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CHAPTER 1
The blue sky turnws to the color of green leaves as her vision scanned downward to look at the trunks of the great maples and oaks. Xile Waeri began to awaken from her deep trance. A haunting apparition of a handsome dark-haired man shadowed her thoughts. His dark complexion and amber eyes reminded her of the warmth of sunshine. His hair was black as ebony and his frame supple. A feeling of great inner strength emanated from this dream-man. He was saying goodbye to her with silent lips. His last embrace came with a heated kiss. Tears were in their eyes showing a sorrow both felt which could never be lifted from their hearts. The surroundings were of a coastal area. Scattered white colums of erect pilars scattered the area, a ruin of some sort. The ocean's water gently lapping at the shore. As she looked into his eyes one final time, she noticed the golden spiraling star shaped birthmark on his forehead.

Xile sighed as the last vestiges of her dreamlike trance cleared from her mind. As she performed her morning ritual of practicing her music, she remembered this morning's meeting with the Harper Master. She plucked one final string on the ancient oaken harp. It's magic gave the desired effect for her to enter her trance and calm her nerves. She left the harp in the sacred grove where her mother's tree stood and left for home to dress more appropriately for her meeting. She donned a gown of emerald green. She knew the Harper Master approved of a well-dressed elven maid. The Harper Master was an ancient elf himself claiming to have lived in the Yuirwood. To her knowledge, he was the only known elf in existance to show age of venerability and still exist. Most of her elven kin were tall in height and spare of facial hair, but the Harper Master was only 4'7" and had a silver beard that draped over his feet. The exact age of the Harper Master was as mysterious as the Harper Master himself. His songs embodied the knowledge of ages past and futures to come.

"My child, what troubles you this morning?" The Harper Master's melodic voice flowed. "It was he... again my Harper Master. I've had the same vision time after time but cannot solve the meaning of the dream." Xile's tone was preoccupied. An impregnated silence of words accompanied her trailing thoughts just like harp strings vibrating to an endless tune. "Please, Xile, tell me of your puzzle. I do not mean to be rude child...but I am concerned for your the sake of your practice. You must not let any interlude's interfere with your harping. It's not just the love of the music itself. The song is what keeps the magic alive in the realms. It keeps balance for all living." A statement he always reiterated to her on more than one occasion, his intent stare probed her mind for more than just musical teachings. "I feel a closeness to this man in my thoughts, almost an intimacy. I wish to keep him secret for a time, even if he is a dream." "Very well, my dear." The Harper Master prattled on about the enchantments of Xile's harp and of life's fulfillment at the songs created from her harp. The mood of the lesson changed with the tone of the Harper Master's reminiscence of his past adventures with Xile's mother. She often thought she was mistaken to be her mother by the ancient elf. "It was her mother's adventuring that ultimately lead to your mother's death." The tone of his voice took on a saddened note. But it was a glorious death of honor. "Harper Master you know as well as I that she died at the hands of an evil bastard that was jealous of her marriage...her love for my father." "Ah, yes. This is true, but in that wake of sorrow came the aftermath." "What aftermath? No harm has come to any of our kin nor have any armies plundered into Illandrious." "Not yet, Xile. I want you to seek advice from your mother, commune to her through the soul gem that rests on the sacred branch in the grove." The gem was a tear-shaped emerald dangling from a silver chain that glowed a teal-blue hue. "I ask one request of you, if you must continue with this desire for adventure, you must know how Aumrea's life was truly. Therefore, you may consider avoiding your mother's fate considering the dreams you've had." As he waived a pointed finger in a fatherly manner, a twinkle of a smile appeared in his eyes. "Aye." She nodded, but the fiery passion of the dream was still as real as life and just occured. "Have you spoken to your father of your leaving?" The Harper Master's pitch changed to a barritone. "Well, no. Not yet. I plan to speak to father during the Yule Tide celebration tonight. I hear a great number of guests plan to attend. As well as my sister's betrothed, Sir Grimmish." Her vioce wavered between sarcasism and aloofness at Grimmish's expense. "Well, I will not keep you from your banquet preparations. Go now child and remember that the kinship you have with your loved ones should never be taken for granted. There will come a day when you must choose one for the other, especialy on personal quests." Xile affectionately kissed the old elf's cheek, bowed her head and left. Illandrious or Sky Tree is the home to Xile's clan in the Yuirwood. An enormous oak that housed a major city within it's foilage. Spires and platforms are entertwined amongst the branches in a webbed embrace. Ruled by a harmonous republic, resides the great clans of Elven kind.
The Great Hall was being prepared for Yule Tide. This was a time of year when all elven kin came together to celebrate the year's bounty and to share gifts of special meaning with each other. Xile knew it was a time when her father would bring before her prospective suitors. To take her hand in marriage or at least catch her eye. Xile wandered into the Great Hall noticing all the handcrafted wreaths and bouquets made to decorate the huge dining room. The floral scents of winter wildflowers flowed on the air and exhilerated her. A few people now gathered in the dining room with matrons hastily making last minute setting arrangements. It would be several hours until the evening's meal and Xile decided to seek out the Tree of Souls to commune with her mother. Hoping no one would stop her to gossip of the day's events, Xile walked on to the Celestial Garden where various sole gems hung on oaken branches. Here all the souls of the elves who passed not over were kept as advisors to their woods. An elf who passed away into the next life was one who died in combat, or voluntarily passed to a different plane. The amulet possessed by Xile was given to her by her father and as she concentrated on her mother's image, the voice of her mother spoke in her mind. "It pleases me to speak to you once again, my daughter" Aumrea's voice was as gentle as a breeze and far away. "I have missed you so mother. I have so many questions to ask of you, and yet I fear your answers." Her inner being shook with the return of her recent dream, and her face was flustered with a passionate look. "What could cause such a fear?" Aumrea's voice was comforting. "I know father would say no to my leaving now without chosing a suitor or husband to adventure." Xile knew her first choice to explore would be the shores of the realm where she could find ruined columns and the dark man.
"You wish to travel and seek great adventures such as I did, do you not?" Her father's warmth and acceptance of her request grew to a kindred mischief. "Yes, but, not only that. I don't want to settle down to a familial life...just not yet. I would never know the taste of adventure or see places far from our woods if I were to marry now. A husband would never allow it, and I wouldn't have the time after bearing children." "You're wrong daughter. I knew I could not keep your mother's lust for wandering still because it would've broken her spirit, and I could never forgive myself if that were to happen. Your mother had a thirst for blood...it was in her veins like a poisonous bite or curse. Just as you do, Xile. You have a destiny or a fate, just as your mother did. Go forth, you'll be fulfilled soon. Overjoyed and excited, Xile erupted into a train of words. "I will leave with Grimish and his brother Bhab upon the morrow." "Pray then, I wish you safe travels daughter. Remember, I will always be her and your mother will always be in your heart." Bhab. What a fool of fools. Could she survive his company, the pea-brained barbarian and his brother, Grimmish. Her future had only started and it was gloomy at best. Were they not both brave and fierce fighters? Only the best. They were just both unrefined cooths that took every advantage to tease her about being barefoot and...she shuddered. Yes, she would be in great company if they would let her join their group, The Shadow Warriors. At one time Grimmish had courted her, but she had no interest. Hopefully, he wouldn't hold or grudge. Would her sister encourage Grimmish to let her travel at least for protection. "Methinks he would."
An hour before the start of dinner, Xile filed through her wardrobe picking an elegant burgundy gown of velvet and white lace to wear. A pair of mythril earings dangled from her ears and a large mythril ring rimmed with red gemstones fit on her right index finger. She adorned her hair with a thin golden crown which came together in apex fashion. Her wavy, fiery red hair hung loosely on her shoulders. She carefully applied a teal colored powder to her eyelids, lining the rims of her eyes with kohl. A rose stain caressed her lips. She had grown to be a very tall and lithe woman with endowed curvature. Xile made her entrance into the Great Hall...all gaze affixed on her. "Announcing the young maiden Xile Waeri of the Clan of Ralfae." The Master of Ceremonies proclaimed. Quickly she made her way to her father's side. "Good eve, father." She whispered as she kissed him upon his lordly brow. "Good evening, daughter. And where have you been most of today? Avoiding me, perhaps?" He inquired jeeringly as he ruturned the affetion. "No, father. I have been schooling with the Harper Master." She replied with a mischievious smile. "And how are your musical skills?" "Complete father...complete"
CHAPTER 2 "WEAKNESS!" A harsh whisper awakened her. Regaining her composure Krelyn Seth attempted to concentrate on the conspiracy being laid before the Council of Eight. She opened her eyes, before her at the ashened table were the seven elven members sat before her. Her spirit chilled as the gaze of the Skeletal Knight sitting across from her glanced directly in her direction. His red eyes were cold with some kind of eternal jealousy. It bore a similar resemblance to her hatred of the Ralfaes and their kinsman. The current events which brought her to this council meeting would give her the means to satisfy her hatred and extinguish the clan. The Skeletal Knight spoke. "A forthright challenge against Grimmish would be foolish." Mirshgar's mailed fist struck the table surface and where his fist was remained a glistening blackened ice. "Harumph, we all know that. What do you propose we do? Walk to the roots of the great trees and demand him to surrender his head and sword without a fight." Zanger, a once renouned mythril smith of the Southern Wyrm responded. Where his eyes once were now only a mote-light of flame flickered and never blinked. All members of the council knew the side effects of the cursed sword, Glanglear the Firebrand. The rest of the council laughed mocking Zanger's cowardice. "No, what I propose is that we travel to Minera itself and lay seige there. Grimmish lacks the fortification of the great trees and would be the starting point from where we would attack. It would be to our best advantage to strike Grimmish while he knows not of this Council before he is made aware. We are the Council of Eight but seven sit here. If he seeks worthy allies with the Ralfaes there would be hope in Minera's survival, and we cannot take that chance. He bears the eighth blade, the Light Blade." Mirshgar retorted. "Minera is just a fabled lake where common folk talk of a huge crystal leviathan that lurks in its waters. There has been no evidence that any creature exists or magical powers from the lake itself." Yelled Durthayne the Bearer of Quicksilver. "You are wrong Durthayne. I, Waendier, have come from Minera and have seen the capabilities of the island which Grimmish's Star Goddess smiles upon." Spoke an eagle-winged elf. "If it is war that we wage, we must strike silently. I would think the assistance of the Rose Knight's rotting army we'll have the advantage since it would be more than likely noticeable if we're traveling in several boats to reach the island." "What say you Kolahier? What is your guidance on this. We have heard naught from you? Does your lordly knowledge fail you, or is it that you are too deep in your thoughts. We would like to be enlightened." Said Faressa, the Weilder of the Seablade. "Hmm...I for one say that we should do more research on whom these blades are more appropriately ordained to. I, for one, know that Eldrick have been destined to be together before I was to become...I know that some of you, how should I say, are in bitter turmoil with the brands you carry. Others obviously not." Coolly stated Faressa as she adjusts her robes. "Wouldn't you agree Xilewaeri?" "Bitterness needs no turmoil when blood must be spilled. It is the hand that controls the brand which causes turmoil." She replies dryly. Laughter is heard in her own mind. "What do you mean, Faressa?..." Mirshgar.
"Where is she? That accursed Kyriam. That accursed She-Dog...No, that accursed She-Devil! If it were not for her, my life would still have meaning. My daughter, Xilewandri, lost and maybe dead...my husband maddened beyond healing. Am I ever to have my vengence and slide my brand through her stony heart, humph, what heart. I can't believe that she even came from similar stock or that her mother was once an elf. It sickens my soul to let her best me, but the game is not won yet. A spiritual cold wind blasts through Xilewaeri. Her eyes briefly met the blue dead-light of the Skeletal Knight warrior of the Order of the Black Rose. "What say you Lord Brandon. What do your dead eyes see. Enlighten us with your thoughts and visions of the Nether Plane." Her eyes narrowed as she waited in response to her shouting at the black-armored Lord from the Undead Nation. "My lady, even with the strength of the brands that all of you bear, none could withstand even the slightest glimse of what I see. For I see all your deaths at every turn. I smell your waining spirits. Time is not your enemy. Even Grimmish is not your enemy. Your true enemy lies within! Living dead I may be, but I speak foresooth. My honor has carried me even beyond." Lord Brandon's voice reverberates and his death-glow eyes flicker the dance of amusement. His Black Rose shined faintly upon his breast, a symbol of the High Order of the Sylaaswyrde. Even in the dim illuminance of the fairy-fired candles, many suspected that the dark presence which loomed within the mist that rises from the stone floor was the Evil Goddess, for the ebony Wyrm has tipped the scales to her favor. It was Xilewaeri that has seen such turning that will only result in the apparition that stood before her. "Then let her take the hand that would bring down what she fears most. Why let her use us as pawns to do her bidding when she has the power all her own. If I must I will spill the blood of all who cross me!" As the emerald green eyes glowed a new ferocity. "I, bid you to your own end and this hopelessness!" She stammered with an uneven voice of emotion. Laughter by all, with the exception of Xilewaeri, is heard. She glares at them with inflamed anger. "It is apparent that you do not understand yet you are a scholar amongst our own kind. Each has come here drawn by the same power which has created these devices. These devices wich we have in our possession will be the divining rods for the path which we will commit to the cleansing. Before you ask of what cleansing I mean, I speak of the vermin which has brought the plague to the age of which we live in. From the same power as which were borne by our ancestors to defend and protect our kindred. The same force which drove those to sacrifices of extremes continues the circle of empowerment. This 'She' whom you speak of is not the power of whom ignites the brands to our abolishment. It is man, human-kind who has tainted these grand and glorious symbols of elvin power. It is the humans who take, consume, and spread like a wild disease. We have, as a race, one-tenth of what was once ours. It has been human-kind who allowed your 'She' to have such a strong foothold on this plane. Before the Narathandel returned, there were limitless cults giving her this power. When man was learning to make bronze tools and understand farming, we had a great deal of control over this world. This turmoil you speak of is caused by the influence of human-kind for many a century have these blades been possessed by such simple, sleepy-minded creatures. I digress. Is it not the Demosecarians
CHAPTER 3 "And what news do you bring me dark lord?" Kyriam smiled sneeringly. "The counsel have met and are still divided. However, the other members have swayed the princess in agreement to attack immediately. Yet I felt her thoughts to wander in warning Grimish." The familiar cold chill emananted from the undead knight as he replied to the question.

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