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"Good things come to those who wait."---Greldum Drobe, captain of the White Rhino's military corps, addressing his young apprentice.

Chapter One

The ashy soot that hung in the air around Jerris swirled about as the horse and carriage came to a stop. The sun shone high above the city but for most, this was hard to tell. The ashy smoke that covered Jerris blocked a fair deal of the sun’s rays from ever touching the ground. The city laid in a constant shadow.

Goldstien pulled the blue satin curtain to the side and peered out the window of the carriage. He hated this city. Often times he would ask himself why he bothers to stay. Everyone here is so moody and down that he couldn’t help but to feel the same way. Why does he stay he asked himself again.

“The money” he answered his own question, the edges of his mouth forming a grin.

Goldstien opened the carriage door and stepped out to the dry cobblestone road. his mouth and nostrils were assaulted by the smoke and he couldn’t stop from letting out a small cough. No matter how long he spent in Jerris, he would never get used to the smoke. He hated it. To Goldstien’s left was a tall, well built man. He wore the outfit of a skilled warrior. To his right stood an enormous troll. It didn’t take a scholar to see that he was a Sky Raider. The three men walked through the large rusting gates of the Ship Builders Guild and across the shipyard to the small, wood building.

Goldstien entered to see a familiar face, Gilbert Welchester. Gilbert was not a tall man but he easily weighed over 250 pounds. He had a thinning mop of curly brown hair and wore a large trimmed beard. He was standing behind a desk stacked with types of papers when Goldstien entered.

“Damnit, Goldstien! I’m telling you for the last time, the Ship Builders Guild is not for sale!” Goldstien ignored his comment and lounged into the chair that was beside a shelf also full of papers.

“What the hell is that smug look on your face, Goldstien.” Gilbert asked, giving him a glare. “Get outa’ here!” Gilbert spat when Goldstien didn’t reply.

“My dear mister Welchester, is that any way to treat a guest.”

“Your no guest of mine. Now like I said, beat it before I set the dogs loose on ya!”

“I don’t think that is going to be happening. You see, I’m not going to buy this dump. I am fed up with trying to bargain with you so that is why I’m going to just take it.”

Gilbert crunched his face at him. “Your just going to take it?” he chuckled. “You and who’s army!” Gilbert sat down shaking his head in a silent laugh.

“Mine.” With that, the huge troll that had been waiting outside stepped through the door. He had to come in side-ways, and crouch from hitting his head on the roof. Gilbert sat there staring at the large troll. He jaw fell down into a gapping hole he called his mouth. Pleased with Gilbert’s reaction, Goldstien smiled. “By this time tomorrow, every merchant in this disgusting city will answer to me. All of its profits will be directed straight to me. I will control this city. So the question I must ask you now is, do you cooperate with me or does Kem’la have to persuade you?”

* * *

Gellad Denairastas hated being this far away from the control of an operation this big. However, he was pleased that he was back in his home city of Iopos. knowing that Fenwick, his personal lieutenant was in charge of the situation in Jerris with the help of about twenty troll Sky Raiders, Gellad tried to relax. The more he pondered the fact the more he became satisfied. Jerris would soon be in control of the Denairastas family whether Goldstien, Throal, or Thera liked it or not. in Gellad’s opinion, Goldstien could only get the Denairastas family so far. Once he has withstood his usefulness, Gellad vowed to make sure that Goldstien would be properly disposed of.

He walked to the window and pulled the silken drape to the side, just enough so that he could see out the second story room. Looking down to the wet cobblestone street, Gellad saw his informant standing in the shadow of a doorway. Gellad carefully stuck his head past the drape to peer down the street. It was empty. This was a trait that ran deep in the Denairastas clan. They trusted no one but themselves. They even very rarely trusted their own kin. The Denairastas family was riddled with political rivalry and it wasn’t odd to find, on certain occasions, assassins hired by other’s of the clan to kill a sibling or a cousin. Of course, if the assassin was ever caught, he knew better than to say who had hired him, for if he did, and his employer was in fact another Denairastas, death would be considered a privilege as opposed to the vile things that would surely be done.

Seeing that there was no people lurking in the street, Gellad grabbed his rain coat as he walked out of his room. He descended the narrow staircase and crossed the unlit front room. He stopped into the doorway and again searched the street for any unwanted visitors. Finding none, he stepped out into the street. as he walked towards his informant, all that could be heard was the gentle splatter of the light rain in the water-filled potholes and the clicking of his footsteps on the slippery cobblestone road. When he had crossed the street he approached the informant. The informant gave a few very subtle hand gestures which was common in the Holders of Trust. The Holders of Trust was a secret society of sorts. They were spies for the Denairastas family. Almost the entire city of Iopo’s considered themselves part of the Holders of Trust. Even with an entire city practically worshipping the Denairastas family, they still didn’t trust anyone.

Gellad nodded his head to the informant. The informant stepped out from the shadows. He wore a hood that hung low, making it impossible to see his eyes. What could be seen of his facial features was the neatly trimmed forked beard. His cloak was plain brown with no distinguishing marks. “what news have you brought from Throal?” Gellad asked.

“The Dwarf Kingdom knows of Goldstien’s meddling in Jerris.” The informants voice was deep and rumbling. It showed no signs of emotion. “They deploy a military convoy from Travar even as we speak.”

Gellad scratched his chin in contemplation. How would Throal know of Goldstien already. It had only happened less than a week ago. “Any word on how they came across such information?”

“Someone by the name of Latios in Jerris. She is a Throal agent. Throal received a message stone from her while I was there.”

“Go to Jerris,” Gellad said without hesitation, “Go to Jerris and tell Fenwick to find this Latios person. Find out how much she knows. Most importantly, find out if she is aware of the Denairastas clan’s involvement.”

“yes my lord.” The informant nodded and molded back into the shadows. Gellad quickly walked back into his home. He was going to have to stop that military convoy before it got to Jerris.

* * *

I am the clan leader of the clan StoneGuards, Rikor Stoneguard. I am keeping this record in case that someday the truth is uncovered about what really transpired in my clan. Where to begin? This problem weighs heavy on my mind. Let me begin by describing Abdula, a young troll Sky Raider with a very promising career. He was different from the rest of the Raiders, he is more intelligent then most others. What he lacks in pure brute strength, he more then makes up for in cunning, speed, and endurance. He is a bit quiet with people he doesn’t know though. I have often seen him refuse to offer help to those people who do not wish to help themselves. He considers people who are physically unable to defend or stand up for themselves, but at least try to better their lives, as a worthy cause and he will help those who fit this description. But, he utterly despises those who would just sit around and wait for circumstance to decide there life. His father, Verogis, a dear friend of mine, had taught his son the life of a Crystal Raider. I headed many missions with Verogis as my general, he was a great warrior. Unfortunately, Verogis met his end, when Abdula was just reaching maturity, about 2 weeks ago. It happened when I ordered that our airship attack a small village down near the base of the Delaris mountains. Things were going well until suddenly a horror arose out from a villager. The horror started to slaughter our crew, until Verogis, jumped on the back of that bug-like creature and screamed at us to take off. I have regretted that day ever since. Abdula was part of that crew, and when he saw the bravery of his father, he tried to jump ship and help his blood. But for his own safety, I ordered the remaining crew to detain Abdula. Verogis managed to give us enough time to escape, offering in return, his life. Never again will I leave a comrade behind, alone, fighting that immense creature by himself. The last thing I remember were his screams… screams of pure terror. It took many days for Abdula to get over the loss of his father, and before he would speak to me. But, he realized that Verogis died honorable, the way of a Crystal Raider. Several days later after that, and the beginning of the problem, my new general Festius Rockcrusher decided to take it upon himself to examine our accounts and to see why it seemed as though we were losing money. After a very precise investigation, he came to the conclusion that there was a thief in our clan, and worse yet, he accused me of being that thief. He had a lot of evidence against me, where it came from I do not know. But like his father, Abdula saw a wrong being committed and declared that he was the one who was stealing. Festius looked surprised, but his surprised soon turned to joy. Everyone knew what I must do to Abdula, he must become an outcast to our clan, and I am the one who has to do the ritual. Just like his father, brave, willing to give up his life for a higher cause, Abdula confided in me that if I was cast out of our clan, Festius would be a bloodthirsty ruler, killing everything that moved, even our own clansmen. He said that he would rather have me rule and accept the fate of an outcast, then even let Festius think about sitting on my throne. So as the day came for the ritual, which occurred behind sealed doors, I told Abdula, that he would become an outcast in name only. I could not cut off his horns, essentially branding him for all the world to see, especially after what his father, and then he himself has done for the clan. Instead, I gave him my crystal sword and told him to leave quickly, and do not return unless, I myself come for him. He left with only what he had on him, and that is the last I have seen of him. Of course, if any of our clan sees him, they are required to slay him, but I believe Abdula is smart enough to stay away from our people. May luck be with him, and me, for now I have to find the traitor in my clan, and I think I know where to start.

* * *

Falos stood at the prow of his war galley airship with his arms crossed, studying the deck of the ship as his crew scurried about, preparing for the journey to Jerris. One of his crew members was trying to carry a chest full of ammunition for the fire cannons. The chest was extremely heavy. The young man stumbled and the chest dropped to the decks floor, shattering into splinters. The orichalcum boxes which contained true elemental kernels of fire, some with air, spilt across the deck. Falos glared at the young man and began to step over towards him. The young crew member hurriedly began to gather the boxes up. He saw his captain walking toward him and nervously stood up, not sure as to weather he should show the proper respects to his captain or to continue to gather the orichalcum boxes up.

“What are you doing boy; trying to blow the ship up before we even leave Travar?” Falos reprimanded the young man.

“ sir. Of course not s-s-sir.” The young man was obviously nervous as he fidgeted with the orichalcum box in his hand. Falos slowly took the box from his hands.

“Why don’t you go help Derek with the rigging, okay?” The young man nodded and quickly ran off to find Derek. Falos bent over and started to separate the orichalcum boxes. The blue boxes contained elemental air kernels and the orange boxes contained elemental fire kernels. relatively harmless on there own but when the two are mixed, the result is that of a huge explosion. Just one box of each type is needed to send one fire ball from the fire cannons on most airships, who knows what the result would be if all of the boxes that now laid scattered in front of the dwarf captain were to be mixed. A booted foot came into Falos’ field of vision. he looked up and saw that it was Silvari Darkens, and elf who had booked passage on the ship to Throal. Falos slumped his shoulders and let out a deep breath. He new that this elf was not accustom to not having her way.

“What is taking so long, captain?” her voice was condescending. Her hands were on her hips as she tapped her toe against the wooden planks of the galley. “Why isn’t this pile of scrap wood up in the air yet?”

“We will be going soon enough, miss Darkens.” Falos said through barred teeth. He didn’t have much patience for this woman. Who did she think she was, any way? Nobody made demands of Falos Ironhand, especially on his very own ship!

“I expect to be in Throal this century, captain.” her face was stern.

“Unfortunately we won’t be going to directly to Throal, Madame.”

“What did you say?” her face was becoming red with anger. “I was told that this ship was going directly to Throal. I demand an explanation!”

Falos stood up from cleaning up the fire cannon ammo. His patience began to fade. “In case you haven’t noticed, this ship is part of the Throal navy and is not your leisure boat. We have been told of a problem that needs to be brought under control and we have been assigned to this mission. Now, if you aren’t happy that the King of Throal has asked us to handle this job, then I suggest you bring it up with him.” Falos turned his head slightly to address his crew who were scrambling about the deck of the ship. “we leave for Jerris in 20 minutes!” he yelled. He looked back to Silvari with a cool, calm look and then knelt back down to finish picking up the orichalcum boxes.

* * *

The sleepy village of Tamor laid in the small oaken woods just a days walk north from the base of the Delaris Mountains. Tamor was a small village of less than 800 humans. It was occasionally victims from Troll raids but it was generally in peace for most of the time. Visitors were rare as well. However, the village had the company of two windlings from the wooded hills of Glenwood Deep. Geertz was an anthropologist of sorts and had been living with the villagers to help his understanding of these people. His assistant, Milan, was a calveryman adept. Assistant was the “technical” term Geertz used to describe Milan but in all actuality, Milan was his friend and traveling companion.

Geertz was packing his belongings. He had finished this case study and had plans to go back to Glenwood Deep. “Of course Milan will follow,” he thought. “He’s my assistant!” Milan flew in through the window in a flash. He was nearly out of breath. He landed and leaned against the wall. It was clear to Geertz that he was trying to tell him something but just couldn’t get the words out. Geertz waited, wide-eyed for the obviously important news that was about to be told.

“Geertz...” Milan puffed out, “there- - there is a....Big....nasty....Troll. He’s!”

“Troll Sky Raiders?” Geertz asked, afraid that the answer might be yes. They had experienced a raid once while they were here. It was not a pleasant sight. The raiders took what the pleased and were not afraid to use force to get it. 12 villagers had been killed and another 25 seriously wounded.

“No. Just one.”

Geertz pulled his head back and gave a puzzled look. “Just one sky raider?” he had to ask to make sure his assistant didn’t forget some piece of information.

“Yes. There was only one.”

Geertz stepped up to the window and looked out into the village center. A group of villagers had gathered there and were looking and pointing down the path. Geertz looked past the villagers down the path and saw a tall, savage looking troll walking alone. It appeared that the troll did not have hostile intentions. The troll walked straight into the village and towards the gathering crowd. Geertz could here the deep voice of the troll say something to a villager but couldn’t make out what was said. Geertz looked back at his assistant. Milan was sprawled across the bed. Geertz took to the air and flew toward the troll. As he approached, he noticed that blood was dripping down from the trolls mouth and a decapitated chicken was held in his had. The villagers were asking the troll to leave, some were even brave enough to yell out hostilities toward him.

“My god, man!” Geertz burst out. “What have you done to that poor chicken?”

The troll looked at the small windling flying about. It was clear that the troll did not think highly of windlings. His lip curled up into a sneer. “I was hungry.” he rumbled his response.

“These people don’t need you coming in here and killing their chickens. Plus, it’s pretty disgusting to watch.” Stated Geertz. The troll pushed his way through the crowd and began to head away from the village. “Wait one moment. You haven’t apologized for what you have done to these people.” Geertz flew up and buzzed around his head. The troll took a lazy swing at the windling as if he were swatting at a bothersome fly. Geertz easily avoided the swing and continued is pursuit of the troll. “Hey, you oversized ork! I’m talking to you.”

The troll stopped and took a violent swing. This time he connected and the windling soar through the air like a stone. Geertz stood up and shook his head. He was an adept. A wind dancer adept to be exact. A specialty discipline that only windlings could practice. One of his special talents was the ability to communicate with insects. Geertz had learned the area quite well from living in Tamor for a few months and he new of a bees nest that was nearby. He quickly flew over and began to speak with them. He convinced the insects to help him.


Chapter Two