Submitted Date 05/23/2020

Chapter One: Bardic Magic.

Hello, my dearest friends, as you recall, I was stuck in Nairn City. When this all first went down, I was still unconscious, having been barely rescued in time, from some very sinister necromancers. Who had used me as a guinea-pig for their dark arts. Torturing me relentlessly, to the verge of death, and sometimes doing so, worse than anything imaginable.

But they had kept me prisoner for a very long time, the damage was insurmountable, and it finally seemed that I would never recover. The reason that the necromancers had come after me to begin with, was because I had discovered, something so gravely terrible, that it defies all previously known evil, in that realm called, Snowfell.

A spell, or 'magical working' as they call it here. Anyway, I digress. I had found a spell. A horrifying, maleficent, dark, destructive magical spell, that could and would indefinitely tip the balance of the realms and more than likely, (in my own humble opinion,) kill off the vast majority of people contained therein. Yet herein lies the crux to that situation. This particular working of darkness and disgusting evil was in itself divided into six parts.

Six scrolls made up the entirety to it and they were not put in any particular order, nor were they like labeled one through to six or similar. Only by reading the scrolls could you put the puzzle together. Now here is the other problem with that, I had found the first one by accident. You heard me, by accident! And of course my stupid curiosity had got the better of me.

Having translated the first scroll I had found, and made a copy in my notes, (as well as idiotically memorizing the damn thing,) I was unaware that it was a part of a larger deal. It was not until I found a large ancient tome which spoke of a particular necromancy working, that had to be divided up because it was too powerful for any one person to have hold of alone, that I began to search out for the rest of the scrolls.

Surprisingly, I did find the other five, but instead of destroying them permanently, I did something even worse. I not only copied them out in a code of my own making, but then re-wrote the scrolls, scrambling the words and completely disfiguring the spell entirely by changing it. Rendering it harmless – well at least not as potent nor as vicious as it was intended. Then having made them look as aged, dirty and having forged the scripting to my best ability, I had then placed them back where I had found them.

Oh if only I had known what trouble that was going to cause! If only I had known, that I was being watched, spied on, to be more precise! If only I had not paused and halted in putting that last scroll back. I had found the last one, changing it completely as with all the rest, and for some inexplicable reason, I had re-opened it, as I stood there amongst the dusty tomes and scrolls of knowledge in the dark little cavern part to the library owned by the extensive Tocsdrof family, and was double checking my work.

As I was doing so, making sure my forging of the script was perfect I was bludgeoned over the head. I had no chance to cry out. No chance to defend myself, as I succumbed to that act of seditious violence. When I came too next, I was on some kind of cold hard slab of stone. Bound, chained and naked. Do I recall what happened next? Do I remember all the darkness, the agonizing torture, the repeated atrocities and violations to my body, mind and soul? Sadly, I do.

But, like I was saying my friends, when this all started I was still very badly injured. My mind was sickened and my solitude was absolute. Sometimes, you can have all the friends and loved ones around you and still be alone. My parental father figure, Robert Trellawny was tenderly trying to get me out of the horrible abyss I had been thrust in, and I surely could not return to DorDinen's place in my current mindset and state of disrepair.

So, as a way to try and bring me cheer tachre, had brought me to the month long Ranger Festival. As a special guest of Neithan Elonathesei, High Prince Regent. But as you are well aware, nothing ever really goes quite the way we plan it in life, and this particular misadventure is a prime example of that. I can only fill in, what little I remember.

For as yet, I was in such a dark place during that time period, which lasted almost five long years, that I recall very little, to be honest. Let me explain therefore, that this story is not told just from my view point. Not all of it, and that it was several years, before I even managed to collect all the pieces together. In order to put it all down in some form of semblance, that made sense in the time line of things...

* * * * * *

Neithan Elonathesei sat in his luxuriously pavilioned tent. A thoughtful hand upon his chin as he viewed a couple of reports. Close by stood two of his personal guard captains. Eldarweave and Oakley were fully dressed and appearing ready for battle. There was a heavy air of expectancy. A silken silence of dark proportions hung in the very air of the sectional all three occupied, which seemed deadly in itself.

The High Prince Regent paused momentarily in his deliberations of reading the report he still held in his hand. His liquid amber colored orbs raised up partially. Distant in appearance, as if he was traversing another time and place in space. When he spoke, it was filled with low intonations, that were indicative of someone far away in thought, as he explained, "Well, I am guessing there is nothing that can be done about this, lest I deal with it myself. Personally. Adrian Oakley, my goodly fellow. Be so kind as to fetch both Sorrel and Agrivane."

Momentarily he paused then added, "As well as Lethil Broadleaved if you please? I do believe we must plan carefully. If our tactics, are to work in this most gravest of matters. I will possibly need Sir Trebor Khelndi's clan with this, so bring him along too – you will find him in the north-east quarter, organizing tonight's blind archery contest, I believe..."

Again he halted in mid speech and stared straight at Oakley stating, "Perhaps we should gather some of our finest captains, whilst we are at it. This might just turn out to be a war to end all others, in its deliberation of brutality – and I cannot possibly stand idly by if, that is to be the case."

"Indeed sire, and if it so pleases your Lordship, I shall assemble those as can assist us fully in this operation." suggested Oakley still standing and facing Neithan with grim features.

"In a little bit. First things first, we need gather those I have asked for. Oh, and do not forget to ask for Lord Trellawny. My brother-in-arms, may have some expertise that we would find rather, beneficial in this most delicate matter of harsh bearing." was his calm dark response.

"As you desire, my Liege." Oakley bowed low, leaving the immediate occupancy to Eldarweave and Neithan once more, as he disappeared out of the room rather swiftly.

"Eldarweave my good fellow?" inquired Neithan softly, quietly in a low drawl of patience.

"Aye, Sire?" was the casual reply, which sounded vaguely reminiscent of a southern Irish brogue to it, from the tall thick, strong red-headed and bearded captain. Whose piercing pale orbs studiously glanced at his Liege-lord stoically. His expression mutable.

"I think it is time, we re-awoke our secret raw essence user, to a more fuller potential. For I do believe if any can aid us in avoidance of a war, it would be that particular one. After all," and with this a small smirk began to play on his worn features, "..if anyone can throw another person's magical training into a chaos play – it would be a raw essence user... Fetch me Leceryan as soon as we are done with the initial briefing, if you would please? I would wish to have him assist me in that, particular matter. Then when we are done, you and a small garrison will head out towards the fort where High Captain Ayslett maintains the majority of her, troops."

Eldarweave smiled with subtle nodding as he said quietly, "As you wish of it, Neithan, Sire. Might one be so bold as to ask of but one question?"

"But of course, what would you like to know?" replied the elder High Regent as he sat back once more comfortably his eyes still cast to the small report held in his hands, thoughtfully.

"This raw essence user, I was wondering who, it might be? Yes, I understand that a raw essence user, can indeed make magic more unpredictable and the chaos more pronounced, but pray tell my Liege-lord, how will you control of them? And the mess that will need clearing up after?"

"Kate Haggis of Trellawny-Snowfell is the raw essence user I will re-awaken. She may not know all of her past, since I wove with the others to place a thick barrier on it, a few of her short Earth decades ago – but nonetheless that is, who I am referring to. She has a lot of power and potential, and had a lot of training too. If I awaken her cautiously and slowly, she will surely remember her lessons and naturally be able to use her rather, extensive, gifts as a result. It should prove, rather amusing at the very least."

"But your Grace, as you know, that person is very unintentional on their part with their sacred ability. Plus, I am sure you are well aware that the person mentioned, does not like to be commanded under any circumstance! Nor view the political stand points as important, or the rules of the lands for that matter. In fact, the Lady does not view herself as answerable, to anything that the rest of us view as consequential." came the somewhat shocking observation from Eldarweave.

"Indeed I have no intentions to cause disrespect to that particular part of the young one's beautiful magnetic soul. As for controlling that which is unpredictable and undeniably, fiercely independent in nature? Why...very carefully, and from... a distance of course!" and with that his smirk grew into a wide grin as he added softly in lower tones, "The only problem that this poses for the likes of us, is that I may just have to disregard the rules, on this one. And let the person run rampant and back to one, who hates me the most – in order for the long term plans that have been made, to come into fruition.

Might be fun to watch from a distance. Perhaps entertaining to a degree, whilst we await for everything else to fall succinctly into place. Think of it as similar to using her, as a distraction to keep our enemies guessing and at bay, as much as it shall be entertaining to steer, the plans into probability and actuality."

"But my Lord!" Eldarweave was not sure what had shocked him more by that daring statement. The fact it had been said so cold and scandalously calculatively. Or the fact his Liege-lord had already thought to hand over the person, to their enemy so readily. "But Sire," he protested again, "Handing her to DorDinen on a plate? Really? Are you sure my Lord that is wise? I mean, he is dealing with the dark Lord Death, we know he has made a pact – and from the report, people are going missing. Possibly being sacrificed to his insatiable appetite for power! What is to say he will not do the same with her? Sacrifice her, that is?"

"Worry yourself not, Eldarweave my good fellow. One way or another, sending that person to him, will be his own undoing – not the raw essence she may or may not use. In fact I foresee that it might actually make the latter a lot stronger. And as well we both know, the more stubborn the more stronger the raw essence, that pours with determination. I highly doubt he wants her so badly, just to casually sacrifice her soul to some dark nefarious purposes.

It would not serve him well, to have a whole realm out for vengeance, inclusive of his own folks. He is not that stupid, I sense he desires her for another reasoning. Besides, placing an unknown, unregistered, raw essence user in his household, will be rather entertaining to say the least. For it will enrich the experience, as well as pull down even the most highest wrought of arrogance and pride – possibly make them scream for mercy by the end of it all. Quite the spectacle, let me assure you.

But well worth the waiting for. It the stars and trees and needs so be, it is, what I shall do! I shall throw our enemy a bone, that will prick him worse than a bushel of thorns. Throwing all his best wayward plans, to the nine levels of Ifrinn." with this his smirk spread across his thin lips and twinkled darkly in his eyes calculatively.

"Make no mistakes, I have thought this out very clearly indeed. Besides, the raw essence user is not even aware of all the abilities she has. And even if the person in question has an inkling, it is probably being attributed to something else entirely." With this Neithan gave off a sinister chuckle of amusement.

"Correct me if I am wrong, Bryn," continued Neithan maliciously almost, "But bards have of their own unique magic in a sense, that even true mages, cannot comprehend, hence why at one point the Greenleaf clan went on an all out genocide of the same type. That does tend to make things a little more exciting and interesting, does it not?

Bards hear of songs long forgotten, speak of truths and wisdom that even the most learned, may have failed to truly comprehend or understand. Trust to I when I say, that this is the perfect opportunity, to test out a few theories. As well as have a some things that need confirming, come into the mix." he explained with a soft rueful smile. "Would you not agree? You believe my judgment on this matter to be, a little imprecise, perhaps?"

"Nay my Lord, however I still have to wonder. What if it fails? You stipulate that the raw essence worker, has to be awoken but forgive me your Grace. Far be it for me to question you over this, but are we really sure, that this one can pull it off, as it is intended?" he queried further for he was still highly concerned over this conjecture. His face was furrowed up in a mighty frown.

"Yes one is, faithfully rendered and in the conviction, that it will go accordingly to plans already made." and with that Elonathesei smiled again. His orbs glittering brightly in the lamp light as he rose up rather elegantly. Declaring as he moved silently on bare feet, "I am going to meditate over this concern a little further. Make sure I am not disturbed, unless Oakley returns with all those I have requested present, also."

"Yes my Lord, as you wish." bowed Eldarweave as Neithan Elonathesei passed him in a regal noble air and walked behind a small dividing screen. His smile never once leaving his features. Once more Bryn Eldarweave was left standing alone. Worriedly he glanced to the broken seal of the King of Penwyre, on the back of the now open letter, that had not been folded back up or placed aside. There it lay on the table top which had a map of Penwyre. Carefully engraved and burnt into the wood itself. Several small crystals had been strategically placed.

Supposedly representative of the various forces and allegiances that could be called upon. He sighed heavily to himself, as he moved to the outside and stood to guard the entrance to the pavilion muttering softly, "I so wish, it had not come to this. It is too early to awaken that, essence user. But if Neithan says he must, and it will not thwart all that has been set in place, I cannot argue – he has never been overtly wrong before.."

* * * * * * *

Coleus Agrivane had already returned to the area he had been assigned too. All day he had been mulling over the conversation that his Liege-lord Neithan Elonathesei, had brought to his attentions. Agrivane was not exactly sure, what he should do with such a proposition, as such had been given to him. Options and choices that would ultimately affect, which way Coleus would go in his life.

Options and choices, which he was seriously thinking might be some kind of joke, about to be played upon him. Had Neithan really meant what he had said? What he had so willingly offered? Was he truly serious about giving him a small land holding on the outskirts of Nairn City? And a small Lordship with it? And all if he chose, what had been proposed?

Coleus Agrivane was not so power hungry and greedy to accept such an offering that was readily placed before him, without serious considerations.

Briefly he paused as he reached the steep incline, through the small thoroughfare that the rangers had literally trampled into a muddied path. He frowned angrily to himself more than anything. His dark scowling countenance was more than enough to scare and scatter several younger groups of rangers. That were passing by in the opposing direction. His features darkened visibly even more with displeasure.

Of course Elonathesei could not have been sincere with that offer! Was his admonishment to himself inside his head. It had to be a temptation, a test! Was the stolid conclusion that Agrivane came to, as he shook his head in spite of this thought. Drawing himself up to his full height. Coleus Agrivane, High Head Captain of the High Prince Regent's own personal guard growled low and throatily, to himself. His face twisted in a storm that was brewing within.

Inalienably under his breath he cursed the situation all round, to himself. His mutterings and grumblings lasted all the way, along the lesser muddy path. About the time he reached midway to where the Trellawny-Snowfell household head members were camped, there was a stark distant rumble of thunder, that rolled high over the forest to the east.

Rain began to spit from the ominous clouds that had gathered overhead. Reflecting his mood completely. So that by those final last twenty or so meters to the fine banners and sigils, that flew proudly flapping violently in the gusts of wind, hail and rain began to pelt down in heavy streams. Making the pathway slippery, and running like a river in itself.

All the way around this family's boundaries to their pavilioned area, there was paladins posted of various degrees of expertise. But all more than definitely of Lady Hope's own pickings from her order that she was commander of. Now Agrivane's fury had bled out somewhat with the stinging pelting down pour, and he found himself yet again sighing heavily.

Finally reaching the small platform covered piece that paved a dry spot under a wide awning. Though the water was like a curtain pouring down from the edges as he ducked under. Several of the paladins posted gave him a nod of acknowledgment.

Nodding with grim faces. As they huddled under their long hooded cloaks for warmth and protection, against the chilling relentless elements. Still from the small lanterns that lit up this area, the glint of chain mail and armor plate was rather distinctive.

Agrivane himself was wearing what was commonly called soft plate. Along with his usual under shirt of long sleeved, hooded chain mail. Grimly he knocked primly on the post presented, at the arch of the main entry way to the pavilion. He had not appreciated the previous night. He had his cot shifted next to Lady Kate's with Dandein on the other side of her, and Robert at his back. He had been rather uncomfortable.

Awkward would have been too tepid a word, to describe how it had really felt. It was most embarrassing as much as it had turned into a sleepless night, of discomfiture that he would rather not, repeat under any circumstance.

He was probably about to hit a phase, and was terribly aware of this factor. Instead of laying still and meditating, he had found himself more drawn to breathing in her quiet, warm floral scent, and that had about done him in mentally. To the point he had severely punished himself the following morning. By riding out with a group of rangers to go hunting.

He had paid severely, on that little jaunt to burn the blood fever part of the phase out of his system. Taking on a large moleschat all by himself. It had tore into the links of his plate, that he was wearing. Throwing him clear into an elder tree. But he had surprised all the others that were with him on that hunt too.

For he had roared as loud as the monster, he had faced. Forming a spear from nowhere, into his right hand, whilst pulling the now loosened plate completely off his chest, with a singular swipe of his left hand, more in anger than anything else. Then went head on charging at it. His frustration and fury knowing no boundaries as he flew to face his foe without a second thought!

Many had to admire his fearlessness. The breath taking dance of his spear working into the chinks of the creature's own armored plates, that acted for it's defense. Bursts of tiny pine needle sized spikes flew from the creature's mouth, as it roared back at him in defiance. But the form of Agrivane did not waiver.

Not until he had not only thrust his spear half way down it's shaft into the belly of the beast, but literally rammed his fist, into the side of it's cheek! Using his other hand to hold it's three foot wide jaw open, tearing it at the seams. Only when its blood slowed, did he finally draw of his sword, as it's head fell in a whimper of pain. Possibly sensing the end had come.

Agrivane took both his hands and drove the blade deep, into the top of it's head and skewered it. Five other rangers had managed to kill the mate of the being. Capturing the young. But his ruthlessness, was far from abated.

Coleus had insisted as had been his instructions, that all the offspring were to be sacrificed too. Possibly used in training pits, if it had not of been for the fact, he killed each single one of them. Fifteen in total. Then they had ventured further into the woodland where the elder trees clustered treacherously and speared a giant boar. Hoisting the beast all the way back by himself. Without any aid or assistance. Presenting it to the High Prince Regent with a low bow.

The rest of the moleschat had thankfully dealt with the rampage, that had startled his furious and unforgiving nature. Neithan Elonathesei was very much aware of the reports, and that, is when he had been informed that he was to attend a very important, debriefing – alone. Agrivane had not been a very happy camper over this. In fact it had done nothing to subdue or quell, the fierce disorder of his blood and the beginning of a rather nasty phase of ka'hnari.

Roughly scolded for his over kill and not allowing those rangers who had been with him, to participate in the spree with the family of moleschat, Coleus had then collected his cot gear and then was commanded to stay on duty, with the Trellawny-Snowfell head family of the clans-folk.

* * * * * * *

Rather annoyed at this conjecture, Coleus growled again as Dandein opened up the flap. To allow him to gain entry way. The place had been severely warded with serious magic. There was also a lot of divinity workings left right and center, he happened to notice. Plus there was a new slew of talisman markers all over the place, on various areas along with a few other notices, in between. Then, as if to fuel his ire further, he saw her. The one who he was supposedly meant to protect.

There was Kate. Sitting on some plumped up cushions with her eyes closed. Oblivious to his entrance. Gritting his teeth together and calming himself to a more suitable stoic appearance, Coleus bent low and undone the laces to the sides of his boots. Pulling them off one at a time. Placing them carefully on the mat that was provided. Leihn kindly had already claimed his sodden wet cloak.

Noting that the storm was obviously drawing closer. A brilliant flash lit up the whole tent like it was daytime. The thunder roared overhead, in almost deafening proportions. Everyone winced even a little, save for Kate. She seemed unaffected by her surrounds. Who still sat with her eyes closed. Her face did not even twitch.

Finally as the storm began to move away and Agrivane had already settled down from a hot bath and fresh warm clothes. Huddled as the other occupants, around the fireplace which was blazing very nicely under Robert's care, a strange smile began to accommodate the woman's face softly. Her orbs opened and she stretched. As yet not having paid any attention to those within her immediate surrounds. Her father was busy cooking something-or-another in a large dutch oven type of pot.

He had just lifted the lid and the smell was incredibly, mouth watering and delicious. Tantalizing to the senses. That had all coincided with Kate opening her eyes. That flashed a mysterious jade gray and sea blue combined. Agrivane could not help but catch sight of those orbs. Those eyes twinkling so brightly as if with hidden mischief, or light shining from within.

But she rose up a little stiffly, from her position after stretching. Glancing fondly over to her father whom she kissed on the cheek softly. That whole tenderness and gentility, that Dandein had spoken to him previously about her possessing, becoming more evident, than it ever was before.

Quickly Agrivane turned away. In his mind he refused to be caught out staring at her. Studying her. Again his anger turned inwardly at his own stupid, lingering thoughts to the conversation that had been held, between his Liege-lord and self. Once more he had to firm his jaw and shake the contemplatives from his mind.

Concentrate on his current task of cutting the bread up, and checking the plates were set around the small round flat wooden disc – that served as a makeshift table top. He set to it diligently. Trying hard to keep his focus. Every now and then his thoughts treacherously, strayed and he straggled to keep a hold of some semblance of stoicism.

Catching himself off guard every few minutes or so, as he stole a glance at the woman. Who was now having made a thick dough, which had been rising during the storm, baking the bread on flat stones. Her father as old as he was, talking gleefully to her about some of the more pleasurable items, Kate had brought back from the small makeshift market place earlier in the day.

Robert Trellawny was chittering excitedly to her. Explaining how he approved of her spending the day with her mother. Lady Hope had taken off earlier in the evening with a rather reluctant Brian Kiln. She had left strict instructions that Kate was to be kept on rest. For the period of approximately the next seven to ten days. She was not supposed to be allowed out at all, unless under armed guard. Which of course the bard, as always, had protested at bitterly.

Once more, before Hope had left, Agrivane had heard the bard scream at her mother. The yelling between the pair, quite equal in viciousness, it seemed. That worried him for some reason that he could not explain. And accordingly, Neithan had also expressed grave concern over that matter. Kate was on her bleed cycle.

Not a pleasant thing for most females, of any species from what Coleus understood, but she wasn't like most others. She did not hide herself away, trembling and all timid. Did not wait to be protected, or others actions to purvey her defense. To that point she was not just wayward, but obstinate. Dangerously stubborn and determined.

But perhaps, that is what had drawn him first to her? He was not sure. As he had said so truthfully to Leihn Dandein, he had not liked her one iota! When the arduously laborious, duty of watching over her had been assigned to him by the High Prince Regent. In fact he had somewhat despised the bard and all the attentions, she received. Also he had very deeply, admittedly, resented her.

After all his own twin brother had died because of her!

Just to rescue the damn woman out of the hands of the necromancers, in the mountain of Ifrinn. Grinding his teeth slightly he glared hard into the bowls, that he was now setting upon the plates. His orbs fiercely defiant as much as they were darkened and moist, with anger and tears of the same. His brother had not stood a chance!

Although Dandein had explained everything, in vivid detail several times over, Coleus still held a small portion in his heart where Kate, was to blame for his twin's death. Yet, he could not fully resent her. This was something that Agrivane could not fathom out and it was, causing a confusion he would rather not have to deal with. Why was it he could not hate her, for his brother's death? Why was he still being drawn ever further into wanting, to be around her? Surely it was not, just his phase?

No. He knew it was not just his phase. This had started, long before the phase had. But pinpointing the culprit moment when he had fell into that hole, which he could not dig himself out of, was beyond his comprehension. Agrivane sighed, blowing out a long heavy stream of air, that puffed his cheeks a little as he blew.

This whole deal was making him beyond, bearable and miserable. His expression went from scowling to frowning to pouting, almost in the twinkling of an eye. Kate was certainly not like any of the ladies at court. Most of which at some point or another, had thrown themselves at his feet. Begging for him to bed them. (This fact alone was not, something he was proud of.)

He was strong, athletic, broad and well toned. But he was also rather stoic, silent, pensive and more importantly, rather private. To the other people at the courts, this made him a highly desirable object, in some respects. To a lot of his comrades he was firm and strict, just as he was kind when he needed to be. However, whereas with most females (and males alike,) where he could usually tell, what they wanted to be pleased with, Kate came across as a complete enigma!

For example, as Dandein had pointed out that very morning before Agrivane had lost it, and punished himself cruelly with the unnecessary hunt, Kate was not wearing dark colors. Which was a common practice for a lady. Or those who were suffering, their menstrual cycle. No. Right now, she was dressed in a very voluminous white shift, that practically drowned her. (It was almost a Victorian style, Kate had said she liked it. Her mother had reluctantly bought her two – just in case of an accident, as Hope had stated.)

Over the top of that, a thin large, earthen brown, square of cloth that held a Celtic cross design in the center, with some fancy Celtic knot work, woven in the dark black print. Widely around the edge of it. She wore it not as a shawl as it had probably been intended, but tied across one shoulder more like a warrior's cloak. Her feet were unshod. Not a sock upon her bare skin. But it didn't seem to bother her at all.

She smiled brightly and was whispering something to Robert. Before she slipped past him to the toileting area. Coleus sighed. He simply refused, to sleep in that cot again, tonight! He did not sleep the night before. In fact he had ended up sat up by the fire! Then preparing to leave at first light, before the family arose, so he could find some brave souls to go on a hunt with. He had deliberately left his post.

But to Captain Agrivane, his current instructions for this particular duty, were more than he dared to defy or to not keep. He was sorely disappointed with himself for running. He had never had this problem before. Therefore he could not accept that there was an issue now. He closed his eyes momentarily as he finished placing the last cup and utensil, at the table set for four. Dandein, Robert Trellawny and his daughter, plus himself.

Coleus was severely upset that he had to endure this. It was not viable option. It was unsafe for him to be having a phase right now. Especially with such an easy target, as Lady Kate so close by. There was only one course of action to stave off, the embitterment and terrors, that the phase could proceed to cause – and that was to eat like a demon!

It had worked many times in the past, that and going on strenuous hunts. Just the mere exhaustive state was enough, to hold back any other urges. His body spent in other ways. Yes, of course he was highly trained to deal with such physical demands and strains, which is why he had to work harder than anyone else at it! Just in order to keep some modicum of control, over his own disposition.

"Hey! Lad look alive! You seem to be daydreaming again laddie! Best look sharp or you'll miss this feast my lassie and I put together!" came the kind teasing happy tones, from Robert Trellawny who was bringing a huge roast to the table. Brimming with happiness and pride. He nudged Agrivane out of whatever thoughts, he had been immersed and lost in. Moving him slightly as he did so.

Struggling to place the plate down, with a large leg and shoulder of what smelt to be lamb, possibly mutton. Wild garlic that had been roasted, smothered the edges with sprigs of greens. That could only be either mint or similar. The steam rose and the scent decadently filled the air, with the promise of a sumptuous meal.

The large dutch oven type of pot was then brought off the fire hook, and swung onto a large flat stone next to the table. Carefully with a thick cloth, Trellawny lifted up the lid. Steam and mist rose in an aroma, that made the mouth painfully, watery. Saliva began to collect.

Dandein had already moved closer. His eyes ablaze with contented, expectation. The man in greens, who was bringing the food over nudged Agrivane again, saying rather firmly, "For goodness sakes Coleus lad! Will you sit yersel down, next to Leihn? Come on there, Kate should be back through shortly. Stop looking so glum.

I promise you, you will not be disappointed, to being sat at our table. Kate and I made a whole load of goodies earlier, whilst you were still out. Besides, whilst we make merry the night, I want to hear all about this hunt you organized, with some of our younger rangers from the north! Rumor has it, you took out a very large male moleschat – all by your self no less! And you and your group killed a giant boar that was almost twice the width of your height!" his brogue though rough and thick, swam with a strange excitement. Almost childish in nature.

It broke the darkness that had seemingly encompassed the knight, as he finally smiled a little. Nodding acceptability, as he sat down. Apprehension easing enough for him, to be fairly comfortable. Despite the niggling in his mind. That wormed its way to eat away, at his conscious!

"What is wrong with you?" hissed Dandein succinctly. When he was sure Robert was out of hearing, for the elder elf had already walked off. To fetch some more food but from further back, in one of the other sections of the pavilioned tented area.

"You are acting strange Coleus. Tell me this is not some sign, that you are still angered over last nights sleeping, arrangements? Because if last night was a problem, maybe you should excuse yourself – right now!" came the paladin-clerics fierce growl as he glared hard at his companion. He was livid with the thought that his friend could be so unforgiving over such a petty thing as the arrangements from the previous night.

"And what, is it to you?" grumbled Agrivane back disconcerted that his paladin friend, could be so observant. Sometimes it was just plain annoying, the way people stuck their noses into other folks business. Especially his. "It is not what you think, Leihn. I just have a lot on my mind." he explained impatiently with the one sat to his left. "Now leave it be."

"A lot on your mind says you? Nay Coleus, from where I be sat, you have but one thing, on your mind! And it clouds your disposition, to sour your countenance, beyond measure!" snipped back Dandein.

"Regardless of whatever your excuses might be Agrivane, I wish to remind you, I am bound to her Ladyship for life – and I will die, if needs so be in order to protect, her honor! Whether that be by unknown foe, or by a so called friend! I will not let our years of company, interfere with that duty. Be forewarned! I will report you, if I have to." added the paladin-cleric fiercely again in a low growl.

Agrivane was about to retort to that daring declaration, when Robert stepped back in, from under a small hanging tapestry canopy, that closed off the private area. The man in greens had his arms laden down with a large wicker basket. That took all his effort to carry forth, towards the small round area used for eating.

"One of you strong youngsters come here! And lend me a hand if, you don't mind?" he puffed. His face was turning burgundy as he struggled carrying the basket in.

Dandein was swiftly up and over hauling the wicker basket easily, from out of his slightly shorter counterpart. "Allow of I, milord Trellawny." he smiled only suddenly, becoming rather red in the face too, as he almost dropped the basket and whatever it contained. For it was surprisingly heavy for it's size. His words slipping out before he could stop himself, "What in the name of the nine levels of Ifrinn is in this damn thing!"

The question was so uncharacteristic of the paladin that it took the two others in the room by surprise and shocked them. Both gaped at his reddening face, whilst he struggled to carry it over and dumped it down. Thudding it heavily on the nearest rug, close to the fire pit. He peered into it.

Not a single utterance could he make, as he stared in disbelief. There was pots and tureens and delicious aromas drifting in a sultry semblance, of sweet as well as savory. They were also still rather warm too. But had been padded ingeniously, with several towel and cloths to keep their warmth.

"Food Dandein. It's nothing more than food. Told you Kate and I had been busy the day, when she got back from the market with her maichre. Though some of the stuff she absolutely refused, to make herself and instead decided to instruct as well as supervise me on. But it's nothing more than food, and as surprising as it may be, she is an industrious lass.

Most of this is all, her doing. Believe me, I thought she was mad, when she told me we were going to be eating grand, the night. When I started watching what she had planned for the feasting the night, I thought she had ruddy well lost her scholarly mind! That's for darn sure! But you know my lassie! Then I played with the idea that maybe, we should be expecting some guests, or something – like a couple of the Khelndi's or something. Damn can those, lads eat!

And we all know how rangers can eat the Ifrinn out of a mountain – if it were stewed right! Or the hind end of a naroulf if, it were baked proper! But no!" mocked Robert gleefully with a light hearted cackle, as he continued on with, "She told me this was for just us lads and herself and four others! None of which are any regular commoners."

Suddenly the healers face became more serious as he remembered something of importance. He swiftly turned to look at the dark haired knight nearby stating, "Which reminds me, Agrivane my lad, you'll need to set some other places. We are expecting Neithan and his three other personal guards. So let's see if you still recall, how to work some magic lad! And expand the table for me? Please?

We need to set three more places around, actually four, dammit – dear stars and trees! I do hope I have enough utensils and plates for this! I clean forget to pick up some, from the feasting arena! I should go nip out down there, and ruddy well grab some from the main dinning tent, afore they close for the night!" he grumbled, as he headed over towards his boots. Quickly and quietly pulling them on and tying them at the top.

The man in greens, glanced over to the one who had house-band himself, saying, "Hey, Dandein my good fellow? Why don't you be a great help? And put out those pots and stuffed tureens, around the fireplace to warm them better, and then take that wicker basket back there to fetch of the rest?" with this he pointed to the area he had come through, moments earlier as he added, "It's still sitting by the other fire I have going in the back section of the tent there. I am going to run down to the feasting area and see if some of the guys down there, will lend me some plates and extra cups.

For even with my wife's and Brian Kiln's, there will no be enough to put to the place settings." He quickly slung his green patchwork jerkin on and slipped outside. Long before either of the other two younger males, had a chance to protest or ask any questions.

"Dear Ivura, he is always on the go! At least he is kind when he asks for things." muttered Dandein as he began to carefully lift out tureens of warmed food, and started placing it around on the flat stones by the fire side. As he had been bid. He smiled with each of the scents he caught teasingly from them.

Agrivane was chanting quietly, with a subtle glow of luminescent pink energy, coming off his hands as he expanded the table. It grew to almost double the size and rose a couple of feet off the ground. He opened his eyes and stated, "He has always been like that, ever since I recall. You should have seen the day he discovered, Sorrel. He about killed him!

Despite Sorrel being so quick and sprightly, back then. If it had not of been for our Liege-lord, I do not doubt he would have carved him a new place, in Ifrinn." with that he snickered. "Lord Robert has always been more agile, and his constitution is not anything, to be sneered at either! From what I have personally witnessed, he can go a few rounds with several of the best of them – in one go! And still beat them to a pulp, without breaking a sweat! I have heard other, stories about him too. Mostly from our Grace, himself – but am sure you have been equally versed. I would say some of those tales, are frightening as much as they entertain."

"Indeed I have heard stories. Though I view them more to legends or myths, about his prowess and energy!" laughed Dandein more lightheartedly. He finished emptying out the last two or three tureens carefully, placing them down and rising back up. Hoisting the wicker basket to his shoulders he then announced kindly, "Will be back shortly, let me go grab the rest of this good smelling food."

"Let me help you with that?" offered Coleus more amicably. All thoughts of the previous mood escaping him for the present time. Both of them walked casually into the more private back area, of the cordoned off quarters.

A few seconds later the cry of, "Holy stars and mother of trees! What the Ifrinn?!" could be heard magnanimously, and simultaneously from both of the male elves in shock and disbelief.

* * * * * * *

Robert dashed to the food tent. Hurrying along, before the weather decided it was going to piss it down again. At least the storm had let up enough, that the ground was just partially saturated and puddled, rather than an outright, river of mud. He slid skillfully, holding his balance right to the front of the tent.

Which even at this late evening hour, had merry little colorful orange, yellow and green lanterns lighting up its whole interior and exterior. There was loud raucous laughter and voices ringing merrily through the night's bitter cold air, to his ears in a warm welcome proclamation. That spoke of the place being packed with various types of those, who had gathered for the rangers festival.

This was an open sided long tented area. Which barely, kept the elements out. Scores of rangers and various knights or magus types, were sat around eating and drinking in groups, of loud merriment. He was hard pressed to get through the crowded clusters, towards the kitchen staff, who ran a small buffet styled long wooden counter. To which rangers were literally jostling, against to grab themselves, something to eat.

Carefully Robert picked his way as best he could without seeming too rude, towards the main counter. Grabbing one of the serving lads and asking, with his brogue thickening in his anxiety, "Hey lad, ask Andrei back there, if he would mind lending to me, a couple more sets of four, will yer please?"

The young man nodded and dashed past the thick length of cloth, that cut the kitchen off from the main dinning area. Only to return a few minutes later, with a very stout looking black Shadoin. Who was carrying a neatly tied up package of bowls, plates and cups. A smaller fawn colored cloth that had something metallic chinking, inside of it, was wrapped and tucked under his arm.

He glanced at Trellawny with scurrility as he moved towards him asking, "My gracious Lord, am I to assume you wish to use of these?"

"Aye that I do, thank you Andrei! And I will make sure, that they are returned clean and pristine, as they have been received! You are a life saver, make no mistake! Don't think I brought enough of mine own, to feed the wee garrison." he grinned back as he put his arms out and the large bulk of an elf delivered the goods requested.

"Well, we all know you are good for your word, my Lord Trellawny! I trust all is well with whatever you and your lovely, little young blossom have produced – or for whoever, is to be entertained." he smiled warmly. He was holding back a little chuckle. He already suspected who the guests were.

"Oh it's only Neithan and his four best – nothing special really. But I can no really ask him, to use his hands – you know what a stickler for keeping his hands clean, our Regent is." cackled Robert brightly back with a wink.

Just before he turned to leave, he added from the side of his mouth mischievously, "Hey Andrei, if there's any of it left, I will bring you some and a bottle or two, of my son's stuff to share. Thank you again!" Trellawny waved at him with his hand held high above his head, whilst holding onto the package with his other.

Moving and weaving his way out of the stuffiness of the area, once again into the cold fresh air. Swiftly he returned back. Hurrying as fast as his load would allow, without dropping it or skidding on some of the slippery path.

* * * * * * *

Having re-entered his clans-folk tent, the healer grinned. Obviously pleased that the two he had left behind, had managed to bring all the food stuff through from where, he had been stashing it in surprise for the majority of the day. Setting the new places for his four esteemed guests, he broadly smiled. The two other males were already sat, down in place. Now all that was left to be checked was the food. To insure that it had been heating just right.

Suddenly without an announcement, entered the High Prince Regent. Being followed closely by Captain's Eldarweave, Sorrel and Oakley. As always Neithan Elonathesei was impeccably dressed in his usual coloration, of dark purple and black. Something that seemed somewhat sinister, to those who did not know, the true person behind it.

Because it was intimidating as much as it was awe inspiring and mysterious.

Robert grinned and showed the four newest arrivals, proudly to their placements. Now all the males sat around the table and Trellawny began to pass out the food. As certain dishes began their rounds, around the table, Neithan arched an incredulous brow and asked softly, to the host who was sat to his left, "Erm my dear brother-in-arms, I could be incorrect here – but I highly doubt of it, but it would seem to me, that we are missing one person at this meal."

* * * * * * *

Chapter Two: Bards Coleslaw.

Robert glanced about, then his orbs settled on the placement that was empty by his opposing side. The set place marker where Kate should have been. He growled low with annoyance. Grumbling the words, "Ruddy damn that lassies hide! What is taking her so long?"

Before putting his polite smile back on his face and stating clearly, "Lads, help yourselves for a bit! As you can see, we've no shorted on the supply the night. I will be right back!" just as he added in another infuriated mutter that only Elonathesei heard, "...Just as soon as I whip that lass, back into this damnable room! Making me do all the serving for people she invited! And no be here for it! The ruddy cheek!" As he rose up, using the table edge to push himself back up from the cushioned seating.

Neithan calmly laid a hand on him. Robert glanced at him again. The High Prince Regent gave off a kindly smile, as if to remind him that he should be patient, and less angry.

Trellawny humphed as he heaved a mighty inhalation through his nose. His brow knotting together. Like two furry caterpillars fighting for space. He moved away from the table and headed straight towards the cordoned off, private area of the family quarters. Having passed the main curtain, he came to a rather thicker tapestry. Below which, a small glimmer of golden light spilled from beneath.

"Hey, Kate?" came the soft call, "What are you doing in their lass? Thought you would be at least present, afore Neithan got his beak in here! Come on! Help me out, with this entertaining of guests!" He cocked his head to the side to listen. There was no sound from beyond the curtain of tapestry. Well there was nothing for it. He would have to go in and check on her. The bard had complained on and off for the last few days of feeling rather sick.

Robert did not doubt her words to this – she had vomited and run to the bathroom quite a lot, for almost two days! Before he had managed to persuade her to take a small tonic, that had been made by himself personally. It had certainly helped because she had been well enough that morning, to be up bright and early. Had cooked breakfast for everyone then went to the market with her mother.

Only later in the afternoon, when Hope had left, had she begun to look pale. With darkness encircling her eyes again. Giving her a haunted appearance. A sad miserable, countenance. She had said that maybe she had over worked herself, with aiding in the meal. It was perhaps the reason why she had asked for his help. Of this he was aware.

He had also suggested for his daughter to take a nap. But Kate had relented. Instead requesting to be sat by the larger fireplace and to meditate. Indeed the couple of hours that she had spent sat with her eyes closed, some coloration had come back admittedly.

But despite the twinkle in her eyes, she was betrayed as to how miserable, she really was. Especially when she had kissed his cheek and whispered that she wanted to bathe. Trellawny was beginning to wonder if he could make an excuse for her absence, from the table of guests. Then shook that thought clear from his mind.

So this time he called a little louder. His hand paused to pull the tapestry aside, "Kate my daichroi, I am coming in. Hope you are fairly decent youngster – though it's no like I have no seen you, in your weather-all afore. But still, would rather let you have your privacy lass. Kate, talk to me?" Intently he listened for any sound at all.

Yet nothing stirred beyond the tapestry. Mentally he cursed as he prayed she had not snuck off somewhere! Like she had been prone to do. Heaving in another deep breath he prepared himself to step into the immediate area. Parting the heavy woven and embroidered cloth aside. Robert ducked his head down a little and covered his eyes slightly, to politely avert them. Still no sound came. No protestation of his intrusion.

Robert Trellawny glanced up.

For the silence was awful and he feared the worst.

However it was not what he expected at all. Kate was standing upright, facing a long mirror that held her gaunt, reflection in it. Her eyes distant. Lights on but no one was home. She was just stood there in a pale lavender and apple white gown, staring off into space. Her arms down at her sides. Just stock still.

In fact at first it was hard to tell, whether she was even breathing – it was so faint to detect. Cautiously, as he had only ever seen her in a trance like state previously, on two other occasions, the healer approached. Her head was slightly tilted to the right. Almost as if she was studying herself or perhaps listening for something, that only the bard could hear. Her appearance was as relaxed as it was upright and formal in stance.

On the edge of visual perception as old Trellawny drew closer, he was aware of a subtle light surrounding her personage. Though whether that was a trick of the candlelight, or his own watery orbs being tired, he was uncertain. Frowning he now stood behind her, glancing at her reflection thoughtfully, saying very softly so as to not startle her, "Kate? Kate, people are waiting to eat lass. Come and get some supper sweetie. Come on..."

Her eyes up until this point had not moved. No motion could be detected. But as soon as he spoke it was like a spell was broken. She blinked then said in a quiet despondent, distant tone, "They wanted the scrolls. They wanted what the scrolls contained. I couldn't tachre... I. I couldn't do it! I could not let them have them back! I refused to let them have such knowledge and power! It is not anyone's fault that I got caught!

I should never have stolen the one I found first... but.. That curiosity, that you tell me you love about my mind? That is the real reason Rob. That is the reason, they came after me! That is why and how I got caught! But I just couldn't let them have so much evil power, in their grasp! Was I wrong to stop them from gaining that knowledge? Was it really fate that guided me? Or my own insecurities?" her voice was so small. Her rich Highlander brogue ran and colored it with such deep unsaturated regret and remorse.

Suddenly, unexpectedly she swung around to face him. Eyes streaming with tears trickling down from their green glassy pools, as finally Kate's voice broke with that overwhelming emotion of pain. And fearfully stammered as she confided, "I stole those scrolls! Stole them! And I changed, those scrolls. But I memorized the real ones! And I think they know! Dear God! They know! They are coming for me, and next time..."

Her breath became stuttered, gasping and shuddered as a lump coarse and hard bobbed in her throat almost choking back her words. Words, that barely came in a whisper, "...Next time tachre... Next time, I may not have the strength, to fight them, anymore!" she flung her arms around her stunned parental unit. Pressing and squeezing herself into him. The tears unending.

Robert was stunned, he gaped. He had no clue. Did not know what to think. His face scrunched in torment to his child's expressed misery of anguish. His own breath shuddered hard as a roll of thunder eclipsing the sky. He grimaced hard.

Angrily glaring back at his own reflection and the back of his daughter. Who even now, he encompassed protectively, in his strong arms. The scar that ran down the left side of his face from just below his left eye to his jawline, became an uglification of dark jagged burgundy with his burning fury.

For he so vowed that if he was ever, to catch those who were responsible for holding her hostage, for torturing her during the weeks and months, she had been missing – left for dead, then he would exact his revenge. To see his youngest one so distraught tore him apart with unadulterated raging hatred, that he could not contain alone. Despite knowing he had to be strong for her.

Holding and crushing her into his own being, he lay his lips to the top of her head and whispered with such venom, "No Kate! You were not wrong in this! Not you my darling, daichroi! I so swear by all that is sacred, they will never touch nor harm you, ever again! Lest they feel of mine own steel and wrath! You are safe now, my dearest wee lassie. Safe from those ruddy bastards – I swear to you! They will not get to touch you, ever, again!" Then crushed her further again.

Kate clung shamelessly to him. For his strength, for his comfort and gentility. Robert bit back the tears as much as the curses he wanted to imbue upon her unknown, enemies. Mentally making note of burning that reflection of her pain into his own memory.

So his revenge on her behalf would be exacted swiftly, if the time ever came for that. Robert Trellawny would have his vengeance, to this offense his daughter had suffered. Oh yes, and he was sure as the sun rose and set, that he would have that vengeance soon! It was not as far off as many believed. Only just the night before, his wife Hope had confided to him, about how Kate had mentioned the Tocsdrof family and their, connection.

A link to those who had a particular tattoo, in a certain place on their hands. That had triggered his anger enough and now this? Just when she seemed to be getting a little better and over the worst of it, she had broken down. And not just to anyone – to him! Her father!

Of all his children, she was the one he felt bonded with him, the most, the deepest. Had the most in common with him in a whole slew of areas. Shared his ideals and understanding and creativity. Shared his personality and traits.

But seeing her like this had broken him completely. Robert could not bare to see her in such a state. So they stood holding each other tightly for a few more minutes, in the heavy burden of perpetual dark silence. When Robert was sure his daughter had calmed significantly from her near meltdown, he lifted her face gently. Pulling free one of his light green handkerchiefs, that had his own personal sigil and insignia, stitched carefully into the corner. Wiping her face down and holding back his own furious rage, over her tormented soul.

Whispering kind warm words of endearment her father held her tenderly. Kate merely stood allowing his tentative designs. Till at last he said, "Come on lass. We have people still waiting to eat you know? And my belly, thinks my throats been slit. What say we go eat some of those tasties together, o'er a nice pot of milky tea? Then when all else are gone and done with, you and I will have a wee private chat, about all this nasty shite?"

Suddenly her face was afraid and tearful again. As if Kate would turn and burst into water with this. If she had of been threatened and hit, the pain that was portrayed within her moist orbs, would not have given more clarity, to her choking fear.

Quickly assessing that perhaps he should ease her into opening up about what really happened some more, he added in a flurry of words threaded in a loving, concerned lilt, "You don't have to, if you don't want to. Talk about it, I mean. We can do that, when you are ready – right? But, perhaps lass if you are feeling up to it, maybe you and I can hae a wee drink o' something strong...ease our nerves and such, alright?" he smiled that tenderness of fatherly devotion to her.

Kate peered up to him and sniffed back bravely. Forcing a worry-wart smile to soften her features as she gave him a short nod of reluctance. "I am thinking, you seem well enough to hae a short dram or so wi' mysel' the night. No one else. Will even send the lads out and away, if you so wish of it?" came his genteel offer softly, in the soap scented air of the private family bathing area.

"Please? I would like that...very much dad." came her quiet subdued and anxious tones.

Now Trellawny often came across as quite a dark horse, which often led to the belief he was a hiding who he truly was. Yet, rumors and stories through the ages revealed that he had beheld his fair share of misfortunes, woes, pains and guilt.

However, he could not hide from Kate. And for the first time ever since his wife Hope and himself had adopted the woman, into their fold she had called him 'dad' in common tongue, usually she had used the more formal high elven word of tachre.

Now as an elf he knew that it was a term of endearment that humans used for the male parent. But the mere fact that Kate had referred to him as such, seemed to crumple what little resolve to hold himself together, that he had left in his possession.

Trellawny was a softy towards children. A crusader in his own way. An advocate who willingly took others in and helped elevate them, from the normal daily strife's of living. So here he was, with the daughter he had always wanted and longed for, trusting him. Fully trusting him at last. It had been a long struggle which he had always been confident he would win, but this had proven all those pains he had gone through worth it. And he was damn well sure, he would never let her suffer again!

Mentally as he managed to clean her face up a little, then walked with her holding his arm to steady herself, back towards the main eating area, he made his plans of vengeance. Oh he would get to the bottom of this matter himself. If Neithan Elonathesei was not to be seen going after those responsible for the terror, his youngest child had almost died through, then he would!

Robert Trellawny of Trellawny-Snowfell and head of his clan, would hunt every last single dark hearted necromancer out, who had caused this distress to Kate, and take them out – personally!

Because the reality was this, Robert Trellawny had a lot of skills, some of which he was not that proud of, but still skills which he could employ to his advantage, in this matter. The pair both looked at each other for reassurance. That the bard's secret for now was well kept, between themselves.

Taking a deep breath and placing smiles upon their own faces. Shields to their minds up, the youngest and the eldest members to the Trellawny-Snowfell clan, entered into the main dinning situation. To find their guests were still awaiting to eat, chatting amicably amongst themselves about hunting expeditions and similar.

But that their plates were piled high enough, to start.

* * * * * * *

Agrivane who was currently pouring out a glass of white wine, glanced over briefly and his breath halted. In mid action he stared disbelievingly, at how pretty Kate appeared in her new dress that her mother had bought her. To the point Dandein let out a shout, "Oi! You're spilling it all over me!"

"So sorry Leihn, sorry! - I was distracted.." he abjectly apologized sincerely. Coughing a little not just to clear his throat but his focus better. Then muttering some words, swiped his hand over the liquid that had run. Drying and cleaning it up instantly.

Dandein's shout had snapped him out of being so blindsided, by her appearance. And then all the other males in the room turned their eyes, to see what had distracted Agrivane so easily. Only to face her. Quickly rising. A couple of the other captains beside Agrivane, were almost falling over themselves to take her hand and kiss it.

But of course the High Prince Regent beat them all to being the first. His suave deep voice mellow as he bent low to take her hand and kiss the back of it. Boldly kissing her cheek lightly too, with the sultry words of, "Ah, you grace us with your wondrous presence, my darling little princess! I trust you are feeling much better, than of a few days previous?

Your beloved mother, had informed of I, that you have been a little, how can one put it? Under the weather, of late?" he smiled benignly as his orbs grazed her approvingly, from head to toe and back up again, in a slow dance of wantonness. "Might one add that you appear absolutely, lovely, in your new gown, my Lady Kate?"

Kate pulled her hand away and nodded as she succumbed to his poignant appraisal. Responding softly in that genteel lilting Scottish accent of hers, "Why thank you, my Lord Neithan, and my dearest Captains!" rather nervously giving him a smile.

Somewhat shyly the bard turned to face the rest of the table. Kate's eyes brightly lit up, as she smiled warmly at them all in greeting, "My dearest Captains! I thank you all, most kindly for being so good as to join, us at this humble meal. I do hope you will enjoy it. My tachre and I, worked most hard for the best part of this afternoon and early eve, in order to insure your stomachs be satisfied and satiated with happiness. It is my simple way of saying thank you. Thank you all, for watching over my family as much as you have all done, so much for myself personally." and with that said she tipped her head down gracefully.

Causing long strands of her dark auburn and golden red chestnut soft curls to cascade down her face. Subtly peeking up through that all, was her sea colored, greenish grey orbs of hers still glittering in an otherworldly fashion. As though traversing the universes elsewhere.

"Allow of I, on behalf of my fellow captains, to say thank you! To your illustrious household, for such a sweet invite, my Lady Kate. Thank you. I am sure that Oakley, Sorrel, Eldarweave, Dandein and indeed myself, will not be disappointed, by any means. For it is a rare luxury that we be sat with someone who has actually cooked with us all, in mind." bowed Agrivane low with a stunning eloquence, that caused a couple of his work colleagues to arch a brow or give him a strange glance.

"You are, very welcome." she said softly back as her father protectively ushered her. Straight towards the seating by his side. Pulling her closely in. Trellawny's own grey orbs glittered fiercely, at Agrivane for some strange reason as he smiled and said softly to Kate, "Here you go lass, easy now. Sit yourself with me, right here."

"Thanks tachre. Appreciate it." her voice was a calm wash of refreshing kindness and warmth. But it also warbled and trembled slightly. She seemed to be a little shaky.

Robert brought forth a couple more large thicker cushions and placed them between her back and the chest, that sat directly behind her adding thoughtfully, "If you need to lean back, you can lass. Made sure to move that chest of your maichre's o'er, to aid you."

She smiled even more in admiration and fondness at him. Gruffly he turned to look at the males sat at the table. Then rumbled in a fierce declaration, "Stop gaping yer cake holes, at my lassie! Ya gobshites! Fill them buggers up and shut – it!"

Then grinned seeing their priceless expressions and added, "Am kidding lads – help yourselves! Let's eat! Am starved..." before pulling the large bowl that held soup in it, towards himself and Kate.

"This here," he explained casually as he carefully scooped a couple of small ladle's into his daughter's own serving bowl, then doubled his own portion, "Is Kate's own recipe for creamy chicken and vegetable soup. It really is good, though I must admit I was doubtful, that cheese could be used as a thickener... Anyone else, want some of this?"

"I will if you please?" came the calm washing nasal tones of Neithan pleasantly enough. As he began to break some of his bread over the small side plate. Nodding to Agrivane who sat on his other side towards one of the three butter dishes set out, "Pass that over here, Coleus? My dear good gentle-folks, I believe we can be candid here this night? And enjoy the casual atmosphere of dinning, as our good little bard intended it to be.

First names only, that includes of mine-self. I completely insist." and he gave this soft knowing smile, that was unnerving. Eldarweave arched a brow and seemed a little bewildered as to what to think upon this statement.

Oakley grinned merrily saying, "As you wish my Lord, I mean Neithan, sir." As he helped himself to a large thick cutlet of deer meat, that had been cooked up in wild garlic, wild ginger, honey and some kind of butter gravy. (It was something he had been eyeing up since before, the start of the meal. His bright eyes keened in on the smell as if, he had an inbuilt radar!)

"That's the spirit Adrian! Tuck in lad – but don't keep all that to yourself now! I know what you ruddy rangers are like – when it comes to the good food!" teased Robert as he glanced sidewards at Kate. She was quietly sipping at her soup. As yet she had not reached for the fresh baked bread or similar but seemed to be keeping her head down.

Studiously observing all the occupants around the table. When they spoke, he knew the bard was paying attention, for her orbs would shoot them a contemplative glance of eerie thoughtfulness. An astute studiousness of knowing intelligence that was unnerving to see. As if she could see right through them all, to their most fastidiously held secrets.

"Well Bryn, I heard today out by the horses, that your wife is expecting at last. Is it true?" inquired Sorrel in his strange accent that no one could really place and he sounded creepy. Stalker like in his mannerism to Captain Eldarweave.

Robert noted silently how Kate shuddered and paused in eating, when he spoke. He had to wonder about that...

"Aye." was the simplistic reply. Then Eldarweave stuffed his mouth with a large forkful of meat potato and some dark greens, he had thought to try out. Pausing as he momentarily, concentrated on the taste. The flavor was not as unpleasant, as he had deemed it would be. Most greens to this hardy captain were usually (in his own personal opinion, ) stewed to utter oblivion and bland. Which is why he hardly ever ate them, no matter who was doing the cooking.

"These greens are great, Robert. What are they and can you give one of my cooks, the recipe? No one seems to be able to cook the ruddy things and leave flavor in them any more – not like when you served with us." Eldarweave stated favorably towards the healer and his daughter.

"My lass made those. I wasn't sure those particular greens were even edible, ones. Kate picked them wild. Up early this morning when she dragged poor Kiln from his bed, with Dandein in tow." answered the elder elf candidly. "Taste good though, huh? I am thinking I need to grow some of these back home. Might be a wee market for them too, if they are conformable am thinking."

"They are wild mustard, turnip and kale greens. The country side around here is full of them. That other pot with the pale brown and clay red top to it?" said Kate matter-of-factly as she indicated another earthen ware tureen sat still by the fireside, "has the root part to the turnips cooked in it. Besides with the right seasoning and steaming the vegetables, they keep that crisper, fresher taste to them. Hate bland veggies. If I am going to eat greens, I want to be able to have something I can savor.

Though you might note the few cold dishes of greens we have set out too? Those are wild greens best eaten raw. Merely washed very thoroughly I might add, but nonetheless, I dressed them in sunflower oil and raspberry wine vinegar. I unfortunately had to make of the latter, because the little market here, didn't have all the ingredients I needed." she explained before taking another spoonful of soup up and carefully ingesting it. Back to her strange brooding silence once more.

Trellawny had already finished his soup and was starting to fill up his large plate, with whatever he could reach to grab or scoop up. He cut up the large roast of mutton, and went to carve off the crackling, when Kate grabbed his wrist with the words of warning, "Oh no you don't! You promised me we could share, the crackling coating on this!"

Her orbs darkening visibly with such acidity that it startled even Neithan. The High Prince Regent arched a cool brow of interest, over this harsh cold and sudden fiercely given declaration. Knowing full well that Robert Trellawny, loved that part, to a good mutton roast. Wondering how the elder would handle his daughter's obvious threat, that was hidden and gilded behind her words.

"Awe, alright. You got me. Half and half, right?" he grumbled instantly back down as he slithered a clean couple of slices off the top and passed her half. Then served himself the other half. Having begrudgingly, given into his daughter the first part.

She grinned and nodded more than ecstatic to this. Before pushing her bowl aside to make room on her large plate. "Thank you! I really do appreciate it, tachre." she gleefully began to pile some of the mashed buttered turnips and what appeared to be fried potatoes onto her plate. Then rather than using her small side plate for bread, the bard grabbed the large open oval terracotta dish, that had coleslaw in it.

Though to the elves it looked like a white watery, somewhat dubious and certainly nefarious mess.

Scooping that out onto the side plate carefully. Her face all lit up, as she then took the wild cold mixed greens, which she had added some other vegetables to and spooned that too, onto the same plate. A simple salad. She happily ate all the greens on her plate and then began to take her fried up potatoes and add the coleslaw to them.

Halting briefly she glared at some of the captains in turn, rather reproachfully. Captains who had the most erroneously disgusted faces, being pulled. Crossly stating, "Don't knock it, till you try it! It really is delicious!" Then went back to balancing potato and coleslaw combined on the two tine fork and devouring it.

Next Kate went to her turnips, but not before she picked up both slices of the mutton crackling with her fingers. Not caring that it was greasy, or still had hot juices dripping from it. Munching that happily too. Kate paused well aware of eyes upon her. Watching her curiously as she continued to chew her food and devour it, like it was nothing.

"I do believe Kate, is right. This is actually very, palatable. I insist that you all try the erm...white mix of stuff." agreed Neithan as he set by example, to the other guests around the table. Having already scooped a large dollop of it onto his plate, and eating it with his mashed potato. It was surprisingly very good, and he was beginning to see why, the bard had made it.

It balanced the sweet with the sour of the vinegar as much as it helped cut some of the grease and oil, from some of the other foods combined. A palate cleanser could not have worked better. He reached for his goblet and took another swig of his white wine. Then went back to eating.

Without lifting his glittering orbs up, Elonathesei stated casually, "My dear fellows, you really should try this. As our young hostess has stated, you should not knock it, till you have at least tried some first." he gave a sidewards glance to Trellawny adding casually with genuine sincerity, "Robert my good fellow, I really do wish for the recipe of this strange concoction. Is there a name for it?"

"Aye! Kate calls it cold sore." replied the man in greens proudly.

"Cole, slaw tachre." Kate corrected kindly. Trying hard not to chuckle, as she laid a tender hand on the back of his nearest, "It is pronounced, coleslaw. A cold sore is like a really bad pimple that is puss filled, and growing on your lip. Caused by an internal germination virus of Herpes..."she added. Giggling a little at the horrified look on some of her guests faces, as she added that description.

"I think it should be called cold slew..." retorted her father teasingly. "Because the damn stuff is cold and a whole slew of veggies in it. What did you have me chop, for near a quarter hour? Two different types of cabbage, some wild carrots and radish? Or some such shite as that!

And what was that other green thick tree stems, you gave me to cut so fine? What did you call that? Broccoli I believe? Yep, cold slew suites it better. Because it was cold work and I slew the lot of them!" he affirmed happily watching a smile increase on the corners of her mouth. She began to giggle quietly.

"Did I do something wrong? I could never have cut the vegetables, into such fine shreds as you did tachre. You know that, right? You're obviously well versed in cutting things into fine shreds tachre." came her question a little tremulously complimenting him too, whilst glancing around the table.

The only two not staring at her, happened to be the High Prince Regent and Robert Trellawny. Both of whom already had some of the coleslaw, on their plates. Happily munching into the food presented. As Robert was to discover in less than a few seconds, the combination of potatoes fried in lamb fat combined with the coleslaw, was a most satisfactory and excellent way to eat it.

In fact he closed his eyes and melted with the exquisite taste. Exclaiming after he had finished, "By Ivura, I do declare that is awesome! Nicely done lass, nicely done!" he grinned at her. Giving her a playful elbow, which caused her smile to return and nervousness to recede.

"I have one other thing, that I would like to share with you all." stated Kate suddenly out of the blue. She swiftly rose up and left the area with the words, "Excuse me for a moment – I shall promptly return I promise you all, that you will like this." Then she disappeared into the private family area.

Neithan stopped eating for a moment or two. Giving a rather stern gaze to his captains, and stated more firmly in a kind commanding tone, "Would you please not, insult the lovely Lady? And at least try, some of this coleslaw, she has made? I fear you are all readily missing out! On the pleasurable sensation that it tantalizes the tongue and stomach, into a frenzy with.

I am, as you all know, rather elite and," with this he chuckled slightly, "fussy in some respects? When it comes to what, I allow to attack my palate. Or indeed what is placed before mine self or mine table. But this stuff, I really am, enjoying." Then he gave them an even more penetrating glare, of daring them to defy him, as more sternly he said, "Try. It. Don't gawp like a bunch of ingrates! Try. The. Coleslaw!"

Eldarweave and Oakley exchanged glances of exasperation, as much as fearful mortification. Yes, it was true that Robert had stated, what the main shreds of crunchiness were. But what by the stars and trees, they had to muse, made up the white liquid that covered it?

It was slightly runny.

It appeared as a bad soured milk or something.

It was, undefinable.

Nervously, and rather afraid not so much of their Liege-lord's temper at them not trying it, but more of what it looked and smelt like, as much as whatever the taste might be, the pair slowly, picked up spoons.

Dandein smiled broadly, and nodded stating, "I am game, Neithan sir. I have not had the misfortune to be ever fed something dire, by Robert or the little Lady's fair hand." He pulled that oval dish over and scooped up a medium sized portion, dolloping it onto his side plate. He was going to copy Kate. It might have been deliberately, intended that way.

Taking a large forkful he placed it fearlessly into his mouth. His smile turned to a delighted twinkle, that even swept up his face and into his eyes. "This is surprisingly, really good." came his stunned words of genuine pleasure.

"Pass it around then, Leihn – don't keep it all to yourself!" complained Agrivane. He would not be out done by the paladin-cleric! Showing him up before the other captains! He humphed as Dandein went back to eating some, after instead of passing him the strange mixture.

Dandein grabbed some of the fried up potatoes, to try it that way instead.

"Hey, I asked you to pass that over! Ruddy git." Coleus mumbled as he had to stretch over, and grab the dish for himself. It appeared to anger him enough that when he came to slop it, onto his main plate, he put a little more of it on there, than Leihn did.

"Sorry, didn't hear you." snickered Dandein trying hard to hide that amusement. Then adding casually, "Was busy enjoying this delicious food. And it really is even better if, you put something together with it. Wonder how it will taste with some of that deer roast, Kate made?" Which is what he went for next.

Eldarweave and Oakley both visibly cringed in unity. For slowly the dish was passed over to themselves.

Sorrel as yet had not said a word. His face stoic and depleted of emotion. But he was staring at the dish with some exasperation. As if to say, 'just don't give that to me, finish it before the dish gets here.' Because the elf seemed really unsure as to whether he wanted to try it, just because Neithan had insisted. Sorrel wanted to point blank refuse and if he could find a grounds in which to do that, he would have done so already.

Meanwhile Sorrel watched as both Adrian and Bryn, reluctantly picked up the smallest spoons closest to themselves and took a tiny bit. Both of them staring at that small amount, with growing apprehension. As if the coleslaw might possibly be eating them, rather than the other way around. Again they winced as they glanced at each other, for support. Together they put the tiny teaspoon sized portions into their mouths, simultaneously. Then chewed.

Suddenly relief seemed to fill Eldarweave as his jaw masticated the portion up, then he swallowed. But as he glanced to his side where Adrian was, he noted the ranger had swallowed it, without chewing it first. Then had grabbed his goblet to chug some of his water down. Oakley shot him a toothy grin, which spoke his guilt and cheating. Bryn elbowed him hard, making him almost choke, on his next mouthful.

"Now, now gentle-folks! We'll have none of that play, around mine table – if you please?" came the stern warning from old Trellawny. He took another heap of it and handed the dish over, straight to poor Sorrel, who really did not want to touch it at all.

He tried to waiver it away with the words, "No thank you, I still have so much on my plate, to finish first..."

"Coward." muttered Agrivane under his breath for not only Leihn and Oakley who were either side of him to hear. Before speaking up a little more loudly with, "Unity dearest Corbin, starts at the meal table. As our fellow brother-in-arms, you should know that better, than any. Try some.... but perhaps it is well with you, to refuse such grand hospitality? And to insult those who have slaved in the preparations of your arrival?"

Sorrel glared hard at Agrivane. Never before had his first name been uttered by any. Neither had he so openly been challenged, by the Head Captain. He clenched his jaw tight and was about to retort bitterly and lose his cool, when Trellawny picked up the spoon to scoop it, and dolloped a fair portion onto his plate saying, "There you go laddie! Get that round your gums, whilst your chomping! Tastes great make no mistakes!"

Sorrel was not only horrified but genuinely shocked that the healer had been so ballsy as to put something onto his plate – it was not etiquette. He gaped openly at it, as both Eldarweave and Oakley began to snicker at his discomfiture.

"Eat it all mind you! You, don't have stuff on your plate to waste!" reminded Robert as he went back to eating his own fare. Just as he glanced sidewards at Neithan and cast a wink, which made the Regent by his side start to chortle softly with mirth at the antics going on around the table. Of course as with all games, that Neithan instigated as always Robert had brought them to an end, or rather he may have been the starter but his brother-in-arms was always the one to finish them.

Kate re-entered in carrying with her what appeared to be a small flat rectangle and a strange thin, black piece of rope attached this, to a round metallic pink device. She smiled broadly at everyone as she entered, and said happily, "I thought maybe some music, might be in order. Seeing as we just well...you know what I mean." She sat down.

By her side, between Sorrel and herself she cleared off a small cushion and then messed with the Zune player, along with the tiny speaker she had plugged into it. The first piece of music, was rather pretty in it's presentation, One Republic was playing Secrets.

She had gone back to eating and drinking. Her face seemed a little more solemn. Despite the far off twinkle in her eyes. She smiled often through the rest of the meal, yet her orbs proved to be her undoing. For even Agrivane could tell, her thoughts were elsewhere. That there was pain and misery behind the facade and mask of pleasantry, that she seemed to be holding and portraying openly.

* * * * * * *

After all was cleared away and the captains had offered to wash all the dishes, whilst Neithan and Robert talked privately, Kate went and laid down to rest some more.

Dandein remarked, "I do not know about you guys, but that meal was beyond extravagant. I feel I will have to exercise twice as much in the next few days, to wear off the poundage and sluggishness of contentment, it presented to heavy my limbs with." and with that he gave a soft cackle.

"Aye, that was a really great meal. I just wish Lady Kate had been more happy with it, herself." agreed Agrivane as he scrubbed up another plate, in the hot soapy water. Without looking up he passed it to Oakley, who was rinsing them. Before taking another one from the pile and starting on that next.

"Kate was sad? She seemed so bubbly to me." said Eldarweave softly, thoughtfully as he continued to dry the dishes, along with Sorrel who was stacking them and putting them away.

"Cannot say I noticed." mumbled Sorrel, as he placed another one away reverentially.

Dandein, who was folding the cleaned napkins away, had given a slightly befuddled look into the back of those in front of him. Especially Coleus's head in particular, as he asked, "What makes you think that our Lady, was saddened throughout that meal? She seemed to smile a lot and was pleasant to all."

"Because she may have been smiling on the outside, but her eyes said otherwise." muttered Agrivane as he scrubbed a particularly stubborn spot, on the tureen he was now tackling. As he handed it to Adrian, he glanced briefly over to Leihn and added quietly, "The Lady, has been through more terror than any of us combined. But it is something she, shoulders the burden of alone. From what I understand, she still has – or rather I should say claims, that she holds no true memory of what happened. But obviously this is not true... Else-wise she would not have asked the team to take out, the Tocsdrof clan during the games.

A lot of mine household as well as her own, are taking this very literally – in all the games presented. Even those who are remotely associated or aligned with that clan, are being given similar treatment. Tell me, honestly Leihn that you have, not heard about that, incident?

Or looked to the listings in the various tournaments being held, to not notice, that they are off almost all the boards already? And we still have five weeks, of games to go. Thanks to the weather crap." came his waspishness as he left his words hanging in the now heavy flooding silence that followed. Which was only broken by the sloshing of water as he continued to wash the meals used dishes up.

Dandein looked down at the green napkins, he was still folding and sighed heavily. A deep furrow crossing his brow, as he pondered over that. Yes, he had heard and had seen that, but had thought it nothing more than the Tocsdrof clans-folk being careless and clumsy! As well as bad at the sports and games played.

What he had not realized, (and it did shock him to now know,) was that Kate had initiated a rally of clans, to take them out – literally, shamelessly, from the listings! Now he felt worse than ever before for her. More protective as he frowned over this small revelation. The things he had heard, he had put down to mere rumor mongers and gossipers.

With nothing better to do with their time than stir trouble for her, due to the jealousy she seemed to have directed towards her person. Sure he had heard whispering, he had also watched a lot of the rangers give her firm nods of fierce determination too.

Whenever they had been out in the hills, gathering greens earlier that morning. He had wondered briefly why, and now he knew. He gulped down the lump in his throat. This would not end well, if the Tocsdrof clans-folk were behind the original plot, of her horrible internment and torture. For then surely they may already have wind of the fact, she was beginning to remember stuff? That could only mean they might attempt to try and snatch her back.

Or worse still, kill her outright the next time! Maybe his vow to serve her till he died, would be fulfilled quicker than he had thought, or had perhaps hoped and deemed? He was not scared to die. By no means was he afraid of death. But Leihn Dandein would liked to live a little longer if he could, preferentially.

Sorrel spoke candidly in cold tones with the words, "I highly doubt they will try anything on her Ladyship. Not whilst our Liege-lord breathes! They would be stupid to attempt anything so bold, as to grab her from out of his, possession. Right?"

"Aye, but I think Agrivane is right! Kate is holding back on some stuff. Stuff she is too afraid to utter. Yes her conversation was light with all of us. The woman, our precious Lady bard, showed nothing but kindness and gentility, in her presentation of goodly hospitality.

She took each of our likes and dislikes into consideration too. If you did not notice, Corbin, she made at least one favorite dish for each of us. But there was something slightly more ...well,.. I cannot quite describe it.." Bryn Eldarweave finished as he began to dry the tureen handed to him, via his fellow captain.

"Haunting?" offered Coleus in a dark hush of the word. "Her eyes were haunting. And her aura was guarded." he added quietly, observantly. Allowing that thought alone to sink into the others who were all contemplating what had been mentioned thus far.

"I don't know about her aura, or about her actually hiding anything, but I would agree to how wonderful a hostess she was." seconded Oakley in a jovial fashion. Pausing before he added with scary accuracy the words of, "Though I must admit, I was plum petrified to eat that damn white stuff! It looked like something-or-another, my horse chokes up when she's sick!"

This caused the tension to finally break. All five males started laughing just as Eldarweave concluded, "It sure as fire did too! I noted you bloody swallowed it! Ruddy cheating bastard!"

"Just because am primarily a ranger, don't mean I eat everything presented to me! I am smarter than that Bryn! And obviously smarter than you – which is why you chewed and I didn't!" he promptly snickered back to which further laughter was rounded.

The competition between them was by far from done, as Eldarweave had the last words with, "Aye – you maybe smart, but you are by no means as damn screwed as was our good Sorrel here! Hahaha! I ne'er wanted to laugh so hard, when I saw the look to his face when ol' Trellawny dumped that crap on his plate warning him to eat it all! I almost died with that remark!"

He turned to Sorrel who was now giving him a deadly scowl of death as he asked in a sneer, "And how was it, that you managed to eat what you had no wish to, was it as good as Agrivane and Dandein here claimed?"

"It was positively disgusting." growled Sorrel angrily at being the subject of their laughter as he then said between clenched teeth, "I have seen horse cum on grass look more edible than that shite! In fact, I would not have been surprised as if she had used, horse cum on all of it!" That halted the laughter and almost caused a couple of captains to pale and baulk.

"As for you knowing what horse cum on grass looks like and to it being more edible Sorrel? I wouldn't doubt you're talking first hand on experiences!" roared Agrivane with laughter.

"I'm with you on that one!" chuckled Bryn as he almost dropped the dish he was drying. "Now come on lads, times a wasting. Let's hurry this crap up. I didn't sign up for my job to be working, like a scullery lad!" cackled Eldarweave as he passed the dried item to Sorrel.

Saying softly to him Bryn said, "You know we're only messing with you, right? Though I must admit, I do have to wonder? Some of the stuff that comes out of your mouth Corbin Sorrel lad, is by far the funniest crap I ever hear! Stick to being your usual silent self – told you before! People will be less likely to laugh, at your scraggy arse, you idiot."

Sorrel grumbled something inaudibly to himself and went back to stacking the dishes a little harshly. Glaring on and off at the others with unmitigated anger. He huffed a fair few breaths as he scowled.

"Better not break them, some are on loan and I highly doubt Trellawny will appreciate paying out of pocket for something not of his fault." cautioned Dandein as he now began to fold the two table cloths and stack the covers used for the hot dishes.

So the four captains of Neithan's personal guard continued to labor over the dishes whilst Dandein put all the other things away. In the background Kate's music played softly and when they had finished, they all sat once more around the table. Drinks in hand and talking generally.

Only stopping unexpectedly when Agrivane accidentally turned the music up and the song, Talking Body by Tove Lo came on. He paused and cocked his head listening to lyrics. Surprise was on all their faces at the words.

"This sounds like something, a rowdy bunch of Adrian's grand bairns, would sing! I highly think, this is not appropriate. How do I stop this stupid device, without breaking it?" Coleus panicked as he fiddled with the Zune player. "I don't think Lady Kate meant this to still be in here, when she left to sleep! I cannot believe she even listens, to this shit!"

With all the fiddling Agrivane was doing, it skipped several songs, and only bits of beats could be heard. In a horrible candor of mocking him, trying to turn it off or lower the volume. What ended up happening was the volume got louder instead. Then to make matters worse, Three Days Grace came on with the song, Riot. When this one started playing all of them seemed to start panicking about how loud, violent and horrible, they thought it was. Despite it being something Kate had obviously liked, for whatever reasoning.

The only person who did not seem to be phased by this all, was Sorrel. With a cool arched brow of snow white he said quietly, "I like this song. The bard has tastes." Before swiftly snatching up the device and pulling the speaker cable out and flicking through the Zune. His eyes, scanning it with some approval. "Indeed, she has good taste... a lot of interesting imagery with this stuff." Sorrel affirmed as he turned it off and then glanced with a sneer to Adrian, saying smugly, "Whose the smart one in our group now, ranger boy?"

"Still not you!" Oakley grinned as he said cockily back in turn, "Because your arse is going to be sorry tomorrow, when that horse cum and grass you ate earlier, burns you up!" Skillfully dodging a fist from Sorrel as he leapt out of the way and laughed. Before he knew it, Oakley was tangled up in a playful wrestling move with his counterpart, and was smug at the fact he had Sorrel pinned. "Told you! Not smart, by a long bow arm! Am still, the better!" laughed Adrian as he held the squirming, struggling Sorrel down. Oakley was by far the more heavier and bulked of the two.

"Both of you!" snapped Agrivane suddenly as he hauled Adrian by his collar with a single hand, lifting him clear off Sorrel easily. Which caused even the one pinned to almost come up off the floor too, with the grip the ranger captain had on him. "Stop your bloody nonsense! You'll wake Lady Kate with all your noise. Keep it down!" he barked in a low growl of annoyance to them both. Giving them his piercing stare, which they both retreated from in chastisement.

"He started it..." muttered Sorrel under his breath. To which he copped a hand across the back of his head unexpectedly, from Coleus. Who towering over his counterpart, hissed leaning down to the other captain's face, "No. You did!"

"He said I was stupid...." was the moan of protest from the latter sourly.

"Aye, and right now, you are proving him right! If you ask me, you're both acting like a pair of twits!" snapped the head captain back with impatience. "Oakley, stop winding Sorrel up – you know he can't take a joke well... And Sorrel, you need to ruddy well, lighten up! Bloody moody git!" But if Agrivane thought that he had prevented Kate from awakening, he was wrong.

* * * * * * *

For the bard was not asleep. She had been laying on her side. Facing the tent side with her back to the thick tapestry. Listening to a different kind of music and wondering how long it would be, before the necromancers caught up with her? No amount of warmth from the nearby fire, could warm her. She huddled under her blankets shuddering, with icy coldness that she could not shake. In her mind she saw her tormentors. She heard the echoes of her own pleas. Cries and even the screams, that they had torn from her throat. But Kate did not cry. Not one tear did she shed.

As much as the bard hated to admit it, she was not that tough to begin with. Sure she put on a great show of being tough and hard, but deep down she knew the opposite was nearer the mark. Certainly she had not lied, when she had told her father that she might not be able to resist telling the necromancers, everything they wanted to know. That is, if they caught hold of her, again.

She knew she had dealt with the whole discovery and situation wrong. Her gut, her intuition told her that. But it was too late now to do anything about that. Perhaps that is what pained her more? More than the terrifying haunting images, that scorched their existence, across her already fragile mind set. In her mind she remembered.

Every last little detail that was branded into her mind and soul, her body. Every little finite detail was etched and cut into her memory painfully. But she could not speak of it. No. Not with anyone. She did not want to scare or frighten anyone and even less so have them worry over it. Neither did she want of sympathy from anyone either.

Her lip quivered as she felt that chill in her marrow unable to warm herself. And she fought back the tears of desperation and the restless depression of contemplation's that parched her soul with such a deep descending darkness. She wanted distractions, better distractions and to be left alone. No one would understand what she had gone through, regardless of what they said in comfort.

Because how could they truly know, if indeed they had never had the exact same experience. And now, she had less to occupy her ailing spirits with, because she was band from being outside for the most part, due to her stupid menstrual cycle coming into play. That had been ill timed and unwanted. But she did not want to relive that agony in her sleep as she had been doing every night since she had been revived. She did not want to see those images of darkness and despairing.

Did not want to hear the screams ripped from her throat time, after time without mercy. Every time she had laid down to sleep it had been the same. Over and over again, without remorse. It made her feel as though she had been doused in fiery ice, and was unmistakably causing her depression and misery to increase exponentially.

* * * * * * *

(Part of my series (Pocketful Of Existence Series), and unedited as yet. This is Chapters 1 & 2, and I shall endeavor to put two new chapters out per week whilst I write some other stuff.)

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