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Title: Aftermath

Author: Dark Wyldchilde (wyldchilde37@yahoo.com)

Rating: NC-17, heck maybe even X at some points.

Pairing: Pia/Princess

Setting: Valine's A Dance With Rogues, parts one and two. A module
for the Neverwinter Nights PC Game.

Summary: Just as I wrote my own story by playing through the modules
I'm expanding the conclusion in a series of drabbles.

Spoilers: A Dance With Rogues... if you play Neverwinter Nights and
are 18+ PLAY THEM. If you can't find the module email me and I will
help you.

Disclaimer: Neverwinter Nights is the property of Bioware and other
assorted companies, the D&D system it's based on is another whole
set of copyrights, and while I don't know what legal rights Valine
has to the content she created for the game this is not a challenge
to those copyrights either. This is a tribute to her work, not a rip
off, and no profit is being made.

Wyld's Notes: I don't have a full blown idea for a fic sequel to the
game, but I have found myself writing little snippets of each
character's perspective in the follow up.

MY Princess was named Wylla Chylde in a play on my own
handle... a habit I picked up way back in Diablo 2 with my sorceress
named Wylla and my necromancer named Wylliam. For those familiar
with the module I used the head with the waist length hair, and made
her a fair skinned blonde.

Pia
Pia smacked her lips lightly as she woke. She then
remembered the pitcher of water and glass kept next to the Baroness'
bed for just such an occasion and rolled over to get a drink for her
parched throat.

Taking a long swallow she rolled over and looked at the
woman lying next to her, just as blonde, though her hair went all
the way down to her waist rather then hanging around her shoulders
like Pia's. She was also as naked, but that had seem an unspoken
agreement between the two lovers.

Pia smiled fondly and spoke in a whisper. "I remember back
when we were calling you "Mouse"." Of course that was back when she
was just an unusual assignment from Joanna. It wasn't that new
recruits weren't given lessons in the bedchamber, but that women
were with men and men were with women.

Joanna explained that the young girl had rough time in the
siege however and told Pia to be gentle. While Pia had already
known that wouldn't be a problem, when she met the cold beauty that
would be come her world she realized the problem... that she could
easily fall in love with the "Mouse".

While Wylla didn't wake her face still scrunched in
displeasure at her old nickname, and Pia had to admit it fit poorly.
It was no mouse that leapt through a flickering portal because she
couldn't stand the idea of leaving Pia all alone.

Pia remembered well that swell of joy she felt when Terek
first brought Wylla to the Baron's throne. She didn't resist the
urge to reach out and caress Wylla's cheek as she thought of how
they first admitted their feelings for each other in the depths of
that snow cave.

Wylla still didn't wake, but she did respond as she made a
happy sighing sort of sound and snuggled herself closer to Pia, the
sleepy sovereign seeking the bard's familiar warmth. Pia took the
familiar weight in her arms a soft sigh escaped her own lips, but
without the contentment Wylla's carried.

She didn't think there were any who were pleased to see the
Baroness had chosen a female consort, and while Wylla's vocal
displays of affection kept their complaints silent Pia swore that
even some of those who she personally considered friends wished
Wylla had a man who could give her an heir.

She kissed Wylla's brow... it was just such thoughts that
led her to try to end it with Wylla back when they were at the
Dwarven Inn, but the Princess, her Princess would have none of it.
Rather then kissing her senseless she had grabbed Pia and kissed
sense back into her, making her realize that Wylla loved her and
wasn't going to stop.

A smile caressed the bard's features as she remembered how
Wylla had sworn that she would rather spend the rest of their lives
with Pia playing in roadside inn's while she picked pockets as long
as it meant they could live their lives together. Her Princess
however didn't have to renounce her title, and in fact picked up a
second one as the new Baroness Delburg.

Pia laid back into the warmth of their bed as her mind swam
with everything that had led up to that point. Their journey through
the Underdark, her brief stint as a slave... she actually stifled a
grin at the memory.

Though she had been entirely honest that she hadn't been
mistreated she had sworn to her "Master" that she would tell no one
that he was a grey dwarf that was plagued by night terrors of a cave
in that had happened to him as a boy. While she helped out at the
smithy her primary purpose was to be awake as he slept and rouse him
when his nightmares took hold, and then sing him back to sleep
afterward.

Wylla had however rescued her from that, and had seemed all
to happy and grateful as she paid for her release. Pia had
interrogated her lover until she had known everything that had
happened, and knew that she had a much rougher time in captivity.
Not a rough as Pia's nightmares had said, but she imagined that
Wylla had been plagued by similar worries, and was happy to find
that Pia had been bought by the rather kindly Duergar.

It was for much the same reason Pia felt a certain degree of
gratitude towards the dark elf Rizzen, of course the fact that he
had insisted on referring to Wylla as his "slave" for the longest
time wore on what gratitude she may have had. Even now she figured
he might still be calling her "Little Slave" if it weren't for the
numerous guardsmen who would line up to kill him for insulting the
new Baroness.

She had to admit however that the Drow's aid had been
invaluable as they fought their way to and through the Isle of
Prisoners and into the very depths of Hell. She shivered, snuggling
herself into the warmth of her Sweet's body, still amazed that she
came through it all alive.

Pia then gave a shudder, but her Sweet hadn't, while she
wasn't there Hyath had haunted her dreams more then once where he
would hack through Wylla's throat with one of those hellfire blades
his kind always carried. Leaving her to wake up covered in sweat and
grabbing for her Princess.

While their were still some succession concerns Wylla was
still quite young and very healthy, and harboring some strange ideas
about finding magical means for the two of them to become with
child. Her reasoning being that if magic exists to restore life to
the dead then it wasn't too large a leap to think that it could
create new life in her womb.

Pia however was being far more pragmatic and was sizing up
candidates in the keep to join her and give Wylla the child that Pia
could not. It still unsettled her to think of it, but she was more
concerned with her Sweet.

Wylla had never lay with a man other then the time Vico had
forced himself on her, and there was no way Pia would leave her to
face those old fears alone, and that had nothing to do with the
jealousy that Pia herself admitted her was prone to.

The soft breath ghosting across her bosom however reminded
her that they both were here, alive, happy, and safe. Though she
knew that there was danger on the horizon from either the Dhorn or
the Orcs she was sure her Sweet would be able to handle it. Her last
thought was that besides adoring Wylla as she did, she truly had
faith in the woman, that she wasn't just her Princess, but rather
her Queen.

Vico
Vico had always known he was going to Hell. He had been told
it constantly as a boy, and had grown to take a perverse sort of
strength in it as a man, freeing himself from the constraints most
men were bound by. It was perhaps the closest that the Blackguard
came to being at peace with something.

Of course in all his imaginings of Hell he had company,
burning in torment with all his fellow sinners. Not laying here
alone, as immobile as the dead, but still able to look up into the
drifting ash that would soon bury him whole. Part of him idly
wondered if someone would be along to drive one of those tombstones
into where he now lay.

Not that it would matter much, the stones were written in
nothing that looked like a language to him, and the one person who
would remember where he lay wasn't going to remember him. She told
him so.

Unbidden the memory came back to him. At first he had
thought the dealing with demons that had made him a true Blackguard
had paid off when he saw her here in Hell with him. The same blazing
eyes that had haunted him, and the full bosom that had allured him.
Vico figured that if he killed her here she would have to stay with
him and he would have the eternity of their damnation to make her
his own.

It started going wrong right away however as the fear that
had always flickered across those eyes before she was able to
replace it with hate was gone. Even then contempt that she had in
her voice that night when she tormented him in the Dwarven Inn by
letting him see her pleasure at her own hands while making sure he
knew it would never come from his hands was gone.

Now she seemed annoyed, as if he were some unwanted puppy
that kept following her around hoping for some sort of acceptance.
He had cursed himself at the accuracy of his analogy, and then he
remembered her words back in the Underdark Arena after he had
realized she had become too good to beat and feigned death.

"After you had finished with me you had said I might never
get over loosing my maidenhood in that way, you might be right, but
I'm going to start getting over it right now." Realizing what her
words meant Vico's eyes had flown open in time to see the point of
the sword she sent ramming through his skull.

It had made attacking her all the easier, but it hadn't made
her any less skilled, or him any more powerful, and she killed him
yet again. Instead of the welcoming oblivion he had expected he
found himself looking upward into the grey sky where he had fallen.

She might not have even realized there was still life left
in his body if her hound hadn't walked over and sniffed at him, but
the Hound's snout had then been replaced by those damnable eyes.
There was no mercy in them, no remorse, but it was neither was it
the venomous hate and rage that Vico knew so many of his own victims
had seen.

Much to his surprise she actually took the time to explain
her lack of compassion. "I was ready to forgive you Vico, as far
back as on the boat to Westwood I was ready to forgive you. I WANTED
to forgive you. It was like you had left the rage you carried around
in you along with the seed you left in me, and I was desperate to
get it out before it could poison me, and I would give birth to
another you."

She paused and actually took a seated position on the ground
next to him, becoming more a presence he felt then a sight he
saw. "Because I understand that you weren't born the way you are,
that you didn't cut your way from your mother's womb with that damn
glowing sword." If he could speak Vico would say that he wish he
had, but his voice was as stilled as the rest of him.

"I started burning that Dark Seed from me the Dwarven Inn,
when I let you know, let you see, that my delight was my own. I
continued in the Underdark Arena when I showed you that my skills in
battle had surpassed your own. Here I finish by letting you know
that this is the last I will think of you. I suppose you may be
mentioned from time to time, but for my part I will live my life
well. I will get the others out of here safe, and back to the mortal
world. I will then have a long and happy life with Pia..." He could
hear the joy in her voice as he spoke of his one time lover and it
cut doubly deep.

"I don't do this as a sort of vengeance against you. I do
this as an embracing of my own life... you failed Vico, I didn't
become you, I won't become you, and now I leave you to your
failure." With that she got up, patted the Hound's muzzle and spoke
the last words Vico knew he would ever hear. "Were done here, let's
go." The Hound gave a bark and the sound of them leaving was soon
swallowed by the falling ash.

Vico suddenly realized just what it would mean to spend an
eternity buried under the ash, and he couldn't even scream. Not in
rage or hate, or even the terror he was trying to deny that was
constricting around him.

Anden Goodmanner
Anden yawned and stretched as he began another day. His
stretching wasn't as vital nowadays as he was sleeping in a soft bed
here at Castle Delberg, but it had become a part of his regimen as a
young ranger sleeping on the ground in the forests outside
Betancuria.

It had served him well while they were sleeping on the cold
stone of the caves of the Underdark, and it readied him to greet the
dawn here at the keep. He wasn't required to greet the dawn as his
duties here at the castle revolved more around teaching archery and
woodcraft to those who showed an aptitude for such things amongst
the villagers they had taken in.

Anden didn't see it as a matter of duty however. He enjoyed
those early morning hours when the night had returned to her bed and
the dawn had yet to rise. Though it was different here at the castle
then it was in the deep woods, with the nighttime guards being
relieved and retiring to their own beds, rising at this hour allowed
Anden to be known to them all.

No the duties that Lady Wylla requested of him didn't demand
that he rise at this hour, but the duties that he demanded of
himself allowed no less. While the new Baroness Delberg had forgiven
him repeatedly for his unforgivable betrayal Aden wouldn't allow
himself to be forgiven as he had seen far too many souls who would
mutter a half-sincere "sorry" and then repeat their sorry actions
over and over again, even acting as the wounded party when
forgiveness wasn't given yet another time.

Anden Goodmanner would not settle for that standard, but
demand a higher one. Seeing himself in his shaving mirror he laughed
at himself briefly, this was coming from a man who's dearest friends
were some of the greatest thieves in the land.

The "problem" was that those thieves were some of the most
generous and compassionate souls in the land as well, and when
compared to "lawful" persons like Arto Benthur... well Anden was
forced to take a closer look at his convictions. He did not go so
far as to abandon the precepts of law and order as Lady Wylla seemed
to have done, but he had come to the conclusion that there were
certain natural, nay universal laws that bound all souls.

Much like the villain Vico's rape of the Princess was
inexcusable no matter how he tried to hide the blame or the shame
that was his and his alone, atrocities were atrocities, even if
the "lawful" rulers place a title on it like the "Isle of Prisoners".

Like his own title it was simply a way to try to clean
bloodied hands, a futile way. For his part Anden hoped to wash away
his betrayal through devoted service to his liege, a woman who had
his service through both right of blood and of virtue of spirit.

His morning absolutions taken care of his eyes fell upon a
gift from the Princess, a set of weapons and armor styled to match
the gear he gad carried back when they had first escaped Betancuria
in the fall of the Family, but this set had been master crafted by
the finest artisans the Lady could employ.

The originals had been lost with his imprisonment by the
mind flayer, but he had been making do with the Dhorn-supplied
equipment that had been offered to him when he had agreed to be a
turncoat. When the new supplies had been presented to him Anden had
first presumed that it was because no one wished to stare at the
colors of the hated Dhorn, but when he stated as much Wylla had
smiled and asked him to meet them... well it would be today.

Finally garbed he left his quarters to walk the castle
walls. Receiving silent nods of greeting from men long used to being
awake while all others slumbered Anden took in the lush green of the
surrounding forests, and felt anger grip his heart.

For while there was an ancient beauty to the towering trees
he could still see the scars where the orc raiders had savaged the
land as surely as it's people. While he and his rangers had already
torn down all the orc encampments, the land was slow to heal from
it's brutal treatment. He wasn't sure if it was irony or justice
that the areas that seemed to be growing the fastest where were the
mass graves where the orc's bodies had been burned in mass graves.

He sighed and started walking towards the kitchens where the
Lady Chella, the one member of the thieves' band who was a fellow
early riser, would be preparing breakfast.

Nathan Geigers
As a boy Young Nathan had been told that eavesdropping was a
nasty habit, and for the first part of his life he had no reason to
argue. Then circumstances forced the humble inn keeper to begin
organizing the Family and that bad habit became necessity as he
listened in on the thieves as they caroused in the Bear Pit.

By this point necessity had become habit again, but he no
longer felt any shame as he regularly listened in on conversations
unobserved. Quite often they meant nothing and he forgot them as
quickly as he reached that conclusion.

He wouldn't call the conversation he was listening to
meaningless, but the speakers weren't saying anything he hadn't
heard countless times already. He actually found himself knowing
approximately what the two young guardsmen would say before they
would say it.

Inevitably the conversation would start with joy over
surviving the orcish invasion. That led into their savior, and how
wonderful it was that their savior was the heir to Earl Delburg.
After praising Wylla's bravery they would then praise her beauty.

At which point the speakers would start speaking in
whispers. While they always seemed to find something noteworthy
about Pia, either her own bravery in fighting her way into the
castle, the talent she showed in her regular performances around the
keep, or her own noteworthy beauty they always whispered worries
that they could have found a successor to their Baron only to watch
the line die when Wylla had no heir.

Now if it were mixed company the conversation would die
there, with the participants either breaking up and going their
separate ways, or the topic changing to some triviality. In this
case however the speakers were both young men, and a rueful smile
creased the rogue's face as they began saying how they would be
willing to help the Baroness continue the line.

As he walked down the hall the opposite way the smile on his
face grew, if it had been women talking the whispers often got even
more hushed as they wondered what the Baroness and her Consort did
at night.

"Master" Nathan had his own concerns about lines of
succession, and was considering the same solution that Baron Delburg
had chosen, for not only had the Princess saved his life, but his
very soul. Nathan however found he had an even greater reason for
naming Wylla as his heir, everyone had been following her lead when
he was dead the first time.

The only real concern he had was that Wylla had shown a
reluctance to engage in some of the more ruthless practices that a
thieves guild often required. Yet it was that same virtue that
literally led the woman into Hell to save his soul, so he couldn't
argue her methods too greatly.

While his feet kept walking to his meeting with Wylla his
mind paused, pondering, wondering if perhaps he had become TOO
ruthless. If she had done as he wished they would either be living
on the run, or living under the fear that Arto Benthur would prove
more capable then they had realized and uncover their game.

Wylla had looked at his options and rejected them both,
putting forth the promise that she had made to the Baron Delburg,
and insisting that she would keep her word. A demand that had
already yielded results beyond anything the old rogue had considered.

He met Mando on the way and the two men discussed how the
younger rogue was doing on finding those suitable to a life of a
rogue amongst the castle's population. At first they both had been
skeptical about their chances, but the people of Delburg county had
been through an invasion as real as Betancuria, and by an enemy that
didn't even make the pretext of civility. So much like their new
Baroness, the people of Delburg county were learning a certain
degree of moral flexibility.

Walking into the dining hall Wylla had secured for their
meeting they joined Anden in examining the two set of arms and armor
that had been lain out on the large table in the center of the room.
One he knew was the equipment that the Dhorn had originally given to
Aden when they had convinced him to help them hunt the Princess, but
the other was a replica made here at Castle Delburg.

Though no one was allowed to pick them up and analyze the
smaller details like armor buckles and the like for the wear and
tear that would be a give it away the challenge was to tell the two
apart, and from the way the ranger was shaking his head Nathan knew
even the original owner was failing to do so.

Meeting the delighted gaze on the Princess' face he allowed
himself to match her smile. Sure she might not be as ruthless as he
was, but she seemed to make up for it in cunning, and he wasn't
ready to retire by any means.

Rizzen Do'Vrinn
It was still the deep of night at Castle Delberg and Rizzen
had been taking advantage of their stable base of operations by
volunteering to captain the guard during the hours of blessed dark
and retiring to his windowless chambers when the ball of light the
humans were so fond of dominated the skies.

Walking the walls Rizzen still didn't regret letting
himself be convinced to flee his ancestral home there were times,
like now, when he realized just what his life held in store for him.
While the slave he had bought such a short eternity ago seemed
genuinely loyal to him even if she and all her compatriots stayed
entirely loyal to him for their entire lives that would still only
be a small portion of the years ahead of him.

He would never admit it, but the notion shook him. The
surface was difficult enough as it was, facing it alone would be
doubly so. At times like this he would remind himself that he would
continue to make new allies here on the surface, but it often failed
to help. He considered many things, maybe he could rule this
thieves' guild in time, or maybe he could return home and use the
allies he made here on the surface to reclaim a place for himself.

That would be awhile however, and from Little Wylla's plans
there was going to be far more pressing concerns that could distract
him from uncomfortable imaginings. Though she hadn't told him
exactly what she was planning he could tell she was marshalling her
forces.

He thought back to his own meeting with the Baroness Delburg
just a few short nights ago. He was out on the walls again, while he
could have hidden inside it's cool stone walls he had found his
distaste for open spaces wasn't so pressing if they weren't so
brightly lit.

Wylla had joined him, and while she always moved on light
feet he could tell she was walking normally so he could hear
her. "You seem to be adapting well Rizzen."

He didn't turn from looking out over the walls. "We all do
what we must."

She joined him in looking out at her new barony. "I've never
been content with mere survival. Especially since no one truly acts
on their own."

Not understanding her words he looked at her directly and
she met his gaze. Not voicing the question he simply arched a brow,
and while she raised a brow of her own in a seemingly mocking salute
she elaborated. "One must never assume their enemies are stupid, or
idle, and while we are far away from the Dhorn I am still haunted by
the Old Man's words about the rate at which the Orcs are multiplying
and attacking humanity."

Rizzen looked back over the fields. "The Orcs are like
cockroaches, and multiply thusly. If humanity can not crush them
then they deserve to be crushed in turn."

Wylla actually laughed before continuing. "Which species
would you find less detestable to deal with Rizzen?"

The Drow actually got a smile of his own at that. "So what
do you propose "Baroness"?"

"I'm still working out the details." She then seemed to
sober, and Rizzen found himself doing the same. "Outside Westwood
there was a crypt where we found a demonic circle that had animated
the remains inside the crypt, and an altar that forced a vision on
me where the Dhorn Arto Benthur was preparing to bed me."

He nodded once. "We know of his plans for you."

Wylla nodded in turn. "And initially I had figured the
circle connected to his demonology and the Dhorn presence that had
taken Westwood. One of my earlier companions, the one I killed in
the arena, however was versed in demonology himself and thought it
connected to the Orcs that had finished Westwood off. At first I
simply thought him mistaken, but when weighed with the Old Man's
words I have to wonder if his hand is directly tied to their rapid
expansion."

Rizzen felt his face darken. "And with his proven ties to
the Dhorn that would mean that he would be behind both major forces
that are currently savaging human lands."

Their gazes met, and he could see that was the conclusion
that she herself had reached. "I don't know what's coming Rizzen,
but I'm not ashamed to admit it frightens me. I know when you first
bought me I was "little slave" and while I now actually have my name
again I just need to know if I can count on you if it gets as bad as
I fear it may."

He actually was slightly offended and allowed it to
show. "We swore we were allies did we not?"

She nodded and held up her hands in a mollifying
gesture. "We did Rizzen, and it's not that I doubt your word. My
concern stems from the fact that we didn't define the terms of our
alliance, and if we end up facing two demonic armies that serve the
same master it could be put to the test."

He gave a small nod. "Would you trust the word of a dark
elf?"

Wylla actually got a small grin, almost frighteningly
similar to the grin she had back when she convinced him to flee
Mother's throne room. "A" dark elf? No, but your's I will."

He paused. "You've been humoring me all along haven't you?"

She sighed. "Yes. The fact was Rizzen I would have done
anything you asked to find Pia, and once we found her I suppose I
could have rebelled, but you greatly improved me odds of getting her
safely to the surface."

He gazed a bit more intently. "You really do care for the
bard don't you?"

She smiled, a warm, happy smile that she always got some
form of when referring to Pia. "I know you don't understand it
Rizzen, but please don't doubt it's there."

"I'd have an easier time ignoring the sun."

They both laughed at his joke before she continued. "After
that I kept your chain on because I knew you could help me rescue
the others, but also because I remembered how frightening it was for
me when I was in the Underdark, and I knew having a "slave" gave you
a sense of familiarity."

He stopped looking at the fields now, and while he didn't
insist on keeping eye contact he kept his eyes on the woman. "So now
you would have me as your vassal?"

She shook her head quickly. "No Rizzen. While I know you are
used to taking orders from a woman I already have a castle full of
people who will take orders from me. I need more, I need those who
are capable of commanding themselves. I will be giving them tasks,
but I need those who can be given the tasks and be trusted to carry
them out. I need allies, and I needed to see if you would be able to
stay my ally in the dark times ahead." She paused. "Now, tell me
everything you know about the Orcs."

Wylla Chylde
Wylla could almost feel her father's ghost standing over her
shoulder. She wasn't sure if it was the noble leader of men she
remembered, or the would be war lord that Master Nathan and the
others would be more inclined to describe.

Whichever it was she summoned her will and sent the spirit
away. While in many ways her father and his lessons in the ruling of
men would be with her always they were accompanied by her own
experiences. Those experiences however had always been at the behest
of others. Sometimes to her benefit like when Bartholomew Delburg
had offered to make her his heir, and sometimes to her detriment
like when she fell into Rualthor's trap in the Underdark.

For good or ill today Wylla Chylde would become the author
of her own destiny, or at least she would if she could win her
companions to her cause.

The conspiratorial grin she shared with Master Nathan upon
his entry told her that he was with her, and she knew that he would
bring the remnants of the Family that she WASN'T sleeping with on
board. While she knew that Jacia Colds and Mando Haley were more
loyal to Nathan then to her the old rogue himself seemed all too
happy to step back to his comfortable home in the shadows and advise
her as she led.

Rizzen had already swore to go the distance, and she felt
sure that Aden would do the same. Strangely while the men were both
physically and morally the mirror image of each other they were of a
similar temperament, and Wylla felt she could trust on their aid.

The mercenaries Cytan, Tieravalon Danu, and Marissa Tanner
were well paid for their loyalty, and seemed content to follow her
lead. While "Uncle Bart" and his retinue had sworn their loyalty to
the new Baroness and she knew she could count on that.

In fact everyone in the room seemed ready to follow her,
from her darling Pia to the Hell Hound that now lay at her feet.
However except for Master Nathan none of them knew her plans, and
Wylla knew that was where her challenge lay.

"Welcome everyone. While this room may seem full it is in
fact a very select audience. It is just my good fortune that there
are so many that qualify to be here." Seeing she had their attention
she continued. "For each person in this room has proven themselves
worthy of my trust. We all know that trust is never something easily
given, and when one considers all that we've been through together
the trust we have built is shown to be that much more precious. I
know it is to me."

"I know it may seem like I am delaying to get to the point,
but that is deliberate. I am about to ask things of all of you I
wish I didn't have to. Were I to have my wish I would simply ask all
of you live happy and full lives, but sadly these times are not fit
for such wishes, or such lives."

The fact that some of the more, abrupt, members of the
assembly had yet to interrupt told Wylla that she had them
enthralled, and she continued quickly before the spell her words had
woven could break. "I'm sure all of you have noticed many meetings
between Master Nathan and myself, and while we would have invited
you to them all we hoped that we wouldn't have to bother you,. We
hoped that we were wrong. Yet as we discussed all that had happened
we found piece after piece, and we found them fitting together all
too easily. Even then we hoped that it was just a figment of our
weary minds and dark imaginings."

"I dare say that even now we WANT to be wrong, even as we
know that we are not." She took out an ancient diary that she had
recovered from the Isle of Prisoners and handed it to Nathan at her
right, he was already familiar with the document and passed it to
Mando. "What you have there is the diary of the original Warden of
the Isle of Prisoners. You can see how he first thought he was
making a simple prison he had the distinction of being present as
the Empire not only found out about the dead rising on the Isle, but
when they discovered the breach between worlds."

She then paused and took a deep breath. "And that my friends
was in 1276. Even assuming the Empire didn't know they had a gateway
that led to the Old Man's realm they still have had a conduit for
his evil right in the heart of their domain for nearly 100 years. We
had assumed that Arto Benthur the source of the demonic influence on
the Dhorn, but with the Empire having this serpent at their bosom
for so long can we assume Benthur the only demonolater?"

The question gripped her audience, but rather then let an
answer form she left it to linger in their minds as she
continued. "In the Old Man's volcano he told us of the rise of the
Orcs and proposed that the time of man was coming to an end. Outside
Westwood, after it's fall to Orcs we found signs of a demonic
summoning, and while an altar sent me visions of Benthur if the
Dhorn had been behind the demonic influence then why wouldn't it
have aided them in defending the city? Which also asks that if it
were from the Orcs then why did I see Benthur?"

Not allowing time for either question to be answered Wylla
hurried on, her voice calm, but intent. "Even my own death and
subsequent resurrection..." Pia made a small noise next to her, and
Wylla didn't even have to look as she dropped one of her hands to
take the bard's hand and give it a squeeze.

"The Old Man didn't raise me as a favor for a disciple, but
as a weapon that would have ripped the heart out of the Dhorn
Empire. At first we were content to simply call it a demon's
infinite capacity for evil, but can we assume as much? While the
plague it placed inside me would have inflicted the suffering it's
kind so enjoys it also would have all but toppled the greatest
bastion against the fall of humanity that the Old Man prophesized."

"In the face of all this the greatest question of all would
have to be what chance would be have against such horrors? What
could one little barony do against two mighty nations, and the
machinations of a timeless evil? While I will answer that question
in a moment I will present to you the one cold truth that Nathan and
I couldn't avoid. If we do nothing the two of them will divide the
world between them. Even if one falls to the other countless
innocents will perish only to leave the survivors under the lash of
servants of an unholy master, and this little barony would either be
listed amongst the dead or the enslaved eventually."

"I did not however summon you here my friends to tell you
all is lost. While the two nations may serve the same Master
everything we have uncovered so far shows that they are unaware of
that fact, and their Master seems content to leave them that way. It
is here we can act, and it is here we can accomplish feats that no
nation ever could."

"I say that if they wish to feast on suffering and sup on
blood we can make sure that they are well fed. I tell you that we
shall be the chef's at this feast and serve them each other." Wylla
felt herself getting caught up in her speech and could see her
audience was as well. "They are fighting each other in small battles
already. I'm calling on you today to help me fan those flames, stir
them so high that they will consume both sides. I am telling you
that they will make war on the world no matter what we do, but if we
act we can make sure their wars on the world fail."

Jacia finally interrupted, and her tone was mocking, if
unsure. "You're telling us we can save the world?"

Wylla met her eyes, her voice level, but passionate. "I'm
telling you that we will share the world's fate, whatever we ALLOW
it to be."

Anden then spoke up. "I am sworn to your service Lady Wylla,
and will do whatever you command, but what could be possibly do
against such a threat?"

Wylla gave the ranger a smile. "We shall make them march to
our orders Anden. When they battle they will do so at times and
places of our choosing, they shall fight in a fashion that neither
of them can win." She then looked deliberately at the two sets of
Dhorn weapons and armor. "We shall move amongst them as if we were
their own, we will tell them the lies that suit us, and drive them
to battles they would not want. We shall grow rich on their coin,
and strong on their meat, as they grow weaker we shall gain in
strength. Their slaves will become our allies, and even if we never
sweep them from the world we shall force them to dark corners of our
choosing."

All around the room eyes were wide, and heads were nodding,
and while she may have banished her father's ghost from the room she
could feel him and all her family line nodding as well. "Do not let
my passion lead you astray dear friends. This will not be easy, nor
quick. This armor shall be worn by our number as they attack Orc
villages to stir them up against the Dhorn. Perhaps even more
dangerously there will be our attempts to recruit half-orcs to act
as our eyes, ears, and hands amongst the tribes. Sometimes as simple
spies, but hopefully to stage similar raids in Dhorn lands."

"No friends, this will not be easy, but I have absolute
confidence that it is possible. I swear myself to this task, and I
humbly ask the same of all of you."

Pia was the first to stand. "Where you go I go."

Master Nathan wasn't far behind. "The Family was formed to
do those needful things that others could and would not. I will not
stop now."

Tieravalon Danu jumped up next. "Sounds like fun!"

Cytan smile and nodded, though not as enthusiastically as
his young companion. "That it does."

Marissa Tanner seemed eager to agree with her
companions. "While this may be possible it will be even more
possible with magic, and if you need magic you need me. Not to say
Jacia can't do magic, but she's a sorcerer and can only do certain
magic while I can do any magic I can find..."

Her sentence trailed off as the room was looking at her in
unison. Wylla however was smiling. "Thank you Marissa."

Rizzen Do'Vrinn was next. "It's a dangerous plan that
demands ruthlessness and cunning, and is doomed to failure without
my aid." Wylla smiled at his way of voicing his support.

Anden then followed. "As I said Princess, I am at your
command."

Mando Haley was lounging casually as he chimed in. "Was
already on board with rebuilding the Family. If this is the
direction it's going to go then I'll follow."

Jacia Colds sighed. "I don't like it. I think we'll fail,
but I think you're right that it's our best option."

Chella clucked her tongue. "I don't know how I can help you
with this Little Wylla, but I won't leave you all to face this
alone."

Bartholomew Delburg had been speaking quietly to his
followers as the rest voiced their assent. After Chella had finished
and the room fell silent he took a breath and spoke sadly. "I fear
it could be worse then you realize Princess. What the Orcs would not
destroy the Dhorn would conquer, and in the space of a few
generations all would be as they. Humanity would become as bestial
as the Orc, but only better organized." He sighed. "I had hoped that
this had been the end of the war for my people, but now I realize it
is but a lull. We have already sworn ourselves to your service as my
heir, but we swear ourselves to your cause as well."

Wylla felt a weight lift off her shoulders, and from the
looks on everyone's faces they could see it. She sank down into a
chair at the head of the table. When she next spoke her voice rang
with sincerity. "Thank you, now here's what were going to do."

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