The Search for the Sword

The potentially neverending story where YOU help write the action!

Chapter One: (by Crazy Dave)

Cairn leaned back in the shade of an old elm tree, watching the commotion of the village before him. A newcomer would think that someone had discovered gold in the mountains. Men from as much as twenty days journey had come here, many of them well armed, some with just a dagger at their side. There were women as well. Some came here because they went where there were men, but there were just as many who had come to search for the same thing the men had come for, swords by their sides, ready to kill.

He could have laughed at all this foolishness if it were not so serious. They had all come searching for the sword. None of them knew the kind of powers it held, they only knew it was powerful, and could fetch them great gold, glory, or much much more.

Cairn knew better, he knew the true powers of the sword, even if he could not understand them. It had been his great grandfather who had made the sword. His reasons had been pure, but his creation was not. Its power had consumed the poor wizard and he died quite horribly. It had been Cairn's grandfather who had then taken the sword and fought with its power. He tried to destroy it, but the sword had a way of clouding minds, even strong ones. He had taken the sword to the darkest depths he could find and must have died with it, for he was never seen again.

But the legends were always there. Stories, some fanciful, some too close to the truth for comfort, about what really happened and where the sword's final resting place was. Each time, there was a great flourish as adventurous or greedy souls flocked together to tear up the land searching for it. Cairn had seen it many times before. It was always the same, and the sword was never found.

Cairn was always here for he knew that he must find the sword himself, prevent any of these weak fools from touching the foul weapon. His great grandfather, as strong-willed as he was, had killed close to seventy men before he was able to turn the blade upon himself. But people never cared about those stories, they heard the word "power" and that was all they needed. Yes, he thought, as he rose from the tree and joined the crowd, he would find the sword, and unlike the past three generations of his family, he would destroy it.

Chapter Two: (by Kimberly Stewart)

"Why did I come here?"

A few snickers followed her as she moved through the village; Kari ignored them. It was obvious to the people who looked at her, she was not your ordinary treasure seeker. She knew she wasn't. A short sword hung at her side, bouncing off of her leg rhythmically. She had a large cloak on, that dragged a bit on the ground. Obviously, this cloak didn't belong to her. The clothes she wore were definitely tailored for a larger man, the tunic was too long and the pants were baggy. This was not how an adventurer was supposed to look. Well, truth be told she wasn't an adventurer. She was just a farmer's daughter. In fact, the clothes she wore were her fathers.

She wove her way through the crowded streets. Her blues eye flitted here and there. "Why did I come here?" The question repeated itself in her mind. But immediately she answered her own question. Her grandfather used to tell tales often of a sword. A sword of great power. Now she wanted to find it, but not for the same reasons as most of the cutthroats and desperate men converging on this village. They wanted power.

What need had Kari for power? She didn't really care about power, she just wanted the adventure. A smile tugged at the corner of her mouth. Her grandfather had told her countless tales of glory, of romance, of adventure, and of the Sword. It was the stories of the Sword that had caught her attention. He had told how he himself had gone in search of the Sword. Kari's grandfather may have never found the Sword, but he had a lifetime of adventure and memories. That's why Kari was here. She wanted the memories and the adventure. What did she have at home? Nothing really, except the prospect of an arranged marriage. She shuddered at the thought. She did not want to marry someone she never met. Like most women she wanted to marry for love.

Her attention was brought back to the present by a voice next to her ear. The voice was followed closely with the smell of booze. "Hey, girlie. What's a nice girl like you doing in a place like this, huh? Don't you know it's dangerous around here?" There was a bit of a threat behind his voice.

Kari turned her gaze to see the voice belonged to an ugly man. He matched her pace, step for step. Her eyebrows furrowed slightly in annoyance. This only caused the man to grin, showing a set of rotten teeth. Kari turned away, trying to ignore the man, but he stopped with a hand on her arm. "Let go." She didn't mean to let the panic show in her voice, but it was too late.

The man came close to her, his breath almost choking her. His eye had an evil glint to them. Desperate, Kari tried to pull her arm away from him, but he was too strong. He chuckled at her struggling. "Come on, I'm not gonna hurt you." But his eyes said something different.

Her mind cleared of panic long enough for her to sink her teeth into the man's arm. Not expecting this, the man let go of Kari with a yelp and proceeded to clutch his injured hand. But the pain and surprise wouldn't last long, and Kari knew it. She turned and bolted away from the man. She knew she needed to find someplace safe. "Is he following?" She turned her head to look behind her.

Looking back over her shoulder, she didn't see the man before she bumped into to him.

Chapter Three: (by K. Spike)

Kari felt herself pulled around and behind the obstacle she had run into. She heard the faint ring of a sword pulled from its sheath. The man following her stopped just shy of running into the point of the blade. He looked up the blade to see a woman in her mid to late twenties, with short brown hair and deep brown eyes. She was dressed in a shirt and tan breeches, a cloak thrown back over her shoulders.

"Out of my way!" He shouted, pushing the blade away and taking a wobbly step to go around this woman.

Letting the blade point drop to the ground, she moved herself in between the man and the girl. "Why bother with one who does not wish your company?" she said with a smile, looking him over, " young and inexperienced.......I would think you to be interested in more of a challenge....." she said with a wink.

Not so drunk, as to not notice her checking him out, he staggered forward, slipping an arm around her waist and pulling her close. "What did you have in mind?" he whispered in her ear, attempting to kiss her neck.

She pulled back slightly, causing him to stagger to keep his balance and his arm around her. "Are you sure you could handle me in your present state?" she said with a playful laugh, reaching up and running her fingers slowly down his cheek. "You seem about to....Sleep." she whispered in his ear, more a command than question.

His eyes closed almost immediately, his arms falling limply to his sides. He slumped to the ground. Resheathing her sword, she noticed a few onlookers. Shrugging her shoulders and looking at the man now snoring loudly in the middle of the walk, "Drunks..." she said in an irritated tone, turning to see the girl still standing behind her. "Are you okay?" she asked concerned.

The girl stared in confusion for a moment, then shook her head yes.

Seeing the girl was still a little shaken by the incident, "Why don't we find someplace to sit down for a few minutes......away from here." she added looking back, a few others had moved the man off to the side, leaning him against a storefront. Seeing the girl was not going to move on her own, the woman grabbed her arm gently and led her down the street.

The girl seemed to come out of her confusion as they walked, pulling her arm from the woman's grip. "Thank you for your help, but I am fine now." she stated firmly, straightening her cloak, taking on a stubborn stance.

"You are quite welcome." she replied with a smile, sensing the girls unease. "Look.....I was just about to get something to eat, if you would care to join me?" she offered.

"Where are my manners!" she said, irritated with herself, "I am Jenna." she said introducing herself and offering her hand.

"I am Kari." the girl said, apprehensively taking her hand and noticing the silver dragon in flight, perfectly drawn, right down to the smallest detail, on Jenna's upper arm. "Thank you again.....Jenna, but I am feeling more myself now." still unsure what to think of this woman. "Maybe some other time, right now....I have..." she stumbled for an excuse.

"Another time then." Jenna interrupted her with a small laugh. "You need not make an excuse. Perhaps we will run into one another again. Take care Kari." and with that, she turned to continue on her way, almost running into a man who had been standing right behind them.

As Jenna walked down the street, she couldn't get rid of the feeling she should know the man she had almost run into. Her surroundings disappeared before her and she saw a sword. It seemed suspended in mid air, spinning slowly. Its glow, casting shadows on what appeared to be cavern walls. Stopping where she was, she shook her head, trying to clear her thoughts. The streets and the shops came back into view. Running a hand through her hair, "I am just hungry and tired...." she whispered to herself, entering the first inn she came to "The Falcon's Nest".

Chapter Four (by Dave J.)

The man, dressed in a hodge-podge of clothing, much of it patched and worn in the normal places, stared around the corner of a store front. His hair was long and grey. Untrimmed for several years, it hung nearly to his waist. He couldn't remember having travelled to this town; but he remembered the reason why. There were rumors that 'his Sword' had been found again. Rumors that were undoubtably wrong. They must be wrong! It was 'his Sword'. He stared, almost hungrily, down the road as various people went about their business. Several passed him and he heard them talking about "the Sword."

He spun, one hand grasping the rapier hilt at his side. His face grimaced in... rage, hatred, jealousy. So they wanted 'his Sword' did they? What did they know about 'his Sword'? Unlike all of these cretins he had seen 'his Sword' at work; the marvelous cutting efficiency, the scream it induced in people that saw it coming at them. He cackled just thinking of it. Then, fearing that the noise would draw attention, he pulled back behind the edge of the building again.

He remained there for the rest of the day. As it was growing dark he shivered as he felt himself Change again. It was not something he could control. It had happened at the oddest times in the past few years; sometimes in the middle of eating a meal, once even as he was relieving himself. But for now, it suited his purposes to have undergone the transformation.

Finding himself pulling at an ear, he dropped his hands to his sides and started walking. When he stepped out from the alley, he was several inches taller, or else his gnarled frame had merely straightened up. He wore a long, black, hooded robe, sported a goatee and had short, grey hair. Under the robe were garments of the finest silk. His rapier stayed however. There was none of the wildness about his eyes that had been there hours earlier.

Coming to an inn, he entered it, noticed the sign as he entered. The Falcon's Nest, it was called. Much better than some of the places he had eaten in in the past.

Stalking over to an empty table, he hooked the chair out with one leg and signaled a waitress to come take his order.

"Yes Master...?"

"A glass of wine and some chicken." He responded.

As he waited for his food, a man came over. "You must be new here?"

At the nod, the newcomer continued. "I'm Gort, the inn's owner. We don't normally see people of your quality here in town. Is there anything I can do to help you?"

He stared at Gort for a short time before answering. "Nothing my good man. I can provide all that I need short of food and a bed, preferably free of bugs."

He smiled to show he meant no offense.

Gort nearly lost his tongue denying the existence of bedbugs in his inn. "No, no, g- good sir. No bugs here. If I might offer you my best room?"

"Of course."

"It does cost four coppers a night since you won't have to share it?" Gort's face was almost comic in his greed.

"Very well." The man nodded, hiding his smile. Four copper pieces was double what it should have been; but he could afford it in his present state.

"If I might have a name to put in the books, good sir?" Gort questioned.

"Eldrik of Warenholm; Eldrik Tiwsson of Warenholm." Responded the man. "And if I could have the key brought to me at my table, I wish to make an early night of it."

Not much later, after his food and key had been brought to him, Eldrik stood in his room and shivered as he felt the Change occurring. Lucky he had not been downstairs when it happened.

Finding himself rubbing his ear, he cackled. Nobody would think to look for him here. 'They' would never know of the existence of that fool Eldrik of Warenholm! He felt his blood stir in his veins and cackled again. 'His Sword' would be his again, and soon. He knew it like he knew that he would Change again when the need arose. Cackling quietly, he set into the chicken and wine. Somehow his favorite food always appeared around mealtimes. 'His Sword' and he had been separated too long!

Chapter Five: (by Teufel)

Drelore woke suddenly from his dream. This time it was much clearer than before. He could see the face of the man with THE SWORD. He knew he must find that man. No one could wield that sword while he was alive.

He prepared to leave, because he knew the sword would be found this time and he had to be there when it was found.

He arrived at the village and could not believe his luck. The man from his dream was leaning against a tree just watching the others. He quietly crept behind the man and stopped a few yards away.

Drelore was not sure what he should do next. Should he try to kill the man? No, he had not found the sword yet. Should he try to befriend the stranger?

He drew his dagger and carefully approached.

Drelore was about to grab the man when he got up and walked into town.

The man from his dream entered "The Falcon's Nest" and got a room.

He asked the innkeeper about the man.

"That is Cairn, the great grandson of the mighty Kisner, creator of the sword," said Gort the innkeeper. "He comes here each change of the seasons to look for the sword."

It was getting late, so Drelore got a room as well. Drelore could not sleep for several hours. When he did sleep he started dreaming again.

This dream was different than the one that had been haunting his sleep since he was a child. This dream showed the same man with the sword like before, but this time it continued to show the man killing with the sword.

He woke startled to hear people outside.

It was morning and he saw the man going down the street towards the forest.

He dressed quickly so he could follow.

Shortly after entering the forest, Drelore realized that he had lost Cairn. At the same time he felt the point of a sword in his back.

"Why are you following me?"

Drelore panicked and said, "I am going to kill you before you and that sword can kill the rest of my family and village."

"Why do you think I would do that?"

"I know who you are."

Cairn cautiously removed the sword from his back. "If you know who I am, then you should know that I am trying to right the wrong my great grandfather brought upon my family. The only way to do that is by destroying the sword, if my grandfather was not successful."

"Why should I believe you, Cairn?"

Chapter Six: (by K. Spike)

Jenna leaned back in her chair, as she waited for her food. The waitress had returned quickly, setting her ale on the table and explaining it would be a few minutes for her food. She had only nodded politely to acknowledge that it was not a problem. Leaning back, and kicking her feet up on another chair at the table, she looked about the room. The people all looked so different, yet all thoughts at present centered on a single goal. She frowned. Did they really think they could possess the sword? If they believed one of the stories, you would think they would consider the validity of the others.

It was hard not to notice, when the well dressed man had entered. He was different than the others, not only in his attire. He was well shielded and the name he had given the innkeeper....a lie. Shaking her head and running a hand through her hair, she reprimanded herself. That is not unusual, she told herself. Many traveled under false names, still there was something about him that was unsettling.

“A young woman should not be traveling alone.” came a familiar deep voice, interrupting her thoughts. She turned to see a tall man in his late thirties. He wore armor of a fine make, even though it bore the marks of many years of use. There was a touch of gray to his short black hair.

“So I have been told.” Jenna remarked with a smile, offering him a seat. “I am surprised to see you here Bolan, and out of uniform.”

Sighing and taking the seat, “Lord Gaest has taken an interest in the recovery of the sword.”

Jenna frowned, “Why does that not surprise me, and you are helping him? I would have thought you would have grown tired of his lust for power and control long ago.”

“That is unfair, Jenna!” he was upset now. “I have 5 children and a wife to support.”

“I am sorry,” she quickly interrupted, she had not meant to be sarcastic with him, he was a good friend, no matter who he worked for. “So you are here for the sword as well....” diverting the conversation away from Gaest.

“And you are not?” he looked at her surprised.

Jenna laughed, “No, actually. I am on my way to see Alorez.”

“Oh....your old master.” Bolan chuckled, knowing that would irritate her.

Jenna glared at him, “My Teacher. I am no slave, he does not order me to do anything. In any case, he has been wanting me to come for some time now.” She shook her head, “I cannot delay it any longer.”

“I cannot believe the old mage is still alive.....Did he know the creator of the sword?” Bolan asked casually.

“I suppose it's possible, but I do not know. He never mentioned it.” she replied, taking another sip of her ale.

“ me find the sword.” he stated more than asked.

“Interesting idea friend, but I must see Alorez.” The word, first, trailing in her thoughts alone. “You would not wish me along on this one anyway. Even if we could find it, which is unlikely, we do not have anyone who could control it and I would never turn the sword over to Gaest!”

“Who says we have to turn it over to Gaest? Surely you could control the...” Bolan pushed on.

Jenna almost choked on her ale, “Oh No!” she interrupted. “I am not so foolish to think that.....I am not that good. I do not think even Alorez would be so bold. Who did you bring with you?”

Bolan shook his head, “Gaest sent his nephew to accompany me...”

“Only the two of you?” Jenna was shocked. “You cannot be serious....he is too inexperienced to be of any real help.”

“So you will help?” finishing his ale and rising. “At least think about it, I have other matters to attend to right now.......Are you staying here?”

“I did not say that.....but maybe......after I see Alorez.” she replied apprehensively. “I have a small camp set up outside of town, near the woods.” seeing his questioning look. “There are too many people here...”

Knowing her tendancy to Empathy, “I see...” he responded. “Contact me when you get back then.” He quickly turned, and headed out of the Falcons Nest.

She shook her head, as she watched him leave. She had not said she would return. Looking around, the well dressed man had left. The inn had begun to get crowded now. At some point, the waitress had brought her food, but she did not feel very hungry now.

She did not see her waitress. Grabbing her pack, she headed up to the bar to pay her tab. The innkeeper was checking in another guest. She waited patiently as the man gave his name, Cairn, and the innkeeper marked it in the book, carrying on a conversation as if they were friends. She had that nagging feeling she had seen him somewhere....

As Cairn walked away, she settled her tab with the owner. The same vision of the sword, passing through her thoughts. Turning abruptly to leave, she bumped into a man standing directly behind her who was waiting, knocking her pack to the floor. He moved to the counter as she bent to pick up her pack.

She heard him asking about the man who had been in front of her. Her senses told her it was more than a passing interest, but it had been the innkeeper's response that had caught her attention.

As she left the inn, making her way back to her camp, her thoughts kept coming back to what she had heard. The great grandson of the creator of the sword would definitely have a better chance of controling it, if anyone could, but what would he wish to do with it?

Running a hand through her hair, she contemplated the idea of postponing her meeting with Alorez.......again.

It was a restless night for her, even being outside of town. She had arose early to set on her way. She was still considering the idea of not going, when she came upon the two men from the inn, she had seen the night before.

They had not seen her approach, as they seemed to argue. Staying out of sight, she listened to their conversation. She could not walk away without being seen, if she was going to be discovered anyway, she might as well hear what they had to say.....

Chapter Seven: (by Dave J.)

Several days had passed; at least he assumed it had been several days. Ever since that long ago day, he had lost the ability to tell the passage of time. He cackled as he rolled over and bumped into a moss-covered log. Birds chirped joyfully as the new day started. Standing, he reached into his pack and grabbed some of the chicken that was still in there. Even though it was cold, (he preferred it hot) he had no trouble wolfing the last remnants down.

With uncharacteristic cleanliness, he brushed off his faded and oft-patched clothing. The baggy trousers he wore were covered with mud from the farthest reaches of the globe; though no doubt he would not remember. The boots he wore had been made by an Ice-Lands barbarian whom he had stolen them from. His rapier, with its overly ornate, gold-covered hilt, came from the decadent Frauhens Empire way to the south, but the blade was made of high-quality steel and thus redeemed the sword of its bad qualities.

Cackling again, he rubbed at his ear as he caught the sound of a voice. As it came closer, he caught more of the voice and recognized that it was singing an old ballad of honor and battles. Now, just who could this be? He wondered.

Minutes later, his question was answered. Appearing through the trees was a bard, dressed in the colorful clothing that denoted one of his profession. But there was something else as well. He shifted his perceptions and recognized what it was. This bard, what appeared to be a mere graceless singer, was trained to the ways of power. He was shielded; not as well as that one woman in the Falcon’s Nest several nights ago, but not inconsiderable in any case.

As the singer reached the end of the refrain, he paused and bowed effortlessly. “Eemo the Crystal-voiced I am and shall ever be. And who are you, my fair fellow?”

He looked at this newcomer to his campsite and glared meaningfully for an impolite length of time. Then, deciding to answer, “I am Eldrik Tiwsson. No doubt you haven’t heard of me.”

“On the contrary, my good fellow,” replied Eemo with an almost sinister air. “On the contrary, I most certainly have.”

He launched into another song. A quick ditty that seemingly had no sensible words. Eldrik felt himself lulled. As the song ended, Eldrik swayed on his feet. Eemo reached out and gently eased him to the ground. When the bard spoke, it seemed from a great distance. “You, Eldrik Tiwsson, whatever your connection to the Sword, will lead me to it. My Master has need of it and he believes you of all people have the best chance of finding it.”

Eldrik snapped back awake. With a snarl, he lashed out magically. Stinging lances of force slammed in at Eemo, who merely smiled. “You have been Compelled Eldrik; though I sense that is not who you really are. You, Eldrik, can not hurt me without severing the bond. And that would most likely drive you insane.”

Eldrik knew it to be true. He could feel the... sense of the bard's magic inside himself. The experience bridged barriers in his mind, barriers he had created, and he remembered.

It was nearly two decades since he had last seen that man. Three decades of near insanity, with the last look of that man being one where he glimpsed the man’s unconscious body as he himself crawled away. A name came through his memory; Gotho, a man able to call demons to his aid. Then, Gotho had Compelled him to hunt for the Sword; back when he had been known as Torent the Black. Gotho was a sorcerer who had dedicated himself to finding the Sword as a tool with which to tyrannize the surrounding lands.

Like he had many, many years before with Gotho, he called upon his powers and rent the bond with Eemo. The backlash of forces caused both of them to fly backwards through the air. Eldrik slammed into a tree, Eemo skidding across several yards of open ground.

Eldrik was the first to recover. Nearly an hour had passed since he had broken the Compulsion. He limped over to Eemo. Standing over the bard, he glared down with madness in his eyes. Running a hand over the man’s forehead, Eldrik erased the invisibility over the sigil on Eemo’s forehead. He cackled as he recognized it. “Your miserable servant Eemo dies now, despised Gotho!”

After stabbing the bard with his rapier, he walked away cursing and laughing madly. Now that they knew where he was, he would need to craft a new identity. He would need to carve out a little more of his mind and return it to a semblance of sanity just as he had done to become Eldrik. A few weeks of literally mind-bending work and he would be able to hide from Gotho again. He couldn’t risk being Eldrik again, now that Gotho and his horde of slaves knew of that alias. He giggled as he began thinking of new names for this person he would become. Perhaps he would go with a gypsy name this time. He had run with gypsies once a long time ago. He cackled again, so hard that he fell to the ground holding his stomach. Yes, a gypsy name, he thought as he regained his breath; Kaash fel’Myrr. Gotho could never have known of that name; he had been called that on the other side of the world. He cackled and rubbed his ear, the man who was no longer Eldrik slowly shuffled his way into the forest, his form shifting back into that of the decrepit old man in the patched clothing.

Chapter Eight: (by AJ Black)

A rat ran down a long dingy hallway, around the darkened tiles, down into the depths of the netherworld itself. The rat scurried past puddles of murky liquid, its shadows cast from the pale torches embedded in the walls.

The rat was one of the only souls that knew its way around the labyrinth of corridors in the bowels of this once great dungeon.

Down a long hallway the animal skirted, past ancient traps and pitfalls long unused and rested.

A bright light was becoming visible, and sounds of eating were becoming audible, and as the rat entered a bright furnace- illuminated room, a large figure slumped in a moss covered marble throne.

The large being was decorated in green dingy robes, a faded and tarnished pendant, and stared emptily into space. Scratching his rhino looking snout, his beady yellow eyes faintly glimmered from the shadows under his forehead. The "long dead" Baramous Stalus was ready to make his return to the sunlight.

Two short figures sat at a long Rock table, munching on sheep entrails and pig hooves. The slimy yellow-green beings resembled goblins, albeit goblins with armor three sizes too large.

A figure appeared in the shadows, a spectre with three heads, attatched to a scaly neck, and the rest of its form hidden under war armor and flowing purple robes. The creature spoke;

Masssthter. [No reply from the man on the throne] Mastther, it hath been ten years since we were released from the Eternal Limbo. And now the masthere plann is ready to succtheed, the moons are in alignment, and the propethies will be fortold and fullfilled! Now ith the time to inact the strategy.

[The figure moved to face him, and spoke slowly in a base, throaty voice]

Where is the nieflung labros?

The man replied: Secure masthere! I have hidden it in a place NO one will EVER find ith! Have no fear.

[The figure shifted]

I am ready then. We will do what me must now to find that sword. With that sword I can unleash the powers that bind the seams of the universe. With the sword I ALONE can unleash the Galaxy Beast, with that sword I can split the 4th dimension to MY advantage! We have waited so long for these days, and now the time is right, now we STRIKE. Have the 4 Elders been located and utilized?

--Yess masthere, it has taken years to cultivate their abilities, but they are now able to properly ensure your successth.

Well done. Baromous Scylla, if all goes off as planned, we will be as Gods! But first, we need a warrior who knows the Modern Eurth, a man who is familiar with today's technology and weaponry, who knows how to survive and conquer in this new civilization.

--Masthter, where shall I find this ...creature?

Disguise yourself and go alone to the surface. Find our Warrior, and return to me. Then we will attack! The scrolls are very near obtaining, although only a select few KNOW of the sword's existance, all will soon discover the sinister reality we have been living these endless ages! But find me this being of known morals, a being so adamant in succeeding they will do whatever it takes to acheive their goal. Find such a warrior, and the Eurth shall be forever changed!

--Yesth Masthere.

Scylla turned and his face somehow physically distorted into a man's countenance, and where Baromous Syclla once stood, a young man stared into the darkness, and then crossing his arms, disappeared into the air.

At the table benches, The two beings stared, and returned to eating.

Baramous Stalus raised his claws to his temples, and pondered the meanings of the Sword, and what secrets lied unknown in its silvery form, that even he did not know.

Chapter Nine: (by Rob Moores)

  "It's strange -- almost funny, really.  They do this every year."

 With a wave of her palm, Gala Zen's crystal faded to darkness.  She turned to the
Council with an emphatic shrug of her frail shoulders.

 "So do we," muttered more than one voice.

 "Like a divine Behest," Gala Zen continued, ignoring the irritated Council members,
"the Sword calls to every soul with even an ounce of something other than tradesman's
blood.  The warriors, the wizards, the bards and artists, and even a few poetic hearts like that
of the young girl, sure only that there must be creatures more wondrous than the horses and
cows of our wide world."

 There was a general chorus of chuckles, but most were forced.

 "And the Council of the Sheol is ever vigilant," she said, mockingly.

 "I can think of no better part to play," one man added with obvious gusto, rising to
his feet defiantly.  "Let the Mundanes have their fun, and let us be done of it.  In fifty-five
years we've tried exactly ONCE to destroy the Sword, and if Logan was here, instead of
dead, he could remind you of what good that did us."

 "Sit down, RueGoss," Gala Zen instructed firmly.  When he did, making no effort to
conceal his disdainful glare, she went on.  "I'll overlook your insubordination, mostly
because you raise a valid point.  Logan...  He I was sure could destroy the Sword."

 "And didn't," RueGoss reiterated stubbornly.

 "But that wasn't a complete failure," another of the Council members reasoned,
aiming the statement mostly at the fuming RueGoss.  "At least the Sword has managed to
remain hidden all these years."

 "And years to come, by my reckoning," RueGoss countered.  "Why we even bother
escapes me.  Damn the Mundanes.  There's no man out there this year what's any better than
all the others we've seen.  A mage with some command over the Behests, a madman what
can't decide who he wants to be this week, a farmer girl what's probably gonna run home the
first time she sees a goblin, and even Cairn...  If Logan couldn't do it, I don't see how his
grandson stands any better chance."

 "You are refusing to see the whole picture, RueGoss," Gala Zen said.  "And
underestimating the individuals besides.  There is more to be said of this bunch than your
challenged mind can imagine."

 "Do enlighten me, then," he prompted gruffly.

 "They've all their own tools, RueGoss.  And especially Cairn.  There is Jenna, whose
Empathy is the strongest I have ever seen in a Mundane.  If any can find the path, it is she.
We will simply have to see to it that she continues on to see Alorez, and receive the signs.
Gotho...  By far, you underestimate the sorcerer.  His ruthlessness is a weapon in itself,
equipped by every foul minion he commands, and even the most feeble of wizards holds
great power when he has mastered the Behests.  Just look at what he has done to the madman
'Eldrik' if you doubt that."

 "Eldrik.  What exactly does our good lunatic friend got going for him?"

 "More than even I can guess.  He is so well guarded that he cannot remember his
own secrets.  But do not doubt, that will change in due time."

 "Drelore.  I can see for myself that his misguided nobility would be more than a little
helpful, if he was on the right track," RueGoss conceded.

 "We will help him along," Gala Zen agreed, nodding so sharply that her fine white
hair barely shivered with the movement.  "As will Cairn, I suspect."

 "Well LaRinn ain't helping much."

 "I agree there," the third active member, Wil, again spoke out.  "I understand that the
Dreambringer takes pride in her work, but don't you think maybe she's passing on the wrong
message to Drelore?"

 "I doubt it," Gala Zen replied, shrugging dismissively.  "Jennifer LaRinn is the
Dreambringer, not Gala Zen.  I have no hand in her dealings, and for a reason.  I don't
understand my own dreams."

 "Yes, it's a good idea to leave the dreaming business to LaRinn," Wil decided.
"Dreams being such an integral part of this whole mess, after all."

 "Whatever," RueGoss muttered.

 "You don't have to understand," Wil assured him.

 "Yeah, so what about Farmer Jane?  Kari?"

 "That's a little more complicated," the Headmistress admitted.  "I'll show you."

 She waved her hand over the crystal again, using her other to trace the Eye rune in
the air before her.  The Scryer filled with dim, hazy light, at first an indecipherable blur of
images zipping beyond the Scryer's borders in the whitish light of torches that all the Council
members recognized uncomfortably.  Their view careened down murky corridors and past
bogs of muck that could eat away a man's fingers before he realized he'd stuck his hand in,
around molded brick corners and into the great fires of the netherworld's Fire Marsh.

 <Yess masthere, it has taken years to cultivate their abilities...>

 "Baromous Scylla!" RueGoss hissed, slamming his large fist onto the Council table
in disgust as the view halted before the spectre.  "Ain't there no getting rid of that guy?"

 "He don't look no worse for wear," someone agreed.

 Gala Zen shushed them with a wave of annoyance .  <Disguise yourself and go
alone to the surface...>

 "Damn it!" Wil snapped.  "I might have known.  Scylla never did do much on his

 "'Master,'" RueGoss observed with a grin.  "So at least Stalus put him in his place..."

 The Council of the Sheol watched Baromous Scylla with one collective breath as the
spectre transformed and departed.  Stalus glared after the spectre for a long time, rubbing at
his temples steadily, grinning hideously.

 "Scheming on the Sword, no doubt," RueGoss observed, wrinkling his nose with
distaste.  "And that ain't good."

 In an abrupt and execrably graceful snapping motion of one hand, Baromous Stalus
snatched up a rat, crushing it between two fingers, and the Scryer again went dark.

 "I've gotta admit, though: he's got some balls."

 "In a manner of speaking, I suppose," Gala Zen agreed, frowning.  "Unfortunately
for Baromous Stalus, however, they're considerably bigger than his foresight.  A bad

 "I think I see," Wil said, nodding to the Headmistress.  "Where Kari comes in, I

 RueGoss and several of the others pondered it for a moment, while Gala Zen looked
on patiently.

 "The nieflung labros," RueGoss finally deduced.  "Yer sending Kari after it."

 "Not exactly," Gala Zen replied, "but you're close."  She snaked her left hand into the
opening in the front of her gown, retrieving a small item resembling a copper coin like the
ones the Mundanes used for small currency.  In her pale white hand, the item glittered with
its own innate power.  "This is the Pabro Heart," she told the Council, holding it out for them
to see.  "The same one Logan the Wielder was given to control the Sword.  It found its way
home, right to my pillow."

 As one, the entire Council gasped.

 "Logan..." RueGoss murmured, shaking his head with wonder.

 "Not possible," Wil said.  "If Logan were still alive, we'd have seen him after forty
years, I should think."

 "You know how it works," RueGoss argued.  "If Logan was dead, the Pabro Heart
would be dead too."

 They both turned expectantly to Gala Zen.  The Headmistress was grinning

 "He is neither dead nor alive," she told them, and replaced the Pabro Heart in its
pouch at her breast.  "As Cairn will discover when the time comes."

 "But the Pabro Heart doesn't match my theory at all," Wil confessed quietly.  "So
how exactly DOES Kari fit in?"

 "We will give the Pabro Heart to Kari," Gala Zen declared, "but not to control the
Sword.  That was my mistake with Logan.  I didn't realize that virtue could be a potential
hazard in dealing with the Sword.  Cairn shall have to find his own strength -- we can offer
nothing without breaking the Terms.  With Kari's own strong sense of compassion and
wonder, she is already mightier than any warrior, in her own way.  The Pabro Heart will
enhance that might considerably."

 "And still, you seem to be indicating the nieflung labros," Wil asserted.  "But you
have told us you're not sending the girl after it."

 "No, I'm not.  The others will need her help.  I think it likely she will be traveling
directly with Cairn, and her purity will balance his impulsiveness quite neatly.  Still, with the
White Aura blazing about her, she could use the nieflung labros efficiently."

 "So yer sending it to her," RueGoss finished, nodding.


 "Which means that much has fallen into place conveniently," Wil said.  "They will
all choose their own places, no doubt, and follow their own agendas the way Mundanes
always do, but their skills will blend and serve us well."

 "Been a Council member for thirteen years and he's already getting high and
mighty," RueGoss chided, hiking a thumb over his shoulder at Wil.  "He even said the

 The others laughed.  Wil ignored them.

 "That just leaves one little problem," he concluded, raising an inquisitive brow at
Gala Zen.  The Headmistress nodded.

 "The nieflung labros..." she murmured, teasing a hand through her white hair.

 "I'll have to go myself and find it."

Chapter Ten: (by K. Spike)

Jenna barely caught any of what the two spoke of, before a dizzying feeling came over her.  So much so that she had to lean forward, resting her head against the trunk of the tree to steady herself.  She recognized Alorez' contact, but something was wrong, she had never had this kind of reaction in a mind message with him before.  "Alorez.......what is wrong?" the feeling behind her thoughts, deep concern.

"Hush child......listen to what I must say......there is little time..." his contact was weak, his every thought seemed to require great effort.  "The quest for the sword will be realized within the year, I have forseen it.  Though who will obtain it remains a mystery to me......there is a greater peril that this should occur at this time.  The banished ones........will attempt to return.  The time of that prophecy has.......unfortunately, come to coincide with the retrieval of the sword." his contact with her seemed to waver.

She struggled to hold the contact, "The banished ones?  They are held within the plane of Eternal Limbo...."

"Gotho found a way to release them many years ago, and they have waited for the time when they could return to this realm.  That time is now....." his tone becoming more urgent.  "This realm will be changed forever should Gotho or the Banished obtain the sword......"

Jenna attempted to hold the contact, as she drew on her reserves.  Whispering the words of command to open the portal that would take her to him.  Alorez broke contact abruptly as the air shimmered  before her momentarily before taking shape and she quickly stepped through.

She found herself standing within Alorez' workroom, although she could barely recognize it.  The walls and much of this rooms contents were charred beyond recognition, the feeling of magic still hung in the air.  She scanned the room frantically, her eyes coming to rest on a crumpled heap on the floor.  "Alorez!" she rushed over, kneeling beside him and sensing his injuries.

"There is nothing you can do for me child...." barely a whisper, his eyes opening slightly.

Tears filled her eyes at the realization that his words were true, she was not a healer and even if she was, his injuries were too great.  "What happened......Who did this?" she could barely choke out the words.

His eyes took on a dreamy look, "We were friends at one time, a long time ago.." he said, a tone of sadness to his voice.  "I have pursued many avenues of thought since that dreadful night my friend picked up that sword....despite the fact, it had killed his father, he felt he was strong enough..." he seemed to ramble, shaking his head.   "....what had gone wrong..." he stopped momentarily.  "He still lives you know....he wanders, his mind tortured...his soul haunted...". He gasped slightly, grabbing the front of her shirt and pulling her close, his tone taking on an urgency, "Balance....Balance is the key to maintaining control...Do you understand?"

She could only shake her head no, as tears fell down her cheeks.  His thoughts were so disjointed and her own emotions seemed to block any semblance of rational thought.

He raised a shaky hand to brush the tears, lightly laying his hand on her cheek.  He looked deeply within her eyes, searching her mind.  He brought forth memories of times during her apprenticeship with him.  "...Do you understand...." his voice echoed in her thoughts softly.

She nodded her head softly, "Yes..." a breathless whisper.  "I think so...."

He slumped back, releasing his grip on her.  "Now you must leave....before Gotho returns."  He went on quickly, not giving her a chance to interrupt, "He knew you would come...that I would tell you what I would not tell him."

She looked at him, her expression quickly changing to one of shock.  "You cannot believe I could just leave you here!"

"You can and you will, my time here is at an end.  In your heart you know this to be true." his voice was tired but firm.  "Take what you know now and find a way to use it."  He choked shortly, "Nothing will be here when he returns...."

She felt a wind blow across her face in the windowless room, the air charged with magic.  "You do not have the strength to finish that spell." she argued, grabbing him and trying to pull him to his feet.

"The spell was already in place before you arrived...." he stated.

She could only look at him in shock, as the whole room seemed to tremble around them.  Dust sifting down through the air, as the trembling changed to a more violent shaking.  The air starting to shimmer in the middle of the room, "He comes.  Now go."

Jenna stood reluctantly, looking from the beginnings of the portal to Alorez.  She began whispering the words that would reopen the portal.  She saw a man she did not recognize step through the other portal, their eyes meeting briefly.  She took a last look at Alorez, whispering a tearful Goodbye, and stepped through the portal, closing it quickly behind her.

She found herself standing beside the same tree as when she had first felt his contact.  She scanned the forest around her, the two men must have moved on, as they were nowhere in sight.  Running a hand through her hair, she leaned back against the tree.  She attempted to make contact with Alorez to no avail, he was gone.  She slumped to the ground shaking, as the tears began....

   *   *   *

She was unsure as to how long she had stayed there.  The shadows had grown long and the first tinges of dusk touched the sky.  Wiping her tears on the sleeve of her shirt, she took a deep breath.  Forcing herself to her feet and grabbing her pack.  It was getting cooler, she would have to think about making camp for the night.  She had not gotten far from her last campsite, shouldering her pack, she headed back in that direction.

The forest was quiet with barely a breeze.  The only sound, the soft crunching of leaves under her feet as she walked.  Her thoughts wandered as she made her way.  She felt she knew what he had meant when he spoke of balance, but she had no idea what she could possibly do with this insight.

Picking up some firewood as she walked, she brushed the thoughts from her mind.  Maybe things would make more sense in the morning.....

Shall we return to my ADD-A-STORY CAVE.