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Old 09-06-2017, 12:58 PM   #1
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Mortal Enemies, Eternal Lovers.

“Have I got a story for you”

The tavern was packed filled to the brim with humans of varying shapes and sizes. Most of them celebrated drinking their large pints of ale and taxing the poor bar wenches for more. Some of them danced dragging the women celebrating as well and leading them in large sweeping dances. Today was the day, the day that centuries of war and blood shed ended. Only a few were upset and those that were drank in the corners of the bar their expression dark as they eyed the celebrations.

“I was there with them you know!” The man hiccupped his eyes unfocused as he swung his mug and splashed ale over the wooden table “I helped get them together”

“You’re full of shit Voltaire” One of the men gathered around the table said. The other two laughed and shook their head discounting the shorter man as they motioned for another round.

“Is true” He said slurring his words “They were on my expedition! Both of them! That’s where the princess of the elves and the prince of the humans met!”

“Uh huh suuuuuure” The man said again leaning back “Don’t you have enough tall tales old man?”

“None top this one” Voltaire said shaking his head and leaning in. The slur dropped from his voice and when he spoke next it was with the deep tone of a storyteller.
“For this is a tale of intrigue and mystery, a tale of danger and suspense. Of course what romance wouldn’t be complete with those things? The best tales are ones of sex love and danger. NO ONE’s tale is better than that of our two rulers. A princess and prince born in a time where they were destined to be enemies. Two souls that crossed a sea of antagonism and deep seated hate to come together and marry”

“This is their story”
………………………………………………………………..
ONE YEAR AGO

The Kingdom Under The Ground

“Father!”

His boots echoed across the stone halls. The walls around him stretched high into the sky disappearing into the shadows. Heavy iron torches hung on the wall casting everything in half shadows as the young man raced after the procession. He hurriedly stuffed his simple white linen shirt into the waistband of his trousers as he moved. He ran a hand through his thick wavy brown hair trying to keep it down as he finally reached the black armored guards leading his father from the assembly hall.

“Roderick?” His father King Valiant said turning as the high guard let Roderick through “What in the blazes are you yelling at?”

“I’m sorry father” Roderick said scratching at the stubble on his pointed chin and wishing he had shaved.

“I need to speak to you” He said reaching for the tube on his back and starting to pull out a map “it’s about the tunnels the ones I have been speaking to you about”
His father rolled his eyes. He waved his hand giving the order for the high guard to move to a position where they could jump in but not overhear what was being said. Once they were done he reached out placing his heavily ringed hand on Roderick’s muscular shoulder.

“Son we have talked about this” His father said softly “There is nothing wrong in the tunnels. You need to be focusing on your studies on becoming the ruler I know you are meant to be”

“Father I love you but that is simply not true” Roderick said clutching the map in his hands “The shakes are getting more and more frequent. The people in the lower ring are reporting that new tunnels are popping up some have even disappeared. Something is happening in the core. The ones who came before-“

“Are dead son” His father insisted his tone angry “And your obsession with them should die to! They have given us many gifts but they are dead now. They were dead when our ancestor King Septom moved his people into the cave after the elven rebellion.”

Roderick sighed pinching the bridge of his nose. He moved the map back into its tube sliding it onto his back once more as he regarded his father.

“It was silly of me to mention” Roderick said his tone flat as he gestured for his father’s guards to return

“Enjoy your meal” He said to his father cutting him off before he could speak. He moved for the door slamming it shut behind him as he left the royal halls.
………………………………………………..
“I take it that it didn’t go well?”

Roderick stood on the edge of the ledge looking out at capital city. The largest of the ruins left over from the ones who came before. The city was built into a huge antechamber of rock. Stone buildings carved by unknown hands stretched above connected by stone walkways and platforms. Even from his perch atop one of the highest towers much of the city could not be seen.

“It didn’t” Roderick said glancing over at his best friend a loyalist named Pond. He walked over to their purple haired boy and sat down kicking his legs out as pinched the bridge of his nose.

“Well you tried” Pond said munching on an apple “It’s not your fault your father doesn’t want to hear what you have to say.”

“It will if something happens” Roderick said “I have a responsibility as a king to protect my people”

“Without hard proof your dad will not act” Pond reminded him finishing the apple and checking it into the air.

“I know” Roderick said watching the apple disappear into the abyss “I’m going to have to go down there myself”

“Funny you should mention that” Pond said checking his finger-tips “I was down in the lower rungs with this delicious hunk of a man. We were in a bar doing our best to remain inconspicuous when I heard a man boasting about a recent expedition he was doing. His name was Voltaire and he claimed he was going to be going deeper than anyone else and was looking for able bodied people to join his crew. He plans on starting at the Neutral city of Kanark”

“Are you serious?” Roderick said standing up and grabbing the man’s shoulder “Kanark is one of the fault lines!”

“That it is that it is” Pond said chuckling “You have two days to get there…. If you are serious about this”

“Thank you Pond” Roderick said shaking him “I could kiss you right now!”

“No thanks” Pond said laughing as they moved to climb down “You’re much to pretty for my taste.”
……………………………………………………..
ONE DAY LATER

Roderick moved through the crowds keeping the brown hood over his face. He scratched idly at his full beard wondering if that combined with his shaved head would be enough of a disguise. His clothing was threadbare a simple brown pair of pants and a black shirt. He had a short sword strapped to his hip and finally a long traveling cloak that was currently up to hide his features.

Kanark was one of the few cities neutral in the human elf war. It was also one of the first cities discovered from the ones who came before. It was built in a pit with tunnels leading down into the complex labyrinth below. Roderick glanced up at the sky above admiring it as it warmed his pale skin.

He passed humans and elves doing his best to blend in. After hearing his father and advisers talk about the elf war it was strange to think humans and elves could be cordial anywhere. Yet here they were mostly talking freely in the neutral city. One elf smiled at him and he awkwardly smiled back resisting the urge to drop his hand down to his sword.

He reached the meeting point a tavern aptly named The Wooden Bastard. It was a ram shackled place, a place that looked like one strong wind would blow it down. He grimaced at the thought of going in and debated giving up on the quest entirely.

Luckily the man he was searching for was situated outside. Voltari was a short balding man with golden spectacles. He and two large brutish men moved around a wooden cart loading supplies as Voltaire checked a sheet of paper in his hands. Roderick took a deep breath and moved forward tapping on the man’s shoulders and waiting for him to turn before speaking.

“My name is Pond” Roderick said pulling his hood back to reveal his clean-shaven head and full brown beard “I’ve come to join your expedition!”

“Have ye know?” Voltaire said chuckling as he looked him up and down “Tell me lad what use do I have for a skinny thing like you”

“Excellent question!” Roderick said grinning “Two things… One is this large bag of coin I have.”

He tossed the coin bag to Voltaire letting him weight it before pulling out his next bartering chip.

“The other is this map” Roderick said shaking out the parchment paper and letting Voltaire see before sliding it back in.

“It’s a map leading to the uncharted area” Roderick explained sliding it back onto his back “It took me a lot of time to get this map. With it we won’t get lost in the tunnels and won’t be checking places that have already been pilfered. What do you say?”

“What else can I say my boy!” Voltaire said clapping the would be kings back.

“Welcome aboard!”
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Old 09-10-2017, 04:45 PM   #2
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The Kingdom in the Trees

Lariana’s slippered feet barely made a sound upon the wooden pathway beneath them as she hurried back to her chambers, their steps as nimble and sure footed as a doe bounding through the forest as she ascended the stairway. The sound of her doors shutting soon resonated loudly however as she slammed them behind her upon entering.

Her pale silvery blonde hair shined like moonlight as it fell in gentle waves to the small of her back, yet her naturally fair skin was lightly tanned and had clearly been touched by the sun. If one looked closely there was even the faintest dusting of freckles upon the bridge of her nose and the tops of her high cheekbones, evidence of her great love of hunting and being outdoors. At present she wore a long flowing gown of glimmering purple cloth that swirled around her and brought out the violet in her dark-lashed and slightly upturned eyes, her delicate brow currently furrowed in obvious anger and frustration.

“So how did the talk with your father go?” Evaleen, her lady’s maid and closest friend, asked in a sarcastic tone.

While Lariana appreciated her friend’s attempt to lighten the mood, it didn’t help any.

“Not well,” she replied with a frown.

“But you said in your latest vision you saw-“

“He wouldn’t even listen to it!” Lariana replied, cutting her friend off, “Every time I try to speak to him about what I’ve seen in my visions it’s another excuse not to get involved: First he insisted that they weren’t visions, merely nightmares. Then he said that if I had developed the gift of sight that some of our people possess and was truly having visions I must be misinterpreting what I saw. Now he says that even if I am correct in my interpretations the elves shouldn’t get involved, we should just let the humans deal with it since the tunnels are part of their kingdom, and that it isn’t our problem to worry about…but it is.”

Lariana sighed, her expression somber as she moved across the room to walk out onto her private balcony, Evaleen following behind her. All around her in the evening shadows beneath the thick canopy of the Elder Trees shone Meldamiriel, the capital city of the elvish kingdom. Built by her ancestors before her, the city had been crafted into the very trees themselves; countless homes, businesses, and other buildings nestled within the very branches of the giant trees and extending out from them on platforms while others had been carved into the very trees themselves. All of them connected by various intricately carved walkways and platforms. She looked out at the city around her, so vast that even her keen elven eyes could not take it all in.

“Something is happening within the tunnels Evaleen, and whatever it is exactly that my visions are warning me of I can sense that it is something that will affect all of us, both elf and human kingdoms alike. If my father will not send anyone to investigate then I am forced to do so myself…but how would I even begin? Without a guide where would I even start?!” she cried out in exasperation.

“Kanark.”

“Excuse me?”

“The Neutral city of Kanark,” Evaleen replied, “My elder brother Almon recently returned from a trading trip there and mentioned that while he’d been in a tavern one night during his stay a man names Voltaire had tried to recruit him for an expedition that he was leading deep within the tunnels. Said he planned to go deeper than anyone had ever gone before and was in need of able bodied people to join his crew. Apparently he’d really wanted some elves to join as well, likely due to the fact that our senses are naturally sharper than humans, but that he’d been having problems getting any to enlist. Naturally Almon turned him down as well…but if you were going to join his crew you’d have to leave quickly, the day Almon mentioned the man was planning on leaving for the expedition is only two days from now, and you know your father doesn’t like you leaving the palace without an escort. How exactly do you plan on getting there in the first place?”

“You just leave that up to me,” Lariana told her friend as a bright smile suddenly spread across her face.

“Now…did your brother happen to mention where the meeting point for the expedition crew was supposed to be?”

-----------------------------------------------

TWO DAYS LATER

Lariana walked briskly through the markets of Kanark, headed in the direction that she had been told she would find the tavern called The Wooden Bastard, and there the man called Voltaire and his crew that her friend Evaleen had told her of. She was attired in her friend Evaleen’s own hunting garb that she wore whenever accompanying Lariana on one of her many excursions, a quiver of arrows strapped to her back with her own bow and fighting knifes stored securely inside. Luckily the two women were both of similar height and build, though while Lariana’s locks shone light and silver Evaleen’s were glossy and dark like a raven’s wings, so Lariana had braided back her hair to keep each long strand tucked away and then been careful to keep the green hood pulled up to conceal it and the rest of her features while slipping out first from the palace, then the city of Meldamiriel, and then from her father’s kingdom all together. Even now in Kanark, far away from anyone that might recognize her, she hesitated to lower it.

It was difficult not to allow herself to become distracted by all of the strange and exciting sights, sounds, and smells surrounding her. It was rare that she was able to travel outside of her own city and she had certainly never been allowed outside of her father’s kingdom before, not even to one of the Neutral cities like this one. As such it was her first time ever being in a city where humans also dwelled. The stories that her father and others had told her about the wars between their two races had always made them sound like such a crude and brutish lot, but elves here in Kanark seemed to be getting along with them well enough.

At last she reached the tavern and at once spotted a group of men loading up a wooden cart with supplies out front. One of the men she noted seemed to be in charge of the others, looking off of a sheet of paper in his hands and occasionally giving an order to one of the others. She wondered if this might be the man that she was looking for.

“Excuse me,” she called out as she approached him, “Are you the man called Voltaire? He is to be leading an expedition and I would like to join his crew. I was told that he was in need of elves to enlist.”

For the first time since leaving the palace two days ago she pulled back her hood, revealing herself to the man’s gaze.
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Old 09-10-2017, 05:14 PM   #3
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“An Elf!” Voltaire said smiling in pleasure as his eyes fell on her “And A wee dame at that! Why it’s a pleasure to meet you my lady!”

The smaller man shook her hand pumping it up and down excitedly. His pleasure at her was clear in his eyes and the way he smiled. Without a moment hesitation he brought her over to the cart nodding at the men who were packing up to move away.

“I was hoping to get one of you lot!” He said in excitement “You elves don’t realize this but the tunnels stretch under your domain as well plus your eye sit is keen as well. The men here in the neutral city are versed in working with your kind but still I want you to be careful. I cannot vouch for every one on this expedition their allegiances. As long as you’re okay with a little danger lass then your hired!”

He waited for her answer and turned bringing her into the tavern. The usually large space was cleared today with only the assortment of men and woman he managed to hire on for the expedition. One of them a man wearing a hood stiffened when they walked in looking around and wondering if someone else would say something.

“We got ourselves an elf for the expedition” Voltaire said his voice booming “get your supplies ready! We move out in the morn!”
……………………………….

A elf as an expedition member?!

Roderick struggled to keep his face neutral as Voltaire left them. He did another glance around trying to see if anyone else was as shocked. His surprise only grew as he watched everyone else go to see her talking to her and shaking her hand.
Were elves and humans this friendly? That was impossible his father always said….
Well he said a lot of things.

He frowned getting up and moving over to join the others. He decided for the sake of his identity and for the expedition to play nice. When the others moved away he stuck out his hand gathering his courage and doing his best to look like talking to an elf was a everyday normal thing for him.
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Old 09-10-2017, 09:47 PM   #4
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As uneasy as she felt being around humans for the first time after all of the stories she'd heard of the great war between their kingdoms, even with the obvious pleasure in his eyes and smile it was hard for Lariana to keep her expression calm as Voltaire suddenly grasped her hand and shook it before leading her over to the cart, her back rigid as she walked with him.

She listened carefully to his explanation of why he'd wanted an elf to enlist. From the sound of things it seemed like she would be the only one, though she supposed this might be to her advantage. If other elves had been present he might not have been so eager to allow her to join the crew, 'wee dame' as she was. She nodded slightly with understanding in response to his warning that she should be careful and that she may encounter danger when it came to other members of the expedition.

"Don't worry, I can take care of myself," she replied with a bit of a smirk as she gestured back to the hilts of the two fighting knifes in her quiver.

With that said he brought her into the tavern, nerves going on edge again despite her words as her keen eyes fell on the group of humans before her that would be her traveling companions for the extent of the expedition and took them in. One of them in particular seemed on edge about her arrival, having noticeably stiffened when Voltaire brought her into the room. When the man's voice suddenly boomed out into the room she couldn't help but jump slightly.

“We got ourselves an elf for the expedition” Voltaire said his voice booming “get your supplies ready! We move out in the morn!”

And with that he was gone, leaving her alone with the lot of them. She wondered briefly as they began to rise from their seats and approach her if she had maybe made a poor decision after all, her muscles tensing slightly in preparation to defend herself when she noticed the smiles on their faces. Instead of coming to gang up on her in attack like she had feared, they were simply all rising to greet her!

One by one they came and introduced themselves, shaking her hand and welcoming her to the crew, the smiles on their faces and their warm demeanor gradually relaxing her until she was surprised to find herself genuinely smiling back at them in return. Maybe things wouldn't be so bad as she had feared.

Then the group faded away, leaving behind the man that she had noticed upon her entering, the one who had stiffened when she'd walked in the room. She felt a bit of her nerves returning, the smile on her face wavering slightly as she reached out and took his offered hand.

"Pleasure to meet you, my name is Ana," she told him in greeting, her eyes meeting his as she did her best to keep her tone friendly and light a she had with the others of the crew.
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Old 09-10-2017, 10:15 PM   #5
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He was touching hands with an elf! Who would have thought such a thing was possible! Roderick couldn’t believe how soft her hand was silky in texture unlike a humans hand. He found the experience to be entirely pleasant and was almost disappointed when she dropped his hand.
How strange indeed.

Before he could say anything more the rest came over gesturing for her to come eat. He watched them as they moved away still a little shell shocked at how much had happened. He was on the expedition! An expedition with an elf!

They gestured for him to join them but he declined. He turned instead to the door pushing out and taking in the city. This would probably be his first and last time in a neutral city until he was king and he was determined to enjoy it to its fullest. He spent the rest of the night exploring the city poking into all the stalls. He spent more money than he should on an exotic curved half sword and did his best to run off the courtesans who tried to take the rest.

Towards the end of the night he climbed out of the hole going to edge of the cities territory. He stopped at the bridge and looked off into the trees. He idly wondered how much father he needed to go to reach the elves and what their cities could possibly be like. His father said they lived in trees!

A part of him wondered what that would look like.

………………………………………………

The next morning

He was at the cart first thing in the morning. He nodded at Voltaire and slid in resting on a few sacks of their supplies as the long night reared its ugly head. With a yawn he settled in feeling the others join them before Voltaire stepped in.

“Alright you lot” He said clearing his throat “Settle in for the ride we’re going to under town which is the deepest city in the tunnels. From there we strike out on our own. Our new friend here was generous to procure a map we can use to figure out our way”
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Old 09-11-2017, 02:51 AM   #6
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The young man had not yet given his name when the rest of the group ushered Lariana over to them to join them for dinner and at the risk of seeming rude she quickly excused herself. She had been journeying almost non-stop for the past couple days, and while she was a very skilled hunter and forager she had not allowed herself the time to stop and do so out of fear of arriving at the meetup point too late, her meals consisting of some dried deer meat that she'd packed along with her instead. A hot meal sounded heavenly at the moment, even if it was cooked by human hands.

Truth be told that wasn't the only reason though. The silent demeanor of the young man and the way in which he looked at her made her uneasy. She got the impression that he wasn't from a Neutral city as the others appeared to be. For one he seemed a lot less used to being around an elf than the others, but then there was also the paler color of his skin. If she had to guess she would say that he was from one of the human cities that lay completely underground.

She couldn't help but be a little fascinated by his appearance though. When he'd gotten closer to her to shake her hand and she'd been able to see him under the hood he wore better she'd noticed that he appeared to have no hair upon his head and yet a great deal of it growing out upon his face, the exact opposite of elf men who usually kept the hair on their head quite long but never grew any facial hair. She'd heard of some human men who began to lose the hair on their heads as they grew older, but this man didn't seem old at all, probably just a bit older than herself.

Quite strange.

The group gestured for him to join them as well, but he declined and walked out the door instead. Based off of his behavior towards her before she couldn't help but think that his reasons may have something to do with her, especially when he had not returned even after it had grown very late and she and the rest of the crew had settled in for the night. Was he upset about an elf being allowed to join them? Did he not want to have to share a space with her?

----------------------------

Unfortunately when the next day dawned neither of them had very much of a say in the matter.

Following behind the rest of the group as they'd filed into the cart, she'd been left with the last available spot...which just so happened to be right next to where the bearded young man was resting upon some of the supplies.

Hearing Voltaire's announcement that they would be heading through Under Town first, she pulled her hood up over her head again, not knowing how friendly the people of that town might be towards elves. She did her best to settle in and get comfortable as she eyes the young man with curiosity, wondering where he might have gotten the map that Voltaire had spoken of.
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Old 09-12-2017, 11:32 AM   #7
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He felt the cart jerk and settled in for the long ride. Based on what his map said Undertown was at least six hours away from the neutral city. He heard the others shuffling in opened one bleary eye to take the elf in once more then let himself drift off into a deep sleep. The cart began to pick up speed as it entered the underground and soon they left the outside world behind as they traded open skies for dark tunnels and glowing creepy crystals.

He dreamed…. Dreamed of dark tunnels and twisting corridors. He also dreamed of elves specifically his father meeting them on the battlefield. Eventually his dreams began to get frantic as the tunnels shifted and groaned. While his father and the elves spilled blood something stirred below something dark and hungry for blood. He tried to warn his father but found he couldn’t reach him. The more he ran to them the further he grew! He was finally starting to make ground when something rose from the tunnels something hungry and-

The cart jostled to a stop jerking him out of his sleep. He swung up his eyes wide with fear. His heart pounded in his chest causing him to wince as some of the others laughed.

“Bad dream?” One of the other members of the crew asked chuckling.

“Something like that” He said wiping the sweat from his forehead and looking around “Are we in Undertown?”

“Just got here” one of the girls said munching on an apple “Voltaire went to go bribe some guards for passage into the tunnels.

Roderick nodded and moved to the doors of the cart. He shouldered the wooden door open and jumped down taking a deep breath as he did. With a shake of his head he dispelled the lingering effects of the dream casting them aside as if they were nothing more than leaves in the air. His eyes swept around Undertown taking in the familiar underground city setting. They were at the edges of his father kingdom and even though Undertown was technically still part of said kingdom he could tell just by looking that it was more again to the Neutral City.
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Old 09-12-2017, 11:43 PM   #8
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Lariana was grateful when the bearded young man whom's name she still had not managed to catch basically paid her no mind as she settled in nearby him, leaning against one of the sacks of supplies while the cart gave a little jerk and the crew made their way to Undertown. She gathered that he must have not slept much, if at any, the night before due to the fact that he quickly drifted to sleep almost immediately and did not wake until their arrival.

When he did awake however it happened so suddenly and with such force that it make her flinch back away from him in surprise. One moment the young mad had seemed dead asleep, in the middle of a dream it seemed by the rapid movements of his eyes behind his lids that she had noticed just moments before when she'd taken a glance his way before returning to her conversation with the other crew, the next he'd been swinging straight up with his eyes wide open in fear.

She felt a prickling sensation on the back of her neck as she examined his expression, not finding it comical as the other crew members seemed to. Her shrewd eyes took in the way he winced and the beading of sweat that had broken out upon his brow. Whatever he had been dreaming of it had clearly horrified the young man half to death. She knew the feeling of waking up in such a state far too well by now to ever think it funny.

Then suddenly just as soon as he'd been told they'd reached Undertown he was up and headed out of the cart. She couldn't help but wonder what he may be up to. Was he upset about the others laughing at him? Did he mean to go and help Voltaire haggle with the guards... or perhaps he meant to use the map that Voltaire had spoken of to begin to plan their way through the tunnels? Unable to help her curiosity she decided to follow him, rising from her spot in the cart and heading out the door as he had. She quickly spotted him as he stood outside taking in the setting around them.

She exited the cart, jumping down onto the ground with catlike grace and ease as her eyes swept around them as well. She had never been in an underground city before. It was fascinating, but also a little unnerving. There was no sunlight at all this deep underground, but the glowing crystals and torches of the city provided enough light for the residents. She wondered how it was though that they were able to track the passage of time without being able to use the sun or moon as a guide. Turning her attention back to the young man, she did her best to put a friendly like smile upon her face as she moved towards him.

"Hello...um...sorry I didn't catch your name the evening before...mine's Ana if you may have forgotten," she said in awkward greeting, "I wanted to come and check that you were alright. I hope the others teasing didn't upset you."
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Old 09-13-2017, 01:31 PM   #9
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When she spoke to him he all but jumped out of his skin! Roderick turned quickly his hands dropping down to the dagger on his hip. His eyes took her in halfway between suspicion and fear. A second passed between them before he sighed dropping his hand and taking a shaky breath.

“My name is Pond” He said to her formal and stiff. Why was he having such trouble with this?! Sure they were mortal enemies who were locked in a bloody war… but it wasn’t like she was about to attack him! The neutral city was full of humans and elves making a living.

They weren’t all bad.

“Oh there fine” He said shaking his head and gesturing at the rest of the crew “Nothing but a bit of good natured ribbing it’s my fault for having a nightmare in a cart full of strangers”

He rubbed the back of his head and blushed a bit before continuing.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you Anna” He said trying his best to give a warm smile “You will have to forgive me. I am from the kingdoms and haven’t met or spent much time with your kind. Not that I am interested in any trouble! I just uh… well if I was weird to you I didn’t mean to be.”

He realized he was rambling a bit and further blushed. He cleared his throat and straightened his posture. His father’s words about good impression and being polite echoed in his mind as he held out his hand. When she gave it to him he kissed it brushing his knuckles against hers.

“Have you been in the underground before?” He asked her raising an eyebrow.
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Old 09-16-2017, 12:27 AM   #10
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When he'd quickly turned and reached for his dagger at the sound of her voice, Lariana had jumped as well, flinching away from him as her arms tensed and got ready if need be to reach back to her own fighting knifes tucked into the quiver on her back along with the arrows for her bow, which was also strapped to her back. She'd brought them all along with her as she'd left the cart even though she hadn't planned on being gone long, Voltaire's warning that she should be careful not having been forgotten.

She relaxed a bit when he dropped his hand and told her his name but not completely, his stiff demeanor putting her on edge. Finally though he seemed to become a little more genuine with her, a bit of a blush showing on his pale face as he spoke of his nightmare and then giving her a somewhat forced but still warm smile as he explained that, like herself, he was simply unused to being around those other than his own kind. She smiled a bit at his rambling, complying and offering him her hand when he held his out for it.

Then suddenly she found that she was the one blushing, a slight bloom appearing in her cheeks as he brought it to his lips and kissed it, the brush of his lips against her knuckles and the tickle of his beard hairs against her soft skin making a slight shiver run down her spine.

"N-no...no this is my first time," she explained, "I've never been to a Neutral city before...I'm from Meldamiriel."
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Old 09-17-2017, 12:46 PM   #11
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“I see” Roderick said understanding and relief dawning on his face. That was why she seemed so uncomfortable at first! She was in the same boat he was!

“I suppose you’re not used to seeing humans either?” He said gesturing at those moving all around them “Or seeing them with elves to! For me it feels like stepping into a strange foreign planet. I have never fought against your kind but I have also never seen them.”

How strange! Who would have thought the future king of the underground would be talking to an Elf! He idly wondered what his father would thing of such a thing. He was committed to the cause if only because of his father Roderick’s grandfather who died on the front line. They said the elves called forth their magic and collapsed a tunnel on him crushing him and his entire regiment.

Roderick wasn’t born yet and never met the man. He knew though that his grandfather and father were very close and he took it hard. When his father became key he reinforced humanity’s war with the elves and so far he continued to fight them.

“Why did you choose to come on this quest of ours?” He asked her curious as he eyed her once more “Do your kind explore the deeper tunnels? Or is this for the treasures Voltaire seems to assured we will find?”
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Old 09-23-2017, 11:33 PM   #12
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“I suppose you’re not used to seeing humans either?” He said gesturing at those moving all around them “Or seeing them with elves to! For me it feels like stepping into a strange foreign planet. I have never fought against your kind but I have also never seen them.”


Her hand falling from his, Lariana shook her head in confirmation of Pond's words as she looked around at the many humans passing by them and the way that they freely interacted with the elves of the city. No, she had most certainly never seen anything like this before.

Before this trip she had never even set eyes on a human before, though she had heard a lot of stories about them from her father over the years and she had overheard his generals telling tales of their many battles against them. Her father didn't think very highly of humans at all. According to him they were a brash, brutish and greedy race, always scheming and making up excuses to attack their people and invade their forests to try to steal their land and resources for themselves. Never satisfied with what they already had, always wanting more.

“Why did you choose to come on this quest of ours?” He asked her curious as he eyed her once more “Do your kind explore the deeper tunnels? Or is this for the treasures Voltaire seems to assured we will find?”

"I have no care of treasures!" she replied quickly, unable to help but bristle slightly at the suggestion as his words mirrored her thoughts about what her father had told her of human kind's greed before catching herself.

Her father had told her many things about the evils of human kind, but even after just one day among them she knew they couldn't all be as bad as he had claimed. The elves of both cities she'd visited seemed to be getting along well with them enough after all, and the human members of their crew had all been very warm and welcoming to her. She began again in her usual, gentler tone.

"My kind are more inclined to explore dense forest canopies or bright woodland meadows than dark and dreary tunnels where we would be cut off from sun and moon and all things green for such a long amount of time, but despite it all that is indeed the reason that I came," she explained with a bit of a smile, "I wish to explore the ruins of the deeper tunnels and... see what I may find there."

Speaking of which.

"That reminds me...Voltaire mentioned that you had a map of the deeper tunnels. Would you mind if I took a look at it? I didn't know that such maps existed. Where on earth did you find it?" she asked curiously.
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Old 09-24-2017, 02:28 AM   #13
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Roderick was more than a little surprised when she mentioned she had no care for treasures. Of course he didn’t know if that was a thing elves would be into but why else would she go? She mentioned how her kind preferred the trees and forest and his interest only grew.

What was she doing here then?

She said something about wanting a change of pace but he didn’t quite believe her. It was the way she spoke about her home of the forest and the trees. She was truly happy there and he doubted the tunnels were that interesting for her to leave it. He let it go however allowing her her secrets.

He had his own after all.

Speaking of secrets she mentioned the map. He cursed Voltaire for being so free about his map but supposed it was to be expected. They were after all part of the same “team”. He knew he was going to have to share it at least once yet he still hesitated. Especially when his eyes took in her pointed ears.

“I stole it” He said settling on the easy answer “I was a common thief back home and saw a chance to become something more. I took it and got the map. Here I am ready to try my luck.”

When she mentioned seeing it his smile faltered ever so slightly. He recovered quickly but still it was noticeable. He reached for the tube on his back and untied the leather thong around his chest. It loosened and he flipped it around presenting it to her even as he chewed his lip nervously.

“Quickly” He said looking around “I don’t want anyone to try and grab it”
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Old 09-24-2017, 08:05 PM   #14
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Lariana couldn't help but frown slightly when Pond announced that he'd stolen the map from someone else. She knew as a princess who had grown up never having to want for anything it wasn't her place to judge, but were things really so bad in the kingdom underground that a man had to resort to stealing to build a better life for himself. Surely there were better, more honorable ways.

"Stolen? You should return it then once you come back from our adventure with your new treasures. It would not be good to start your new life for yourself with something like that looming over your head," she advised him gently as she took the map from him and glanced down at it.

Her keen eyes quickly took in the map, examining the routes and tunnels deep within the earth that had been carefully charted upon it. She had never realized that there were so many, and not just beneath the human kingdom but her own elven one as well, just as Voltaire had claimed! Her heart filled with dread as she noted one of the tunnels that was particularly deep underground, further than all the rest it seemed. Her finger traced from it back up towards the surface on the map, though somehow she already knew what part of the land she would find this particular tunnel laid beneath. She stopped as her finger finally found it, her face going pale.

"The battlefields," she murmured aloud.

It was just as in her dreams.
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Old 09-25-2017, 03:45 PM   #15
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She took it studying it as people passed them by. Despite himself Roderick was curious… curious to see what she would make of it all. He had a feeling this was her first time even underground. What would she make of the twisting tunnels that stretched out like snakes, or of the large pits and cavernous holes that were as ancient as the world itself. How different it must be to her one who was around trees all of her life.

He froze as she whispered something her eyes glued to a spot on the map he was very familiar with.

The spot where the tremors seemed to be originating from.

“How did you?” He said trailing off as he reached out to touch her shoulder “What do you know of that spot?!”

Before he could say anything more however Voltaire appeared along with the others. The man had a pleased smile on his face as he came up to them and spread his arms.

“Its done!” He said laughing “Those guards they believe they have gotten one over on old Voltaire… The joke is on them! The treasures that we find in those vault are worth more than few gold Sovereigns”

Roderick quickly stepped back taking the map with him. He hurriedly rolled it up and stuffed it into the tube ignoring the looks the rest of the party was giving him. Did they think he was accosting her?

Or were they greedy for the map?

“Are we ready to go then?” Roderick asked trying to break the tension Voltaire didn’t seem to notice.

“Of course my good man!” Voltaire said drawing everyone back to the cart “we will enter through the stone gates and descend into the underkeep from there that trust map of yours will lead us to the uncharted section”

“And the battlefields” Roderick murmured low enough that only he and her could hear. He gave her a look that said the conversation wasn’t over before climbing into the back of the cart. He went over to the opening that led to the roof of the wooden cart and hoisted himself up. He needed some space to think.
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Old 09-27-2017, 01:55 PM   #16
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“How did you?” He said trailing off as he reached out to touch her shoulder “What do you know of that spot?!”

Lariana had been so engrossed in her examination of the map and her discovery that she'd forgotten that Pond was even standing there beside her. She jumped with surprise in response when she felt his hand on her shoulder, her head jerking up to look at him with wide violet eyes at his words.

She was unsure of how to reply without giving herself away. The only way she knew of the spot at all and had been drawn to it was because of her visions. Was there something else significant about it that he knew of and she didn't?

Luckily at that very moment she was saved from having to explain herself by Voltaire and the others joining them, Voltaire announcing that he'd struck a deal with the guards and that they would be on their way. Her relief was short lived however when she heard Pond's murmured remark to her about the battlefields, her gaze darting up to meet his and seeing the look that he gave her.

There was something significant about them then. What did he know?

When they entered the cart she took her seat among the others, watching at he hoisted himself up onto the roof instead of joining them. She did her best to keep a smile on her face in front of the rest of the crew, but could not help but tap her fingers slightly on the board beneath her in a anxious gesture.
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Old 09-27-2017, 02:43 PM   #17
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The cart began its journey moving through the massive stone gates flanked by two guards. The man-made torches went away giving way to the natural green crystals that illuminated the stone walls. The wooden cart creaked as they entered a downward sloop. The air became damp and wet and a cold chill entered the cart as everyone huddled together.

“Hey” One of the men in the cart said with long black hair “Don’t let him bother you. Those city dwellers are a bunch of biggots to anyone not born underground”
“Our glorious human king” The only other female in the group said spitting on the floor of the wooden cart.

“I heard his son is just as bad” The other man said his hat tipped down to conceal his face “Between the two of them they will continue this bloody pointless war”

“Don’t you worry about a thing miss” The lead guy said winking at her “We won’t let anything happen to you if he makes any sort of move on you we will be ready”

With that out of the way they began to chat with her sharing things such as their history and names. All of them were from the neutral city born and raised amongst the elves. They happily shared themselves with her telling her stories of humanity as the cart went deeper and deeper.

After an hour, the cart began to level out. Voltaire called that they would be stopping in a few minutes and sure enough the cart slowed to a stop. The cart creaked from above and then the doors opened revealing Roderick’s wary face.
“Voltaire is giving us thirty minutes” He explained as the other brushed past him. He offered his hand to her ignoring the looks the other were giving as he helped her out.

They were in a large cavern. Rings of stone stretched out before them going up in a spiral staircase that entered into the blackness above. Coffins were dug into the sides giving the whole place a creepy mausoleum feel. Statues of men of worth stood guard over each coffin grand men who no doubt once inspired legend.

“Make camp!” Voltaire shouted trying to stroke a fire in a grand stone hearth.
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Old 09-27-2017, 05:58 PM   #18
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Lariana relaxed as she sat and talked with the rest of the crew, smiling as she listened to them talk about themselves and sharing their stories about humanity. She shared what she could about herself in return, just a few details so as not to raise any suspicion about who she truly was or her true motives for joining the expedition. Thankfully they did not press her for more information. She did not enjoy having to make up lies to people and did not think she was particularly good at it.

Then suddenly it was time for them to stop and Pond appeared at the doors, the air thick with tension once more. She followed the others out of the cart, looking at his hand with a bit of hesitation but eventually taking it and allowing him to help her out onto the ground.

"Thank you," she told him with a polite nod of her head before releasing his hand and stepping forward to take a look around her at her surroundings. Her eyes grew wide, wariness at the creepy tomb like surroundings but also a great deal of curiosity and amazement shining within their violet depths as she took in the cavern and stone carvings around her. A small smile of amusement shone on her face when she noticed the glowing green crystals that illuminated the walls. Well, it wasn't the green leaves and meadows that she was used to, but she supposed she would take what she could get.

Hearing Voltaire's instructions for them to make camp, she began to go retrieve her supplies when she noticed him trying to stoke a fire and having a bit of difficulty and moved over to him instead.

"Allow me," she told him, placing a hand gently on his shoulder to still him and then bending down beside the hearth.

She quickly rearranged the kindling within it into a formation that she knew would make it easier to catch. Then reaching down to a small pouch attached to her belt, she pulled out two small stones and struck them together. Immediately sparks were seen coming from the rocks, soon igniting the wood within the hearth and spreading until a large and warming fire had been formed.
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Old 09-27-2017, 07:21 PM   #19
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Roderick chuckled as everyone cheered for the elf woman and her ability to start a fire. Did they heap such praise on her to make her feel more at home? Or was it an attempt at comradely? He knew any of them could have done that just as he know knew that Voltaire was… not used to being so out in the elements. With the fire stoked the rest of them began to spread out gathering supplies. He saw several of the group make an attempt to draw the elven girl into their party and made no move to approach any of them. He was an outsider and that was fine. He was also a king and the lest looks they aimed at “pond” the better.

He moved towards the outer edges of the catacombs. The air was thick with dust and the dead and he paused to pay his respects to them. They were his ancestors after all the first men who crawled out of the tunnels and decided to create a civilization with what they saw. Any one of them could have been in his blood and he felt a sort of pride as he moved through them.

“I swear I will honor every one of you” He said softly as he spotted a few discarded supplies. He gathered them and then went back to the main groups.

“Looks like some smugglers have been here” He said dumping the findings by Voltaire “Using the tunnel to store goods no doubt”

“Were close enough to the cities that it makes sense” Voltaire said looking around warily “Hopefully they do not come back”

“The map says were going to be moving into some place called the hanging cities next” Roderick explained sitting down next to him “Have you ever heard of it?”

“Its deeper than anyone has ever been before” Voltaire remarked using a pot to heat up a soup “I think it’s been mentioned in a few books but nothing more. Who knows what we will find down there”
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Old 09-27-2017, 10:19 PM   #20
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Lariana was confused when everyone started to cheer simply from her being able to start the fire, knowing it was not so difficult a task as to deserve such praise, but simply smiled in response figuring that they were just trying to be friendly. These humans certainly seemed to be an outgoing bunch. Well...all except for one at least.

As she and the rest of the crew gathered the supplies they would need for the evening and made cap she couldn't help but let her gaze wander over to Pond as he wandered away from the group and over to examine the catacombs. She gave a little shiver, not understanding why he would be interested in such things. Her people sometimes erected memorials to honor their fallen heroes and leaders, but they cremated their dead and then scattered the ashes somewhere within the wood of the departed or their family's choosing. The idea of leaving someone's body sealed up in a coffin to decay and rot away sounded horrific to her.

After a while he walked back towards them, something in his arms that had not been there before, and made his way to Voltaire. She moved to follow him, curious what he had found, and overheard his conversation with the other man. At the mention of smugglers she began to scan the perimeter of the catacombs more carefully with her eyes, withdrawing one of her fighting knives and twirling it absentmindedly in her hand as she did.
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Old 09-28-2017, 04:45 PM   #21
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“Pretty sure you can put that away Dearie” Voltaire said chuckling as he watched her twirling the knife “If there are smugglers down here we’ll hear them a mile away.”

“The supplies were old anyways” Roderick said dismissively tossing them to Voltaire “Must have been an old smuggler stash.”

Voltaire grunted in agreement and kept working on his stew. Roderick watched him for a few minutes out of mild interest as the others slowly came back and deposited their findings. Wood was going to be scarce in the tunnels and so when the other female of the group brought back a small pile of sticks every one couldn’t help but sigh in relief.

“Soup should be done shortly” Voltaire said nodding at the soup before pulling out Roderick’s map.

“The map our friend brought says we keep going down” Voltaire explained tapping the map “Once we get to the hanging city we should find some untouched treasure. We get what we can and then decide whether to go down further or not”

There was a general murmur of agreement from the others. Roderick froze at the implication they would be turning back so soon. This wasn’t part of the plan! His eyes flickered down to the map eyeing the battlefields he worked out how to get the caravan there. He glanced over at the elven woman wondering if she was worried about the same thing. She wanted to get down there to didn’t she?
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Old 09-29-2017, 11:45 PM   #22
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"Sorry," Lariana replied with a blush in response to Voltaire's comment about her knife twirling, "I just like to practice sometimes."

She slipped the fighting knife with its thirteen inch curved blade back into the holster at her back with its twin and moved closer to the fire to join them. She watched as the other members of the crew brought their findings and listened carefully as Voltaire brought out Pond's map and explained his plans for the next leg of their journey. Her head jerked up slightly with surprise at his mention that they would decide once they'd reached the hanging city if they would continue further or not. While the rest of the group murmured their agreement she remained silent.

No! They couldn't be turning back already!

Her gaze shifted down to the map, noting just how much deeper they would still need to go to reach the area that she'd been drawn to when looking at it before...the place in her visions. They still had so far to go! A worried look in her eyes, she lifted her gaze and glanced over at Pond, noting that he too didn't seem as pleased as the rest of the group at the idea of them turning back to soon.
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Old 10-02-2017, 03:32 PM   #23
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She seemed just as confused and worried as he did. It further confirmed her suspicion that she was there for something more than treasure. Who was this girl? And why was an elf so interested in getting down below?

Before he could say anything more Voltaire was moving on. The smaller man began to plan out the trip into the hanging city and who would be doing what. He only half listened to him though as he focused on the present issue and what to do about it. He could reveal who he was and try and hijack the expedition but who would believe him? He changed his appearance and even if he cut his beard off it would take a few weeks for his hair to grow back in. The map was proof but he already told everyone he stole it!

He could try bribing Voltaire to go deeper but that wasn’t ideal either. The man was in it for the coin and if Roderick gave it to him there was no guarantee he wouldn’t just leave. Roderick would have to bide his time and intentionally not find anything in the hanging city.

The stew was served and Roderick gratefully took a bowl. He ate politely waiting for the women to eat before going himself. Manners were drilled into him from an early age both by his mother and by his stewardess Mistress Sylvia. The memories of her ruler against his knuckles when he did something wrong caused him to chuckle softly. If only she could see him now! Sipping soup politely with a bunch of bandits!

After dinner it was time to turn in. A watch was set up and Roderick volunteered to take the first shift. He wasn’t tired and he was eager to explore some more. His people and their history were held in these very halls! There was still so much to see.

He moved away as everyone began to tuck in for the night. His kept his hand on his sword as he moved through the coffins and statues that stood in the circular room. He made sure to keep the camp in view at all times as he explored.
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Old 10-06-2017, 07:38 PM   #24
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Lariana laid upon her pallet as the rest of the group slowly drifted off to sleep around her. She tried to do the same, but sleep would not come. Last night when sleeping inside the tavern in the Neutral city after journeying two days to get there she had slept very soundly, but now that they were below ground it was an entirely different matter.

She restlessly shifted onto her back and stared up above her. Instead of the soft glow of moon and stars or the painted ceiling of her room back home however she saw only the spiral stone staircase swirling ever higher and higher before finally disappearing completely into a black void of complete darkness. It was more than a little unnerving.

Even worse though were her own troubled thoughts running through her head and keeping her awake. She kept thinking of Voltaire's plan to turn back as soon as they had collected enough treasure to appease the group, ruining her own plans of attempting to reach the deepest parts of the tunnels. She was still uncertain about how to deal with the problem. She did not think revealing who she was and her true reason for coming on the expedition was a good idea. Should she try to sabotage their efforts to find treasure in some way so that they had to keep on going? Now that she had made it this far she refused to turn back and simply go home, but how could she possibly continue on if the group turned back and she had no one to guide her?

She sat up and let out a frustrated sigh as she raked her fingers back through her long silvery hair which she had undone from its braid so as to be more comfortable while she slept, her weapons lying next to her beside her pallet. Her eyes drifted over to Pond, noticing him exploring by the coffins again and watching him for a moment in curiosity. What was it about them that he found so fascinating she wondered. After a moments hesitation she decided to join him, her curiosity getting the better of her. She rose from her pallet and quietly made her way over to him.

"You're not bothered by them...the coffins?" she asked once she'd reached him, speaking softly so as not to wake the others.
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Old 10-06-2017, 08:15 PM   #25
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He was an hour into his watch when he noticed movement from the camp. The elf girl was sitting up moving off of the matt she laid down and coming towards him. He was on the far right of the coffins currently leaning against one as he bit into an apple. He saw her coming and his free hand dropped down touching the handle of his sword as he waited for her to come up. Only when she was in front of him did he relax and his hand fell off of the sword. He dug into his bag and pulled out another apple offering it to her before waving his hand at the coffins.

“Why would I be scared of them?” He asked chuckling “They are my ancestors. The one who came before and paved the way. From them our great cities were born and we crawled out of the darkness. This room is a place to be revered and respected not fearful of”

He finished his apple and dropped it back into his bag. He decided not would be the time to ask her his questions and try to figure out the truth of why she was here.

“You were the only one besides me that reacted badly to nor going deeper” He said gently grabbing her arm and pulling her away “You also said something on the map something about a battlefield. I get the sense you’re not like the others on this trip for riches and you no doubt think the same about me. Who are you? And why do you want to go deeper? If your intentions are pure we might have to do this together”

He wasn’t sure how to feel about going deeper with just an elf but knew he might have to take the chance. The rest of the group was ready to return once their coffers were full. If it came down to it he preferred having someone by his side instead of being totally alone down there. Even if that someone was a race his family line had been at war with for centuries.

“Well?” He asked raising an eyebrow.
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