Chapter 2

Many hours ago in D-Water Borderland, Jadynn and Kaiven had danced in battle, but now they stood, warily glaring at each other….

-ooOoo-

Jadynn stepped back and let her eyes linger on the fighter's face.
It was almost as if she could see the wheels in his head turning.
Not sure of what he was thinking, she let her mind focus on slowing her heart and thoughts.

Breathing in deeply, his scent broke her concentration long before she heard the miniscule sound of his entrance upon her meeting with the lighty.

Her vivid purple eyes turned to meet his deep grey ones and, in the corner of her vision, she noticed the handsome fighter stiffen and sway slightly.
Lightbane, by far the most powerful pagan in Teos, gave her one look and then her body began to convulse with the energy from his powerful attack.

As she crumpled to the ground, she watched, satisfied, as her enemy fell with her and then everything went black.

-ooOoo-

Several hours later….

-ooOoo-

Darkness.
She was surrounded darkness.
Pure black, suffocating darkness.
It covered her body like a thick blanket and shrouded her thoughts like a veil over one's face.
After a few long moments, the cloud in her mind lifted slightly so she could think, but this simplest of actions required so much energy.
Light pulsed like a heart beat behind her closed eyelids.
Though her mind struggled to fight the darkness, she found that she could not open her eyes for they seemed far too heavy to do so.
In defeat, she let the darkness engulf her mind once again.

Jadynn's eyelids flew open with a start.
She couldn't remember what she had been dreaming about.
It lingered just out of reach, now a fleeting memory forever lost in the bottomless depths of her mind.

Shaking her head, she let her eyes scan the dank room.
Soft glowing crystals hung on the walls.
The bed she was lying on, she noted, was soft and very comfortable.
She rolled over onto her side.
The use of her stiff muscles caused her to cringe at sharp pains shooting up and down her body.
Her breathe left her in a long hiss.
She hadn't realized she had been holding her breath.

The room was small, bare and devoid of furniture except for the small wooden table at the foot of the bed and the large chest positioned against the wall next to the door.
The door, she thought. I wonder if I can open it.
Unfortunately, from what she could see, there was no handle or any other means of opening it except for some magical incantation of some sort, or so she thought.
She sat up and let her thoughts and eyes linger on the door, hoping for a miracle where the door would open on its own accord.

Her thoughts suddenly ceased when she heard footsteps coming from outside the room.
Three sets she thought, one much lighter and more precise than the others.
The clank of armor told her that the light footed one's companions must be orcs or something of its kind.
She heard a sliding noise as if a panel had slid open and then it slid shut taking the sound of the footsteps with it.
Her eyes bore into the door, willing it to open but unwilling to get up and try to open it herself.

Not more than a few moments later, she heard scuffling brake out in a room adjacent to hers.
There was a grunt and the sound of a body slamming against a wall.
A harsh squeal of pain rang out catching her attention.
A few moments later, muffled sounds of fighting and wood breaking could be heard.
Her breath caught when all went silent.

What in the goddess's name was going on?

-ooOoo-

He felt something brush the back of his ankle and he heard a slight squeak.
Kaiven woke with a start, his brow wet with beads of sweat.
He was lying down on a small bed in a room that was dark and damp.
Slow drops could be heard echoing in the distance.

It was a small room, bare mostly, other than the small wooden table at the foot of the bed and a large chest next to the door on the opposite wall.

Kaiven noticed that his armor had been removed as well as his weapons.
He released a low, almost imperceptible growl.
The last thing he remembered was the face of that creature that he had become obsessed with.
That vile witch! She must have done something!

This wasn't the first time the stoic fighter had been in an ominous situation.
He quickly crouched beside the bed and sped along the walls to the chest. Empty.
He scanned the room once again.
The stone, the smell, and even the silence between the drips seemed all too familiar.
He had been here before.

As Kaiven stood from the chest, he noticed a slight crack on the side of the door.
Enough space to look through, he thought.
He edged up slowly to the door and peered into the crack.
A slight movement in front of the door told him there was guard.
A grunt followed by a quick deep growl told him it was an orc.
Easy enough.

Kaiven prepared to knock on the door, but stopped suddenly when he heard footsteps approaching.
He quickly went back to the bed and laid down.
He would have to be careful.
Without his armor, his weapons, or his potion pouch, he would not be a very thorough or successful killer.
He let his muscles flex with rage as the door open meanwhile holding his demeanor of calmness.
Anger made it easier to think, or at times it made it easier NOT to think.
Either way, this was his chance to escape.

He rolled over so that he was facing away from the door, meanwhile, monitoring his breaths so that they were completely controlled.
Kaiven registered three sets of footsteps
One at the door, probably the orc guard, and two more a few paces behind.
One of the footfalls seemed to be heavier than the others.
Another orc, he determined.
That left the third.
A lightweight, dainty and swift footstep.
The witch pagan. Must be!
As the door opened, he rolled over in one abrupt motion and kicked the orc nearest to him.
The force if his kick sent the orc crashing against the opposite wall and causing Kaiven to stand up from his bed.

It was then that he noticed the smaller figure next to the orc who was indeed a woman, but not the pagan.
A human.

Her hair fell around her soft face in curls like wisps of honey and gold.
She held a tray of bread and cheese, which she placed on the end table.
She was apparently undisturbed by his attack unlike the orcs who charged him again.
A human with orcs?
Kaiven was only confused by this notion for a split second when one of the orcs slammed into him. These orcs were working for that dark pagan, and she must have taken the girl captive, he decided.
How long had she been working for them? Was she their slave?

Kaiven, determined to rescue the young woman from servitude, leapt to the closest orc.
A quick jab of his fist and a slight twist of the orc's wrist left Kaiven in possession of a small axe.
He tripped the now weaponless creature and, as it fell backwards, Kaiven used his knee to kick into its jaw, causing the orc to bite off part of its tongue.
A squeal of pain erupted from its vicious mouth.

Kaiven wasn't proficient in using an axe as a weapon, but he would make do.
Kaiven swung the axe toward an orc, but he was quick to block his attack with the handle of his spear. Splinters from the wooden handle of the other orc's spear flew everywhere.
He let go of the now useless spear and it clattered to the ground as Kaiven was shoved backwards and onto the bed.
Great! He thought. I needed that spear.
It's the only other weapon that I could use when I escape from this dungeon.
He used the weak axe to stab a nearby orc then attempted to fight off the other as the injured one fell to the ground.

It was then that he noticed the young woman near the door again.
She stood with her back against the frame.
Her eyes were the color of deep ice, but they showed warmth.
He could see no fear in those piercing eyes.
She seemed unperturbed by the dying orc that now lay in a slow forming puddle of crimson blood just a few feet away from her, nor was she excited to see that he attempted to ride her of her captors.

Oddly, the remaining captor suddenly slowly backed away from Kaiven, his hands raised as if he was protecting the woman.
Kaiven began to smirk when he noticed the woman weaving her hands.
She was a spell caster!
He prepared to assist her when she completed her magic on the orc.
A ball of white energy, which seemed to absorb the heat in the small room, formed between her palms.
She remained calm as Kaiven slowly got off the bed.
The orc warily watched him, his fists still poised at chest level.
Kaiven smirked again knowing that the magic would soon come.

She looked up at him then released the ball of energy.

Kaiven's heart stopped and his breath slowed.
His body froze as the seconds ticked by.
He could barely lift his arms or move his body.
He stared at the woman with a face still contorting into turning into shock and confusion.
Why?
The woman giggled slightly as she and the orc departed from the room, but as she left, he noticed that her eyes were deeply sorrowful as she turned away, almost shameful.

-ooOoo-

Lyria closed the door behind her and stooped to pick up her second tray.
I can't wait for Orc bath day, these guys are really starting to reek.

She trailed behind the remaining orc to the pagan's room, meanwhile, wondering if this visit would be as interesting as the last.

-ooOoo-

A slight scuffling sound in the corner gained no attention from the room's occupant.
In any fortress, rats were expected, living deep down in their morbid dungeons.
Rats were a common nuisance, harmless little creatures really and hardly worth the time and poisoned bait it took to get rid of them.

Pebble peeked over the top of the boot in which she hid, the fine strands of her sensitive whiskers twitching imperceptibly.
Something was amiss tonight... She could sense it in her long gray tail.
Her shiny little eyes peered and blinked, determined to locate the source of the feeling.
She skittered her way out of the boot and across the floor like the slight flicker of a shadow and climbed the bed post.
Clinging to the musty wood, she was startled to see a man lying on the bed covers, his body limp in sleep.
No one had occupied this room in a very long time.
How odd, she mused.
With a soft thump, she landed on the blanket beside his foot.
With a little luck, he might have something in his pocket... something tasty!
She licked her paws and stroked her whiskers then squeaked in anticipation, "maybe even a cookie!"

Her squeaking must have woke him because she suddenly found herself flying across the room, her little black eyes wide with surprise.
She hit the wall and slid back into the boot she had previously emerged from.
People! She thought to herself as she struggled to her feet.

She poked her nose back over the top of the boot.
The man leaped up, his whole body on edge, and began to search the room.
Searching for what? She pondered.
Maybe he lost his cookie.
She didn't know, but she hoped that he would find it.
Find it and then share it! Yes! She squeaked happily to herself while sinking back into the boot to wait.

Suddenly a commotion erupted. Pebble cowered in the boot.
Oh noes! She thought.
She peeked out.
New arrivals! Why were they fighting him? Were they fighting him for the cookie?
She squeaked in distress while thinking about of her lost portion of a cookie that might have been shared.

As the fighting became worse, she stuffed herself farther into the boot to wait for things to quiet down. When they did, she slowly emerged.
The man was asleep again.
Oh well, she thought. He must be tired after all that fighting.

She climbed up the bedpost and skittered up his body.
Finding a pocket, she crawled inside.
She was not a very large rat, more mouse-like in size really, which meant no end to the teasing from the other dungeon rats.
Her tiny form hardly made a lump beneath the soft cloth of his clothing.
The warmth of the man's body was pleasant and pervasive and Pebble quickly found herself becoming drowsy.
Checking the pocket for tell-tale cookie crumbs, but finding none, she curled up instead and closed her eyes.
If he was going to take a nap, she would too.

-ooOoo-

Jadynn's hands gripped the edge of the bed as she waited for a sound to break the tension, any sound would do.
She stood and pressed her ear to the door attempting to hear what was going on.
She heard voices.
A girl spoke, but what she said, she couldn't tell.
The door was too thick.
A man's voice responded to the girl's and then a deep guttural voice spoke.
The man answered this too.
Her concentration was broken when footsteps approached her door.
"Blood and ashes!" she cursed.
She turned and jumped quickly toward the bed.

Her eyes met the icy blue ones of a dainty human as the door swished open.
Golden blonde curls framed her heart shaped face and the pagan's heart twinged with jealousy.
She emanated a sense of confidence and her eyes seemed to hold a secret that only she knew.
A smile played at the corners of her mouth.
Too bad she did not clue her in on her little secret.

The girl's eyes held hers for a moment then she moved to set a tray of bread and cheese on the table.
Jadynn hesitantly let go of the edge of the bed and watched as the girl and her orc partner left the room.
As they crossed the threshold, she rushed to catch the door before it shut, but its hard surface greeted her face.

So much for that idea, she thought.
She let out a sigh that sounded more like a feral hiss to any normal human being.
Her ears, oddly shaped and very attentive, caught the sound of a man's voice chuckling in a room adjacent to hers.
That was when her mind began to wonder about her human.
Her thoughts cringed at the thought of him.
HER HUMAN!
A growl escaped from her lips coming from deep within her throat and emanating from her whole being.
I sure hope he is suffering in some deep dungeon in this goddess forsaken place.

-ooOoo-

Alteos reached out a hand toward his staff.
It leaned forlornly against his ornately decorated desk.
This simple, but well practiced, action had progressed into more of a reflex than a thought.
He stood up and proceeded to head back to the scrying room to search for a clue, anything that might show him the way to the location of the rings.

A crash and a scream from down the hall brought him out of his stupor.
Kaiven, he mused.
This ought to be interesting.
Alteos headed toward Kaiven's room.
Lyria should be bringing my guest's their meals right about now, he mused.
The sound of his guards and Kaiven fighting brought a grim smile to his lips.
He couldn't have his guards killed off just for doing their jobs.
As he arrived in front of Kaiven's door, it slid open to reveal Lyria.

She smiled at him as she walked out with an orc guard in tow.

"Lyria, where is the other orc guard I assigned to assist you?" he asked.
"Dying." She said with a half smile on her face.

Alteos just looked at her with bewilderment for a moment longer then nodded for her to continue on with her tasks.
Upon entering the room, he took in the sight of Kaiven sprawled out on his bed unconscious.
Turning his attention to the dying orc, he said, "You'll be fine."
Alteos waved his staff, healing his orc guard to his former state.
The orc rose unsteadily at first, and then stood before Alteos with a look of shame upon his morbid face.

"I am sorry master. I failed you," the orc said in a deep guttural voice with his eyes down cast.
"It's okay. If you had bested him then he wouldn't be the one I seek. Now go and aid Lady Lyria. Draks, before you go, send G'nash and V'rak to guard this door."

The orc nodded then closed the door behind him.
Alteos walked to the foot of the bed and stared at the unconscious Kaiven.
With a wave of his staff, he woke Kaiven.
He sensed him become aware of his presence, but instead of waking, he pretended to continue sleeping.

"Sit up Kaiven. You're a guest and not a prisoner." He said with a slight chuckle.

-ooOoo-

Kaiven woke again.
It was as if his mind slowly faded into consciousness.
For a moment, Kaiven remembered the day when he was taken prisoner along with his father.
He thought back to how he would wake knowing that he was going to be beat, whipped, or burned.
He stayed still and his back tensed as he sensed the presence of another person in the room, but the lashings didn't come.

"Sit up Kaiven. You're a guest and not a prisoner."
It was a familiar voice, but somehow it sounded new.
He wasn't an idiot. He knew that those words had no merit.
How many times had he heard lies like that before?

Kaiven rolled over suddenly and, in one quick movement, bolted from the bed, ready to defend himself or rather, ready for his opponent to defend against his attacks.
As he took in the sight of the man before him, his mind suddenly reeled with recognition.

It was Raven the Darkslayer.

"Some way to keep a guest! Locked up and surrounded by orc guards. Is this what you have been doing Raven? We see you fight alongside us all, but then you are gone for days on end. You've been taming orcs and taking innocent people captive? Answer Me!"
His rage spoke, as usual.
And as usual, it made him calm.
He stared at Raven with hard, cold eyes and waited for an answer.
Which, he thought, would most likely be lies.

Raven did not answer, but instead he turned toward the door, allowing his back to face Kaiven.
Trusting isn't he?
He noticed that the orc he had killed earlier was taken away and its blood was now caked and half dried on the ground.

Odd, usually dragging a dead body away would leave a trail.
Raven turned back around to face Kaiven with a different face.

Where there had once been wrinkles, there was smooth skin.
His jet black eyes that always seemed to be framed with dark circles were now clear and dark circle free. His once pepper grey hair had faded to a silvery grey.
Raven stood before Kaiven with an air of wisdom that comes with old age.
Although the real Raven looked older than this new Raven, the new figure emanated old age.

This new sight caused Kaiven's blood to churn wildly while his mind flitted between shock, confusion, and regret at his last outburst then, utterly flabbergasted, he sat back down.

Kaiven waited silently.
The next move seemed to be his own; however, he didn't know what to do or how to proceed.
Just as Kaiven opened his lips and breathed in to demand what the meaning of all this was, the new Raven spoke.

"Come," was all he said.
"G'nash," he said to the door.
It slid open and he walked through.

Kaiven followed close behind this strange new man.
He noticed the orcs standing guard by his door. Two of them now, he noticed.
There only used to be one.
He fought to control his urge to fight them both.
No, he told himself. I need to find out what is going on first.

The wall across from his room had a door identical to his.
It suddenly flew open to reveal the human girl he had tried to save earlier.
She took a few steps, leaving the safety of the threshold, with an orc following close behind her.
She looked up to meet his gaze.
Her reaction was strange.
Kaiven was usually very good at reading people, or so he thought; however, at this moment he couldn't tell if she was calm or distraught.
Maybe both, as if she was trying to hide her emotions from someone.

She walked away from them after a quick nod from Raven.
His puzzled eyes lingered on her fleeting form as she and the orc made their way down the narrow hallway.

Returning his attention to the situation at hand, he said, "Not a prisoner, huh?"
The old man just chuckled and shook his head slightly at his remark then motioned with his impressive staff for Kaiven and the orc's to follow.
He was well known for his unique staff.
The two orcs that had previously been guarding Kaiven's door began to walk and Kaiven was forced to walk with them mostly because they each had taken up a position on either side of him.

-ooOoo-

Pebble stirred, awakening slowly from her delicious sleep.
Her whiskers were stiff and her mouth tasted like pocket lint, but it had been one of the best naps she had ever taken.
This pocket is awesome! She thought to herself.
Licking her paws, she flattened her ears and brushed her face.
Her tail twitched suddenly.
She smoothed it down.
That was odd... But the tail knows best!
Pebble heeded its warning and poked her head out of the pocket to check if anything dangerous was afoot.

She found herself being carried down a long hall, poorly lit and badly furnished.
Tacky tacky, she tisked.
Ugly orcs walked on either side of the man in whose pocket she sat.
All three were following behind some crusty old guy who carried a big stick.
Looking at him, Pebble's tail twitched again.

She pulled her head back down into hiding, ill at ease.
She had seen him before, walking through these halls, but she had always done her best to stay away.
There were rumors that rats tended to disappear when he was around.
Some childhood friend of Pebble had once whispered to her that those missing rats had ended up in some strange concoction.
Not knowing exactly what that meant, Pebble had always dismissed it, but some part of her knew that was a bad thing, so she kept her distance anyways.

She kept herself very still, hoping not to be noticed.
When they had stopped moving and no one was looking, she would make a sneaky getaway.
As she waited, her little head churned with thoughts.

Where were they going?
What had happened while she was curled up against the warmth of this human?
What had she missed while she slept?

-ooOoo-

Alteos's only answer for the wild eyed, glaring fighter was to intently return his stare.
His face held no expression.
Instead, he dropped his Raven guise allowing him to see a glimpse of his true self.

He watched the fighter, studying his face.
Hm, he has suffered something in his past. I must train him to shed the inner rage or else the Cryptic One will use it against him.
It is time to give him some explanations, but not here.

Alteos motioned for Kaiven and his orc guards to follow.
They all headed down the long hallway leading towards the Inner Sanctum.
He could feel Kaiven's gaze upon his back and sensed his emotions of rage and confusion.

"You are wondering where you are and how you may make an escape, are you not?
Please do not attempt it.
I need you awake and conscious and you need answers.
You will have them, I assure you, but not here."

Alteos led them to a small room at the end of the hall into which they all entered.
A warm emerald light seemed to fill the air as the door of pure clouded glass closed after them.
In a moment, they were moving downward at an incredibly fast rate.

Alteos said nothing as they descended, but rather, began to sink deep into thought.

Meanwhile, G'nash gazed at the human and wondered why he was so important to master Alteos.
He looked like any other human fighter whose only goal was to attack any creature that got in his way, yet, he too could sense something different about this human.
Something familiar. But what?

Then the human, sensing G'nash's gaze, turned his head to look at him with hateful eyes, but he neither sneered nor insulted him.
G'nash met his gaze with a cool and calm serenity that master Alteos had trained him with when he was just a youngling.

He had lived a long, full life filled with war and peace.
He had been there when there was only one Goddess.
Teos was a land of peace then.
But when she fell, there was war and unrest among the people.
In battle he had defeated Elf, Human, Vail and Nordein alike for the protection of his Goddess, Deepen Mait and its outposts throughout the realms.
He had become a true warrior for his Goddess and he felt peace because he warred for her, but now he felt an uneasiness in the fabric of life.

Something terrifying that he could not give a name.

-ooOoo-

Jadynn turned from the door in defeat and grabbed the hunk of bread and the water pitcher from the table.
She sat on the edge of the bed and took a swig from the jug.
Her vision began to cloud and her eyes became heavy.
What in the goddess's name?
Sleeping powder.
Will I ever get peace from this darkness they so enjoy tormenting me with?
Her mind blacked out and she lay half on and half off the bed with the jug in one hand the hunk of bread in the other.

-ooOoo-

Alteos began to focus his thoughts. He touched Draks's mind with his own, forming a link through which he could convey information.

"Draks, please inform Lady Lyria to escort the Vail to me in the Inner Sanctum within the hour. Remember that the protection of Lady Lyria and the Vail is your priority."
"As you command, Master Alteos." He quickly replied.

Draks then proceeded to inform Lady Lyria of Master Alteos's requests.
"Your ladyship, Master Alteos requests that the Vail be made ready to meet him in the Inner Sanctum within the hour."
She nodded in reply and moved gracefully down the corridor.

Clad in the best of Adamas armor with a short halberd in hand, Draks followed the diminutive human.
He was very respectful of the Lady.
Lady Lyria was well known in Deepen Mait.

They stopped in front of the lady's chamber door.
"Thank you Draks. Please wait by the Vail's door until I am ready."
Draks stood at attention and bowed slightly then he proceeded to walk down the hall towards the Vail's room.

-ooOoo-

"Thank you Draks. Please wait by the Vail's door until I am ready."
Lyria closed the door behind her after watching Draks bow then walk away.
She turned and gave a small smile to the empty room.
At least the Vail didn't attack, she thought.

Her cobalt eyes swept the room and paused over her weapons.
If we're all being called together, it wouldn't hurt to be prepared.
She picked up a dagger, a gift from her father before she left the temple that last time, and slid it into the sheath hidden inside her right arm's billowy sleeve.

She took a deep breath and closed her eyes slipping into a light, meditative trance.
She forced her emotions out and her ever incessant thoughts back into the deep recesses of her mind where no one could access them.

When her eyes opened, she was simply Lyria, a priestess that worked with Master Alteos.
A dainty hand slipped around her staff resting against the frame of the door as she left the room.
As the door shut behind her, she headed off down the hallway to collect the Vail.

-ooOoo-

Jadynn's eyes flitted open and she sat up to see the pretty human again.

Her thoughts raged and filled with anger and...jealousy?
HA! Was she crazy? Why would she feel jealousy for this human?
Her mind spat these words out while a soft growl began to form in her throat causing the human to hesitate for a split second.
But the slight disturbance did not faze her.

"Get up Vail. He wants to see you." She spoke.
Her voice was musical and sweet, but firm and strong.
Jadynn's growl deepened and gradually became louder.
"Oh do shut up. I'm not going to hurt you. I'm only doing his bidding, so get off your rump and follow me or do I need to send for the orcs standing outside your room?"
She smirked at her with those perfect lips.
Oh how Jadynn loathed her from her very core.

She stood up, unwillingly, and watched as the girl moved her hand over the door.
It slid open to reveal a dimly lit hallway and an orc standing guard.
"Come," she said and Jadynn did so, not wanting to inflict the wrath of the Orc even though she knew she could easily take him.
She had killed many Orcs in her lifetime.

As she walked, she appeared to be calm, but her mind raced behind her flashing eyes.

"I know what you are thinking Vail.
Please do not attempt anything.
Draks and all the other Orcs in Deepen Mait excel in their trainings.
Draks here was trained by Master Alteos himself who you will get to meet shortly.
Besides, Master Alteos brought you here for a purpose.
No use in getting yourself killed over a little contempt for the races we harbor here."

The girl led her to a small room at the end of that hall into which they entered through a door of clouded glass.
The room was lit by a warm green colored light, but she could not find its source.
Then, suddenly, the room began to move.
Or at least that's what she thought it was doing.
Before long it seemed to move very fast in a downward decent.
The ride was smooth and unhindered.
Finally, it stopped and the doors opened once more.

-ooOoo-

Lyria raised her right hand and motioned for Draks to take the rear as she led the Vail to the Movement Room.
She could sense contempt and rage emanating from the beautifully wild looking Vail.
With a tight smile on her face, Lyria guided the small group.

"I know what you are thinking Vail.
Please do not attempt anything.
Draks and all the other orcs in Deepen Mait excel in their trainings.
Draks here was trained by Master Alteos himself who you will get to meet shortly.
Besides, Master Alteos brought you here for a purpose.
No use in getting yourself killed over a little contempt for the races we harbor here."

Without another word, Lyria continued on towards the translucent glass door at the end of the hall.
It slid open as they approached.
The door closed behind them.
Draks moved to stand guard near the door, staring straight ahead and ignoring both Lyria and the Vail, or so it seemed.

"Lyria make sure you take the Eastern and Shaman Halls," Alteos relayed to Lyria by touching her mind.
"As you wish." She replied in the same manner.

Why does he want us to go by the Shaman Halls? Lyria mused to herself as she gave the Vail a sidelong look.
Like the human, she sensed something familiar about this Vail.
Something elusive.

An odd look on Draks's gnarled face caught her attention.
She turned her attention back to the Vail and saw that she too had an odd expression.
Lyria shuddered a little.
Draks, without warning, suddenly raised his halberd to cast a shielding spell over them all.

"Lady Lyria, are you okay?
I need you to help me...it's an attack...I...can't...hold...this for long..!" Draks said in a deep guttural voice while clearly struggling against the unforeseen attack.

Catching her wits about her, Lyria added her own shield to Draks's.
She too could feel the immense power of the unseen attack.
Sweat began to pour down her back and bead across her brow.

"Help us you stupid Vail or we will all be dead.
We can't hold this on our own for much longer!" She yelled at the Vail.

At the behest of the human, Jadynn seemed to shake off her moment of disorientation and added her own shielding spell to the fray.
The force of the attack caught her by surprise.

"Master Alteos! We need you!" pleaded Lyria as she attempted to make contact with Alteos.
"I am sorry my child! It's bad here too," Master Alteos replied in a strained voice.

Finally, reaching its destination, the movement room came to a stop and the door slid open to reveal chaos all around.
Orcs, Dwarves, Elves and Humans all fought together against an army of figures clad in black bearing purple glowing blades.

Out of the fray came four Orc Shamans and a Human Mage.
They created shields around their small party of three forming a semi circle at the entrance to the Movement Room.

"Move it!" Draks growled as he led the small band to a large group of Deepen Mait defenders.

"Draks!
By the Goddesses what is going on?!" the Human Magister asked, the strain of him holding up his shield apparent on his face

-ooOoo-

Jadynn waited patiently as the room slowly descended downwards.
Where were they taking her? She thought.
Her mind toyed with the answer to her question.

Her thoughts were interrupted when she saw the human give her a sidelong glance.
The Orc to her right made a slight movement that caused her to look his way.
He had an odd look on his face.
It was then that she realized something was wrong, very wrong.

Suddenly, he was raising his halberd and a shield spell surrounded them.

The orc spoke in an ugly guttural voice, "Lady Lyria are you okay? I need you to help me...it's an attack...I...can't...hold...this for long..!"
Jadynn turned to look at the human and her curls bounced as she lifted her own staff to add a protection shield to the Orc's.
They were under attack, she realized in disbelief.
Or at least somewhere in the place someone was under attack.

The girl wiped sweat from her brow while anxiously saying,
"Help us you stupid Vail or we're all dead...we can't hold this at bay for long!"
She shook off her apprehension and added her own powerful shield to the fray.

By the Goddess what is going on?

After a few moments of tension and intense silence between each member of the group, the room came to a stop and the doors parted.

-ooOoo-

As Alteos and his party approached the Inner Sanctum, the air seemed to change.
Alteos halted without warning and his party looked at him oddly.
He began to look up at the high ceilings and down the halls from whence they came.
"By the goddess what is going on?" he thought to himself.

Unexpectedly, Alteos raised his crystalline staff over his head and a powerful shield encased the small group just as a bolt of pure black energy attempted to strike them.
With a loud cracking sound, the powerful bolt sent showered sparks as it was deflected by Alteos's shield.

"EVERYONE TO THE CENTRAL CHAMBER!" Alteos roared to his group as he began to run.
The others followed closely behind.

They ran into the Inner Sanctum and were greeted by a fierce and vicious battle.
Alteos quickly surveyed the chaos then pointed his staff before him.
A bolt of pure golden energy shot towards the defenders and intruders sending the darkly clad men flying and mysteriously healing the fallen.

"EVERYONE TO ME! FORM RANKS NOW!" Cried Alteos.

In what seemed like an eternity, but in reality was only a few seconds, the unusual band of varied races fighting together in the Crystal Chamber formed ranks directly in front Alteos and his band.
Kaiven can't fight like that, he thought as he noticed Kaiven who had become lost in the chaos of battle.
He pointed his staff towards Kaiven and, in a flash of emerald light, Kaiven found himself clad in his own armor with dual swords in hand.

"Kaiven take command of the left flank. G'nash the right is yours. Now move it!" Commanded Alteos, "This is just the beginning."

"Master Alteos! We need you!" Suddenly, Lyria was mind speaking to him.
Her plea was almost heartbreaking.
"I am sorry my child. It's bad here too." He replied with evident regret.
There was nothing he could do for her.
At least not now.

In the central part of the chamber, a figure clad in black armor, softly glowing purple robes stood at attention.
In his right hand, he wielded a long sword that glowed purple.

Explosions of magic, shooting arrows, bolts of energy, shouts and screams all coming from many different races came together in an intense battle scene.

I can't fight like this, Alteos thought to himself.
Raising his staff over his body, Alteos revealed his true appearance.
An appearance that had not been seen since the fall of the Goddess.

Now he stood before his Deepen Mait comrades clad in Emerald Myth armor.
His staff was now a tall crystalline halberd embellished with an embedded emerald glowing brightly in the center of the blade.

When the change was complete, Alteos charged through the chaos and engaged the enemy commander in battle.

The war was on.

-ooOoo-

Lyria's curls bounced as she shook off Alteos distracted reply to her plea for assistance.
She looked at the Vail.
She was trying very hard not to get caught up in the prejudices between their two sides.

"Here," she said as she tossed Jadynn her staff, "I'm not much of a fighter, but you can do us all a favor. Attack the ones in the black armor!"

Lyria tilted her head back, saying a quick prayer to the goddess, before pulling her own dagger out and focusing her healing spells on those within her range.

-ooOoo-

Loud noises erupted, shouts of fury and incessant cries of pain permeated the fighter's pocket.
The air smelled of singed hair and the scent of violent magic that burned through defenses and impacted shields.

Pebble cowered, suddenly finding herself squeezed tight between something solid and the man's rock hard body.
Barely able to breathe in the tight space, she knew she had to free herself and escape.
Maybe she would find a wall where, hopefully, she would find a way out of this mess.

Moving as fast as she could, her little paws scrabbling, she wiggled herself free and fell to the floor.
Blindly she ran, dodging feet and falling bodies, her tiny heart pounding in her ears.
She could taste fear on her tongue, a salty sickness like tainted blood.

Something luminescent and purple caught her eye.
Oh pretty! She thought. She clawed the hem of the garment and began to climb, enthralled by the purple glow of the gear.

Wheeeeeeeeee! She screeched as she swung around on the garment.
Man he moves a lot, she squeaked to herself.
Stars exploded in her head as she thunked against something hard, lost her grip and fell.
She rolled, her tail knotting itself painfully.

Grabbing the nearest thing, she climbed for her life to escape the crushing feet all around her.
Oh purple again!
She found herself on someone's leg.
She climbed higher, sneaking deep into the folds of purple material.

Pebble's eyes grew accustomed to the strange glow surrounding her and then widened in horror when she noticed that the skin she was touching was mottled and black.
Her knotted tail began to twitch painfully.

Panicking, she started to bite, sharp little teeth and claws drawing pin pricks of bitter blood, desperate to fight her way free.

-ooOoo-

Kaiven felt the change before he saw it.
He looked down to see that he now held a sword in each hand.
He moved them about, testing their weight and length.
The sight of familiar nicks and scratches on the well worn hilts confirmed his ponderings.
These swords were his alright.
He then proceeded to check the armor he was now wearing.
It was in better condition than his last set, he noted.
How nice, the old man decided to give me a shiny new set to play with.

The faint remnant of green light that had just surrounded him was slowly disappearing along with the tingle of magic running from his head to his toes but one slight tingle still remained close to his heart.
The tingle moved of its own accord down his left arm.
Kaiven quickly raised his left arm as the odd feeling crawled toward his wrist.

The sudden movement, along with an almost habitual tight grip on his sword, deflected an arrow that surely would have pegged him right between the eyes.
After the arrow crunched against his sword, Kaiven crouched into his natural fighting stance.
The shock of the arrow's silent attack was gone but his heart continued to pump almost uncontrollably.
Then, he allowed his rage to control his thoughts and actions.

Somewhere in the chaos of battle, the old man gave an order.
Left flank was his?
Or did he hear right?
Kaiven was commanded.

One thing Alteos should have known before hand was that Kaiven never took well to orders.
A group of battle warriors looked at him as they waited for orders.
Many others ran past them, fighting till death.

Kaiven hated leading.
He never wanted to be known as a leader.
He snarled at the Orc waiting for his commands, something Kaiven was not accustomed to doing.
Odd, he thought, I'm starting to sound like that witch girl.

As he glared at his flank, he knew with all his being that he could not, would not fight alongside such lowly creatures as the Orcs standing before him.
He would rather kill them all then throw away all he had worked for.

As his inner thoughts raged, he turned to see many dark figures wielding large swords.
Their very presence seemed to emanate a deep purple hue.
Now they are worthy opponents.

Kaiven's body seemed to automatically move straight for a darkly clad figure.
I will deal with the Orcs later, he reasoned with himself.

He left those waiting for his command behind him as his body was driven to the new figure.
His swords longed for bloodshed.
All the chaos, people and creatures seemed to disappear.
Some seemed to follow his lead and attacked, defended or attended to the fallen and injured.

Even though pure anarchy surrounded him, he felt normal.
Safe.
This was where his heart was.
In pure, dangerous, bloody battle.

The dark figure was tall and large, but moved swiftly.
As Kaiven charged him, a defender pulled up beside Kaiven and attacked with him.
She taunted the large enemy and readied her shield, but strangely, the foe seemed to focus solely on Kaiven.
She paused for a moment, thrown off by the enemy's unresponsiveness to her taunt.
For his final blow he plunged his right sword up into what should have been the creature's chest.
As he fell to the ground, dark bile and toxic gas began to ooze from his mouth, eyes, ears and wounds.

Kaiven heaved a large sigh then nodded to the defender beside him.
She ran off to decapitate a black armored enemy and Kaiven turned to survey the room's situation.

His eyes stopped as he beheld the old man, now clad in emerald Adamas armor bearing an impressive looking halberd that Kaiven had never seen before.
He was locked in combat with what looked to be the dark army's leader.

Huh, he thought in disbelief, He fights alongside orcs and humans alike and in return they defend him at all costs.

Magic began to flow from the man's palms.
Kaiven had never seen magic such as this.
So he's a powerful sorcerer and a duped up defender.
He's been holding out on us.

-ooOoo-

The doors parted.

Before them lay pure chaos.
An intense battle raged between Orcs, Humans, Elves Dwarves and men clad in black armor wielding glowing purple swords.
Neither side seemed to gain much headway in the battle as Jadynn watched dumbfounded.

A semi-circle of four Orc Shamans and a Human Mage ran up to them as they stood staring.
Together they raised up a shield around Jadynn and her party.
An Orc growled, "Move it!"
To Jadynn it sounded more like a grunt and growl, but she got the picture when his half crazed eyes met her own.
They headed towards a party of Deepen Mait defenders.

A Human Magister spoke to the Orc, "Draks, by the goddesses what is going on?!"

Meanwhile, Jadynn just stood at a loss for something to do.
She was weaponless which rendered her unable to fight decently, but even with a weapon, she was not able to distinguish who or what she was supposed to battle against.
Was this even a battle she could take part in?

She stared at the Orc, Draks she thought, and waited for a command.
She could see the strain on his face from keeping up a shield.
Jadynn was used to holding magic for long periods of time.
She reached into the back her mind to feel the threads of magic that tingled with anticipation.
The strain of holding up a shield only caused her to have a slight headache.

To her right a bolt of gold shot towards a group of defenders and darkly clad men.
The bolt sent the black man flying against a wall and seemed to heal the fallen and injured.

What kind of magic is this?

From where the bolt came, she saw LightBane.
Her mind flew back to her encounter with him before she was taken to this place.
The human.
Where was he?
She had forgotten about him.
LightBane shouted something that sounded like, "…to me!" Form ranks!" And as one, the defenders moved to surround Lightbane.

It was then that she saw him.

Her eyes settled on his muscular form and handsome face.
He was not wearing his armor she noted.
Then before her eyes he was suddenly fully clothed in his armor wielding a sword.
Jadynn's breath caught in her throat and her heart gave a slight twinge.
What in the Goddess's name?
Why did he have to look so good.
She shook the feeling away and began to focus on the chaos surrounding her.

Kaiven moved to join the battle and was lost in the fray almost instantly.
Jadynn was left empty and alone.

Arrows flew, bolts of energy crackled, sparks showered, screams, growls and screeches rang out.
The air was thick with sweat and stank of death.

"Here", said the Human girl standing next to her and tossed Jadynn her staff.
She caught it singlehandedly, staring at it as if it were a foreign object she had never seen before.
It was a wooden staff, long and smooth with a loop at the top where a green emerald glowed at the base of the loop.
Her fingers tightened around it and she looked up to follow the human.
"I'm not much of a fighter. Do us all a favor and attack the ones in the black armor!"

So she did.

She prepared a spell and let it go on a poor, helpless, darkly clad man.
He lay on the ground, not moving.

Her feral instincts kicked in and the thirst for blood rose quickly after that first attack.
Nostrils flaring and breathing even, she began to kill swiftly and quickly any black armored enemy she could see.

An interruption from the blonde girl caused Jadynn to hesitate for a moment.
Then she found herself being dragged to a dark corner and being pushed behind her dainty figure.

Kaiven trotted over to her.
No, not her.
To that loathsome human doll standing near her.

She stepped to the side and watched as he let his eyes linger on hers.
Her anger towards him began to rise so fast she could not hold it back.
Jadynn began chanting and weaving a magic spell with the intent of killing him yet again.
His eyes held the emotions of anger, lust and shame.
Odd, she thought, why would he feel in shame?
She could not answer herself because he was almost on her as soon as she raised her staff.

"WAIT!"

-ooOoo-

Kaiven advanced on a group of dark armored enemies.
He withdrew a little when a age along with three Orcs teamed up on his mob of enemies.
They massively slaughtered them in less than fifteen seconds.

Even though the event was expertly executed, Kaiven could not get over the fact that these creatures were normally viewed as his enemies, not his comrades.
He had to get away.
Let them deal with their own troubles.

Kaiven began to attack his way to the nearest exit, or what he thought was the way out.
Black surrounded him along with flashes of that deep violet hue.

These adversaries were so different than the many foes he had battled before.

As he moved closer and closer to what looked like the exit, the darker the area around him became.
The glowing purple quickly began to look more like thick smoke wafting though darkness.
Kaiven did his best to slash and hack his way through the intense massing of bodies.

That was when Kaiven saw her.

The woman with the blonde curly hair and eyes the color of ice.
The light within her features was amplified by the darkness that stood between them.
She stared boldly at him as his gaze lingered on her face.
Behind her, he caught a slight movement.
His eyes began to search the darkness for what had caught his attention.

As she continued to openly stare at him, Kaiven motioned for her to turn around, but it seemed as if the woman was in a trance.
It was then that he saw what the movement had come from.

Her.

That vile witch.

She held a staff.
She raised it slightly, as if to cast a spell while standing behind the woman, who still stared, unsuspecting of the witch's evil intentions.
That witch must have brought these new vile creatures with her.

Was it a new ploy from the dark side?
Did the Fury tame these creatures to command?

The blonde woman motioned for Kaiven to come to her.
Her body seemed to move as if she were being controlled.
The witch is controlling her too?

Kaiven ran up towards them, meanwhile preparing to save the blonde woman.
Or at least attempt to, he thought remembering his last attempt at rescuing her.

Unexpectedly, as Kaiven reached the two, the dark one stepped back and lowered her staff.
Surprisingly, he felt relieved that she was still there and almost excited that he could see her again.
He felt almost happy that they could once again dance in battle together.
This time, the prize was the life of the beautiful woman standing near her.

The pagan seemed to feel the same way.
She began to chant her vile magic and raised her staff to attack.
He was on to her ploys before she had a chance to finish her spell preparation.

This time he would not hold back.
And this time he would make sure that this woman who had broke through his heart of stone would see her Goddess and do nothing but writhe in shame before her.
This time she would die.

Kaiven readied his sword as the pagan raised her staff.
Anger, lust, and shame in both their eyes.
This time only one of them would walk away.
He knew this would be their last time.

"WAIT!"

It was the blonde woman.
Kaiven turned to face her, her eyes as cold and passionate as theirs.

-ooOoo-

It was strange enough working with the orcs in Deepen Mait, watching them fight, healing them when needed.
But when it came to trusting a Vail who just happened to be casting dangerous magic next to her, well it was almost too much for Lyria to handle.

One cast in my direction and I'm just about toast…

Her skin began to crawl and she didn't think it was going to quit crawling anytime soon.

A group of the Deepen Mait defenders cut across her vision, causing her to notice another file of invaders heading towards the two casters.
Somehow, the Vail and Lyria had been separated from Draks and his team.

Goddess help us, I'm too young to die.

Lyria offered up a prayer to her goddess before pulling the pagan with her as she dodged behind a group of Orc Guards.

She shoved the girl behind her petite frame as they ducked back into the shadows of an obscure wall.
Her icy eyes scanned the hall.
She purposely skipped over the ebony clad invaders before settling on the handsome fighter.

The fray surrounding her seemed to slow and the Vail's ominous presence behind her was forced from her mind.
The rage in Kaiven's eyes was all she saw.
She beckoned to him.
Her compassionate heart wanted to soothe away his anger and the frustrated crease upon his brow.

He responded by running quickly towards her, causing the chaos to crash back and overriding her senses.
It was almost too much to deal with.
She picked up the faint sounds of the Vail chanting behind her.

Idiots! She spat in her mind.

"WAIT!"

Lyria's outburst seemed to surprise them enough to distract them from their murderous intentions.

"Fight against each other later if you absolutely must, but, if you haven't noticed, we have bigger problems at the moment." She said with her hands on her hips.

-ooOoo-