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Works By S. S.

Prince Nytheun Annals Ymd Eras Of Miashunes & The Epithecesh The Lay Of The Epithecesh Oh Heynoch Thuntmutz Crimson Night The Crystal Tower Finishing The Job Moonchild The Death Of A Duke Oracle Awakes Philosophical Essays Rants From A Nihilist Existence - An Exploration Syllogisms For A New World Short Stories The Little House Behind My Old Garage

Finishing The Job

A Short Story

Silvanus S-gar Prince

Copyright 2012 Spicer Publishing Company

Bring on the absolute A walk on the water Can lead you to slaughter No one will feel you No one will hear you Bring on the brave new world Tied to condition A slave to submission All that I need Is a way to deceive The eyes of the end I will rise once again And still shine on Crawl on your hands and knees Blind from the vision The dawn of decision Army Ants The Tea Party

Somewhere off in the distance the howl of a lone wolf could be heard. The echo of this canine cry seemed to reverberate off of the sides of the Athosas Mountains to the north. Above, the inspiration for this howl: the red moon - Thypryrrm, and her larger sister Eqyrsph, the silver moon - were both full, their mingling silver & crimson light bathing the wilderness below in what seemed to be ethereal hues. Indeed, it appeared that some form of magical energy permeated the world of Nytheun on this night - as if some great force had come to see what events it might incite. These mixing colours of moonlight were at the forefront of the womans mind. In fact, that distant wolfs howl reinforced her thoughts on the matter. Her training and her upbringing all told her tonight was not the night for the work she had been hired to undertake - but such was the demand of her employer. Usually her dark hair appeared jet black at night - but on this evening with the two moons shining bright, her hair gave the impression that it was a dark reddish brown. Her green eyes scanned the tree-line, attempting to pierce the shadows which haroured the beasts of the night. She could sense eyes looking back at her, some curious -

others malicious. However, she was not concerned with the shadows - her objective was far more important and substantial. She turned back to look at the small fishing village, known as Blyenun which was located behind her. Its beaver-tail shingled roofs seemed to glitter in the mixed moonlight. The soft grey smoke from fireplaces rose gently into the air, moving slightly at an angle thanks to a light breeze coming off of the sea to the south. Even here, north of the town, she could still smell the salty sea air and hear the sounds of the sea birds. She had met the man who had hired her services in an inn named Ekotais Retreat, located in the center of the fishing village. The Inn was named after the last Crimson King who, legend says, stayed at the Inn after defeating the Nochtiachi at the battle of Crystal falls Pass. There was even a painting in the common room of the great monarch sitting near the large common room fireplace. King Ekotai was seen talking with two of his officers whilst a guard stoked the fire. What was ver odd was that the man she had met in the common room of Ekotais Retreat looked eerily similar to that guard stoking the fire at his kings feet. The man had red hair and sparkling blue eyes set under a heavy brow. He had a long nose which ended in a point above his fiery goatee. He had broad shoulders and was well muscled and he wore a simple dark green coat over dark pants. His accent marked him as coming from a more eastern part of the Empire - perhaps even the Capital itself. She was told that his name was Edotheron MiLiysh and that he was a servant of the local Magistrate. There were reports that a wizard had taken up residence near Blyenun and that this mage wished to seize political control of the region. The Magistrate had ordered Edotheron to hire an assassin to infiltrate the wizards tower & slay him before his nefarious plots would come to fruition. Efovoan did not much care for the justifications the local government needed to create so they could sleep better at night. She only cared about the hard cash she was being paid for the hit. In fact, this job was to be her best pay ever - ten platinum pieces, which was the equivalent of one hundred gold pieces - a small fortune compared to the usual types of jobs she normally took. She was far more interested in the logistics of the job then some clerks attempt to justify murder. You have the map? she demanded. As promised. Edotheron replied as he passed her a scroll case. Do you understand the terms of the agreement? I must bring you the token. Efovoan shrugged, taking a quick look at the map. Then I get my money. This isnt the first time Ive done something like this, you know. Of course. the clerk stammered, his face reddening slightly. I was ordered to find a professional. She rolled up the map and returned it to its case. Tucking the case inside her long dark coat, she looked deeply into Edotherons blue eyes. I will send you a message when I have completed the task. The message will relate to you where we will meet to exchange

the token for my money. Very well. he agreed, looking around nervously. Is that all you require of me then? Yes. she returned in an abrupt tone. Standing up, she turned quickly and left the Inn through its main door. She never looked back. This first rendez-vous with Edotheron had been about two hours ago. Now she stood on a game trail north of Blyenun looking back at the town with the sudden sense that perhaps this was not the best idea. Again, she thought of the money and what it could mean for her in the future. She shook her head, chastising herself for her doubts and then retrieved the scroll case from her coat. She looked around and noticed a tree stump not too far away to her right. She quickly made her way over to the stump and then opened up the scroll case. Nimbly, she withdrew the parchment from the case and spread it out over the stump. Efovoan was suddenly glad for the moonlight for it illuminated the simple map nicely. She was able to quickly locate her position on the map - the game trail was clearly marked as it snaked away from the main road running north out of Blyenun. The forest, which now stood to Efovoans left, was drawn crudely but it was easily identifiable. The game trail skirted along the edge of the forest for a short distance and then cut through the western most section. According to the map, it then began to climb into the foothills of the mountains which lay on the northern side of the forest. On one of these hills stood the mages tower. Edotheron had not said much about the wizard - other then he was a threat to the stability of the region. His name was Aplel Ecesyong. From what little Efovoan could determine, he had first come to the region about five years ago. Where he came from, no one could remember - however he did arrive by ship in Blyenun. The strange thing was that after Aplel had settled in the region, the ship which had ferried him sank in a freak storm. All hands wend down with her - no one survived who knew where the strange mage had come from. Within a few months he had erected a tower in the foothills of the Athosas Mountains and retired there in secluded study. However, agents of the Magistrate soon began to connect the activities of various brigands with Aplel. A number of brigands had been observed many times going to and from Aplels tower. There was no was to determine what sort of plans the wizard was hatching - but it seemed that these gangs of brigands were under his command. They began to waylay travellers & exact tolls for safe passage on a number of roads located close to Aplels tower. A number of spies had been sent to infiltrate the tower, but had never returned. All were presumed to have been killed by Aplel. Now Efovoan was traveling to this wizards sanctuary to assassinate him. After double checking the map, Efovoan sprinted along the game trail and into the trees. She suddenly had this great desire to get out of the open. For some reason she felt safer within the darkness of the trees - even though earlier she had been watched by a

multitude of eyes staring out from those very woods. Once under their shadow, she sunk down and rested. She had made good time after leaving the inn, even with stopping to double check the map. Moving her arm, she drew out a small waterskin and took a long sip of the cold water. It satiated her thirst as well as cooled her after that sprint. As Efovoan returned the stopper to the mouth of the waterskin, she suddenly heard movement to her left. Cautiously she put the waterskin on the ground next to her and drew her falchion - bounty from a previous job. The sound of movement came again and now that she was listening for it, she immediately determined that it came from behind her and off to the left. Whatever was making the sound was large - certainly bigger then an animal. Slowly she raised herself up and readied for a strike, waiting for the creature to get close. Peering around the birch tree, Efovoan cautiously tried to see what was stalking her.In one way she should not have been shocked at what she saw - however the creature that stood not twenty paces from her was as strange as it was terrifying. Standing in a small clearing, shadowed by the trees above, was what looked like a normal wolf. In fact, if she had only seen hind quarters of the beast she would have assumed that it was a lone wolf on the hunt. However, it was the heads of the creature that inspired fear for this particular wolf had two heads. The head on the right side was busy sniffing the ground no doubt following Efovoans scnet - while its mate on the left was scanning the trees looking for anything out of the ordinary. It would not be long before the fearsome beast discovered where she was hiding. Quickly, Efovoan made a plan. She took a deep breath and then charged to her right around the trunk of the birch tree. When she was close enough, Efovoan swung her falchion at the beasts heads but at last minute she stumbled slightly and missed her mark. Growling loudly, the two-headed wolf spun round and lashed out with its teeth, catching her in the right calf, drawing blood. Efovoan ignored the pain, swinging her falchion again striking the creature on its right front hip, stunning it. Taking advantage of the situation, Efovoan reversed her swing and cut backwards severing one of the beasts heads. The foul monster dropped to the ground, its remaining head whinning in pain. Taking a step back, she looked down at the beast and then aimed her sword, severing the final head and putting the creature out of its misery. Efovoan sheathed her falchion and then reached into one of the pouches hanging from her belt. From this pouch she pulled forth two clean white cloths. She took the first and folded it into a square large enough to cover the wound. Sitting down onthe ground, she placed this first cloth over the wound and began to apply pressure. Next, she took the second cloth and tied it around her leg, holding the first bandage in place. Grimicing slightly, she tightened this second bandage as tightly as she could. After performing this first aid, she leaned back and caught her breath, sighing slightly. She had underestimated how well the mages tower would be defended. It was a mistake she would not make again.

An hour later Efovoan found herself on the northern edge of the forest. She had not encountered any other beasts - though she had heard sounds of animals stalking through the woods and had seen countless sets of eyes keeping a vigil. Walking through the forest at night had been relatively easy, she had kept to the game trail and the light of the two moons lit the path well enough to see. Efovoan looked out to the rolling grassland beyond, searching for movement or any other signs of creatures guarding the path to the tower. Seeing nothing - but not letting her guard down - she began to plan her next move. According to the map, the tower stood about a mile north of the forest. She thought that she should be able to see it from here, but realized that the rolling hills before her probably blocked the view. Knowing that the tower had to be nearby, she scanned the horizon again and this time spied the unmistakable shape of turrets rising slightly above one of the hills to the north-east. However, with locating the tower, she came to the realization that if she could see it from this distance; then someone standing atop that turret would see her moving over the hills. Again, she cursed the bright moonlight and the foolishness of Edotheron for choosing this night for the assassination. She would have to keep to the valleys, then keeping the shadows of the hills between her and the tower. Only this way could she hope to approach her destination undetected. With a plan fixed in her mind, Efovoan set off. The going was slow, for she often had to get her bearing yet remain as much out of sight of the tower as possible. Efovoan found that she could stick to the ravines for the most part, but at times she was forced to hike over higher ground in order to maintain her course. It was during these quick climbs that she felt most exposed, however she seemed to have made it through without detection. After an hour and a half of moving through the ravines that surrounded the Tower, she at last found herself as close to the Tower as she initially could without being detected. Efovoan was able to find a small outcropping which sported some low bushes with thick foliage. It was an ideal vantage point to observe the Tower and plan her next move. The Tower was tall and massive, built of hewn dark granite bricks quarried in the nearby Athosas Mountains. A great pillar with a square base, its roof stood one hundred feet above the ground and at its base it was about fifty feet wide. It had no windows, only arrow slits that were strategically placed on each wall. Its turret-like roof kept watch in all directions and at once time sported a signal fire in order to pass messages along to similar towers that had been built throughout the foothills. The main door of the tower stood twenty feet off the ground at the top of a narrow staircase. There were no obvious soldiers guarding this entrance, but Efovoan knew that it was under constant surveillance by guards within the tower itself. Her interest was focused on the dark side of the tower - the side of the tower which stood in the shadows farthest away from the radiant light of the two moons. This was Efovoans path into the tower and she was quickly formulating a plan to make it happen. From her vantage point on the outcropping she counted four guards standing watch on the

roof, each keeping their gaze to one of the four cardinal points. It was important that she monitored them in order to understand their guarding patterns. It appeared that each guard was simply there to monitor the approaches to the Tower, for none seemed to take any interest in the immediate surroundings of the structure. This fact would help Efovoan immensely. Satisfied with the information she was able to gather, Efovoan began to put her plan into action. The first step was to use her magical abilities to help shield her from the view of the guards. In her mind, she began to visualize herself squatting behind the low row of bushes on the outcropping. With the image fully formed in her mind, she placed her right hand over the silver ring she wore on her left ring-finger. It was at this moment that she began to concentrate, feeling energy course through her body building to a peak. When the moment was right, she began to picture herself dematerializing within her minds eye. The process was slow, first starting with her feet and moving up her legs and to her torso. Slowly she envisioned herself becoming completely invisible until at last - in her minds eye - there appeared to be no person hiding amongst the bushes of the outcropping. The spell was complete and there was only one way to see if it had worked. Slowly, she stood up, half expecting a cry to come from the tower, followed by a hail of arrows. However, no such attack came and Efovoan was satisfied that her invisibility spell had worked. Quietly she made her way to the dark side of the Tower. Once at the base of the structure, deep in its shadow, she looked up to see if any of the guards had noticed anything out of the ordinary. Nothing appeared to be amiss so she began to prepare herself for the next stage of her plan. Efovoan stilled her mind and began to concentrate. In her minds eye she began to envision her hands and feet. When this vision was again firmly in her mind she began to will a change to her hands. She saw them become covered with tiny little tenent hairs like those found on insects. These tiny hairs help insects cling to surfaces and it was exactly this ability that Efovoan sought. She then envisioned the same tenent hairs sprouting from her feet. As the image of these tiny hairs crystalized in her minds eye she began to build up the magical energy within herself and when it was at its peak again, she let it wash over her body. At last, she felt the transformation complete. As with her last spell, she wanted to verify that it had worked before trusting her life to the magical power. She bent down and removed her boots, placing them silently in the small sack which carried her belongings. She then carefully placed her left hand against the cold granite of the tower wall, followed by her right hand. She then lifted her left leg and placed its bare sole against the cold stone as well. The final test came when she lifted her right leg and placed her bare right foot against the wall. She now found herself clinging, like a spider, to the side of the Towers wall. Smiling to herself, Efovoan began to slowly move up the side of the wall, crawling along its rough granite surface at a slow pace. It was very slow going at first as she adjusted to the sensation of crawling up the wall sideways and got used to the feel of the

stones beneath her hands and feet. A little under a minute later, she found herself as far up the wall as she wished to go, about ten feet below the turrets of the roof and the guards who kept watch there. The invisible assassin had come to a stop next to one of the top most arrow slits and she cautiously peaked into the room beyond. Through the narrow slit Efovoan spied bookshelves and a large table. She was outside the mages library - the repository of his arcane knowledge. The next stage of her plan was perhaps the most dangerous. The most important step was to study the little area of the room she could see through the arrow slit. It was important that she could visualize in her mind as much of the room as possible. If she didnt get all the details right, then the spell she planned to cast - the one which would get her inside the Tower itself - would fail and she would have to quickly come up with a way to get inside Aplel Ecesyongs sanctuary. When she was confident with her idea of what the room looked like, she put her right hand again over the silver ring on her left hand. As she felt the power pulse into her body from the ring, she began to visualize the room on the other side of the slit. When she felt that everything was just right, Efovoan began to visualize herself standing next to the large wooden table. As she visualized herself standing within the room, she allowed the energy that had been building within her to begin to flow through the narrow slit and into the room beyond. With the energy coming to a climax, she opened her eyes and found herself standing exactly where she had visualized. The library was empty - only the many shelves of books, tomes and scrolls were witness to Efovoans presence within the Tower. The large table stood in the middle of the room and it was covered with magical paraphernalia: candles; mortar and pestle; vials containing potions; parchment paper and various jars containing herbs and animal parts. There were two stairwells to her left, one leading down to the floor below and the other up to the next level of the structure. Quietly, Efovoan walked over to these stairwells, listening for activity from either direction. There was talking and movement coming from below, the chatter of off-duty mercenary guards. Above her was silence - which she found a little daunting. Unsure of what to expect, she began to quietly go up the stairs. The room she entered was richly decorated with lush tapestries that depicted scenes of heroic knights battling awesome foes. Rich carpets covered the floor and the furniture was of a quality fit for royalty. There was a single large chair, setup like a throne on a small dais just opposite the top of the stairs. A fireplace burned low to the thrones left, acting as the rooms only light source. A simple desk stood between the fireplace and the stairs while a four poster bed was positioned to the right of the throne. The room appeared to be empty of its occupant which caused Efovoan a moment of panic. Where was Aplel Ecesyong if not in his library or chambers? Is the vermin confused? a voice echoed through the room. Why does she not see her prey? Where could he be? Then there was a long pause. Perhaps the hunter is now the hunted.

Efovoan made no reply, she had obviously been detected by Aplels magic. However, there was no reason to fall prey to his ploy. A thought occurred to her then, the evil magician had not called his guards. No, he was attempting to toy with her. Perhaps he knew she was there, but didnt know exactly where she was. With this thought in mind, she slowly moved towards the desk while scanning the entire room for a hint that would reveal the mages location. I should have expected as much from the likes of Edotheron. Aplels voice sneered. The clerk believes he is higher then his station. What is he paying you to kill me, assassin? She still made no reply knowing that her voice would likely give away her position. In stead, she moved to the left side of the desk and put her back to the wall. She began to concentrate, not on a spell - but on the rhythm of her body. As she readied herself, she scanned the room one last time and noticed a faint visual disturbance near the throne. It was like looking into rising heat off of stone, just small little waves undulating in her vision. She quickly made a plan. Now she knew what to look for, she could find the invisible mage if he moved. Slowly she drew her falchion from its sheath hanging from her left hip and kept it close to her body. She then moved slowly to her right, moving in front of the fireplace and closer to the dais where Aplel believed he was safe. Tell me woman. the sneering voice continued. Do you always sneak into mens towers? How does it make you feel, finding them laying int heir beds - vulnerable to your desires? She now found herself directly behind the disturbance and knew this was her best chance. She swung her falchion - the motion of which dispelled her own invisibility - and struck Aplel directly across the back, severing his spine. The mage crumpled to the floor, his own invisibility spell having being dispelled by Efovloans attack. Now who is vulnerable, Aplel? she asked him, drawing her dagger and kneeling down next to the prone mage. Spare me, assassin! the wizard cried in panic. I will reward you handsomely. Youre finished, mage. she returned in a flat tone. Your spine is severed and your are paralyzed from the neck down. Your rewards will not last to be of any value to anyone. You are wrong. Aplel retorted. Ikavishaw! With this magical word, a great lightning bolt shot forth from the palm of the prone magicians open right hand, striking her square in the chest a point blank range. She suffered minor burns and some scorching, but worst of all was the pain from the electrical strike. It was too much to bear and she lost consciousness.

Efovoan could not fathom how much time she had lain unconscious. She had awoken, chained in the towers dungeon - deep in the cellars, she reasoned. She was

naked, laying on a dirt floor. Her chest had been bandaged and she felt the soothing coolness of some herb healing her burns. The fact that she was still alive confused her greatly. She had paralyzed Aplel from the neck down, yet he had not killed her. His mercenaries had simply brought her down to the dungeon and attempted to heal her wounds. She was far from being fully healed, but the fact that she was no longer unconscious was a sign that she had healed to some degree. Efovoan turned her thoughts from her bodys status to her surroundings. The dungeon was a simple square room that was the exact size of the tower. There were no other prisoners present, just empty manacles hanging from the walls. She was not manacled and realized this was because of her injuries. The guards had simply laid her down on the floor - chaining her ankles and wrists. She looked around the room, trying to see its entrance. At last she spied an opening in the roof where the guards could lower a ladder down to access the dungeon. There appeared to be no other entrance to the dungeon. She closed her eyes and listened intently, trying to concentrate on the floor above the dungeon. She could hear voices, muffled by the floorboards. It was hard to distinguish them, but she believed there was perhaps three different speakers. The conversation seemed jovial, at least from the tones of the voices she could make out. That was good sign - far better that her guards were in a good mood. It made her situation a little more bearable and perhaps gave her a chance to influence them. One of the voices suddenly became clearer - the speaker must have moved closer to the hole that served as entrance to the dungeon. She began to make out a few words something about time and the prisoner. Then she heard a full sentence: Lower it down lads! ordered a deep baritone. She heard the sound of wood rubbing against wood and she opened her eyes to verify what she had already deduced. It was the appointed time for her captures to check on her - to she if she was conscious. Sure enough, she saw a wooden ladder being slowly lowered down to the ground from above. She quickly closed her eyes again, feining unconsciousness. A few moments later she heard the sound of the ladder come to rest on the floor of the dungeon and hard boots climbing down the rungs. She listened as the guard shuffled over to where she lay, keeping her breathing even and her eyes closed. Youre a real looker, lady. the man complimented her. Too bad weves gots strict orders not to lay a finger on ye. There was a long pause and all she could hear was the mans breathing. Still, I guess when ye wakes, the mage will get his revenge. Too bad, such a waste of such a body. The man turned and walked back to the ladder. He climbed up and then the ladder was pulled up. When at last she could hear just the muffled chatter of the men above, she opened her eyes again. Efovoan realized she needed to escape as soon as possible. She also knew she had to finish the job she had been hired to do. At the moment though, she was concentrating on the first of these two tasks. She began to formulate a plan: the first thing she had to do

was find out how often the guards checked that she was still unconscious. The second was to determine where her cloths and weapons were being stored. Without the magic ring, her spell casting ability was limited and without her weapons she was unable to complete her task. However, with her innate magical power, she thought she might have a plan that just might work. Her first task was to get herself free of the chains. She began to concentrate, visualizing the lock on the chains in her minds eye. Again, she felt the magical power course through her body as she imagined the lock confining her with chains slowly unlocking itself. As she pictured the tumblers shifting within the mechanism of the lock, she sent waves of the magical energy towards the lock. It was during this process that she heard the distinct click of the lock opening. Carefully, so as to not move the chains too much and make noise which would alert the guards, she tried to clasps that held her wrists and found that they were now open. Slowly and gently she tried the clasps around her ankles and loosened them. Free of her bonds, she lay back and waited, counting the time that passed in her head - waiting for the guard to check in on her. Almost four hours later, she heard the voices above begin to get closer to the hole in the ceiling. Quickly, she closed her eyes and steadied her breathing. Again, Efovoan heard the ladder being slid down into the dungeon, followed by the heavy footfalls of the guard climbing down. As he climbed down, she half opened her right eye and studied his features to the best of her ability. She noted his hair and eye colour, as well as the shape of his face and clothes he wore. Every detail she could gleam, she stored within her mind for later use. At last, the man came close and she was able to have a good look at his clothes. She needed to make sure she remembered every detail - any dirt or tears in the fabric, their colour and style and their size. This guard said nothing, simply looked her over for a few minutes. It was while he was standing there that she opened her eyes and put a finger to her lips, indicating that he should keep quiet. As she did this, she spread her legs - revealing herself to him. I want you now. she whispered seductively, But keep quiet so the others dont spoil our fun. Stupefied by her wanton voluptuousness, the guard nodded. He quickly undid his belt and silently dropped his pants. As he knelt down next to Efovoan, she pulled him close to her body. She could smell the stench of ale on his breath and could sense the lust coursing through his veins. However, before the guard could let his pleasure overcome his body, Efovoan quickly struck the side of her right hand into the mans neck at the precise spot she had been taught long ago. The blow was so quick and sharp that the guard crumpled in her arms without a sound. Cautiously she lifted his unconscious body off and then preceded to remove the rest of his clothes. Quickly she dressed, wrinkling her nose at the sweaty smell of the mans armour. Her next step was to concentrate on the mans face. Efovoan began to form the image of his face in her minds eye while feeling the magical power grow within. She

began to visualize his face becoming her face and when the vision was clear, she released the magical power within and directed it towards her own body. Once the spell was cast, she quickly walked over to the ladder and began to climb up. The room which she crawled up into was more of a store room then guard room. In fact, there were only two other guards present. One had rough features with dark hair and eyes. He had a scar across his left cheek which seemed like a very old wound. The other had red hair and fair features and seemed out of place next to his companion. Both wore similar armour and clothes as Efovoan was now wearing. Neither seemed shocked when they saw her climb up out of the dungeon - evidence that her spell had worked. Is the lovely still out? Scar-face asked, the lust evident in his voice. Efovoan nodded in reply. Cumon, Shuinef. the red head spoke up - his voice laced with the thick accent of the Hanoteac. Oor watch be ending right shortly. Times we be seeking oors beds. Right. Scar-face continued. Let Nyochedithes lads keep watch oher. Again, Efovoan nodded. She then helped the two guards pull the ladder up out of the hole and watched as Scar-face put it away in a nook not far from the hole. She followed them as they mounted the stairs up to the main chamber of the tower where one more guard was to be found. The room was large, sparsely furnished - only a small table and four chairs occupied the entire room. The main entry to the tower was located here and it was obvious that this floor was the control point for the entire facility. The guard was dressed similarly to them and sported a wild crop of brown hair and blue eyes. Nyochedithe should be taking over soon. he stated in a deep voice. What do we tellem, Abuicle? Scar-face - whose name was obviously Abuicle - replied: Shes still the same, Whoach. Out cold, as when we brought her down to the dungeon. The man named Whoach frowned. Seems an awful long time. Nay, Whoach. the red haired man interjected. Thlass wuz badly burnd after thuh mage magicder. Off you go, Kuenofhe. Whoach commanded. And yto, Shuinef. Abuicle and me will stand guard til Nyochedithe gets ere. Right. Kuenofhe, the red haired man, agreed - yawning loudly. Cumon, Shuinef. Efovoan followed Kuenofhe up the stairs. As they reached the next floor, where the guards barracks were located, Efovoan heard the main door on the floor below open. He could hear men moving in and Whoachs voice. He was obviously giving his report to Nyochedithe who must have arrived from outside to take up the watch. Efovoan was happy that she was out of sight when the new watch arrived - and she was equally happy to find that Kuenofhe seemed to tired for small talk. The barracks were Spartan, sixteen bunks were spread throughout the room, two of which were currently occupied by sleeping men. A small round table occupied the

middle of the room and two other men sat there drinking and playing dice. They were quiet, so as not to disturb their comrades, and intent on their game. A small pile of copper coins sat in the middle of the table - the pot which the two mercenaries were trying to win. Gnite, Shuinef. Kuenofhe yawned, crawling into one of the bunks. Efovoan sat on the edge of another bunk and scanned the room, looking for anything that might aid her in the next phase of her plan. Seeing nothing, she lay down and closed her eyes. She did not sleep, listening intently to the sounds in the Tower, attempting to visualize what she heard in her minds eye. Very quickly she zeroed in on the conversation of the two men playing dice. Their voices were hushed, but she could still make out what they were saying. Aplel will be mad that the assassin is still unconscious. one of them was saying. Aye, the poor buggr cant wait to extract his revenge on her. his companion replied. Funny that he cant move no more. the first noted. There was a laugh from the second man. Anhe just sits there on that throne ohis dreaming of torturing her. I dream of her too. the first man laughed. Aye, all the men dream oher. the second replied. Shes a looker. There was a pause in the conversation and she heard one of the men put his cards down on the table. There, Im out. the second announced. Nochtiachi whores! the first swore. Well, Im done for the night. I needs some sleep fore our next watch. Aye, yer right. the second agreed. She heard them stand up and shuffle off to bunks. She heard the two men lay down and waited patiently for them to fall asleep. As she waited, she heard the voices of Abuicle and Whoach come up into the barracks. They too quickly sought their beds and soon the room was filled with the sounds of men sleeping. Efovoan waited a few more minutes, making sure that the guards were all asleep. Then she quietly climbed out of bed and made her way to the stairwell. She stopped at the bottom of the stairs, listening intently for noises from above. Hearing none, she cautiously began to climb the stairs. Efovoan soon found herself in Aplels library again, surrounded by his books, tomes and scrolls. She surveyed the entire room, noticing her silver ring sitting on the table. She moved to the table and saw that her ring sat on top of some parchment paper, with notes written on its face. She could not decipher the notes for they appeared to be written in a language she was unfamiliar with - probably one of the many magical languages known only to wizards and sorcerers. But here was her ring. Quickly, she took it from the table and slipped it back on her finger. She could easily replace the rest of belongings, however she was happy to have found the ring. Her impersonation spell was just about ready to wear off, but she now had the means to conceal herself again. She concentrated for a moment and let the illusion of

Shuinefs face disappear. Back to her old self, she began to follow the same process as before to cast the spell of invisibility. She visualized herself becoming invisible as she touched the ring and felt waves of magical energy course through her body. When this was complete, she quietly moved back towards the stairs. Cautiously she began to creep up their incline, keeping her ears alert for sounds of the mage above. As she neared the top of the stairs, she noticed there was no sound at all emanating from Aplels chambers. The lack of sound instilled more caution into her actions. Previously, the mage had discovered her intrusion, however he was unable to physically locate her in the room while she was invisible. Had he detected her presence again? If so, was he laying is wait for her to strike? Ever so cautiously, Efovoan lifted her head up above the floor of Aplels chamber. The room looked the same as it had the last time she was here. In fact, nothing had changed. It still appeared to be empty. Was Aplel again invisible, alerted to her presence in the same way he had been alerted before? Efovoan frowned, she didnt know what to do next. Where was the mage? Was he laying a trap for her? She observed the room closely, looking for signs of the disturbance she had detected the last time. However, she saw none. The room appeared to be empty - the mage gone. Frustration crept over her, she had to finish the job - however she had lost her mark. Where could he be? The guards had said that Aplel could not move, that he sat motionless in his throne plotting his vengeance on her. Yet, his throne was empty. Slowly Efovoan crept back down into the library. She walked over to one of the four arrow slits that served as windows for the room. She looked down into the courtyard to discover a carriage parked near the base of the towers stairs. A team of two horses lead the car while a driver sat at the ready in the front seat. She could see three guards standing near the base of the stairs, one of which was taller then the others and appeared to be wearing more expensive armour then the rest. At his hip hung a long-sword and he wore expensive riding boots. This man must be the mercenary leader and in command of the guards of the Tower. She quickly scanned the area below for a spot where she could hide and have a better view of what was happening. Her instincts told her that something important was going on. She quickly located a large boulder which stood not far from the back of the carriage. She could see, from her current vantage point, the back of the boulder and began to visualize it in her minds eye. Efovoan visualized every detail she had seen, from the way the shadows fell to how tall the grass had grown. Then she began to visualize herself hiding behind the boulder. She put her right hand on top of the ring on her left hand and began to feel the magic power course through her veins. When the power reached its optimum, she released it, sending it hurtling towards the place she wished to be. She opened her eyes and found herself to be hiding behind the boulder, just as she had visualized. I will send a messenger to the inn the moment the prisoner wakes, my lord. the guard commander was saying.

I expect no less, Ethonloase. she heard Aplels voice reply from inside the carriage. And when the messenger comes from Noch Atizith, forward whatever correspondence to me. Yes, my lord. Ethonloase replied. Driver! Aplel ordered, Let us make way! Efovoan watched as the carriage driver began to urge the two horses forward. She only had one chance to catch it, to keep track of her prey and get away from the Tower before her absence in the dungeon was discovered. Quietly, she crept up to the back of the carriage and attempted to grasp onto a small bar which ran across its back. She was successful in grasping the bar and gingerly pulled herself up on top of the carriage, just as it began to pick up speed and pull away from the Tower. The carriage headed south west along a narrow track. The road was bumpy and rutted and appeared to meander through the foothills. After about an hour, the old cart track joined up with the main north-south road coming out of the coastal village of Blyenun where Efovoan had met with Edotheron to discuss this job. The carriage turned south on this main road, the going much easier and faster. Within two more hours she was able to see the dim lights of the village ahead. The carriage pulled into the village, driving past the large miners guildhall on its left. It came to the end of the north-south road at the junction of one of the villages streets. Without hesitation, the driver directed the horses to the left, driving past the barracks of the Grand Ducal Rangers Corps. It then turned right onto the first street it crossed and Efovoan could see the stables of the inn known as Ekotais Retreat where she had previously met Edotheron. The carriage turned left again, into the courtyard which fronted these very stables and came to a stop just outside the stable door. Two young stable boys rushed out and took the reins of the carriage from the driver, who began making arrangements for the care of the horses. The door to the inn opened and three men entered the courtyard, walking swiftly towards the carriage. Two of these men were Aplels mercenary guards, but the third Efovoan recognized as Casecun, the owner of the inn. The guards opened the carriage door, one of them then stepped inside. His companion reached in and grasped hold of something with both his hands. A moment later he lifted his load and began to pull it out of the carriage. What emerged was a chair resting on two support bars. The entire contraption was being lifted by the guards via the support bars and in the chair sat Aplel, motionless. They carried the paralyzed mage towards the inn door with Casecun in tow who was offering Aplel the finest of his wine and food selection after the journey. Efovoan slipped off the back of the carriage and silently followed this odd procession into the inn. The guards avoided the common room, but went down the hallway leading to the inns rooms. Casecun excused himself, having to give Aplels supper order to his chef, but Efovoan continued to follow the guards. She needed to know which room the mage was staying in - though she had a good idea where he was most likely to be. Sure enough, the guards stopped outside of the Royal Suite, the famed room

which the last Crimson King of Ravenstone stayed in during his legendary March against the Nochtiachi Cambion army during the Demon Wars. The two guards gently lowered the chair to the ground. The one at the front then opened the door of the Royal Suite, while the guard at the back gently picked up the mage and carried him into the room. Efovoan had seen enough. She turned and retraced her steps back out into the courtyard. She was still invisible and had to wait for an inn patron to be leaving to sneak out the door. She quickly made her way back out into the street and headed south, further into town. She suddenly felt very tired and needed to rest. Her wounds still were not fully healed and she knew she would need to be of good health before she took on Aplel again. However, by now the guards at the Tower would have noticed her escape. They were probably in the process of dispatching a messenger to Blyenun to warn Aplel that she was on the loose and probably stalking him. That meant she only had a couple of hours to finish the job before the messenger arrived with the news. She needed a plan. Suddenly a thought rushed into her head. She turned and raced back to Ekotais Retreat hoping that she would be in time to implement the plan.

Edintuithe had been a servant at Ekotais Retreat for two years. He had always prided himself on his work and being courteous to the guests. He was still young, having only just past his eighteenth year some weeks ago. However, his personality and mannerisms made him appear to be much older. He wore simple brown leggings and a green tunic - his dark brown hair was combed neatly and his brown eyes were alert and curious. In fact, his general demeanor that night was one of good humour. He first saw the tall woman with the black hair a few moments after he left the inns kitchen carrying a tray of food for the guest who was staying in the Royal Suite. She wore cloths similar to those of the men he had seen in the Royal Suite. She had striking green eyes and a beautiful face - in fact, she was probably one of the most beautiful women Edintuithe had ever laid eyes on. This food is destined for the guests in the Royal Suite? she asked. Yes, lady. he replied in a nervous tone, her beauty was beginning to overwhelm him. Did the chef add the special spice my master asked for? was her next question. Edintuithe was confused, he had been present when Casecun had arrived in the kitchen and gave the chef the order. There had been no mention of a special spice. I am truly sorry, lady. the servant apologized, But there was no mention of a special spice when Master Casecun brought the order to the kitchen. I had feared as much. the beauty frowned. My master suffers from a unique allergy and requires a special herb added to all of his meals. There are times that he forgets to mention such things to those who do not normally serve him - so used to our services is he. However, all is not lost, I have with me some of the herb. I will simply add it now

and your master will suffer no humiliation for this mistake. Indeed, thank you lady. Ethintuithe beamed. She produced from a pouch a small amount brown paste on a small spoon which she began to mix it into the steaming bowl of vegetables. The food did not seem to change colour or smell from the application of the special spice. When she was finished mixing it, she moved aside to let Ethintuithe pass, telling him she had been sent to check on her masters carriage. She turned and walked away, back towards the door to the stable courtyard. The young man watched her go, delight filling his soul as he marveled at her beauty. When at last she was out of sight, Edintuithe returned his mind to his duty. He turned and continued on his way tot he Royal Suite. Respectfully he knocked on the door. When it opened, the face of one of the guards peering out, he stated he was delivering supper. The man opened the door wider and watched as Edintuithe walked in carrying the tray of food. The second guard indicated the table situated in the middle of the room. Edintuithe obeyed and placed the tray on the table. Turning, he looked at the two men. Was there anything else you desired, sirs? he asked in a respectful tone. No thank you. the second man replied. You may go. Edintuithe bowed politely and exited the room, returning to his duties.

Efovoan stood outside in the courtyard of the inn, looking up at the sky and the multitude of stars above. The silver moon, Eqyrsph, was just beginning to set while the silver moon, Thypryrrm, had passed its zenith about an hour before. For a moment she marveled at their celestial beauty and how their continuous voyage through the heavens illuminated the world below. Her eyes wandered through the star ways, past the glowing marvelousness of their awesome majesty. At last they fixated on the brilliant surface of Thypryrrm. For a moment she was mesmerized by the power of the silver moon. She felt as if its entire weight was bearing down on her and its energy - that magical energy which pulsed through all things - was enveloping her in its ethereal embrace. Suddenly the shadow of some bird passed through her vision and then sense of rapture she had felt disappeared. She was grounded again, standing in the stable courtyard of Ekotais Retreat. However the feeling of fullness of energy still ebbed through her being, as if she was still in touch with the cosmos above. She shook her head for a moment, clearing the sensation from her mind. She was still in danger and needed to make sure she had taken down her mark. She looked around the courtyard, looking for signs of other people. Seeing none, Efovoan made her way to the windows of the Royal Suite. Once she reached them, she double checked the courtyard for people and then turned her gaze into the room. The two guards lay on the floor while Aplel sat slumped at the table, blood pooling out from under his bowed head. Quickly she moved away from the window, back towards the door of the inn.

As she reached the entrance of Ekotais Retreat she heard the thunder of hooves coming into the courtyard. Efovoan turned to see a horse and rider emerge into the courtyard from the street. The two stable boys came rushing out to meet him and tend to his horse. Quickly she ducked into the shadows behind some bushes and watched as another of Aplels guards dismounted the horse and began to make his way towards the door of the inn. She could tell by the mans appearance that he had ridden hard - no doubt he was a messenger from the Tower sent to tell Aplel of her escape. She suddenly realized that he too would have to die, else he would raise an alarm in the town that Aplel and his men had been murdered. As quick as she could, she cast the invisibility spell on herself again and followed the messenger into the inn and down the corridor to the Royal Suite. She paused as the man stopped at the door and knocked. Efovoan could feel her heart in her throat as the messenger grew confused at the lack of a response. Again he knocked on the door and of course there was no reply forthcoming. In sudden concern, he tried the door and found it unlocked. Rushing into the room, the messenger left the door open which Efovoan took the opportunity to slip through. Closing the door behind her, she waited as the man took in the grisly scene before his eyes. Quietly she drew her dagger and came up behind him. Just as he was about to turn around to rush out of the room, she grabbed hold of him - a motion which dispelled her invisibility. The man tried to cry out, however Efovoan had put her left hand over his mouth. Raising her dagger quickly to the mans throat she made one precise cut across his jugular. Without a sound, the man went limp in her arms, feinting from the shock and sudden lack of air. Gently, she lowered the messenger down to the floor and then wiped her dagger clean. Quietly she left the Royal Suite, being certain that there was no one in the hallway to witness her. Efovoan made her way down the hallway and back out into the courtyard of the inn. Sticking to the shadows as much as possible, she cautiously went out into the street beyond the inns courtyard. She followed the road to its junction and then skirted down the next street until it met up with the north-south road which lead out of town. The streets were empty, for it well past midnight and she was certain no one noticed her quietly slipping out of town. She walked about an hour until she found a small copse of trees on the right hand side of the road. The small glade stood on a small hill overlooking the road below which Efovoan quickly climbed. She searched around for a little while and by the silver light of Eqyrsph she at last found a game trail leading into the dense foliage. Her pace slowed a little as she negotiated the pathway through the evergreens and birches - wandering through the darkness of the glen and being very conscious of her footing. At last she found a spot that would suffice for her plan - a small clearing with a number of fallen down trees occupying its perimeter. Efovoan inspected each fallen tree, looking for the ideal spot. When she at last had chosen the ideal place, she began to remove the heavy armour which had once belonged to Shuinef, Aplels lusty guard. Once the armour was off, she quickly

hid it underneath the fallen tree trunk, further hiding it with boughs and other forest debris. When at last she was satisfied with the completion of her task, she began to contemplate her next move. It was now three hours past midnight and her energy was beginning to wane. She needed to sleep, but she knew she could not stay at Ekotais retreat. In fact, it would probably be best to lay low for the next little while and this glen was a good place to do just that. Efovoan looked around the small clearing until she found a spot that would be the most comfortable. Laying down, she shifted positions until she felt comfortable. At last resting, sleep overcame her.

The next day dawned, glorious in its luminosity. Streams of sunlight filtered in through the treetops and the sounds of song birds greeted Efovoan as she awoke. She was a little stiff from sleeping on the ground, but otherwise she felt completely rested. She lazed in the morning dew and sunshine for quite some time, enjoying the beauty and the freshness of the new day. It was the sort of sojourn she needed after all the trouble she had been through in the last little while. In fact, as she sat there in the clearing - the warm morning sun warming her skin - she felt truly at peace. It was a feeling she wanted to preserve for as long as possible. However, mortal minds are fickle and they quickly yearn for change. Even at times of great joy and serenity the mind will begin to think thoughts so mundane that the beautiful energy that fills the soul during these moments quickly fades. So it was with Efovoan as she sat within that glen on that morning. She began to think of Edotheron MiLiysh and that he would need to see proof that it was her that poisoned the mage and his mercenaries. She needed to finish the job so she could get payed what the bureaucrat had promised. With this thought of payment in mind, the amazing feeling of peace and serenity quickly dissolved and she realized she had to get back to Blyenun as quickly as possible. Efovoan gathered herself up and then began to make her way back along the game trail, retracing her steps from the night before. Shortly she found herself back on the northsouth road which lead back to Blyenun. There were a number of travelers on the road this morning, some going south to the sea-side village, others moving north on their way to other destinations. Some of these people traveled by foot, others by horse and some by cart or carriage. The amount of traffic on the road surprised the assassin, so she tried to keep to herself as much as possible. As she rounded a corner in the road, Efovoan came across two men talking. One appeared to be a merchant, for he wore rich clothes and sat atop a well built cart which was carrying a large number of empty clay pots. The cart was pulled by a pair of Clydesdales who stood patiently, waiting for their master to take up their reins. It looked like he was heading north while the man he was talking to appeared to be heading south to Blyenun.

Efovoan deduced this fact from the conversation the men were having. It seemed bad news did indeed spread quickly. She was not surprised by this fact, however she was happily surprised by the details of the news the merchant was relating to his friend. From what Edintuithewas telling me at the inn this morning, the merchant was relating. It was one of the wizards own mercenaries that poisoned him. The lad told me that he was taking a meal to the wizards room when he was intercepted by one of the wizards mercenary guards. The guard told him something about some special spice that was required for the wizards diet. The lad thought nothing of it, knowing that wizards are strange folk. And so the guard added the spice to the food and then left. Edintuithe then brought the food to the wizard who was then found dead, along with the two guards who were with him, this morning. Perhaps the wizard was not an honourable employer, then. the other man replied with a hint of sarcasm in his voice. You could not pay me enough to work for a magic user. Indeed. the rich merchant agreed. It would seem that the mayor wants no part in the incident. He came to Ekotais Retreat first thing when he heard the news and looked around the room. He talked with Edintuithe about what had happened and then ruled that the whole thing was between the mercenaries and the wizard. It was unfortunate that the vile deed had to happen at the inn, but he ruled that the town had no reason to investigate the matter since it clearly seemed that the poisoner was a disgruntled mercenary in the pay of the victim. Certainly. the other man concured. Well, you have a safe trip to Wheyethenably. Well, it can be no worse a trip then the one the wizard undertook yesterday! the merchant laughed. Both men laughed loudly at the joke and then went their separate ways, the merchant calling out to the clydesdales to begin to trot. Efovoan stood in the shadows of a tree. She had appeared to be taking a break from her own journey. Waiting for both men to disappear over their respective horizons, she contemplated the words of the merchant. Efovoan wondered how much of the mayors decision was influenced by Edotheron MiLiysh. After contemplating her next move for a few more minutes, she at last carried on up the road towards Blyenun.

When she had left the company of Edotheron MiLiysh, the clerk had left her instructions on how to contact him after the job was completed. She was to ask for him at the town hall. If he was not there then she was to leave him one of the following messages - depending on the outcome of the job. If she was successful she was to leave a message saying that his wife saw a black raven fly over the east side of their house. If she was

unsuccessful then the message was to be the same - except that the raven was seen flying over the west side of the house. Two days after leaving the message she was to return to the town hall and collect her payment. The town hall of Blyenun was a square building built around a central courtyard which was dominated by a large central fountain. A large entryway into the courtyard was located on the south side of the building. It was two stories tall and housed the town hall chamber where the towns council met; various offices for town functionaries like the tax collector, treasurer, mayor and clerk as well as living quarters for the mayor and his family located in the east wing of the building. There was also a large library located on the first floor containing all the important records pertinant to the town. These records dated back to the times before the Realm of the Crimson Kings and into the First Imperial Age of the Erupuan Empire. Ethovoan entered the town hall through its main entrance which had been built on the north side of the courtyard. The room she entered was large and decorated with the paintings of some of the mayors of more recent history. However, the largest painting within the foyer of the town hall was of King Ekotai, the last Crimson King, standing on one of the towns quays looking out to sea. Behind him stood his personal guard, the general of the Royal Army, the Master of the Crimson Knights as well as Amunef Ableqn who was the mayor of Blyenun during Ekotais reign. On the horizon three ships could just be seen sailing towards the docks where the great King and his entourage waited. The scene depicted was after the Battle of Crystal Falls pass where Ekotais small force decimated the Nochtiachi army that had been building a forward base from where they hoped to attack the Crimson Realm. The ships were coming to pick up Ekotai and his army to carry them to Noch Atizith where Ekotais forces would lay siege in the second battle of the legendary Ekotais March. Sitting at a simple desk just below this spectacular painting was an older man, balding on top of his head with whispy white hair covering his ears. He had blue eyes and a round face with a short round nose and pouty lips. He wore the dark coloured robes of an adminsitrator and Efovoan assumed he was the town Clerk. Seein her enter, the man put down the quill pen he had been using and looked directly at the woman who soon stood before him. How may I help you, lady? he asked in a utilitarian tone. I am here to meet with Edotheron MiLiysh. she stated in an equally utilitarian tone. Is he available? I am sorry, madam. the clerk appologized. Master MiLiysh departed for Guateclach earlier this morning. Is there a way I can have a message sent to him. It is vitally important. Is this official business? the balding man asked, his left brow raising slightly. Yes. Efovoan returned in an official sounding tone. In fact, it brings news that Master MiLiysh has been expecting for some time.

The clerk eyed her for a moment. He then picked up his quill pen and then returned his gaze to her green eyes. Very well, lady. he assented. I will dispatch a messenger momentarily. What then is the message? Tell Master MiLiysh that his wife saw a black raven fly over the east side of their house. The clerks white brow lifted even further at this message, yet he said nothing more. Instead, he wrote it down on a clean piece of parchment and then quickly rolled up the paper. Reaching over to his left, he lifted a small red candle and expertly dabbed some hot wax upon the parchment. He then replaced the candle to its former position and then pressed his signet ring into the cooling wax upon the paper, sealing the message. Satisfied with the process, the clerk again looked up at Efovoan. Was there anything else I could aid you with, madam? No, thank you. she replied. Turning, Efovoan then left the town hall and walked out into the courtyard. Walking swiftly, she exited the town halls courtyard and found herself in the large central square which the rest of the town of Blyenun had been built. To her right stood the Temple of Ethone, the only church located in the town. She eyed it for a few minutes and then made a decision. She began to walk towards the Temple when she heard the sound of a someone walking behind her. Turning, she watched as a man in a crimson doublet strode past her, the coat of arms of the town emblazoned in gold upon his breast. Hanging over his shoulder was a leather bag with the towns coat of arms etched into its cover. She smiled as she watched the messenger walk south through the square and then turn down one of the streets that lead to the docks. The messenger would take to sea on one of the ships and sail to Guateclach hoping to intercept Edotheron before he reached the city or to arrive shortly afterwards. Edotheron would get the message and then hopefully soon she would get her money. Which reminded Efovoan of her current predicament. She had a few copper coins which had once belonged to the guard, Shuinef. She had the sword and his clothes but nothing else. She had to bide her time in the town until the message reached Edotheron and he was able to send her the payment. She knew she didnt have enough money for an extended stay at either of the towns inns and spending more nights out in the wild did not really excite her passions. Again, she looked over at the Temple of Ethone and began to walk towards its oak doors. This particular temple was perhaps one of the most unique Temples of Ethone in all of the Erupuan Empire. As Ethone is the god of water and the sea, his temples are normally built on a waterfront with ready access to his elemental power. Even though Blyenun is a seaside village whose citizens are closely connected to the sea, they built the temple on the west side of the town square about four town blocks north of the shore. However, the temple is built upon a hill which overlooks the rest of the town and possesses a spectacular view of the sea and the shore below. However, this positioning has presented challenges for the clerics who operate the temple and preside over the rituals in dedication

to the Sea God. All the rituals of the Order of Ethone call for the use of sea water in some way or another. As previously stated, the usual temples are built upon sea-shores where this sacred water is readily accessible. However, the builders of the Temple in Blyenun had found an ingenious solution to the problem. A large resevoir was dug in the cellar of the Temple. Tunnels were then dug from the cellars of the Temple to the sea. These tunnels were then fitted with pipes which would then carry the sea water from the sea and into the resevoir. This resevoir then fed all the sacred pools and fountains which decorated the sanctuary of the Temple. Of course, this engineering marvel was the furthest thing from Efovoans mind as she stepped through the heavy oak doors of the Temple that morning. She found herself in the foyer, a small space decorated with model ships and paintings of ocean scenery. The room had a salty smell to it, evidence of the salt-water which was used in the religious ceremonies. The walls were painted blue and had silver inlays decorating the edges and corners. There were three other doors in the room, one on each of the three walls which surrounded her. The door ahead of her lead into the sanctuary proper while the one on the left and the one on the right presumably lead to the offices and living quarters of the Clerics. A small wooden stand stood next to the sanctuary door and on its surface was a large leather-bound book. A small inkwell and quill sat to the right of the book while a silver donation cup hung to its left. Efovoan walked up to the book and saw immediately that it was a visitors list. She quickly read the names inscribed in the ledger, not recognizing any of them. While she was engrossed in the Temples guest book, a young cleric entered the foyer from the door to the left of the sanctuary entrance. He had heard the door of the Temple open and had come to investigate. Upon seeing the tall, black haired woman standing at the guest book, he immediately made his way to the stand. Good morning, madam. he began in a humble tone. I am Bleeti1 Etheseko, one of the Clerics of this temple. How may Ethone aid your voyage? Turning to face the young man, she looked deeply into his blue eyes. He had short red hair and wore the blue robes of his order. There was something about him that seemed familiar to Efovoan, but she could not place it. Dismissing this feeling from her mind, she focused on the task at hand. My name is Efovoan. she introduced herself. I have recently arrived in Blyenun from Wheyethenably. Unfortunately on my journey through the mountains, my friends and I were attacked by a goblin raiding party. I was the only one who managed to escape the ambush and I did so with only that which I had on me at the time. As such, I do not have enough money to stay at either of your towns inns. Would it be possible to find Bleeti is a rank in Erupuan religious orders. It signifies the rank of noviate and literally means Fresh-One. The most common rank - that of monks or priests - is Duish (Monk) and is given to those initiated clerics who have been

sanctuary here in this holy house during my sojourn in your town? I will have to speak with my superior in regards to your request, Efovoan. Etheseko replied in a gentle tone. We do not normally shelter travellers. However, Ethewhong - the head cleric of this temple - is a kind man. I do not see any reason why he would turn you away. After all, the origins of our own order are based on the hospitailty shown to us by King Munammeren, the Great in the early days of the Realm of the Crimson Kings. Ethone alone knows what might have happened to the great crew of Uthetuite Amoga - may Ethone wash his soul - had not the great monarch gave safe harbour to his forlorn and ravaged crew. Thank you, Bleeti. Efovoan smiled. The cleric departed back through the door to the left of the entrance to the sanctuary. After a while, the young priest of the Sea God returned accompanied by an older man - Ethewhong the head cleric of the Temple. Ethewhong was slightly taller then the youing noviate and had short steel grey hair. His green eyes looked deeply into Efovoans own green eyes as if searching for something. Etheseko tells me you seek sancturary within our temple. the older cleric began. I do, Duish. Efovoan replied respectfully. He has told me of your plight and I am truly sorry for the loss of your companions. You have my blessing to stay for a week within the temple. I caution you though, our bearths are rudimentary and we do not enjoy many luxuries. However, we do have an extra room with a bed and ample food to share with you. May Ethone wash away your cares while you stay in his house. I am truly grateful for your aid, Duish. she replied. I should not have to stay the week, only a few days. I am awaiting a messenger who should be arriving in the next few days and then I will be able to continue on with my journey. Do not think that your stay with us will be a burden. the Duish insisted in a friendly tone. All are welcome to seek shelter within our Temple in times of need. Efeseko will now take you to your room. I will have food brought, as you are probably quite hungry after your ordeal. Again, thank you for your kindness, Duish. the assassin replied, bowing her head respectfully. This way, madam. Efeseko indicated, pointing towards the right hand door. She followed the young cleric through the doorway and into a short hall which ended in a stairwell. There were two sets of stairs, one ascending and the other decending. The noviate priest lead her up the stairs to a long hallway which ov erlooked the sanctuary below. Three doors were located on the right hand side of the hallway whilst the left side was an open balcony. Rfovoans gaze ventured over the railing to her left and she began to study the layout of the santuary. The central feature of the temple was the large pool of sea water which was fed by the pumps below the temple which took water from the resevoir. The pool was circular and edged with small paving stones, its blue water still in the tranquility of the temple. At the far end of the pool a small dais rose up with the

traditional altar of the priests of the Sea God - a ships tiller. The wheel of the tiller was fixed and each of the handles sported a candle holder, each holding a single white candle. To the left of the altar was a podium on which the temples log book sat. This book not only contained the rituals of the priesthood but also recorded the activities of the clerics and the congregation, the weather, a listing of all the ships that had ever sat at port within Blyenun and a listing of all the clerics who had ever lead this congregation. The log book served not only as the guidebook for temple rituals but also as an historical record of the town. Around the other sides of the pool wooden pews had been set in orderly rows where the citizens of Blyenun could sit and worship. Stain glassed windows depicitng the deeds of great mariners - some fighting wicked sea monsters - decorated the walls and bathed the whole room in the beautiful morning sunshine. Bleeti Efeseko stopped in front of the middle door along the hallway. He opened it and motioned Efovoan to enter. I will bring you some food shortly. he informed her in a kind voice. Please find solace and peace while you rest within our temple walls. Again, thank you for your kindness, Bleeti. Efovoan replied humbly. She stepped inside the room and closed the door behind her. She could hear the clerics soft footfalls walking away down the corridor. Looking around the room, she was pleased with its spartan simplicity. The room was very small, more of a cell then a bedroom. It contained four pieces of furniture: a single bed; a trunk to store ones personal belongings and a small desk and chair. A single window let the sunlight in illuminating the small space - but the assassin did indeed feel at peace. As promised, the noviate returned shortly with a simple meal of warm oats and bread. A small glass of water was also provided for refreshment. Efovoan ate, feeling like a queen. She couldnt remember her last meal - it seemed so long ago now. When she had finished eating she lay down on the simple bed and slept, letting her cares and the stress of the last few days wash away in her dreams. And those dreams were filled with the memory of that moment, earlier that morning, when she sat in that small glen just north of Blyenun and felt the beauty of the world which surrounded her.

It was well into the afternoon when she awoke from her dream-filled slumber. Efovoan stretched as she sat up in bed. She rolled over and put her feet on the floor. At some point, Efeseko must have retruned to carry away her dirty dishes for they were missing from the room. Looking around, she saw that nothing else had been disturbed. Satisfied with the character of the priests who were kind enough to harbour her, Efovoan dressed and then left her room. She retraced her steps and soon found herself in the foyer of the temple again. Turning towards the main doors, she exited the temple, descending its steps down to the stones of the town sqaure below. The weather was warm and a gentle breeze blew up from the south, bringing with it the smell of the salty sea. The town square was busy with citizens coming and going

from various shops or perhaps on their way home after a day out in the town. Efovoan looked over to the town hall and wondered if the messenger had returned, however she doubted it knowing that Edotheron had probably set sail with the morning tide. By the time the messengers ship had cast off, Edotherons ship would have been well out to sea. She would probably have to wait until tomorrow for her payment. It was at this point she decided to take stock of her situation. Opening the pouch hanging from her belt, she reached inside and pulled out the few coins that Shuinef had possessed. It amounted to six copper coins and nothign else. Not a lot of money at all. It was good that the Clerics of Ethone had taken her in because she did not want to be camping in the woods until her money from Edotheron arrived. Thinking of the woods where she had spent the previous night, she had a sudden idea. She could probably sell the mercenarys armoured shirt for a handsome profit. With this idea in mind, the assassin set off again to her hiding place in the woods just north of Blyenun. Ten minutes later she found herself again on the north-south road just on the outskirts of Blyenun. The road at this time of day had far less traffic then it did in the morning and she enjoyed the solidtude of the journey. She was perhaps half an our north of Blyenun when she crested a small hill and immediately saw a group of armed men who were travelling south. She immediately recognized their armour and knew at once they were Aplels mercenaries - probably sent by their captain to discover why the messenger had not returned from Blyenun. Frantically she looked around for a hiding spot but there was none. Yet before she could make another move she heard one of them shout: Hey! Thats her! She recognized the voice. It was the voice of Shuinef, the guard she had humiliated in order to escape the mages dungeon. Suddenly she felt true terror. Here she was all alone on a remote stretch of country road with no where to run or hide and there was a group of four mercenaries holding a grudge who were ready to attack. Again, frantically she looked around seeking some sanctuary but to no avail. She would have to stand and fight. With the mercenaries running towards her, she began to mentally prepare for the melee to come. She began to prepare a number of spells she hoped would give her a slight advantage - since she was desperately outnumbered. She hunched down into a battle stance and drew her sword. It would be a fight to the death, no doubt. She would have to kill all of them in order to save herself. Well then, she thought, let them come. I am ready. There were three of Aplels mercenaries charging towards her - and she recognized all three of them. The one leading the charge was Shuinef, the man she had humiliated within the dungeon of the mages tower. His companions were Abuicle and Kuenofhe, the two guards who she had duped into thinking that she was Shuinef. It was funny how fate worked, but then she did not have time for such philosophical thoughts. She stilled her mind and concentrated on the attacks that would be coming and the spell she was

preparing in her mind. As Shuinef arrived at the top of the hill, Efovoan pictured in her minds eye the mans blade deflecting from her. Indeed, she allowed him the initiative in the melee and watched passively as he swung his broadsword at her. As she had envisioned, the blade was suddenly deflected to the mercenarys right as if it had struck some solid material. Efovoan envisioned the same action as Abuicle also swung his sword at her. Again, the blade deflected harmlessly to her right. The Hanoteac mercenary, Kuenofhe bellowed his clans war cry as he swung his broadsword at her head. In a claculated move, Efovoan raised her own sword to meet the mans blade, successfully parrying Kuenofhes attack. Continuing her fluid motion, Efovoan ducked down under the mercenarys blade, sliding her own sword under the Hanoteacs broadsword and then striking the mans calf, bruising it badly. Her opponents were stunned by the ineffectiveness of their attacks and Efovoan pressed her advantage. Still crouched down below Kuenofhes blade, she quickly struck the man in his groin with her leg. The force of the blow threw the stunned Hanoteac mercenary ten feet backwards. Kuenofhe landed face down, disarmed and temporarily unable to fight. Effortlessly, Efovoan continued the rotation of her body, swinging her sword at the lower body of Abuicle. The blade grazed off the bottom of his chain mail shirt but did cut the man. However, Shuinef saw an opening and brought his blade down onto her left shoulder, drawing a lot of blood but not doing any major damage. Efovoan pressed onward, gritting her teeth to ignore the pain in her shoulder. From her semi-squatting position she jumped upward, kiicking both her legs out and connecting with the faces of the two mercenaries. Her kick sent Shuinef reeling backwards and stunning him while her right foot connected squarely with Abuicles nose, driving the cartilage and bone into his brain. The poor mercenary dropped helplessly to the ground, withering in pain until his death a minute later. Landing on the ground, her body square to her final opponent, Efovoan again pressed her advantage - lunging forward and swinging her sword at him. The blade cut through the top of Shuinefs head, destroying his brain. The mercenary immediately expired in a heap. Efovoan took a deep breath and then walked over to where the prone Kuenofhe lay. The man was still stunned and she gently rolled him over. It looked like his nose was broken, but he suffered no other damage from the fall. The red haired Hanoteac mercenary simply stared at her in complete horror. Kuenofhe. she murmured in a gentle voice. I will not kill you. Go back to your captain and tell him that Aplel is dead. Your band of mercenaries are no longer under contract to him. Leave his tower at once and go wherever you desire. If you do not, I will hunt each of you down until you are all dead. Who...who are you? Kuenofhe stuttered. I am Efovoan of the Isuanene. she answered him in a simple tone. Go now with you life in your possession. Heed my words and tell your captain exactly what I told you.

Without any further persuasion, the red haired mercenary stood up and fled. For her part, Efovoan looked down at the two bodies that lay dead on the road. Without another thought, she turned around and headed back to Blyenun, leaving them for the carrion birds. The chainmail shirt was not worth the trouble, it seemed. She would go back to the town hall and hope that the messenger had returned - with her money. She suddenly had a strong desire to take a bit of a vacation. Too much had gone wrong with this job. She needed a break and she knew that Blyenun was perhaps the best place to enjoy a little down time. It was nearing the end of the afternoon when she at last returned to the Town Hall. The same clerk from that morning still sat behind the desk. He immediately recognized her and quickly put down his quill pen as she approached. You are in luck, madam. the clerk began, Master MiLiyshs ship had not been out to sea very long when my messenger caught up with him. Master MiLiysh received your message and gave the messenger a package. From under the desk, the clerk withdrew a small wooden box with a lock on its front. He placed it on top of the desk right in front of Efovoan and then produced a key from his dark coloured robes. Master MiLiysh has instructed us to give this to you. Thank you, sir. Efovoan replied, taking the key from the clerks hand. She then picked up the box from the desk. Is there anything else I can aid you with, madam? the clerk asked. No, thank you. she returned. Then I bid you a good evening. The same to you, sir. With this last word, she turned and exited the Town Hall. Once outside, back in the central square of Blyenun, she began to contemplate her next move. She could easily afford the luxury of a room at Ekotais Retreat, but she still worried that the young man, Edintuithe, would perhaps recognize her. In stead, her gaze fell upon the oak doors of the Temple of Ethone. She remembered the peace and tranquility she felt inside the temple and the kindness of its clerics. Her mind was made up. Without further thought, she crossed the town square and mounted the stairs, disappearing inside the temples oaken doors to the serenity that awaited her there.

when the winter was over she returned there to find him and her memories filled her with light she remembered the beauty she remembered desires and her memories filled her with light i am the sun in the flame cold from the flame turns away and in these winds came a change she awakes sister walk through these fields of delight but i want you to know desperations the tenderest trap so gently you go what will it take sister awake

when this beautiful cult of desire has left you for dead isolation will cradle the lies of things left unsaid what will it take sister awake and youll look to the heavens above and taste its deceit these temptations have blinded desires to sleep at their feet what will it take sister awake and youll hear them call out your name invoking the fates chances are youve travelled too far in stirring their hate what will it take sister awake awake

Sister Awake The Tea Party