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Angelica had been recovering for months after the attack by Lilith, Arno the Red Necromancer, and Olaf Sen Black Thorn. Bartok the Blue had trapped Arno and Olaf; they were in the pit. Lilith had escaped. They still had no way of trapping a wraith. She had recovered, completed the trials, now known as Angelica the White. She was born royalty on three sides. Her Father, Grimmar, was the grandson of Thjorsen, King of the Silver Dwarfs. Half-sister of King Menandor, and daughter of Andor the High Priest of the Shadowlands and Venarra, mother of Menandor and Morcandon. Married to Andor after she went to Storm Haven to grieve for her husband King Marsondon. Raised in Benelvin, and born with true magical talent.
She had raven black hair, piercing blue eyes, was beautiful in a certain way, she was strong of body, highly skilled with weapons, and a powerful sorcerer. She lived with Sarzon the Silver at the Fortress and helped to keep the incursions from the Dark Forces in check. For years, Sarzon had been trying to unite the Free Lands under one leader. Each Faction had their own choice, and among men, it was worse.
The Men in Storm Haven and Thunder Haven had their choice for leader, the High Elves had a candidate, as did the Silver Dwarfs, Menandor thought he should rule them all, and the Free Lands wanted no one to govern them. It was a conundrum, and to Sarzon, Angelica was the solution. She was the only person who was royalty from all sides. She could unite and govern the North, if they would accept her. With no particular affiliation, a member of all three races, she alone could unite them. Provided she proved herself, and accepted the honor when presented to her.
She and Lazolon were on patrol. He was fond of the girl. Not as lithe as an elf, but as strong, fast, and skilled as any elf he had met. She wore forest green to blend in, and carried two swords over her back, a quiver of one-hundred arrows, twin daggers, one on each hip, and a bow made by Delvina, coated in pure silver by Grimmar, and enchanted by Bartok the Blue. It was one of a kind. Her cloak was hooded, dark green with a light green border, silver and white runes and glyphs decorated the hem and borders. She was the perfect image of a warrior queen. Lazolon knew it too.
She had no equal with weapons, not even Denerra could match her with bow or sword. Sarzon had trained her in Martial Arts and the last time they sparred, she had defeated him in five minutes. No easy feat, he was the best. He had never been defeated before. She was ready for whatever they ran into. They had gotten a report that a Dark Mage was near Atlantis. Normally, that would be of little concern. Phandriel the Nephilim, known here as Poseidon, was the protector of Atlantis. He had sent a message to Sarzon letting him know that the Dark Mage was beyond his borders. That made it the Guilds concern. Angelica and Lazolon had travelled here by portal, and a few miles southeast, had exited the portal, and was scouting to find the mage.
They were an odd lot. Coming north to attack the Free Lands regularly. Trying to defeat the Sorcerers and gaining a foothold for the Fallen. Lazolon had battled them for centuries. Brother of Trandor of Benelvin, and Andor High Priest in the Shadowlands, he had given his position of First Ranger to Faravel when he chose to accompany Sarzon and stay at the Fortress. He had never regretted that decision, and his adventures with Sarzon had been many. They had fought every kind of fell and evil beast, Necromancers, Dark Mages, Dark Elves and Black Dwarves. He had lived an exciting life.
He had come to agree with Sarzon after the War of the Shadowlands, they needed a leader that all of the north could back and support, and Angelica was the choice. They had discussed it many times, but never had they approached Angelica with the offer. She enjoyed being in the field, she was an exceptional warrior, unequaled by any. She had gained the respect of all three races, and should she accept the offer, she would be a politician, not a warrior. So far, that was something she would rather not give up.
They had tracked the Mage and he was in a forested area near one of the fishing villages on the coast between the Fortress and Atlantis. He was hiding in a cave among the rocks. They had to climb down the sea cliff to reach the entrance. They were being careful not using magic would give them an edge for the moment. They entered the mouth of the cave with caution. Lazolon thought that this cave was familiar. If they were where he suspected, this was the Whales Blow Hole. It would send up a flume of water like a whale blowing when it breached the surface. It went back about three hundred feet, and then had a vertical shaft that exited forty feet above them. He was unaware of any side chambers. They had to watch carefully. Should the mage be here, it was close quarters for a weapons fight. They would have to use magic.
They entered the cavern and followed it back to the blowhole. Once they reached the shaft, they found a small cleft in the rock. Passing through the cleft, they found a chamber. Inside was the artifacts and gear the Dark Mage had brought. A skull, a black candle, bone dust, various articles used for spell casting, a large silver mirror used for scrying, and several scrolls. Lazolon took all the artifacts, the scrolls were of keen interest. They had never been able to get any of the magical writings of the Mages, or Necromancers in the past.
They left the cave and started searching for the mage. They had gained power after Arno had defected. He was the first Sorcerer to change sides. Lazolon knew there would be more as time went on. He had taken the techniques that Sarzon had discovered and gave them to the Dark Mages when he became the Red Necromancer. Lazolon said, “Angelica, we need to get these items to Sarzon, and we have a choice. Destroy the Dark Mage first, or let the Mage go, and come back after we deliver these items to the Fortress.” She considered what he said, “Lazolon, our first duty is to protect the people in the Free Lands. Second is to investigate the materials we found. Let us go and deal with the Dark Mage, then we can return to the Fortress and together with Sarzon, decipher the importance of what we found.” That made the decision easy.
They set out to find the Dark Mage. Whether the Mage was Elf, Human, or Dwarf, they would remove the threat and then go home. They used a tracking enchantment. It would follow the path the Dark Mage had taken and bring them to the Mage. It worked. They found the Dark Mage ten miles from the village in a stand of palm trees trying to poison the groundwater. Lazolon trapped the Mage, and Angelica cut the mage in two. The Mage was a female human, her face tattooed with dark magic symbols, and she wore a blood red cassock, embroidered with glyphs. Her blades were black with red runes, and she had a deep scar down the right side of her face that ran all the way down to her wrist.
They burned the body, and cleaned all the magic that had drained out with her blood. When they finished the cleansing, Angelica opened a portal and they went to the Fortress. They arrived on the outside. It was protocol not to take any Dark Magic artifacts directly into the Fortress. Sarzon had the dwarves make a special silver box. It would hold the items, and prevent any Dark Magic to affect the enchantments that protected the Fortress. Inside he had constructed a special room, in the eastern arm of the Fortress; he lined it with the purest silver the dwarves could find. It was safe to open the box only in that room.
Joined there by Sarzon, Faranel, and Denerra. They opened the box and removed the artifacts. Sarzon was engrossed. They had tried for years to capture the artifacts the Mages used this was the first time they had a complete set. They had taken the rings, amulet, and staff of the Mage as well. Angelica had broken the staff into three pieces. They examined all of the items; Sarzon was particularly interested in the scrolls. They contained a plethora of spells, incantations, and information they previously had no knowledge concerning.
Sarzon read the scroll making sure not to whisper, mouth, or speak anything in the scrolls; he discovered the purpose of several of the objects. The Dark Mage leader could communicate through the Mirror. The candle and skull would infect the area with Dark Magic. The powder, made from cyclops bone, would transform a local animal into a Manticore or Chimera. This was how they had been able to attack the Free Lands without bringing the beasts with them.
They wanted to know who the leader of the Dark Mages was. They had dealt with Morcandon the Black, Arno the Red, and now, they had a new threat to deal with. Sarzon and the others left the room and sealed it behind themselves. Sarzon was bothered by this turn of events. Every few years, they faced another threat. He stopped Lazolon and Angelica, and asked, “Did the Mage say anything when you trapped her?” Lazolon turned to him and said, “When we caught her, she spewed a large curse at us which had no effect because of the trap. She screamed and raged, and then Angelica dispatched her before we found out anything else.”
Sarzon considered what they had said. He was sure that the leader was someone they knew, at least someone he and Lazolon knew. “Lazolon, take Angelica with you, go to Benelvin and talk to Bartok, Trandor, and Thjorsen. I want to know if they have any insight into who might be behind the Dark Mages. Also, tell them what we discovered through the objects you brought here. They should be made aware of what we discovered.” He nodded and as they were preparing to leave, Sarzon stopped Angelica and said, “I want you to talk to Sartok and Dana. They might have an answer we have overlooked. We need to know if they have heard anything.” She said she would. They left within the hour.
They were welcomed in Benelvin by Delvina. She was fond of Angelica, and had made the bow she carried. “Angelica, you seem well.” She smiled, and said, “Thank you Delvina, I have looked forward visiting for a while.” Trandor had entered the room, and he too welcomed her to their home. “Angelica, you clave the Mage in two correct?” Trandor usually was much more congenial, this must be of great importance. Angelica replied, “I was with Lazolon, we had her in a trap. She started cursing us, and trying to break the trap. It seemed that the trap was weakening, and I wanted to keep her from escaping. When I slashed her with my sword, a dark vapor issued from her body, she shrieked, and then fell silent.” Trandor, rubbing his chin between his fingers, looked up, and asked, “Did anything else happen between your sword stroke, and her shriek?” Angelica thought about it, she had seen what a wraith was capable of when she had been the prisoner of Lilith and the Dark Elf several years before. “No, if you are asking if the Dark Mage was in league with Lilith, the answer is no.” He seemed relieved. At least they were dealing with just a Dark Mage. Lilith was still very dangerous, even as a wraith.
Delvina asked her, “Would you allow me to look into your thoughts?” She had no objections. She followed Delvina to a fountain. It was pure silver. Delvina poured water from an urn into the fountain and had Angelica place her hands on the edge. She peered in to the water and watched the scene play out. She put her hand to her mouth when she saw the Dark Mage. She knew her. This was the daughter of one of the Wizards in Storm Haven. Her name was Lana, daughter of Bright Storm.
She sent for Bright Storm. They needed answers. Bright Storm arrived the next day. He accompanied them into the Council Chambers. “Bright Storm, Lana is dead. Angelica killed her when she attacked a village north of the Fortress on the coast. When did she turn to the Darkness?” Bright Storm seemed to be unaware. He replied, “Lana left Storm Haven three years ago with another. A ranger named Barton. He was void of magic; went south to Asgard to see the Nephilim as they lived in their lands. That was the last time I heard from her, or about her until today.”
That saddened Delvina. A parent should not lose track of a child, only to learn they were dead. She bowed her head towards Bright Storm, “My condolences Bright Storm. Your loss is our loss.” He bowed and asked their leave to grieve. They let him leave. It made the air feel heavy. They had part of their answers. The rest would require a direct investigation. They sent Lazolon and Angelica on a mission to discover where they had gone, and what had happened to them.
Before they departed, Bartok asked to see them privately. He said, “You are going to enter Asgard, be wary. Odin and Thor will welcome you, as will most of the Nephilim there. Be wary of the border and try to enter some place other than through the mountains. The Frost Giants will not tolerate you being in their territory. Laufey is cunning and dangerous. Even Odin avoids entering the mountains unless he has no choice. They will kill you if they find you.” That was not good news, Angelica always careful to heed any warning from the Elders, took what he said to heart. “Bartok, is there anything else you can tell us before we leave? A direction of where to look, someone to find, anything that will help our cause?” he looked at Angelica and shook his head. He had given them all the help he could. Perhaps Elric might know something, but he had been quiet of late. No one had seen him in almost a year.
He did have one last word for them. “Do not use Magic to enter Asgard. Go by way of ship from Storm Haven and go around to the southern border. Find your way from there. Ask for Baldur, Sif, or Freya once you enter Asgard. They could help you more than any other Nephilim.” He bade them farewell, provided them with horses to get to Storm Haven, and returned to his house. He felt old and tired. So many battles, so many trials, and no end to this war. Seven hundred and fifty years of fighting, and no rest in sight.
Lazolon and Angelica rode at a leisurely pace. They would get to Asgard; they had no need to rush. This was an investigation. They were going to get answers to the mystery surrounding what had happened to Lana and Barton. As far as anyone knew, the presence of Dark Magic would not be in Asgard. The Nephilim could expect attacks from the Fallen, but mages and necromancers were unable to harm them. The last Fallen to attack Asgard had been Loki, and he had lost to Thor.
The journey to Storm Haven took a week. They had spent their nights in the forest, enjoying the scenery and each other’s company. They were comrades in arms, and friends. Lazolon was her uncle, and he had grown fond of the young woman. They decided to stop in Green Haven to see her father before heading to Asgard. The Dwarves venerated the Asgardians. They had given the dwarves their abilities to work with jewels and metals, and they carried similar weapons. Warhammers and Battle Axes. They came to her childhood home, and Grimmar was overjoyed to see her.
“Da, we are headed to Asgard on a council mission. Can you tell us anything we should watch out for when we are there, other than staying out of the land of the Frost Giants?” Grimmar looked at his daughter with pride, she was unafraid, and a relentless warrior. “Angelica, I would warn you to stay out of Asgard, but you are being sent. I would suggest you go to Odin’s Palace, and speak with Freya. She will help you if anyone can. Baldur, Sif, Heimdall will aid you as well, but Freya has a fondness for Dwarves, and she knows as much as Odin about those coming and going in Asgard.”
They took their leave of Grimmar and headed for Storm Haven. Lazolon had been quiet since leaving Green Haven. Angelica had spent so much time with him; she recognized that he was puzzling something out. “Lazolon, something has you puzzled, what is it?” he looked at her, always surprised when she would read his countenance. “I know that whatever it is we are looking for is in Asgard. What I am unable to decipher is how something Evil could gain a foothold there. We need answers, and all of this is tied into what happened to Lana and Barton. Either they were captured and taken outside of Asgard, or some agent of the Fallen is at work secretly.”
She had thought the same. They made it to Storm Haven and secured passage for themselves and the horses on a ship bound for the border of Asgard. Lazolon had decided to keep the horses, and rely on their wits rather than using magic. Two Elvin Rangers mounted on horseback would not bring undue attention. Many Elf Rangers had went to Asgard in the past. It would look usual to anyone searching for two wizards instead of two rangers.
They entered Asgard a week later. Lazolon had never been to Asgard, he had heard how beautiful it was from other Rangers, and that it almost seemed magical. He was unprepared for the stark beauty of the land. The only city was Asgard itself. It was actually an island in the middle of a huge lake. With one bridge across the water. The bridge shone like a rainbow, and it was wide enough to ride their horses across with ease. Heimdall was the Guardian of the Bridge, and he recognized Lazolon immediately. Lazolon spoke to him and he let them pass without giving them away. He gave them directions to find Freya, and gave them a gold tablet that would help them get into see her.
They travelled into the city. It was remarkable. Every building looked as if it was gold. The streets paved in marble, fountains cascading the purest water. The city was beautiful. They followed the directions that Heimdall had given them and found the entrance to the palace. Inside, they found Freya, at her golden loom. She was sitting there contemplating her next creation. Lazolon cleared his throat and Freya looked up. It had been years since she had seen him; the last time was in the Shadowlands. She inclined her head in greeting and he addressed her. “Freya, we are on an errand from the Council. We are trying to discover what happened to Barton and Lana. He was a ranger, she the daughter of Bright Storm.” Freya looked at them and then asked, “What happened to them to bring you here?” Lazolon lowered his gaze, “They left Strom Haven three years ago. Barton has yet to found, but Lana became a Dark Mage and we killed her. Only to discover her identity afterwards.”
Freya looked at him, “You have yet to explain why you are looking here.” Angelica spoke for the first time. “Lana and Barton left Storm Haven to journey here, to Asgard. They set out three years ago. We fought her near Atlantis, and discovered who she was when we reported to the Council in Benelvin. We followed their trail to Asgard.” Freya seemed startled. Could it be possible that one of the Fallen had a secret way in to Asgard, or had a secret lair? “Lazolon, I have called for Baldur and Sif. They are going to aid you in your search. If you find something, they will send for Thor. I bid you good searching. Wait for Baldur and Sif at the bridge. They will accompany you from there.” They went as directed, an hour later, Baldur and Sif appeared with horses for all of them. Baldur sent their horses to the stables with a page. They mounted the Asgardian horses and left by the bridge. The Asgardian horses were larger than the horses they came on. They were true War Horses. They carried the Asgardians into battle on many occasions, trained to assist their riders in battle.
Once they cleared the bridge, they turned to the west. Baldur and Sif believed that the answer was there. To the east, was the Frost Giants and with all his hate for Odin, Laufey would not allow a Dark Mage or Necromancer into their lands. Baldur estimated that they would need to travel for at least a week to reach the area they would begin their search. Lazolon was quite familiar with the Asgardians; they had travelled through the Shadowlands during the Dark Elves War.