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Portent Alliance • View topic - The History of the Waes'Harventhars

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 Post subject: The History of the Waes'Harventhars
PostPosted: Sat Sep 16, 2006 12:38 am 

Joined: Sat Sep 16, 2006 12:26 am
Posts: 7
Here is a tale from the days of my grandsire.

It be important for you know where I come from to understand the risks I am willing to undertake in order to restore the glory of my house. I can do no less than my namesake did...


A serious looking young Teir Dal strides purposefully into the hall. His clothes are old and worn but well cared for. They also tell the tale of a fall from the Third Gate to the First.

“My name is Maelgroth Waes’Harventhar.” His voice is strong but un-emotional, lacking the arrogant fire that usually betrays the inexperience of the younger Teir Dal. “It shall be long and long before I am worthy to join your ranks, but I wish to make myself known to you.” He pauses for a moment, keen eyes surveying the empty hall. He knows his words shall be heard and weighed and he chooses them carefully.

“I understand it is tradition to tell a tale about yourself, well I am young and have accomplished little that would gain me fame as of yet.” At this the young Teir Dal sighs heavily.

“But, in order for you to understand myself and my goals I shall indeed tell you a tale, a tale of murder, betrayal, pride and hate, it shall be the tale of my house, listen well…”

“In my mother and father’s time, great was the pride of the Waes’Harventhars.” At this the speaker seems to stand taller, “For those of you who do not speak a real language it means ‘skin taker.’”

“My house was renowned for their music, it was said my mother Shadowbliss could make a captive shriek with such subtleties of tone and cadence that listeners could dance to the screams. Great were her gifts, quick were her hands, total was her obedience to the queen.”

“My father was her accompanist, his skill with the flaying knife was unequalled. It is said that he once skinned a troll so slowly and skillfully that when he was done there were no seams or cuts in the skin.” The speaker pauses for a moment collecting his thoughts.

“Together they made beautiful music, and they stood high in the Queen’s favor, indeed they came to her attention during the night of the long knives.” Maelgroth looks carefully around the room, perhaps trying to spot a hidden assassin.

“At one time several lesser houses attempted to move against the Queen at the King’s bidding. My family got wind of it and ambushed the assassins. In my time I have heard bards of many races sing, but it is said that the sweetest music of all can be coaxed from the throat of a captive Teir Dal, perhaps it’s the superior bonestructure, the perfect teeth and the dexterous tongue.” At this Maelgroth seems to loose himself in meditation, but only for a moment.

“They took their captives to the Queen, and begged permission to display their skill. She readily agreed. It is said that the music which came from the throats of the Matrons and Patrons of those houses surpassed anything heard in Neriak before or since.”

“The Queen was so delighted with her new musicians that she took them everywhere with her. Many were the agents of the King who came to a beautiful end on the stained tables of the Waes’Harventhars.” Maelgroth smiles at this last description. He hums a bit of a particularly well known tune in the Maiden’s Fancy, ‘Tarsheva’s Shriek’.

“My mother was dutiful, but my father was a bit of a fool, and he allowed himself to believe that it was their efforts that kept the Queen safe. He saw himself reflected in the hate directed at the Queen. So it is that Hate gives birth to many fell children, Pride, Envy, and Fear being its chief agents.”

“Indeed it was his pride that caused him to claim that it was fear of the Waes’Harventhars that kept the enemies of the Queen at bay. It was envy of their position that caused the remnants of those first four houses to ally once again, this time their target was not the Queen but the Waes’Harventhars. At the last, however, it was fear that did them in.”

“It is said that the Queen herself began to doubt the loyalty of her servants and to question the position of power she had placed them in. After all the public torture and slaughter of Teir Dal nobility was a privelage entitled only to the royal house. She feared their power, the Waes’Harventhars were becoming an institution exercising authority on their own, increasing their popularity with the masses even earning the grudging respect of the King for their skill.” The speaker pauses again, running his fingers along his clean shaven skull, only the slightest sheen of sweat betrays any sense of nervousness.

“So it was that the Queen lifted the protections she had placed around her favorite flayers and the scheming of four houses was given her tacit approval. They came for my parents soon after. They lacked skill, it is said my father died of his wounds after only an hour of song. They never got my mother to sing.” The last is said with a bit of grim pride.

“They would have made me sing as well, but a servant placed her infant in my cradle.” A single tear runs down Maelgroth’s face, he wipes it away with a fine boned finger. “Make no mistake, this is no tear of sadness, but of pride, no house was ever served better by those in its employ. I have not forgotten the generosity shown to me by my nurse maid.”

“Instead of the idle life of a young Teir Dal noble, I was brought up in the House of the Dead, assuming a slot and identity long prepared and paid for by this woman’s family, passing up her clan’s best chance for advancement to hide the last heir of a broken house. The way of the necromancer became my path and passion.”

“You wish to know my goals, I will see these four houses brought down in ruin. They shall provide such sweet music that the name of the Waes’Harventhars shall be spoken with respect again, their works shall become the hallmark of civilized folk and not a part of the sweaty ballads of the streetwalkers.”

“It is said that the game of houses is not for the weak, or the foolish. I am neither, I shall strike at the time of my own choosing, and I must hone my skills, I am not yet the musician my mother was, coaxing her instruments to shrieks of perfection with only a caress or possesses the steady hand and strong fingers of my father.” Maelgroth reaches into a large sack and pulls out four decayed hands.

“I suppose I should correct that.”

“I do have their hands.” He holds them up carefully. “They shall be the instruments of my vengeance.” Lovingly he kisses each withered finger, the tips worn away from long contact, after a moment he places them back in the sack.

“Did you know that the hand has 27 bones in it?” Maelgroth says conversationally, dipping out of the formal mode of address for the first time.

“That give me 108 chances at vengeance...”

In the darkness of Nektulos Forest the halfling raiders began to know fear. It had been a long time since the importance of their mission had been called into question. They had taken many losses, but that was to be expected. No, something entirely new had come to the forest. Something that filled the lowliest scout and the mightiest captain with a nagging doubt.

“I don’t want to go out alone.” Whined Preston the scout. He had drawn the black stone from the bag. It meant he had to make the patrol to the fallen tree near the road to Lavastorm. It had always been a difficult route, one which he had successfully negotiated in the past, this time was different.

“You have to…you drew the black stone!” Hissed Shandor, his best friend. He had nearly moistened his breeches when it was his turn to draw from the bag, so strong was his fear. Now that his neck was out of the noose he was eager to buy a reprieve, even if it was at the cost of his friend’s life.

“Won’t anyone come with me?” Preston asked. He knew that no one would offer. After all he had not accompanied any of the others when it was their turn.

“We can’t risk undermining our position here any further, yet we must continue to perform our duties.” The Captain barked. He had not slept for a week and the hair on his feet was matted and dirty. He had sent out double patrols in the past, it just got his men killed quicker. Now his band was cowered around the stump of a mighty tree long since fallen. Their patrols a shadow of their former strength. He did not have the heart to tell his men that he was unsure if word of their plight had gotten back to Rivervale.

With a heavy heart he blessed Preston with what magics he could. “Be quick, and be quiet.” The Captain whispered. As Preston hurried off into the darkness he added mentally, ‘die well.’

Preston scuttled soundlessly along the forest floor. He had spent part of his youth as a troublemaker, and had picked up some skill at sneaking and hiding. It was one of the reasons he had volunteered for the position. Well, actually he had been caught with his hand in the mayor’s ‘candy’ jar and given the option of serving in the Nektulos scouts or exile. He had chosen the scouts.

The coming of the trolls to the forest had caused some consternation initially, but they quickly proved to be less of a problem than expected. They were large, slow and not particularly intelligent. They could be tricked. This train of thought increased the scout’s confidence as he continued on his mission.

Sure a few scouts had been captured and…well eaten, by the trolls, and that had initially terrified the scouts. What had come after was worse.

Preston’s friend Shandor had actually come across the first example of the flayer’s work. The feet had been skinned, leaving the bone exposed, that was nothing new, being a horrible part of the Teir Dal’s practice of paying bounty on the scouts. What made this death different from the others was the fact that the skinning had not stopped at the feet, but continued up the legs of the unfortunate scout.

The captain put it down to a particularly inept Teir Dal who obviously did not know what he was doing. He had ordered the scouts to be more careful.

The second corpse showed similar mutilation, in this case all the skin from the ankles down had been carefully peeled away, almost like removing a sock. After this discovery the Captain had doubled the patrols.

The third corpse was one of the sergeants. It was obvious from the tracks on the ground that there had been a terrific struggle. Only one foot was maimed, the other left untouched. It appeared that the flayer had been prevented from completing his grisly work. The Captain had placed his best scouts around the body, hidden by skill and magic for a week. It was heartbreaking to watch that body decay away to nothing, food for the wolves and beetles that frequented the wood, but the Captain had insisted that the flayer would return to complete his work. It did not happen.

Preston had been in on that last mission. They had caught and killed a few young Teir Dal and one Troll that had been foolish enough to stumble into the ambush. But none of them possessed the skill to take down one of the sergeants. Still there had been no killings for that week, and secretly the Nektulos scouts breathed a sigh of relief.

The reprive did not last.

Two days ago both scouts on the Lavastorm road patrol had gone missing. Preston had found the bodies himself. It was the first time that he had seen the corpses up close, and before the Captain or one of his sergeants had examined the body. As he stared at the bodies laid out next to each other he realized something. They had been skinned alive. He, like the rest of the scouts had assumed that the scouts were killed then skinned. With cold certainty he knew that this had been the case with the first bodies too. Scouts were being flayed alive and the Captain had not revealed this information to the rest of his command.

The news rocked the little command back on its heels, shaking morale to its lowest level ever. Even the boldest scouts became afraid to venture into the wood, and not a few looked suspiciously at the Captain wondering what other things he was neglecting to notify them of.

Preston paused to examine the road. His acute senses told him that there had been traffic there recently. With a quick prayer to his god and thoughts of pie, he ran across the road and climbed over the sizable fallen log. He paused there for a moment and looked back. There was a slight rustle in the bushes where he had stood a moment ago. His heart leapt into his mouth, he could feel the blood pounding in his ears. Carefully he gripped his short spear.

The bushes parted.

Newton the Sergeant had been following him. He almost called out to him, waving the other halfling over to his position of safety. Then the realization hit him. The Captain was using him for bait. Still he felt safer with the knowledge that he was being followed. With a sigh of relief he continued with his patrol. He made a point of not stopping too obviously and waiting for Newton to catch up for the rest of his patrol.

The road to Lavastorm was clear.

The road back was not nearly as tense. Preston practically skipped all the way back to the fallen tree near the road. That was where he first heard the sound. He had heard beetles make loud shrieks, and knew well the howl of the black and shadow wolves. He was even familiar with the death roar of the young Kodiaks that were known to frequent the other side of the river. This noise was different from those.

Preston crouched down and scurried to the side of the log. It was far too big for him to see over, but it gave him excellent cover. Carefully he began to sneak towards the root ball, there were plenty of good places to hide near the fatter end of the tree.

He had been in the forest long enough to learn quite a bit of the Teir Dal language. In fact he had learned so much about these Dark Elves that he was afraid he would never be the same. Few returned from their tour of duty in Nektulos unscathed. Tales of the cruelty of the Teir Dal were if anything muted in Rivervale, it was enough to know that they were bad and needed to be defeated. He took a certain grim satisfaction from the fact that he had seen the Teir Dal at their worst, and he knew that what they did to outsiders paled to the tortures they inflicted on each other.

He had reached the end of the log. Ever so slowly, using all the woodslore and cunning he possessed he looked around the edge of the log. He could see the other side. There in the shadows crouched a Teir Dal. A bloody knife was in his hand. At his side stood one of the dead they summoned into their service. From the poor dress of this one he knew he faced a youth. He gripped his spear firmly and prepared to put an end to another of these verminous elves.

“Sing for Maelgroth again.” The Teir Dal whispered gently. He moved the knife with the delicacy of a butterfly. It danced in the air, almost like a conductor’s baton. The pitiful mewling began again. It was the same noise he had heard earlier.

‘It must be some animal.’ Preston lied to himself as he crept closer. He knew the truth though, it was there before his eyes. The discarded Leatherfoot Raider skullcap lay at the skeleton’s feet, as did Sergeant Newton’s longsword.

“Die!” Preston shouted, his fear turning to anger, now that he faced a tangible foe. His spear was a blur as it hurtled towards Maelgroth the Teir Dal Necromancer. He would have his vengeance.

His spear was turned aside by defensive magics, and the Necromancer turned towards him, his robe was plastered with blood, and his hands were scarlet, no gloves for this one. The worst were his eyes. They told the scout that the Teir Dal knew where he was all along.

“Ah, time for the Duet!” Maelgroth smiled.


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PostPosted: Wed Sep 20, 2006 4:23 pm 
Wow, Mael, awesome! So, when do we get to hear more?


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 21, 2006 12:31 pm 
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Joined: Thu Sep 14, 2006 5:16 pm
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:shock: /reaches into Melodee's popcorn box.

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Jopia 53 Mystic
Seablade 36 Swashbuckler
Xanaria 29 Huntress in a World of Warcraft
Prise 26 Warlock
Jidon 14 Warden
Louka 19 Assassin/32 Provisioner
Intermezzo 12 Dirge



And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force.


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PostPosted: Sat Sep 23, 2006 10:38 pm 

Joined: Sat Sep 16, 2006 12:26 am
Posts: 7
It was dark in the Neriak foreign quarter hovel. The recent influx of trolls had forced most of the occupants to seek lodging elsewhere, only the most desperate and tenacious remained.

“I am back from slaughtering paladins in West Karana mother!” Maelgroth shouted as he pulled aside the ragged curtain that separated the shack from the street. He carefully stepped over Jabaner the house guardian. The poor skeletal pet had seen better days, most of his ribs were missing and the local children had “decorated” him once again, replacing his rusted halberd with a toilet plunger.

“My son, it is good to see you have returned.” Naelaelayle whispered. She was an old Teir Dal, the servant who had rescued Maelgroth those many years ago when his family had lost their position. She invited him further into the room with a gnarled hand, and twitched her good ear into a better position.

“Where is my brother, Malingrad?” Maelgroth asked with some degree of trepidation. Malingrad was the natural son of Naelaelayle, and more than a little jealous of his mother’s continued loyalty to a fallen house. Mael had taken his position at the lodge of the dead, leaving Malingrad to make his way in the world as an assassin.

“He is out, gathering information, preparing for The Day.” Naelaelayle hissed. The Day had become an obsession with her, becoming more urgent and important as the aged Teir Dal slipped into cronehood. She knew it was only a matter of time before she died, to a drunken Troll, an accident in the forest or simple old age and disease. She drove her sons relentlessly.

“Where is Blisshadow?” the Necromancer queried as he opened his backpack and began to remove its contents.

“Your sister has left us, she did not see the value of revenge.” His mother growled. It was the same answer every time he asked about her. He knew that Bliss was a point of serious concern for the whole family, as the only eligible female, she would take over when his mother died. She continued after stifling a dry cough, “She still seeks power through the clergy, forgetting who she is and where she came from.”

“I have brought you some food…” Maelgroth said as he began to lay out the supplies he had collected. When he was a youth, they had subsisted off whatever they could scavenge, now it was with some pride that he presented real food to his mother. Sure it was simple peasant fare but it was better than rat tail stew.

As his mother ate, with all the delicacy of an elder matron of a noble house, he looked about the one room shack. Rats had long learned not to come here, lest they end up in the stewpot. Curtains divided the single room into sections each barely large enough for a pallet to sleep on. It was fortunate that the Teir Dal could see so well in the dark, no fire provided light or heat, it cost too much. Maelgroth had learned to read in darkness.

“Tell me of our enemies.” Naelaelayle sighed, as she did each time she asked. It was a daily ritual when her children were growing up. Each day it was the same, each day his mother seemed to gain strength from its being repeated.

“House Chath’elg’Caress (the Fire Hags) lives in 3rd gate, where we used to have housing for our cousins. House Sol’Calar (the Eye Eaters) live in 2nd gate our first ancestral home. House Vlos’Shannaal (the Blood Chalice) lives in the shrine to Innoruk built by my family.” Maelgroth paused for the requisite time to let the enormity of what he was to say next to register. “House Ragar’Golhyrr (the Truth Finders) rests in our rightful place both in our home and in the eyes of the court.”

“It is good to have such a dutiful son.” His mother whispered. “Tell me now what is the real name of the Ragar’Golhyrr?” By this she meant the meaning of their house name before they rose to the 3rd gate. In Teir Dal it was all about inflection, the same words with the right inflection could mean a hundred different things, all similar, yet different, names to the Teir Dal were like onions, each had a hundred layers.

“They Uncover Tricks, matron they are snitches.” Maelgroth replied with considerable venom. Of the four houses the most hatred was reserved for the Ragar’Golhyrr who had seamlessly assumed the position of the Waes’Harventhars. Rising from the reviled position of snitch to that of torturer within a generation. Now they squatted like a bloated spider in 3rd gate garnering the respect and wealth due the Waes’Harventhars. It was even rumored they accepted bribes to determine the length of the torture.

“You know, between the three of us children, we could easily afford to move you to 2nd gate.” Mael began carefully, it was an old argument, but it was one that he refused to loose. It would be a tragedy if some accident were to befall his mother before the family could extract vengeance.

“I will rest in my old quarters in 3rd gate or I will die in this shack!” Naelaelayle howled.

“As you wish.” Mael deferred.

“Do you know there is a young maiden of the Chath’elg’Caress that has reached the age of marriage?” his mother said with a sweet smile.

“Have they opened their house to suitable courtiers?”

“Indeed they have, an announcement was posted in 3rd gate just yesterday.” She reached into the folds of her dress and removed an invitation. “Your brother was able to acquire this from the Ragar’Golhyrr, they would never consider an alliance with such trash, and it was easy to rescue this item from their care.

The matron stood from her rocking chair slowly and hobbled over to a large chest that had been sealed all Mael’s life, she carefully removed a small key and opened the chest. It was protected by more than a lock, powerful wards glimmered momentarily before fading.

“Long have I kept these things in preparation, as you progress more heirlooms of your house shall be returned to you, but you will have need of some of this now.” She carefully removed several packages, each wrapped in spider silk and each apparently as fresh as the day they were first put in the chest.

First there was a simple black robe, made of spider silk, the tailoring was exquisite but in a style that had gone out of fashion a century ago. It would cause quite a stir, however, since a similar fashion was currently all the rage, and it was apparent that the younger generation had no idea they were actually aping a much older style.

Next she handed him a simple mask made of bone. “In the old days, great houses wore masks to avoid embarrassment when courting other houses.” Her gnarled hands caressed the mask with great fondness. “I think it is time that we bring this tradition back.”

Maelgroth dressed carefully in the clothing, it fit him well, though the robe did not radiate magic. The mask had a slight aura about it, and it grafted to his face with no trouble and remained there. He was amazed that his mother had access to such wealth, yet had not made use of it during all their hardships, it spoke volumes about her loyalty to his house.

His mother handed him the knife last, it was made from the tooth of a walrus and it was as sharp as sin. As he cloaked himself in shadows and left the shack, he heard his mother whisper, “win her heart…”

“Mother!” Zalindra whined. “I want to go down and play with the meat!” It was her ascension day. A day she had waited all her life for. Today she was eligible for marriage. Her mate had long ago been chosen, bolstering the position of the Chath’elg’Caress in the court, but tradition had to be observed, and ascension days were one of the best ways for a house to show its power and influence publicly, indeed some houses had beggared themselves with lavish displays.

It was a good indication of the power of the Fire Hags that no less than four representatives from third gate stood in the common room, sipping wine. There were seven more from the second gate, mostly desperate young houses eager to expand their reach into the world of the third gate. Also in attendance were the heads of the Chath’elg’Caress’ allied houses. In all nearly30 houses were represented directly or indirectly. It was a good showing.

The gift table groaned under the weight of offerings made by the guests. Many were the precious gifts that lay upon that slab of black marble. Zalindra looked at it with barely disguised greed, forgetting for a moment the even vaster sums of money that would have to be paid back to those houses who made gifts on this day, in compensation and reparation to their apparent loss of face when her betrothal to another house was announced.

“Ok, go now!” hissed her Matron-mother. This was a proud day, one long prepared for, yet fraught with danger, for soon the Fire Hags would be playing ardently in the game of houses, the ascension of her daughter Zalindra being the first move in a game long planned and prepared for. Her daughter wore a gown of the thinnest spider silk, encrusted with jewels, on her head a coronet made of velium and enchanted to make the wearer appear inhumanly beautiful.

It was common in these days for all the details of the ascension day to be tied up before the actual event, it had become more of a pageant where the houses could openly display their power and position and less of an announcement of availability for alliance. Zalindra recalled tales told to her by her mother, tales about her grandmother and the duels that broke out in the old days as houses vied openly for the hands of the most eligible maidens. With a sigh she pranced down the steps, secretly disappointed that there would be no blood spilt on her behalf this day.

As she sauntered down the stairs she used her elevated position to evaluate the guests, there in the corner stood several of the second gate representatives, their hunger for alliance all to plain in their stance and all to elaborate clothing. They aimed above their station and she ignored them with a deliberate blink of her eye, she was not for them. In another part of the room, near the fireplace where a fat halfling revolved on a spit, stood several of her houses vassals. They stood about, waiting for the food to become available, ready to pounce on it and devour it like the leeches they were. It was good that their vassals were kept hungry, better that they appear at such occasions where their loyalty was on display.

She allowed her eyes to flit, only for the briefest moment, to the bar where the real power lay, there stood several of the mightiest houses in third gate. They were here out of respect, having tactfully declined all previous attempts at alliance, but they were here today, some of their gifts were said to be the most extravagant. With a snicker she recalled the groans of the house Patron, her father, when those gifts had arrived. “so they would blackmail our house!” was all he said, the realization that the Fire Hags would have to send gifts back to these houses of equal or greater value to make up for their “loss” writ as misery on his face.

Zalindra knew this was how the game was played, the wealthier houses retained wealth through such displays and brought low weaker houses through such gifts. To return a gift of lesser value than the one offered was a cause for open war. Only one house would be receiving that most precious of gifts, herself and the alliance with the Fire Hags that she represented. As she neared the bottom of the stairs she saw a newcomer.

He was dressed in the most fascinating robe, it was simple black silk, but the tailoring was exquisite, putting to shame the elaborate clothing of most of the houses presenting on this day. In his hands he held a box of treant wood. Eagerly she took the last few steps down, she could not see his face since before him stood Tehchad the master of protocol.

“This is highly irregular.” Tehchad muttered, the appearance of yet another guest, totally unannounced was a throwback to the old days when one house attempted to outdo another in formal display. The fact that the candidate wore a bone mask further underscored the antique nature of this house. Inwardly he cringed with fear, he had been a master of protocol for two hundred years and recalled well the old days where such ascension days resulted in bloodfeuds that paralyzed the city. However, this guest had observed all the formal protocol the situation demanded and most importantly, he had an invitation.

A careful magical scan revealed only two magical devices, the mask, which was expected and the box, which obviously contained a gift intended for Zalindra. He had always hated the masks, since they prevented the detection of the identity of the wearer, in the old days courtiers had insisted on privacy to protect the honor of their houses. Ascension days were matters of high drama then, not the civilized promenades they had become.

“May I have your name sir?” Tehchad droned.

“We have had dealings with the Ragar’Golhyrr, you can call us ‘Jindurn’Plynnar’.”

Tehchad stared at the newcomer, what arrogance, what brashness, why this guest pushed the limits of good taste. It was completely normal for houses to attend these functions under assumed names, but always the name was a play upon the name of the actual house. In the old days it might take days of cogitation to unravel the true names from those given as riddles. Today house pseudonyms were nearly as well known as the actual names of the houses involved.

In this case the guest had named himself ‘Face Taker’ at a political function a name like this was provocative in the extreme. Still he had admitted an association with the Ragar’Golhyrr, after a bit of thought he drew the conclusion that this guest was an ally of the Truth Finders, and with the outcome of the ascension day hardly being a secret, this house Jindurn’Plynnar would soon become an ally of the Fire Hags as well.

It was, however, impossible to tell if this house of Face Takers was a vassal or a sponsor of the Ragar’Golhyrr.

“I would like to announce the arrival of Jindurn’Plynnar!” Tehchad shouted, thumping his staff on the rich marble floor with a smart rap.

As the newest guest stepped into the room and the representatives began to circle the newcomer like hungry piranha Tehchad prayed that he was not going to see a return to the old ways.

As the newcomer strode confidently into the room, the box under his arm, Zalindra saw her chance. She had never heard of house Jindurn’Plynnar, but her long court training told her much about the man before her. Eagerly she catalogued his status. The mask spoke of an interest in the old ways, the robe bespoke class and wealth. The riddle was obvious to her, this guest must be a lord of the patron house of the Ragar’Golhyrr. The Truth Finders claimed they owed their position at the court to no one, but they had risen far and fast in the world of the third gate, faster then her own house, they must have a hidden patron.

“It is a pleasure to meet such an august personage as yourself, I am flattered that one such as you would come to my ascension.” Zalindra whispered in the ear of the guest. Carefully she linked her arm in his and steered him away from the throng of lesser houses eager to make the acquaintance of the newcomer. She was pleased to note that the rest of the guests took her cue and backed off, granting house Jindurn’Plynnar the space afforded to only the greatest of houses.

Since this was her ascension day, she was allowed to address her guests in the singular, it would be the last time she would be able to do so at “official” gatherings where in the future she would always be speaking for her house.

“We are most gratified, that the Chath’elg’Caress would take the time to speak with us on such an important day.” The speakers tone was clear and cold, obviously well educated. It came only as a tiny shock that he addressed her in the old tongue not Teir’Dal. Secretly she forgave her tutors who had drilled the complexities of the old tongue into her as a child, despite her protests that it was of little use in the “real world.”

Very few spoke the old tongue now, it being reserved mostly for court ceremony. The thought sent a tiny thrill through her body, could this person be a representative from the court? Had her house risen high enough to attract the attention of the royal house? The possibilities were dizzying.

Expertly she steered the newcomer to the courting alcove, a special place in nearly all houses. This was where private discussions could be held while in public view. Paranoia being what it was no house would allow an eligible female out of their sight on an ascension day. While few really embraced those tales of romance where the beloved of a young maiden broke into the ascension and kidnapped the girl under the noses of her family, it had happened. It would not happen here.

“I am surprised we have not met before, I am Zalindra.” She smiled, her considerable beauty augmented by the coronet. No man could resist her. She found the mask a fascinating puzzle, she could not tell if her guest was young or old. For a moment the romantic in her conjured up images of an elder member of a high house looking for a new matron. Hurriedly she catalogued what she knew of the houses and their positions, there were a few houses of the highest rank that were currently without Matrons, it could be. What a mess that would make of the long arrangement between her house and the Ragar’Golhyrr.

Maelgroth was glad of the mask. He found he gained confidence with each moment that passed. Long had his training been in court etiquette, and painful his lessons. Mother had punished him severely for each fault in language and bearing. As a child he had seen little point in learning the old tongue, dance, and protocol, while eating rats in the foreign quarter. Now he slipped into his true element as easily as he slipped into the robe and mask.

His heart beat faster than it ever had, Zalindra was beautiful, so alluring in fact he was tempted to tell her everything. The box shifted a bit in his grip, breaking that train of thought. He turned back to the beauty and envisioned her dead, strangled, her fair neck made a darker purple, her face peeled away, he thought of his real mother. He was himself again.

“Well it has been a very long time since we have taken interest in matters here.” Maelgroth replied.

“You flatter me.” She cooed, rubbing his arm gently, and scooting closer to him. Across the room she could see De’Nav her consort to be staring at her, he was a well known knight from a good house, he would be an excellent match, but he could wait. After all it was her day not his.

As a necromancer Maelgroth had studied anatomy extensively, it was little known outside of the Lodge of the Dead that a great deal of time was spent observing the living. How the machine worked when it was alive was of critical importance, the power of the undead servant was directly proportional to how well the magical energies mimicked those of the living.

He was looking closely at Zalindra. The signs of arousal were there, the darkening of the lips and ears, revealing the pumping of extra blood to those areas making them more sensitive. The dialation of the pupil and quicker breath, as the body demanded more fuel in its excited state. He had seen it all before. He did not dare look any lower than that, though he knew other signs of interest would be readily visible. Of course any maiden worth a copper knew how to fake these signs.

“We have brought you a gift, it is our hope that it will capture your heart.” He handed her the treantwood box.

“You already have.” She replied, snatching the box from him. As she looked more closely at it she realized there was no lid or keyhole. ‘It must be a puzzle box!’ Zalindra thought to herself. She had always loved puzzles, and been encouraged in her interest since it trained the mind well for court life. This was one package she would open personally. Let the servants handle the other gifts.

De’Nav was furious. It was perfectly acceptable for a maiden on her ascension day to mingle with the guests, but to take one to the courting alcove that bordered on scandal. That place was reserved for the most important of discussions. He found it hard to believe any discussion could be more important than the one he was due to have with Zalindra in a few hours.

He stormed over to the alcove, barely restraining himself from slapping the box out of Zalindra’s hands.

“House Ragar’Golhyrr is pleased to make your acquaintance, and requests some of your time.” De’Nav hissed in Teir’Dal, barely recalling his manners.

“Our business here is done, and Jindurn’Plynnar stands ready to meet with Ragar’Golhyrr in any way they deem acceptable.” Maelgroth replied. His words were formal and polite, but were couched in the terms of an invitation to duel, they were also in the old tongue.

It took a moment for De’Nav to realize what had just been said. It hit him like a shock. Had he really been foolish enough to be rude to an unknown guest at his consort’s ascension day. The very thought and the veiled threat filled him with shame. This was not some second gate bitch breeding party, this was the third gate. He feared no one, but brawling like pimps outside the Maiden’s Fancy would do little to enhance the status of the Ragar’Golhyrr.

“Jindurn’Plynnar apologizes to Ragar’Golhyrr for their late and unexpected arrival.” Maelgroth stood up carefully. “We wish the alliance between the Ragar’Golhyrr and the Chath’elg’Caress to be as successful as it is long.”

As Mael stood up to go he saw a flicker of disappointment on Zalindra’s face. A duel at her ascension would be the talk of the town. De’Nav had recovered himself nicely and there was little point getting killed so early in the game. De’Nav was known as an accomplished duelist and the young necromancer was unsure if he would be able to defeat him.

“Walk in hate.” De’Nav replied as the guest left the alcove. Relieved he had been given an out. Inwardly he berated himself, he had no idea what house this guest was from, or even how powerful this person or even worse this person’s champion might be.

“I do everyday…”


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 28, 2006 10:56 pm 

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Mael took his leave of the couple and headed over towards the bar. Behind him De’Nav and Zalindra glowered at each other. He knew they would not speak about his presence at the party, each assuming the other knew more about house Jindurn’Plynnar than they did. He was, however, gratified to see that Zalindra still held the box closely.

“We are most pleased to make your acquaintance.” Nystyre De’Vir smiled. He was standing with two other highest ranking houses. His clothing was perfect as was his command of the old tongue. None wore masks.

“It is a pleasure to encounter such company here.” Malegroth replied. He knew house De’Vir well by reputation. Their house was ancient and well respected. Their symbol was the lidless eye.

“We must confess to a certain confusion,” one of the other houses added, Maelgroth could not see his symbol, “We thought we knew of all the guests.”

“We have been long away from the court, and the game of houses, we have returned.” The young necromancer snapped. Heading over to this group was a mistake, it would only be a matter of time before his ruse was uncovered. As versed as he had become in the intricacies of the game through long hours of practice with his mother, the three houses before him literally owned the game.

As Maelgroth accepted a drink from the servant behind the bar and turned to go, Nystyre glided up to him.

“We have a niece who will be reaching her own ascension soon, you would do well to attend that gathering.” Nystyre whispered.

The offer appeared to be sincere, at least as sincere as any offer was made at such gatherings. Especially when couched in a whisper. “We would be glad to attend such a gathering, make your intentions known through the usual channels and we will grant you the courtesy of notifying you of our arrival in advance.”

It was all Mael could think of, he certainly would not tell he Scion of house De’Vir to send his invitation to the third shack past the first gate. It was a cunning ploy, any legitimate house would certainly give house De’Vir a glimpse at the face behind the mask to ensure an invitation to that ascension, something that Jindurn’Plynnar could not do at this time. Even at the height of Waes’Harventhar power, house De’Vir was given the same healthy amount of respect a wise gnome gave a hungry troll.

“What do you think of the wine?” The matron of Chath’elg’Caress asked nervously. She had crept up from the other direction. To Maelgroth’s trained eyes rouge on the ears and lips did little to hide the fact that blood fled from those places. Fear and stress were draining the blood from the surface of her body.

Mael had no idea what to do, he had actually forgotten he wore the mask for an instant, so eager was he to come up with a reason to leave the bar. He had grabbed the glass without really thinking about it. Now he was faced with the challenge of removing the mask to drink and revealing his identity, or lack of it, or attempting to drink through the mask.

With a prayer to Innoruk he attempted the latter.

The wine was the sweetest he had ever tasted.

He only risked a single sip, even though it appeared the enchanted mask enabled him to consume food. He had never really been able to afford the luxury of alcohol and was afraid to drink any more lest his concentration slip.

“We find it suitable for the occasion.”

He turned back towards the alcove where Zalindra and De’Nav were still glaring at each other. The house matron seemed to take this for a signal and clapped her hands loudly. The room grew quiet.

“We wish to thank all the houses who attended this ascension!” the matron announced. “We regret that we only have one daughter to give in alliance.” She continued.

Maelgroth ignored the rest of her speech, which went on for some time. Instead he concentrated on the box. The past, present and future of the Waes’Harventhars rested within it.

Finally, house Chath’elg’Caress ceased its blathering. All eyes turned to the surly couple in the alcove. Mechanically Zalindra removed a brooch from her dress, it was an elaborate piece of jewelery, depicting the blazon of the Fire Hags in ruby and mithril.

“I give myself to house Ragar’Golhyrr.” Zalindra said without much feeling.

“Ragar’Golhyrr accepts your sacrifice.” De’Nav said formally, accepting the brooch and planting a chaste kiss on Zalindra’s brow. With a short bow to the rest of the guests he left the mansion.

It was not the most passionate of alliances, but then again such affairs rarely were.

The guests were now free to leave. Maelgroth diplomatically waited for house De’Vir to make their exit before heading out himself. He knew that De’Nav would return secretly as soon as the last guest left, sneaking into Zalindra’s bedchambers where they would consummate the alliance.

He gated home.

“I see you survived your first party.” His mother observed wryly.

“It was most interesting.” Maelgroth replied, removing the mask with a shaking hand. “We have been invited to another ascension day, House De’Vir has requested our presence.”

“House De’Vir!” For a moment the years of sacrifice and terror were gone, and a century of hard living seemed to vanish from his mother’s frame. It was as if Maelgroth was afforded a window on what life in his house must have been like before its fall. His mother was as excited as a school girl with a choice piece of gossip.

Her excitement only lasted a moment, and soon they were once again standing in the wretched shack in third gate.

“I have everything prepared.” Mother growled, handing him a small blade.

“I have been looking forward to this all night.” Maelgroth smiled. It was the cold, merciless smile of a Teir’Dal noble.

Zalindra was in bed. As soon as De’Nav had left she had excused herself and headed to her room. On this night the wards that usually protected her were removed, guards would look the other way and strange sounds would be ignored. Her Consort would be arriving soon, “sneaking” into her chambers and consummating the alliance.

She had tried to open the box, but found she was too nervous to concentrate on uncovering its secrets. ‘I shall have plenty of time later, I can’t image De’Nav will keep me amused for long.’ She thought to herself.

She lay back on her pillows, smoothing the diaphanous silk gown over her curvaceous body. Maybe it was the stress of the day, too much wine or simply the weight of tradition, Zalindra began to slip into that borderline between being awake and asleep.

Soundlessly the box on the table by her bedside opened.

“Did you know, mother, your information on the Ragar’Golhyrr was wrong?” Maelgroth muttered, he had the far away expression of someone scrying, his hands fluttered before him like the trapped wings of a moth.

“I had hoped my fears were incorrect, the alliance of the Ragar’Golhyrr and the Chath’elg’Caress would make a potent house indeed, allowing them to move up to the levels of the highest of houses.” She too had the vacant expression and flat tones of a scryer, her hands, gnarled with age, danced lightly along a table top.

“Such an alliance would be a threat to some of the older houses would it not?” The young necromancer mumbled, half to himself.

“Aye, it would..” Mused Naelaelayle.

“It is time mother.”

“Aye…”

Zalindra watched in fascination as two sets of skeletal hands shuffled uncertainly out of the box. She nearly called for the guard, but the jeweled rings on the fingers of the automatons gave her pause. Here was wealth indeed.

“Are you for me?” She whispered to the hands.

They paused for a moment, as if sensing her presence. Finally one of the male hands rocked back on its stump and gave her a cheery wave.

Zalindra gave a little squeal of delight, no one had ever taken the trouble to give her such an animated gift, the mummified hands would have to go, but the jewelery was simply stunning and as a method of delivery it was certainly unique. She once again thought about calling the guards, but thought better of it, it would take time and there would be questions about why this gift avoided the scrutiny of the house mages. Better to bring this matter up after the ascension rite was consummated.

She reached out and picked up the female hands, they were still beautiful, after a fashion. Long and delicate fingers danced in the air like the legs of a spider, without a doubt they had belonged to a Teir’Dal matron in her prime. The rings glittered in the candlelight, painting rainbows of color on the walls.

“Let’s see about getting those nice rings off your scabby fingers.” Zalindra sighed, she was not eager to get dead flaky skin all over her sheets, before De’Nav arrived, but it would not be the first time that she had called in the servants to replace the sheets on a bed before a paramour arrived.

She put the left female hand down on the bed, and gripped the right in both of hers. It writhed powerfully, resisting her efforts to remove the ring.

“By Innoruk, Help me get it off!” She shouted at the hand.

Outside her door, the last of the house guards smirked and stepped away certain that De’Nav had arrived to consummate the ascension. He headed to the far end of the hall.

In her petulant fury at being denied the treasure she sought, Zalindra lost track of the male hands. She could feel the left female scuttling around on the bed. It leapt onto her stomach and began to tickle her mercilessly.

She dropped the right hand and attempted to seize the left, but it was too quick for her. She heard a slight scraping sound coming from the box, but ignored it for the moment, she almost had the troublesome right trapped between her knees.

The left male hand clambered onto her bed next, it moved much more slowly. She moved to slap it away, but it caught onto her hand and pinned it to the bed. This was unacceptable. Zalindra sucked in a breath to call the guards, but the female right clutched her neck turning her shout into a loud moan. The female left scuttled around pinning her other arm.

In the hall the guard heard a long drawn out moan, followed by desperate thrashing. He had heard those noises coming from Zalindra’s room often enough. He wished his family was important enough to hold formal ascension ceremonies. He moved a bit further down the hall to be sure not to embarrass or more importantly disturb Zalindra.

Zalindra had gone from being bored, to amused to annoyed in only a few moments. Now she saw the right male hand, it moved even more slowly than the left had, it was dragging a knife made of bone with it. Annoyance quickly gave way to anger.

“You don’t know who you are messing with!” Zalindra hissed explosively, the sound was barely a squeek. A distant part of her mind realized that she did not know who was messing with her either.

Male right had dragged the bone knife up to her face where she got a good view of the sharpness of the blade, it glistened in the candlelight.

Fear replaced anger.

“I will do anything you want, just don’t hurt me.” Zalindra whined. The hand on her neck would adjust its grip from time to time, giving her the chance to catch a hurried breath and wheeze out a comment or two.

At first it felt as if one of her hairs was laying on her jaw line, so light was the touch. It was the bone knife, it lovingly caressed the edges of her face, the pain, which began as an itch slowly increased in tempo, blood, rich, purple, the noble blood of a Teir’Dal maiden began to seep into the sheets.

The hand gripping her neck began to clench and loosen in a particular pattern, in time with the cuts to her face. Zalindra sighed in agony with every opportunity, the distant part of her mind that was not paralyzed with terror or gripped by the agony visited upon her struggled with understanding what was going on.

The faintest of noises reached Toffol the guard in the hall. With a wicked grin he recognized the pattern of moans and stifled shrieks. It was a pretty good rendition of “Tarsheva’s Shriek.” ‘Why old De’Nav must have smuggled a slave or two in with him.’ Toffol thought to himself, allowing his foot to tap in time to the music.

Occasionally Zalindra could feel the blade scrape upon the bone of her skull, as always the cuts were gentle, and followed by soft tugs. There must be some magic at work with the knife, something that kept her still when it touched her. She could not stop herself from moaning when the hand at her throat relented.

De’Nav was eager to begin his part of the ascension festivities. A short visit to the “Fancy” had whetted his appetite and he climbed the ladder ‘conveniently’ left out for him to his consort’s bedchamber.

She appeared to be a pretty imperious bitch, but he felt sure that they would learn to tolerate each other. Tonight he would concentrate on the pretty part of the equation. As he got closer to the window he heard the pants and moans clearly. Anger flared, ‘what an insult to have a pleasure slave in on your ascension day!’ he thought to himself, he climbed quicker, glad he had brought his longsword with him. ‘I might not be able to make the bitch pay for this insult, but her companion will feel my wrath.’

He vaulted into the room, drawing his sword in a silvery blur. In front of him Zalindra writhed in an agony that cruelly mimicked the motions of ecstasy. Blood seeped from around her face and bloody tears decorated her cheeks.

His shout of outrage turned to one of stark terror as the hands peeled off Zalindra’s face. Her scream of agony joined his shattering glass.

Toffol would never forget that scream, even as he died under the torture racks of the Chath’elg’Caress. It was the most perfect sound he had ever heard.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 04, 2006 6:27 pm 

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Well have to say, I've read plenty of various stories, histories and such, as well as many published fantasy novels, and this so far is at least as good as some of the better novels. I've never read something even close to so well done in a guild forum.

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Claav 70 Illusionist 43 Sage


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 Post subject: The tale continues
PostPosted: Tue Oct 10, 2006 2:36 am 

Joined: Sat Sep 16, 2006 12:26 am
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(Since I will be scarce for the next few weeks with the new baby posting an old tale is the best I can do. I hope to see you all when the spawn rests long enough to log in)


“It is all over the marketplace!” Malingrad shouted as he swept into the room. He was big for a Teir Dal, nearly as big as a warrior, and his hands were quick. While the Ebon Mask claimed no formal allegiance with any of the houses or to the king or queen, individual members were known to dabble in politics. It was the morning after Zalindra’s ascension.

“What?” Naelaelayle coughed wearily, the casting last night had taken a lot out of her, dark bruises still marred her gnarled hands, testament to her struggle with the much younger Teir’Dal.

“House Chath’elg’Caress has closed its doors to the Ragar’Golhyrr.” The assassin crowed.

Maelgroth could tell by the swagger in his step that Malingrad was more than ready to take credit for the entire affair himself.

“Calm your joy, son, it was not through your efforts alone that this alliance was averted.” His mother growled.

“Of course,” Malingrad laughed, “How are your hands mother.”

While at home Malingrad preferred to ignore his brother, who he secretly called the true thief. Weather the resentment was feigned or not, Maelgroth could never tell. It seemed to him, the life of the assassin was more suited to Malingrad than that of the necromancer.

Mael’s own hands were stiff and sore, and he was exhausted, it had been a very difficult and complex spell that had animated the hands.

“What are they saying happened?” Maelgroth croaked.

“Nothing, other than the ascension of Zalindra was ruined when De’Nav refused to consummate the union.”

“What are they whispering?” Naelaelayle hissed. She was more tired than she had ever been, and the sight in her left eye seemed to be gone.

“Well that’s the interesting part,” Malingrad chuckled sweeping some of the food off the table and into his mouth. “Can’t you get mother something better than rations?” he glowered at his younger ‘brother’.

“I don’t see you turning you nose up at it.” Mael snapped back.

When they were younger Mal had beaten his little brother regularly just for kicks. He could still do it too, but now Malingrad sensed it would be much more difficult.

“Rumor on the street has it that De’Nav refused to consummate after he saw a pair of hands peel off Zalindra’s face. A household guard has been blamed officially for the event and was promptly tortured to death, but the loss of face…,” the assassin chuckled grimly “…is too much for either house to bear without blaming the other.”

“So there shall be war.” The old Teir’Dal cackled.

“There is war.” Malingrad enthused, “I have accepted contracts for the deaths of several members of both houses. I had not expected to become wealthy from this vendetta.” At this he patted his bulging purse. “I am not the only one taking money from the feuding houses, the knives are out!”

Someone brought up outside of Neriak may not have understood the intracies of what Malingrad was saying. Maelgroth knew well the protocols of house war. There were several stages, the first, the closing of the doors, signified the cutting off of formal ties to the other house. No business would be done between the houses until the doors were opened. Allied houses were expected to close their doors as well. To date none had. This was to be a feud directly between the Fire Hags and the Truth Finders.

Such feuds were often shorter in duration than those that brought in their allies, since the number of principals involved was fewer and ancillary grudges did not come into the feud. Single house feuds were rare and renowned for their viciousness. No house could back down once war was declared, and the other houses kept score, such an affair was a disaster for the loser and usually left the winner weaker than before.

Malingrad’s statement that the knives were out, meant that fighting had begun. It would usually start with the murder of a few low ranking house members, those cousins or nephews on the periphery of the family, store keepers, guardsmen and other non-entities. The true powers of the houses would be hidden in their fortress mansions, planning strikes and counter strikes at their enemies holdings. Poison, rumor, fire and steel were the currencies that these former allies would deal each other now.

The fact that both sides were hiring professional killers further underscored the deadly intent of the combatants, both were going for the jugular.

“Do not forget our purpose here.” Naelaelayle pointed out. “We still have much to do. I will see the Waes’Harventhars restored to their position before my death.”

“Of course mother.” Malingrad said patronizingly.

“Since you are so well connected, brother, I suppose you would have no trouble in getting another invitation?”

“Of course.” Malingrad smirked. “Where would you like to go? The royal ball?”

“We require an invitation to an affair at house D’Vir.” Maelgroth had placed the mask over his face once again and had spoken the last in the old tongue, speaking as the head of his house. It was something he had never dared. He was unsure why he did it now. Partly anger at the way his brother treated their mother, partly frustration at the lack of respect shown to him and partly elation at the small victory achieved last night all contributed to this gamble.

Malingrad stopped chewing on his food and stared at his masked brother. Getting an invitation would be quite a challenge, house D’Vir was not to be trifled with. “Have a care you don’t try to grasp what is beyond your reach.” The assassin hissed, his hand crept dangerously towards his dagger.

“How can I, when it is with your fingers I do my reaching?” Maelgroth countered, removing the mask.

“How indeed, I shall do your will in this thing.” Malingrad replied in a mocking tone, still he addressed Mael in the old tongue.

Naelaelayle quivered with pride. She loved Malingrad as her true son, even when he did not understand her goals. Maelgroth, however, seemed to grow in power and stature before her eyes. Hearing him speak as the head of his house, and listening to the way he cajoled his older brother into doing his duty was a wish fulfilled. For a moment she glimpsed what life would have been like had the Waes’Harventhar’s never fallen.

Across town Nystyre relaxed in his study. It had been an eventful night for house D’Vir and an even more interesting morning. The great houses had survived by working together to keep the more ambitious younger houses weak. Sure they would feud with each other, but they had grown too few to risk really harming each other, to destroy one of the great houses would create a power vacuum that would place all at risk.

The alliance of the Chath’elg’Caress and the Ragar’Golhyrr had been a dagger aimed at the heart of the old houses. Now that knife was cutting into two upstart houses. He had made discrete inquiries to determine the identity of the house that had taken such delicate and brutal steps. None of the old houses took the credit even indirectly, this was truly unique, such a coup was always bragged about.

None of the younger houses possessed the maturity to make such a play, or the wisdom to keep such a move secret. No it was not them.

Many openly speculated that a new house had decided to make its presence known. There were many candidates, some from the more powerful guilds would make their own alliances and settle in town, but Nystyre made it a habit to keep informed of these individuals. He had his own theory.

“How could I refuse such a beautiful request.” A honeyed voice crooned.

Nystyre turned carefully, his mansion was warded with spells and traps as well as guards living and dead. He had been expecting a visitor but had done little to relax his protections save de-activating some of his most singular defenses. His guest possessed the skill to reach him with little trouble, but he wanted to keep his privacy as well as retain a few surprises if this knife ever turned against him.

“Indeed, you have always had good taste.” Nystyre smiled, pushing a small bag towards the newcomer. She was dressed for work, armor, daggers and other implements of her craft rested in their appropriate places. He had always admired her professional attitude even if her adherence to platinum bordered on a mania.

The female carefully opened the bag. Inside was a single platinum earring, the mate to the one that had been delivered to her quarters the night before. They were exquisite in craftsmanship, not flashy, not gaudy, classic in their workmanship.

“As do you, how may I be of service?”

“No doubt you have heard of the feud that has erupted between the Fire Hags and the Truth Finders.” Nystyre waited a moment, hoping that his guest would share what she knew of this matter, someone with her skills would be highly sought after by both sides. When she did not react he continued, “I met house Jindurn’Plynnar last night.” That caught her attention.

“Really, what did you think of them?”

“Lets say I was impressed by what I saw, obviously someone is playing the game of houses very well.”

“Someone new?” She asked, sliding closer to Nystyre, she smelled of jasmine and leather, a heady combination.

“That’s what everyone is saying.”

“You don’t pay me to find out what everyone is saying.” She replied petulantly, sticking out her lower lip in a very attractive pout.

“Indeed, I think it is not a new player, but a very old one. Find me this missing house.”

With a giggle Kyri Velkyn disappeared into the shadows, leaving the scent of jasmine and leather.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 15, 2006 2:30 pm 

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It did not take long for Kyri to collect some interesting additional information. Apparently a pair of disembodied hands had skinned Zalindra Chath’elg’Caress’ face off. They had also escaped, along with the face in the confusion. Kyri had seen some very strange things in her time, a talking rat and fleas being some of the most recent, but this was something new.

Her sources were full of gossip, however when it came to determining who had sent the hands and set them to their task. She was not discounting House D’Vir as a potential candidate, it would not be the first time she had been hired to detect and deal with any stray threads that might unravel a complicated plot.

This lack of concrete information forced her to take a more direct hand in the investigation. She scouted the Chath’elg’Caress mansion. It was locked down tight, as tight as a second teir house playing at first teir politics could make it. Entering House D’Vir unasked would be a challenge. The Fire Hags were simply amusing.

She ghosted across the street and slipped up the wall soundlessly, there were complex wards on the window, but they were new, easily detected and avoided. In a moment she was in the room.

Blood still clotted the sheets, turning the pillows and blankets into a jagged sea of congealed scarlet. Kyri expanded her awareness, a old trick, which enabled her to take in every detail of the room, literally drinking in the details. After a moment she located what she sought. Nestled in the sheets was a strip of desiccated flesh. Silent as a shadow she coasted over to the bed.

Paranoia from a hundred capers however, prevented her from simply snatching up the skin. It saved her life. The bed was laden with wards and alarms. It was an intricate net designed to snare the unwary, the skin was genuine, however. She chuckled to herself when she realized that not all of the spells belonged to Chath’elg’Caress. It only took a deceptively simple flick of her fingers to snatch the prize and disappear.

“I have need of a necromancer!” Kyri announced as she entered the hall of the League of Shadows. Several members of the league were in residence at the time and it was not long before she stood before Maladominus’ quarters.

“What do you want?” Maladominus the gnome necromancer looked terrible, even for a gnome necromancer. He had taken the apparent death of his protégé in the Plane of Disease hard and had not returned to Qeynos as was his habit in some time.

“I would like you to tell me something about this.” Kyri replied, handing the gnome the bit of dessicated flesh, while scanning the contents of Mal’s room, cataloging potential hiding places and the location of valuables, strictly out of habit.

“Its dead.”

“Ok, how about you tell me something I don’t know.”

“It’s from the hand of a Teir’Dal.”

Kyri raised an eyebrow at the disheveled gnome.

The gnome’s eyes glowed for a moment with cold fire. “It is an old corpse, recently animated, there is a lot of power in this fragment. Despite the power of the spell it is of limited use since the caster would have to concentrate continuously to make the hand do his bidding.”

He paused for a moment. “Why are you interested in something like this?”

“I am doing a favor for someone.”

“Well if you really want to study animated hands, I would suggest a trip to Unrest, Mistmoore or possibly Lower Guk.

“There is no profit in such a journey, can you tell me who cast the spell?”

“No, but I can direct you to where the rest of this particular hand is.” He waddled over towards his worktable, he was never one to totally abandon a successful cover and as an apothecary he was regularly involved in both tinkering and potion making.

He took the bit of flesh and dropped it into a beaker, added some components Kyri shuddered to think about and cast a short spell.

After a moment he handed a potion vial to her. “Drink this soon, it will attune your senses to the location of the hand that this strip came from.”

“Thanks.”

“Lets see if you are still thankful after you drink the potion.” Maladominus cackled closing the door.

Deciding there was little point in dragging the noxious potion around, she popped the cap and drank it down. She had swallowed worse, surely at some point in her life she had swallowed something that tasted worse than this…

Maelgroth was busy. Even with the assistance of his mother preparing the flesh mask was a difficult process. As he carefully stitched it into the drying rack he thought of the owner of this face, she had been fair indeed on her ascension day, now that beauty would be preserved forever.

“What do you intend to do with that?” his mother had asked once Malingrad had left.

“I don’t really know.” I am sure it will be of use to us some day, at the least as a trophy of the restored Waes’Harventhars.

That was when his mother had opened the chest again and taken out the rack. The silken support structure was intricate and once the skin was stitched in it looked like a spider web with grinning Teir’Dal maiden’s face in the center. It even appeared to be animated as tiny gusts of wind moved through the shack causing an eyelid to flutter alluringly or the lips to quiver.

“I am going visit your sister.” Naelaelayle muttered, climbing laboriously out of her chair and shuffling out the door.
Maelgroth rocked back in his chair and regarded the face on the table in front of him. It seemed to smirk back. He knew that tracking the face through magic would be nearly impossible, since the spells cast by the priests would be obliterate any trail as they attempted to heal the wound.

Kyri felt very ill, and it was not the sort of illness that settled into a single spot and made you miserable. No this was the kind of sickness that gripped your whole body and said ‘Hey, pay attention to me!’ For a moment she was convinced the gnome had poisoned her intentionally, and she was about to return the favor when she felt a presence in her mind. It was like the feeling she got when a guard was watching her.

She followed the feeling, it led her past the temple, the bank (her temple if she had one) and into the foreign quarter. She stumbled along, swallowing repeatedly. It was as if the potion were trying to work its way out of her body by force. She had her pride, this last part of the trip was made in the shadows. As she came to a seldom frequented part of town, she could hold it in no longer. She vomited noisily, the noxious fluid jetting out of her body, leaving a trail that pointed directly to a non-descript shack.

“As much as I hate to drink on the job, I think I will make an exception.” Kyri muttered to herself as she reached into her pack and pulled out some kalish. The harsh liquid actually settled her stomach.

Her mind began to catalog the information, a new player appeared to her. Could it be an outside force was attempting to influence politics in Neriak? Only a few possessed such a subtle hand, the Erudites and Iksar immediately coming to mind. Kyri was hardly a patriot when it came to her home city, but after seeing what happened to the trolls, she was more than ready to personally address any threat to her home.

“Damn trolls!” An elderly Teir’Dal hissed as she shuffled past the pool of bile. She had come from the shack.

Kyri let her by, and ghosted up to the small structure. She could sense the presence of another person in the room, the door warden, a battered skeleton half crouched, half slumped in the entryway would not be alerted to her presence.

She waited for a particularly strong gust of wind to stir the ragged curtain that served as a door and slipped inside.

There she saw Maelgroth, one of the most recent recruits to the League of Shadows. There on the table before him was the missing face.

She was about to confront the young Necromancer, demand he reveal what he was doing, and if it was a risk to the League, put a stop to it; when she caught sight of a chest out of the corner of her eye.

The fact that it did not register immediately upon her entry into the room spoke volumes about the wards that protected it. She snuck up on it, this was totally out of place in the foreign quarter, in fact, such an artifact belonged in 3rd gate. This was a House Treasure vault. Her expert eye detected that it had grafted itself to the stone floor of the room. Such chests were semi-sentient and had to be tricked open, they could not be unlocked.

‘Someone has a secret!’ The assassin mused as she crept closer. Lost treasures were something of a hobby of hers. House politics made the market in antiquities fluid as treasures were kept in vaults for centuries then shared with others as new gifts, bribes or payments.

One rumor persistent to the Chath’elg’Caress and the Ragar’Golhyrr was the fact that each claimed the other had stolen something of considerable value. It was seen as an insurmountable obstacle to their working together ever again. Recent events had nearly proven the lie to that rumor. As she inspected the chest she mused on what she knew about that feud. There had been other houses involved, Sol’Calar and Vlos’Shannaal had also been blamed at the time. She chuckled to herself, ‘Someone must have been really bad to get four houses to ally against them.’

Suddenly the situation was no longer amusing. She recognized the house blazon on the chest. This was the vault of the Waes’Harventhars, a house so steeped in murder, torture and death that mother’s told their children that if they did not behave themselves they would sing for the Waes’Harventhars nearly a century after their fall.

Kyri rushed out of the shack, pursued by childhood boogeymen, fear drowned avarice and curiosity in a black tide of horror.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 18, 2006 12:53 am 

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Maelgroth was startled by the sudden gust of wind that caused the door curtain to flap wildly. This place lacked proper security, the sooner he could convince his mother to relocate somewhere else the better. No matter the chest had remained undiscovered for his entire life time, with the family becoming active again the risks of discovery were too high.

He had to admit though, that no one would think to look for them here, and a cover so laboriously created would perhaps last a bit longer.

“So was it the wind or something else?” Maelgroth asked the face drying on the rack before him.

It only fluttered a bit in the last dregs of the wind gust. To the young necromancer it seemed the mask was winking at him.

The journey to the temple was not one that was enjoyable to Naelaelayle, first there was the pool of vomit, nearly on the family doorstep, then the long hobble through the troll infested foreign quarter, the second gate and finally the temple precinct. When she was a child, she had strode these passageways with pride, the Waes’Harventhar crest proudly displayed on her cloak. Now she shuffled along, careful not to catch the eye of the temple guards, afraid that she would be denied access to the temple.

Her only real difficulty came when her daughter kept her waiting.

“Is this a safe place to talk?” Naelaelayle asked, looking around carefully.

“When will you realize no one cares about your stupid crusade mother!” Blisshadow barked. She hated being reminded of the low status her family had. Her mother coming here and pretending to have real news or knowledge of events worth her notice was tiring. She only saw her mother now because she knew the crone would wait until she was seen. That was worse than seeing the old bat and sending her on her way.

“You would not say such a thing if you visited your mother more often.”

“This room is as safe as any in the temple.” Bliss replied. It was true, all rooms were open to the spells of the high priests, but it was rare that they bothered to look. They were too busy spying on each other than to waste time on some mid level church functionary. Bliss had been successful in the church because she was efficient, and not connected to any one family. Sure others had rocketed up the church hierarchy, but few had attained her position from the lower rungs of Teir’Dal society.

Naelaelayle hissed disdainfully, she recalled the shrine the Waes’Harventhars had raised to Innoruk. The fawning of the priests when house members came calling. To take pride in this bureaucratic position was to be foolish.

“Your brother went to a party last night.”

“Good for him, I hope he got lucky.”

“Your other brother.”

“And this is of interest to me?” Bliss whined. She had better things to do than listen to this poor information.

“The party was at the Chath’elg’Caress mansion.”

Now Blisshadow was paying attention. Several high ranking members of the clergy had attended that affair, it was the talk of the temple.

“Really, did they hire him to clean up the mess?”

“He caused the mess.”

It was as if Cazic himself came down and caressed Bliss’ spine so intense was the fear. Her position, everything she had worked for had been put at risk by her ‘brother’ and her crazy mother. What would happen if word got out that it was her family that was responsible for this war. For a moment she considered killing her mother.

“Are you crazy! People will find out, we will be punished. How can you be so stupid!”

Naelaelayle slapped her daughter hard. She had always been the passionate one, the most animated and excitable. Good qualities for a priest of the hate god. She possessed a certain animal cunning as well, but she lacked vision.

“You will listen to me. You will come when I call. You will obey Maelgroth as if your life depends on it, because it does. If you fail your family in this, I will kill you myself.”

Never in her entire life had her mother spoken to her in this way. She slapped her in return, the mailed gauntlet striking much harder. The blow knocked her mother to the ground.

“You will listen to me hag. You will not come here again, you will not play games with other houses because you have no right to. I am going to deal with my ‘brother’.” She cast a quick spell, rooting Naelaelayle to the spot and stormed out of her quarters.

Bliss marched across the drawbridge that separated the temple from the main road. She thought about kicking the fisherwoman she saw into the moat, but decided it would be too much trouble. She might get her boots dirty.

It did not take her long to reach her old home. The shack was as she remembered it, the pitiful skeleton crouched in the doorway looked like he had been cleaned recently, white bone glowed dully in the subdued light, really a slap in the face to everyone, it was as if her family attempted to put on airs in a slum by having the most interesting pieces of garbage in the front yard.

She ripped the rotten curtain off the doorframe and confronted her brother.

“I hope mother is ok.” Maelgroth greeted his sister.

“That better not be what I think it is!” Bliss hissed, pointing at the rack on the ramshackle table.

Maelgroth turned the rack so his sister could see the face. “I still have a way to go before I can match my parent’s in skill.”

Bliss kicked the table hard, it had never been the most sturdy of furniture but it weighed enough to knock her little brother to the ground. It shattered before it reached him.

“This is not the time or the place for such behavior.” Maelgroth said calmly, standing up and brushing bits of broken table off his robe.

Bliss began to cast the same spell she had used on her mother. She was nearly done when she was knocked to the ground from behind. The door warden was attacking her, with more strength and skill than she had thought possible. As a child she had taken delight in kicking the pitiful construct as she left for temple each day. She had nearly destroyed it practicing her earliest spells, it was a joke.

“Return to your post!” The angry priestess barked.

The skeleton continued to bludgeon her. Its blows dented her shield, a quick bash of its arm disrupted another spell. Somehow her brother had gotten control of the warden, it should obey her orders.

“Maelgroth! Call off the warden!”

“I don’t think so. I think you need to learn a lesson in humility sister.” He was enjoying this moment utterly. Bliss had always been mean to him, but in subtle cutting ways, at least with his brother Malingrad you knew when the fight was over. With Bliss the knife was always there.

“So be it!” The priestess swung her mace wildly at her brother. To be frank she was amazed she connected, combat and spell practice had always taken second place to polishing boots and writing reports for her superiors. The blow caught him in the shoulder and staggered him a bit as his personal wards were dispelled.

“You hurt me sister. Let me show you what that feels like.” Bliss watched in awe, his hands were a blur so quick was the spell. Her chest blossomed in sudden pain, it was as if one of the temple wardens had broken her shoulder. She tried to move her arm, it was broken. The skeleton behind her landed a series of blows, knocking her to her knees. She needed to heal herself before she got hurt too much more.

Maelgroth waited paitently as his sister began to croak out a desperate prayer for healing. As she neared its conclusion he kicked her in the face. He cast another spell.

Bliss felt her heart start to beat wildly and irregularly in her chest, her blood burned as if it was on fire, she could not concentrate. She was dying.

“Will you obey?” Maelgroth asked calmly.

“Your killing me.” Bliss gasped, she was on her hands and knees now trying to breathe. At some point the skeleton had stopped beating on her, it stood at attention its hands purple with her blood.

“I don’t believe you have much time.” Maelgroth smiled. It was a cold smile.

“I am your sister!”

“No, you are my servant, you will serve the will of the Waes’Harventhars or your face will join my collection.”

She looked into his eyes. It was as if a mask had been removed. The little brother she had tormented was gone, replaced by the stern face of a stranger. There was no fear or mercy to be found there. She had always believed the tales her mother told were just that, stories to pass the time, tales to make the small family feel that they belonged to something more than the shack in the foreign quarter. Now she knew better.

“I will serve. I understand and I will obey. Master.” Blisshadow gasped, sagging forward to kiss her brother’s foot. Her loyalty to Innoruk had always been one based on convenience. Now she had a new loyalty, one based on necessity. She believed the tales now, all of them, and she was eager to prove her usefulness, after all to fail was to die, either at the hands of her brother or their enemies.

At a gesture from Maelgroth, the pain stopped.

“You will apologize to mother, you will show up for dinner and you will do as I say.”

Bliss began a healing chant.

“You will not ask Innoruk to heal you of the wounds you suffered today.”

She stopped the chant, “I understand.” She stood up to go. “Will there be anything else master?”

“Yes, get a new table, nothing fancy, do it before Mom gets home.”

She left her old home with a smile on her face.

Nystyre was not smiling. A servant had brought in the note some time ago. It had taken little effort to figure out the rest of the riddle. The thought of the Waes’Harventhar’s returning was more than a little scary. All the houses had breathed a collective sigh of relief when that house fell. They had shown pity to none in the pursuit of their craft, it was something that Nystyre respected, despite the fact that nearly all the noble houses, including his, had felt their knives at one time or other.

“I wonder what she knows,” the scion of house D’Vir mused aloud. He was more than a bit annoyed at the brevity of the note, no doubt Kyri had much more information, he would simply have to pay for it.

He wondered if the talented assassin was aware how valuable this information was. Blackmail had a certain appeal but without knowledge of the strength of the Waes’Harventhars it might be too dangerous. This would be information of interest to the other great houses, but now was not the time to share. He looked at the invitation on his desk. He had been wondering how to get the invitation to the Jindurn’Plynnar, now he knew who to send the invitation to, he just didn’t know how. Sending an invitation directly to the Waes’Harventhar’s would be tantamount to revealing his knowledge of their existence. Perhaps there was a way to get the letter delivered without tipping his hand…


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 21, 2006 4:58 pm 

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“Someone knows!” Maelgroth hissed to his mother. His skin was pale so great was his fear. He had found the invitation on the table upon his return from Shadowhaven.

“It has been here for several days, you really should contact your mother more often.” Naelaelayle chuckled. “I must admit my heart nearly stopped when I saw it.”

“I take it is not Malingrad’s work?” It would be like his brother to play such a prank.

“He assures me that it was not delivered by him. Bliss has checked the invitation for tracking magics and found none.”

“Still someone knows where to find us, and can make a pretty good estimation of our strength just by looking around. To be frank I am surprised they bothered to leave it after seeing our mansion.” Maelgroth replied, he had not opened the invitation, it perched on the new table like a hawk about to swoop down on unsuspecting prey.

“Open it.”

The letter was the finest elf hide, sealed with black wax bearing the sigil of the D’Vir house, the lidless eye.

Gingerly, Maelgroth opened the invitation. A single platinum coin rolled out of the corner of the document, to land on the table, it spun about like a tiny metallic whirlwind.

Mother and son watched it intently, eventually with a dull rattle it stopped its circuit of the table and lay flat. It was an old platinum coin. Maelgroth looked at it carefully, going so far as to poke it with his finger.

“Well that is unusual.” Naelaelayle picked up the coin, it had been struck a long time ago. In the 552nd year of exile, the very year the Waes’Harventhars had first come to the attention of the queen.

She waited patiently while her son read and re-read the invitation before sharing this new information.

They traded items. Maelgroth examining the coin while his mother read the invitation. It brought a tear to her good eye to be receiving something like this again. The language, in the old tongue, was perfect, written in the blood of the very elf whose skin made up the parchment. She grinned at the irony of it all, the Waes’Harventhars had begun their long climb to respectability by crafting these letters. It had been quite the valuable skill, the family talent for flaying was perfected on the hides of slaves procured by the wealthiest families for their invitations, critical information concerning alliances and betrayals passed from the noble houses to the Waes’Harventhars to be written by the heads of the house onto official correspondence.

It was only a short step from being the trusted scribes of the nobles to becoming court chroniclers to the queen. Elevation to the petty nobility followed soon after. Still it had all begun with letters like these. The craftsmanship of this letter was quite good, their reply would have to be better.

“My son, this is a task only I can accomplish, you will have to bring me the following items, and find me a safe place to do my work.” Naelaelayle quivered with excitement and a little fear. It had been so long since the Waes’Harventhars had sent any correspondence to a noble house. She offered a short prayer to the hate god, hoping for the steady hand required to complete the reply.

“I know of a place, mother, I have been thinking of relocating to it. I believe they will accept your presence as my servant.” Maelgroth replied.

“Well, it is time I fulfilled my true role, where is this place?”

Maelgroth then told his mother about his alliance with the League of Shadows.

“They at least are true to the cause, their goals are not in conflict with our goals. I assume none of our enemies are members of this League?”

“None have bothered to look beyond their own house.”

“I would not have recommended this path, but now that it presents itself I see the opportunities.”

Maelgroth was relieved to hear his mother speak this way, it was a major deviation from the plan they had so often discussed over the decades of exile. “I have already made the arrangements, we can continue to use the house to meet, but we should relocate to the mansion of the League, since its in Third Gate we will be better able to keep an eye on our enemies.”

He looked questioningly at the chest. It had been there all his life.

“It shall be easier to move than you think, after all, your father and I took it out of our halls the very night of the attack. I shall handle those arrangements. You just get me the components for the reply.” Naelaelayle made excited shooing motions with her hands.

Maelgroth was reading the list carefully. Nearly all the items could be purchased in town. All but the last. A live female wood elf, no more than eight years old.

Maelgroth loved the smell of Greater Faydark. It was a dark forest much like his home, it was full of dead elves and confused youngsters. The journey here had been nothing short of harrowing and he truly resented having to hide below decks when the ship had docked at Sister Isle. The journey back would not be as difficult.

He moved carefully an invisible predator looking for prey. It did not take him long to find it.

Shantira was playing with her friends. They had traveled farther than they had intended, but even at their tender age they knew enough to keep the Orc scouts at bay and the pixies had learned to flutter away as quickly as possible when they saw the gaggle of Woodelven youths descend from Kelethin.

The danger of moving out beyond the borders of Keletin proper was intoxicating. The tales of danger and adversity hammered into them by their parents seemed unrealistic and childish. After all they knew better than to get too close to Crushbone where true danger lay.

Unfortunately a very old danger had come to the Faydark on this day.

Maelgroth was frustrated. He had wanted a high elf, their skin was so perfect, so white and without blemish, but his mother had informed him that particular skin was reserved for royal correspondence. He had been patiently following this gang of brats as they stumbled through the forest. At first he had feared the retaliation of the guardsmen, but he learned from observation they were too intent on the dangers they could see, the wasps, the pixies the orcs.

This group had slowly moved away from the guardsmen and their platforms, it was time to strike.

Shantira saw the Teir’Dal appear out of nowhere, at first she thought it was one of her friends playing a joke and she laughed. Her other friends saw it too, they ran screaming into the woods, scattering like a flock of starlings surprised by a hungry cat. She tried to run, but she couldn’t. Fear rooted her to the spot.

“You will do fine.” Maelgroth said in Teir’Dal. He had acquired a body bag in the Plane of Knowledge particularly for this caper. He stuffed the mesmerized child into the bag and disappeared with a flicker of magic.

“Whats in the bag?” Poyson asked laconically. She was also a newer recruit into the League of Shadows, though she was a much more accomplished necromancer. She had spotted Maelgroth as he gated back to the League’s headquarters.

“Something I picked up for an experiment.” Maelgroth huffed, he was tough for a Teir’Dal but his guest was beginning to shake off the effects of the spell.

“You can find entertainment here in town, you don’t have to go out for it.” Poyson replied, twitching her white robe so it better complimented her charms.

“Well, I will keep that in mind…” Mael replied hurriedly. He had considered visiting the slave marts, but was afraid house D’Vir would be watching them to see who procured an envelope of the appropriate age. Paranoia was the master of convenience in this case. He hurriedly slung the twitching bag over his shoulder and shuffled off to his quarters in the basement.

His new quarters would serve him better than he expected. He had learned there was a large suite available in the basement. No one wanted it, mostly because a Shadow Knight of Bertox had held it for her quarters for years. Mael had no idea what to expect when he opened the door. It was surprisingly clean, except for a few lizard scales near the wardrobe. Still he threw everything out, and had servants wash the walls down with boiling water.

“Look what I have brought you!” Mael shouted as he entered his quarters. The family chest had attatched itself to one of the corners. He heard his mother coughing in the back. He headed towards her position in the small laboratory he inherited, many of the beakers were made in Qeynos and were quite sturdy, but they did lack the delicacy of the work done here in Nektulos. It would suffice.

He reached into the bag and dragged out the terrified girl.

“Be glad, for on this day you will aid in our rebirth!” Naelaelayle whispered in elvish.

Shantria screamed for help. This was her worst nightmare, captured by Teir’Dal. All the childhood tales, cautionary stories really came back to her. The two elves, the young male and the old female laughed uproariously.

Maelgroth moved to strike her, but was prevented by his mother.

“You must not bruise the skin. I has been a while and I might need a lot.”

The elderly Teir’Dal turned to the captive. “If you do as we say, my son will return you to your home.”

Shantria had heard about Teir’Dal mercy. “My mother is a famous ranger, she will track me down, she will kill both of you.”

“How nice.” Naelaelayle said distractedly. She was looking for a particular flaying knife, one developed specifically for this kind of work. “Strap her face down on that table.”

Shantria fought as hard as she could but the Teir’Dal were too strong for her. Soon she was immobile on the table.

“Let me clarify, I am old, and this will be hard enough to do without you twitching all over the place and ruining my work.” Naelaelayle cut away the back of Shantria’s dress, revealing her unblemished back. “If you are a good girl, you will live and have an interesting story to tell your friends. If you are a bad girl…” She held the knife in front of her like a sword.

“I will do nothing to help scum like you, when my mother gets here, I will be sure to have her let you live so you can always remember who destroyed your family!” She heard the young one casting a spell, then recalled nothing.

“I will restore the spell as often as necessary, mother.” Maelgroth growled. The girl was rigid in her bonds, her mouth open in a silent scream.

“It is a shame we will have to do this work without music.” His mother replied. She removed a tiny skin drying rack from the family chest. Carefully she began to stitch the girl’s back to it. When she was done it lay flat tiny threads reaching from the bone rim into the skin between her shoulders.

“Hand me the crystal knife and the ink.” Naelaelayle’s voice was taut with stress. This would be the most difficult part. Delicately she began to make tiny incisions into the skin, pulling the freshly cut flap back and then inking the wound. The knife which began the process as clear crystal, absorbed the blood like a sponge, slowly turning a dark pink color.

The tattoo process took hours, interrupted occasionally by the screams of the girl or his mother having to take a break for her aching hands. The work was exacting and after a few characters she would have to stop to keep her fingers from trembling uncontrollably.

“Now comes the tricky part.” Naelaelayle panted. She tightened the threads on the rack, pulling the girls’ skin taut. Carefully she cut the patch of skin loose from her body. The properties of the knife were such that the flesh did not realize it had been cut. Blood pulsed through the patch on the rack, now adorned with the reply of the Waes’Harventhars to house D’Vir.

Shantria was in agony, the elaborate torture the two elves put her through was terrible. At least the pulling sensation on her back was gone now. She was startled when the young one released her from the table.

“The spell will last as long as she lives, be sure that she lives long enough for the letter to be delivered.” The old one hissed. She was carefully scraping away at the skin on the rack in front of her. As the crystal blade stroked the hide, Shantria felt a peculiar scraping on her back.

She turned about in horror, unable to see what had been done to her.

“You wish to see?” Maelgroth said eagerly. He held up a mirror.

Shantria saw her back, it was missing a patch of skin about four inches square, the skin was just gone, exposing the bone and the flesh underneath. She knew she should be crazy from the pain, but instead all she felt was the pricking on her back, in time with the work the old Teir’Dal was doing with the rack.

“What have you done to me!”

“You are a note, isn’t that special!” the old one enthused, turning the rack so she could see the writing on the patch of skin. Her skin.

“Well that makes this next part easier.” Maelgroth said, stuffing the unconscious girl back into the sack, she had fainted on seeing the RSVP.

“Remember if she dies, the note is ruined.”

“I have already taken care of the details. She will be found by some of the lightbringers who hunt the guards in the forest.” Maelgroth replied, cloaking himself and shadow and shuffling out of the room.

The next day a package was delivered to House D’Vir. It caused quite a stir. It was, however, delivered to Nystyre unopened. He could tell just by looking at it, what house had sent this reply. Carefully he picked up the note. Other houses had sent theirs, occasionally accompanied by small gifts, written on parchment, vellum and rarely tanned wood elf skin. This one stood out from all the others. It was still warm to the touch.


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