A Journey to Southshire

From TFCWiki - The Final Challenge MUD's Player Information Resource
Jump to: navigation, search

Notes: This is an interweaving of story (written offline via email) and mud logs, chronicling the beginning of the tumultuous relationship between Keller Amberlin D'Augustine and Cordir. It was written over the course of about a week and a half, if I remember correctly. The mud logs have been heavily edited, and are from Cordir's point of view. Notable individuals in the story: Keller, Cordir, T'Far, Sadow, Thaygar, Styx, Molo, Kennet, Ivarr. -- Cordir 13:55, 17 June 2011 (MST)

Aboard the WindSwift, at port, First Day: Keller

My name is Keller ... or, I suppose if you want to get very technical, my name is Sir Keller Amberlin D'Augustine, by the grace of the gods son and heir to the Duke of Southshire, Knight and Paladin of Lord Tel of the Passionate and defender of the faith. I like the shortened version better...it holds less in the way of bad memories and worse responsibilities. That might seem a tad ironic...most times, the ordainment as a Paladin, the responsibilities of defending and upholding the faith, the minor magics such as the seeing eye...most times that's the most important thing, the heaviest burden, in anyone’s life. Most times, I say, because being the Duke of Southshire's son is proving to be far more of a burden than anything I could have imagined as a Paladin.

There are four of us going on this trip. I had planned for three, originally...Myself, My Lady Tfar, and my brother Kennet. Walking in front of me, surrounded on all sides by the ten guards I had to bring to accompany her, is the fourth person, Cordir. She's being returned to Southshire in chains, for a murder that any sane man wouldn't convict her for. The problem is, I'm not sure my father is necessarily sane anymore.

It's very easy to look the part of a Lord...I had that down even before I realized that's what I actually was. You keep your head up, your hand never straying from your blade, and people will assume what you are and get out of the way. It helps, in this case, that I've got a prisoner and ten men with me, as well.

I wonder how Kennet and Tfar are doing with their preparations... I especially wonder what Kennet's thinking about now. The last time Kennet was at home he was two... I still don't know much of fathers ranting and railing he remembers, offhand. He was the original reason I came up here, when I was old enough... I needed to know that he was all right. Turns out he's more than all right.. He’s become a master thief, the pride of the Mithas thieves’ guild. I'm still not quite sure how I like that, but he's my brother, no matter how many times father claimed otherwise.. And he's stuck with me and been more of a family than my father ever was.

The ship we're sailing on is elven-made, which means it's about five times as gaudy as it has to be, but functional to the core. As I watch the giants work at loading the ship, I have to marvel again at sea-travel...the sails and oars and all...I loved it since I was a child…almost as much as I love horses (not that there's a horse worth the name in this miserable northern land). But nowhere near as much as I love Tfar.

I wonder what father will think of my falling in love with a half-elf. I told Tfar it wouldn't be a problem, but some of that was simply to make her feel better. I'm not quite sure how father will take it, especially since I was supposed to marry Kiela. That name still brings a grimace to my face...a plain young woman; not in body, but in mind and spirit. But good blood, my father claimed, and would bear me fine sons... as if I were a horse or a prize bull. I can't help smiling when I think of the prize bull we had, one of father affectations, the one that caused his indiscretions to come back to haunt him...

The fact of the matter is I love Tfar, and she loves me. I've given her everything, and she's done the same for me. I don't think I could ask for a more capable helpmeet, and gods willing, a more capable Duchess to sit by my side.

"Sir?"

The voice startles me. When I originally came here I brought twenty-five men with me, against my fathers orders. In theory, we're all outlaws. The ten that are left are leaving their new lives up here to try and help me do what's right. Arigar is their captain...and the man who taught me swordsmanship and a great many other things.

"I'm never sir to you, Guard Captain. You know that. "

To my relief, he actually grinned. "Sorry Keller, but the prisoner’s attitude is a little infectious. She's got us reminding ourselves that you're the Duke's son, not just another runaway like us."

Nodding, I walk over to Cordir. "Cordir, will you look me in the eye again?"

A small, almost infinitesimal shake of her head is all the answer I get. A sudden flash of pain and terror, some new, some lacquered like layers of old paint, bores into my mind. I don't think it shows, but Arigar knows me too well, and his hand immediately slides to the hilt of his sword. I shake my head and he visibly relaxes. He's a man I'd want at my back.

"Cordir, you will allow the guard captain to take you down to the brig, where you should make yourself comfortable for the journey. Is that clear?"

Her voice is soft and definitely lacks the thunder that I remember from her. "Yes, My Lord D'Augustine."

As they take her up the gangplank, I turn heel and walk back toward the town...I've still got my own supplies to consider, and I wonder where Kennet and Tfar have gotten themselves off to.

Aboard the WindSwift, at port, First Day: Cordir

They say that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions -- at this point, it seems like I'm halfway there. Well, self-pity isn't going to help the situation; that's what got me here, thinking I would do the right thing, maybe wipe some of the slate clean. Tel's blessings upon poor Keller. It's not fair for him to suffer for my stupidity. I knew it was going to be bad, but nothing like this....In the name of all the gods, what have I done? Done to him, done to me, to Lady Tfar, Kennet...?

I must admire whomever has the rearing of Keller. Since I forced it on him in Tel's Temple, he has been every inch the Heir, Sir Keller Amberlin D'Augustine, nothing more, nothing less. But there is entreaty in his eyes, asking me to please, stop, and I can't look in them anymore, for I know I'll fail if I do.

I'm rambling, I know. My thoughts are disorganized, but at least I'm sane enough at the moment to realize that. The slight edge of manic is good, though, because it keeps me from going into a full dead run, flight, panic, madness, where my only goal is AWAY. I'm so good at running... and it's taking everything I have, all the dredges of strength I can call on, not to do just that. Though it is a gentle enough imprisonment, it’s bringing back the old night terrors, and the shadows that live in my soul and memory. Part of me wants to scream until I can't scream any more, smash myself senseless on the walls of the cabin, fling myself overboard into the embrace of the ocean. I'm very good at self destruction, and I am still struggling to decide if what I've done is simply a very good plot against myself or the first step to my salvation.

The movement of the ship is almost hypnotic... I can trance easily, but that tends to spook the guard outside, and it's not fair for me to make his life any more difficult. The men have been kind. Hard, but kind. I think Keller spoke to them, for they touch me as little as possible - a courtesy not generally given to criminal prisoners. They love Keller. I don't understand it. No, that's a lie. I do understand, I just don't want to. I've tried to avoid Tfar entirely. With some success; I guess word of my feelings reached her, for I haven't seen her too much since we boarded. That was painful enough.

Dear gods, it’s only been one day. How am I going to survive the rest of this trip? What am I babbling about.... I'm a murderess who fled the scene of her crime, destroyed evidence, has no remorse, and won't testify on her own behalf... what the HELL am I thinking, babbling about survival? I know what's going to happen. I've created the situation for myself. I should get some sleep. It is going to be a long night.

It's strange, but I really hope it's Keller that does it. At least it will be done with love.

Aboard the WindSwift, at port, First Night - Cordir

So much for a peaceful exit from the port. I guess we’ll be leaving some time tomorrow or the day after, now.

There was trouble tonight, as we were about to leave. Something between Keller and Tfar, with some Conclave mischief thrown in for good measure, and something between Keller and I, as well. It was .. it was the most terrifying thing that has ever happened to me, other than the first time I heard the Triat’s memories and voices in my head. I was sitting in the brig, listening to the quartermaster shouting about load placement, when I heard a…a calling. It was clear and strong and wordless, but I knew, knew with every particle of my being, that Keller was in some sort of trouble and needed my help. It shook me. Badly. I didn’t want to think what it meant, my knowing. Once I stopped shaking, I slipped my shackles, and picked the lock on the door. It was only a moment’s work to become invisible, then I dashed up the ladder to the deck. I must have made some sound as I did, for a guard was just a few steps away when I opened the door. I dove over the side before he could stop me. Keller knows full well how easily I could escape if I chose… until now, I’ve not done so, and been worthy of his trust. Now… ? I’ll have to wait and see.

I returned to the Great Ceremonial Chambers in Midgaard, as swiftly as I could, and sent word to Keller that I was there. I was more concerned about his Guard Captain chasing me down then Keller’s anger at my disobedience. I know that Arigar would kill me in a heartbeat if he thought I posed a danger to his lord, and that there was a better than even chance he would consider my flight as such. I was nervous waiting there, and attracted a lot of attention, which I tried to ignore. Fortunately, Keller soon appeared, and bid me follow him to Tel’s Temple, which I did.

When we arrived, he immediately left to go and speak with Tfar, but asked me as he left, a hurt look in his eyes, if perhaps I would stay, and wait for him to get back. To wait as a friend, not a prisoner. I agreed. Several hours later, he returned. We spoke for some great lengths about the situation. I tried very hard to be objective, but had heard ugly rumors about Tfar while waiting for Keller in the Ceremonial Chamber, and I didn’t want him to get hurt. He assured me that the matter was resolved with Tfar, and their love was as strong as ever. I was glad, but still troubled by the rumors of what one of the High Council of the Conclave was planning.

I’ve never really gone into detail about my dealings with the Conclave with Keller… I instinctively knew it would deeply upset him. He doesn’t need to know how close I came, in my despair over being rejected by Thaygar, to joining them. I still spend a lot of time in the Crypt, speaking to the Lich. We’re almost on what might be called.. friendly terms. But I wander again… When I heard what Sadow, the Grand Shaman of the High Council had planned for Keller, I tried to stop him. I asked him, courteously, as a favor, to discard his plan. Sadow refused, of course, and said that his plans for Keller were his own, and he would do as he pleased. I had known from the start he would refuse, and that I was likely putting myself in grave discord with the Conclave, but… I had to try. I just didn’t want Keller hurt any more.

Since we had already missed the evening tide, Keller resumed his usual post in the hallway of the Guild. I knelt by him, despite his protestations that I return to the ship for safety’s sake. Several of the High Council wandered by, then returned to look at me. Sadow spit upon Keller, then me, and mocked Keller. Keller simply shrugged it off, while I wondered what mischief was brewing. I soon found out. Sadow sent word to me that the High Council had met and ordered my execution. I immediately went to the Crypt, and spoke with Sadow. He scorned me, refused to listen to anything I said, and wouldn’t even accept back the gifts that the Lich had given me. He swore that the matter would be settled, and the gifts regained, when Zara’s hammer ripped through my soul. I then sought out Azra, and spoke with him for a time, and tried to learn what crime I had been charged with. Azra was polite, but firm. The Council only needed a single individual of the six to call a Blood Hunt, and until Sadow himself rescinded the order, it would stand.

I removed my three most prized possessions… the token of Khore’s kiss, and the two gifts Ivarr gave me. I asked Keller to hold the Kiss for me, then sought Ivarr. I returned his gifts to him, then asked him to accompany me to the Crypt. There, I slew myself. As always I was resurrected in the Temple of Mangar. It’s a horrible thing, being able to die over and over. Death is cheap, but it is not pleasant, by any stretch. I returned to the Crypt, thanked Ivarr for watching over me, and, lifting up my own cooling corpse, walked in. The Lich was there, speaking to a postulant. We spoke then, the Lich and I. It was tense, angry. I tried to remain calm, and with the blessings of the gods, was able to do so. The Lich thundered his fury - how dare I aid the enemy? I asked how I had done so, and said that I was only talking to Keller, much as I talked with Him. He informed me icily that his Grand Shaman had informed Him otherwise. Salem appeared, and I repeated my statements to him. From what I was able to gather, Sadow had claimed that I had set a magical warning alarm to aid Keller . I again stated that I had not, and had never raised a weapon, magical or mundane, against the Conclave. The Lich ignored me from that point on. Salem coldly ordered me to “drop the filthy corpse,” which I did, accepting the curse that I knew was their intent. Cold inside and out, I departed the Crypt, and swiftly returned to Tel’s temple.

The rest of the night has been, comparatively, pretty peaceful. I spent most of it trying to feel clean again after my trip to the Crypt, and talking with Keller. We argued - again - as we seem to do so well. This time it was about whether or not I should go to Southshire alone. Having realized what a terrible burden it was putting on Keller, I wanted to go by myself, after he was gone. He refused, again and again, and since I don’t remember the way, I eventually had to acquiesce. Pestis provided some very wise if forcefully given, advice, deepening my already boundless respect for her. I think he won the majority of the arguments, since here I sit in chains with Arigar personally standing the watch outside.

I think I’ve convinced Keller that I need to face Zara before we leave… he muttered something about the tides being wrong for departure tomorrow when he bid me good night, just now. I’m scared. I don’t want Keller to know that, but I’m really scared. He doesn’t understand why I don’t just let him kill Zara, but that would be as honorable and responsible as letting him stand trial in my place in Southshire. (Not that he hasn’t thought of that, too.) I’ve got to do things for myself, and stop just blithely wandering along. Accept responsibility for everything. And if that means I die, again, well, I guess I die again. It may be horrible, but it’s not unknown…. But the thought of walking into the room tomorrow, with the High Council of the Black Conclave of Lord Nash watching, knowing what Zara is going to do, and so enjoy doing… it makes me fear. I just hope I can deport myself in a manner both Keller and Thaygar would be proud of. Maybe even I could be proud of…

Aboard the WindSwift, (Day Two)

No personal records made.

Entry in the Personal Journal of Keller Amberlin D’Augustine

Aboard the WindSwift, at sea, Third Day
I once read somewhere that confession is good for the soul. I don't think I ever realized it until last night. After everything that happened I feel somehow lighter...a bit freer than before. I guess it is true that evil lies in the heart of every man....I'm a bit surprised at the tone mine took, however. I must have scared the hell out of poor Cordir...

The ships rolling gently with the swell, letting the breeze catch the sail fully and whipping the flag on the mast. I feel a big weird about flying that flag again...it's been rolled up at the bottom of my saddlebags for a long time. A white heart on field of red, with a sword across the top of the heart and a golden rose entwined about it. My flag, with my personal seal. A representation of everything I left for.

The sailors are competent men...I suppose some of the ones I turned away must have been too, but their hearts....sometimes I really wish I didn't have the seeing eye. Looking out at where Cordir is sitting (with Arigar in tow...he blames himself for her escape...I don't understand why, but then again I guess I'm more used to dealing with mages than he is) I really, really do wish I didn't. It's easier to think of your foe as just that, your foe...when you can see into them, feel some of what they feel, it makes it that much harder to do what you have to. And sometimes I've had to be so very, very cold to do what I've had to.

Well, like it or not we are on our way. I can't say as I'm exactly happy to be going...there is a lot of bad blood there...an awful lot. And this whole thing with Tfar...I trust her, but it's still a hard thing to hear. I'd much rather it have come when I'm not busy trying to juggle lord and lover and paladin and not managing to successfully do any...

Things would be easier if I'd just grown up some dirt poor farmers son, like I used to claim.

Aboard the Windswift, at Sea, Third day: Cordir

“Arigar, may I speak with you?” The Guard Captain looked over at me, startled. “I really need someone to talk to… about Keller, and well, you know him better than anyone else does.”

He nodded warily, and stepped over to where I sat on a pile of rope. “I know this is a little odd. I don’t behave like a proper prisoner, and I ask snoopy questions, and I disappear into thin air. I’m sorry if you feel you failed Keller, when I escaped, but…it wasn’t your fault.” I gave a small shrug. “If nothing else, I’m the sneakiest bitch you’ll ever meet, and I’m a witch, which means I don’t always play fair.” I called on just enough magic to make myself slightly transparent for a moment, then released the spell.

Obviously my words and actions were doing nothing to ease his mind, as he drew his knife and began whittling at his nails. I tried again. I’ve never been very good with words, but this was important. “Arigar, do you know what crime I’m being brought back to face trial for?”

He nodded. “Murder, is it not? Your father?”

“Step-father, actually. But yes. I’m a murderess. I’ve killed someone in cold blood. But.” My gazed locked on his, and I willed him to believe my next words. “I will not deliberately hurt Keller. He is perfectly safe.” I sighed. “Well, physically anyway. I can’t promise I won’t hurt his feelings or his heart, but it won’t be with malice, Arigar. He and I seem to be very good at emotionally battering each other. But I will not lay a hand on him, ever again.”

Arigar stiffened, and the hand holding the knife subtly moved so it was more en garde than engaged in nail cleaning. “Again?” he asked icily.

I nodded. “I hurt him last night, because I… I needed him to hurt me. I felt like I deserved punishment, so I put him in a position where his instinctive training took over, and he struck back. Look, I know what you are thinking,” I continued, as he rose to his feet. His posture was clearly ready for anything and I knew that explanations aside, he would never, ever trust me near Keller. I would always be categorized as a threat. “There’s nothing I can say to reassure you. I just wanted to try to clear the air a little. Let you know why some things have been as they have been, if that makes any sense.”

I stood and stretched, stiff from sitting on the hard rope coil. Drawn to the railing, I gazed out at the sea and tried to absorb some of its boundless depth and calm. Sea birds wheeled about, screaming, and I longed to fly up and join them. My word of parole kept me firmly on the deck, heavier than any anchor.

“I’m sorry, Arigar. That’s all I can say. I’m sorry I ever met Keller, sorry our lives became so entangled. Sorry I’m on this trip.” I sighed. “I’m sorry I ran away and caused you so much distress last night.” Silently he joined me at the rail, and we gazed silently at the water for a moment.

“Once upon a time, there was a girl.” He looked over at me quizzically, not dropping his guard, but curious. I continued. “She lived with two people who did not love her. She called them parents, but never really believed that that was what they were. When she was four, she broker a platter and her father beat her with a horsewhip. Her mother watched and did nothing. The beatings became regular.” My voice changed, not of my own accord, into a flat recitation. “When she was five, her father raped her for the first time. The rape and the beatings continued for many years. Every time he .. hurt.. her, he told her that he did it out of love, that she was a bad girl, and he did it for her sake. She believed him, of course. What child wouldn’t? When the other villagers - and later the local guards - asked about her wounds, she told them she’d only fallen down, as her parents told her she must.

“When her woman’s blood came for the first time, dreams came with it. She didn’t understand them, and when she told her mother of them, her mother told her that she must be possessed, a witch. The beatings increased. The dreams became more frequent and - horrible as they were - they were something better than reality, so she gave herself to them and withdrew from the world. She awoke from them only when the beatings were worst and when she lost the unborn child her father had sired upon her. One day as she woke, she had a moment of perfect clarity. She knew what she had to do. She found a weapon, and hid it beneath her pallet. Then she lay back down. When her father came to her that night, as she knew he would, she slew him. The dreams had shown her how.

“She didn’t know what to do, then, so she ran. Threw the knife and the body down the well, grabbed what little food and belongings she could scrounge, and before her mother returned from her shift at the whorehouse, the girl ran. She gave herself wholly to the dreams, and wandered mindlessly for a very, very long time.

“One day she found herself in Midgaard. She found shelter, and joined a temple that brought her a great deal of peace and joy, and she locked away her past. You see, five years had sped by while she wandered, but she had not really lived that time. Not grown. Inside she was still a twelve year old child, spattered with blood and worse, fleeing from what she had done. She decided that feelings were bad. They only hurt her. So, she renounced them.” I smiled sadly, remembering that day. Before my courage could falter, I continued.

“One day she met a Paladin, the embodiment of passion and life. She confused and intrigued him, this girl who wouldn’t feel, so whittled away, bit by bit, until he got past her defenses, got into that locked box of feelings and emotions and broke it wide open. Suddenly she was five years old again, a bad girl being hurt because he only wanted to care for her. But for her, love equaled pain, and so she fled from him. She broke down emotionally and mentally, but he gently brought her back to sanity with caring and compassion. She found he was well and truly inside every one of her walls and she didn’t know how to deal with that. She panicked and struck back, struck hard. She fought like a desperate thing, running, then turning and striking, and running again. She fought with words and she fought dirty. When that didn’t work, she battered him physically and forced him to strike a mortal blow. Forced to kill something that he considered innocent, he broke, just as she had."

“Shocked, she couldn’t run any more. She was responsible for the destruction of something more precious and sacred than anything she’d ever seen before and she … well…. She realized how much she cared about him. He had shut every bit of caring, compassion, goodness and love up in his own locked box and there they would stay until something freed him, and took away the horrible facade that has risen in their place. His pain was her fault, and she had to fix it. I don’t need to go into detail how, but let us just say that as familiar as she was with madness, she knew what she had to do to save him. And so she did it."

“These two combatants know each other well, now. They can hurt each other with a single glance, or word, or even thought. They’ve brought each other back from madness and despair. They’ll keep hurting each other, I’m sure, but it’s never done with malice. They’re connected on a level they can’t escape any more. Flight doesn’t work anymore, denial is pointless. I don’t know how the story ends for the little peasant witch -- we’ll have to find that out in Southshire -- but at least maybe you understand how she feels about her companion.”

Drained by the telling, throat parched by speaking so long and withheld tears, I stared out at the dappled waves. Arigar was silent, and we stood there like statues for a long time. I suppose I must have tranced, as I was startled when a warm cloak was laid over my shoulders. The sun was setting in the distance.

“I, ah… best get you out of the wind, Lady. I promised Keller I’d take proper care of you. Can’t be disobeying orders, can I?” Arigar’s voice was hoarse. He wouldn’t meet my eyes, but offered his arm to me. I took it and we walked down the deck towards my cabin. I could see Keller standing on the foredeck, watching. His concern was a physical presence, warming me, but it seemed he knew I needed the distance. I touched my hand to the cloak clasp he’d given me and smiled at him. He nodded, and turned away, staring out to sea much as I had done.

Arigar paused as he left me at the door to my cabin, then turned back. “Keller knows, doesn’t he?” His voice was almost an entreaty, a hope that that there was someone else that bore the burden of the knowledge he now had, someone he could share that burden with. I nodded. “Then he’ll speak at the trial?”

I shook my head no. “It’s for me to tend to, Arigar. Keller promised me he would keep my secrets, and I’m holding him to it. I don’t know what I’m going to do, just yet, but …. We’ll see what comes. I’m not running anymore.”

He nodded, troubled further, and bowed stiffly. I closed the door, and sank down on my cot, gratefully hiding, at least for a little while, in sleep.

Aboard the WindSwift, at sea - Later that same night

"Ma'am."

The voice sounded unusually soft, as though it were unaccustomed to speaking in the tones it was using, Cordir noted as she stretched in her bunk, trying to chase sleep out of her eyes and figure out who the man-shape next to her bed was.

The shape stepped into the beam of moonlight that shone through the window, revealing itself to be Arigar. "I'd like to talk to you for a second or two, Ma'am.. if you don't mind."

Cordir sat up, wrapping the cloak she'd been using for a blanket about herself. Flashing him a brief smile, she nodded and he sat down on the stool he'd brought down to the aft bunks with him.

"I talked to Keller, Ma'am. He's quite taken with you, you know." He spoke with the quiet knowledge a man gets through knowledge of the world, the kind of knowledge that comes with time and experience. "He's even convinced that he might be able to get them to let you go...." His eyes got wistful for a moment, and he grew quiet. The only difference between Arigar and a statue was the small puffs of breath that could be seen in the crisp night air. When he spoke again, his tone was almost reverent.

"We were trapped and surrounded by orcs, Ma'am...holding the black banner." Cordir had no idea what the black banner was, or what it meant, but it almost seemed that Arigar was in a trance...and she had never been foolish enough to snap people out of trances.

"There were 28 of us, out of a company of 100...it was supposed to be a simple skirmish, an idea of battle for young Keller so that he'd know better than to run at the sight of men fighting. There were the better part of 4 clans under the black banner, with their priests chanting praises to Nash in their guttural tongue. They overran us like water does a dam in the spring...and the only people left were the ones around Keller. I thought we were done for, and I'd started making my devotions to Ivory Tiger for a safe journey to the last home." Here he briefly touched a bone carving of a tiger that dangled about his throat in what seemed to be a ritual gesture of some sort. "Keller, he takes one look at the orcs, looks past `em and sees a hill with a ruined house atop it, and says quietly, 'Gentlemen, I mean to have the high ground if I'm to die.' Then the strangest thing happens, M'lady..."

The use of the honorific startled Cordir a bit...it seemed that they bred men to be well mannered in Southshire, at least the nobility did, rather. The musing almost made her forget the man’s words, but now they came crashing back to her.

"...he's walked straight into the orcs, with them slavering about him and grunting like the pigs they are...when he starts glowing. I've never seen anything like it, M'lady, in all my born days. And where that glow went, it was like the orcs just withered up and blew away. He cleared us a path slick as you please, one hand on his sword and his eyes full of fire. And we made it to that hill, and scattered the orcs to boot. When we got there, he got off his horse and kneeled down and prayed for about 15 minutes... prayed as much or more as any man I've ever seen. Then he looks right up into my eyes and says 'I'm to go north and be Tel's sword in this world, Arigar. Do you think I'll see Kennet while I'm up there?' And he turns his horse around and begins walking towards the docks. I'm still not quite sure why we followed, M'lady." Here his voice had the quality not only of reverence, but of awe. "But if Keller Amberlin D'Augustine ordered me to walk into Hell itself, M'lady, and give old splitongue Nash a piece of ice, I'd do it even if he had an army in the way. And I'd get that piece of ice there."

As he finished talking, a slight flush came to his face. "I don't know why I told you all this, Lady, except that maybe you'll see that he can help you with your troubles. I had most of the raising of him from when his mother died, and even I never thought..." Here his eyes grew wistful again. "Lady, a woman could do far worse than to love Keller D'Augustine...and a man would have to be a damn fool to serve anyone else." With that he got up, picked up the stool behind him, and left the room.

Cordir leapt to her feet, after a momentary battle with the cloak, and sped to the door. "Arigar...please... a moment?"

The soldier paused, rubbed his hands over his eyes wearily, and returned, still holding the stool.

"Yes, M'Lady?"

She flushed at the honorific, and didn't meet his eyes for a moment. When she spoke, her voice was husky with tears. "I've told you my story. You know more about me than any alive, with the exception of Lord Keller..." She paused a moment, collecting her thoughts. "Arigar, I don't believe in happy endings. I never have. But Keller does. And he so desperately deserves one. The Lady Tfar is a big part of that."

She paused again, struggling to put into words the weight that had dragged on her heart the last week. "I'm a peasant witch, condemned by the law and myself, half-insane, tainted by more than even Keller knows. I do.. care.. for Keller. That's why I keep myself so distant. I .. honor him, and respect him. And that's why I hold myself as far away as I can. There's only been two other beings that have ever mattered to me, and one is the God that abandoned me. The other.. well... is another story. I don't know what name to give my feelings for Keller. But I do know one thing... the Lady Tfar is his fiancée. Keller is hers. That is... a sacred and beautiful thing, and I will let no shadow of a crazy little peasant witch bring any dimming to that light......." She shrugged helplessly. " I can't. It would be as bad as what happened the other night when I attacked Keller, and made him.. what he was for a time. Of which, I will not ever, EVER speak." A powerful shudder wracked through her, and it took her a very long moment to compose herself.

She turned back towards the nominal emotional safety of a room where she could lock the door, and keep the night-horrors out, and clenched her hands on the door frame.

"That's all, really, Arigar. Go to bed."

She shut the door behind her, then waited for his footsteps to recede down the hallway. Then she slipped back out, and walked out onto the deck. The wind was a second cloak around her, physically caressing her, but it gave her no comfort. She leaned against the cabin walls, and gazed up at the moon. Half to herself, half to the man who was not there to hear it, she whispered, "Why do you think I wanted Tel to take away my feelings? Why do you think I was going to join the Conclave... I wouldn't be near you, then..." But the still night gave no answers, so she awaited the coming dawn, that might...

Interlude #1: Tfar & Cordir / Cordir & the Conclave

Tfar tells Cordir 'Do ye know of the treehouse near half elf?'.

Cordir tells Tfar 'No, but I will find it, somehow'.

Tfar tells Cordir 'no wait..tell me of a place that would be good for thee...'.

Cordir tells Tfar 'I'm in the small cabin in the forest... where from here?'.

Tfar tells Cordir 'ok will be there in a sec'.

TITLE: Cordir…… perchance to dream

ExarKun tells Cordir 'perchance it shall never end'.

Cordir tells ExarKun 'I wish to sleep for eternity, and never ever wake again... *small sad smile*'.

Tfar has arrived.

Cordir bows before Tfar.

Tfar curtseys gracefully for Cordir.

Cordir kneels. Cordir extends her manacled hands towards Tfar.

ExarKun tells Cordir 'escape perhaps?'.

Cordir says 'Lady, I have wronged you. With no intent, with no wish to do so...'.

Tfar says 'fol me?..and please do not kneel...'.

Cordir tells ExarKun 'Nod...'.

Cordir follows Tfar.

Tfar comforts Cordir.

Tfar leaves west. Cordir follows Tfar.

Tfar leaves up. Cordir follows Tfar.

Tree house -- [Exits: south down]

Tfar is here. Tfar says 'not safe exactly.. but quiet'.

Cordir kneels and bows.

Tfar says 'now...I do not know why ye think you have wronged me...'.

Tfar lifts Cordir up off the ground.

Cordir whispers, "Keller."

Tfar sighs loudly.

Cordir says 'I had no intent, or wish for him to care about him...'.

Tfar says 'What is between you and Keller is there through no fault of your own...'.

Cordir bites her lip.

Tfar says 'you did no wrong...'.

Cordir says 'And it is wrong!'

Tfar says 'why is it wrong? '

Cordir says 'I have sworn an oath to Lord Thaygar. One of silence. I will never speak with Keller again'.

Cordir says 'Arigar is very angry with me'. Cordir touches her bruised face and split lip.

Tfar says 'can you tells me of this oath..'? And what did Arigar do to you?'.

Cordir says 'Arigar struck me'.

Cordir says 'It is wrong because it lessens Keller... lessens his sacred oaths as Paladin, his oaths with you. That is WRONG'. Cordir shudders in pain, emotional and physical.

Tfar says 'it does not... How can it be wrong to feel?'.

Cordir says 'HOW CAN IT NOT!???'.

Tfar says 'and Arigar had no right..'.

Cordir says 'Love ... this can't be love. Love should not lessen… It should not hurt so badly'.

Tfar says 'You only think it does...'.

Cordir rocks back and forth gently. Cordir weeps.

Tfar comforts Cordir.

Cordir says 'I don't want to love him. I don't want him to care for me. I want things to go back the way they were. I want to die'.

Tfar says 'they cannot be....'.

Cordir says 'Poor Keller... all these mad women following him around, tearing at his heart...'.

Cordir halfheartedly chuckles. Cordir says 'Spyder spoke with me yesterday'.

Tfar says 'Well Spyder was hurt…. but hers was only a crush… .she will find another...'.

Cordir says 'I don't think so. She joined Tel to be closer to Keller'.

Tfar smiles happily. Tfar says 'why do you think I followed Splat?....wanted to be closer to Jerald...'. Tfar grins happily.

Cordir says 'I don't know this Jerald of whom you speak.'.

Tfar says 'Jerald was my mentor long ago'.

Tfar says 'But it is Keller I love more than my own life....'.

Cordir nods. Cordir unsheathes a blade. Cordir hands Tfar the blade hilt first. Cordir bows her head.

Cordir whispers, "My life is yours, Lady Tfar."

Tfar says 'Why do ye give me this?'.

Cordir whispers, "I have dishonored you, and Keller, and myself."

Tfar says 'Your life is your own Cordir'.

Cordir shakes her head. Cordir says 'no.'.

Tfar says 'you have dishonored no one.. no matter what ye may think'.

Cordir says 'I have.'.

Tfar says 'Cordir...why do you think you have done so wrong?'.

Cordir shrugs. Cordir says 'I... can’t seem to explain.. Ask Arigar...'.

Cordir leaves the Treehouse.

Tfar tells the group 'why do you ... *sigh*'.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Recall Room:

Styx says, “Follow me.”

Styx leaves west. Cordir follows Styx.

Hallway

[Exits: north east south west]
Styx is here.

Cordir bows deeply.

Cordir tells Tfar 'I confuse myself, lady... *smile*'.

Cordir kneels.

Tfar tells Cordir 'Death will solve nothing.. it never does'.

Cordir tells Tfar 'It is what honor demands, Tfar.'.

Styx utters the words, 'gaiqhjabral'.
Styx is surrounded by a white aura.

Tfar tells Cordir 'what good is honor when it furthers evil?'.

Styx utters the words, 'wjhz'.
Styx's pound misses Cordir.
Styx dodges Cordir’s attack.
Styx's pound grazes Cordir.

Cordir tells Tfar 'Honor simply is... it is neither good or evil'.

Cordir rests.
Cordir is already fighting!

Styx dodges Cordir’s attack.
Cordir dodges Styx' attack.

Styx utters the words, 'gsufuhjar pawwzf'.
Styx's spiritual hammer DISEMBOWELS Cordir!

Cordir rests. Cordir is already fighting!

Styx dodges Cordir’s attack. Styx's pound grazes Cordir.

Cordir rests. Cordir is already fighting.

Styx looks at Cordir.

Styx dodges Cordir’s attack.
Styx's pound grazes Cordir.

Styx utters the words, 'gsufuhjar pawwzf'.
Styx's spiritual hammer DISEMBOWELS Cordir!

Attempting to flee...

Recall Room [Exits: west]
West

Hallway [Exits: north east south west]
(White Aura) Styx is here.

Wimpy set to 0 hit points.

Cordir says 'forgive me'.
Cordir dodges Styx's attack.
Cordir’s pound injures Styx.
Styx's pound grazes Cordir.

Tfar tells Cordir 'Honor is often misjudged and misdefined'.

Cordir’s pound injures Styx.
Cordir dodges Styx's attack.

Styx utters the words, 'gsufuhjar pawwzf'.
Styx's spiritual hammer mauls Cordir.

Cordir says 'Automatic defenses. It will not happen again.'

Hester has arrived.

Cordir’s pound injures Styx.
Styx's pound grazes Cordir.
Cordir sure is BLEEDING!

Styx utters the words, 'gsufuhjar pawwzf'.
Styx's spiritual hammer devastates Cordir!
Cordir sure is BLEEDING!

Styx dodges Cordir’s attack.
Styx's pound grazes Cordir.
Cordir sure is BLEEDING!

Hester utters the words, 'judicandus dies'. Cordir feels better!

ZARA has arrived.

Cordir kneels.
Cordir moves her hair off her neck.
Cordir waits for the death blow.
Styx utters the words, 'gsufuhjar pawwzf'.
Styx's spiritual hammer MASSACRES Cordir!
Cordir has been KILLED!!


( Cordir stands up and returns to the Guild Hall.)

Hester tells Cordir 'Got your corpse'.

Styx leaves west.

Cordir tells Hester 'Bring it to Hallway, please'.

Hester has arrived.

Hester gives Cordir the corpse of Cordir.

Hester looks at Cordir.

Hester utters the words, 'judicandus dies'.
Hester utters the words, 'judicandus dies'.
Cordir says 'DO NOT'.

Hester utters the words, 'judicandus dies'.

Cordir says 'Hester, stop'.

Ceremonial Room [Exits: east]
Bop is resting here.
Styx is here.
ZARA is here.
Sadow is flying here.
Asia is resting here.
Bali is here.
Tokugawa is here.

> Give Corpse Styx - Styx can't carry that much weight.

> Give corpse sadow - Cordir give corpse of Cordir to Sadow.

Hester tells Cordir '*scratches his head and looks really confused*'.

Tfar says 'Cordir.... did you mean to break the oath?'.

Cordir says 'Did I mean to break my oath to Thaygar?'.

Sadow tells Cordir I’m dropping your corpse in the Ceremonial Room if you want it'.

Cordir tells Sadow 'It is the Conclave's..'.

Tfar says 'yes...or were there circumstances necessary'.

Cordir nod. Cordir says 'It was necessary for Keller's sanity, according to Arigar'

The corpse of Cordir is lying here.
Cordir gets corpse of Cordir.

Tfar tells Cordir 'oaths are not meant to destroy...'.

Cordir tells Tfar 'well... it was necessary .. so I broke it, and I'm Outcast now, by Thaygar'.

Tfar tells Cordir 'was not your actions helping Keller honorable though?'.

Cordir tells Tfar 'yes, but I broke the oath, and honor is all I .. had.. left.'.

> TITLE: You are Cordir......Oathbreaker, Outcast

Lorna tells Cordir 'What's the meaning of your title?'.

Cordir tells Lorna 'I broke an oath to my liege lord, and as a result, I am Outcast.'.

Tfar tells Cordir 'I suspect honor is not all that you had left...since Keller is so torn by being made to aid you self destruction'.

Cordir tells Tfar 'I am not asking him to do it... I released him from all bonds, debts, and obligations when I became Outcast'.

Tfar tells Cordir 'You two need to understand that honor is nothing if you are dead'.

Cordir tells Tfar '*whispered softly* Honor is everything'.

Cordir tells Lorna 'Until such time as my penance and honor-debt is cleared, I am Outcast'.

Tfar tells Cordir 'why? I am trying to understand… forgive my prying'.

Lorna tells Cordir 'If there is anything my Tigers may do to aid you in clearing your debt, just ask.

Cordir tells Tfar 'If a girl is raped, her body is violated but her mind is still her own. If a woman's mind is raped, her heart is still her own. If her heart is gone, all she has left is honor'.

Tfar tells Cordir 'no one can take your heart… no matter how dead you feel it is still there and still yours'.

Cordir tells Lorna '*bow* My thanks, Lady, but the matter is a personal one... only I can restore what has been lost'.

Tfar tells Cordir 'Honor is not simply based on one action or one oath'.

Tfar tells Cordir 'Is your sense of honor so restrictive...so limited in scope?'.

Cordir tells Tfar '*sad smile* well, I suppose it is... the oath was given to Thaygar'.

Tfar tells Cordir 'so your whole sense of honor is based on one oath?'.

Cordir tells Tfar '*sigh* No... but... Lady, I cannot apparently explain... forgive my inability.'.

Tfar tells Cordir 'Nothing to forgive. I am not making it easy on you. I am sorry'.

The Mausoleum of Molo, the Arch-Lich

[Exits: east]

The Unholy Codex of the Arch-Lich rests on a pedestal here.

> drop corpse

Cordir drops a Corpse of Cordir. As it hits the floor, it vanishes in a flash. A thundering voice screams, 'HOW DARE YOU DESECRATE HOLY GROUND!' Great fear overcomes you as your soul screams in pain.

Cordir smiles sadly.

Cordir shout 'Lord Nash, You who are the Perfect Expression of the Wyld, I hope my pathetic corpse pleases You.'.

Spayde tells Cordir 'morning <bow>'.

Someone shouts 'Did does not. You should work out more. *frown*'.

Cordir tells Spayde '*bow*'.

Cordir bow deeply.

(Cordir leaves the Conclave temple)

Tfar looks at Cordir.

Cordir says 'Good bye, for now, Tfar'.

Cordir says 'It appears the debt to the Conclave is still unsatisfied..'.

Cordir says 'Ah well'.

Tfar says 'NO'.

Cordir says 'Perhaps they will learn honor someday'.

Cordir says 'I will see you on the ship, Tfar..'.

Cordir bows before her. Cordir leaves.

Aboard the WindSwift, at sea - Fourth Morning: Keller

My mind keeps spinning around in circles. I'm so good at that lately, of making myself bounce from point to point along a a daisy-chain of half-truths, whims, desires, what ifs...what ever happened to the truth? One woman loves me, and I love her...but disturbing rumors pop up that this might be a marriage of convenience...that she really doesn't want to marry me...that it's just duty that drives her. Kinda like what's keeping me out here, staring out over the water on this moonlit night. The other woman...

"Keller?"

Arigar's standing there, concern written in the harsh lines of his face. Cordir told me once that Arigar follows me out of love.. I think it's more a sense of pride and accomplishment...most of what I am is through his teachings...and he feels like it's worth it. I nod, slowly to him. "Honor to Serve, Guard Captain."

The formal greeting startles him, I think. I just don't have the heart left in me to honestly try and be friendly with even those closest to me. My time with Tfar showed me that. His reply is dripping with concern, as I knew it would be. "Honor to Serve, Sir Keller."

After a time sitting there staring out over the water, he turned to me. "Permission to speak, sir?".

"Granted, Guard Captain."

"Keller, what the hell's gotten into you?"

"She won't talk to me anymore, Arigar. She says she's coming between Tfar and I, and compromising my paladinhood. And her bloody oath to Thaygar," the name sounded like a curse even to my ears, "won't let her talk to me because of that."

"Keller, she's just trying to keep you happy...she thinks that she's bad luck, and..."

"Arigar, she's broken me...as soundly as she did before. I'm holding it together better...I guess I'm finally realizing what a cold-hearted place this world is...but I don't think I can feel... the way I used to."

Arigar nodded. "Keller..." he seemed unable to speak for a moment, then found his voice again, "Are you in love with her?"

"Yes."

"You don't even know which one I mean."

"It doesn't matter...the answer’s the same for both. I feel guilty, and betrayed, and like I have the weight of the world...and I'm scared, Arigar... I'm failing them all...I'm failing you. And I've long since failed myself."

I drew the bloody sword...the damn unbreakable thing. "I used to me like this...nothing fazed me." I couldn't help but laugh...little did they know that they, the both of them, had proven to be the sword, and me the whetstone.

"Keller, I..."

I shook my head. "I'll do what needs to be done, Arigar. But I don’t know if I honestly care about any of it anymore."

Arigar turned and left me, his face troubled. I tried not to think about that as I looked out at the crashing waves over the bow and tried not to think of how heavy my armor was… and how much it'd weigh me down and give me peace. Suicide is not my way...but I'm starting to understand the temptation.

Aboard the WindSwift, at sea - Same Morning: Cordir

The banging was furious on the door to the room. As Cordir turned to open it, the door was pushed out of her hands and Arigar strode into her chambers, a look half anguish, half hatred on his face.

"What the bloody _hell_ did you say to him, woman?" The tone of voice left no doubt as to who the him was. "He's sitting out there on the bow of the ship, just staring...looking like he'd like nothing better than to toss himself into the ocean. He said you won't talk to him. What the HELL happened?"

Cordir took a deep breath, one she hoped wouldn't let Arigar see the worry, "I was...protecting him, Arigar. He's compromising himself."

Arigar snorted. "You obviously have no idea about men, girl." The words weren't meant to bring the memories crashing down, but they did. Arigar didn't even notice as he continued. "All you've done is stripped him of any will to live. The only thing keeping him alive right now is duty, girl. And duty won't keep him alive for very long." His voice got low and dangerous. "You've killed him, surely as if you'd actually knifed him when you said you tried. But this is even worse...a man with spirit might survive a wound.. a man without any looks fine, but dies a little bit every day inside."

His face was cold. "Was this all part of some plan of yours to kill yourself, girl? Get the poor boy to fall in love with you, break his heart, take him down with you? Did Thaygar," -- the name was spat out as if it were a bitter taste that he didn't want in his mouth -- "tell you to do this? To destroy what's the best hope for Southshire, maybe the world? Or..." his voice grew, if anything, more angry. "maybe Thaygar was worried that his little prize might be thinking for herself, might actually feel something for once...maybe he was worried that he'd lose you. And this way, the cold hearted bastard got his wish. You'll never talk to Keller again, and run back to the cold bastard's arms. Keller's destroyed. ..nobody can save him after this...and maybe you'll finally get the death you want, eh girl? Is that what you wanted?"

The man leaned back, obviously waiting for an answer. He caught a glimpse, just for a moment, of the pits of Hell in her eyes. Rage, hurt, fear, despair, then it was all gone. The eyes went flat, as did her voice. She dropped into a boneless kneeling position on the floor, and pulled out the manacles she'd kept as a reminder of her promise to Keller, slipping them on.

"Guard Captain, I have nothing to say about Heir D'Augustine."

Her head rocked back with the force of the blow. Whatever response she was expecting, it wasn't that. She landed in a boneless sprawl, and cringed against the cabin wall, drawing her legs up into a fetal position. She rocked back and forth for a moment, then seemed to stop only through an act of will more powerful than any he'd seen on any battlefield. Blood dripped freely from her split lip, and she spat out a tooth. Slowly, she regained her position, then composure, then looked at Arigar, and turned her other cheek towards him. She held herself rigid; even in his anger, he could see what the effort what the effort was costing her.

When she spoke, the words fell into the silence of the room like pebbles dropped into a pond. "I would throw myself overboard in a heartbeat, if I thought it would fix the situation. I'm not seeking my death by emotionally torturing him. Can't you understand? I don't want Keller to love me. I don't want to love him. He's a paladin. He's some one else's. He's the Heir and I'm a peasant criminal. And I may have done some bad things in my life, Arigar, and you can curse me to the deepest pits of hell, but if you ever say another black word against Lord Thaygar..." here her voiced fell to a whispered hiss. "I swear by the Wyld Itself I will kill you. He gave me no command! He bade me take no action! All I did, I did on my own, to serve Honor. I am supposed to be a Weaver, Arigar! Do you know what that is? We must BE honor, not merely prate about it." Here, her fury abandoned her, and she whispered, "And I find it dishonorable to… to love him. It's wrong. Its a victory for the darkness to make him less a Paladin, less Tfar's love. He'll survive me going. He can survive anything. And he'll survive it better than if I were to stay. But I won't love him. I won't let myself. If speaking with him makes him love me, I won't speak with him. And if just being around him makes him love me, I won't be around him. And if simply breathing makes him love me then I. Won't. Breathe. Do you understand, Arigar? I'm not trying to make him less... I'm trying to prevent that. Let Tfar tend his soul, he's hers!"

She turned her head to the wall, and let the tears come, not in wracking sobs, but a silent release that was unseen and unheard, and prayed for obliteration.

Arigar, his fury spent, spoke haltingly at first.

"The Lady was a good woman...no matter what you hear of her. She cared about both those boys...until he came home and took one away. And as if that weren't enough..."

He stopped, as if startled about what he had been about to say, then thinking about it, resigned himself to the fact and continued. "The duke… used to beat her. Every day, calling her a whore, showing the boy, he said, how a man treats an unfaithful wife. Every day for two years he'd beat her in front of the boy, then force himself on her at night. He left the rearing of Keller to me, and I told him...." his eyes drew inward for a second. "I told him that the fault was not his mothers, or his, but in his father...that the sin he tried to beat out of the Lady couldn't be, because it wasn't in the Lady, it was in him. When the Lady gave up living, and died...Keller felt abandoned. His father turned to a bevy of whores both in profession and in spirit, and ignored the boy entirely. I could do nothing...I was guard captain...I'm as much a commoner as you. Keller treats me, and the other men, as equals because in his eyes we are...but in reality, we're just professional soldiers.

"Everything Amberlin's ever loved has left him. Even Tfar...there are tales that are told sometimes, tales that make me think of the grand schemes of court, where position was secured by marriage. He doesn't believe them, but it's my place to put stock in anything that could hurt him, M'lady. I can't shield him from pain...he's a grown man and has to learn to deal with life himself. But I serve him, M'lady. Honor to Serve isn't just a catechism with Keller. He means it...both in the sense of serving his honor, and in the sense of serving others. He'd die in your place, Lady...he'd die for any one of us, I think.

“And he is very much in love with you. No matter what you want to deny, so are you with him. And if that diminishes his paladinhood, then so be it. Keller Amberlin is more important than Sir Keller... and I think if you asked Tel he'd say the same. As for Tfar..." he stopped.

"That would have to be something for the two of you to work out, wouldn't it?"

Cordir gazed up at Arigar, numb. She gazed about the small cabin, searching for some way to explain, some way to avoid saying what she had to. Finding nothing, to aid her, she shrugged in resignation and spoke. "I've seen what happens when Keller tries to separate what he is from what he does. He became a mad, cruel, vicious beast, who... who threatened to cut my tendons, beat me for attempting to escape, and force me to....whore." She visibly forced her gorge back down.

To her surprise, he just nodded. "He told me about this...he was frightened, and worried, and scared like he'd been when he was a little boy. And he told me who brought him back, Lady. He's holding that off better this time...but not much. I think whatever you saw...that's what he's becoming. He said you wouldn't leave him even after all the horrible things he did and said...why are you going to leave him now?"

Her body and voice shook as she continued. "You cannot take the lord out of the man, the Paladin from the lover... they're all there together. They're all part of what makes him what he is. You follow him for that... you told me, when he first exhibited his Paladinhood. Would you have followed a lesser man all of these years? You spoke of it with awe, and now you say its no matter if that Paladinhood is lessened? That, Arigar, is madness! Can I allow someone to destroy sacred oaths for me? No. Can I allow another woman to be hurt for me, because he wants us both? No."

"With all due respect, Lady, someone's going to be hurt in this no matter what. He's slipping away. Eventually, perhaps, he'll choose Tfar. Maybe he'll choose you. Maybe he'll go on and do something else. But as it stands right now, he's no use to anyone as a paladin or a man. And the man comes first, Lady. If you have to lose the paladin to save the man, so be it. If you try to save the paladin, the man will surely die, and you'll lose both."

A halfhearted shrug. "Arigar... forgive me, but I must be blunt. I am not capable of physical intimacy with Keller. I can bear him no Heir. My womb was destroyed by my father. I don't let him touch me, because my nerve channels carry only pain, not pleasure, and when he touches me, it hurts me. I am an emotional cripple who has fallen hard for the first person who ever showed caring and compassion to her. That is no fit Lady for him. Tfar is. I am wise enough to see that. And as much as it hurts to walk away, it hurts more to see him hurt by me."

"And what you're doing now isn't hurting him? It's killing him as surely as a sword or poison. Except in this case, I think what's happening is he's hiding himself away.. building walls where he can... running. He's enough of a tactician to know how to fake it...but not to those of us who know, Lady. If you'd just talk to him.." he withered a bit under the warning glare, then finished quietly, "you just might see that."

She down at her hands, and tried another path. "Is it love? or is it obsession? I don't know. I don't know emotions well enough yet. I don't know my heart, I don't know what Keller's feeling. But I can tell you that love should not diminish... it's not suppose to make you be less... I know that much. If Keller is willing to stretch sacred oaths to a breaking point... that's not love. Gods come first before mortals... I will not take him from Tel. I will not take him from Tfar. I won't... Arigar, I can't.... can't you understand? Why can't he understand...? I swore to Thaygar I would not do anything to lessen those two relationships... Tel and Tfar... and that if I thought I was, I would go. What can I do? Its obvious that I am, and so my oath is activated... I can't break it, because if I did, it would lessen us both. Love shouldn't. We're both so tempted to do things that lessen our honor, lessen our moral convictions... that can't be love, is it? And if it is, I want nothing to do with it...."

Arigar looked surprised. "M'lady, Keller is the Paladin of the lord of Passion. How can falling in love diminish that? Even the pain he feels is in some way a passion...in simply living, in being human, he's following the dictates of his god, as he's told them to me." Once again he touched the bone statue. "I've been a loyal follower of the white tiger all of my life...but sometimes I can't wonder if maybe Tel's way is better...to serve your god not through sacrifice, but through simply living. And besides..." Here he actually smiled a bit, his rough face lighting up briefly, " from what I understand, Tel is made of passion, or is passion, or some such thing. And passion is a mortal device. So perhaps in Tel's church, the mortals are more important than the god. I don't know.

"What I do know, M'lady, is that I am asking you humbly to please go try and talk with him. I'll swear on my blade to whatever you wish, if you'll just promise to talk to the lad. I'm not asking you to marry him... just talk this through with him. Maybe something will work out that will save all of you. Maybe not. But I've been a good duke's man " it was evident that the Duke he referred to was not the present, but the future claimant to the throne, "for most of my life. I'd do anything for him, Lady." His eyes looked pleading for a second. Then his normal face of impassivity dropped down.

"I've spoken too much, and forgotten my place. I'll of course be outside should you need anything, M'lady."

With that he strode out of the room, hand on sword.

She lunged up off the floor and caught him at the door. Her eyes were black with emotion, and her entire body shook. "All right. You win. But know the cost, Arigar, of what you ask. I lost my innocence to my father, my mind and reason to the Triat, my soul to Thaygar…. my heart to Keller. All I had left for myself was my honor, and my word. You've asked me to break that. So be it. But you will have to help me live with the results of that." She stepped out into the hallway ahead of him, slammed the door in his face, magically locked it with a word, and strode down the deck to find Keller.

Interlude #2: Cordir & Keller:

Cordir enters the room, and bows to Keller.

Keller says 'what changed your mind?'

Cordir says 'Arigar.'. She holds up her finger, requesting a moment.

Keller actually takes a look at her.

Cordir kneels, and raises her hand. She says 'I am an Oathbreaker, and thus, the Outcasting can be called upon me. Honorless I stand before you. Honorless before peers. Honorless before gods. I acknowledge this Outcasting, and thus seal the rite and my fate.'

Keller frowns. Keller says 'what does that mean, exactly?'

Cordir says 'It means I have nothing left, Keller.'.

Keller says 'what do you mean? You have life...'.

Cordir say 'My father took my body. The Triat took my mind. Thaygar took my soul. You took my heart. I now revoke honor. Speak, Keller Amberlin D'Augustine, and I will answer.”

Keller says 'you took my...'.

Cordir nods.

Keller says 'why didn't you tell me? Is that why you did all this?'

Cordir says 'How could I? You are a PALADIN. You are TFARs'.

Keller says 'I don't know if I'm her's anymore.'

Cordir says 'And I am a peasant witch'.

Keller says 'we had a talk earlier today..'

Cordir nods, saying says 'As did she and I'

Keller says 'it left things...ambiguous. If I may ask?'

Cordir say 'Did she speak of it?'

Keller shakes his head. Keller says 'When last we spoke... she had said she had tried, but you hadn't wanted to talk to her.

Cordir says 'I wonder if I spoke with her before or after you did. We spoke in the treehouse. She said some things I cannot fathom, that troubled me too much. I left.'

Cordir, you notice, is black and blue all over one side of her face, with a split lip.

Keller nods. Keller had noticed. Keller says 'did she strike you?'

Cordir shakes her. Cordir says 'Arigar'.

Keller gasps in astonishment. Keller says 'but....we never..'

Cordir shrugs. Cordir says 'I deserved it'

Keller says 'it's...'. Keller shakes his head. Keller says 'NO. You did not.'

Cordir says 'I angered him past angering. I am good at that'.

Keller says 'there is NO excuse for striking a woman.. EVER. He's the one who taught me that... He will be punished.'

Cordir shrugs. Cordir shake her head. Cordir says 'There's nothing wrong with giving a rebellious girl a little discipline'.

Keller says 'I've broken it once or twice...but only in the line of duty.'. Keller frowns. Keller says 'and is that what you were?'

Cordir nods.

Keller says 'what did you talk about?'

Cordir says 'You. What else? He would do anything to protect you'.

Keller says 'and he thought you were...'. Keller frowns.

Cordir says 'I refused to do what he felt was necessary to aid you. I went to my knees and informed the Guard Captain that I had nothing to say on the subject of Heir D'Augustine. He was displeased.'

Keller says 'I hate this trip more and more.' He frowns and says “let me take a look at that…” With a surprisingly gentle touch he turns her head to the side and looks at the wound.

Cordir flinches.

Keller says 'mostly bruises...'. Keller frowns. Keller says 'I understand it might hurt.. but try and be still. The laying of hands won't work if my hands leave your face.'

Cordir says 'Nothing big. Just a tooth. I've had much worse from a far more skilled hand. Don't touch me'.

Keller says 'I just want to heal it..'

Cordir says “It gives me something familiar to cling to. Something external to concentrate on, so I can deal with what is inside'

Keller sighs loudly and says 'isn't there anything happy in your life? And what is inside?'

Cordir says 'Pain. So much I don't know what to do with it any more. I think we're both on the edge of madness and it will only take the lightest touch... I followed you today, to avoid going to the Crypt. Passion does have an opposite... It is the Lich'. She shrugs and says 'But I promised Arigar, so here I am…’

Keller says 'you hate me that much?'

Cordir whispers 'No. I love you that much'.

Keller says 'Cordir... I just want to make you better...whole again.. I want you to be happy.'

Cordir says 'It's not possible, Keller.'

Keller says 'Anything’s possible.'

Cordir shrugs. Cordir says 'Perhaps for you. I'm sorry. I'm trying, but the Outcasting is making it difficult'.

Keller frowns. Keller says 'then what do I need to do...to take that away?'

Cordir says 'The Outcasting strips me of something.. a part of my soul that deals with honor and my relationship with Thaygar. I am no longer part of the Triat -- The Outcasting shatters that -- and the Triat was all that I had left'

Keller says 'then what must I do to return that?'

Cordir says 'You can't.’

Keller says 'Anything, Cordir, is possible.'

Cordir says ' I was a Weaver. Only the Weaver Herself can return it'.

Keller says 'then I shall speak to her.'

Cordir says 'And only Thaygar can grant me audience. I have broken my bonded oath, blooded oath to Thaygar Himself. I am fudir, an-fudir… Outcast, Oathcast. And all hands may turn against me'.

Keller says 'it was my oathbound subject that forced you to this... and you are my subject as well...'

Cordir says 'You, Paladin, Keller, D'Augustine, have NOTHING to do with it'.

Keller says 'I have a responsibility to put things right, if I can.'.

Cordir says 'You will leave it alone. LEAVE IT.’

Keller says 'no...'. He says softly, “Friends don't do that. They support each other’

Cordir says 'It is the price I pay. Do I interfere between you and Tel? Is it right for any to come between a God and His Paladin?'.

Keller says 'if the paladin is slipping into madness... yes.

Cordir shakes her head. She says 'No. This is between the Weaver and I. Between Thaygar and I. We will speak of it no more'.

Keller says 'Then may I at least accompany you?'

Cordir shakes her head, saying 'No.'

Keller frowns.

Cordir says 'You are not of the Triat'.

Keller says 'no, I'm not, but I am your friend, and I would help you, if you'll let me.'

Cordir says 'Do you wish me to leave? If not...Change the subject. Now.'

Keller says 'no, of course not.'. Keller sighs loudly. Keller nods.

Cordir says 'Actually.. Just listen. May I work magic upon you, Keller D'Augustine of your own will?'

Keller says 'depends on the magic.'

Cordir says 'May I work magic upon you, Keller D'Augustine of your own will?'

Keller says 'I am...protected against some things. That may interfere. But, I trust you, Cordir.’

Cordir says 'Then...' She lays her hand gently over your heart, flinching slightly. Cordir takes a deep breath. Cordir speaks in a tongue you do not know. "Il laiste il tencammen, J'trystali, Sh'shalla, en triste. From my heart, to yours.. The spell is wraught.'

[Mind to mind, she shows him, from her perspective, everything that has been spoken between Arigar and Cordir that day. ]

Keller sits down and thinks deeply. Keller says 'you did this for me.'.

Cordir says 'The Outcasting?' Cordir nod.

Keller says 'he was right, you know...'

Cordir says 'He said many things... what was he right about?'

Keller says 'that I was slipping. I still am, a bit.'

Cordir says 'That is why I am here now, speaking with you'

Keller says 'and he is right that I'm good at hiding it. Paying attention to who am I, instead of why I am...it keeps it away. Duty over substance.’

Cordir says 'Well.... I don't quite know what to do. I don't know what is between Tfar and you. I don't know what is between Tel and you. I was making many assumptions. Arigar suggested I ask you'

Keller says 'Tel and I... Tel knows everything. I have no secrets from him.

Cordir says 'I was... am... convinced that you caring for me is a stain on your paladinhood'.

Keller says 'Tel also knows that if a passion is so strong as to be more important than my service to him.. I will quit my paladinhood, but not my worship.. the following is more important than the ordainment.. and we are not called the Passionate for nothing.'

Cordir says 'I was and am convinced that caring for me will damage your relationship with Tfar'.

Keller says 'as for my relationship with Tfar.. Einskaldir's words created a crack.. and subsequent events haven't sealed it.'

Cordir says 'And I neatly stepped into the fissure... Worsening it.. Thus enacting my promise to Thaygar.'

Keller says 'I don't quite know what will happen there.' He nods, and says 'I've.. always been a little in love with you, you know. I am, with a lot of women.'

Cordir says 'That...might prove dangerous.' She narrows her eyes a bit.

Keller says 'I have always conducted myself in a manner befitting a gentlemen.'.

Cordir says 'I spoke with Spyder'.

Cordir says 'I am certain you have'. Cordir stands abruptly and paces the room.

Keller says 'until now, I guess, and I've been trying not to be my father.'.

Cordir says 'You have not been less than gentlemenly with me'.

Keller says 'Just because a woman catches my eye, doesn't mean I lift her skirt.. even back when I had that power. I've always had a lot of him in me.. he...mistreated my mother.'.

Cordir folds her arms across her chest, nods, and says 'I know. I heard from Arigar.’

Keller says 'most of my life has been an attempt not to be like him. and now...I guess the apple didn't fall far from the tree, did it?'.

Cordir says abruptly, "May I speak for a moment...?"

Keller says 'of course.. I apologize for not letting you get a word in edgewise.'.

Cordir says 'But first... to address that last.. It is a pile of shit. But….. My point I was going to make is this: What do you want from me? I need to know, now, spelled out'.

Keller says 'quite frankly...I don't know what I want.'.

Cordir says 'Decide'.

Keller says 'I don't know if I really feel anything, anymore.'

Cordir says 'Do you want an arguing companion? A whore? What...?'

Keller growls. Keller says 'I AM NOT MY FATHER, CORDIR.'

Cordir smiles softly. Cordir says 'My point exactly, Keller. Thank you for making it for me'.

Keller says 'you aren't a whore.'

She nods. Cordir says 'I am'.

Keller sighs loudly. Keller says 'why is it women...'. Keller shakes his head. `Never mind, that was an inappropriate comment, and I won't continue it.'

Cordir says 'What do you think I did for the five years I wandered, when The Triat held my mind? I remembered, the other day, when ... when someone called me that.'

Keller says 'people change.'

Cordir shrugs. Cordir says 'Nonetheless... What do you want of me?

Keller says 'and I'm telling you I don't know.'.

Cordir says 'I cannot be your lady...And I will not be your whore. What else is there?’

Keller says 'why can't...why can't you be my lady?'.

Cordir says 'Because Tfar is'.

Keller says 'I don't know anymore.'

Cordir says 'Because I'm a peasant criminal witch, whom your father will be passing judgment on shortly'.

Keller says 'And? You hide behind that like it's some kind of shield against me.'

Cordir says 'Because I cannot bear children, and I cannot stand to be touched'.

Keller says 'I am not a prize bull.'

Cordir says 'I would make a rather poor bedmate, Keller, And I would kill you if you were mine, and you strayed'. Cordir shrugs. Cordir says 'What is mine, I keep'.

Keller says 'I don't stray.'

Cordir says 'That is what I don't understand about Tfar… She seemed to feel it was no matter if we loved.'

Keller says 'then maybe...what they said was true. I don't know.'

Cordir says 'She said it didn't lessen anything. I don't know. I didn't let her speak'

Keller says 'you should have.'

Cordir says 'I offered her my life for the dishonour I brought her. She refused. I can't seem to get anyone around here to kill me.’ You sigh. Cordir says 'I'm not very good at it, I guess'.

Keller says 'Is that really what you want? Still?'

She shrugs. Cordir says 'Oblivion is a beautiful thing, Keller.... We both seek it right now to some extent'.

Keller says very quietly, “If it is...I'll grant it. I want you to be happy.'

Cordir says helplessly, "I have nothing left, Keller. Nothing. I have no home, no family, no friends, no god, no heart, no honor.... I am Outcast. And I don't even know if the one thing that gives me any hope can ever be mine. I simply... am... right now'.

Keller says 'will this make you happy? Cordir, I just...' Keller puts his face in his hands, not crying, but not moving either.

Cordir takes a step towards him, but then stops. Cordir forcibly turns away. Cordir clenches her nails into her fists.

Keller says very softly, “The blade is balance... it can be used for life and death.. The greatest gift a swordsman can do is take the sword, the blade of death... and turn it to life. That is the mark of a true swordsman.” His voice dropped to a whisper. “I'm no longer a swordsman. I'm a clumsy oaf with a sword.'

Cordir says 'No. That you are not, my beloved. You are a man, tortured by one who is more skilled than any you have ever met at hurting those she loves. And you're hurting. And I'm hurting. And we can give each other no comfort. And it's breaking us'.

Keller says so softly it's almost missed, “Sometimes I wonder why M'lord made pain.. it seems so unfair, sometimes.'

Cordir says 'It has been my sole and constant companion all of my life, Keller.. I know pain well. Better than joy, better than hope.. And it is harsh, but it is .. fair...'.

Keller says 'Why don't you feel anything but pain?'. Keller looks up at you. Keller says 'why?'.

Cordir says 'I stand here before you, love lost, heart broken, Outcast, Oathbreaker, because I fear to lose pain, because I know it. It is blessedly familiar.'

Keller says 'So if I taught you joy... or tried to... maybe you'd be better.'

Cordir says 'Pain is part of what I am. Dispair, hurt, anger..’

Keller says 'You're human, Cordir...hope can be part of that too. Otherwise, you'd want for me to kill you. You would have jumped at the chance.’

Cordir tries another way to explain. Cordir says 'I do, Keller, Even now, I do. But I know what it cost you the last time, and I'll not do that to you. If I need to die again..’

Keller says 'last time you stole it from me.'

Cordir says 'I will die again. I will not involve you. I won't make you do it. And I release you as my executioner in the matter of Southshire'.

Keller shakes his head. Keller says 'I'm sworn.'

Cordir says 'And I hold the oath, and I release you of it. I am the only one who can. And I do so'.

Keller says 'I don't know what to say...'

Cordir says 'Nor I'.

Keller says 'I'm just a jumble.. you understand that, don't you?'.

Cordir says 'I know. I'm just empty. We're quite a pair'.

Keller says 'Cordir...I don't want you to die.'

Cordir turns towards Keller. Cordir walks across the room slowly. Cordir looks up into Keller’s eyes, searchingly. Cordir slides her hands up his chest and into his hair.

Keller says 'if you want to die, I want to be the one to do it.. but I don't want you to die.'

Cordir pulls your head down.

Cordir whispers, "Shut up, Keller." Cordir kisses Keller lightly, reverently. Cordir shudders in pain. Cordir takes a step back. Cordir touches her lips and smiles wryly. She nods. Cordir says 'I'm going to go now, all right? I think we both need some time and some space'.

Keller says 'I'd rather you didn't... but...'

Cordir says 'Do you not have things to attend to? It was my understanding that you did. And.. by the way... 'You might wish to help Arigar out of my room. I wizard locked the door. If you do not need to go... Then I will stay.’

Keller says 'I don't... not quite yet, anyway.'

Cordir says 'Do you forgive the kiss?'

Keller nods. Keller says 'I didn't mind it at all, Cordir...thank you.'.

Cordir says softly, "are you sure Tel wouldn't take this away if I asked him to?

Keller says 'he can't.'.

Cordir says 'I'll keep some of the emotions'.

Keller says 'Passions are for people to endure...'

Cordir says 'My old friend pain, anger ... just have him take the love away. If I begged, would he? I've never begged for anything before. I'll beg for this.’

Keller says 'it doesn't matter... He can't. I wish he could too.’ Keller bows deeply.

Cordir says 'He can cool it to the point where it would seem gone'.

Keller says 'No, Tel can't.'.

Cordir says 'I know that He can... He does...'.

Keller shakes his head. Keller says 'You do...not Him.

Keller says 'I..I need to go.'

Cordir says 'Go.'.

Keller leaves the room.

Interlude #3: Cordir & Thaygar

Cordir tells Thaygar 'Master, may I speak with thee?'.

Cordir tells Thaygar 'Of course, Lord.... I will await Your convenience'.

Thaygar tells you 'ready when you are'.

Cordir tells Thaygar 'My Lord, I... I broke an oath.'.

Thaygar tells you 'free to talk in this One's quarters?'.

Cordir tells Thaygar 'Nod'.

Thaygar has transferred you.

Thaygar's Office [Exits: west]

Thaygar is here. Thaygar smiles happily.

Cordir bows deeply.

Thaygar says 'What oath?'.

Cordir says 'The oath I gave you regarding Keller'.

Cordir kneels and bows her head.

Thaygar says '?'.

Cordir says 'He spoke.. words that showed me his feelings'.

Thaygar nods.

Cordir says 'In accordance to my oath, to protect Tfar and his Paladinhood, I swore not to speak with him. I returned to the ship ... know You of that journey?

Thaygar says 'Only that you got out/came back and remained reticent a long time.’

Cordir says, ‘There, his Master of Arms came to me and spoke.. Arigar said many things, but they boiled down to one thing.. That if I refused to speak with Keller..

Thaygar nods quietly.

Cordir says 'That it would drive him mad, beyond recovery. I resisted, and spoke of my oath'.

Thaygar nods.

Cordir says 'Arigar spoke harshly of You, my oath ... of me...But that is not at all important'..

Thaygar grins wickedly. Thaygar is used to being spoken of harshly.

Cordir says 'What is.. is that I broke the oath given to You, with all of my belief behind it. I broke it. I am ...'.

Thaygar says 'a liar'.

Cordir says miserably 'Ashamed'.

Thaygar nods.

Cordir says 'I have done the ritual of Outcasting upon myself. I know the depth of what I have done'.

Thaygar nods solemnly.

Cordir says 'And I ask Your judgment and punishment'.

Cordir is empty-souled.

Thaygar would agree.

Thaygar says 'if you were Wyld, this One would laugh and praise you'.

Cordir whispers, "I love him, and it is destroying us both."

Thaygar says 'Do you wish to be Wyld?'.

Cordir weeps silently. Cordir says 'NO. That was not my wish… I had hoped...'. She sighs. Cordir says 'Hope is gone'. Cordir bows her head.

Thaygar says 'Breaking an oath as a Wyrm can be done, but carries consequences. Breaking an oath as a Weaver is unforgivable'.

You nod. Cordir says 'I know, Lord.

Thaygar nods. Thaygar says 'Then you only have one debt of honor to seal. You must show this One that your word is worth heeding'.

Cordir whispers, "I know not that I am worth heeding, My Lord..." as tears roll silently down her face.

Thaygar says ‘Devise a task of sufficient weight to absolve yourself, swear that you will do it, and then fulfill it. That will absolve you'.

Cordir bows until her head touches the floor of the Temple.

Thaygar says 'spend time if you wish. Once atoned for, you dishonor will be past, and until then it is all that exists, so there is no rush. Until then, good day, Oathbreaker'. Thaygar bows before you.

Interlude #4: Cordir & The Conclave

Thaygar has transferred you : Recall Room

Azra has arrived.

Cordir says 'Lord Azra?'.

He raises an eyebrow and says 'Lord eh? Sure. What's up?'

Cordir whispers, "Does the Conclave wish to slay me today?"

Avarice looks at you.

Cordir whispers, "I rather wish they would..."

Azra says 'I really have no clue about that Cordir'.

Cordir weeps. You nod.

Azra says 'you were the one who informed me'.

Cordir says 'I don't particularly wish to live right now. The death would be welcome.'. Cordir turns her face to the wall.

Azra looks at you. Azra says “What happened to your restrings?”

Cordir says 'I had but one'.

Avarice says 'oh really?' Avarice grins evilly.

Cordir says 'The Blocking was returned to Molo. The Kiss of Khore is held by someone to be returned to Khore, I had no others'.

Azra says 'I dont want to kill ya, nor order it so...I dunno the answer to your question'.

Cordir says 'All I had at the time of pronouncement was given to the Temple. I just ...want to die, Azra. I don't want to live'. Cordir slides slowly down the wall. Cordir hides her face in her hands. Cordir weeps.

Hawkwind holds Cordir. She viciously slap him across the face. Cordir says 'DON"T TOUCH ME'.

Hawkwind says 'ouch! Sorry!’ Cordir shudders. Azra chuckles, evidently amused.

Hawkwind says 'sorry Cordir'.

Cordir say 'Please, Azra? I'm begging.’ Azra gives no answer.

Cordir kneels on the floor before Azra. Cordir bows her head to the floor. Cordir sighs. Cordir stands slowly, like an old woman. Cordir bows before Azra.

Azra leaves.

Note: Rite of Absolution:

My Honored Lord Thaygar:

I wished to make known to you the Rite of Absolution I have Chosen for myself. It shall be my life, my every waking moment until completed.

In the Name of the Weaver, for the sake of Honor:

  • I shall seek and regain the Ebon Hand which I once bore, the key to Your Temple, through quest or sacrifice, from Lord Nayr, who holds it currently, and when regained, return it to You, as I am no longer worthy to bear it.

  • I shall seek and regain the Sigil Odegra which I once bore, the symbol of the Order, through quest or sacrifice, from Lord Nayr, who holds it currently, and when regained, return it to You, as I am no longer worthy to bear it.

  • I shall seek out an Amulet of Blocking, and through quest or sacrifice, earn a Renaming of it to “The Embrace of the Triat”, and when that is done, sacrifice it to you, as I am not worthy to bear it.

In the Name of the Wyld, for the sake of blood and life:

  • My life, taken by my own hand, offered up to You.

  • My life, given freely, taken by the individual for whom I broke my oath, offered up to You.

  • My life, given freely, taken by the Yochol, as the closest physical avatar to the Weaver in Her aspect of Lolth offered up to you.

In the Name of the Wyrm, for the sake of self-growth and mastery:

  • I will go to Southshire and face trial for my crimes, taking without complaint what punishment comes.

  • I will deal with the High Council of the Conclave, and settle, now and forever, the charge brought against me.

  • I will, after completing all of the Tasks for the Wyld, Ascend to 17th.

I pray that this Rite of Absolution pleases Thee, and will inform Thee when it is fully completed.

Respectfully Your servant,
Cordir


Poetry (TFC Note Postings)

For Keller, by Cordir For Cordir, by Keller
I stand on the topmost edge of a precipice,

Heart beating fast, mind awhirl in my head.
Before me gapes myriad dangers unknown -
Their inky depths hungry, ready to enfold and devour.
Behind me, the well known paths I have taken -
Comfortable, safe, secure… a prison in their own right.
Gazing about, ethereal images dance before me;
A blade, a crypt, a trio of shadows, all beckoning, calling…
There is one in that darkness who holds my soul in his hand,
Standing on empty air, telling me to trust.
To dare all, to step off familiar roads
And to go where I have never gone before.
Seeking inward for answers, I find only questions.
My heart - a treasure box, the contents scattered -
years for safety, oblivion, hurt-numbing emptiness.
Yet within it, like Pandora, I find a tiny scrap left,
A dim light in the darkness called hope.
Clutching it to my breast, I fix my heart on my dream,
And step off, into the unknown…
Darkness and questions rise up to meet me.
Do I dare dream? And more insanely, follow them?
How can I follow heart and hope, when they’re such fragile things?
His voice comes to me, then, as I fall, alone in the shadows,
Giving comfort, enfolding me in his care and compassion.
He tells me to trust, to give and to receive that which I have never known.
What is this madness he speaks? More telling, why do I obey?
Could it be that this lowly caterpillar is finally daring to fly?

There is something in you,

a bright star trapped in a sea of blackfold terror,
grasping, screaming, gleaming under oilslick nightmare,
I reach for it, and every time my hand hits smooth glass.
But every time, it creeps closer, my heart grows warmer,
my mind begins to understand.
One day, dueling with words, wounding with metaphors,
you snapped, the walls broke, not just for you,
not just in your ways, but for me, and for forever...
when you rebuilt them, you trapped me behind them, gave me a key,
let me into your secret places.
You taught me the darkness that compliments my light,
You showed me that for all my pain, there is still greater,
You gave me your hope, and pinned it on my trust,
And you made me fall in love with you.
Is it any wonder, then, that despite your words,
despite the contrary notions of mind and duty and heart and soul,
That I choose to stay here, behind your walls, in understanding,
thought,
and love?


Aboard the WindSwift at Sea - Late the Fourth Day

There was no warning...simply a ship which materialized out of what seemed to be thin air, mere yards off the port side. As the ship floated closer, precisely placed fire arrows streaked across to the other side, lighting the ship in several spots. While the crew was busy putting out the fires, the ship got first one, then two grapples onto the deck, and dragged the two ships closer and closer together. Keller stood on the foredeck, glowing like a star as he fought the men that swung over, swinging with cool, calculated precision as they pressed him further and further back towards the bow of the ship. Arigar stood at his side, the broadsword he had kept sheathed the entire trip dancing like a deadly snake amongst the invaders. Kennet, his hands sprouting knives as if they were deadly blossoms, dispatched men with knives that grew out of their chests, their eyes, their backs...but suddenly he was knocked upside the head with a sap, and fell heavily to the ground.

Unearthly shrieks sounded from below the deck, causing many of the invaders to blanch. Slowly, winds whipping about her clothes like the fingers of a vengeful god, Cordir rose from amidships, fire springing from her fingertips and lancing over to the other vessel. But instead of lighting the ship aflame, they merely splashed along an invisible shield as the men on board the other ship launched a net, ensnaring her and dragging her, snarling and screaming like a wild cat, to the deck.

Keller felt the momentary touch of magic, and realized as both he and Arigar were surrounded by glowing shields that something was still being done. However, that was cold comfort as they faced the nearly 30 men amassed before them. The men seemed poised, eager...willing to fight to the last if it meant killing them. Keller raised his sword....and let it drop, mutely, at his side as the men parted, allowing a woman of uncommon beauty to walk past them. Her hair was raven black, so dark it almost had a bluish tinge to it. Her skin, as contrast, was almost alabaster white, and her eyes glowed a eerie, bewitching green. Her clothing was velvet, and her voice had the same smooth quality to it when at last she spoke.

"Still playing the hero, Amberlin?"

"Kiela, I..." Keller's voice was uncharacteristically culled. "We were told you were dead. If I'd known…."

"Spare me, Paladin...you know you never cared one bit about me. And I sure as hell know I've hated you since I first laid eyes on you.” Here her mouth quirked up in a mockery of a smile. "Your father will pay well to have his son returned to him, " She paused, running a hand lightly over the codpiece of Keller's armor. "whole..."

When her next spell went awry, bouncing off some strange anti-magic effect, Cordir's hand slipped immediately to the small dagger she'd kept hidden in the sheath at the small of her back. Her fury flared as the woman started mocking Keller, and blazed into incandescent fire when Kiela fondled him. Subtly, Cordir worked on the net that bound her, locking down her will against the fear that rose up to choke her at her helplessness. "I am not a child, I am not helpless, I can do what I need to do to survive," she told herself sharply, still working imperceptibly at the ropes of the net. "Thaygar and the Triat grant it, though, that bitch is going to pay if she lays hand on Amberlin again...."

Aboard the WindSwift at Sea - Late the Fourth Day - Pt 2: Keller

Even though it's noonday, the world somehow seems a bit darker, as though there was a shroud drawn over everything. Kiela, her guards standing at each side, immobile as statues, is staring at me with what can't be mistaken as anything but a predatory look. At my side, Arigar still holds his sword, and although I can see his face screwing up with effort, he can't bring himself to raise it against them. I should know, because my hand feels the same.

She grinned, even teeth of pearly white...but it looked more like a sharks grin than anything else. "A Paladin...my lord will be pleased with me, I think." She looked at the rest of the assembled people on deck, her eyes finally settling on Cordir. "And a servitor of the Triat...slumming, are we, Amberlin?"

"I told you not to call me that, Kiela." my voice sounds different in my ears...low and dangerous...I don't feel that way really at all...I feel mostly a bit scared, and alone.

To my surprise, she laughed, a whole, throaty laugh so alike and yet so different than the way I remembered. "Keller Amberlin D'Augustine, you are in no position to tell me anything. My lord has taught me many things...including how to prevent your natural magic resistance. There will be no help from Tel for you this time."

Aboard the WindSwift at Sea - Late the Fourth Day - Pt 3: Keller

The captain's chambers looked a lot darker than they had used to. I really don't like what I'm seeing. Kiela, sitting behind the captains desk, scrawling blocky script on sheaves of parchment and handing it to various servants, who took them out of the room. That done, she looked at me, lust filling her eyes. I should be used to it by now...I seem to get looked at like a piece of meat wherever I go. Her eyes above her head looked cold, though, and it was hard to repress a shiver. Arigar, standing against the wall at full attention, kept glancing at me as though I would snatch a sword out of the air and slash at her. And I'd like

nothing better than to do that...except that every time I think about it, my arm won't move. Some sort of magic, I suppose...although she never showed anything like this before.

To my surprise, she grinned. "I've learned a great many things since I disappeared, Amberlin... a great, great many things. Would you like to see some of them?" The lights flickered, dimmed, and flared up bright green, flashing with red and blue highlights.

"My Lord has taught me much, much more than that."

"Your Lord?"

"Nash"

Cordir's eyes grew slightly wider at the mention of the name. "Oh, not the avatar of perfection you claim him to be, servitor. There was a Lord Nash, of course, and he was the perfect being, but it's not like he really cares about the universe, or his paltry followers on this plane. In fact..." here she grinned a long Cheshire cat grin, "he's not even the person you think he is."

With that, they led us off to the hold of the ship, and put us up in chains.

Aboard the WindSwift at Sea - Late the Fourth Day - Pt 4: Cordir

Cordir shuddered at the touch of the cold iron shackles, forcing herself not to vomit, run, escape, flee, anything to make this not so. A strangled whimper escaped her throat, causing the guard to laugh harshly, and yank her down the corridor after the others.

Her eyes sought Keller's, and she drank in the wordless love and anger that shone there. Then he was pulled around a corner and she lost sight of him. She swallowed hard, and felt a tiny seed of calm blossom within her. A snippet of one of her talks with Keller flashed into her mind, easing her terror... "That which is given freely cannot be taken away," she thought to herself. "I give up my freedom, it is not taken. I can take it back when I choose..."

A muffled thud echoed up the passageway from ahead of her. She craned her neck to try to see over the bulk of the guard who dragged her along, but couldn't spot Keller or Arigar. As she was pulled around the corner, she saw the gaping maw of the hole in the deck, a split moment before they threw her down into it.

Landing half on Keller and Arigar, half in the slime of the lower hold, she saw stars for a moment when her head impacted the timbers. She opened her mouth to speak, to cry out, but nothing emerged. Panic rose up to seize her, but she fought it down with difficulty, and the comforting sight of her beloved. She nodded, more to herself, than to the others, affirming that some sort of Silence had been woven over the brig, perhaps to prevent her casting spells.

Keller's eyes brimmed with fury and concern, as he did his best to assist her to a more comfortable position. He tossed his head in Arigar's direction, who had apparently impacted the floor much harder than she - the Guard Captain was unconscious. She could plainly see how painfully tightly they had shackled both Arigar and Keller; hands behind the back, connected to a chain that went around their waists. Though Keller strained at the manacles, the only effect it had was to send rivulets of blood down his arms. Cordir shook her head, mutely pleading with him to stop. She felt for the knife she had made concealed and made invisible, and was comforted by it's solid menace.

Eventually, Keller stopped straining at the iron bonds, and stood leaning wearily against the walls, lips moving silently in a prayer to Tel. Cordir moved over to stand next to him, and laid her cheek against his chest. They swayed gently with the movement of the ship, in silent communion, until Arigar's movements alerted them to his return to consciousness.

Keller gazed pointedly at Cordir's hands, and raised one eyebrow in question. Could she escape? She bit her lip, testing the bonds. They weren't nearly so large as the one's Keller had used on her -- Kiela had obviously been prepared for the need to restrain a woman. But... she was nothing if not practiced, and desperation made her willing to do things that normally she would not. Drawing in a deep steadying breath, she twisted her wrists until the bones grated against each other and the cold metal that bound them. Then, quickly and deliberately, she wrenched her hand up and to the side, nearly blacking out at the pain of the tiny bones breaking. One hand free. She brought the cuffs in front of her, and looped her foot in the empty manacle, and shoved, ripping her other hand free. Darkness swam in her eyes, as she nearly passed out again, and Keller's mute cry of concern was felt in her heart, if not in her ears. When she was able to control herself, she looked up and him reassuringly, and shrugged, conveying perfectly that it was no matter, she had borne worse, while inside she she was howling in pain and fear. She was startled when she realized that his hands were glowing. His eyes met hers once again, and he nodded, gesturing at his bound hands with a toss of his head. Slipping her crushed hands into his, they were flooded with warmth, and the room with light, as he Healed her.

Smiling softly, she kissed him quickly, and then moved over to help Arigar to a position less likely to end in his drowning in the slime of the brig. Just as she had gotten the soldier settled into a kneeling position, a rattling echoed through the room. She gestured Keller to his knees, and quickly assumed a similar posture, holding her hands clasped behind her back. The grate was raised up, and a ladder dropped down, splashing in the bilge flow that swirled about their legs.

Two guards descended, then the woman, Kiela. Cordir's eyes burned with hate, and she grasped the blade concealed at the small of her back. Praying with all of her heart and soul, she consecrated the knife to Azat, Shan-Regoth, the Seeker of Filth, the Wyld. She summoned that Aspect of the Triat that had always been most abhorrent and unknown to her and channeled It's ugly menace into the weapon, pleading, with the core of her being to be given the chance...

Kiela smirked at the sight of them, and said mockingly, "How appropriate...kneeling at my feet. I've dreamed of having you there, Amberlin, and now... what's to stop me from taking my pleasure with you, or taking your life? Your Guard Captain?" She contemptuously shoved Arigar with one booted foot, sending him sprawling into the muck. "Or your little Triat witch? I think not.." Kiela raised her hand to slap Cordir, who took that split second to rise in one lithe movement and slash the blade across Kiela's unprotected throat....

Aboard the WindSwift at Sea - Late the Fourth Day - Pt 5: Keller

Cordir was up so quickly that I had no idea what was going on until Kiela had her wrist in hers, fighting for control of the knife. The two men started forward, but Arigar, supposedly knocked out, kicked with both feet, tripping one and causing the other to fall on the sword of his comrade. Flashing me a tight grin, he began to work his way over to the key-ring in the belt of the fallen guards. A muffled curse caused me to look back over at the two women. Apparently Cordir had slashed Kiela's arm, and thick red blood, almost black, dripped down the length of it. Kiela's eyes glowed green and her voice came out husky and dark.

"You all think you know the truth...but it's all a lie. Even the piteous followers of Nash follow only a lie. In their quest for perfection, they follow MY lord, MY master." A lightning bolt crackled from her fingertips, striking at Cordir. I could feel the hairs on my arms pick up at it's passing.

"Lord Nash did destroy the previous universe...one where MY lord ruled supreme. What better way, then, to wreak revenge than to pretend to be the paragon?" She grinned cruelly, and her teeth looked like daggers stuck into her mouth. "He taught me many many things, little witch...and I'll show you all of them."

I felt hands behind me and a familiar voice close in my ear "Calm, lad...she knows what she's doing. Let me get you free and we'll take these two oafs swords and do some damage."



Aboard the WindSwift at Sea - Late the Fourth Day - Pt 6: Cordir

Cordir was oblivious to the taunting of the woman who writhed against her. Her world was narrowed down to one thing - the blade, and her chosen purpose for it. Unbidden, unknown, called up from memories not her own, words not made for a mortal mouth poured out, like demons escaping from Hell itself. She didn't know what the words were, or their meaning, only that they opened wider the channel between herself and the essence of the Wyld...

She felt washed in a river of energy, fatigue and injury a thing of the past. Almost carelessly, she wrenched Kiela's hand from her wrist, and, her knife hand now unobstructed, carefully and delicately slashed down the length of Kiela's face. A cruel smile twisted Cordir's lips, and Keller felt his breath catch at the mindlessness of it. He knew that it was not his beloved who gazed out of her eyes, but rather something much older, that had not Walked the Realm in centuries.

"Serve thee the Darkness, Kiela?" Cordir purred, her voice as smooth as the dark water that flows beneath the Sender's Teeth. "Thou knowest little of the Dark... let me show thee...Thou dost use thy looks to entrap, like the spider in its web... no longer...." Another languid movement of the blade, and a second line of scarlet coursed down Kiela's face. A soft laugh rippled forth from Cordir's lips, a sound that chilled Keller and Arigar to their bones. "Thou dost use thy hands to weave bindings upon those whom you would command... no longer" A quick, deft flicker, and the delicate tendons of Kiela's trapped wrist were severed, but not the veins, maiming but not killing.

Aboard the WindSwift at Sea - Late the Fourth Day - Pt 7: Keller

Keller smiled almost ferally as the chains finally parted, and he felt the hilt of a sword pressed into his hands.

"Enough."

Both women turned to face Keller, glowing white in the darkness of the hold, a guards sword in his hands and a grim look on his face.

Cordir's eyes narrowed and she hissed at the blade, then attempted to resume her task of carving Kiela's face. Arigar stepped behind her to restrain her arm, the strain of holding back whatever power had her in it's grasp showing on his face.

"Kiela, you are hereby charged with piracy, murder, and high treason. You are also charged with.." Keller never finished the sentence as a sound behind him drew his notice. A guard had stepped out of the shadows, blade bared, ready to fight.

Ducking the swing and rolling, covering himself fully with the muck on the floor of the cabin, Keller came up laughing, his eyes flashing as the blade danced through forms, blocking, parrying, and thrusting. Both men rolled around on the floor, but neither could gain advantage on the other. Arigar looked on with concern, and subconsciously loosened his grip, allowing Cordir to break free and slash at Kiela's face yet again.

Keller, his attention momentarily gone, felt a blade slice through his arm and out the other side. Cursing with the pain of his useless arm, he shoved the man to pull the blade out, then ran him through with his own sword, feeling the shiver of his blade connecting with the man's bones. He then turned back to Cordir and Kiela, only to see a truly unconscious Arigar in the corner, and Cordir ready to stab Kiela through the throat.

"Cordir," he said calmly. "Put down the knife." Sweatslick hands gripped the wooden hilt of the sword as he waited for an answer.

She looked at him, almost startled, as if she had forgotten his existence, so enrapt was she with her game of cat and mouse with Kiela. Again, he saw the glittering Presence behind her eyes, as she smiled, a horrible mockery in the twist of her lips. "Paladin, I will have the blood I was Called to take..." and she turned back towards Kiela, the knife lifting.

Keller felt a wild burst of emotion batter at his mind, like the wings of a bird trapped behind glass. Fear, bloodlust, hope, love, all swirled into a maelstrom. Deciding quickly, he turned his blade and struck Cordir across the back of her head, reducing her to instant unconsciousness.

Aboard the WindSwift, at Port in Southshire - The Sixth Day: Cordir

When next she woke, it was to painful seizures wracking her body, much like it had felt when Keller had healed her scars. A guard was in the room, watching intently, and she felt the weight of chains on her wrists and ankles. She ran her tongue over lips cracked and dry. The movement of the ship felt somehow different, and she realized, after a moment, that they were no longer at sea, but rather at port.

"They'll be coming for you soon. Prepare yourself, prisoner," said the guard.

She nodded, then flinched as the slight movement sent nausea flooding through her. Her head felt like dozens of tiny sadists stood inside with needles, plunging them into her brain. A rattle of a key came from outside, and the door opened......

(End of story: Mud log of the Court/Trial scene not available: held in the Court of Inquiry, with Duke D'Augustine, Keller and Kennet present.)