Recovering The Lost | 4 4A

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Post by Nara-pyon on Mon Jun 16, 2014 6:55 pm

Dramatis personae:
(in order of appearance)

name | pronunciation key | race | position

Achaar | ah-kar | Dark Elf | High Druid
Altáriel | ahl-tah-ree-el | Dark Elf | Orphan
Aranel | air'-ah-nell | Dark Elf | Orphan
Sir Valdemar | sur vahl-de-marr | Dark Elf | Royal Historian
Atalya Aldrich | uh-tal-yuh ahl-dritch | Dark Elf | High Queen of the Southland
Feanor | fay-ah-nore | Light Elf | Knight
Aereandír | air-ee-an-deer | Dark Elf | Knight

English/Elvish dictionary
(in alphabetical order)

Ada : father
Udun : hell

Altak-Bet Ainúl

Main Floor
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Upper Floor
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Last edited by Nara-pyon on Wed Jun 20, 2018 3:18 pm; edited 2 times in total

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Post by Nara-pyon on Mon Jun 16, 2014 7:10 pm

25 000 years ago …

Fire burned through Achaar’s chest as his feet pounded against the ground. His breath escaped his lips in painful gasps, but he could not slow down. Fear and urgency demanded his all. He had no choice – death was inevitable, but his only choice was between his own, or the death of his land. Of those he loved.

Adrenaline coursed through his veins, giving him the strength to continue on far past the limits that his body could endure. Every time his step faltered or he wanted to stop, the screams behind him pushed him onward. He knew without being told that his comrades had all already perished. He had to complete his mission, or else their deaths would be in vain …

Please, he prayed silently, sweat dripping down his weathered face as he panted in the darkness, lend me strength …

An earth-shaking roar behind him filled him with fresh fear. The creature had survived – his time was running out.

Nàrdhá ilyuømbec narsi twalúm!” he shouted, hand pointing palm outward at the wall in front of him. His spell opened the hidden door that led to the Druidic library, the ancient magic that was already forgotten by most.

But even as he ran through the door, he felt the heat of the creature on his back – he didn’t have much time!

The door closed itself behind him, and he ran towards the largest shelf, pulling down the largest, heaviest Druidic tome. He had just found the page he wanted when the room shook and stone fell from the ceiling. The creature had found him and was looking for a way inside! It was only a matter of time –

A large chunk of rock fell and hit him on the shoulder, and he cried out as blood began to seep from the wound.

No time, he thought desperately. I must – complete the spell!

He tore a page from a nearby tome and stuffed it into the one he had taken from the shelf, then closed it and laid his hands on the cover. He closed his eyes and began to mutter the words of the spell he had hoped never to use.

Suddenly the wall behind him burst inwards, and though he kept his eyes closed he knew that the creature was right behind him. His back burned with heat, but he simply continued the spell … nothing mattered now but that the spell be completed …

The creature roared, and the walls shook with its power. Still Achaar remained motionless, save his lips. The heat intensified against his body … his clothes were burning away … his flesh …

A moment before his pain overtook him, the book vanished … and then everything was gone.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Mon Jun 16, 2014 8:46 pm

Decisions to Make

Present day …

The year 4 of the Fourth Age

Springtime was always a beautiful time of year in the Southland, despite the fact that they were in a desert. The city had been built on the main river that cut the desert in two, and as in almost any other place the flowers bloomed and the air filled with the sweet scents. The streets were filled with children running and playing, merchants selling their ware, and people just going about and doing their business.

There were two elves, however, who were not doing anything ordinary: Altáriel, twenty years old, and her younger brother, Aranel, sixteen, had bulky bags on their backs, staffs in their hands, and a purpose in their hearts. That wasn’t to say that they knew exactly what they were doing, or the wisdom of it … but they were going to try.

“Do you even have any idea where it is?” Aranel asked his sister nervously. “I mean, Ada got lost, what makes you think we won’t?”

“We don’t know what happened to Ada,” Altáriel corrected her brother shortly, “that’s why we’re going. Come on, I thought you always wanted to travel.”

“Well, yeah,” he muttered, “but I didn’t mean I wanted to commit suicide.”

“Look,” Altáriel snapped, whirling to face her brother, “if you don’t want to come, then don’t – I’m not going to make you. But whether you come or not, I’m going, and I don’t know who you’re going to stay with if you do stay behind. In case you’d forgotten, I’m the one who raised you because no one else would take us in! We don’t know that Ada’s dead, we don’t know what happened to him! But if there’s even the slightest chance that he’s alive, I’m going to find him, and I’m going to bring him back home! You got that?”

Aranel winced under his sister’s fury. She could be such a pain when she was angry …

“Yeah, yeah, I got it,” he muttered darkly. “Let’s just go. And don’t get us lost, all right?”

Altáriel chose to ignore her brother’s remark and instead just turned around and headed towards the river.

Six days later …

“You know,” Aranel commented, putting one hand to his brow to shield his eyes from the harsh midday sun, “you never did say what we would do once we did reach Tor Karad …”

The main Southland city was in plain view now, and had been for nearly two days already. The white marble on the mountainside reflected the sunlight like a mirror, nearly blinding the two as they headed directly for it.

The truth was, Altáriel hadn’t told her brother of her plan for one very simple reason: because if he knew what it was, he would have told her she was a fool, and left her on her own. Yet she knew that she would have to tell him at some point: if she didn’t, then he would think she was even crazier than otherwise.

“We’re going to try to meet with someone,” she told him, “someone who can give us more information.”

“Uh huh.” Aranel looked at her through narrow eyes. “And just who are we going to ask? Everyone will be busy trying to rebuild their own lives, what makes you think they would care about us? The war was the worst here, you know. They had to rebuild the whole city, not just a few buildings here and there.”

“Well we’re not like everyone else,” Altáriel snapped in frustration. “They lost their fathers to the war – we lost our father to his work. He was trying to help the nation in a far greater way than just killing off the dwarfs!”

She walked faster, sweat dripping off her forehead as the sun beat down on her black hair.

“I’ve heard of a man,” she told her brother, calming slightly, “a man whose interests are only two: history, and saving the nation. I think if we can talk to him, he’ll help us, tell us what we need to know. It’s just a matter of finding him.”

“And just how are we going to do that?”

That was the question she had hoped he wouldn’t ask. Truth was, she didn’t have an answer … he was the royal historian, and they would have to find their way into the castle.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Mon Jun 16, 2014 8:48 pm

Audience with a Historian

“You know,” Aranel remarked to his sister, “you might have thought this through a bit better. We’ve been traveling for over a week and neither of us have had a bath in that time. We look like ruffians. What makes you think the Queen’s counselor will agree to see us? If we can even get anywhere near the castle.”

“Just shut up and let me do the talking,” Altáriel muttered darkly as they headed towards the palace gates. “I knew I should have left you at the inn.”

“What inn?” her brother snorted. “We don’t have any gold to stay anywhere – did you even stop to think about that when you were coming up with this brilliant plan? Face it: we’re not going to find Ada, and the historian would never agree to see anyone like us! We’ve already lost. Come on, let’s go home!”

Altáriel was furious. “Go if you want to, I’m going to at least try!”

And she ran ahead of him.

But by the time that she reached the gates of the palace, Aranel was right beside her again. He was frowning, though, and rather than just standing beside her he pushed ahead. “Let’s get this over with,” he growled.

As predicted, they were stopped at the gate.

“Name yourselves and your business,” one of the guards ordered, blocking their way.

Altáriel put one hand on her brother’s shoulder. “My name is Altáriel,” she replied, bowing politely, “and this is my brother Aranel. We come from Namu Ngulu to seek audience with Sir Valdemar, the historian … we believe he may have information about the whereabouts of our father, Sir Aereandír … he was on a mission for her Majesty in the Northland when he disappeared and we’re hoping that Sir Valdemar will be able to help us …”

She trailed off, shifting uneasily beneath the guard’s piercing gaze. She was sure that she must have already made a mistake and that they would be sent away … but she was surprised when he spoke to her.

“I can see the family resemblance,” the guard said with a curt nod. “You look like your mother, may her soul be at peace. Come inside, I will see if Sir Valdemar is free.” He beckoned for the two to follow him inside, out of the hot sun.

They were asked to wait in the entrance for only a matter of about five minutes before they were escorted to one of the towers, where they climbed up stairs to the second floor and were taken to a tall oak door. They looked at the guard hesitantly, but before they could ask anything, the door opened and a tall, dark elf appeared. He wore the robes of a scholar and unsurprisingly held a book under his arm.

“Aerandír’s children,” he murmured, his dark eyes soft and kind. “Come in, please.”

The guard that had escorted them in side nodded his head to Sir Valdemar and then turned and left.

Once they were inside, the historian invited them to sit. His kindness was more startling to Altáriel than the abruptness she had been expecting, and she felt a little wary as they sat across the desk from him.

“So,” Sir Valdemar smiled at them as he sat in his own seat. “You are searching for your father. I can offer you no hope that he is alive, but I can tell you where he was, and what he was doing, and I can give you the same help that I offered him.”

He passed the book that he was holding across the table. “This is all that I have collected on the subject,” he murmured. “Go ahead, take a look …”

Altáriel’s eyes narrowed slightly, but she reached forward and took the book obediently, opening it to a random page and beginning to read.

Aranel was staring openly at the historian. “You knew our ada?” he asked in amazement. “Really? What was he like? What did he look like?”

Sir Valdemar smiled down at Aranel. “How old are you?” he asked softly.

“Sixteen, sir.”

“And it was thirteen years ago that he vanished,” the historian murmured. “Of course … you would not remember him. You remind me much of him, young sir. In physical resemblance you are as much like your mother as you are your father, but I can see already that your curiosity is exactly as your father’s. He had a need to know everything, to do what he could, go where others would not …”

He glanced at Altáriel. “And you, my dear, have his stubbornness, I think. You would not give up this search no matter what you learn, will you?”

Altáriel looked up at him sharply. “Never,” she said harshly. “I’ll find him, don’t you doubt it.”

Sir Valdemar chuckled softly. “I do not doubt it,” he smiled, “though I do doubt that you will find him alive. I wish you the best of luck, however.”

He rose from his seat and motioned for the two to stay where they were. “I’ll be back in just a moment. Feel free to continue to read.”

And then he was gone.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Mon Jun 16, 2014 8:49 pm

Exceptional Accommodations

Altáriel stared up at the ceiling – or … at least, she would be … if there wasn’t a canopy in the way. Sir Valdemar hadn’t been gone long at all … he had returned in less than three minutes … with the Queen herself by his side.

What happened next was mostly a blur. They’d been invited to spend the night … had dinner with the Queen and King … and while Aranel had been invited to train with the trainees of the Home Guard – the most elite set of fighters in the entire land – for the afternoon, Altáriel had spent the remainder of the day with Sir Valdemar, learning about her father and the mission that had claimed him. Now she was lying in a canopy bed, in a bedroom that was larger than the house where she had raised her brother. How had they, two unwanted orphans, among the poorest of the people, ended up special guests of Her Majesty?

Of course, if what she had leaned about her father was correct, that might help to explain it … though it did bring up the question, why hadn’t they helped the two of them when they’d needed it more? At seven and three, they hadn’t exactly been the most capable of bringing themselves up. The war had just about killed them. So why now?

Perhaps because it was only now that they had come asking for help.

Altáriel sighed and rolled over onto her side. She would never be able to sleep tonight, she knew it … how could she, with so much running through her mind? Not to mention, the fact that she had never been in a bed so soft before … for a long time, she and her brother had shared a mattress of straw that was barely big enough to hold the both of them. Of course, now that they were both adults, they couldn’t do that … but with the money she’d earned for them by helping out a the local livery, they’d managed to pay for a room in an inn, with two small cots and meals daily.

Suddenly she felt anger welling up within her. Her father had been important … until today, she had never known how important, but now that she realized it she was furious. If he was so important, why had his children been left to scavenge for themselves? If his work had been so important, why hadn’t he had any help? Why had he had to go alone? Perhaps if he’d had others with him – mages and fighters – he would have come back.

She felt a tear slip down her cheek, and she wiped it away angrily. She was an adult … she couldn’t let herself cry …

But the years of worry had finally caught up with her, and with no one around her to see her and make her feel ashamed, she let it all out.

When she finally fell asleep, completely exhausted, her pillow was drenched in tears.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Mon Jun 16, 2014 8:50 pm


One month later

Nine full weeks had passed since Altáriel and Aranel had first arrived at the palace, and for nine weeks they had been treated as the honoured guests of the queen. Aranel spent almost every waking moment training with the Home Guard – the opportunity of any elven boy’s dreams – and Altáriel spent most of her time with Sir Valdemar, learning about her father’s mission. She spent quite a bit of time alone as well, thinking through the things she was learning, and once in a while the queen would call for her and ask for an update on her progress.

Now, however, she had learned all she could, and there was nothing left for them to do but continue on their journey. Before they left, the queen called them to her study.

Altáriel was always nervous when she met with the queen, but now she was more nervous than any other time – except of course for their first meeting. She was unsure of what to expect at their parting, though she was grateful for the opportunity to thank Queen Atalya once more for all that she had done for them.

When brother and sister were taken before the queen, they both knelt to one knee and bowed their heads to show their respect, until the queen’s voice ordered them to rise.

“It is a perilous journey that you seek to undertake,” Queen Atalya told them seriously, “and I cannot send you unprepared. Nor do I send you on your own.”

She held out one hand, and a servant stepped forward and bowed his head, holding forth a blade with a golden hilt. Inlaid into the pommel was the image of a phoenix, the symbol of the Southland. The queen took the sword in hand and held it in front of her with both hands, as if offering it to Aranel.

“Aranel, son of Aereandír,” she pronounced solemnly, “I hereby give you this sword to use in the protection of yourself, your sister, and any who may be under your wing, both in the present and in the future. Wield this sword wisely, for it has a noble history and will serve you well only if your heart and intent are pure.”

Aranel bowed deeply, holding his hands aloft to accept the sword reverently. “Thank you, Your Majesty,” he murmured, his long black hair hiding his smile. “I shall do as you command.”

The queen smiled at him, and as he straightened up once more she turned her attention to Altáriel.

“Altáriel,” she said warmly, “daughter of Aereandír, you who have spent so much time learning this past month … for you, I have two gifts.”

She held out her hand to a servant on her left, and a book was placed in her hand, which she in turn held out to Altáriel.

“This is the book that Sir Valdemar has been teaching you from,” she said solemnly. “There is much that the two of you were able to cover, but there was also much that you did not have time to properly understand, and understanding everything within this book is necessary for you to succeed in your quest. Study it well.”

Altáriel took the book and bowed her head respectfully, then looked at the queen curiously as she waited for her to continue.

“Your second gift,” the queen went on, reaching out her right hand and taking an extremely large item wrapped in a sheet from a servant on that side of her, “is this …” She pulled on a string, and the sheet fell away to reveal a longbow. It was made of a rich red wood, and runes were carved over its entire length. With it was a soft leather quiver filled with arrows of the same red wood, with phoenix feathers on them.

Altáriel’s eyes grew wide. It was beautiful … and powerful. This was something she knew even without touching it.

“Aranel had many long conversations with his trainer about you,” Queen Atalya smiled, her eyes sparkling mischievously, “and though I saw you use no weapons while you were here, I understand that you are quite skilled with a bow. Take it. Use it well, and may your path be as straight as your arrows.”

Altáriel was at a complete loss for words. A gift such as this … how could she do it justice? She had only practiced at home with a borrowed bow in the backyard of her employer … how did that make her skilled? But she could not argue with the High Queen of the Southland: acceptance was her only option.

“I thank you, my Queen,” she breathed, bowing deeply before her. “I shall strive to be worthy of your gifts, and of your hopes.”

The queen reached out and touched Altáriel lightly on her shoulder. “Then go in peace, and may the blessings of the Valar go with you,” she murmured.

Altáriel looked up at the queen and nodded, and as she turned away, a smile crept across her face. They were finally on their way.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Mon Jun 16, 2014 8:50 pm

Whisperings Unveiled

The sword, bow and book were not the only gifts that Altáriel and Aranel received from the queen for their journey, though they were the only ones that they received directly from her hand: when they were escorted out of the palace, there were two beautiful horses waiting for them, fully saddled and loaded with food and other provisions. One was a beautiful black, while the other was a pale appaloosa. There was no question as to which of them was supposed to ride which: the black was wearing a saddle designed for holding a bow, while the other had a sword sheath built into it.

For half a day they rode in silence, and it was only when they stopped for some lunch that Aranel finally spoke to his sister.

“Altáriel,” he murmured thoughtfully, “there’s something that’s been bugging me. We spent an entire month at the palace … a full nine weeks … and you spent almost every waking moment with Sir Valdemar … but you haven’t told me a single thing about what you were talking about, or where we’re going, or what we have to do … or where Ada might be.”

Altáriel nodded and swallowed her mouthful of food, and before she responded to her brother she drank a bit of their water.

“I’m still trying to make sense of it myself,” she replied softly, “but if you would like, I can tell you what I do know.”

Aranel nodded. Of course he wanted to know …

Altáriel took a deep breath, then sighed. “It’s … so much more than I had thought it would be, so much more than I had ever imagined …”

Aranel rolled his eyes. “You’re being over dramatic,” he told her. “Just tell me already!”

“Fine then,” his sister frowned. “But once you know what it is, you’ll be just as confused as I am. So listen closely. It goes way back … to the beginning of the world, nearly … early in the first age …”

She was more than satisfied when her brother’s eyes grew wide with awe, but she continued without commenting on it.

”Have you ever heard of the druids?” she asked him.

He shook his head. “I know that the druids are – were – a group of people who studied magic …”

“For the protection of the races,” Altáriel nodded, “exactly. Except not. Protecting the races was only one of their goals – their main goal was just furthering their use of magic, perfecting it … They studied at a place called Altak-Bet Ainúl. It was located in the Northland, near the Mystic Mountains.”

Aranel opened his mouth to speak, but Altáriel cut him off. “Yes,” she murmured. “That is where they got their name.”

Aranel closed his mouth again.

“It is also,” Altáriel added quietly, “the place where our father disappeared.” She frowned. “But it doesn’t make any sense … the place vanished out of existence before the First Age was even over, before Melkor was destroyed … no one knows what happened, or why … just … one day, someone went to speak to the druids, and it was gone. Basically there’s a hole in the land or something where it used to be, but nothing else.”

Aranel stared. “And that’s where we’re supposed to find Ada,” he said in disbelief. “You’re kidding. We’re supposed to go … to a place that doesn’t exist … to find someone who hasn’t been seen in years.”

“There’s more,” Altáriel frowned, looking away sadly. “But that’s all you need to know for now, yes."

“This is ridiculous.” Aranel rose to his feet and grabbed his horse’s reins, preparing to mount. “I’m going home. You can find Ada yourself.”

“Home to what?” Altáriel snapped. “In case you’d forgotten, we haven’t got anything to go home to. No home of our own, no food, no shelter, no warmth, no one who really wants us … and you can’t go back to the palace. We were treated well because the queen wants us to do something for her, and if you go back without even having tried – especially after having promised to Queen Atalya that you would do what you could, and after taking a gift directly from her hand – you’ll be thrown out before you knew what hit you!”

She tied her bag closed angrily and mounted her own horse, then started off towards the west. “Now come on,” she scowled. “There’s a spring about eighty miles west, we have to fill our flasks there if we’re going to make it across the desert in one piece.”

Sulking, Aranel followed his sister obediently.

For nearly two hours they traveled in silence, both of them angry and neither of them willing to concede to the other, until finally Aranel’s curiosity got the better of him.

“So what’s so secretive about all of this, anyways?” he asked, prodding his horse so that it would walk directly beside his sister’s. “I mean … you and Sir Valdemar were always so hush-hush about it all … what am I not supposed to know?”

Altáriel glared at him, still angry at his earlier behaviour. “If I was supposed to tell you,” she growled, “we wouldn’t have been so careful not to.”

She turned away from him and focused on navigating them through the shifting sands of the desert. What she had told him was a half truth: she had been the one to insist that Aranel not know what they were really doing … because she knew that if he knew the truth, there was no way he would go along with her, brother or not. Even she had difficulty accepting the task that had been set to them. It wasn’t fair … and she had thought on more than one occasion that it was also impossible.

But her attempt to keep her brother from the knowledge that she had was a failure. He simply reined his horse in, stopped dead in his tracks, and said flatly, “Then I’m not going any further.”

Altáriel wheeled her horse around and stared at her brother. “Wha-”

Aranel folded his arms across his chest and glared. “I’m the one who got the training, I’m the one who’s going to have to save your butt if anything happens, and I’m not going anywhere unless I know where we’re going and what we’re doing – everything you’re not telling me.”

He was perfectly serious in his threat. He hated that she still treated him like a little kid, like a little boy who couldn’t do anything without her, who needed her to protect him … but he was an adult, and he could take care of himself and her! He was determined to show how grown up he was by simply listening to what was going on and not arguing with any of it.

Altáriel sighed. She had seen her brother like this before, and she knew that he would do just that … sit where he was until she gave in. He knew that she would never leave him there by himself.

“We’re not looking for Ada,” she muttered under her breath, turning once more towards the west and continuing on their journey. “We have to forget about him for now. The only way we can find him is to find Achaar, the High Druid at the time when the fortress vanished … or at least, find his body. He had an item on him, something we’re supposed to be able to track with the book that the queen gave me. Don’t ask me how that works, I don’t know.”

She glanced over her shoulder to make sure that her brother was following after her, and when she saw that he was, she faced forward again and continued on.

“Ada’s mission was to bring the fortress back into existence, and the only way we can find Ada – presumably – is to complete what he could not do. If that doesn’t bring him back, then our only clues to his whereabouts will be in the fortress as well. Either way, that’s what we have to do. Forget about Ada.”

Aranel was silent for a long while, until finally he murmured, “And … how are we supposed to do any of this?” His voice was quiet, filled with acceptance and reluctance at the same time. “I mean … Altáriel, this place hasn’t even existed for thousands of years, who’s to say it’s even possible?”

Altáriel’s determination was set. “It has to be,” she said firmly. “If it wasn’t, Ada would not have disappeared. Now come on, save your strength. We’ve got a long way to go.”

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Post by Nara-pyon on Mon Jun 16, 2014 8:51 pm

Springing Ahead

Three days later …

After days of traveling through the hot desert, Aranel’s lips were dry and cracked, his forehead nearly blistered from sunburn. His temper was just as hot, because every glance at his sister showed him that she was not – at least on the surface – suffering the same effects of the heat and constant sun rays. The last straw was when they finally reached the place she had told them they must reach – the desert spring – for when they arrived, Aranel was staring, aghast, at nothing more than an enormous pile of rocks.

“Eighty miles for this?” he gaped, eyes wide in shock. “A pile of rocks? What happened to the water you promised? You’ve gotten us lost, I can’t believe I followed you all the way out here!”

“Oh, shut up,” Altáriel growled. The heat was getting to her, too, and she wanted nothing more than a drink of water to quench her endless thirst. “This is where I was told to go, and this is what I was told to expect.”

Clenching her jaw shut, she circled the pile of rocks, examining it from every angle. It almost seemed more like a mountain of sorts – a small one, that was. She could see the top, at least. The rocks were smooth from the sand blowing against it day after day, though it looked as though it had only been for a matter of a decade or so … which was about as long as the desert had existed.

“Here,” she called out to her brother, finding a large opening. “Come on, we have to walk.” She dismounted off her horse and dropped its reins so that it wouldn’t wander, then headed into the darkness of the cave.

“I can’t see a thing,” Aranel frowned, coming up behind his sister. “What is this place, anyways?”

“It’s called the Wolf’s Fang,” Altáriel replied softly. “It was once a mountain that actually did look like a wolf’s head … this was called the throat, because of where on the mountain it was located … it’s rumoured to have the best water in the Four Lands …”

“Then why aren’t there people here?” Aranel scowled suspiciously. “All of the Southland cities were built around water … why not here?”

Altáriel smiled grimly. “It’s also rumoured that those who come looking for the water never return,” she replied. “So we have to be careful … who knows what’s waiting for us in here.”

It was far too dark to see anything, so she took a deep breath and began to sing softly. As with nearly everyone of the Southland Elven race, she had been born with the magic of the Wishsong. She wasn’t sure where the name came from, or why all of the Southland people had the magic and the Westlanders didn’t, but she didn’t particularly care at the moment, either. All she cared about was that using her voice, she could create all the light they would need to see where they were going.

It was quickly made apparent to them just why the place was so famous for being dangerous.

“Look out!” Aranel called out, grabbing Altáriel by the hand and yanking her backwards so hard that she fell to the ground. The light vanished as she stopped singing, and if not for the darkness she would have hit her brother – hard.

“What did you do that for?” she demanded angrily.

“Look,” he frowned back at her: and he himself began to sing, lighting up the cave once more and pointing at the place where Altáriel had been about to step. There was a small crack in the ground which would have gone unnoticed by most people, but luckily Aranel’s sharp eyes had caught it early. The crack was not wide, less than a finger’s width: but crawling out of it was a steady stream of insects. They were similar to a common fly in appearance, but larger, and on their abdomens they had a shell that was coated with a poison so potent that it would kill anyone who touched it, if they did not administer the antidote in time.

Altáriel paled. She had nearly stepped on them … with her bare foot.

“Now come on,” Aranel said before she could thank him for saving her life. “And for Valar’s sake, be careful!”

The minutes passed slowly as they made their way further into the cave, which continually led them downwards into the earth. The air around them was growing colder, but Altáriel paid it no mind. It was a welcome relief from the searing heat of the desert … though she did feel sorry for their horses, which were still waiting far above them.

“How far is it?” Aranel asked quietly, his voice echoing eerily off the rock walls.

Altáriel didn’t dare stop her singing, though her voice was nearly gone by now, but she simply shrugged in reply to her brother’s question. And yet … it seemed to her as if there was some sort of glow ahead … a faint reddish glow, almost ethereal in the darkness. She couldn’t explain why, but she sensed that they were nearing their destination.

And she was right. The path they were following ended abruptly in a large cavern. The stone they stood on ended only a few short feet into the cavern, where it dropped off suddenly into a large lake of water. The air in there was warm – not the same searing heat of the desert, but a comforting warmth, like a bath on a cold night. The reason for it was obvious: the water that lay in front of them was flowing over a river of hot, molten lava, rock so hot that it was liquid. The water was deep enough that the cavern was bearable, but Altáriel knew that the water would be pure, since the heat of the lava would have boiled off any impurities.

“This explains so much,” she murmured, her magic dissipating and leaving them in the dim glow of the cavern. “It isn’t a mountain … it’s a volcano … dormant, but a volcano nonetheless … the best water there is, but no one will live here …”

She knelt at the edge of the water and dipped one finger in. Surprisingly, it was cool to the touch … and when she drank it, she knew that the rumours were not just rumours: it was the best water she had ever tasted in her life.

“How deep is it, I wonder?” she breathed in awe, her eyes bright with curiosity.

“No need to know,” Aranel said flatly. He did not share his sister’s need to know everything, nor did he feel particularly comfortable, finding out that they were inside a volcano. “Come on, let’s get some water and get out of here before it blows.”

Altáriel shook her head. “I don’t think it will,” she murmured. “I’ve never heard mention of a volcano … who knows if it’s even ever erupted?”

“Let’s just get the water and go,” Aranel grumbled, though even he had to admit that the wet air felt good in his dry and cracked skin. Finally, he knelt beside his sister and dipped his hands into the water, then splashed his face. He admitted silently – he would never admit aloud – that his sister had been right … the water was amazing.


Altáriel began to rummage around in her bag and came up with several flasks for water, her cloak and a blanket. She filled the flasks as full as she could, then soaked her cloak and blanket with the water.

“What are you doing?” Aranel asked, puzzled. “You know the desert gets cold at night, you’re going to need that …”

“The horses need water,” Altáriel replied, not looking up from her work. “They can’t drink from a flask, but hopefully this can help them at least somewhat. Unless you’ve brought a bowl or a bucket or something.” She raised one eyebrow at her brother, who shook his head. She nodded, satisfied. “Then we’ll have to share a blanket tonight,” she concluded. “Or sleep down here, one or the other.”

Aranel didn’t know which idea was worse … sharing a blanket with his sister, or staying down here for the night.

“We don’t even know what time of day it is,” he grumbled. “Who knows how long we’ve been walking. Seriously. We should just get out of here while we can.”

Altáriel rolled her eyes. “You really have no sense of adventure, do you,” she sighed.

“Look, I’m all for finding Ada,” Aranel snapped, “but we’re going on a fool’s quest … not to mention, we’re inside a volcano, in the middle of a desert – what part of this makes sense to you?”

“Everything but the reason I brought you along,” she quipped, standing up again. “Fine. Let’s go then.”

Brat. Though he was legally an adult, she still had a lot of trouble thinking of him as one.

They didn’t speak to each other once on their way back up to the horses.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Mon Jun 16, 2014 8:52 pm

Unexpected Encounter

There was one thing that bothered Altáriel more than the feeling that she was being followed, and that was the knowledge that she was being followed. Even Aranel’s endless questions didn’t annoy her as much. She wanted to know who was following them, why, and what the person’s (she felt somehow that it was indeed only one person) intentions were.

By this time they had been traveling for three weeks out of Tor Karad, and had reached the forests of the Borderlands. They were traveling along the Gynia River, which they knew they had to follow until they reached the mountains of Paradise Valley, at which point they would turn east once more until they reached the Zapanizan River, which would in turn take them the rest of the way to their destination.

“The air smells funny,” Aranel remarked as they rode along the riverbank.

Altáriel was only half paying attention to her brother. “It’s the humidity,” she told him absently. “We don’t get it in the desert, it’s too dry.”

But her attention was focused on the trees around them. She had seen a shadowy figure following after them – had been seeing it for several days now, though she had said nothing of it to Aranel. He was worried enough about other things, she didn’t want to make him worse. Besides, she didn’t have any proof, and she didn’t know how her brother would react.

“Hey, Altáriel,” Aranel spoke again, ducking beneath a tree branch, “you’re older than me, do you remember when the Southland was still a forest instead of desert?”

“Vaguely,” Altáriel replied, still not really paying attention to her brother. “But it was dying … it wasn’t really a forest … just a mess of dead trees … hotter than this, though … perhaps more humid …”

Suddenly she heard something behind them, and she raised her hand to tell Aranel to stop. He pulled his horse to a halt, looking at his sister in perplexity. “Wha-”

She put one finger to her lips, silencing him. There was no chance for her to explain … whoever was following them was right behind them, and she wanted to find out once and for all who it was. She motioned for Aranel to stay where he was, then took her bow and slipped off her horse and into the trees. She didn’t know if the person had the intention of sneaking up on them, or approaching them, or what … but she wasn’t going to give him the chance.

The only problem was … how did one, a desert elf, find a wood elf (as he obviously had to be) in his own territory?

She found out the answer soon enough. One didn’t. One was found by the wood elf.

She didn’t know how or when, all she knew was that she suddenly had her bow ready and aimed at a tall, golden haired elf dressed in forest colours. His clothes were refined and well taken care of, his hair neatly cut, brushed, and pulled back in an elvish-style braid. He sat atop a tall palomino, his posture perfect, enhancing his stature. But what surprised Altáriel the most about him was the fact that, though she had an arrow directed straight towards his heart, and though he was heavily armed, he made no move to defend himself or block her shot. Nor did he seem angry, annoyed, or shocked at finding himself in such a situation.

In fact, he was smiling warmly.

“Who are you?” Altáriel demanded harshly, her dark eyes narrowing as she glared up at the man. “Why have you been following us?”

The man stared right back at her, his smile not faltering in the least. “You’re awfully pretty,” he murmured softly, his blue eyes warm and friendly.

Altáriel was so shocked by his statement that her fingers relaxed without her meaning them to, and she accidentally released the arrow. A strangled cry escaped her lips and she grabbed at it with one hand – but of course it was too late, the arrow was hurtling straight towards the man.

Just before it would have hit him, he caught it between his two hands, then grinned and waved it at her. “That wasn’t very nice,” he teased her. “You could have killed me, you know.”

Altáriel couldn’t reply. Her heart was still in her throat, her eyes wide, her entire body frozen in shock. How had he caught that? From a longer distance, yes, she had heard of people who could do that … but from so near … how …

Her temper surged, and she stepped forward and snatched her arrow from his hand.

“You idiot!” she shouted at him. “If I had killed you, it would have been your own fault! What are you doing, following us around like this? You’ve been following us for days! You’re lucky I didn’t kill you, I should have! You – you stalker!”

Without realizing what she was doing, she reached up and pushed him as hard as she could, so hard in fact that she shoved him right off his horse. Before he even hit the ground, she was running back to her brother, and without pausing she leapt onto her horse’s back.

“Come on, Aranel!” she ordered harshly. “Let’s go!”

And with a sharp kick to her horse’s sides, she was off.

Aranel was confused by his sister’s strange actions. Running off like that, coming back in such a hurry, riding away as if all the horrors of Udún were after her.

“He-hey!” he called after her, turning his horse in the direction that Altáriel had gone.

“Wait!” a voice called out from the trees in the opposite direction. “Hold up a moment!”

Now completely perplexed, Aranel turned in the saddle to see who was there, and who had obviously shaken up his sister quite badly. “Who are you?” he called out, craning his neck to try to see the man. “And where are you?”

There was a soft chuckle, and the golden haired elf appeared out of the trees, leading his horse. “My name is Fëanor,” he told Aranel with a warm smile. “Sir Fëanor, if you want to be technical about it, though I have not been called that since the war.”

Aranel’s eyes grew wide. “You’re a knight?”

The man grinned. “Absolutely. However, due to an injury in the war, I am no longer in service. I guess they just don’t need as many as they used to, since my injury wasn’t even very bad. Sure, I didn’t walk for nearly a year … but what else would one expect from a spinal injury?”

Aranel couldn’t help but like this strange and humorous man. How many people, after all, could joke about a spinal cord injury? Then again, how many people could walk after receiving one?

“And what did you do to my sister,” he asked curiously, “to make her take off like that?”

The former knight looked affronted. “I did nothing at all to her,” he frowned. “She simply overreacted. That is all.”

Aranel didn’t look convinced.

Fëanor’s frown deepened. “She shot at me,” he said flatly, “and then pushed me off my horse.”

Aranel’s eyebrows rose skeptically. “My sister is the best shot I know,” he stated. “No way she missed you.”

“I never said that she did,” Fëanor replied simply. “I said that she shot at me. Her aim would have been perfect, had I not caught the arrow.”

Aranel had the feeling he should probably feel some semblance of fear for a person that his sister had shot at (seeing as he was sure she must have had a reason), but all he felt was a sense of awe and admiration.

“You can do that?” he asked in amazement. “I’ve never heard of that before!”

Fëanor chuckled softly. “Would you like to learn how to do it as well, young Aranel?” he asked with a grin.

Aranel nodded eagerly, not even noticing that Fëanor knew his name without having been told it. He was excited for the opportunity to continue his training, so much that he didn’t care about almost anything else – even where his sister had disappeared to, despite the fact that she had now been gone for several minutes and had to have noticed that he wasn’t with her.

“Why don’t you travel with us?” he asked eagerly. “I mean, if you don’t have some specific destination in mind or something.”

Fëanor looked positively pleased at the suggestion. “I would love to!” he beamed. “Thank you so much for the invitation!”

Aranel couldn’t help but wonder if maybe … just maybe … he had been set up … Fëanor had seemed just a little too pleased …

Suddenly, there was the sound of hoofbeats, and Altáriel appeared through the trees once more. She looked worried … until she saw Fëanor. Then her expression changed to one of complete fury.

“You,” she hissed at Fëanor. “What are you doing still here? Get away from us, you leave me and my brother alone!”

She picked up her bow once more, as if she had the intention of using it against him again.

“Hey!” Aranel spoke up, moving forward so that he was between his sister and his new friend. “He’s going to be traveling with us, he’s going to teach me how to catch an arrow. Be nice.”

Altáriel looked first shocked, then angry; she returned her bow to her saddle, and without a word, she turned her horse and rode off once more.

“Come on,” Aranel told Fëanor with an apologetic smile. “We’d better hurry so that she doesn’t leave us behind.”

Fëanor chuckled and swung into his saddle, and with a gentle click at his horse he and Aranel rode off after Altáriel.

“This promises to be fun,” he murmured to himself softly as they set off.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Mon Jun 16, 2014 8:53 pm

Secrets Revealed

Nearly a week had passed since Fëanor had joined up with Aranel and Altáriel, and while with each passing day, Aranel’s regard for the man grew greater, Altáriel found herself growing more and more frustrated with him. It wasn’t because of the fact that she had accidentally almost killed him – as a matter of fact, he hadn’t mentioned the incident once since he had joined them; nor was he being in any way impolite: no, Altáriel couldn’t put her finger on it, but there was just something about the man that bothered her.

Still, she had to admit (resentfully and very reluctantly) that he was a great help to them. Hunting, he was especially good at: and he knew where to find the best place to cross the river (wince Aranel didn’t know how to swim, and Altáriel refused to with Fëanor around) and which plants they passed by could be used to flavour their meals. For that matter, he was an excellent cook. Not that Altáriel would ever tell him so.

“You know,” he said on his fifth night traveling with them as he worked over a tiny, smokeless (and yet very warm) fire, “if you two would just tell me where it is you’re going, I might know a shortcut – or a safe route. This area we’re heading into … there are rumours about it …”

Altáriel had been tending her saddle, but at Fëanor’s (rather unwelcome) comment, she looked up at him. “No one is asking you to go with us,” she pointed out frankly. “You’re free to turn around whenever you want. These are the directions my brother and I were given, and this is the way we’re going to go.” She turned her attention away from him. “Besides,” she added, “I thought you said that the destination doesn’t matter. You’re a wanderer.”

Fëanor chuckled. “That’s true,” he admitted. “I am. But you really don’t need to get defensive at all … I’m just trying to be helpful. Is that so terrible of me?”

Altáriel glared. If Aranel hadn’t been present, she would have told off the wood-elf … but she couldn’t help but fear that driving him away would also make her brother leave her, and as much as she couldn’t stand the man, she feared abandonment more.

Choosing simply to ignore him, Altáriel pulled out her map and book to compare their location with their destination. If all went well, she decided, they would arrive within a few more days. Maybe then the annoying woodsman would leave them alone …

“You look satisfied with something,” Fëanor’s voice startled her out of her reverie. “Something happen?”

Altáriel didn’t know what annoyed her more: the fact that he had been watching her so intently, or that he had indeed been able to read her thoughts.

“Nothing,” she replied crisply, returning her map to her bag.

Fëanor glanced at Aranel, who was taking care of the horses, then moved closed to Altáriel. “I really do want to help you,” he told her quietly, his blue eyes clear and seriously as he gazed into hers. “I don’t know what it is you’ve got against me, but if you’re not careful I may begin to take it personally.”

”I wish you would,” Altáriel replied just as seriously. “Then maybe you would leave me and my brother alone.”

Fëanor’s expression didn’t change, though his eyes shadowed slightly, showing just how hurt he was. “Why do you hate me?” he asked her in a soft voice. “Since the very first time you and I met, you have hated me. Am I truly so awful?”

Altáriel flushed, suddenly very ashamed of herself. She didn’t hate him … truth be told, she didn’t know how she felt about him. She couldn’t explain, even to herself, why she reacted to him the way that she did, so how would she ever be able to explain it to him? There was just something about him that made her irritable … something that bothered her about him …

And yet she had to be truthful.

“No,” she admitted softly, lowering her eyes. “I suppose not …”

Fëanor smiled and inched a bit closer to her. “Then how about we start over again?” he suggested quietly. “Maybe we can be friends.”

There was something suspicious about how he had said that, but again, Altáriel could not put her finger on what it was. In the end, she had no choice but to agree with him. “Deal.”

And without another word, she rose to her feet, picked up her saddle, and headed over to the horses to put it away for the night.

For several minutes, Fëanor sat alone, tending to the fire and their meal which was cooking over it. Every few seconds he would steal a glance at Altáriel and Aranel, who were chatting back and forth (seriously it seemed) while they tended the horses. At long last, Aranel headed over to join him.

“So you actually got her to speak to you,” the boy grinned at his trainer. “How did you manage that?”

“I’m still not sure,” Fëanor admitted with a sheepish laugh. “Just don’t bother her about it or it might not last.”

Aranel grinned. “I wish she would stop talking to me sometimes. All she does is nag … make sure you do this, stop doing that … and she still won’t tell me any details about where we’re going, or how we’re going to find it, or what we have to do once we get there.”

“What … do you know?” Fëanor asked hesitantly. He had put off asking Aranel, hoping that Altáriel would eventually trust him – but as that didn’t quite seem possible, he still wanted to know. “She’s being so secretive.”

“That’s nothing new,” Aranel chuckled. “We started off looking for our father, which somehow turned into a mission for Queen Atalya … which bring us up here, looking for a man who died thousands of years ago, in a place that doesn’t exist.”

Fëanor stared. “I can see now why she didn’t want to tell me,” he said softly. “That’s crazy …”

Aranel raised one eyebrow. “And yet it’s the truth. And now that you know it, what are you going to do? Leave? That’s what she’s expecting of you.” HE snickered suddenly. “No, you won’t leave,” he smirked. “For all that she treats you like dirt, you’ve fallen for her.”

Fëanor flushed, but before he could speak, Aranel raised one hand to interrupt him. “I’m not an idiot … and I’m not blind. Sure, I bug my sister a lot, but what brother doesn’t? She’s beautiful, she’s smart, she’s strong, she’s a hard worker, she’s determined … the only time I’ve ever badmouthed her – outside of her presence anyway – was when we were back home, so that the guys there would leave her alone. They were jerks, laze, they just wanted her to do their work for them … they didn’t care about her, and they didn’t care about me. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know much about you, but we’ve been living with you for a week now, and it’s clear that your intentions are honourable. You won’t find me in your way.”

He chuckled and turned to the fire, picking up some of the food. “Good luck, though,” he added before taking a bite. “You’re going to need it.”

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Post by Nara-pyon on Mon Jun 16, 2014 8:53 pm


Altáriel was still staring at the hole in the ground. She had been staring at it for hours, her expression unchanging for all of that time. Her mouth was slightly open, her eyes wide in shock, and a few times Aranel tried waving his hand in front of her face or even tickling her lips with a piece of grass … but there was never a response.

“You try something,” he glared at Fëanor, frustrated by his lack of success. “This can’t have been that much of a shock, she knew it wasn’t going to be there!”

Fëanor was paying little attention to Aranel, he was focused on his sister. He wasn’t frustrated, though … his eyes showed nothing but worry. Not only because of her shock, but also because of where they were.

“This area is rumoured to be cursed,” he told Aranel softly. “We have to snap her out of this … this trance …”

Aranel had an idea, and he smirked. “Kiss her.”

Fëanor blinked. “What?” Surely he had misheard …

“Kiss her,” Aranel repeated. “Something to break one shock is something equally shocking. Kiss her. It’s the last thing she’ll expect, and it might just jar her out of it. Come on. If it doesn’t work I won’t tell her about it. But if it does …” He raised one eyebrow pointedly.

Fëanor flushed. Yes, he had thought about kissing her … but not in a situation like this. In his mind, it had been something infinitely more romantic … and with her consent. But Aranel was right … something had to be done …

He only wished there was another way.

He walked softly over to Altáriel and brushed her hair tenderly away from her face. She was so beautiful … how could he ever dare do something as intimate as kiss her without her permission? How would she ever forgive him? Yet his fear for her state of mind overcame his deep-rooted instincts for propriety and respect, and he cupped her jaw in one hand.

“I’m sorry,” he whispered, his voice filled with pain; and then he lowered his head and brushed his lips against hers.

No response.

“Aw, come on,” Aranel frowned from where he was watching. “You call that a kiss? No wonder you’re still single!”

Fëanor flushed. “Get lost,” he told Aranel, completely embarrassed. “What else do you expect when you’re gawking at me like that? If you know so much, why don’t you kiss her yourself?”

Aranel choked. “Because she’s my sister, you freak!” He slapped his forehead, then ran over and pushed Fëanor aside. “Get out of the way, let me handle this.” He turned to Altáriel and slapped her across the cheek so hard that her cheek turned red. She cried out in pain, her eyes shutting tightly, and without any warning her closed fist struck out and hit Aranel hard in the center of the chest.

“What was that for?” he demanded, stumbling backwards.

“You hit me!” Altáriel fumed, putting one hand to the cheek that was still stinging.

“Well if I hadn’t,” Aranel snapped back, “you’d still be staring at that stupid hole in the ground! Seriously, do you even know what time it is?”

“Of course I do!” his sister retorted. “It’s-”

But then she stopped herself, looking around. The sun was far from where it should have been … “What …”

“Most of the day has passed,” Fëanor spoke up, standing close to Altáriel and holding out one hand to her, a silent offer of help. “You’ve been staring at the hole all day … if I had known this was where you were headed, I would have warned you. This place has been here since the First Age, as far as anyone knows, and no matter what no one can get into that space. There’s something about it …”

“I know that,” Altáriel frowned, ignoring Fëanor’s hand and turning towards the horses. “I know … and I know why.”

The two men looked at each other in confusion, then followed after Altáriel. They would have expected some sort of … bigger reaction from her, realizing that so much time had passed. But it was almost as if she had expected to be that shocked … yet if that were the case, it shouldn’t have been a shock at all … should it?

“You two go do your training, or whatever it is you guys do,” Altáriel frowned at them, waving them away as she pulled the book from her saddle bag. “I need to read.”

Shaking their heads, the men obeyed.

“There’s no understanding her, is there?” Fëanor asked Aranel under his breath as they walked away.

Aranel shook his head in disbelief. “Nope,” he replied. “That’s why I say, she’s all yours.”

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Post by Nara-pyon on Mon Jun 16, 2014 8:54 pm

Old Magic Become New Again

For a full week, the three of them were busy. Altáriel was of course in charge, since she was the only one who knew what was going on and what they would have to do from this point on, yet though she gave Aranel and Fëanor orders it was not by way of deeming herself better or more knowledgeable than they, and they took no offense to it. While she spent hours every day poring over the book that she was now never seen without, Aranel and Fëanor took turns hunting and gathering, and preparing the food to last them for a good long time. They weren’t sure what was going on, and all they could gather from Altáriel was that they were going to be a long time without another chance to search for food, once she did … whatever it was she was preparing them for.

From time to time, Altáriel would put her book aside and search for certain plants or items, but before either of the men could comment on them or ask about them, they were hidden away in her pack, and they deemed it wise not to mention it. Altáriel told them nothing of what she was doing. She knew what would have to happen, and if it were possible, she was going to do what she could to spare them from what she had to do. She knew it was going to be dangerous, and she would not have her brother go through that if she could help it – and as for Fëanor … well. He could take care of himself, she supposed, but she would rather him not accompany her.

At long last, however, the preparations were complete. Packs full, Altáriel led the men down to the crater. Though they were walking, they were not leaving the horses behind: the horses were carrying a load that was necessary for Altáriel to continue her mission. Large stones with runes etched into them, hours daily spent on making them the perfect depth and shape. As with the rest, Aranel and Fëanor had not questioned her actions – save for asking her what she wanted them to do next, they hadn’t spoken to her all week, nor she to them. So when they reached the crater, they stopped and simply stared at her.

Altáriel wasted no time. “Take those runes,” she instructed them, “and place them in a hexagon around the space. Be careful to stay away from the hole itself. The runes have to be facing the hole, and about …” She consulted the book. “Ten paces away.”

She set the book down and moved to help position the stones. Of course, the hole was the size of a fortress, so positioning them all approximately the same distance apart was a challenge. According to the book, it didn’t have to be perfect … but of course it if was, then the spell would be that much more likely to succeed. She called out directions to the others to adjust the stones until, after more than two hours, she was finally satisfied.

“Hey,” Fëanor called suddenly, looking off into the trees. “What’s that?” He lifted one finger and pointed at a smooth rock that was only a short distance from the rock he had just positioned.

Altáriel blinked and started over towards him. She was silent, though her curiosity was obvious in her actions. She was confused. Why was he pointing out a rock? There were many rocks in the area … what was special about this one?

But when she saw it, she understood, and her eyes grew bright with excitement.

“They’re just like the ones you’ve been making all week,” Fëanor blinked at Altáriel. “Would you mind telling me what’s going on?”

Altáriel just smiled at him. “Our father was here,” she murmured; and without any more explanation, she turned and headed back to where she had been. Fëanor and Aranel exchanged a glance and followed her, watching as she took the herbs and plants from her bag that she had been hiding away the entirety of the week. They had no idea what she was doing, but it was clear that she did.

“Stand back,” she instructed them, picking up the book and turning towards the hole in the earth. She crushed the plants in her hand and sprinkled them in the air, letting the wind carry it wherever, and then she opened the book and began to read in a loud, clear voice, in a language that neither of the other two had ever heard before. The sky darkened, despite the early hour, and the wind picked up, blowing in circles. Fëanor and Aranel had to close their eyes to keep them from being filled with dirt and dust, but Altáriel seemed unaffected. Her voice was steady, unwavering, and she never hesitated, never paused, never faltered in her words, and they seemed to come naturally to her.

As she spoke, the runes on the stones that she had carved began to glow a bright, bright blue, lighting up the entire area. Aranel took an involuntary step backward, trying to shield himself behind a tree, but Fëanor looked as though he wanted to stop Altáriel from doing whatever it was that she was doing, and that only sheer will was holding him back.

Altáriel didn’t seem aware of what was going on around her, but simply continued to read aloud from the book, not blinking, not wavering – until at last she completed the spell, and everything returned to the way it had been.


“What … happened?” Fëanor asked slowly, relaxing slightly and looking around warily.

Altáriel closed the book and turned around, and, packing the book into her bag, she slung it over her shoulder and grabbed another one – one of the ones with provisions – and put it around her shoulders as well.

“Wait here,” she instructed the others firmly; and then she darted towards the hole in the ground – and vanished.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Mon Jun 16, 2014 8:54 pm

From Time To No Time At All

Pale torchlight illuminated the enormous entryway with a soft glow. The room was about seventy feet long, fifty wide at the doors and thirty wide at the far end. Statues lined a thin, worn carpet that ran from the door to the corridor that split in each direction at the far end of the room. The stone was old … but not as old as Altáriel would have thought it would be. It was the oldness of use … but not of age.

The statues intrigued her. At first, she wasn’t sure what she was looking at. They were also made of stone, the first one little more than a shadow. Only on closer inspection did she see that it was a figure, cloaked and hooded, stooped as if examining the ground. There were others, similar, but in different positions: one gazing towards the sky, another with arms spread, one with hands clasped, yet another with a staff.

She wandered away from the large doors she had passed through (had she truly?) and began to look around. Now that she was inside the fortress, she wasn’t sure what to do. Her focus had been simply to bring it into existence, to get inside …

The silence was oppressive. She could almost hear herself thinking as if she were speaking aloud. What was it about this place? Yes, it was here … but something felt wrong. Off. Different. Something that was making her uncomfortable.

“Hello?” she called out tentatively; but her only reply was the echo of her own voice. Yet instead of reassuring her, it only frightened her. This place was so … big … and so empty. What had happened here?

There was a door in the wall to the west, a large double door of oak. It was framed and decorated with intricately shaped metal, and set into the center of each door was a shield-like insignia: a hand holding aloft a burning torch, all in gold, glittering in the torchlight despite how old it must be. Each door must have weighed at least several hundred pounds, she thought to herself, wondering how anyone could possibly open them: but as she touched her fingers lightly to the wood, the door opened easily, as if responding to her touch. Her breath caught in her throat. How … ?

Inside the room, she looked around again, filled with awe at her surroundings. Banners hung from the front of the room – some sort of hall, she imagined. The banners were a rich green and hung from ceiling to floor. In the exact center of each of them, there was the same golden emblem of the hand and torch, as well as some runes stitched above and below. They were not the same as she was used to, and she didn’t know what they meant. Suddenly she remembered the book in her bag, and she took it out and flipped through the pages until she found the one she was looking for: there was the same image, a sketch, as was on the doors and the banners, with the same runes above and below it. On the opposite page was a translation: Strength in Knowledge, but above all, Truth.

The motto of the druids.

Suddenly she realized just what it was that was bothering her about the place. It wasn’t the size, nor its age … it was the fact that … despite having been gone from the world for so many thousands of years, it was … as if it were still being taken care of. As if no time had passed at all. There was no dust, no smell of must or fermentation. The banners were as crisp as if they were brand new. No nibbles on the bottoms from mice, or frays from age or use. Not the slightest indication that this place had been abandoned for millennia.

Hushed voices reached her ear, and her eyes grew wide and she pressed herself against the wall behind the door. She wasn’t alone … who was it?

“Come on,” she heard someone mutter. “She wasn’t gone that long, where could she be?”

“In a place this big? Anywhere.”

There was a low whistle of appreciation. “I just hope she’s not lost.”

For a moment, Altáriel relaxed, but then she blinked and ran around the door angrily. “I told you two to stay and wait for me!” she bristled, furious that they had followed her.

“Altáriel!” Aranel cried with relief. “Thank the Valar we found you … where are we? Where did this place come from? In the forest it still looks as if there’s nothing here, but here we are – what is this place?”

“This is Altak-Bet Ainúl,” she replied, closing her book carefully. “The fortress of the druids.” She looked around thoughtfully. “The only thing I can’t figure out is … why does it look as though it’s been kept clean for twenty five thousand years? There’s no one here but us …”

Fëanor had been studying the situation as well, but unlike her, he had noticed the oddity immediately. More than that, he thought he might have found the answer.

“Look up there,” he said, pointing to a tall, thin window in the wall just above the main door. “What do you see?”

Altáriel and Aranel strained to see what he was indicating, but there was a strange, thick fog that they couldn’t see through. Aranel took it upon himself to reply for both of them. “Fog …”

“And what are we standing on?”

Altáriel had to take several steps back to look, and when she did she was surprised to see markings on the floor that almost seemed to be meant for measuring time by the light that would normally stream in through the windows. But … there weren’t even any shadows, nothing but the pale glow from the torches.

But then she realized that in twenty five thousand years, the torches should have burned out long ago …

“What …”

“We are outside of time,” Fëanor said quietly, looking around. “Here there is no longer any passage of time … this is why the fortress is no longer in our world. It has been moved to a place where time does not exist …”

Altáriel stared at Fëanor with a newfound appreciation. “How do you know that?” she asked him softly. “I would never have imagined anything like that … do you know something about this place? About the druids?”

“Little,” the knight replied, looking around again, “but enough. Rumours. Bits of legend. Little more. I had no idea they were connected to this place.” He turned back to Altáriel. “Do you have a map of the fortress in that book of yours? Because I would sure hate to get lost in here.”

Altáriel nodded. “It’s very detailed,” she assured him.

Aranel was looking out the great doors that should have led back to the forest, but there was nothing but fog on the other side. Even the ground was gone. “Does it say how we can get out of here again?” he asked quietly.

Altáriel said nothing. The truth was, she had no idea. And with that realization came the thought … they could very well die in there … and no one would be the wiser.

Now what?

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Post by Nara-pyon on Mon Jun 16, 2014 8:55 pm

Startling Discovery

The first thing that needed to be done, Altáriel decided, was to get to know their way around the fortress. See where all of the rooms were, what they held, and how they might possibly find their way out of the fortress and back to their own time. It was made more difficult by the fact that Altáriel now understood the task that had been set before her by Queen Atalya: to bring the fortress back into the present time, so that it could once more be used by those who wished to study magic.

“I have to say,” she commented as they examined what the book told them was the quarters for the fortress’s support staff, “everything is in pristine condition … as if … the people who lived here just … stayed in the world when the fortress didn’t.”

Fëanor had to agree. “I don’t know what happened here,” he murmured, “but the food pantries are full to the brim … whatever happened, they had no warning … clothes are still in the wardrobes … even the tables are set in the dining hall.”

“It’s creepy, that’s what it is,” Aranel muttered, wandering out of the bedchamber and into the corridor. His voice echoed off the bare stone walls, repeating two, three, four, five times before it finally faded into silence. He looked at the walls, his nostrils flaring nervously. “Creepy,” he muttered again, shaking his head and looking around. Suddenly his foot slipped out from under him, and he let out a startled yelp and fell to the floor.

Aranel!” There was a storm of footsteps, and Altáriel appeared in the doorway, her face pale, eyes wide. “Are you all right?”

Aranel pulled his feet back under him and knelt on the floor. “Yeah,” he muttered. “Just fell, is all.” He crouched down to see what he had slipped on. There was a slick substance on the floor, dark and thick. He touched one finger to it and lifted it to his nose to smell it, then frowned and rubbed it between his fingers and his thumb.

“Odd,” he murmured, leaning closer for a better look.

“What is it?” Altáriel asked, kneeling to join her brother.

Aranel didn’t like his diagnosis. “Blood,” he replied. “And it’s fresh.”

Fëanor stuck his head out the door of the bedchamber. “But … that means …” He trailed off, his expression shocked.

Altáriel nodded grimly. “We aren’t the only ones here.”


A while later, the three of them were gathered in the same bedchamber, all of them sitting together on one bed, and discussing the things they had learned. Fëanor had followed the bloody trail while Altáriel and Aranel had looked around for other signs of what might have happened – and whichever way they looked at things, it was grim and frightening for them.

“I couldn’t find anything,” Fëanor confided quietly. “There’s no trail. Just … random spots and spatters. Almost every corridor, every room … there’s always something. I just can’t figure out who or what it comes from.” He paused, tapping his knee thoughtfully.

Altáriel stared at him intently. There was something else he wanted to say, she could feel it … and it was irritating her that he wasn’t saying anything. “And?” she pressed, leaning forward.

He gazed back at her for a moment, then sighed, his shoulders slumping slightly. His voice, when he spoke, was quiet and serious. “The blood … is not like our blood. It isn’t red, exactly …”

Aranel’s brow furrowed. “What do you mean, it’s not red?” he demanded. “I stepped in it! I saw it! It was red!”

“But did you look at it closely?” the knight questioned him. “Did you stop and examine it? Take a good long look at it?” Aranel shook his head slowly, and Fëanor nodded succinctly. “It’s not red. It’s almost black.”

Aranel frowned. “I would not have missed something like that.” He slid his boot off and lifted it to his face to take a closer look.

“If it helps,” Fëanor offered, watching as Aranel’s eyes grew wide in surprise, “I did note that it was slowly growing darker … perhaps it was red when you slipped in it, and the addition of air made it darken … ?”

Aranel was amazed. The blood on his boot was red, but not red all at the same time. Instead, it was a dark crimson, almost as dark as it could be and still be called crimson, and filled with black specks that made it appear even darker. Even as he watched, the black specks moved, almost as if they were swimming around in the blood.

“What manner of creature bleeds in such a fashion?” he breathed.

There was a long stretch of silence as all three of them looked one at the other. “I don’t know,” Altáriel answered finally. “But I think that we had better find out.”

“And sooner rather than later,” Fëanor added under his breath. “Before whatever it is … if it’s still alive … comes after us.”

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Post by Nara-pyon on Mon Jun 16, 2014 8:57 pm

Lost And Found

The three of them agreed to meet back at the bedchamber they were in at the end of one hour – long enough to take a good look around, short enough that if something should happen to one of them, the others would realize it early enough to be of some help. The decision made, the three of them all headed off in different directions.

Aranel had the distinction of being the one to go down a flight of stairs. The underground was nothing like the main floor – the rooms were smaller, and in the open spaces between the rooms were rows upon rows of cupboards and cabinets, all of them labelled in the runes that he couldn’t recognize. The first room he entered was a storage room of sorts. The walls were filled with shelves, which seemed to be filled with a variety of plant specimens. Some, Aranel was able to recognize easily enough; some spices, some herbs, some that he knew to have magical properties (though he would not have been able to name what kind), others with healing properties, and some that, while he had no idea what they were, he recognized as some of the same plants Altáriel had collected for the week preceding their entrance into the fortress. On the whole, it was the largest collection of plants Aranel had ever seen – a fact made even more impressive by the fact that each box, jar, crate, pile or specimen was clearly and neatly labelled, though in the same unknown runes that Aranel was beginning to recognize, even if he was unable to understand them.

There was nothing of use in that room, and so he left it. He was about to step into another open doorway when suddenly he heard a soft scuffle from down the hall, around the corner. He paused mid-step, his heart pounding. He was sure it couldn’t be Fëanor or Altáriel; they were searching different floors, weren’t they? And an hour was nowhere near over … they wouldn’t be looking for him yet.

There was another soft scuffle, and then a low, bubbling growl. The sound made Aranel’s blood run cold, and shivers ran down his spine. He didn’t know what it was, but it didn’t sound good …

Suddenly, from nowhere, a hand clamped over his mouth, cutting off his scream before it could escape his lips. With a sudden jerk, he was pulled back into the shadows. Another set of hands took hold of him, and struggled though he might, he was quickly overpowered.


Altáriel paced the floor of the chamber where the group was supposed to meet up again. By her judgment, it was well past the time when the others should have returned. But as much as she wanted to go find them, she didn’t dare leave the room. What if they would return while she was off looking for them? They would panic and go off looking for her again, and nothing would ever be accomplished!

Suddenly she heard a scuffle in the corridor just outside the bedchamber, and without pausing to think of safety, she raced for the door to see what it was.

“Fëanor!” she gasped, seeing the Wood Elf approaching. “Have you seen Aranel?”

Fëanor blinked at her. “Why are you so worked up?” he asked her curiously. “Did something happen?”

Altáriel stared at him in shock, and suddenly her temper flared. “What do you mean, did something happen?” she snapped. “We agreed to meet after one hour, and it’s been nearly two! You’re both late, almost an hour late, and you expect me not to worry?! All you can do is ask if something happened?!?”

“Whoa, hey!” Fëanor held up his hands defensively. “What are you talking about? I’ve already looked over the upper floor, I’m still early! It hasn’t been an hour yet! I don’t know what you’re going on about …”

The two of them glared at each other, almost as if each were challenging the other, when suddenly, at precisely the same moment, their eyes grew wide with understanding.

“Time doesn’t exist here,” Altáriel breathed. “So we can have no accurate perception of it …”

Fëanor grabbed her arm. “Get that map out,” he said grimly. “Let’s go find your brother.”


Aranel had gone to the underground level of the fortress, but a search of the rooms came up fruitless for Fëanor and Altáriel. They couldn’t even find a trace of him, or any sign that he had been down there. It was as if he had just … vanished.

“Look here,” Fëanor called to Altáriel, kneeling on the floor and beckoning for her to join him. “Look at this.”

Altáriel knelt next to him, looking closely to see what he was pointing at. She blinked. “More of that strange blood,” she murmured, watching as he touched it with his finger. The spot where he touched it agitated slightly and slowly began to turn black.

“I can’t say whether it’s fresher or older than the main level,” he commented. “But there was more on the second level, too …”

“Time doesn’t exist here,” Altáriel reminded him. “It can’t be fresh or old. It just … exists.”

“Which explains why the food I’ve seen is still good,” Fëanor realized. “And why there’s no dust or anything.”

“And why we’re not getting tired or hungry.”

Suddenly, from around the corner, came the sound of something scuffling, followed by a deep rumble.

“Aranel!” Altáriel gasped; and she jumped to her feet to run and greet her brother.

Fëanor grabbed her ankle to stop her. “I don’t think it’s your brother,” he said anxiously, his face pale. “Whatever that was, it sounded much … bigger.”

They grew silent as they realized what that meant. After all, as far as they knew, there was only one thing here, other than them …

“We should-” Altáriel tried to whisper, but Fëanor clamped a hand over her mouth, cutting her off. He put a finger to his lips. They had no idea what this creature was, they had to be careful.

The sudden silence was as eerie as the noise had been. Fëanor couldn’t quite put his finger on what had been bothering him, but something …

Suddenly there was a loud roar of anger, sounding more beast than human, and Fëanor scrambled to his feet.

“Run!” he shouted, dragging Altáriel after him.

“Run where?” she cried, stumbling for a moment before regaining her balance and running after him.

Behind them, the scuffling changed to pounding as whatever it was charged after them.

“I don’t know, just run!”

They ducked into a doorway and looked around. It looked like a lab of some sort – there were desks, and long tables covered with vials and open notebooks. On a wall was a large slab of smooth slate, and there was writing on it in a strange white powder in runes that were unique to this place.

“Over here,” Fëanor urged Altáriel, dragging her towards a door in the back of the room. They hurried through it and closed it behind themselves again. It was another lab, exactly like the first one, and Fëanor ran towards the next door. Just as he laid a hand on the handle, the room shook, simultaneous with a loud smashing sound, followed by another angry roar.

“It’s in the other room,” Altáriel gasped at Fëanor.

He changed direction, moving instead towards the door that would take them back to the hallway. “Change of plan. Run for the stairs. Even if it follows us into this room, we may be able to make it before it sees us.”

The room shook again, and dust and small bits of stone came loose from the ceiling and showered over them. They hurried out the door and kept running, brushing the dust from their shoulders as they went. Blood pounded in their ears, adrenaline coursing through their veins as they raced towards the stairs – their first hope of safety.

But before they could reach the stairs, Aranel appeared, seemingly from nowhere, beckoning them towards him.

“Hurry!” he called urgently. “Before it sees you!”

Without asking questions, they changed course. There was another loud crash, and more dust and debris fell from the ceiling.

“Quick, before it closes!” Aranel hissed, grabbing his sister’s arm when she was close enough. Without further explanation, he dragged the two towards what looked like a solid wall … and through it. As soon as they were through, the shaking stopped, and it suddenly grew very dark.

Altáriel could see nothing in the darkness. “Aranel?”

“I’m here.” He squeezed her hand softly.

She pulled him closer and threw her arms around him. “Thank the Valar,” she cried, bursting into tears and hugging him tightly.

“No,” her brother chuckled, hugging her back. “Thank Father.”

Altáriel blinked. Had she heard him right? “What?”

Suddenly a light flared next to them. Momentarily blinded, she raised one hand to her eyes to shield them. From the midst of the brightness there came a voice.

“Altáriel … you are so … so beautiful …”

She lowered her hand slowly, squinting into the brightness and trying to make out the face of the man who was speaking to her. His voice was so familiar …

“It has been such a long time …”

She swallowed hard, unable to believe her eyes.

“… my daughter.”

She choked back a whimper. “Ada?”

He smiled warmly, the eyes that were so like her own shining brightly with unshed tears.

“I am here for you, my child,” he murmured, arms outstretched.

She rushed into his arms, sobbing.

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Post by Nara-pyon on Mon Jun 16, 2014 8:58 pm

Short Renderings

A single block of wood sat on the floor in the midst of the group, fuelling a flame but not seeming to be affected by it. Altáriel, Aranel, Fëanor, Aereandir and another darkly cloaked figure sat in a circle around it, their faces illuminated ever so slightly in the glow. Altáriel sat close to her father, her hand in his, and refused to move away from him. She still couldn’t believe that they had found him. Thirteen years and thousands of miles … and into another dimension of some sort … it was a miracle.

“How did you get here, Ada?” she asked once her tears had dried up. “What is this place? Why is it like this?”

Aereandir smiled and stroked her hand gently. “Well … I would imagine that I ended up here something like the way you did,” he laughed softly. “I was sent by her Majesty to find out what I could about this place, to return it to the world if I could … and ended up trapped inside.” He paused. “As for the rest … I believe that there is someone else more qualified to answer your questions.”

He nodded towards the darkly cloaked figure across the fire from them. There was a slight dip as the man nodded back, and then the figure reached up with both hands and lowered the hood. It was a man, an elf, with black hair dark eyes. His face was thin and haggard, old even before his entrapment within the fortress.

“My name is Achaar,” the man introduced himself in a low, raspy tone. “High Druid of Altak-Bet Ainúl. I am told,” he glanced at Aereandir, “that thousands of years have passed since the druidic fortress was taken from the world …”

“Twenty five thousand or so,” Aereandir nodded, “when I became trapped at least.”

The ancient elf nodded slowly and closed his eyes. “It seems but a heartbeat,” he murmured softly, almost to himself. He opened his eyes and looked at Altáriel, Fëanor and Aranel. “At that time, there were no nations … there were simply races. The Elven race. The dwarven race. The human race. And the creatures of Melkor. At that time, the races lived in fear and hatred of each other. The elves were envious of the humans, the chosen of Iluvatar … the humans envied the elves, their beauty, their wisdom, their strength … they believed that we were the chosen ones. The dwarves, different in more ways than the elves and humans … imitations of life, but not truly alive … and the creatures of Melkor, creatures not truly alive, but without even the ability to reason that the dwarves had. War was continuous … the battles followed one after the other …”

He shook his head. “The leaders of each race came together in search of a way to stop the bloodshed, and each leader chose from their race a handful of men and women who had a strong desire for the same thing. We were brought here, to Altak-Bet Ainúl, the first great fortress. For centuries, we worked together … but it was difficult. The human mortals died quickly, before any real work could be done, and the dwarves had difficulty learning and working together. And time after time, Melkor’s creatures attacked. Still,” he added, “much was accomplished by the elves during this time. Magicks were discovered and documented, and progress was made towards ending the brutalities. There were changes in other ways as well … some of the creatures of Melkor seemed to be growing in intelligence … they were beginning to question what they were doing, and some of them even started to help us. We took one such creature into our ranks, a morgawr. It was a foolish thing to do.”

He shifted his position, wincing as he did so. “Its intelligence was … astounding. Is.”

“Is?” Altáriel repeated, confused. “What?”

“It was a ploy,” the druid said flatly in his rough voice. “An infiltration. It would have used its power to destroy the entire world if it had had the opportunity. I had no choice but to seal it away … unintentionally, I also sealed away the fortress and myself as well. I expected to die, and made it impossible. And now you are all trapped here with me … and with the creature.”

He coughed, and it shook his whole body. It was a dry, rattling cough, and it made the others wince for him.

“Easy,” Fëanor murmured, reaching over and putting one hand on each of the man’s shoulders to steady him. “Just breathe.”

Slowly, his cough subsided, and he started to breathe again, slowly and with difficulty. The rattle was still in his throat. Clearly there was something wrong.

“Do not – worry about me,” he rasped. “I was meant to die … but I cannot. Not here. Our focus must be on one thing alone: destroying the creature. Only then will it be safe to return the fortress to the world, and only then will we be able to return home.”

The flame’s reflection flickered in his dark eyes. “At least … you will.”

Aranel watched the old elf thoughtfully. It was clear why the creature was still alive, despite the druid’s presence: he had no strength. He wouldn’t be able to do a thing.

“But Ada,” he said, turning to his father, “if you knew all of this as well, then why did you not do anything?”

Aereandir spread his hands in a helpless gesture. “What could I do on my own?” he asked. “The creature would kill me in a second. But now.” He raised one finger. “Now there are four of us, with Achaar’s knowledge. Now we will have a chance to kill the creature and return home once more.”

Aranel looked sceptical. “And just how are we going to do that?” he asked dryly.

Achaar leaned forward slightly. “Listen to me,” he rasped, “and I will tell you.”

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