The accounts of Jade M'he El'hruen: Adventure and romance...

    • Wanderer

    The quaint town sat comfortably between two mountain ridges, where lazy clouds encircled their snow covered peaks and where the waters from their highlands flowed into the valley making for fertile soil and bountiful hunting lands.

    Oren left his tiny house on the hill above the village, sword in sheath and shield slung over his back. He was young, perhaps 25 years of age, with clean cut brown hair and boyish good looks and dark eyes.

    He was a member of the local guard, a small volunteer group of men and women that patrolled the quiet town and fended off the occasional straggler goblin that wandered in to look through the village's garbage pile for anything useful.

    Unfortunately for Oren, a goblin coming into town was exceedingly rare, so most of his days were spent chasing around the local vandal teenagers and the town drunk that made a ruckus in the tavern from time to time. The most adventure he had seen was just two months ago when a few traveling halflings came through town, who he was ordered to follow around by the local elders. They ended up being a group of sleight-handed thieves that stole three apples from old man Nader's fruit stand, two copper coins from the tavern's barmaid, and a twine-bound package of stout weed from the general store. To this day it is still the talk of the town in the local gossip circles.

    Most people that lived in the small village had never seen any other race of Faerun…elves, dwarves, and half-orcs were rarer than goblins. While considered outsiders and foreigners by the villagers, most of the races that breezed through the mountain pass that the village sat in was given no trouble save if they steal from poor old man Nader, of course.

    This is why Oren's curiosity was piqued when he spotted a figure coming his way as he toured the northern road that came directly through the center of town. The figure sat on a nice looking, healthy and well trained horse, but was hardly able to be seen because of the thick fur cloak that shrouded the figure's seemingly small frame and helm that covered the head. The figure approached in no rush and Oren kindly stepped aside to let the horse pass, nodding to the helmeted figure who did nothing but trod on as if they had seen no one.

    Oren was a bit put off by this, but he knew that most travelers simply wanted to pass through, perhaps get a bite to eat at the tavern or a good night's rest at the inn, so he shrugged and continued his route.

    Night fell and Oren clomped into the tavern, weary from his endlessly boring patrol. He waved to a few patrons who instantly recognized Oren's characteristic and over-exaggerated act of exhaustion as he stumbled to the bar and sat roughly on one of the well worn stools, dropping his sword, shield, and pack in a heap next to his feet.

    "An ale, Taren," he said in a cracked voice.

    Taren turned with a smile and fetched a pint of ale from one of the barrels that sat on a warped table behind the bar. "So," Taren said, "how was the patrol today? See any halflings?"

    A few patrons chuckled, Oren smiled widely. "'Fraid not, gramps," he replied jokingly, "although there was a rider that passed me up north of Dadurn creek."

    "Aye!" Said a half-drunk older gentleman at the end of the bar, "Did see 'em too. Strange one, that rider was. Yessir."

    Oren turned to the man, "What was strange about him?" Oren asked, taking a deep swig from his ale.

    "Well, first off..." the man paused to take another shot of some acrid whiskey, "he's a she."

    Oren raised an eyebrow as the man continued in a harsh whisper after a dramatic pause, "And an elfess at that!"

    One of the patrons sitting at a table in the corner of the tavern spat a few curses. "Bah! Whatcha know old man! There's been no elves in these parts."

    "Say whatcha will, Doyle, I knowa elfess when I sees me one," the drunk man shot back.

    The man named Doyle seemed about to speak when someone entered. Everyone turned in their creaky chairs and stools and stared at the elf that stood before them. She walked without hesitation to one of the empty stools at the other end of the bar, swung a massive greatsword over her shoulder and leaned it against the wall of the tavern and plopped down with a sigh.

    Oren's eyes never left her. He had never seen such a beautiful creature in his whole life. Her hair was let down and fell to the middle of her back, raven black and shimmering in the light of the oil lamps of the tavern. Her features delicate and curved, her eyes brilliantly emerald, he felt himself holding his breath as he looked upon her.

    She waved Taren over and whispered a few words to the bartender, who went to work on a large loaf of bread on a cutting block behind the bar. The elf maiden stared down at her hands, absently picking at one of the calluses that Oren guessed she acquired by wielding the blade that's highly polished surface gleamed as it sat inches away from her.

    Oren suddenly became the most daring person in the entire village. He stood slowly after taking down the rest of his ale, pausing once to brush off the worried hand of the drunken man and strode over to the elf.

    "May I sit here?" he asked awkwardly, putting his hand on the stool that sat next to the elf.

    The elf looked up at Oren, nearly causing him to pass out as her wide, emerald eyes stared directly into his. She started to speak no less than three times before she simply nodded, turned, and continued picking at her hand. Oren sat down carefully and waved a finger at Taren, indicating he wanted to order another ale.

    "So..." Oren started slowly, leaning heavily on the lacquered bar, "...what brings you to these parts?"


    Oren tried again, this time leaning in a bit in case she didn't hear him. "My name's Oren. Pleased to meet you., uh...heading somewhere south of here?"

    Again, nothing.

    Oren tapped his fingers on the bar, again put off by her obviously stuck up attitude. He looked back to Taren as he brought the ale for Oren and a hunk of bread for the elf. Taren shrugged and widened his eyes, telling Oren to back down. Oren was persistent, however.

    "You know, it's the polite thing to do when someone introduces themselves that you reply in kind." More than one patron shifted in their chair as they were shocked by Oren's brash comment, including Oren himself.

    The elf turned her eyes toward Oren once again. She pursed her lips thoughtfully a moment, then spoke.

    "My name is Jade M'he El'hruen. Know this: Where I head is of my choosing and certainly none of your business. Furthermore, if any part of my silence, an indication of not wanting to be disturbed, was not understood by you, I humbly apologize and kindly ask you to continue to drink your ale back at the other end of the bar."

    The silence in the tavern was deafening. Jade threw three gold coins onto the bar, wrapped her bread in a cloth sack, gathered her sword and strode out of the tavern, leaving everyone slack jawed and staring as she disappeared into the darkness of the night.

    Oren woke as the morning sun cast a sliver of light across his face from the shuttered window of his room. He groaned and rolled out of bed, once again starting his boring routine.

    He walked out onto his porch and headed toward the village, trying desperately to forget the previous night's events. He stopped a moment to sit on a large boulder that marked a turn in the sloping road that led into town to fix a lace in his padded leather armor that he had forgot to tie. He sat a few moments after that, shaking his head and laughing to himself.

    "What a fool I was," he said through his angry laughter. He leaned back against the boulder and stretched – but stopped suddenly as he heard the clanging of metal on metal.

    He sat up, turning his head left and then right, trying to determine the location of the noise. Hearing it coming from the south, he ran into the forest that bordered the road, stopping occasionally to listen for more of the noise and head in its direction.

    He came upon a clearing. Ducking behind a bush, he peered in awe at the two figures that stood in the midst of the clearing, watching as they fought with fierce determination.

    The first figure was the elf maiden named Jade, wielding the massive greatsword that was taller than she with mind-bending ease and amazing fluidity. The second figure was a frightening sight to behold: It looked like a man, but a man who was entirely transparent. Dressed in black robes, he fought with a ghostly weapon that was a massive, terrible scythe. His cowl had fallen back, revealing a handsome human male with pitch black hair and cobalt blue eyes that glowed with an intense fury.

    Oren watched as Jade continued to attack again and again, but was repelled with inhuman skill and agility. She jumped back a few feet, far out of reach of the scythe.

    "Why do you torment me so?!" Jade screamed, brandishing her greatsword threateningly.

    The man in black stood silent, staring ahead but not seeing. Jade suddenly yelled and lunged forward again, slashing and stabbing with tremendous force, each time being repelled by the perfect parries of the man.

    At one point she swung and missed, lodging the blade deep into an oak at the edge of the clearing. She turned and ran as she left the blade hopelessly lodged in the tree, ducked a near-fatal swing from the scythe, and retrieved a katana from the pile of her things she left on a stump in the middle of the clearing. She continued her attacks, not missing a beat. Finally, after several amazing moments, the katana finally came in contact with the man and he vanished with not a sound or mark that showed he had been there.

    Jade collapsed where she stood, crying and weeping like a child. She was shouting brokenly several words in another language that Oren could only assume was elven and beating her fists into the soft turf of the clearing.

    Oren stood and strode slowly, yet deliberately and with determination into the clearing, hand on the hilt of his shortsword. As he came near to her, she stopped crying immediately, hearing the padding of his feet upon the grass. She turned her head and stared up at him, her eyes red rimmed and her cheeks tear streaked.

    They stared at each other for long moments. Finally, Oren spoke. "Are you...okay?" He said, not knowing what else to say.

    Jade stood up, pulling a few clumps of sod from her shin plates and retrieved her katana. "I'm fine," she said, walking to the oak with her greatsword still protruding from its rough bark.

    She yanked with a grunt and pulled the blade free, flicking the bits of wood from its edge with her delicate and gloved fingers. She turned and walked past Oren to her things, sheathing the katana and gathering several bags and a large shield.

    She began walking toward the road that led to the village, when Oren shouted with a commanding voice, "Stop! Now!"

    Jade stopped and turned toward Oren, staring at him without care or emotion.

    "What in the name of the fourth hell just happened here?!" he shouted in frustration. "What was that thing?"

    "My husband," she said plainly.

    Oren stood shaking his head in confusion.

    "It cannot be explained," she said with little patience. "You witnessed something that should never have been seen, so just go about your business and forget I was ever here. I'm getting to my horse and leaving right now."

    "Like hell you are," he threatened, stepping forward and drawing his shortsword. "These are calm parts. Nothing like this ever happens around here, and since I am the authority in these parts, you best start explaining what just happened or I'll take you to the elders and have you explain yourself to them."

    Jade shook her head. "You're serious? You think you can take me on?" She sighed loudly and continued, "I don't have time for this."

    "Why? Where are you headed in such a rush? Why are you so mean to me? What have I ever done to you?" he said, shaking his shortsword.

    She stood for long moments, thinking. Finally, she dropped her pack, placed her blade on the ground, and sat upon the grass.

    "Fine. I suppose I don't need to go right now...maybe it would be good to talk to someone," she said as she took a drink from a waterskin.

    To be continued…

  • –-----------XP AWARDED–------------------

  • Reviewed. XP Pending.

  • ::A letter is delivered to a red dragon on the outskirts of the Rawlinswood. It is delivered to Devon, the Red Wizard of Thay with the following message written in dragonspeak::

    Your bidding is complete. Jubei has fallen, but not by my own mighty blade, I regret to say. He tried to flee but perished due to those fool bandits who were attempting to invade Norwick once again. Regardless, his life has ended and his secret shall remain forever hidden.

    I have included a piece of cloth from his armor in this letter, just as you had requested. I have most of his other personal items, including an undelivered letter written by him to Seven. Inform me if you require any further objects.

    I shall remain here until you beckon me again. This has all come to pass just as you have forseen, Mighty One. Praise be to you, upon the altar of blood.

    • Ar'ha'ris' shak dir'h ma

  • Player Guide

    ((OOC - Okay, now we can officially be afraid. ph34r Devon ))

  • - Foresight

    They met in the grove of old growth trees just as the voice had told them. The three travelers stood in the midst of the towering, moss-covered trunks, staring with sightless eyes into the seething darkness beyond the grove's boundaries. They stood for long moments, silent and motionless, until a figure stepped out of the shadows.

    The man was dresses in thick, crimson robes, with a deep cowl that hung over his head that could not be seen within its depths. He walked among the three, eyeing each one as he passed in front of them, as a general would his soldiers.

    "Simply marvelous," he said with a quick, cold laugh, "Everything is as I have foreseen."

    He reached out and brushed the back of his black, doeskin-gloved hand against Seven's pale cheek. She continued staring into the darkness.

    "You, my love, will be commanding my Minotaurs. Yes, indeed. You have battle prowess and a steel, militaristic will," he hissed with great pleasure.

    She turned her cold, sightless eyes to meet his beneath the cowl and nodded slowly.

    "Come now," he said, "give my that lovely smile you have."

    She smiled as brightly as she had done to so many others on her travels. Devon laughed loudly, enjoying the strings he pulled on his newest marionette.

    "You will be most pleased that I have decided to rid this world of your newest pet, the failed assassin Jubei. He knows too much and is worth too little."

    He turned to Jade, looking into her now-gray eyes, nudging her head upward with his index finger beneath her chin to meet his stare.

    "Yes. Jade will extract my revenge. Ironic, is it not?" he said to himself, knowing that they could not respond in their catatonic state. "Indeed, it is far too ironic."

    He laughed again, and then continued speaking to Jade, "You will be my personal guard. No one will survive the pain you will deliver to my enemies."

    He walked on, coming to the last figure. He stared into the eyes of Steele as he stood resolute and motionless before Devon.

    "Your father will be quite displeased when he finds out that the commander of my undead army is led by his son, the soulless puppet Paladin of my design. I wonder what he must be thinking now?" Devon cackled wildly, picturing Steele's father falling dead before his feet…with Steele's greatsword impaled in his gut.

    "Seven and Steele can come with me. You, Jade, have unfinished business to attend to. Go to it." He waved his hand uncaringly toward Jade, who turned and stalked out of the grove, heading back toward Norwick.

    Seven and Steele strode forward, past Devon and out of the grove where they met a massive, red dragon who would take them back to Devon's keep. Devon stood for long moments in the grove, watching as the dragon flew out of the forest and headed south.

    " is all as I have forseen."

  • Reviewed. XP Pending.

  • - All in vain

    The man sat on the edge of the cliff, staring out across the infinitely deep chasm that stretched beyond his vision, obscured by the thick, crimson fog that bathed the landscape like a blanket of blood.

    There were many unseen creatures howling and bellowing in the night air, as well as the ever-present and undecipherable whispering voices of The Many…but this bothered him not. He had heard their cries and whispers for far too long for it to concern him now. No, they were even comforting at times, because it let him know he was home.

    Today, however, he was not comforted. He was angered. The master who held his soul in check and controlled him like a marionette upon the stages of so many others' lives had once again wreaked havoc upon the lives of people he cared about.

    True, he had only known them for a few hours, but they were the only people he really knew outside of the prison he now wandered...the only people he trusted and had hope in. He closed his cobalt-blue eyes, squeezing a tear that slid down his cheek, clung to his chin for a moment, and then dropped to oblivion down the side of the cliff.

    He concentrated, trying to clear his thoughts of hatred and anger that filled his mind. As he calmed himself, the myriad of swirling emotions began solidifying, changing shape and color in his vision, even though his eyes remained closed. As they began morphing and transforming, he heart rate slowed, the throbbing of his temples began to wane, and a peace came over him like a fresh, stark white sheet that caressed his skin and cooled his temper.

    The shapes without form or purpose began coalescing, conforming into the one thing he has clung onto ever since he came to this realm so many years ago. Jade. Her beautiful face was clear in his vision now, the clarity so true and detail so exquisite that he reached out as if he could touch her cheek.

    Her elven ears, her long and flowing raven hair, her stunning emerald eyes, fine cheekbones and well defined, tempting lips hovered before him. He began to weep, knowing that if he opened his eyes, she would once again fade from his vision and he would be left alone in the crimson hell.

    " love..." he cried brokenly, his throat rough and dry.

    He wept loudly now; his breath came in uncontrollable rasps of sorrow. He cried out her name over and over, screaming it across the chasm. He heard the echoes call back hollow and emotionless, frustrating him further. He tore at his robes and clawed at his hair, crying violently...he wanted her so badly, to once again hold her in his arms, to caress her, to lavish the love upon her he has been holding all the years they have been parted.

    "All in vain..." he murmured, barely above a strained whisper.

    He finally collapsed from exhaustion, falling back against the cold, uncaring stone that he sat upon. He curled up in the fetal position, whimpering as a small child would, clawing at a tuft of grass that protruded from a crack in the surface of the stone. He repeated the lonely words that have become his anthem, over and over and over again, until he fell asleep from the pitiful, intolerable weeping.

    "...all in vain...all in vain..."

  • Xp Given

  • Reviewed. XP Pending.

  • - The letter

    ((A letter is delivered by a fellow gypsy to Jade and Wilhelm's door. Jade breaks the wax seal the neatly folded envelope and begins reading the elegantly scripted penmanship))

    Dearest Jade,

    I fear the workings of the world have not allowed me to visit you in person, so I have decided to send this letter in my stead. I pray that you received it only after Wilhelm has broken word of the terrible news I had been burdened with telling you.

    Your mother was found among the dead in Loreander, your hometown. She was found among those seeking shelter in the Tower of Loreander. My brethren feel that she, like so many others, were killed instantly as the mighty Tower of Loreander crumbled – destroyed by powerful magic. I buried your mother near your old home on the hill overlooking the lake you so loved.

    The surrounding forest lands have been burned, the houses tore apart. The scorched earth will not grow crops for years to come. I fear writing this will make you feel empty and hollow inside as it did me as I look upon the devastation, but it must be told, Jade M'he.

    I am now traveling with some two hundred Paladins and like-minded knights toward my father's kingdom, Wrest Haven to battle against Devon, the Red Wizard you know all too well.

    Shortly after we heard news of the invasion into our peaceful lands, my father instinctively evacuated the city, sending them east to the neighboring villages. Wrest Haven itself was soon ravaged by the scourge of undead and other creatures, as well as the evil might and power of Devon himself. The defenses fell in just a few days' time.

    We now travel in hopes of a surprise attack upon this dreadful army. We will attack at daylight, when they are at their weakest. I know you are not a religious woman, Jade, but I must ask for your prayers that our assault is successful.

    Now, for the reason for this letter. You know I love you, Jade. You know that my love for you is pure, as siblings love. You are my sister, and I am so proud of what you have accomplished, becoming more skillful than I at the mighty greatsword you wield, becoming an excellent combatant, and now a noble knight for a cause even greater than I could ever ask Torm to give me. You have been blessed, and for this, I give praise to you for your accomplishments.

    This letter is for my concern of your lover and comfort, Wilhelm. It seems, ever since my return to Norwick so many months ago, he has not trusted me. There is nothing that I can do or say that will ever rebuild such trust, so I have conceded to his wariness. I would ask that you ask forgiveness on my behalf to him for the terrible and ungodly things I said to him before I left Narfell. You know, above all others, that I am not one to be scornful, and for this, I must apologize.

    I know you will have a beautiful and blessed life with Wilhelm and I place all of my faith and respect on whom you have chosen for a suitor. He is truly the most honored man to have received the love of such a talented and pure hearted woman that you always were and, I pray, always will be.

    This letter is to tell you that I feel I can no longer call myself your sworn protector as I had done so many years ago. You have grown powerful enough to be your own woman and have mighty friend surrounding you that will always protect and guard you. I am but a lowly servant of the Loyal Fury -- there is nothing more I can give you, so I fear I must watch you spread your angelic wings and fly above the reaches. I pray, upon the mighty sword of Torm that you find your place and peace among the clouds.

    With all my love, hope, honor, and respect,
    Sir Steele Raleigh Zweiander

    Eh'he Selot'h Medo'h seekon'he E'Jade
    ((elvish for: Forever with my Honor, for you, forever Jade))

  • - Stealing Jade

    He laid her down gently upon the pile of soft pine needles and leaves. He knelt down beside her, stroking the hair from her eyes, tracing his finger along her jaw line.

    "So beautiful…" he said, watching her chest rise and fall with every slow, measured breath.

    She stirred. He rapidly retracted his hand from her cheek as her emerald eyes blinked to gain their focus. She peered up from her resting spot, confused at first, then recognizing the face before her.

    "...Caleb..." she breathed in a fragile whisper.

    He was human. His hair jet black, his eyes piercingly blue, his face well defined and chiseled. He was very handsome, clean shaven and very much in shape as she noticed his thick biceps stretching the material of his plain black tunic.

    "You...look so young..." she said finally, her voice cracking.

    His voice was deep, just as she'd remembered, but at the same time extremely sad and melancholy. "I thought it would be best that you see me as you once loved, in the form I once had."

    "...what...what has happened? How is this possible...? Wha"”" she was interrupted by his finger placed on her soft, elvish lips.

    " time," he said, smiling sadly.

    She shook her head, tears forming in her eyes. "Why do you torture my friends and I?"

    He sighed deeply, looking down and taking her hand in his. "It is not by my will that any of you suffer. I-I..." he bit his lip, unable to continue.

    Jade looked around from her vantage point on the ground. She heard shouts of her name. She recognized one of them. She looked back to Caleb, blinking back a tear as she stared into his cobalt blue eyes.

    "You must go to them..." He said simply, letting go of her hand.

    There was a sudden bright flash, and she found herself returned to her bedroom.

  • - Visitor

    Falling…falling ever downward. The cold...the intense stings me like legions of hollow needles, piercing flesh and bone and mind and soul. There is a tugging of my limbs. I cannot move but I feel the if strings are a marionette. I dance as I tumble ever downward...pulled by the strings of deception and deceit...weaving an aerial tapestry of lies and pain as I plummet in the darkness...

    Jade opened her eyes slowly, her heart beating rapidly from the terrible nightmare she had just experienced. Her elvish sight was blurred slightly from the crusting of tears on her eyelids. She reached from beneath the thick blankets and wiped her eyes slowly, her teeth chattering slightly in the chill of the small room she has been imprisoned in for the past few days. As she opened her eyes she saw two cobalt blue slits in the pitch darkness…just inches from her face. She shuttered and drew shut her eyes shut tightly...reopening them moments later to see nothing but blackness. She sighed reflexively.

    She rolled over in the bed; curling up in the fashion she always chose when she slept alone. Oh, how she missed Wilhelm. Oh, how she wanted so desperately to lie upon his feel his hear his heartbeat in her ear.

    She squinted her eyes as her vision blurred from the sudden rush of tears. As she reopened them, she noticed, once again, two cobalt blue slits peering at her from the corner of the room. She held her breath, freezing the motion of her body as much as she could. She cursed herself as her teeth chattered in the coolness of the night and she gritted them to stop their incessant clattering that sounded like a stampede of deer in the stillness of the room.

    Not able to hold her breath any longer, she dared to speak.

    "Am I dreaming...?" She whispered aloud.

    "...You are not..." A voice came from the direction of the blue slits. The voice was different from what she remembered in her nightmares. Instead of the noise of a great wind and rustling was softer, gentler. It had a crystal quality...frigid, but harmonious, as if someone had struck an ice sickle against a fluted wine glass.

    " are the killer...t-the dark Paladin of my nightmares..." Jade could only croak above a whisper, so constricted was her windpipe by the fear those memories instilled.

    The voice hesitated a moment, then answered, "...It is I."

    "So've come to take my life...while I lay naked in a foreign bed in a foreign land...under the enslavement of Devon, the bastard Red Wizard?!" Jade said angrily. Suddenly she didn't care about the creature. She wanted the charade to end.

    "Shhh...shhh...quite child," the voice said gently, calmly.

    Jade obeyed, if only out of curiosity. The times she had encountered the black creature ended in terrible pain and intense fear...why is it trying to speak with her in this manner?

    The creature continued, its voice becoming sad and deep, the blue slits wavered as if being viewed from across a desert's dust blown dunes. "I am not here to kill...just to observe. I am sorry I disturbed you so...I will go now..."

    Jade sat for long moments but then began to speak as the blue slits began to fade. "Wait! No...I am sorry...come back!"

    The blue slits shimmered and then vanished, leaving Jade to ponder what had just occurred.

  • - Awakening

    Jade awoke with a start. After a few incoherent moments, she realized that she had no idea where she was. The room she was in was small, rectangular, stonewalled room, with no decoration save an intricately carved shutter that covered the archer slit window. A small, hand-woven carpet stretched from wall to wall, with lovely designs of griffons, centaur, and other exotic creatures. An ordinary oil lamp hung from the wall, casting warm light across the cold room.

    The bed she lay on was incredibly comfortable, most likely down feathered, with thick blankets and massive, soft pillows. She rolled over in it and curled up within the folds of the blankets, letting their warmth seep into her bones. Quite suddenly, she noticed the shadows from beneath the heavy wooden door as some figure approached from the other side. She pulled the blankets closer around her lithe form and waited…

    A string of muffled, singsong words were heard and the door unlatched, the doorknob turning slowly. The door swung open on silent, well-oiled hinges, revealing the figure standing in the hallway.

    He was tall, perhaps six and a half feet, covered in voluminous red robes. Threads of gold and silver were woven in ornate patterns along the seams and folds, including the deep hood that nothing could be seen other than shadow and the end of a long, stark white beard.

    The figure stepped forward into the room, pushing back the hood as it strode forward. Jade suddenly gasped as she instantly recognized the face.

    "Devon..." she whispered, followed by a curse in elvish.

    A cold smile played across his face. He was a very handsome human, even by elven standards, with smooth features and icy, piercing blue eyes. His beard, although white as snow, was well trimmed and neatly groomed. She knew he was well over 120 years old, but his face did not show it. To her, he had not aged a day since the last she saw him.

    "So, you awake I see? I trust your rest was comfortable and that you dreamt well," he added mockingly.

    She sat up in the bed, holding the blankets over her naked flesh. She cast her dagger like stare then replied as coldly as she could, " finally capture your prize. What now? Oh, I can't do your own dirty work...I suppose a hired assassin will finish the job."

    "Bravo. Bravo," he replied in a condescending tone, "Your brash wit is exceedingly entertaining. But no, this play is not over quite yet."

    "Play?" she returned, bitterly.

    "Ah, yes. You see, dear child, things have been set in motion that even surpasses my trivial, passing hobby. No, this is far from over. I have need for you yet," he continued, "inasmuch as I would like to see your life thrown from this mortal coil, my hand is stayed."

    "Lucky me," she spat back.

    Devon shrugged, "My dear, my dear. You have grown bitter and caustic in your travels," he smiled. His lip curled as he continued, "Consider you blessed for my mercy. Two of my ignorant, incompetent assassins had failed, which has brought me to rethink my strategy."

    Jade's left eyebrow raised in surprise, "Two?" She giggled mockingly, "and I thought that Jubei was the only share."

    Devon frowned, "Yes, well, the second one decided to take matters into his own hands just like that fool Jubei and kill you himself. Fortunately for you, I repaired the damage and resurrected you."

    Jade laughed heartily, "Oh, that's rich! You saved my life?"

    "Laugh all you will, Jade," he spat her name in contempt, "by the time I am finished, you will curse the day you were born. I have already put more pieces into play...your lover Wilhelm and his associates will feel my wrath for their tinkering. Oh, and I have plans for the rest of them. Yes, Kara, Braeth, Kanen, Seven, Reginald...even the blissfully ignorant Hugh will taste pain."

    Jade looks fearful for a moment, then asked, "How do you know all of them...?"

    Devon smiled fiendishly, "I have more power than you could possibly imagine...even my fellow Red Wizards bend to my will."

    Jade rolled her eyes, "You have not changed one bit since the old days. You always craved be bigger than the bully. But now...that's all you are. A bully with a magic wand and a couple paid assassins."

    "It would be wise for you to reconsider your words, sister-in-law. YOU were the one who took matters into her own hands. YOU were the one that murdered my only brother in COLD BLOOD!" he yelled, his eyes blazing with anger.

    Jade cast a sad look, "Devon...if only you were there...if only you saw him..." she shook her head. "No. I will not let you bring more guilt upon me for what was done out of love so long ago. You, with all your power...I begged you to help him...but you just went off to your damned academy...forsaking your family. YOU were the one who walked away...YOU were the one who left Caleb and I to fend for ourselves...don't preach to me like some Holy cleric."

    For once, Devon was speechless. He simply stared at her, his fists clenched and shaking in anger. She was right...

    Jade's eyes welled with tears. "Devon...for gods sakes...look at yourself. What has become of you?"

    "I...I...Jade..." he stuttered, his face softening slightly. For a moment...a mere second, he returned to his youth, when he had spoke with Jade as a friend. Then, suddenly, he replaced it with the rigid, cruel gaze that he had before, "Damn you elf!" he reached out his hands and flicked his fingers toward her, sending her violently into the stone wall, as if some great invisible hand slammed into her. She stayed suspended against the wall for a moment, and then her body slumped to the floor and she let out a gasp as she desperately tried to regain her breath.

    "Your silvery words work on your friends, but they DO NOT and WILL NOT work on me!" he screamed at her, his fist shaking in the air.

    Jade sat up, covering her nakedness with her hands. After regaining her composure and coughing a bit, she looked up at Devon whose eyes were seething and wild with anger, "So what will you do? What part do my friends play in all this...?"

    Devon calmed himself, straightening his robes. He seemed to ponder something a moment, then replied, "First...I have some insects to take care of. Then, we will discuss my plans."

    With that, he turned on his heel and stalked out. The door slammed shut behind him and latched.

    Jade rose gingerly, still in pain from her encounter with the wall. She climbed back into the bed and laid her head upon the pillows, crying softly.


  • ((repost - XP already given))

    - Emerald eyes

    Jade stood in the clearing, drenched in sweat. He had been watching her for several hours now, hiding just outside her field of vision under a dense group of forest bushes. His friend was not too far away – just a few feet -- hiding behind a large, moss covered log.

    He eyed her hungrily, as he had been doing since she first saw her a few weeks ago. Evarin and his 'bud', as Evarin called him, had come into town just over a month ago. It was those eyes that had mesmerized him first, as she sat in the Boarshead Inn scribing in a small, tattered book that he could only assume was her journal. She looked up at him and smiled as any friendly Norwickian does in the early morning -- but her look sparked a flame that could not be quenched...those emerald eyes was all he could think about.

    He followed her around town, using his roguish shadowing skills to spy on her, seeing what she was up to during her day. He loved the way her body moved, how her clothes stretched tightly over her elvish curves, leaving little to the imagination. She seemed to be beckoning him...calling his name with those swaying hips and those emerald eyes.

    They had followed her this day from her room in the Boarshead inn -- she was evidently having a sleepless night, he figured, since she looked weary and had only been in her room for three hours. She went out into the forest, seemingly preoccupied with thoughts. She made it to the clearing, where she drew her massive greatsword and began practicing parries and thrusts.

    It was a glorious sight, her small elvish frame wielding a weapon taller than she with awe-inspiring grace and skill. After a few hours into the dawn, she was quite exercised. Her hair had partially come loose from its elvish bun and clung to the back of her neck. She was sweating quite profusely, so hard she was practicing.

    She stopped. The greatsword was thrust into the ground with a grunt as she began pulling annoyingly at the straps of her armor. Evarin felt his heart jump in his chest, the warm feeling of lust tingled down his spine. Oh, to see her without the harsh, cold steel surrounding her body...

    She removed her breastplate, revealing a sweat-soaked, gossamer-thin undershirt that had been torn from overuse. It clung to her, as if reveling in the moist, shapely form it laid over. She pulled the shirt up slightly, flapping it gently to fan her overheating torso. Her exposed, golden-tanned, flat stomach glistened in the sunlight of the clearing. She released her hair from its bonds, running her hands through it in a vain attempt to straighten the gloriously wild locks. She stood for many moments, her head thrown back as she stroked her hair, giving the lookers on a most tortuous view of her exquisitely lithe, fragile elvish body.

    Evarin was breathing heavily now, his heart pounding in his chest and blood rushing through his head at such a rapid rate, he felt faint. His arms and legs tingled with desire, and his vision blurred all around him -- all except the figure centered in his vision: Jade.

    So infatuated he was at this point, he did not hear 'bud' whispering harsh shouts of warning to him. He blinked for a moment, seeming to wake from his lustful daydream and realized that he had walked into the clearing, standing a few feet away from the elvish beauty. He started backpedaling slowly, but it was too late. Those emerald eyes turned to meet his, and he was caught -- snared in the barbs of their piercing trap. They widened as he gazed into them, ever calling his name.

    "Whoa, scared me," she said, her voice crisp as a bell, "be careful sneaking up on people like that...some may not appreciate it."

    She smiled slightly, causing Evarin to nearly collapse in lustful desire. She was so beautiful, he thought...if only I could touch her...

    She cocked her head sideways a bit and crinkled her pert elvish nose, "Are you OK? You look a bit flustered..."

    He only managed to croak a response, "M-me? Oh, I'm fine."

    "Oh, good," she said warily as she noticed his eyes wander down her body, stopping on her breasts that were still clinging to the damp undershirt. She crossed her arms to hide herself from his gaze that was quickly giving her a creepy feeling.

    "Y-you know," he stuttered, "I-I've been watching you f-for some t-t-time now," he said as he took a step closer to her, moving his eyes over her body as a lover would his hands.

    Jade took a step back, still trying in vain to cover her chest with her arms. She jolted a bit when 'bud' rushed out of the foliage like a raging bull, stopping short a few feet next to Evarin. 'Bud' was quite excited and looked extremely nervous -- looking over his shoulder and side-to-side as if waiting for someone to come into the clearing any moment.

    "Can I help you fellas? Are you lost?" she asked, still moving backward.

    "Oh, y-you can h-help us, y-y-you sure c-can," Evarin said creepily, moving his gaze to meet hers. 'Bud' just stood quietly, twitching his eyes back and forth, still looking for intruders, Jade could only guess.

    Jade backed up further until she reached her greatsword. She yanked it from the ground and swung it over her head, finally coming to rest in her attack stance. Evarin blinked and stopped advancing for a moment, as if Jade had struck him in the face.

    'Bud' panicked. He charged at her so suddenly, that she was caught off guard. She quickly recovered and sidestepped his rush. She stuck out her leg, causing him to go headlong into the turf. He rolled over and stood up, as if her trip was only but a small annoyance. Drawing a shortsword, he charged her again, screaming wildly. She had no choice but defend: Swinging hard, she knocked the blade from his grasp. Undaunted still, he pulled another blade from across his back and swung, nearly cutting her face, but she brought her greatword back from the initial swing and nearly cleaved him in two. 'Bud' opened his mouth in a silent scream and fell to the ground, lifeless.

    She stood over his body a moment, shocked at the suddenness of the attack. Then, she realized that the other one was still standing behind her. She turned, just as he had taken a drink of a bluish colored potion.

    He choked at first at the bitter taste, but then felt the power surge through his body, making him feel much stronger than normal. The potion, along with the desire for Jade caused him to go into a berserker-like rage. He charged at her, slamming his body into her and knocking the breath from her lungs. She hit the ground hard as the greatsword flew across the grassy clearing. Evarin began ripping at her shirt and the rest of her armor with one hand while holding her arms down with another.

    Jade was horrified at how strong he had become and struggled wildly to remove his grip from her. He ripped at her leggings, broke the straps on her belt, and ripped a gaping hole in her undershirt. He began kissing and licking her face and neck roughly, his scraggly beard digging into her soft, tanned skin.

    He attempted to spread her legs, wedging his knees between them. Her moment found, she raised her knee and crushed his genitalia. He cried out and started pummeling her with his fists. Her hands now free, she reached for a dagger that was still within her belt, pulled it free, and jammed the blade into his neck.

    Evarin, broke from his lust-driven trance, could only gurgle as he felt the blade enter the side of his throat. He felt the cold steel slit his esophagus open, spilling blood down his neck, arms, and onto Jade in torrents.

    She held him suspended above her with the dagger for many moments as the last death throws ran their course. Frighteningly, he continued staring at her as he was dying, his eyes locking onto Jade's...those emerald eyes he cherished so much.

  • ((repost - XP already given))

    - The fate of the faithful

    I walked from my room in the Boarshead inn to the common room to get a bite to eat for breakfast. No one here. Hmmm…perhaps Barle is in the pantry? I called out his name. Nothing. No one is here...not even Misty. Odd.

    What was that noise? I turn around. Nothing but a dark corner where the lamp had blown out and a few cobwebs that stretched across the rafters. Another sound...metal scraping on metal. I slowly turn my head...nothing. My heart beats quickly now -- my palms are sweaty.

    Why am I getting so worked up over nothing? I sigh, turn to head back to my room. What's this??? Blood on the floor...a dagger. I recognize the did this get here? That was so long ago. I feel shame, guilt. I want to hide.

    Who said that?! Who called my name?! I turn around quickly. Nothing. I am panting like I have run across breath...cold, icy...frosty. A whisper! Who is that?

    I am running now, down the hall to my room. The whispering is louder. Stop it! It grows louder and more numerous -- voices calling to me in hushed tones. I look over my shoulder...darkness. I turn back. NO!!! I collapse in fear. The being stands there...darkness all around, his scythe glowing faintly. Pure evil! He draws the sword...the snake shaped sword. I am crying...I close my eyes tightly...I don't want to die! My heart is pounding in my chest...Wilhelm! Where are you? I try to scream out his name by my voice won't work.

    I open my eyes...the steel cuts into my flesh...all I see is blood! The blood is everywhere...I taste is on the walls. The pain is intense. I cannot breathe! I try to reach for the neck! My arms don't work...I can't feel them...I am falling...the pain stops...I cannot breathe! I see my body sitting there...headless!

    I scream and sit up. I'm in my room. Another nightmare. I start crying...weeping and sobbing like a child...the tears come unchecked...I'm sweaty and out of breath. I grasp my nightshirt and wrap it tightly around is soaked with sweat.

    After a bath and a quick breakfast, I head outside. The air is warm, but smells faintly of blood. I have smelled it before...just like after a battle...but in the middle of Norwick? I walk to the town well, smile warmly to Frago...he doesn't respond, just turns and starts sorting through a ridiculously large pile of shortswords.

    The town center is empty, save one person. Kara is there, but she seems preoccupied. I ask her what is wrong and she seems surprised to see me...then fearful. She tells me of an assassin that is looking for me. For me? She pointed to the North Gate.

    I ran. I opened the gate and saw several people standing around a body lying in the tall grass to my left. Wilhelm was all that I could focus heart was caught in my throat, my stomach sunk to my feet. He was standing there with the grimmest look I'd ever seen on him. I could not look at the body, just Wilhelm's eyes. I dared to ask what happened. He told me of an assassin...Jubei...proclaiming to the whole town of my deed done so long ago. Steele was there...sick and delusional...defending me. Jubei hurled insults and curses at Steele, threatening to finish him off like he should have done on the road to Thay.

    I am numb. What foolishness did Steele do? Wilhelm continued...

    After many tense minutes, Steele offered a challenge to this Jubei, who accepted readily. They walked to the spot on which I now stand. Steele said, "For Jade," and then strode across the grass and struck Jubei fearsomely with his greatsword. The wound was grievously deep, but Jubei stood his ground and retaliated. They battled for many moments, Steele only striking once more before nearly collapsing in a coughing fit.

    It was obvious that he was not well...why did he do this? I could only stand and listen further, my blood running cold...

    Jubei ran his cruel blade through Steele's rusted armor. Steele gurgled and fell on his face. Jubei finished Steele off with a stab to the heart through his back, as he lay there, motionless. Jubei then grabbed Steele's greatsword and ran off, with Wilhelm hot on his trail. Jubei turned and threw the sword at Wilhelm's feet and said, “That's a warning for Jade.” The assassin threw down a small stone shaped object and disappeared in a cloud of smoke as the stone exploded.

    How could this be? Steele was so very strong...he was the head of the Paladins in his order. He led men into battle countless times and survived. Died to a lowly assassin?

    I turn to the body. The people there had moved him to his back, arms across his chest. He looks so peaceful, though blood is caked on his worn and rusted suit of armor. It used to be so polished and beautiful...he took so much pride on its appearance...

    I kneel beside him. I raise his head onto my lap...his skin is still warm. I brush back the bloodied hair from his closed eyes. My tears are falling onto his face; washing away the battle stains on his cheek. For me? So faithful, he was...

    Beside his body is his greatsword -- the sword he taught me with. I lower his head back to the soft earth, stand, and take up his sword. It is filthy, blood-soaked, and rusted, like his armor.

    A touch on my shoulder. It's Wilhelm. I'm so numb; I didn't notice that I'm sobbing. He wraps his arms around me, tells me things to comfort me. I hear them not...just the whispers...

  • - Separated

    The greatsword sunk deep into the soft sod from the powerful thrust. A curse was let out and a glove was thrown across the grassy clearing in the darkened forest. She strode back and forth, murmuring curse words in elvish.

    "Where did they go? They could not have left me here by myself!" Jade said shakily as she continued pacing.

    It started raining, making Jade curse even louder. She had become separated from her party and she was now lost deep in the Rawlinswood. They were attacked quite viciously by an abnormally large number of bugbears that seemed to appear from out of thin air – coming to them in hideous droves and in perfectly executed military fashion. They fought them off successfully, but when the smoke cleared she was standing alone in the clearing.

    "Reginald! Hugh! Wilhelm! Somebody!" she shouted, but her voice only echoed back mockingly from the towering trees and foliage.

    She was slightly wounded; an arrow slid through a crease in her scale mail causing blood to seep down the front of her breastplate. She had managed to extract the barbed tip, for it had not gone deep. She picked up the bloodied arrow from the large boulder in the clearing and whipped it into the woods with another call to her companions. Again, no response.

    She felt like crying. Not because she was scared (she was not), but because she had allowed herself to be cut off during the heat of the battle. The Paladin, Steele Zweiander, taught her the fighting skills she now implements. He had trained her with his very own greatsword, all the time weeding out the mistakes and errors made in haste. The predicament she was in was proof of her inability to concentrate on the whole of the situation -- not just accurate sword thrusts and parries.

    Jade picked up her glove, brushing off the wet grass and leaves that clung to it. She had managed to calm herself, but her heart was still pounding from the frustration she had built. As she was walking toward her greatsword that was stuck in the now rain-soaked sod, her elvish ears picked up a faint snapping sound like that of a small twig being tread upon. She eased herself to the blade and withdrew it from the ground, turning slowly toward the position she heard the noise. Nothing was there -- just dark forest and thick foliage. Her elvish eyesight could see deeper into the darkness than most other creatures, but at present she could not see past the first few trees, which disturbed her greatly.

    "Hello? Who goes there?" She said first in common, then repeated in elvish. Nothing. Just crushing silence.

    She wiped the blade clean of debris with a piece of tattered cloth, her emerald eyes never leaving the area in which she had heard the sound. She realized quite suddenly that her surroundings had somehow become even more quiet -- no rain, no sound of small animals in the trees. Deafening quiet -- only her heartbeat and quickening breath remained. Her breathing seemed as a great waterfall amid the silence; her heartbeat boomed as rolling thunder.

    Then, it appeared. Taller than a man and black as night, it stood before her just a few meters away. A shroud of what seemed as living cloth covered its form -- the cloth writhed and rippled as if disturbed by a great wind, although there was not a breath of a breeze in the Rawlinswood. Beneath this cloak she saw the glint of steel of an exquisite suit of armor, with markings and styling that was not recognized. It was black as the deepest darkness, yet shined as if it was a polished mirror. Several thick chains of chrome hung from its body, making it look as if it were a prisoner in its own armor. Its heavy boots were massive and ornately designed, covered with interlocking plates of the same black, shining material as its armor. The grass around his boots was frosted over as if it were winter, but so cold that the blades were brittle and crumbled when touched.

    The most disturbing of all was its face: Beneath the hood of blackness was an even deeper darkness. So deep was this darkness that it seemed as if it would absorb all light from it's surroundings. Twinkling in this nightmare pit were two cobalt blue slits that Jade could only assume were eyes...and jutting from beneath these 'eyes' where the mouth should have been were two massive, twisted, black horns that curled outward and upward, similar to ram's horns.

    Slung across its back and at its sides were terribly large swords; two were wickedly barbed, while the third was shaped like a slithering snake, with a barbed hook at its tip. All three were glowing softly in a reddish light and made Jade's greatsword look like a large dagger by comparison.

    In its black gauntleted hands was held a scythe of awful beauty. The blade, nearly eight feet long, was serrated, double-edged, and perpetually wept blood, as if it was a living creature. The staff on which the curved blade was attached was made of black, knotty wood, covered in runes that glowed with eerie dark-purple light, and curved to conform to his body -- Jade could only imagine this was to make it deadly efficient when he used it, even though it looked extremely unwieldy given the size of the weapon.

    Jade stood before the being, petrified in terror that could only be magically induced. Her arms felt limp and weary; her legs trembled, as did her jaw. She tried to speak but could not do so. Then, it spoke.

    "Jade...Jade M'he of elves?" his voice was the sound of rustling leaves and scraping steel, yet distinctly masculine. It echoed loudly in the silent wood.

    Jade could only nod shakily.

    The being shifted his weight, "You must die, then," he hissed as he took a step forward.

    As he approached, the air around Jade became excruciatingly cold. Her breath itself crystallized and fell to the ground like snow. Icy frost formed on the blade of her greatsword, the steel cracked and popped as if it would fly apart in her numbing hands. He was nearly upon her now, the grass crunching beneath his boots.

    Suddenly, she managed to break herself from the stunning fear and stumbled backward, falling to the frozen ground. She pushed away with her legs rapidly as he raised the scythe to strike her. The blade came down and made a great gash in the frozen earth, throwing icy shards of sod in all directions. Jade rolled over and stood up in one fluid motion, swinging her greatsword in an arc as she turned to face him.

    He chuckled, "A brave one ye be ..." he drew the scythe back and stepped forward slowly, as if assessing the situation.

    "I don't take death threats lightly, Mister...?" she asked in a mocking tone.

    "A name means little. A title ye may give is Ue'cur S'enh Tah'leai," he returned.

    Jade lowered her sword slightly at the sound of elvish language, translating it loosely to common, "Black Paladin?" she returned.

    He laughed.

    "There is no such thing. You might as well say evil angel or Holy Drow," she spat.

    He stopped advancing, " ye are expert on all that is good and evil in this world? You would be naive, methinks."

    "Why are you trying to kill me?" she asked as she steadied her stance, prepared to defend herself.

    He shrugged, "I do what I am asked of."

    Before she could say another word, he rushed toward her and swung the scythe. Jade ducked and raised her sword to block the brutal swing of the weapon, but as the blades touched, her greatsword shattered. The scythe continued on and severed her thumb and forefinger, causing frostbite on the rest of her hand.

    Jade screamed out in pain and fell to the ground instinctively, barely avoiding the scythe on a second swing by the so-called black Paladin. She scrambled forward, at the same time pulling out one of her longswords. Holding it in her offhand, she turned and raised the blade to parry another thrust. The scythe shattered the longsword and continued on to pass through the soft flesh of Jade's forearm, severing it below the elbow. Great torrents of blood flowed from the jagged wound and she struggled in vain to stop the spurting with her frozen sword hand.

    She pushed off the ground with her legs to get out of the way of another swing, but not far enough. The scythe cut through her armored leg, splintering the bone and separating the knee. Her now-severed lower leg flew across the grassy clearing, as did frozen sod as the scythe cut deep into the ground.

    Jade sat where she was struck down, bent over trying to apply pressure to the horrific wounds. She did not yell this time, for she was going into shock.

    "Wilhelm! Help me!" She said brokenly, fighting back the terror in her heart.

    She was crying silently, her tears freezing on her face as the being strode toward her and stood over her broken body.

    With a hollow laugh that filled the quiet Rawlinswood, he drew the mighty snake shaped blade and hacked off her head in one fluid motion.

    Jade awoke with a jolt, her body soaked in sweat. Her bedroll was twisted around her due to the struggling during her sleep. She rolled to her side and saw the glowing embers of the campfire they had made in the clearing. She looked around in a quiet panic at first, but then saw Hugh and Reginald sleeping soundly in their bedrolls across from her. Straightening her bedroll, she rolled to her other side where Wilhelm lay. She slowly reached out and wedged her hand beneath his own that lay at his side. He stirred slightly, but did not wake.

    She fell asleep next to her love once again, this time to dream of nothing more than meadows and streams and Wilhelm.

    ...And yet, she noticed not her greatsword leaning against the tree overlooking their camp was covered in frost...

  • - A night encounter

    Exhausted, she slowly made her way to the waterfall. It was well after midnight she figured, as she stared at the bright moon on the abnormally clear night in Norwick. She had been battered from her encounter with several bugbears that attempted to ambush her (unsuccessfully) a few hours earlier. Blood, most her enemies, some her own, was covering her once-aquamarine scale mail. A few straps had been broken, including one holding the scabbard of one of her longswords, which she now dragged wearily through the soft grass. Her greatsword was on her back and the slowness of her movements made it appear that the blade weighed much more that she could handle as it clanged against her armor loudly. Her legs burned from the exercise she had received – she had traveled what seemed to her like a hundred miles to reach the borders of Norwick again after the eventful evening.

    She reached the shore of the stream and collapsed in her weariness. Slowly, she removed the weapons slung across her back and at her sides, laying them in a bloodstained heap carelessly. She tugged annoyingly at the straps of her boots and shin plates, cursing softly in elvish as they were slick with blood and grime and hard to grip. Finally removed, she tossed them into the shallows of the stream, letting the water gently wash away the muck that encrusted them.

    Sighing, she laid and her back and closed her eyes, listening to the water cascading down the cliff face. After lying there a moment, she rose to a standing position, groaning and grimacing as the burning in her legs intensified. Slowly, methodically, she began undoing the straps from her breastplate, grimacing once again as she had to twist in an awkward position to remove it. She threw it into the tall grass and began loosening the rest of her armor, removing it until all that was left was a gossamer-thin, tattered undershirt that served no purpose other than to give protection from the cool steel as she put her armor on in the chill mornings of Narfell.

    She stretched again, cursing again in Elvish, as she removed the undershirt and tossed it into the grass with the rest of her armor. She shivered slightly as a cool breeze touched her naked flesh. She reached into her hair and pulled out the clips that held it at bay during her travels, letting its black, sensuousness tumble lazily down her back, falling just above her waist. She stroked her hair a few times to work out any knots and walked slowly to the waters edge.

    "Gods," she cursed in common as she plopped both feet into the stream. It was cool, but quite refreshing, and caused goose bumps to rise on her tanned, shapely legs. As soon it was possible, she lowered herself into the stream, gasping slightly as the water rushed around her hips and then over her shoulders. She tilted her head back, gently massaging her hair to remove the filth of the day's adventure.

    She padded her way carefully to the waterfall, feeling her way across the bottom with her bare feet to avoid any sharp rocks. Taking a deep breath, she lowered her head and walked into the wall of rushing water that was now blazing as a satin, silver sheet in the bright moonlight. She scrubbed her arms and hands, then moved to her shoulders, down to her belly, then to her thighs, sighing heavily as she washed away the blood, dirt, and sweat.

    It was then that she realized she had a visitor. Cursing, she dipped her body below the surface of the water as far as she could before completely submerging herself. He was just a few meters away...watching intently. He did not hide himself (bold bastard, she thought to herself), but seemed hypnotized by the droning sound of the waterfall. He was staring directly at her, and she cursed herself again for her stupidity. He was standing in front of her pile of weapons and armor -- there would be no chance to defend herself if it became necessary.

    "Jade?" a dry, cracked voice spoke shakily.

    Recognizing it, she sighed, but then became embarrassed for her nakedness. She trembled as she spoke. "H-How long have you been standing there?"

    He cleared his throat, licking his lips to quench their dryness, "Too long, I'm afraid...I could not resist but stare in awe of your beauty."

    She thanked the shadows for hiding her blush. She moved closer to the shore, continuing to be submerged in the cool water to maintain her modesty. " you always peep at women bathing in the river?"

    He smiled, but she could not see it in the darkness, "Since when do women bathe in the river? Since when has there been a woman with such undying, pure beauty in my midst?"

    "You sound like you've been taking notes from Reginald," she said, smiling coyly.

    He took a few steps forward until he was nearly standing over her. He was breathing heavily, she could see, and he clenched and released his fists nervously. She smiled inwardly at his awkwardness.

    "May I?" he said nervously, gesturing toward the damp shoreline.

    "Aye," she returned.

    He slowly sat down on the grass, lowering his legs into the cool water, and keeping his glittering eyes always on hers. He reached for her hand, which she gave slowly, unsurely. He pulled her close, but not so that he came in contact with her flesh. He bent forward and kissed the moist hand, caressing it gently.

    Still submerged, Jade felt her heart pumping ever harder, making her that much more nervous as she drew closer to him.

    "Such beauty. Your eyes burn like emeralds set in silver flame," he said, as he let loose her hand to relieve her obvious discomfort. "Should I leave you to your bath, fair Jade?" he asked, knowing the answer.

    "No," she said too quickly, "...I would like some company...e-especially yours,"

    He smiled, chuckling. She was close enough now that he reached out and stroked her hair; his hands letting the thick, black locks pass between his fingers gently. She closed her eyes, leaning into his caress. When she opened them once again, she realized that she had moved very close to him, her breasts brushing against his left thigh. Her heart quickened at this brief contact, as did his, quite noticeably. He leaned toward her and their lips met, his kiss eager, her lips quivering.

    She lost herself in the kiss as it became intensely passionate. Her feet tingled with the sensuousness of the moment; her heart seemed ready to burst from her chest. She stood up, leaving her modesty to be borne away with the fast moving waters of the stream.

    He moved his rough hands around her shoulders as he brushed her hair aside, then moved them down her back and held her fast at her waist. She pressed herself against him, smelling the mix of steel and leather that he bore. She gripped his biceps feverishly, then moved her hand to caress his cheek.

    The kiss now over, she lowered herself back into the stream to once again cover her nakedness. His heart was filled with desire -- that he did not catch a glimpse of her lithe, warmly curved form as she submerged quickly into the stream made the lustful aching that much more powerful.

    "Jade--" he began, edging closer toward her, but not entering.

    "Shhh," she said, interrupting him, "I know what you would say,"

    "Do you?" he returned, his voice husky. He waded into the water, rushing toward her. Her eyes widened as he grasped her shoulders and pulled her up from her hunched position beneath the cover of water. She gasped at the force, but knew it was of passion that he did so. He kissed her deeply, holding her body so close that they might be one person when viewed from afar.