drawing blood. The being then turned to face those present in the room. Reaching up, and removing the hood from its head, the face of an Iksar sneered at all that dared look directly into his eyes. Many glanced at him, the swiftly bowed their heads.
Tanaddar continued on his journey and finally came to a shift in the realm. A doorway had been opened here. Shadows slowly filtered through the rift into a room beyond. Stepping into the line, Tanaddar followed. Just past the rift, there was a room filled with chairs and hundreds of rustling and whispering shadows. On a stage in the center of the room stood a woman in a sapphire blue gown that could only be the Lady Chrysania. Next to her stood the Handmaiden to the Master. The Master he had seen die many years ago. Growling quietly, he watched as the Handmaiden smiled at the Lady Chrysania and spoke some undecipherable words. This was not going to be an easy task.
Deral finished the last of his arrows as the sun began its final plunge into the sea. Taking out his blades, he tested the sharpness and nodded in satisfaction. Placing the blades before him carefully on the ground, Deral lowered his head silently lifting a prayer to his Mother. "Tunare, much have you given to me, a meager servant. My time on Norrath has been spent teaching and living your ways. A battle is soon to occur in which I will need your guidance and strength. Send unto me a plan for this battle, the courage to fight it and the strength to survive. In all things I shall give you the glory as I have done all my life." Before Deral appeared a messenger of Tunare, a familiar face. "Muushala? My have you grown." spoke Deral softly. Muushala smiled softly, "Deral sit we must talk of this battle plan." Deral turned his attention to the words of Muushala and carefully noted each word.
The Master looked about the room and was pleased. Gesturing to Iliania to come forward, he began to speak.
"Thissss day we will cease to be chained to the shadowssss! We will cover the lands of Norrath. We will rule the cities, and slay all the non believersss!" Reaching into the opened box, The Master withdrew an ornately designed dagger. Holding it above his head, he turned slowly so that all in the room could see. As he turned, a creaking issued from the ceiling and a panel slowly moved back to reveal the full moon. Moonbeams shone down upon the dagger and sparkles issued forth from the gems. "With the final sacrifice, we shall be free!" the Master bellowed. "Iliania, bring forth the sacrifice."
"As you command," Iliania bowed her head and turned to Chrysania. Smiling malevolently, she took Chrysania's hand. "Now, my dear, as I promised, you shall be no more and the Master will belong to me alone once again."
"Noo!" Chrysania shouted and tried to pull away.
"We anticipated this," sneered Iliania. With a gesture of her hand the dress grew taught, cutting off Chrysania's breath. Slowly her chest was being crushed. Gasping as best she could, Chrysania fell to her knees.
The Master bent down and drug the gasping form across the stage to the square of glimmering moonlight. Letting her collapse to the floor, clutching her throat continued. Nodding to an unseen figure, slowly the moonlit square began to rise up. Forcing Chrysania to lay on her back, the Master glanced at Iliania. With a small flick of a finger, Chrysania's wrists became fastened to the dais. Unable to breathe or move, Chrysania closed her eyes.
Murmuring a final ward, Tanaddar prepared to approach the stage where the Lady Chrysania stood. He watched as the Master spoke, and Iliania opened the box. He gasped in disbelief as the dagger was withdrawn. The dagger was a myth, it was not supposed to exist. If it did exist it was supposed to be guarded by the keepers of Death's gate. Only those ready to enter the final gates of Death were reportedly able to use the Dagger of Shadows. Narrowing his eyes, Tanaddar realized that the Master must have made a deal. The question was with whom? Looking about the room, he scanned faces. Who here would be most upset at failure? His eyes finally rested on a cloaked figure sitting close to the stage. Knowing what he had to do, Tanaddar slowly started forward.
The Master stepped behind the dais and began to chant, eyes turned to the moon arms raised. The room began to swirl with shadows as the chanting grew louder. Bringing his claws together, he grasped the hilt of the dagger and prepared to plunge it into the heart of the unconscious Chrysania. Saying the final word of the chant the dagger plummeted.
Tanaddar saw the flash of the blade in the moonlight and knew he had to act swiftly. In one fluid motion he drew his weapon and advanced on the stage. Swinging wide with his sword, he knocked back Iliania from the dais. Next he turned to the Master snarling in battle fury.
"This time you shall die for certain!" he shouted. Bringing the point of his sword towards the Master, his eyes focusing on the dagger held frozen over the heart of Chrysania. Flicking his eyes swiftly to the fallen Iliania then back to the Master, he rushed forward, his intent to disarm the Master. The Master hissed and swung his tail. He turned and crouched, dagger held ready before him.
Colaldar finally reached the shore and walked purposefully towards the Inn that the Sisters kept on the Island. Here he would get his information. As he readied to enter he recognized a familiar clanging of armor. He turned just in time to see Santhar muttering to himself while holding a map. As usual, Santhar was walking through and over things, not around them.
"Hail Santhar!" Colaldar shouted. He waved his arms at the Barbarian to try to get his attention. "Yo! You foul smelling, sand flea infested Barbarian!" Growling, Santhar turned to remove the irritation that was calling him names. Raising his staff over his head, he turned without looking at the adversary. "Whoa!" Colaldar shouted and barely dodged getting a permanent dent in his helm. Santhar blinked as he recognized Colaldar.
"Hail Colaldar," Santhar said with a slight nod of recognition. "That's a good way to get your head removed." Slowly he lowered his staff and started looking at his map again.
"I noticed," Colaldar said with a wry grin. "Seeing as you have a map, may I inquire if you have had any luck locating the Avatar?" Colaldar flinched at the glare Santhar gave him.
"Do you see her standing here?" he gestured irritated at the sand beside him.
"Well, no, but I thought that if you had ruled out some of the islands, we could spilt the remainder."
"Well," Santhar looked at his map and then back at Colaldar, "I have one place left after speaking to the Pirates."
"Speaking eh? Why do I have the feeling you did more than just speak to the pirates?"
"Hey! They attacked me first. All I wanted was an answer to a question. Not my fault a few of them will never get to sail the seas again."
"I imagine." Colaldar nodded. "So where are we off to?"
"Aye, my friend, let's get over there then." Both warriors secured their weapons and headed into the water to begin their swim.
Deral hugged Muushala and thanked her for the information. Smiling, Muushala waved as she vanished in a shimmer that signified her return to the realms of Tunare. Deral now knew what he had to do. A great splashing and clanking came from the shore. Deral loaded his bow in one fluid move. The arrow knocked, he turned and prepared to fire at the oncoming assailant. Pulling the string taught, he sighted his foe. Just about to release, he stopped short.
"What now Colaldar?"
"Can you possibly make any more noise?"
Deral stepped from behind the rock and smiled at the two warriors. "Well hello fellow Brethren." Colaldar looked up at the rock in surprise.
"I didn't hear you there."
"That's the idea my friend." Deral continued to smile. "Come this way." He motioned his friends up the slope. "We have a small vigil to keep, but we will not be waiting long." He glanced up at the rising full moon.
"Aye" both warriors said in unison. They started up the slope. As they got to the top they saw the slumped form of Tanaddar and looked at Deral questioningly.
"We cannot move him or help him." He handed Colaldar the note. He read it and nodded then passed it to Santhar. Santhar merely grunted and thrust the note back at Deral.
"So when we gonna be killing things?" Santhar asked.
"Soon my friend," Deral stated. "Very soon. I expect we will have our first visitor as the moon reaches its apex." The warriors looked at the sky and then both moved over to the small fire that Deral had built. Preparations for battle began.
Iliania knelt on the stage watching Tanaddar advance on the Master. Chanting softly under her breath, she was able to see the trail that lead back to Tanaddar's body. She knew he had left it behind in order to get here, for there was no other way he could have tracked them here. He was uninvited and it was time for him to die, both within the shadows and without. Taking one last glance at her Master engaged in battle, she then followed the trail back to the unprotected shell of Tanaddar's body.
Metal screamed as blade and met dagger. Swiftly, the two moved in a circle, each looking for the other's weakness. Blades flashed and rang upon meeting again and again. Tanaddar would twirl a blade only to meet the parry of his foe. The Master thrust his dagger, only to have it knocked away from the intended spot. Sweat began to form on Tanaddar's brow as he continued to probe at the Master's defenses with his blade, hoping to draw blood.
The Master's tail whipped around and knocked Tanaddar to his back. Tanaddar rolled from the advancing dagger and managed to barely avoid falling from the stage. As he spun about, he thrust his sword at the Master to keep him at bay, and managed to draw first blood, tearing through the sleeve of the robe and slicing a wide wound in the Master's arm. Blood splashed across the stage as the Master hissed in fury, and made a small retreat. He now stood next to the open box that had held the dagger. Tanaddar gained his feet and made another advance.
Nereli sat quietly, listening to the night sounds and the breathing of the companions around her. She knew that Tanaddar had to do this. This was the only way, but unfortunately this could also cause his death. It had been a long task to draw him from the shadows; she hoped it would not have to be done again. Closing her eyes and taking another deep breath to prevent tears, Nereli noticed a slight whisper. Her eyelids flew open as she detected the sound coming from one of the ritual candles.
"Deral!" she shouted. As she stood swiftly, she grasped her hammer ready to slam into any unsuspecting foe. Deral, Colaldar and Santhar jumped to their feet seeking the enemy. Deral saw Nereli nervously watching one of the candles. Everyone stood ready, awaiting what was to come.
Iliania gestured to a group of rustling shadows. Five formless beings slid behind her into a door that shimmered and appeared before them. Iliania and the minions raced along the trail to the portal where the body of Tanaddar lay slumped. She turned to them and nodded. Ready to tear the body of Tanaddar to ribbons, the shadows rustled.
Chrysania's eyes snapped open. Where am I she thought and why can't I catch my breath?
Slowly Chrysania forced her eyes open. Trying to take a deep breath, she realized that something was constricting her so she would have to be happy with the small gulps of air she could get. Her nose itched and she went to raise her hand to rub it only to discover that her wrists were restrained as well. Puzzled she began to look around and noticed the only thing she could see was the moon above her in some sort of opening in the ceiling. There had to be something else here and she turned her head to the side. Frowning she saw rows of chairs all filled with formless beings. "Now what in the name of the God's..."
The Master hissed, baring his fangs. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the movement of Chrysania on the dais. A wicked smile spread across his face and he started making his way towards her. His ceremony may have been interrupted a bit, but he would still get what he had planned. Soon he and his servants would freely move across Norrath.
Tanaddar saw Chrysania's hand move. Glancing at the Master he knew by the grin on his face that he had noticed it too. Carefully, he maneuvered himself to prevent whatever attack on Chrysania the Master might try. Whispering again under his breath, he managed a shield around himself. Trying again, in order to shield Chrysania, he failed. "Cursed shadow realms!" he spat. Placing his full attention back to the Master, he saw that the face-off would now end and that the only way it could end would be death.
Deral knelt one last time and whispered a quiet prayer to his Goddess. Santhar and Colaldar looked at each other and then quickly murmured a prayer as well. Nereli merely stood staring at the flame of the candle in wait. Shadows were coming.
Iliania chanted behind the veil of the flickering candle. She could feel that the body of Tanaddar was just the other side of where she stood. "Be ready, he may be fool enough to have tried this foray into the realm without a guardian to watch over his solid form, but I am thinking he did not." The figures nodded and one stepped forward. Shimmering slightly an appendage appeared and took shape. Glinting in the flicker of the small flame, the tendril writhed then became solid and took the form of a blade. The figure tilted its head a bit then issued forth a small rustle and the four others began to do the same. Iliania nodded at the beings in approval and gestured for them to begin their journey through the flame.
In the blink of an eye six figures leapt from the flame. Nereli swung her hammer and hit steel upon steel. Santhar rushed in roaring in battle rage at the first two shadowed figures he saw, the three of them fell in a jumbled mess just the other side of the fire. Colaldar squared off facing the remaining two shadowed beings. All the combatants sized each other up and the battle began in a heartbeat. Blades flashed ad arced in a deathly dance, oft met by parries and shields.
Deral stood by ready. A pricking at his neck told him that there was still another that had as of yet, been engaged in the battle. Drawing back a bolt in his bow, he sat and waiting for the last creature to show itself from the flame. Taking a deep breath, he saw the figure emerge slowly and confidently. It was her, the Handmaiden.
Iliania stood back as the shadow minions charged. If there was to be guardians, she preferred that she was not the one that found them. Hearing the clash of metal, Iliania nodded to herself on a choice well made. Chanting one last ward and making a wide sweeping gesture with her arm, Iliania was ready to slay the betrayer of the shadows. Stepping from the flame in confidence, her eyes fell upon the slumped form of Tanaddar. Smiling wickedly she thought to herself that this was all too easy.
Deral noticed that Iliania was not even looking his way. Swiftly he let the bolt fly. Instead of hitting the target true, it hit a shield of some sort and veered harmlessly to the side. Cursing, he remembered that Muushala told him that there would be one there that would need to be fought hand to hand, but that it would be very difficult as the being would wield magics. This being would be the Handmaiden he now realized. Setting his bow to the side he drew his blades and prepared himself to begin combat.
Iliania felt the slight disruption of her shield and turned her attention to the direction of the assault. Sneering at the Ranger that shot the bolt she made ready a spell. A ball of fire formed in her hand. Nodding at the Ranger, she smiled and sent the bolt directly at him.
Nereli knocked back the blade of the shadowed being. The only solid part she could discern was the blade that was an extension of the being itself. There had to be some way that she could defeat the creature. Calling upon her magics she wove vines around what appeared to be its feet. Calling more magics she sent a burst of flames that flickered and ran down the creature in waves, searing its unseen skin. The shadow writhed in pain and let out a loud keening. Nereli was determined not to let this creature get away, and definitely not to let it live. Once more she called upon the fires to use against her enemy. As the fires continued to fall from the heavens at her command, the creature broke free, swinging its blade at her in fury. Surprised it has broken free so swiftly, Nereli dodged at just the last moment avoiding her arm being severed from her body. Taking another step back, then steadying her feet in place Nereli readied herself to take another blow. She had just enough energy for two more casts, and if she failed, she would have to resort to her hammer. She spoke confidently, vines rode up from the ground and gathered once more about the creature and held it in place. But not before it managed to slash out with its blade and slice a deep wound across Nereli's thigh. Steeling herself against the pain, she shouted at the top of her lungs. Lightening bore down from the heavens and all that remained of the creature was a bit of smoldering ashes.
"Wot?" Belrich raised his head just in time to see a brilliant flash of light bear down upon some unseen target. Standing slowly he placed his hand to his head and looked at it, seeing a bit of blood. "Hmm wonder when dat happened." Calling upon a bit of the powers bestowed upon him by his Goddess, the wound healed. "Now just wot is going on over there?"
Muttering a few words, he rose above the ground and ran off across the waves to the place where he saw the lightening strike. Removing his Crook from the harness on his back, Belrich was ready for any battle. "Iff'n it can't kill me, it's not worth fighting!"
Santhar rolled across the rock, holding the two creatures tightly to him to avoid a blade in the gut. Grunting as he continued rolling down the rocks, hitting his head several times until all three came to rest next to the water. Roaring, Santhar pushed the shadows off of him and stood up, throwing sand everywhere. Rushing at the shadows with his weapons ready, he caught one off guard and thrust his blade deep inside the creature. The shadow shrieked and then slowly dissolved. The second creature was ready and as Santhar killed the first it came from behind and swung its bladed are at the barbarian. Metal clanged loudly as the blade hit the top of Santhar's helm. Santhar slowly turned and looked at the shadow.
"Now that was not where ya'd be hittin a Barbarian Warrior if ya wanted him dead. Allow me to show ya where ya should be hittin'." Santhar advanced steadily on the shadow, two blades readied. Swinging swiftly, the shadow dodged the first strike and then the second. It thrust it's blade at the warrior and steel screamed at blade met blade. Santhar forced the creature's weapon to the side and then turned to bring his blade to bear the finishing blow. Santhar was surprised as the shadow's blade flashed across his face and cut a wide gash in his cheek. Just as swift as the surprise appeared it vanished. A cruel smile spread across the barbarian's face, blood running into a parody of some grotesque mask.
"Time to be going home creature," Santhar took one great step forward and feigned with one blade, the creature stepped to the side only to meet the slicing finish of the second blade, and dissolved into the sand.
Colaldar squared off against the two shadowed creatures, hefting his war axe. The creatures advanced on him, blades extended before them. Both moved in a singular motion against the warrior. Colaldar caught the blades with the handle if his axe and forced them back a step. Swiftly he spun the handle and propelled the blades to the side as he lowered to one knee to move past them in one swift ducking motion. Bringing his axe over his head as he stood, he cleaved the one of the creatures in half. The two halves of the creature split from each other and fell to the ground, and then they dissolved.
Spinning just in time to block a hit from the other's blade. A ringing noise surrounded the pair as time and time again, steel met steel. Each swung, blocked, parried as the battle wore on. Colaldar took a step back, meeting yet another blow. Suddenly, the ground shifted below Colaldar's feet. Stones shifted causing him to lose purchase. Colaldar slipped and fell to his stomach. As he fell, the shadow advanced and pierced Colaldar through the shoulder, pinning him to the ground.
Belrich continued running across the waves towards the place he had seen the lightning bolt. As he got nearer, he recognized the combatants as his fellow Brethren.
"Wot? A fite and they didn't invite me?" Quickening his pace he ran as swiftly as a wolf across the plains, to join his fellow Brethren in battle
Jeppo arrived on Sister Isle as fast as he was able. As soon as he jumped from the boat to the dock, he looked about for one of the Sister's to ask some help. Spotting one near the Inn, he rushed over.
"M'pardon miss but I need to ask a bit o'help from you." He smiled at the Sister resisting the urge to pull a prank. There was no time for pranks. After he had gotten the Avatar back, then he would return to satisfy his prankster urges.
"What is it I can do for you this eve?" She asked, while her eyes focused off into the distance. Jeppo turned to see what she was looking at. It appeared to be an unnatural storm.
"M'thinks I be needing to be getting to that battle on that Island over there. Would be much appreciated if you could cast some magics upon me that I might run swiftly over the waves. M'swimming is good enough, but I am thinking I don't have that much time to get there.
"Aye, the battle has been raging for some time now good Cleric," nodding and making a motion with her hands, Jeppo was lifted from the ground. "Also, I think you need a bit of speed." Once more she gestured and Jeppo was surrounded with a light. He recognized the light, as he had been filled with the Spirit of the Wolf several times from Belrich the Druid.
"M'thanks," Jeppo gave a quick bow. "I must get moving. May Brell bless you for your kindness." Before he ran off he said a prayer and the Sister was surrounding in the blessing's of Brell.
"I think you will need these blessings more than I do Cleric," the Sister said to herself as she watched his form vanish across the waves.
Tanaddar maneuvered himself so he was now between the Master and Chrysania. He could see she was still very disoriented, and such was to be expected. He could not be sure how many potions they had given her to make her forget her true life and responsibilities. He knew Chrysania would definitely need a cleric once he managed to get her from the shadow realms. He hoped that one had managed to be brought to where his physical form lie. He also hoped that there was also somebody there that would be able to help him. He swiftly removed a talisman from around his neck and placed it on Chrysania.
"This is a life stone. It will return you to the correct plane." Tanaddar said quietly in Chrysania's ear. She smiled at him and nodded. He could tell she didn't understand any of what he had just told her.
Before he had another chance, the Master rushed at him and managed to pierce Tanaddar in the shoulder. Taking in a deep breath, he managed to keep himself between the Master and Chrysania. Somehow he had to get the magical wards holding her to the table dispelled and he hoped that his memory was correct for the cancel magic scrolls he had read not too long ago. He stepped forward into another attack from the Master and the dagger barely missed his stomach. His blade arced through the air and across the chest of the Master, drawing more blood. The Master snarled in anger and stepped back again. This was just what Tanaddar had hoped for and began to speak the words of the scroll. Blue light gathered about him and flowed around Chrysania.
"You ttthink that will help her?" hissed the Master. "She is mine for sacrifice. Why do you help her? You were once one of us before you forsook us for that wood elf!" the Master sneered and began another assault at Tanaddar. He swiftly switched the dagger to the other hand and whipped his tail at Tanaddar, forcing Tanaddar to fall backwards so he was now lying atop Chrysania.
"Can you move your hands?" asked Tanaddar.
"Hands? Hmm, yes I can now .Thank you very much. I was getting very uncomfortable, and I still can't breathe very well," Chrysania said a bit faintly.
"Soon you will, Lady Chrysania. Do me a favor if you could." Chrysania nodded at the Dark Elf that she felt she should know, but not sure why. "Tell my Nereli I love her, and she knows how to find me." Chrysania looked puzzled and only nodded again.
The Master advanced on Tanaddar's fallen form. It could not be any better! A double sacrifice! Grinning evilly, he drew the dagger up above his head and plunged it through Tanaddar's chest, hoping it was with enough force to kill the Half-elf as well. As the life drained from Tanaddar, the Master screamed as he watched the form of the woman shimmer and disappear.
The hooded figure that was sitting in the front chair rose and walked up on the stage. It stopped before the Master and looked between him and the lifeless form of Tanaddar. The Master fell to his knees.
"You have failed and we had a deal," the figure picked up the blade that belonged to Tanaddar and with one fluid motion cut off the Master's head. Suddenly the room roared with rustles and whispers as all those that were watching the event left as quickly as they could to escape the ire of the angered god.
Nereli limped over to the slumped form of her husband, ignoring the blood flowing from her wound. She collapsed beside him, and cradled his head in her lap. She started weeping as a wound suddenly appeared on Tanaddar's shoulder and blood ran freely from it. She ran her fingers along it and whispered a chant of healing magic, but still the blood flowed. Tanaddar drew in a quick breath, then a huge hole opened in his chest, and rivers of blood ran from it. Nereli sobbed and then screamed.
"Goddess please help me!" Nereli cried. She felt the form of somebody standing over her.
"M'thinks I got here just in time yes, yes m'thinks I did," A cool blue glow ran from his hands into Tanaddar. The wound stopped bleeding then slowly began to heal. Jeppo looked around quickly to see who else may need help. He noticed Santhar standing over them, face now covered in dried blood. Jeppo pointed to Santhar's face and nodded. "M'thinks that will just need a small touch of healing." Santhar grunted.
"What? I ain't hurt." Santhar scowled as a blue flicker rose from Jeppo's hands and swirled around his head.
Nereli still sat cradling Tanaddar, tears flowing freely down her face. "Dear Goddess, please give me strength to return him to us." Slowly rocking back and forth, holding him tight, Nereli closed her eyes.
"So m'big barbarian friend, where the others scamper off to?" Jeppo looked about curiously. Santhar pointed to Colaldar in battle with one of the shadowed beings, and the off to the other side of the fire where Deral was in close combat with a figure that could only be a dark elf female. Nodding, Jeppo glanced back down at the form of the unconscious Tanaddar. "I've done all I can fer him right now yes, yes I have. After we finish up these others," Jeppo waved his hands to the remaining battles, "Then we be heading back to my home. M'thinks people are gonna be needin' rest and the solitude of m'garden is just the place.
Belrich reached the crest of the small rock just in time to see Colaldar pinned to the ground by the shadow creature. "Nobody hurts my friends!" he roared. The shadow creature turned its head in time to receive a blast of lightening full in the face. Instantly, it turned to ashes and scattered in the winds. Belrich walked over to Colaldar still laying face down. "Wot ya doin' der? Nappin'? We ain't got's time fer dat. Get up!" Belrich cast a spell of strength and then hefted Colaldar up over his shoulder. He saw people standing by a fire and walked that way. Finally, he reached the circle of people. He saw that Nereli was holding Tanaddar, crying. Frowning, he looked at Jeppo, as he set Colaldar on the ground carefully. Jeppo shook his head at Belrich then moved to tend to Colaldar.
"I've done all m'powers of Bristlebane can fer Tanaddar. Now all we can do is wait."
Deral received the blast of magic flame from Iliania and staggered. Somehow he had to get closer to the Handmaiden. Deliberately he took a step closer to her. She merely grinned evilly and began another incantation. She was very confident in her abilities. Perhaps he could use that against her. Overconfidence could cause mistakes. Again she let a bolt of fire fly from her fingertips, this time Deral was burned slightly but that was all. He had dodged the main bolt of the flame. Working ever closer as the Handmaiden continued to steadily try to thwart his advance with magics.
She seemed stunned when she realized that the ranger had managed to get right next to her. Snarling in fury, she pulled a dagger from her robes and slashed at him. He swiftly parried the attack with his own dagger. He forced her back with his second blade. She crouched and hissed at him. "You light dwellers will fail! The master will kill her and then we shall be free!" Again she rushed at him, this time, thrusting the dagger towards his face.
"No you will fail, this I have been told," Deral said quietly. He then stepped forward to once again bring down the Handmaiden. Suddenly a black shadow surrounded the woman. Stopping, Deral watched as the shadow began to take shape. Now standing next to the Handmaiden was a figure covered in a cloak, its face unseen. Deral could feel the evil emanating from it. He could also feel the power the being wielded.
"M'lord!" Iliania fell to the ground before the figure, he face buried in the folds of the endless folds of black robes. "I live to serve."
"Let us hope that you mean it Iliania, your Master failed in his tasks, and paid for it. Do not make the same mistake." with a gesture of its hand, Iliania rose to a standing position. The being then encircled her in his dark folds. She turned her eyes to the ranger in contempt.
"You may have won this time ranger, but next time we will prevail!" With a shimmer both of them were gone, and Deral could only look at the place where they had been standing.
Smiling softly to herself, Chrysania thought that the moon looked pretty as it glowed through the skylight. She let out another gasp of precious air as the Dark Elf fell on her. Questions were asked, but unsure how to answer, she merely smiled and nodded. Roughly, something was placed about her neck, and more words muttered quietly at her. She smiled again. Something was happening, her body became smoke like and she began to dissolve. Screaming silently, she could only watch as her body elongated and then lifted from the table. She became a tendril of smoke, floating to a destination unknown.
Suddenly there was a flash of light and she emerged from the flame of a candle. People were looking at a figure that lay still near the candle she had just arrived from. Looking down upon the people, she recognized the person that was the center of attention as the one who had placed the necklace about her neck. Puzzled, she brought her hand up to grasp the charm. She looked at the charm and then back at the people. This charm was important why? She furrowed her brow in confusion. She was supposed to do something with it. The she spotted the crying woman cradling the Dark Elf. Ah, yes! I must get this necklace to her. Smiling again, she knew she had to let the charm do its work. Closing her eyes to her surroundings, she felt herself float slowly to the ground beside the still man. Painfully she let go of all the air in her body. With one last gasp, she became solid.
Nereli and Belrich both lifted their heads at the same time. They both could hear something, but couldn't tell exactly where it was. It was more of a something, more of a someone. They looked at each other and then continued to look around for the source of the sound. Belrich took a step towards the fire that Deral had made and stopped short. Materializing before him was a figure in a sapphire dress, clutching at their throat as if they couldn't breathe. Looking closer he realized it was the Avatar.
"Jeppo! Git yerself o'er here now!" Belrich shouted. Everybody turned and looked to where Belrich stood. They all saw Chrysania choking her face blue tinged.
"She looks to be choking yes, yes she does." Jeppo muttered as he started casting a spell to cure poison, in case that was the cause of her condition. "Blast it, it is not poison, there must be something else. Some ward! Everybody start looking." Jeppo began to think of another solution and the others merely looked on, helpless to even know what to suggest.
Belrich was still looking over Chrysania, when he noticed that the dress seemed unusually tight about the chest, strangling the air from her. "Wot about this dress?" he pointed. Jeppo noticed it as well.
"Yes, yes that could be it. Let's try to loosen it," he and Belrich turned Chrysania over to get to the strings that held the dress tight. They tugged on the strings, but they did not loosen, instead they grew tighter.
"Now wot?" Belrich growled. He looked at the halfling. "Yer the cleric, fix it!" Belrich demanded, his blue eyes glinting in anger.
"I know!" Jeppo suddenly hopped from foot to foot. "I can dispel the magics, and then I am sorry to say, but we will have to cut the dress from the Avatar." Belrich nodded and turned to Deral who was standing close.
"Git me a blanket or som'tin to cover her," Belrich instructed the ranger. He then drew his blade from his belt and then placed the blade next to the chest of the unconscious Avatar , ready for the nod from Jeppo. "Ready when you are Cleric." Jeppo took a deep breath and then began the incantation. Light flowed from his hands and surrounded Chrysania. Lights glimmered and sparked, as magic battled magic. A large spark flared and the Jeppo nodded at Belrich.
"My apologies Chrysania," Belrich said as his blade ripped through the fabric. Ripping filled the air until finally, Belrich stood, turned and swiftly covered Chrysania. "She still not breathin' cleric."
"I can fix that, yes, yes I can," A blue glow rose from Jeppo and surrounded Chrysania. Sitting up and clutching her throat, Chrysania took in a deep gulp of air. She then looked around her and realized she was surrounded by people. Still without even thinking to hold the blanket that was wrapped about her, she stood and walked over to the female still cradling the still Dark Elf.
"He said you would now how to find him," she rasped, her throat dry as the sands of Ro. Slowly she lifted the necklace from around her neck and handed it to Nereli. Nereli looked from the necklace to Tanaddar, then back to Chrysania. A tear rolled down her cheek.
"Yes Lady Chrysania, with this I can find him," Nereli held the amulet close to her chest then looked again at Tanaddar who began to breath very shallowly. "But I must travel elsewhere to do this. My thanks for the necklace." Slowly she gathered up Tanaddar in her arms, hugging him close. Muttering quietly under her breath, the pair shimmered and disappeared. Chrysania stood staring at the spot where they were standing, not even noticing that Belrich had walked up and placed the blanket about her once more.
"Lady Avatar you have to sit and rest. Yes, yes you do," Jeppo said as he stood in front of her searching for any other signs of injury. Chrysania turned her gaze upon the cleric standing in front of her.
"Who is this Avatar you all keep speaking of?" she asked, a puzzled look upon her face. Everybody around her started mumbling to one another.
"Wot?" Belrich asked. "You think yer gettin' off that easy? I will show you who the Avatar is." He scooped Chrysania up in his arms. "Git ready fer a ride Chrysania. Jeppo, I will have her at yer garden in no time." With that he shimmered and they vanished.
"Well that's just great!" Santhar grumbled. "Save her life and she don't even know who she is." He growled and kicked a rock, then stormed off into the dark. Colaldar walked after him, slowly shaking his head.
"Santhar, I am sure we can trust Belrich to help her figure it out," he said, then added quietly under his breath, "At least I hope so."
Deral stood facing Jeppo. "So, it looks like we are heading to your garden. Let's get going." Deral started gathering the candles and other items that were set about. Just as he was about to kick sand on the fire he stopped. Something blue glinted, he looked closer and realized it was the Avatar's Armor. Swiftly he gathered it up and stuck it in a pack. "I think this may help us. Let's get going." Deral started to wade into the water to swim towards Sister Isle to catch the boat.
"Bah, swimmin'" Jeppo grumbled. The least that dern druid coulda done was make me not have to swim." Still grumbling, Jeppo waded into the water and swam in the same direction Deral had taken.
Nereli gently set Tanaddar down in the long grass. She looked around at the island. She smiled sadly as she remembered the day she had so many friends gathered to watch the union of her and Tanaddar. That day they swore their undying love to one another. A tear rolled down her cheek and she lifted the amulet from around her neck.
Kneeling and praying to her Goddess for the strength to return Tanaddar to her. He was her life and if this failed, she did not know what she would do. She would probably wander the lands, lost like the souls that haunted various places of their unjust death. Closing her eyes tight against the possibility that she would fail, she prayed even harder.
"My Goddess, I have served you my whole life," she whispered under her breath. "I have always done what I thought you would wish of me. I have given much in your name, never asking for anything in return. However, this day I must ask for something. It is not purely for me. Yes it is for the life of my husband, but has he not turned from the shadows? Has he not walked the path of light? My Goddess, he is a good man. I beseech you for the strength to bring him back to the realms of mortals. I have his Life Stone. With your blessing, I know I can find him, and bring him back. I just need your blessing."
Nereli sat there silently, breathing slowly, waiting for a sign from her Goddess. The sun rose in the East, and still Nereli knelt, waiting. As the sun continued on it march across the sky, a sunbeam fell upon the two silent forms, and held. Motes of dust began to swirl and then shimmer as they solidified into a figure. Nereli lifted her head and opened her eyes. She found herself looking upon the visage of the Goddess. Nereli gasped and quickly lowered her eyes.
"My Goddess," she forced from her lips. "I am indeed honored to see your presence. I am at your service. Ask and it shall be done."
Tunare smiled and looked upon Nereli, love emanating from her very center and touching all around her. "Nereli, you do not need my blessing to return Tanaddar to you. You had all that you ever needed before you ever spoke a word of prayer to me. I think you already know what it is." She gestured to the island, "Or you would not have chosen to return here. This is more than just an island, this is where you both stated that your souls were twined indefinitely. You are actually one now, look inside yourself, and you will know how to return him to you." Tunare shimmered and then she was gone.
"Inside of me?" Nereli thought and suddenly she smiled. "Of course inside of me!" She placed the necklace around Tanaddar's neck and enfolded in him an embrace. Not one of pity or of sorrow, but of love. She kissed his lips and then held him again, brushing her lips on his neck as she pulled him close. She remembered her wedding day, the love that surrounded them. Then she felt the warmth of her love begin to grow, and surround her. Slowly the glow moved across Tanaddar's body. His breathing became more stable and his color began to get better. Slowly he opened his eyes.
"Did I save her?" he croaked. Nereli just nodded her head and began to cry.