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Iloendell
March 13th, 2003, 08:30 AM
It'll have to come in two posts.
PROLOGUE

Sword met sword and a deep ring echoed through the deep forest clearing. Silence reached the ears of those there as the fighting stopped and hundreds of heads turned to where two men were staring at each other through cold, faceless helmets. Golden-laced steel met darkened iron, and sparks flew out. Blow deflected by shield, thrust blocked by parry, the two men continued, dancing a deadly dance that weaved and ducked, metal ringing on metal, the only sound in the screaming silence of war.
A single man, robed and unarmoured, walked steadily with his staff through the clearing, unnoticed by the men entranced by the two dancing men. Reaching the men, he stood between them, each stroke seemingly missing him by only fractions. He held his staff in the air, shouted ‘STOP!’ and with that, brought his staff crashing to the ground. The man with the iron sword, and his army, was swallowed by the dirt.

The stone began to glow as the dwarf enchanted an ancient spell. Placing the rock on a platform, the second dwarf said some words to the rocks, and raised a stick high above his head. Brining it down, the stone on the platform, was flung high into the air, and flew with practised accuracy down into the hoards of screaming, dirty goblins, trying to scramble up the escarpment. Behind the goblins stood a man the stone, along with others exploded on impact, throwing up a fiery wall, burning many goblins, and placing a barrier between the dwarfs and goblins. A man, a large stature amongst the dwarfs, walked up to the fiery wall with support of his staff, placed his staff in front of him lengthways in line with the wall, shouted ‘STOP!’ and pushed his staff forward, throwing the fiery wall crashing down on the goblins, and the man.

Bowstrings sung and orcs fell. Jumping from tree to tree the elves pushed forward into the orc lines. Slinging his bow onto his back, an elf drew his long knife and ran towards the orcs, mowing all in his path. In front of him stood a man, his darkened iron sword in his hand by his side. The man brought his sword up, and swung at the elf. The elf ducked out of the way, and the man’s sword stuck in the trunk of a tree. Turning, the man threw himself at the elf’s legs, knocking him over.
The man then grabbed the elf’s fallen blade, rising to his feet. The elf flipped backwards, then ran towards the man and kicked the hand with the blade. The blade flew out of the man’s hands and into the back of an orc nearby. Stepping from behind a tree, a man with a staff walked towards the pair, raising his staff above his head as he walked. Seeing the staff, the man spat, ‘You!’ and stared challengingly at the staff. The man grasped the staff, and held against a tree, shouted ‘STOP!’ and pushed the tree. The trees moved, picking up the orcs, and throwing them to the ground. The tree with the sword still stuck in it, reached down with a branch, grabbed the sword and threw it at the man. The sword sunk deep, and the man fell forward. Leaves began falling, and soon covered the bodies, as if they had never been there.

A dressed form stared thoughtfully into a room created by an enclosure of mists. Pure white robes draped over his body, a hood shining glare over the details of his face. His chin jutted slightly out into what seemed a dim light compared to his robe, and the set of the jaw showed an unmistakable determination. His introspection was disturbed as another approached. This person, not as bright as the First, studied him, frowned, and floated away. The Second’s toughness shone in the still-dim room. His eyes were hardened with pain, and yet still face was not hooded. His face, startlingly beautiful, but edged with softened with love blinked twice. The room swirled, then stilled as silence entered the room.
‘Have you decided yet?’ asked the Second, breaking the silence.
‘I am still not sure,’ replied the First, not breaking from his position, ‘as there are many factors to consider.’
‘You continue to say that every time I come to see you,’ said the Second, frowning again and sighing. ‘It has been 7 years since you first came in here, yet you still have not made a decision.’
‘There are many factors to consider.’
‘I am getting sick of hearing that!’ growled the Second, beginning to get angry, ‘I want to know what factors!’
‘There are many factors to consider.’
‘There are many factors to consider, there are many factors to consider,’ mocked the Second, eyeing the First angrily, ‘I am not going to leave this room until I know what some of the factors are, and if I have to stay in here for another 7 years, or longer, I will. Now tell me some of the factors!’ he ended in a shout.
‘There are many factors to consider.’
The First thought, and considered the factors. The first Watched the world, and the First Saw the world. Seven months passed. And for seven months the First Saw. The Second waited while the First saw. And when the First had finished seeing, he said:
‘I have considered the factors.’
There was no reaction from the Second. The First repeated, ‘I have considered the factors,’ yet still there was no response. ‘I have considered the factors!’ said the First with a shout that echoed around the room and stirred up the mists. The Second’s brows furrowed. ‘You may have considered the factors, yet what difference does it make to me? I do not know the factors, so how may I yet know what it means to have considered them?’ The Second paused for a moment and stared about, as if trying to see through the mists. ‘Seven months ago I came, and seven months have now passed. What difference does it make that after these seven months, when I yet first aspired to know the factors, you but repeated the phrase, ‘There are many factors to consider,’ and now you repeat yet another phrase, ‘I have considered the factors.’ Is it not true to assume that while you were repeating the first phrase, you had already considered some of the factors, and that you were reconsidering them?’

‘And yet,’ continued the Second, without letting the First explain, ‘I get the overwhelming feeling that the fact that you have considered the factors, has some significance, but, if I do not know the factors, why should it be significant that you have considered the factors? Have you reached a conclusion, or have you merely considered the factors? This I do not know.’ The Second took a deep breath and looked ready to continue, but the First interrupted.
‘Remember, that you are but the Second, and that you do not know everything. There is a First, and if there are more, there must be a Second.’ He paused. ‘The First is not the right title for me, but it is the easiest to understand. The Always is the proper title for me, yet it is hard to comprehend for those who have not been always, which is all except me. It is easier to think of me as coming first and the rest follow, but I am Always. Always have, Always is, Always will be.’ At this the Second puzzled.
‘As you see,’ the First continued, ‘there is much you do not know. One of the factors is the fact that there are not many of my followers on The World. And as there are not many, it can be-’
‘There are lots of followers on the World. Thousands and thousands upon thousands of them.’ The Second interrupted. ‘This I find perplexing.’
‘Yes, I do admit there are thousands of followers, but out of how many? Millions, even Billions of people? And where are they in the world? And yet we come to another of the factors. Where? There are unlimited amounts of places that I could place it, yet where do I? High, low, in-between? And how do I get it to my followers? How do I get it so that they can mould it first, or that can teach it what it needs to learn? And what about its surrounds. By surrounds, I do not just mean places, but people. What people to care for it? Who? One person or many? Rich people or poor ones? As you can see, there were many factors to consider.’
The Second frowned for what seemed the millionth time since he had first come into the room, and screamed: ‘THESE are the FACTORS you were CONSIDERING?!?! I thought there must be MORE than just FOUR or FIVE factors.’ Then began pacing.
‘These are not the only factors,’ said the First, with such sternness that the air around him seemed to turn to stone, ‘but the most important. Yet there is still one factor to consider.’
‘ANOTHER FACTOR?!?!’
‘Another factor.’
‘And what might THAT be?’ sneered the Second.
‘Whether I should continue or not.’ Said the First in sure calm.
‘Seven years, seven months and seven days you sit here CONSIDERING the FACTORS, and yet you still do not know whether you should even CONTINUE?!?!’
‘I do not.’ Placidly, the First stood and stretched his legs. His brows furrowed in thought for a moment then his face relaxed. ‘I have made a decision.’ He said surely.
‘And what helped you decide?’ Said the amazingly now calm Second.
‘The World’s Need.’
‘Then it is done?’ asked the Second in pure hopefulness.
‘It is done.’

A glow began to exude from the First, then engulfing the Second, then the room of mists and beyond. The glow brightened, then faded, as the mists swept through the room, swirling as though it had never been there. In the fading light, a hooded face could be seen in the mists, smiling in knowingness.

NOT THE START, AND CERTAINLY NOT THE END.

Iloendell
March 13th, 2003, 08:48 AM
PART 1
CHAPTER 1
DERTANN – CITY OF PANDEMONIUM

The Market in Dertann was in chaos. Up and down the red, dusty cobblestone streets people pushed and shoved their way through. At random intervals steel-grey stone buildings loomed above the Market, casting heavy shadows in the dying light. A deafening roar filled the ears of those crowded in the Market, and people shouted louder and louder to be heard over the clamour.
People pushed harder to get past, yet still Non’omar pushed on. ‘Don’t let go of my hand!’ she shouted, barely heard over the deafening din of The Market. The push of the crowd was making it hard for Jiar to keep a hold of her hand. ‘Not long now!’ she shouted again. ‘We’ll make it so-long as you don’t let go!’ The crowd seemed to overwhelm Jiar and he felt that he couldn’t hold on any longer. ‘I-I-I can’t h-h-hang on! Help!’ Still the crowd surged. ‘He-e-l-l-p!’ Still clutching by his fingertips, Jiar struggled to keep a hold of Non’omar. With a last burst of strength, they broke free of the crowd and walked free of the market. ‘That was close,’ panted Non’omar, ‘I almost lost you there for a second.’
Jiar scowled, his face wrinkling in disgust. ‘I hate big markets Non, it’s almost impossible to breathe back there!’ He gestured back to The Market. ‘Do we really have to go back in there?’
‘Well, we do have to sell the cloth, and these are the best markets in Reneth’taer to sell them.’ Non explained. ‘I don’t know where to sell them apart from The Market.’
‘We could try down by the wharf,’ Jiar started, ‘I’m sure that’s where some of the sailors and people from the boats sell their goods.’
‘We’re not going to the wharf,’ snapped Non.
‘Why?’ pleaded Jiar.
‘We’re just not, and there’s no point arguing about it,’ she snapped again, ‘we’ve talked about this before and you know that you’re not allowed near the water. If you don’t want to go to The Market tomorrow then I can set you on some errands and that will fill up your day.’
Non’omar, usually called Non, had been like this ever since she had picked up a small babe on the steps of her cottage in the White Wood, on Capulen, the C shaped Island of the pair of islands called Reneth’taer. She had treated him as her own son ever since, and Jiar thought of her as his own mother, as he had never known his real one.
She was a short stout woman, with her thoughtful blue eyes creating a sharp contrast to her grey-streaked, jet-black hair, which hung in soft curls delicately down her face. Her thin lips, which were quite often tight-pressed, jutted out in front of her face along with her square stubborn jaw.
‘Yes Non,’ droned Jiar, ‘I suppose I’ll run some errands for you.’
‘Good.’ said Non. ‘It’s settled then. Now lets go find an Inn to stay for the night then.’
‘Great.’ Sighed Jiar, and plodded on after Non.

The first inn they came to was a big stone building, which looked like it had been there since the dawn of time. The moss on the rough stone shone fluorescent green in the dying light, casting a shadowy feel to the rest of the place.
‘This doesn’t feel very good Non,’ started Jiar, ‘I don’t like the look of—’
‘If every inn in Dertann looked like this here inn, where would we sleep?’ questioned Non.
‘But I really don’t like the look of this inn, it looks all… well… spooky,’ argued Jiar, ‘can’t we just find somewhere else to stay, just not here.’
‘If you are going to stress all your words so, they might all end up with lines on them,’ She joked, ‘and if we always decided where we stayed by the look of it, we might never stay somewhere for the night, and then how would you feel, eh?’
‘Yes Non’omar, let’s go and see what room we get.’
When they entered the building, Jiar decided that it was worse than he thought, as thick smoke hung over the room, making the roof seem almost invisible, and the only light came from candles on the tables, also adding to the invisible-roof effect. At the sight of the common room, even Non seemed to take a step back. With its dirty floor and even dirtier tables the place seemed deserted and abandoned even though a man sat at the bar. The barman at the bar looked as if he hadn’t had a bath for a week, and smelt like he hadn’t had one for a month. Non spoke up.
‘Umm, excuse me good man, but we’ve been looking all over town for a good room and a good meal and we can’t seem to find anywhere to stay. Do you think you could give us a room and a meal for a good price?’ This was a spiel that was repeated in every town and in every inn that they decided to stay in.
‘I’ll get the innkeeper good woman, but I hope you good luck, because you’ll need it.’ Replied the barman. It did not sound hopeful. Thunder began to roll outside. ‘It didn’t look cloudy when we were outside before, Non. I thought it wouldn’t rain tonight, even though it always rains.’ Jiar started,
‘Shh…’ Non whispered quietly, interrupting, ‘here he comes now, keep quiet and look smart and we might get a room. Hello good man,’ Non raised her voice, ‘I was wondering if there would be a room and a meal—’
‘I’m sorry dear woman,’ the innkeeper said without any real feeling in his voice, ‘there are no rooms here that you can stay in, and I have little food to serve those that are here. There is an inn down the road that might serve you better.’ The last sentence was said more as an order than a suggestion. ‘Thank you anyway for your valuable time, good man. Perchance I may visit here next time I am in town, then?’ Non smiled sweetly.
‘Perhaps.’ Was the stern reply from the innkeeper.
They left the dark, smoke-filled common room into the dirty foyer. ‘Maybe you were right about this place, Jiar,’ she whispered in his ear as they opened the squeaky front door, ‘let’s go find somewhere a little cleaner to stay shall we?’ Jiar smiled at that.
Jiar had always thought himself a good judge of places and people, and he seemed to prove himself right again. Just as he began to think he was on his way to a large meal and a warm bed, thunder clapped so loudly overhead that Jiar thought it must have been just above them, followed soon by lightning and pelting rain. Non and Jiar drew their overcloaks around them tightly and pressed on into the early evening.

They had just turned what felt like the one hundredth street, and still not seeing another inn, continued down the street in search of one. By now Non and Jiar were soaked to the bone and stone cold with the harsh wind. Lightning lit the streets like daylight every few seconds, and thunder shook the ground every other second. Jiar was ready to give up but Non pressed on. As they turned the one hundred and first corner, Jiar spotted a man running across the street.
‘Hey good people over there!’ the man shouted, ‘Are you in need of assistance?’ Jiar, feeling very tired, wet and cold, forgot what Non had said about help from strangers and shouted, ‘Yes, if you could guide us to an inn we would be most appreciative!’ Non sighed as the man came over.
‘What are you doing?!’ she whispered hoarsely into his ear, ‘what do you think he’s out on the streets at such a time of night? In this weather?!’ but quieted as he drew close enough to hear. ‘I know of a good inn this way,’ said the man, and even Non was so tired that she let in to be led around. ‘It’s not far,’ he promised. And he was right. Just a few turns from where they met, they came across a sign swinging in the wind with a picture of an apple with a bite taken out of it.
‘It’s called ‘The Crisp Apple’ and they’ll be sure to give you a warm bed and a good hearty meal,’ he volunteered, ‘good luck and goodnight.’
Then he was gone. Just gone. Jiar shivered, but it wasn’t from the cold.
A flash of lightning lit up the area and Jiar saw the inn in a fleeting moment. Bright stone, carved with winding patterns, and smoothed, so that when the lightning flashed again, the reflections left dots in his eyes. The door looked inviting in the cold wind. Non started to head towards it.
‘Don’t just stand there like a redbird out of air,’ said Non, back to her old ways, ‘lets get inside and at least dry up.’
As he stepped through the doorway, a gust of warm air blew over him, seeming to take the chill of the whole night away from him. He began to relax straight away, as the inn was so inviting. Non opened the common-room door and rich aromas of a lamb roast wafted in, as if it had come straight from the oven. Jiar was immersed in the laughter that wiggled it’s way through the air and tickled Jiar’s ears.
Inside the inn the warm crackling fire seemed to reach right out of the hearth, warm, dry, and bring cheer to Jiar’s heart. The room, which was very neat and tidy, had eight round tables, each set with a candle and a small vase adorned with pretty flowers. The music wiggled its way over to Jiar again.
Out of the corner of his eye, Jiar spotted a bright man performing a piece on his flute. It was a Toneman. A Toneman was a person that travelled around to all different places, making his living by entertaining people in all sorts of ways. Tunemen were the only strangers that were accepted in all towns and places, as normal strangers were treated as spies inter-country. Most people were treated with hostility and anger but not Tunemen.
Jiar stared at this Toneman, who was a tall, lean man with a bright perky face, short blonde, almost white hair, blue eyes, and brisk red lips. Along with his bright and colourful juggling balls flying through the air with such grace and speed as he had never seen before, and the shiny silken clothing he was wearing, the Toneman looked like a lord or a high man. The Toneman then seemed to make the balls vanish from the air, with an overzealous bow, and picked up his flute from the table beside him. Then he began to play.

Iloendell
March 13th, 2003, 08:49 AM
I might leave it at that for a while, it's a bit long.
that's not all of the first chapter though, about a quarter of it.
DJ