Restoration

Chapter 1

The warm air, thick with tension, hung about her like a blanket, enveloping her pale blue skin. Sweat dripped down her temples and she reached a hand up to wipe it away. Jadynn raised her dark face to the sky and registered the position of the sun.
"Mid-day" she thought.
Behind her the other Furies milled about, all of them tense and anxious. Low murmurs rose up from the crowd at times, but none mentioned an attack plan. It was easy to see that they were hesitant to launch an attack.

The Alliance had held the relic for far too long now. It was well past time to reclaim it. Jadynn was thirsty for blood and battle, and standing here was not helping quench that thirst.
She turned to face them and spoke with authority. "Will no-one come with me ? We've been standing about like scared animals for too long ! It's time we made a push for the Altar."

They stared at her as if she had suddenly grown another head. One Warrior, his name was Jed she remembered, stepped out from a group to her left.
"What do you suppose we do little Missy ?"
His cat-like eyes filled with hatred as he dared to question her. They knew she was almost unbeatable and foul tempered.
"They have far more Alliance over there at the moment and we want to wait for our guild leader. He will lead us to victory."

Her body tensed with rage at his words and the thoughts colliding in her head rushed from her mouth in a torrent of rage.
"Why wait for him ?" she exploded, "He is arrogant and power hungry. I can see it in your faces that you fear him most of all ! Why should you wait for him ? He does not deserve to lead us and you know it !"

Jadynn watched through narrowed eyes as Jed's hands clenched into fists and his powerful body shuddered with anger. As his eyes locked with hers and his nostrils flared, he said two words, "Leave us." and that was all.

She looked to the people behind him, her people. Some were trying to pretend that nothing had happened, others were waiting and hoping for bloodshed to erupt and others were smirking and enjoying her discomfort. They all knew the Guild leader was an evil man. Far more evil than any of them were, but the stink of corruption was upon them all, for that was the nature of their races and the Dark Goddess they worshipped.

Clenching her Staff tighter, through gritted teeth she spat one word, "Fools !" and turned to go. Her adamant stride steadily grew faster and before long she was running with the easy, powerful grace of the wild animal that she resembled.
In time she slowed to reach a hand to her temple and instantly the 'training' set to work in her brain. Sensory information flowed through her mind, but Jadynn did not attempt to analyze it or cease the flow. She pumped her legs harder and increased her speed again, letting her animal instincts take control and lead her across the battlefield.

Suddenly Jadynn stopped in her tracks. She smelled it before she saw it. In her mind the bloodlust rose and the world started flashing blood red. A prey was near !
Slowly she turned and surveyed her surroundings. Her dark eyes came to rest on a single Human. A lighty !
He stood staring at her, not moving, almost as if he was in a trance. Her eyes narrowed and she gripped her Staff tighter, preparing for battle.
He broke the tension by whispering one word to her from across the distance.
"Run."
That single word, though it seemed so wrong, was filled with meaning to her. She held his gaze for a second longer and then, she ran.

-ooOoo-

Kaiven stared at the Vail for a moment, breathing slowly, easily. She didn't look as frightened as so many others that he had confronted before.
Even more intriguing was that she was alone, so unlike those others that had come before. He stood waiting for that look in her eyes. When she would turn to see him and her determination was broken, her spirit was lost. When she came to realize that she had entered a tiger's den.

Many in his guild had often remarked that Kaiven should have been born a darky... he liked to stalk his prey and tended to give into his bloodlust, even his friends feared his rage.
As he knelt to silently check the readiness of his weapons, she stopped and Kaiven could see the tension enter her slight frame.
"Maybe her animal nostrils have caught my scent ?" he thought.
He could see her hand tighten on her Staff, one different from others that he had collected over the last couple of years. He could sense, more than see, the aura of power that enveloped it.
"Nice" he thought, already seeing it added to his collection.

The vile one turned slowly and her dark eyes locked with his, or seemed to. Kaiven didn't know how the dark ones' senses worked, he just wanted them gone. All of them.
He stared at her, waiting to grin when he saw that moment of dread in her eyes, but it never came. He knew his guild was coming and that they would kill her on sight.
But she was his, he determined. He wanted to see the fear in her eyes. Thirsted for the life essence that he would take from her.

"Run." He whispered, as loud as he dared. The wind must have carried the word to her animal senses, for she did just that.
Kaiven smiled a wide, humorless smile, his eyes grew colder and his heart pounded in his chest.
He had found his prey, the hunt was on !

-ooOoo-

Jadynn ran as fast as she could across the broken, tortured ground. Her powerful legs warmed and her feet barely touched the ground with each graceful stride. She was fast !
Her heart and mind raced.
"Why would a lone fool like him chase a powerful Pagan like me ?" she thought to herself,
"and his eyes, they seemed to..." her thoughts seemed to pause, "...burn !"
She slowed for a second at that thought, then quickly resumed her fastest pace.
She shook the thoughts from her mind and focused on one thing and one thing alone. How to kill her enemy.

Jadynn's eyes scanned the lay of the land. The borderland was a large place with many dangers and advantages and she knew this land well. Additionally her combat training helped her read the situation without conscious thought. Her eyes took in the wild animals and the hills ahead. She skillfully avoided the beasts and continued to lead the man into her trap. Skillfully she led him on, across a bridge and then she found her place. Stopping in the cover of some massive, twisted shrubs.

She couldn't see him, but she could sense him getting close now. His scent was so strong and... pleasant ? Her mind started to wander again. "No !" was she crazy ? What was going on ? Her mind should be focused on battle, or her life would be forfeit. Why were these thoughts stealing in ? "Stop !" she thought.

She quickly re-focused her senses, she could tell he was close. He was coming off the bridge and straight towards her. That was no problem. She was already locked onto him.
He would have no chance against her skills.
She prepared the spell with calm efficiency and awesome speed. She could hear the satisfying crack as the lightning struck him, but it did not slow him. She hit him again with a spell of earth power, stopping him in his tracks.
In this short pause she prepared her next attack. She hit him with the power of wind and she saw he was instantly weakened. Very satisfying.
"Oh the sweet joy of killing a lighty" she thought.

Her delicate hands prepared the next spell, but before she could finish the incantation he was there before her. He stopped, just stopped, and the fury and hatred in his eyes burned into her, like a hot branding iron on a beast's hide. It seared her right through to her soul.
But that would not stop her.
She let her anger build until it clouded her vision and let the attack fly.

Once, twice, three times or more, she struck with her magic. She lost count, for all she could remember was his burning eyes. When he finally fell to his knees, the last of his life-force depleted, his body barely struck the ground before it was gone. Resurrected to his to his fortress by the 'Pale Witch'.

Only then did Jadynn let her anger go, and it slowly faded, like the setting sun into the ocean.
"He will be back" she thought to herself.
Those eyes would not let her get away with taking his life. He would come seeking revenge. She sighed sorrowfully and sank to her knees. The battle had drained her almost completely. Tears poured down her face and she began to shudder, as if a deathly chill was upon her.
How could she let those eyes get to her ? Why did she grieve his hatred and his death ?

-ooOoo-

Kaiven still felt the fire burning behind his eyes, the anger in his heart and the blood pounding through his veins. He could have had her, she was as good as dead.
But he had stopped.
"Why ?" he thought.
What had stayed his hand at the vital moment ?
Her eyes had burned with the same passion as his own.
"She wasn't scared."
He wanted to see the courage behind those dark pupils flee before he struck her down, wanted to see the moment when she realized her own doom.
"I will teach that witch to fear me."

Without further thought he ran out of the fortress and into the borderlands again. He needed to feel that surge again.
Never in years had he met anyone like that before, no Alliance Mage, let alone a Fury !
The determination, the passion. He hated her! Hated the fact that he only wanted to see her again. He lusted for that moment when he would kill her... or he would be killed.
Either way, he would feel... pleasure ?

The Goddess had always been kind to him, she had always blessed his hunting and restored his life force when the battle had turned against him.
Would her Goddess be as kind and generous to her ?

He passed a few bison and one of them charged him. They were getting more and more aggressive lately. Probably due to the Furies feeding their pet lizards on their kin.
Vile creatures, all of them, bison, lizard and darky alike.

Kaiven spotted her then. The vile witch ! The beautiful, vile witch !
He followed, stalking silently he closed the range between them until he could make his dash.
Making sure he would reach her before she had time to react, he streaked across the plain like the lightning that she was so used to manipulating.
She turned, instantly ready to cast more of her spells.
He just shook his head and smiled. The fire burning behind his eyes calmed for a moment, and then flared to new heights as he felt the surge of jolts of pain through his body.
His body jerked like a spastic puppet but still his eyes held hers.
She did not glance away to see if his allies were coming.
He struck, and still she did not give the gasp of defeat. He struck again, with all the strength and power he could muster and still she never lost her strength in those dark, vile pupils.
And then it was over. Again.
He smirked as he fell.
"I will taste her defeat !" he thought, but not yet. Kaiven would have to wait a bit longer for that particular pleasure.

-ooOoo-

A column of light from the sky caught the Archer scout Larin Aloan by surprise. He gulped when he saw the Fighter Kaiven appear.
"He has the bloodlust in his eyes... lovely." he thought, slowly backing away into the shadows.
"Who got him going this time ?"
As Kaiven ran through and out of the fortress, Larin followed quietly, using his skills to remain undetected. At the first chance he got, he slipped into the cover of the forest and continued his silent pursuit.

He kept following until he saw a lone Pagan and Kaiven was very carefully stalking her.
"What is this ? Kaiven usually has no trouble dealing with this sort. Why so cautious with this one ?"
At that moment, Kaiven made his sprint and the battle began.
The hot humid air filled with the crash of thunder and the smell of burning ozone.
"She looks strong... best if I head back." Larin thought.
"Uh... I have nothing to report... best not to get on Kaiven's bad side, he scares me."
Silent and unseen, Larin entered the fortress and ran back to the meeting place. He sat down and started eating an apple, carefully ignoring anyone who approached.

-ooOoo-

Once again, Kaiven appeared in Karis Castle by the grace of the Goddess of course.
However, there was still lust in his eyes, blood lust... well… mostly.
He couldn't help but raise the left side of his mouth, forming the familiar half smirk that he was known for. That witch amazed him, as much as she made his blood boil with hatred.

As he walked further inside the castle, he noticed Larin.
"Good scout, but a little jumpy at times."
Kaiven noticed a slight grin on Larin's face that he was trying to cover with a half eaten apple.
"I wonder what's that about ?" he thought, "He's always up to something."
He stopped in front of him, debating in his mind if he should scare it out of him.
Larin tried hard to ignore him, as if he was not standing there.

"Silly Larin." he thought.
Larin was one who saw everything and the mere fact that he pretended not to see Kaiven... well that was suspicious to say the least. Kaiven could not care less at that moment. He walked away. He would have to deal with that scout another time.
"Soon enough" he thought darkly.

-ooOoo-

Priest Denzel Vennin was hard at work, healing the unfortunate souls that would rather run from battle when wounded, than stand and fight to the end.
"Where is their faith in the Goddess ?" he thought to himself.
"Fools, all of them" he muttered under his breath.
Suddenly his work was interrupted by a rising clamor from the castle keep.

"Ah, our fearless leader has returned !" shouted the patient he was tending to.
Before Denzel had finished casting his healing magic, the arrogant young fool ran off to join the crowd.
"Wait man," Denzel called "I'm not finished yet."
But the young Archer was already gone from his range.
Denzel did not need to follow, for he already knew who it was that created such a stir.
"Kaiven has returned." he thought.

In his short time in the borderlands, Denzel had longed to join the battle. To use the power that the Goddess had blessed him with, but alas he was a healer and his sense of duty was strong.
Even so, his training had also prepared him for battle and the Goddess had given him some mighty powers. Time after time, party after party had scoffed at his abilities and shooed him away.
"Why do they doubt my abilities ?" he wondered.
The question rang through his mind like echoes in a deep cavern, as it had so many times before. His faith in the Goddess was strong, stronger than many other Priests, and he brandished the Staff of Blind Devotion with pride, for it was the proof of his faith.
If only the Alliance would give him the chance to fight.

"I'd better go see if Kaiven is injured."
The two of them were good friends, for they had trained together since boyhood in the fields and dungeons of Erina.
Of all the soldiers in this land, Kaiven was the only one that supported Denzel's dreams of battle, rather than being pushed to the side and called upon only for his healing powers. Kaiven had even given him the chance to practice the attacking spells he had learned upon some small groups of beasts and monsters. These Denzel had successfully dispatched with a little bit of careful maneuvering and some time.

Denzel chuckled as he remembered those days. He had indeed been successful. But he knew that the time it took to prepare his most powerful spells was a luxury that was not so easy to come by in battle. As he neared Kaiven he could sense already that the man was perfectly fine (the Goddess be praised) and surrounded by admiring women and men.
He sighed. "Once again I am left on the sidelines while my dear friend basks in the glory of his reputation."

It was then that Kaiven spotted Denzel in the crowd and gave him a smile and a look of recognition.
"At least he does not forget his boyhood friend." thought Denzel.
"Oh well, my duty is still waiting for me, there are wounded to tend."
With his heart slightly lighter and his devotion renewed, Denzel turned and left Kaiven and his admirers, his mind now fully focused on the tasks ahead.

-ooOoo-

With thoughts of the scout's nervousness gone from his mind, Kaiven started to think again about the Pagan. She had killed him again ! And again the Goddess had brought him back... and again he would go seek her out.
He wanted to see what she would do.
He wanted to see what he himself would do.
To fight her. To see those determined eyes.

Though not of her caliber, Kaiven had fought many with passion before, but always, their resolve would disappear.
This darky was different and he knew it.
She had the same intensity as him, he could feel it and as much as he hated it, he welcomed it.
Stony faced, he walked through the crowd. A few of them followed, trying to bask in his glory.
"Pathetic !"
He ignored them.
A young Archer ran up, clearly still injured and knelt before him, blocking his path. Kaiven debated whether he should take a side-step and continue on, or kick him out of the way and then continue on.

"Master, you have returned. Please, please help us. Furies have taken the relics and forced us to retreat. Many were killed or injured, look, they hurt so."
Kaiven stopped, breathed out heavily, making a slow deep rumble only those very close could hear. His voice didn't rise in volume, but the people around him could sense that it should have.
"Stand up."
They all fell silent, sensing the anger that was in his words.

The begging Archer felt it too and quickly jumped to his feet.
"Yes sir. Anything you say I will..."
"Quiet ! Stop groveling like a Haldeck boar. You are a vassal of the Goddess and if I were Her I would never have brought you back."
He talked with his jaws clenched.
"Go, sharpen you abilities. You might have some skills but you lack something that is vital."
"You're wounded and you're here in the castle, that tells me all I need to know, you ran from the battle with fear in your heart, rather than face death and put your faith in the "Goddess."
"Keep running boy, run back to you mommy."
"Get some guts and then come back."

The Archer, broken, stared at the ground for a minute, unable to speak.
After the initial shock and his heroes words started to sink in, water started to well up in the young Elf's eyes, along with a heat that made his tears burn.
Slowly he smiled at the harsh Fighter, nodded and started to walk off, a changed man.
"And if you ever call me Master again, you might not get the chance to get any at all."
Dismissing the young Elf from his mind, Kaiven turned and walked away, the young Archer's reaction not fazing him at all.

"You always were the kind one. Very sweet of you."
Kaiven knew that slightly mocking voice well.
"Priest Vennin, I assume you are well ?"
"And since you are here instead of in the field, I assume others do not fare as kindly and require your assistance."
"Duty, my dear friend. I am a healer after all, am I not ?"

Denzel Vennin was a devout Priest and Kaiven had known him for a long time. He used to have a passion and determination that Kaiven admired.
However, that passion was slowly diminishing in Denzel. The years of dutiful service and the undue lack of respect from others, combined with the self doubt of being un-tested, could do that to the strongest person.

But Denzel had held out longer than anyone else he had seen in that position and secretly he admired him for that. Sadly though, he had noticed Denzel's gradual assimilation into the prejudices that plagued the Alliance. As much as the Union of Fury did.
"He should be out on the battlefield, feeding his drive again, not on the sidelines, behind castle walls, healing the stupid and the weak !"

Kaiven looked at the Priest. Maybe he would let him meet his darky friend.
"Friend ? No !"
Never would he allow himself to call a dark one 'friend'.
"What was I thinking ? Why did I think that ?"
He let go of the abrupt thought and covered his moment of weakness quickly.
"So. Would you come fight ?" he asked the Priest, hoping in vain that he would accept. He saw the number of wounded continuously being carried in. Denzel had the heart of a soldier, but first and foremost he was a dutiful servant of the goddess.
He would not come to fight while he was needed here. It was another thing that Kaiven admired and also despised in his friend.

Knowing the answer already, Kaiven turned and walked off. It was time to prepare for battle. He noticed that Larin was no longer around.
"Probably causing some mischief somewhere."
A half eaten apple lay in the scout's usual spot.
"Odd, he usually never leaves food behind."
The fighter could have used the scout to help find his dark witch.
"His ?"
Another moment of weakness. He hated her for that. The flames grew stronger and more wild within his eyes. He set out to hunt for her again.

-ooOoo-

Larin slowly set down the half eaten apple, staring after Kaiven with a shiver.
"I don't like that look he was giving me." he thought.
"I've seen that look too many times before."
"Some poor darky is gonna get pummeled, but good."
Larin picked up the apple again, stared at it for a while and then dropped it, his appetite gone.
"Do I dare follow him again ?"

He shivered. Stood up and started slowly and carefully working his way out of the fortress. Now he was even more cautious in his scouting. He wanted no-one, friend or foe, to see his exit.

He found the Pagan again, still squatting in the same place, still alone. And there was Kaiven, coming up to her cautiously, to within an arms reach of her.
"What's going on here ?" Larin thought.
He hunkered down and watched cautiously, ready to spring up and dash away if trouble should show.

-ooOoo-

Jadynn glared at him with her dark eyes. He did not move or even blink. His eyes, burning with fire blazed into her soul yet again. He lifted one side of his mouth creating that seemingly familiar smirk of his. Her nostrils flared at his smirk but he stood his ground.

Her mind raced. She thought of magic attacks to use, perfect ways to kill her enemy, and his smile. What ! She was now thinking of his smile ? Of all things...
"Oh help me goddess" she thought.
Her eyes re-focused on the man in front of her and she decided then to speak.
She did not for the love of the goddess know why she had decided this, but speak she did.
"So we meet again foolish Human."
"What, has defeat become a drug to you ?"
"Why are you standing here before me when you know you cannot win ?"

Her words hung in the thick air for a minute or so as he seemed to scrutinize the intent of her words.
Then he laughed. Just laughed.
She could not believe this man ! He was laughing ?
She hissed at his outburst, flashing her menacing fangs.
"You dare to laugh at a powerful Pagan ?"
"Fight me. Show me what you are made of, but be warned you will lose."

Her mind and hands prepared for battle, but still he stood there, sizing her up.
Suddenly he was upon her, his dual swords slashing through the air as he attacked with all his strength and dexterity. They fought for a full half minute (it seemed much longer to them), when suddenly she heard her own voice ring out with a powerful command.
"STOP !"

And he stopped. He stood tensed, chest heaving heavily.
Her heart raced with adrenaline and sweat dripped down her spine. But still his burning eyes bore into her, right down to her very soul and it hurt !
Why did his eyes get to her so much ? What was it about him that made her weak ?
His rough voice cut through the silence. "I have not fought such a worthy opponent in years. I am truly amazed at your skill and agility."
Her heart pounded even faster at the sound of his voice.

-ooOoo-

It didn't take long for Kaiven to find her as she was still in the same place, as if she knew he would return and was waiting there for him. He couldn't help but smirk as he realized her senses were turned inward and she was as yet unaware of his presence. He began to stalk her slowly, carefully.
How close would she let him get before she panicked and used her magic against him ?
Then something happened that he was not expecting nor used to, she spoke.
"So we meet again, foolish human. What, has defeat become a drug to you ?"
"Why are you here, standing before me, when you know you cannot win ?"
She spoke !
There was a wild sugar in her voice. It was so alien to listen to, feral and uncivilized. Kaiven's training helped him translate the words, though he could never understand how they could form sentences without stumbling over their snarls and growls.

Never had one gloated at him like this !
Well they had, ...but only briefly. None had survived long enough to carry out their threats.
How was she doing this to him ? Was Larin right ?
Did he enjoy the killing too much, to the point of lunacy ?
How could a mere vile Pagan, that he could squish without a second thought, make his blood boil and his heart freeze at the same time ?
Then Kaiven laughed. Just laughed.

The dark one's nostrils flared and then she hissed, small sharp fangs showing.
She ranted more, but Kaiven did not listen to the words. He stopped laughing and concentrated on the melody of hatred and admiration in her voice.
It confirmed one thing for him, he must be crazy !
He had allowed this charade to go on for too long. It was obscene.
A creature such as this should not have such an effect on someone like him.
He hated himself for his weakness at that moment and for that he loathed her.

He was on her without another thought. They fought in what Kaiven could only describe as a vortex. A flash and flurry of might and magic.
Their hatred and frenzy for each other seemed to calm their souls, which stayed at peace, as if in the eye of a tornado.
"STOP !" he heard.
And he did. Enraged as he was, Kaiven was still impressed by the power and skill of the woman.
Woman ? It was the first time since his family had been taken that he had thought of a dark one like that.

"I have not fought such a worthy opponent in years. I am truly amazed at your skill and agility."
His own words made him sick. He should hate himself for saying them, for believing them.
The two stood, face to face, recovering.
Each waiting for the other to break the silence, or make some small movement.
Then, both noticed a movement close by. He recognized him even after such a long absence. It was Raven the Darkslayer.

They had fought side by side in the past, but he had somehow remained a mystery and not much was known of him, other than the odd, but powerful, staff he carried and that he had a passion for battle that almost rivaled Kaiven's.

Raven started to raise his Staff.
"No !" he thought, "She is mine."
Protectiveness ? Of a darky?
Then he noticed the witch make a similar effort to stop the mage, He was confused, but not for long. Before he knew it he was falling to the ground, his last view was of the Pagan's face falling with him.

-ooOoo-

From a mountain top he observed the two mighty champions, Alliance and Fury, fighting in a fast and furious brawl. One a Vail female, a powerful Pagan and the other a Human male, a Fighter. Hmm and an Elven Ranger, hidden from them, watching them both closely.
"Heh," he mused. "The fools. Always fighting their never-ending war for power. Little do they know that something truly more terrifying is coming for both their world's."
"Hmff, try and warn them and they will not listen. No, I need live champions, not dead heroes."

As quiet as a leopard on the prowl he slipped up behind the scout, and with casual ease, rendered him unconscious. He covered the Elf in a cloak of shadow, so no harm would befall him while he 'slept'.

He then strode casually up to the two combatants, their battle now paused.
To her, he was a powerful Pagan Magister known as Lightbane and to him, the mysterious Mage known as Raven the Darkslayer. Each looked at him as if at a friend.
He raised his powerful Crystalline Staff and slammed them both with a blast of energy that rendered them unconscious but unharmed.
With a wave of the Staff over his head, he warped them instantly to his keep, hidden deep within the once mighty fortress, known now as Maitreyan.

"Those fools of the Alliance think that these orcs guard this fortress for the Union of Fury."
"They are wrong. They guard it for me."
"For this is where the first true battle for this world of Light and Dark shall take place."
"This I know, for I am Alteos Rend and I was once counsel and equal of the goddess, when she was one..."

-ooOoo-

Much later... Larin awoke from a daze.
"What happened here ?" he thought to himself.
He vaguely remembered watching Kaiven and that Pagan do battle and then... nothing else. He stood and instantly felt dizzy.
"Ergh ! I need to be more careful."
Cautiously, he started on the long journey back to the fortress. Hesitating at the vast plain between his hiding place and the safety of the walls, he summoned his skills and set off at a run at a speed not many could match, covering the ground in the shortest possible time.

Larin stumbled into the castle, short of breath and with the sweat dripping off of him.
"I should... see the... healer, just in case." he whispered softly to himself.
He made his way to Denzel Vennin.
"Master Healer... I believe... I was attacked... by a monster. Could you check me for evil spells ?"

Denzel sighed and began his healing rituals on Larin.
"Poor sod." Larin thought.
"He wants so badly to join the battle, but no-one will take him... maybe I will ask him to come on patrol with me later."
Once healed, Larin walked up to the altar of the Goddess of Light and knelt down.
He started praying to Her and asking for guidance.

-ooOoo-

Jed, the Nordein Warrior, strode through the camp taking in the sights, sounds and smells around him. His grossly scarred face twisted into an evil grin. The battle had gone well today. The relics had been taken and his axes had drank deeply on the Alliance blood.
They had seemed weakened somehow, as if some vital strength had been missing from their ranks. But he knew also, that his own force had been diminished. There had been no sign of Jadynn since their confrontation and still she was nowhere to be seen.

Perhaps the Dark Goddess had removed her blessing and Jadynn had suffered the ultimate death, the final one that removed her from the world forever more.
This thought gave him some cruel pleasure.
"That witch was getting too powerful anyway, how dare she challenge the guild leader's power ?"

He knew his duty was report her absence to the Oracles, for if there was time, they might still be able to find her and resurrect her with their powers.
"Bah ! Let her rot."
He needed to head for the blacksmith and get his equipment repaired, and then he would eat and drink, and then collapse and sleep. Yes, that was what he would do, why should he worry about that Pagan ? After all, with her gone he would be that much higher in the rankings, and that much closer to the power he lusted after.

With the smile still fixed on his face, he strode across the compound, thoughts of Jadynn completely gone from his mind. For like most of his class, Jed was mighty in strength, but lacking in intelligence or wisdom.

-ooOoo-

Larin looked around cautiously.
"No sign of Kaiven yet, strange." he thought.
"I guess that's a good thing, I get to stay healthy a bit longer."
He pulled out another apple, then quickly slipped it away again.
"I guess I should save them for emergencies. Why'd the Goddess have to make them taste so good ?" he frowned.
"I should go out scouting again... but I really don't feel like it." He frowned again.
"Something seems off here...I can't quite put my finger on it though."

Mind crowded, rubbing his temples, he walked to the altar and knelt to pray.
"Goddess I beseech thee !"
"What am I missing ? What is setting my caution on high?"
"Milady please give me a sign."
There was a bright flash of light and within it he could just make out the ghostly form of the Goddess. Larin trembled and quickly dropped his head to the floor, afraid to look upon Her.
He felt a ghostly hand brush over his hair gently, and then the light returned to normal.
"What just happened ?"
He looked around, blinking.
"It must have been a... hallucination... yes ?"
"I must still be weak from the attack, I need to get some sleep." he thought.
Dismissing the apparition from his mind, Larin rose and headed for his quarters.

-ooOoo-

Larin turned restlessly in his bed, if you could call a thin mat of straw a bed. Suddenly awake, he sat upright as a familiar bright light filled the room.
"G-Goddess ?" he trembled.
The Goddess smiled.
"Goddess why do you visit me ? I am just a lowly scout." he said.
Something wasn't right, the Goddess seemed... paler, less substantial.
"I am here because of Her." she said weakly.

"You speak ?" he said, his filled with awe.
"There was a swirl of shadows around the Goddess of Light and then, in her place stood the Dark Goddess.
"What ?"
"Where is the Goddess ?" Larin demanded.
"I am the Goddess." She said.
"Where is our Goddess ?" Larin demanded again.
"Hold your tongue boy." She hissed, placing a finger on his forehead.
"What.. have.. you.. done.. to.. me ? Witch !" Larin gasped, struggling to speak.

"I want to talk to you boy. Now LISTEN !" She commanded.
"Why ? Where.. is.. the.. Goddess.. ?" he coughed.
"She is safe, quite safe. See ?"
She held out an orb and inside it was the Goddess of Light.
"What.. have.. you.. done.. to.. her ?" Larin growled.
"I needed her out of the way, so that I could talk to you." She sneered.
"Don't worry so, boy it is a temporary situation. Her power is weakened now. My servants hold the foundations of power. But She is still too strong to be held long by such a simple device."
"What... do... you... want ?" he panted, clearly growing weaker.
"You. To kill your ally Kaiven." She growled.
"Me... why... me ?" he asked.
"Because the others would resist, I know you will not." She said.
"How... do... you... Know… that ?" Larin demanded.
"I am a Goddess boy ! And you are confused about where you truly belong."
"What do you know of your mother boy ? Did they tell you anything about her ?"

His mother ? What was She talking about ? Larin knew his mother had died giving birth to him and that his father had sent him back to Erina to be raised by his Aunt. What could this black hearted witch be talking about ?"
"If... I... refuse ?" Larin growled.
"Then I will force you to watch as I slowly kill your beloved Goddess, and then I will take great pleasure in killing you." She said, with an evil smile playing on her lips.

"And.. if.. I.. cannot.. kill.. Kaiven ? If.. I.. should.. lose ?" Larin asked cautiously.
"Simple, I will use your Goddess' powers to resurrect you, although, when I drain Her to restore you, while She is weakened, it will harm Her." She said.
"I don't think you want that, do you boy ?"
"So in other words, either way I become a traitor." Larin thought.
The Dark Goddess grabbed his chin and dug her long nails into his cheeks.
"You will either kill Kaiven and be known as a traitor for a while, or disobey me and you will go down in history as the one who caused the death of your Goddess, and the destruction of your precious Alliance."

Larin attempted feebly to get away from her grasp, but he was still unable to move.
"I will return tomorrow night for your answer. Choose wisely boy." She hissed.
Brushing the hair from his eyes, with something that came close to affection, the Dark Goddess slowly vanished and Larin began to regain the movement in his body.
"So.. I either betray an ally, or betray everyone in the Alliance ? No pressure."
Larin sighed, falling heavily back onto his mat.

-ooOoo-

Alteos entered his scrying room. It was a large, incredibly well lit room, with highly polished floors and walls draped with tapestries from a time long gone. A time when there was but one Goddess. Alteos' hand tightened on his Staff and head over the scrying pool he waved the Staff over the still water within. In a shimmer play of light and verdant green a scene began to play out before him.

Bands of Alliance troops in their separate guilds marched toward an equally large force of Furies who were camped around the relic in Cantara, as it had once been known to him.
"They fight for the relic as they call it."
"Fools !"
"Together they could unlock it's true power, but they fight for only a pittance of it's true nature."

The creatures around there had long since mutated from their once harmless forms into horrible, twisted caricatures of their former state. Each side thought the other was responsible for this and never came close to understanding what forces were truly at play.

"Where is it ?"
He continued to scry, searching for the true key to the relic.
"Hmm... not there." Alteos said in a quiet voice to himself.
Slipping deeper into his trance Alteos continued his search, sending his mind's eye across the lands of Shaiya.

Then a searing pain struck Alteos' mind that sent him reeling for a second. Shaking his head to clear the pain, Alteos could sense the Cryptic One approaching.
"Goddess let there be time." he whispered aloud.
Waving his staff again, the scrying pool stilled and the images faded to nothing. It was time to check on his 'guests'.
"The Vail first."

"You two with me." Alteos commanded two of the Orcs patrolling the halls of Maitreyan Deepen.
With Alteos leading, they headed toward the Vail's sealed room.
"Wait here. " he barked. The two guards took up positions on either side of the doorway.
The beautiful oak and iron door slid quietly to the side. The room was softly lit with glowing crystals.

Alteos watched the sleeping Vail. her breathing was quiet and rhythmic. He raised his Staff over her and quickly checked for injuries or ailments... none.
He then exited the room and the door slid quietly back into place.
"Now to check on the Human."
He entered the room in the same manner, both rooms being identical in appearance. As with the Vail, he checked the Human's health.
"They are young, strong and healthy, despite bearing the scars of battle."
"Continue with your duties." he commanded the Orcs

After releasing the guards back to their duties, he headed to his study.
"There is something familiar about those two... something elusive... ?"
He needed time to think, time to try and recall what once was.
"Something more is needed ?"

Alteos entered his study and sank into a large, ancient leather bound chair, near a heavy oak desk at the far end of the room.
Bookshelves lined two of the walls, filled with ancient and obscure volumes and shelves filled with hundreds of scrolls lined a third.
Behind his desk hung a large, detailed map of a world long gone, as brilliant as the day it was made. Alteos sat staring at the map, his mind now deep in the past.
"So many memories, so many years have passed." he said softly.

Hours passed without his notice, he was deep in his mind now, searching for the elusive memories from the ancient past.
It came to him like a flash of lightning, he sat upright and slammed his fists on the desk.
"Yes ! The Rings of Algerion ! That is it !"

-ooOoo-