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Chapter 17: Swept Away
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JezSharp



Joined: 18 Jul 2006
Posts: 592
Location: The middle of anywhere...

Posted: Thu Feb 01, 2007 9:02 am    Post subject: Chapter 17: Swept Away  

Author's Note: This Chapter has taken me a lot longer than I thought it would, and is going to be rather long...hence I've posted the first part now - with a second part to follow.

Chapter 17: Swept Away - Part 1


Time gently rolled by, although it was impossible to tell how much had passed. Elvendor, Alex and Simeon lay resting upon the cold stone floor trying to regain some strength, made harder by the lack of food. The heat that flowed into the chamber from the side vents was almost negligible, rising up to the ceiling before drifting lazily down to a cool chill across the floor; the glowing blaze behind the glass panes mocking the cold huddled figures that lay nearby. The scaled monster was also sitting down and resting, as it had done for most of its life; conserving energy was crucial when the usual meals of fish were small and sporadic.

Watching them all from behind the glass screens was the ever present wall of bulging eyes, eyes that patiently waited and waited…but they would not wait for ever. Already the murmurings had started, dissatisfaction beginning to spread like a potent virus amongst the crowds. Their champion was doing nothing, he wasn’t slaughtering their enemy but sleeping…even worse it seemed that he had been conversing with them. Their worship of the beast had always been one of admiration for its power, rather than one of fear, for they knew it could not harm them. Instead they had always had the power to harm it. Whilst it remained as they wanted it to be, one who ate what they supplied, whose savage claws and ferocious face tore at the fearful bodies of their underwater enemies that they had captured and fed it, their admiration remained. Now though it all diminished to be replaced with disillusionment and anger. It took many hours for that anger to peak, for the group to finally reject in a wave of violent emotion the one it had sheltered for so long…

* * *

Clank…clank…clank…clank, Elvendor awoke to the sound of metal plates sliding clinically into place, covering over the grilled holes within the tunnel that they had earlier rolled down. Elvendor though couldn’t work out where the noise came from as it echoed above the grunting snores of their reptilian friend. Then came a noise that stopped the flow of blood within his body for the briefest of moments, a slow creaking noise, the opening of the trapdoors above. Relax, they’ll be sending some food down here most likely…perhaps they feel we too deserve to be treated as a God…or not…Far from subsiding, the sound of rushing water seemed to draw closer and closer. Then like a volcanic geyser the seawater spewed forth from the square tunnel mouth, a bodies length above the floor in the wall to his left, and fell with a roar upon the worn stone floor. Elvendor glanced to his right to see the eyes still pressed against the glass, a vibrating jellied mass, quivering with excited fear and anticipation.

The others awoke to see the water pouring in,

“Alex, Simeon, follow me, we have to go now,” Elvendor cried out, even his sharp voice barely discernable against the thundering din. He headed for the wall to his left where the water was rushing from, staying against the side of the chamber so that he was spared the worst of the gushing torrent, the others quickly following his lead. He looked sadly over at their giant friend; he’d been able to tell it his name, and in response it had replied in its own gravelly language with something that sounded like Barger – the name he now called it. Barger had woken and was still trying to come to terms with what was happening, splashing about in the shallow film of water that had spread across the floor.

Elvendor’s sandals were limp and soggy by the time he reached the wall, quickly he withdrew the vine rope from his bag and threw it up the cold grey stone barrier, where it stuck with a faint ‘splat’. Then he started to climb, stopping once his feet were clear of the water. He looked back at Simeon and Alex, the water was now swirling around their ankles. The occasional dappled turquoise fish swished past and leapt from the water in obvious and understandable confusion. “Simeon, can you pull out the ventilation grate and use it to lift you and Alex up into the shaft?” Elvendor yelled. He couldn’t hear Simeon’s reply, but he saw him nod and close his eyes. It took a few tense seconds whilst nothing happened, then the grating began to shake and the stones about it cracked and crumbled, sending a rain of pebbles cascading down to the troubled waters below. On the far side of the room, Barger had finally worked out what was going on and let out a piercing bellow of rage and despair as its life and its races final chapter seemed to be drawing to a close. Above them, the grating suddenly ripped free of the wall and dropped down to the waiting pair below. Elvendor now began again to climb knowing there was only room for two on the grating. We should be able to get their in time, he thought as Alex helped Simeon up onto the floating platform, which dipped below the water as Simeon stepped up from the floor – the hem of his robe soaked. As he did so though there came the sound of breaking of glass from behind, Barger had cracked open the main viewing glass, summoning an outstretched hand of water into the chamber accompanied by hundreds of screaming creatures. Barger had stood to the side of the glass and now proceeded to grab, tear and eat its fill from the confused and floundering prey, a final act of defiance.

The wave bore down upon the three travelers with terrifying speed. Simeon tried to rise the platform above it but failed, the wave tearing him and Alex from the platform, sending them and the platform tumbling into the waters below. The wave also washed into the heating ducts along the sides of the chamber, extinguishing the glowing fires, plunging the room into complete darkness. Then it crashed against the wall, drenching Elvendor and dampening the rope, making it hard to hold on to its treacherously smooth outer skin. Grimly he inched himself further up, calling out Alex and Simeon’s names in a vain attempt to ascertain where they were.

Just as he was considering diving down into the choppy waters, his eagle eyes caught sight of Alex’s matted hair breaking the surface. Slowly Alex emerged, dragging Simeon with him – but Simeon’s eyes were closed and it appeared he couldn’t swim. No! This isn’t looking good. How can we survive without Simeon? Perhaps he’s just performing some more of his magic…his inner voice pleaded in hope rather than expectation. As the water rose, Alex continued to bravely keep the mage’s head afloat above the surface. The water was now much deeper than both he and Simeon put together and rising fast. Barger continued to feast and hunt its tormentors, but by now they had regained control of their senses and were dodging the giant’s clumsy lunges and escaping…at least most were.

A small ripple of noise and movement from deep within the gloom sang out a warning that not all were prepared to flee. Some are drawing closer, I must reach the vent, he thought desperately, it isn’t too far…He painfully continued to climb horizontally up and across to the grate, firmly grasping the slippery rope again and again, hoping his grip would last. It did, he finally reached the gaping black entrance where he sat and snatched a quick breath as he slung his bow from his shoulder and notched an arrow. There were three black shadows slinking beneath the water. They were very close to Alex now, Elvendor shouted out a warning but the increased volume of water hurtling into the chamber rendered it ineffective. With a whistling sound his first arrow plunged into the water, embedding itself in the shoulder of one of the swimmers who decided to leave the scene in obvious pain, quickly he notched a second arrow and fired, then a third. The second missed but the third was a direct hit – the shadowy figure spiraling down to the depths of the deepening pool. The third of the swimmers struck out with a pointed spear, catching Alex on his injured leg and causing him to cry out in pain. The assailant brought back his arm and in one quick movement slashed forward again, the second strike cutting much deeper into Alex’s leg and sending a deepened rusty red liquid spilling into the pool, joining the deep green blood of the many slaughtered foe. Elvendor’s fourth arrow added to that number, killing the last of the aggressors. Alex could barely keep himself afloat, but the water had risen quickly so that he was within a few feet below the air vent.

Kneeling down Elvendor threw him the vine rope, to which he clung gratefully. On the far side of the room the water now began to cover Barger’s face, trickling into its mouth, infecting the struggling creature with its salty poison. The creature groaned, and a tear formed in its eyes as the water flow increased, rushing in and flooding its lungs. With a gasping cry it sunk, its eyes dulling, its head slumping…then nothing, just the foamy rocking, rolling waves were left.

Alex was close enough to the shaft to heave Simeon’s body up to Elvendor, who had stuck the other end of the rope to the vent floor, as he bent down and hauled Simeon up and into the shaft. Seconds later he had done the same for Alex who lay completely breathless, one of his legs a stained mess of blood. Elvendor wanted to tend to that first but he knew that now they needed Simeon’s help. Crawling over to him Elvendor noticed bruising on his forehead and scrabbled about in his pack for one of a few medicinal bottles that he’d set out with. An elf who neglected to carry the nectar of the chloa flower on a potentially dangerous journey was a foolish one. He removed the bottle hastily from his bag and with steady hands opened it up and poured several drops into Simeon’s throat, and a couple upon the bruised area. The dew was stimulant as well as a restorative potion – hopefully it should reduce the bruising and kick start Simeon’s mind. Elvendor held his breath, as the first rivulets of water ran down the passageway, then Simeon’s eyes fluttered open.

“Where am I,” he groaned unsteadily. No! He can’t have lost his memory can he? Elvendor worried, his pulse quickening slightly, if so all is lost.

“You’re about to be drowned,” Elvendor tried to say calmly, “we need a bubble to shield us all instantly.” Simeon sat up cautiously, water now flowing over his trousers, Alex’s body torturously inching itself up next to the pair. The main room was still visible, but the water would soon block it from view.

“Oh, right of course,” said Simeon a little dazedly as he struggled to his feet, causing Elvendor to expel a sigh of relief, before he added, “not at all sure if enough heavy energy is available though.” Water flooded around them, Elvendor helped Alex to stand up, even then he needed to use Elvendor as a crutch. Simeon too had risen and closed his eyes, this time concentrating deeply on his surrounding. The water rose and rose, now lapping about their chests, then their necks. Elvendor heaved Alex further upright as in front of them a very pale, almost translucent spherical shield began to form. Now the water around their legs lay idle, the influx of water channeled around them – slipping up the sides of the vent.

The water though continued to rise about them, with a deceptive peacefulness. It was a tense few seconds, water began to pry at Alex’s lips, searching, feeling for a way in. Elvendor closed his eyes as he felt the chilling water crawl up under his chin, No! we’re going to run out of time it’s too late. A flash of panic seared through his mind as he realized this was the end, he instinctively controlled it. As he did so he suddenly began to see the water flowing past them in his mind, a rush of glowing of blue. Wait, not a continuous flow of blue but many millions of dots within the water…and there are grey ones flowing in the air, forming a pattern? They’re swirling and moving, dancing a pattern, being sucked from the main chamber and then vanishing about us. This must be the ‘heavy energy’ Simeon talked of, he’s taking it to form the shield…is it in the water as well? I must compress the flow of water…must compress, there’s no difference, must focus and compress . Has it stopped rising? As he willed them to the particles within his mind were starting to bunch and move downward about him, he saw them forced down and into the water that was flowing around the side of the shield. With a start he realized the level was inching down his neck, in his mind he forced the flow of water like particles about him down further – spreading them out to the sides as Simeon finally completed his work. Elvendor opened his eyes with a gasp once he realized there was no longer any movement from the water around them, the shield had formed. Did I, can I…? his tired mind gasped. Simeon had opened his eyes and seemed to be studying him closely, but he wasn’t sure if he had noticed. Alex looked too tired to notice anything so subtle as a slight shift in the water levels. The bubble rocked gently in the current, as though deciding whether to be pushed uphill or stay where it was for a while.

Eventually it made up its mind and reluctantly began to rise upwards – forced by the pressing sea green waters. For the three inside it was far from comfortable, for all had to try and keep their heads above the splashing sea water that sloshed about as they rolled up the shaft. Elvendor tried to reach out with his mind to the water, but the movement of the bubble was distracting him and he wasn’t sure his mind had enough strength to exert control again. Water now completely filled the shaft, flowing over the spherical shield as well as around it. If we travel this slowly we’ll run out of air, surely the water has to reach the ceiling of that room soon…then the water will have to flow up here…As he thought it, it soon happened. The current around them suddenly started to surge forward, none of them could see much, desperately trying to keep within the pocket of air. Elvendor glanced out once to see them narrowly miss a silver fan blade that had once been used to suck air up the tunnel. Judging by the cracking noises ahead the ones that were in their path had been snapped and snatched by the onrushing water.

How long they continued to be pushed up the tunnel is anyone’s guess, but it was the one of the worst experiences Elvendor had ever been through. Many times he’d had to save himself and Alex from drowning within the bubble, breaking to the surface of the water within their spinning prison. He was soaked, freezing, weak with hunger and the air inside the bubble rapidly became stale and hard to breathe in. It seemed as if a lifetime had passed before the bubble finally began to slow to a halt.

“Push forward,” yelled Simeon, "it has too much water in it to float to the surace". Elvendor somehow managed to force his body to obey, even with Alex still leaning on it for support. Forward and up they went, moving over the broken metal shards of the broken fan blades, until at last they emerged out of the water. They were still in the vent, but it had now risen high enough, the water could no longer pursue them here. Wearily Simeon opened a hole in the shield and drained the water from it and allowing fresh air in. Then he sat down, weak with hunger, needing a rest. Elvendor lowered Alex's limp form down to the floor of the bubble, which had rolled back to float upon the ink black water that gently rocked them, as they fought to catch their breath and work up enough strength to go on.
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Mastermind



Joined: 11 Jan 2007
Posts: 198
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Posted: Thu Feb 01, 2007 1:44 pm    Post subject:  

Quote: Wearily Simeon opened a whole in the shield and drained the water from it and allowing fresh air in.

Hole?
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D-Lotus



Joined: 21 Oct 2004
Posts: 4123
Location: Hollywood, USA

Posted: Thu Feb 01, 2007 5:10 pm    Post subject:  

Whew! Good chapter, definately better than the last one. Well, we got out. Now, lets see what happens.
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Chinaren



Joined: 05 Sep 2005
Posts: 8886
Location: https://www.NeilHartleyBooks.com

Posted: Fri Feb 02, 2007 5:46 am    Post subject:  

Lighting a fire would be a good idea, get warm! Nice escape, but Barger died. :cry:
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JezSharp



Joined: 18 Jul 2006
Posts: 592
Location: The middle of anywhere...

Posted: Mon Feb 05, 2007 11:31 am    Post subject:  

Chapter 17 - B

“What!” Constantine was clearly less than pleased as he glared at the Captain of the Watch before him. “You mean to say that an elf and her husband killed six of our citizens and then managed to leave the City?” The fact that they hadn’t been caught didn’t in fact surprise him too much, the Watch were generally slow to get hold of information on murders and almost as slow to act upon that information. For an elf to commit such an atrocity, right under his nose as well, that was different. “Where did they head?” he asked, his brows narrowing dangerously,

“They went West your lordship, towards the dwarven towns.” Beth watched from the crack in the doorway, she could tell the Mayor was surprised at this news, his left eyebrow had risen a fraction of an inch.

“Really…how curious. Well send out the best patrol men and pursue them, send me regular updates on how things are going.”

“Should we kill them if we see them?”

“Not if it can be helped, cripple them if possible and return them here, I want to know what they are up to. Oh…check with Grantham by the way, he may have developed a new weapon which could come in handy.”

“Yes Sir,” The middle aged, sharp nosed general saluted and smartly moved out of the room into the main hall. Beth hastily moved from the side room, with doors adjacent to both the meeting room (where Elvendor and Alex had sat when they visited) and the Hall. There she handed the Captain his bright black jacket with a blood red sash. Without even appearing to recognize she was there, he then strode out into the sunlit street. Beth retreated back into the side room from where she had come.

The room was a cosy carpeted study room of books, the thick plum red curtains stifling most of the brightness from outside. Instead the room was lit by a hearth fire that merrily flickered and gently purred as it heated the room. Beth liked this room more than any of the others, it was where she heard secrets and searched visitors belongings, where she felt important and had a purpose. Now however, she slumped down before the fire, her eyes closing and burning tears falling from them…and not for the first time. Why? My life is so insignificant, I want more from life than just to have to give people their cloaks, to be quiet slave in the background….

Anger flowed up easily within her heart, it had been happening more and more frequently of late.
She imagined within her mind that her heart was aflame, stoking the red hot particles of anger, provoked higher by pride and stifled ambition that swept her mind and lurked within her chest. I ought to feel grateful for such a position being given to me…but I’m not! It’s a burden, a noose, I want to succeed. Again disturbing images flowed through her brain, of plans she had thought out, but was too scared and ashamed to carry out. She saw in her minds eye her parents fall, swords piercing their bodies, the world had gone black, then she had awoken within the Mayors warm house where she was cared for and brought up to serve him. But why did they have to die? They were rich, I could have had a future! The thoughts fed the flames, which seared upwards within her minds eye, red particles flowing upwards and outwards, she felt at one with them – as though her mind was playing a melody, drawing them towards her. Jolts of searing heat pricked her body and she opened her eyes with a start. Before her the fire in the grate had soared and inflamed to twice its height, and had taken on a darkened hue. It swayed and groped for a brief second, singing her clothes, awakened and hungry. Hissing and clawing it died down to its former gentle state as Beth shreiked and fell away from the hearth.

As her breath jerked out in a quick patter upon the silent room, only interrupted by the gentle crackling fire, the door from Constantine’s meeting room swung open and the large Mayor appeared.

“Are you all right Beth, what’s wrong?” He looked about the room curiously, for there was nothing out of place at all.

“Oh…nothing Sir, it was all my fault – I was daydreaming and let my dress get too close to the hearth and it caught alight, sir.” He looked at her dress, singed in several places questioningly, how did she manage to burn it in so many places? He couldn’t think of any other rational explanation for the burns so with a shrug he accepted her story, saying as he left with a slight chuckle,

“Fair enough, perhaps this will teach you to sleep on the job then Beth.” The door closed and Beth got back to dusting the books, trying to convince herself despite the burnt dress, that what she’d seen wasn’t really all that abnormal or strange.

* * *
Heavy exhausted gasps penetrated the narrow shaft. Along it slowly rolled the spherical ball, pushed by the sweaty, bare chested figures of Elvendor, Alex and Simeon. Elvendor glanced at Alex out of the corner of his eye. He’d poured a drop of the soft healing liquid upon his leg whilst they lay resting, which had speeded up the healing, but his leg was still sore, painful and smeared with blood. Added to that the amount of blood he’s lost from the wound…its remarkable he can help at all, Elvendor thought in some wonderment. The strain was clearly showing on his face, and on Simeon’s, the old man may have been a master craftsman but he was not used to such physical exertions. At least our clothes aren’t soaked after Simeon warmed the air around us…although right now I could do with some fresher air. With a soft thump they came to a sudden stop…all gasped for breath as their tired minds struggled to grasp what they had hit.

“Is…is it a …dead end?” Alex gasped as his body visibly sagged.

“No, it will be a valve leading out into the swamp,” said Elvendor who had worked out long ago where this vent would lead to. “Simeon, can you open it? I’m guessing it opens out into the swamp, and is a one way valve to stop the swamp flowing into this chamber. Simeon nodded weakly and sat down upon the ground. He looks like he’s aged several years since we left The City of Haven, Elvendor thought as he anxiously gazed at the wrinkled face of his companion. Certainly his hair is whiter and his eyes can’t disguise that ever tired look. A whistling rushing noise filled the passageway, pressing their capsule up tight against the flap as Simeon forced the little air left in the passage way upwards to the flap. The pressure increased, and increased, the flap straining against the thick sludgy swamp on the other side. Then with a pop they flew through into the swamp, carried upon a cushion of air that rushed off up the tunnel, briefly showing a glimpse of fallen buried rocks before the creeping sludge returned to shield them from view.

“Now we need to push in the direction the air went,” ordered Elvendor, “We’re almost there…” They pushed hard, driven by an urge for freedom, for a surface long forgotten amongst the terrors of the deep. Thankfully they soon ran up against the steps Elvendor had briefly viewed a few days ago, days that seemed like an eternity ago. Simeon lightened the strong thin shell of the bubble so that it carried them gently up to the surface of the bog. Come on, come on cried Elvendor’s heart, a glimmer of sunlight, a taste of air…being starved of these things for so long, one truly begins to appreciate their true worth. There…the surface above is becoming weaker, its shifting, breaking, splitting…Ahhhh. Just as he wished golden rays wove and spun through the roof of the bubble, lighting the weary faces and battered bodies, giving them the gift of hope and joy. The bubble half – emerged, then tentatively crept across the treacherous swampy surface until it beached itself against a more solid piece of ground. Simeon dissolved the top half of the capsule, allowing them all to hop out and onto the damp ground. There they lay for some time, letting time slip away and not caring, breathing in the dank fresh air and listening to the chirping cries of small brown feathered birds that flitted amongst the swaying reeds.

* * *

A fair way North of the swampland the scratched, tired and bruised body of Regen managed to stumble out of the mountain passes and into the bleak solid no – mans land that lay between the first of the three major centaur cities and the swampland. He sat down and pulled a dead ralen (Brown furry herbivore, the same size and build as a rabbit, with yellow slit eyes, pig snout, and small laid back ears) from his back with a bundle of twigs and set to lighting them. His expression had hardly changed during the time he’d traveled across the mountains but behind the stone mask some relief flowed. To travel into the mountains always meant putting one life on the line. He had had to dodge several pursuing goblin tribes, and was almost found on several occasions. Yet its for that excitement and thrill that I live. Ever since I was a child…

Back then he’d taken to evading the City Watch, stealing and plundering across Kostenton City. His father was a worthless drunk, someone who sat at home drinking most of the small income his mother and he could make. His fist clenched tighter about the stick that he was rubbing to create a spark, images of his mother working so hard, holding him close, lying in a pool of blood on the floor after his father had returned more drunk than usual, out of control. The smell of alcohol had drifted across the room, he was only eleven years old. The dark black haired figure of his father breathing heavily as he stood over the body of his mother. His father slowly turning, eyes glazed over, more a monster than a man. ‘Re…gan…why ishn’t she moving?’ The voice was slurred and pathetic, the silent tears that ran down Regan’s face dried as the years of bitter hatred that he felt for his father rose to a frightening crescendo in his chest. Lashing out with his knife he had struck him before he even thought about what he was doing. The knife dropped from his hand, clattering off the tiled floor with a metallic tingle, dull red blotches scattering across the floor. He froze in shock, then he ran over to the still warm body of his mother, hugging her limp form, allowing the tears to flow freely.

It was the last time he had cried, for his heart had hardened to stone – he had lost faith in the world he lived in, now he lived for danger alone. The fire sprung to life and he began to cook the ralen, Gail chuckling upon his shoulder. He’d picked her up when he had last entered the hills with Constantine’s patrol group. She had been wounded, hopping upon the stone abbey floor. He had taken her and bandaged her, before the group had fled from the apparitions that had whirled about them. He had wanted to go on, but the rest of the group had the supplies, and Gail needed attention, so he’d followed them back. Since then he and Gail had been inseparable, two outcasts alone in the world, an unbreakable combination. As they feasted upon the cooked meat he frowned, they would have to hurry. He had lost far too much time through the mountains, the others must have passed this point a long time ago if they were heading North.

“Time to go Gail,” he whispered as the wind snatched at his dirty, sweaty, torn clothes and ruffled her feathers. She cackled appreciatively and they stood and started to descend, heading North-West.

It was only a day later when he reached the shining white kite shaped City of Diamond, the first of the three great centaur cities that ran in a line to the north, the City of Sapphire was the capital, with the City of Emerald on the North Coast. He was able to pass in, thanks to his pass from Constantine, his inquiries as to the three travelers met with blank looks and shakes of the head. Puzzled he rented a place for the night, wondering where they had gone.

* * *

It was a full three days later when Simeon, Alex and Elvendor sighted the City, having journeyed out of the swamps and across the soft grassy no-mans land where prey was scarce and sand strewn winds lashed their faces. If Elvendor hadn’t been an excellent archer it would have been difficult to see how they could have survived, but with his catches and Simeon’s ability to spark a small fire to life, they had been able to live off the small and medium sized animals that habituated the plains.

It was with some relief that he espied the City, for there had been an uneasy tension sifting beneath the surface as they traveled. There wasn’t generally much talking within the group, yet what there had been had generally been good natured before they had entered the swamp. Now it retained that on the surface but beneath Elvendor sensed a little unrest. Perhaps they’re questioning my ability to lead them, as it was me that got us into this mess in the first place by insisting on going into the swamp. They agreed though, they shouldn’t complain, its not as though I asked in any way to be leader. In fact it’s as though they assumed me to be leader just because I could speak so many languages and had to sort out that dispute with the Krantle. Am I really suited to making the decisions? The thought nagged away at his mind, he wondered if he should let Alex or Simeon lead the group on but, then I’d lose the earpiece, and I don’t like or trust another to take control…they’d only make a mess of things. Besides it’s my journey, they can leave whenever they wish. Thankfully though with the city in sight much of the dissatisfaction lifted,

“At last,” Alex declared happily, “somewhere to get proper food and rest.” Elvendor’s expression contracted slightly at Alex’s words, but it’s not the same as living out in the open, a part of nature! It’s too civilized and unreal. He said nothing, merely nodding, as he noted Alex’s tired face, and pale skin, he’s suffered more than me or Simeon though, he needs the food and rest, he’s only human after all.

They drew closer to the City, walls of white marble tinged golden by the few rays of sunlight that pierced the mountains to their right as the sun set. As they approached they saw several huge pits outside the main gate, that cut of the pointed tip of the kite shaped walls. A wooden cart full of rubbish was pushed out of the gate by a couple of white bodied centaurs and turned out into one of the pits, before being rolled back into the city. As they drew closer, the smell of rotting food, mixed with sifting manure streamed out across the ground.

“Yeuch,” muttered Alex as the smell assaulted them, “this is clearly the fashionable side of the City.” Simeon chortled under his breath, as they descended down the slight incline and past the deep pits. Elvendor glanced into one and nearly lost his balance, it was very deep even with a large amount of rubbish dumped within it. They hurriedly continued on through the stench and up to the City entrance. The gate set before them had clearly been built for defensive purposes, it was solid white marble, but roughly hewn and duller than that of the city walls. Stopping by them Elvendor yelled out,

“Hey, we’re travelers looking for a place to stay, may we pass?” There was a long pause and the sound of someone scrabbling to his feet before a surprised reply came,

“Travellers?…Again! My is something strange afoot? For having had no-one pass through this gate for over twenty years we now have two parties in a week.” Elvendor gasped as he spoke, for he talked first in elfin then repeated what he said in English. There was a pause before the centaur carried on in a more standard matter of fact tone in elfin, “well if you would each state your name and purpose of your visit.” He then repeated in English. Each of them gave their name, accompanied by the sound of a scratching quill from atop the wall, and Elvendor restated their purpose. Once the scratching had stopped again the centaur called out, again in both elfin then English,

“Very well, you may pass within these walls, but you must abide by our laws of which we will give you a copy.” Then he addressed Elvendor, “by the way…Elvendor?”

“Yes?”

“Have you come across this way before?”

“I may have, as a child…” Flashes of white, blue, green, these gates, a city filled with strange four legged beings, constant hooves beating, cold walls and floors, ramped stairways…yes I’ve been here before.

“Ah, that would make you about twenty three then, your parents were Endron and Ferernia presumably, traveling with a dwarf named Grum?”

“That’s right,” he called back up, “at least that fits with what I was told of their travels, what do you know of them?”

“Nothing I’m afraid, just that they passed this way. So you presumably wish to retrace their journey. Well I wish you well with your quest, there are very few who would be so bold as to come from so distant a land…and from the south as well. You may pass into Diamond City as you wish.”

The marble gate gently moved inwards, then split with each part rolling to the side, making a gentle grumbling noise. As they did so Elvendor again called up to the centaur,

“Who else passed through this gate this week?”

“Ah, well that would be confidential, although I can tell you that he seemed most interested in finding you. Had a large black bird too, most uncommon.” The centaur chuckled slightly from high above them, his face briefly looking over the travelers. It was a brown haired, boyish face, yet his tone and words were that of an old man who had lived his life within a study. This is the first time I’ve seen a centaur…at least since when I was too young too remember much about them…creepy creatures…I’ve heard that they’re supposed to be noble and work hard but still…The gates had swung fully open and all three stepped forwards into the town, behind them the imposing gates eased back along deep tracks in the ground. From a marble triangular building, wedged up against the inner city wall, with two large rectangular transparent windows facing the sky, stepped another centaur. He was slightly taller than Elvendor, with long black hair, sallow grey eyes, smooth skin and a solemn expression. His neck and arms were pinkish and human but his body was that of a sleek black horse – powerful and strong. He wore a silver cloth band about his forehead, with a large diamond set into the front of it. He spoke in a deeper voice than the one who sat atop the wall, and who continued to peer at them curiously from above. Speaking first in elfin, then in human, he handed them out a guide with rules – also in their respective language.

“Welcome traveler’s, we trust that your stay is a pleasant one. Please abide by the laws stated within your handout and no harm will come to you.” His eyes scanned their possessions, establishing there were no seriously threatening objects, just a sword and bow. Then with half a bow he turned about, as though they had ceased to exist, vanishing back into his room to leave them facing a bustling city full of brown, black, white and grey centaurs packing up stalls, and returning home for the night.

“Well,” said Alex, “I’m guessing none of us happens to have any money, so have we a plan or should we sleep rough for the night. Oh and what are we going to do for food!” Simeon smiled,

“Leave it to me,” he said and slipped away from them. Within five minutes he had returned with a handful of white marble disks.

“Did you…did you make those?” gasped Alex in some wonder, as he suddenly imagined the possibilities of having Simeon as a traveling companion.

“No,” Simeon replied, “I’m not strong enough to create anything real at the moment, even something this small. I just used my ability to sweep a few away from a market traders stall as he was packing up, oh and a few out of another’s purse that he had strapped about his neck...Anyway even if I felt strong enough I wouldn’t waste my time stockpiling this stuff, there’d be no point in having a fortune – it would only make me miserable.” Alex tried not to look as though he disagreed with Simeon’s thinking, but couldn’t quite manage it as he replied,

“Oh…ok, still good work Simeon.” They started off down the main street that led to the centre of the City. The taller buildings about them were mainly circular, rising high above the ground…for around the inside run ramps to climb the floors, Elvendor’s memory chimed in. It was as though he were walking in a foreign world, detached from reality. The only normality’s were the smells of the closing market stalls, the last cries of traders flinging their wares at bargain prices and the gentle breeze that drifted amongst the rough marble walkway and slipped about the smooth cold walls of the buildings either side.

After walking some distance, and asking several centaurs for the best place to spend the night, they were directed to a three floored circular building just outside the very central area of the town. Pushing open the thin marble door that slid easily back on its track they entered, via a short marble corridor, a large open area where a cafeteria served food beneath the ramped staircase to their left, a set of high class stalls were closing to their right beneath the other ramp leading to the first floor. In the centre, the other side of a large ornate marble fountain filled with twirling greenery and trickling water stood a marble desk behind which a blonde female centaur stood checking through several lists. The noise seemed to die slightly as they approached the desk, Elvendor could feel the strange sensation of many curious eyes following them. I’m not sure I’ll ever quite get used to this feeling, he thought, it’s as though you’re being placed within a cage and examined. Shivering slightly he approached the desk,

“Excuse me,” he said in elfin, having learnt from past encounters that if he could avoid speaking the natives language, then he should. “How much would it be to stay here tonight?” The centaur, who had a reasonably attractive face, with green eyes set within smooth skin, eyed them suspiciously before replying, in both elfin and English as usual,, “fifteen molen (the centaur name for the marble coins) for all three of you…we only have one room though.” Simeon quickly counted out how much he had, “I have sixteen molen,” he whispered, “but I can easily get some more tomorrow.”

“Ok,” Elvendor replied and turned to the receptionist and laid down the disks, displaying the three dimensional, sparkling kite shaped face. If the receptionist was surprised they could pay, she barely showed it. She did however make quite a show of checking the disks were genuine and not fakes. Then she pulled out a sheet of thick yellow parchment and a quill pen and added them in under room thirty two. She placed a large marble key upon the counter, attached to a yellowed piece of paper marked ‘32’, and once again stared into Elvendor’s eyes – making him feel most uncomfortable.

“There is your key, Sir,” she said in a monotone, “I hope you enjoy your stay.” Then she seemed to forget they existed and went back to tidying up some of the paperwork beneath the desk. Taking the key, Elvendor walked towards the ramp on the left, left for upwards, right for downwards, the voice of his past memories echoed. Sure enough he saw a brown centaur gently galloping down the right ramp; the ramps were made from very rough marble, to ensure that they could be easily ascended or descended.

“Wait a second,” said Alex, “I’m just going to see if I can get something to eat with the last disk.” He quickly strode over to the cafeteria and soon returned with a golden bar, which he broke and shared with the Simeon and Elvendor. He really is a good companion to travel with, Elvendor mused as the sweet honeyed taste ran down his throat, even though he can be a pain…but without him Simeon would be dead – and therefore me as well…Strangely this thought annoyed him slightly, so he dismissed it quickly as they reached the first floor. Marble doors marked with diamond shaped bronze tacks above them, 11 to 19, stood in a circle about them. They continued up the next two ramps until they reached the top floor where doors 31 to 39 stood arranged circularly about them, a ramp on the far side of the circular hall leading back down. Above, stars pricked through a transparent domed roof, a telescope lay dormant in the centre of the floor. Elvendor strode over to it, only to find that it required a molen to operate it.

Alex had already opened the door to their room and entered, Simeon following close behind. With a final glance skyward, Elvendor strode in after them. The room was, like so much of the centaur town, cold and dull…imagination was clearly not a centaur trait. Precision clearly was though, everything was at right angles and smooth. It came as some shock to Elvendor to realize there was no actual bed, but rather several purple straw stuffed mattresses upon the floor. Of course centaurs wouldn’t sleep in a bed silly, they sleep kneeling down upon those ‘beds’. Still they ought to be more than comfortable. Alex cave an excited cry from the bathroom,

“Hey! Come look at this Elvendor! Simeon!” Simeon was already making himself comfortable upon one of the mattresses, merely groaned and fell fast asleep. Elvendor wanted to join him, but willed himself to move into the bathroom. There he saw Alex pointing to a large marble wall that was taller than Elvendor and stretched across the room, occupied by a sink, urinal, and an odd shaped hole in one wall, where they’d go for to relieve themselves otherwise…A large curved window ran the length of the bathroom, part of it vanishing behind the screened wall. He looked again at the wall Alex was pointing to,

“Can’t you guess what it is,?” Alex asked. Elvendor stretched his memory, he was sure he’d seen the wall before but open…

“Wait I know...it’s their bath isn’t it,” he replied. Alex looked slightly crestfallen but gleefully swung open the wall by pulling down a marble handle – camouflaged by the wall. A large section hinged open to reveal a damp space with a plug attached to a rod, so they don’t have to bend down, and a set of taps in the wall.

“It’s deep enough to swim in,” Alex exclaimed happily as he sauntered in and examined it. Elvendor watched on in amusement as Alex proceeded to explore the inside, then jump out close it and hurry off into the main room to see what unusual properties lay there. Its as though he’s a different person, revived. More like the person I set out with, rather than the subdued and reclusive figure at Haven or after having come through the marshes. It didn’t take Alex long to explore the larger room, there wasn’t really much difference there to a human room, except that there was less stuff, just the mattresses, a pot plant and shelves carved into wall. It was reasonably big though, enough for four or five people to comfortably lie down in. Soon both Alex and Elvendor lay upon the soft mattresses, which nursed their sore mussels and carried them away to sleep, the starlit sky watching them slumber through the large rectangular curved window that ran beneath the ceiling, opposite the door they had entered. For the first time in a long time it seemed that things were getting better.

Ok the dp is fairly open, basically, how long do they spend here? what should they buy/get etc within the city? Should they try and seek some sort of information, and from who?
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Chinaren



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Posted: Tue Feb 06, 2007 3:04 am    Post subject:  

Wooo! Long and interesting chapter. You are really expanding this story now.

I think they should take a little time and explore a bit. Try and find out about Elfydoor's parents and this guy who was looking for them. Also get information about the lands beyond.

As an aside, it may be prudent to take care. If the traders miss some of their money just as they come into town and start throwing it around, it won't take them long to put two and two together.
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Mastermind



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Posted: Tue Feb 06, 2007 8:15 am    Post subject:  

A couple of misspells:

Quote: Thankfully theysoon they ran up against the steps Elvendor had briefly viewed a few days ago,

Quote: A wooden cart full of rubbish was pushed out of the gate by a couple of white bodied centaurs and turned out into one of the pits, before neing rolled back into the city.

For the DP, i agree with china
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juggernaut
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Posted: Tue Feb 06, 2007 11:45 am    Post subject:  

i think that Elvendor is a very serious young man (especially for an elf), he would consider the fact that someone who arrived before them was inquiring as to their whereabouts very seriously. It would probably be Elvendor's first priority to find this person before he finds them.
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D-Lotus
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Posted: Tue Feb 06, 2007 7:06 pm    Post subject:  

Quote: bullet nosed general

I never understood this.

Anyway, the chapter wasn't bad, except that the whole concept of having to go through the fish people could have been avoided. In my opinion, it had little or no consequence to the plot. The adventurers could have simply traveled through an underwater tunnel.

I can't even remember what the adventurers originally set out to do. So whatever their quest, they should get a move on without dallying in the centaur town. Rest as much as you need, but only what's necessary.
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JezSharp
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Posted: Wed Feb 07, 2007 1:13 am    Post subject:  

Quote: Anyway, the chapter wasn't bad, except that the whole concept of having to go through the fish people could have been avoided. In my opinion, it had little or no consequence to the plot. The adventurers could have simply traveled through an underwater tunnel.

I can't even remember what the adventurers originally set out to do. So whatever their quest, they should get a move on without dallying in the centaur town. Rest as much as you need, but only what's necessary.

Well in terms of advancing the storyline to the finish, yes it was a detour, I wasn't expecting a staircase to appear in the middle of a marsh...I could have just made it an underwater tunnel but that seemed a little unimaginative somehow, and didn't really fit with the idea of a staircase. Plus not every journey is as simple as going straight from A to B - there will be setbacks and problematic detours (particularaly if chosen and voted for - as in this case) and the end result is that the plot is slightly changed - without that detour they wouldn't know someone was tailing them, wouldn't be exhausted & battered, wouldn't have the meories/traumas & wouldn't know of the saucer eyed peoples existence (which may or may not come into play within the sequal - I only have a sketchy plan for that).

As to what they set out to do - of the three only Elvendor has any set quest/purpose as such - 1) tracing where his parents went and 2) tied into that discovering what The Jade is (not quite true, Simeon and Alex have their own agendas and purposes but they are of a more mundane nature).

On the plus side by having this extra detour I've come up with other ideas being weaved into the plot (the assassin, the ability to control water and fire etc.) which I may not have come up with otherwise. Assuming there aren't too many more unexpected detours though this sg is heading towards the end of the middle, or the beginning of the end.
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JezSharp
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Posted: Fri Feb 09, 2007 4:17 pm    Post subject:  

Ok poll going up for a week or so.
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solus.serpen
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Posted: Sat Feb 10, 2007 1:03 am    Post subject:  

Hey Jez, the polls gone a bit wacko :-o
Might want to redo it ;)

Great chapter btw, I really enjoyed it.

~Solus :D
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JezSharp
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Posted: Sat Feb 10, 2007 3:32 am    Post subject:  

No, its fine, I'll just take those three options - the other option I was trying to add was kind of pointless anyway, glad you enjoyed it :D .
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JezSharp
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Posted: Sun Feb 18, 2007 7:18 am    Post subject:  

Ok, this Forum is locking down, The New Chapter should be up shortly.
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