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Ashdown

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Re: Ashdown

Postby Seikfreid » Mon Apr 05, 2010 8:19 pm

Thanks Napoleon! I use an older Canon PowerShot A610 digital camera, but the real key is getting the lighting right. I usually have someone hold a flashlight or lantern that evenly lights the moc to balance with the room lights in my room. Since every build is different, it still takes me a few shots to get the lighting just right. After that, the main problem I have is blurriness. The only way to solve this is by using a tripod or by patiently taking a few shots until your hand is steady enough to have a clear picture. I hope that helps a little!

I like this story so much, that I think me and Sir Zepp will heavily endorse it on Castleland.com. Would you like that?


I'd love that, thanks! :D

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Re: Ashdown

Postby Seikfreid » Wed Apr 07, 2010 12:38 am

Napoleon, I also forgot to mention that while I too think Anselfer (and characters like him) are far too common in stories, his past is a necessary piece of the story's plot later on.

My camera's USB upload cable broke on me last week, but I ordered another and it is on its way. In the meantime, I have the next scene all built and waiting to be photographed. I just don't really want to wait for the new cable, so I will go ahead with the next entry in the story and I will add the corresponding pictures later.


The sun crested the eastern horizon, lighting the grass and the trees of the countryside. The gray walls of Gethna, solid and resolute, stood impassive and shadowy despite the light that now attempted to penetrate their darkest recesses. Soldiers on the morning's first watch patrolled the walls, gazing here and there about the land.

Seikfreid had awoken almost an hour earlier when it was still dark to the smell of sizzling bacon and the best food the dwarf brothers had to offer. After a delicious meal of some familiar foods and a variety of tasty exotic morsels, Domrund had asked about Anselfer. Seikfreid recounted the events of their last meeting, sparing no details, and was surprised at the vast sadness he felt when recounting the tale. After Seikfreid had finished, Gromund and Domrund exchanged glances. They were silent for several minutes, before Domrund finally spoke.

"Seikfreid, we must leave for your home village of Ashdown."

"When?" asked Seikfreid. "And what for?"

It was Gromund who responded. "We leave now, as soon as provisions can be packed. I know a route that will get us to the town within a day if we march hard. Our reasons are mainly suspicions, but I fear that your hometown may be under attack by trolls. At least, we must get to the bottom of this. Did you ever wonder why these trolls have suddenly become organized and started attacking the northern settlements in force?"

Seikfreid admitted to himself that he had never considered this strange behavior of the usually tribal and territorial trolls.

*****************************************************************************************************************************************

Seikfreid and his two dwarven companions had just passed out of the east gate of Gethna when the sound of many running boots and the clanking of armor reached their ears. A large company of Crown infantry pounded its way up the path towards the three travelers. They stepped to the side of the road, waiting for the soldiers to pass. As the warriors neared Seikfreid, he recognized the captain whose troops had entered the city in front of him the day before.

"Greetings, Gromund. Good morrow to you, Domrund," he said in his striking voice.

"And God watch over you as well, my friend," replied Gromund. "Tell me, to where do you go with such haste on this the finest of mornings?"

The captain looked grave when he replied. "To Ashdown, to reinforce there the garrison that protects the village from invasion, though I fear I am already too late."

Domrund raised an eyebrow. "To Ashdown, eh? We are headed there as well. I had a suspicion that if I left the city by this road I would find you along the way."

Captain Algair grinned. "So, I am that predictable, eh Dom? Ah, well, I must be aging faster than I thought." He looked at Seikfreid inquiringly. "And this is...?"

Gromund waved a hand. "Enough, we can discuss this later. We have to reach Ashdown by tomorrow's dawn or I doubt there will be left one wall of the village. Seikfreid, can you run?"

Seikfreid nodded nervously.

"Good, then let's get going!"
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Re: Ashdown

Postby Seikfreid » Sun Apr 25, 2010 12:04 am

Three hours later, the company turned off the main trail onto a small, barely worn side path that led into a dense forest of hardwoods. As soon as they entered under the canopy of the trees, the bright sunlight of the plains faded into a dim, dusky light, throwing great shadows on the ground. Seikfreid furrowed his brow; something about this forest seemed vaguely familiar. Shaking off the feeling, Seikfreid turned his attention on the Crown captain and Domrund, who had moved a fair distance ahead of the rest of the column and who were engaged in quiet conversation.

The two disappeared from sight as they rounded a bend and were hidden by a thicket. As Seikfreid turned the corner, he was momentarily dazzled by a sudden burst of sunlight. By squinting, Seikfreid could just make out the nature of his surroundings. As his eyes adjusted, he saw that the company had emerged from the woods into a small clearing, where they were confronted by a large vertical cliff face.

There was a ledge big enough to stand on some twenty feet up and, once reached, the climb to the top became very easy. But there seemed to be no way up to that ledge. At that moment, something clicked in Seikfreid's mind and he realized why the forest looked familiar. This same forest stretched far to the north and turned west, where it joined with the outer wall of Ashdown and provided the hunters of that village with plenty of prey. Seikfreid had walked sections of this very forest many times. Yet something did not make sense to him. While Ashdown was only a few miles due west of this place, the cliff that confronted the group now ran for leagues in either direction. Now they would have to turn due north and proceed straight through the woods.

It would have been quicker just to follow the main path thought Seikfreid. But Domrund, the Crown captain, and another soldier walked straight up to the cliff face and began to search in specific areas. Seikfreid was about to ask Gromund what they were doing when Domrund let out a triumphant cry and held aloft the end of a chain. The captain and the soldier quickly found identical chains, which they used to help pull themselves up the cliff. They soon reached the ledge and proceeded up the rest of the slope. More soldiers had already started their ascents, so Seikfreid waited his turn and scaled the wall.

Image

The second he reached the clifftop, Seikfreid recognized the spot. He had been here so many times, yet he had not noticed the chains, nor had he even realized there was a way down to the ledge.

"Seikfreid!" called Gromund.

Seikfreid shook himself and followed the rest of the company into the forest towards Ashdown.
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Re: Ashdown

Postby Seikfreid » Fri Apr 30, 2010 9:01 pm

"This way, hurry up now!" whispered Algair. His men had drawn their weapons and were now racing across towards the wall of Ashdown that backed the woods. Six scouts awaited the company at the small, hidden side gate to the village. They held it open for the soldiers and then fell into file behind the rest of the unit.

Seikfreid drew out his sword and readied his bow; he wasn't sure which he would need first. As the company wound its way up the little dirt path that led through the town, Seikfreid noticed that he had not seen a single villager or even a cow or a chicken since they had arrived. It was absurdly quiet in the village. No crickets chirped, no birds sang, nothing made a sound except for the boots of the soldiers-thump, thump, thump-and the metal of their armor-clank, clank, clank.

After a minute of running, Seikfreid began to hear sounds coming from the part of the village ahead of him. The houses were packed in more tightly here, and Seikfreid knew that they were heading towards the town's main gate. The gate was the only part of the town's wall that was made of stone. Attached to the gate on one side was a stone battlement and on the other sat the guard barracks and a bell tower. With much renovation, these stone fortifications were the only part of Ashdown that had survived since the building of the city a thousand years ago.

The din of the fighting ahead had turned into a roar. Seikfreid could distinguish the clash of weapons, the shouts of men, and the roar of trolls as they battled for control of the village. The villagers were gone or were fighting alongside the town's defenders. If the gate defenses fell, Ashdown would be looted and then burned by the trolls. For another matter, if the enemy was allowed to take Ashdown, there would be no more Crown outposts to stand in the way of the trolls' invasion of the Crown Empire.

Image

The company rounded a bend and came clear of the houses. Just forty yards away across an open field, trolls and skeletal undead warriors swarmed the battlements and the open ground just inside the gate. The trolls must have clambered over the walls on ladders because the gate was still intact, but nevertheless they had troops inside the village. The town's defenders stood bravely against their enemies' onslaught, but the creatures were too many and the Crown soldiers were being overrun.

"Hold up, form your lines here!" ordered Algair. "Archers, crossbowmen! Release volley on my mark. Aim for the archers and the larger trolls! Ready... FIRE!"

A swarm of arrows hissed through the air, then plunged down into the midst of the enemy. Most of the projectiles found their marks, and a large number of undead archers and trolls fell dead.

"Infantry, prepare to charge! Archers, second volley...FIRE!" cried Algair.

Another hissing cloud of arrows slammed into a wave of trolls just climbing over the battlements. They fell into a confused and disorganized mess of an attack.

"Archers, fire at will! Infantry, ready... CHAAAAAARGEE!!!"

With a deafening yell, the Crown soldiers rushed forward at full speed. Seikfreid was amazed that the company kept its formation during the charge. Domrund and Gromund, who could not keep the pace, had fallen behind. Seikfreid kept charging with the men. One of the troll commanders on the ground tried to hastily organize a formation to slow Algair's assault, but it was his final mistake. The captain's highly trained soldiers cut down their enemies and kept running without even breaking formation.

Once they reached the barracks, Algair's troops split. One group fought off the trolls on the ground and secured the gate while the other turned left and stemmed the tide of trolls coming onto the top of the barracks. Seikfreid got swept up in this group and was eventually forced onto the walkway above the gate. Here he was pushed into a group of Crown soldiers fighting back to back against trolls on both sides. As more trolls clambered onto the barracks roof, Seikfreid was trapped in this little group of soldiers, surrounded by enemies.

The rest of the group that had attacked with Seikfreid was now fighting for control of the barracks roof, and it would be a while before they could help him. Seikfreid was attacked by a large troll. Strangely calm, he slew the thing easily and struck at another. He saw an escape route from the roof. Then all hell broke loose below.

The mighty oaken gate was smashed to bits, sending Crown knights flying and killing some. In the gateway stood a huge hulking giant troll. The thing was horribly ugly and huge, and it wielded a club that was bigger than Seikfreid. The troll smashed aside a dozen warriors before it was finally slowed by some brave soldiers. Seikfreid saw Domrund kill a troll, then the troll fell onto the dwarf's boot. A plate of armor on the troll lodged itself in the bround, trapping Domrund's foot underneath it. Even with his great strength, the dwarf could not budge.

Image

Algair saw this and screamed for the archers to bring down the thing, but the arrows did little to stop it. Algair fought furiously on his way to help, but he was not going to make it. Gromund was entangled with five undead. The troll raised its club to strike down Domrund. Without thinking, Seikfreid charged across the wall and leaped into the air, sword up. He gave a terrible yell and plunged the blade into the massive thing's back. It bellowed in agony and soldiers tried to cover their ears at the sound. It thrashed violently and smashed its back into the wall, trying to throw Seikfreid. But the boy hung on grimly. At last, the huge thing gave a gasp and collapsed in a heap to the ground.

At the sight of their fallen champion, the invading horde turned and fled. The hundreds of trolls and undead on the attack ran from the village and disappeared into the countryside. Seikfreid tried to stand, but the troll's huge arm had fallen across him and he couldn't budge. Suddenly, the arm was lifted by some great force, and a hand extended to help Seikfreid up.

"Welcome home, Seikfreid," said Anselfer.
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Re: Ashdown

Postby Napoleon » Fri Apr 30, 2010 9:25 pm

I like the story a lot. :) I think you are doing an especially good job on the mocs lately. I like how you are being really descriptive:

Seikfreid wrote:Algair saw this and screamed for the archers to bring down the thing, but the arrows did little to stop it. Algair fought furiously on his way to help, but he was not going to make it. Gromund was entangled with five undead. The troll raised its club to strike down Domrund. Without thinking, Seikfreid charged across the wall and leaped into the air, sword up. He gave a terrible yell and plunged the blade into the massive thing's back. It bellowed in agony and soldiers tried to cover their ears at the sound. It thrashed violently and smashed its back into the wall, trying to throw Seikfreid. But the boy hung on grimly. At last, the huge thing gave a gasp and collapsed in a heap to the ground.


I could never come close to that. I love how your paragraphs are long and detailed. :)

Oh, by the way, I think you are doin' great over on the Castleland story. In case you don't read the discussion thread, we had sorta arrived on the name "The Jarithian War." We like being democratic, so do you like the title? We are going to do the next story on a Sameri(Yes, that's how I spell it) Empire invasion. Will you be participating? I hope ya can. :)

Keep writin'! EDIT: What set did you get Seikfreid's cape from? I don't think I've seen it before.
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Re: Ashdown

Postby Seikfreid » Sat May 01, 2010 12:05 am

Thanks so much Napoleon!! I guess I just love to write and, well, it works for me. :D I'm glad you noticed the mocs improving. I guess practice makes perfect and I have started spending more time on these recently.

Oh, by the way, I think you are doin' great over on the Castleland story. In case you don't read the discussion thread, we had sorta arrived on the name "The Jarithian War." We like being democratic, so do you like the title? We are going to do the next story on a Sameri(Yes, that's how I spell it) Empire invasion. Will you be participating? I hope ya can. :)

Thanks again! I try to check up on the discussion from time to time, but I hadn't seen that yet. I love the name! And you bet I'll participate in the next story!

What set did you get Seikfreid's cape from? I don't think I've seen it before.

I actually got it from the original Harry Potter Quidditch Practice Set, 4726.
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Re: Ashdown

Postby Seikfreid » Tue May 18, 2010 11:17 pm

No moc this time, but there will be one in the next post.

After he had recovered from his initial shock at seeing Anselfer alive and had experienced a joyful reunion, Seikfreid was led into a stone room adjacent to the barracks. Anselfer, Algair, the captain of the city guard, Domrund, Gromund, and several other people Seikfreid did not recognize were seated at a long stone table in the center of the room. Wooden chairs were drawn out, and Seikfreid took a seat in one between Gromund and Anselfer.

"Gentlemen. May I have your attention please," it was one of the Crown leaders Seikfreid did not recognize.

"Men, do you know why we are gathered here? It is for two reasons. The first is because we failed to recognize the threat of the trolls before it was too late. The second reason is due the efforts of these men here." He pointed to Algair and Anselfer. "And to the men under their command. Captain Algair slowed the advance of a huge troll army on its way to attack Gethna long enough for our armies to mobilize and set up an ambush. The trolls were caught unawares and we crushed and scattered them. They will be back, and in greater force, but we have won a minor victory and have bought ourselves valuable time. Anselfer managed to escape from a troll ambush, rescue this boy, and return to Ashdown in time to prepare the town for an assault. His leadership and skill as a warrior led our troops to victory today."

Men murmured and ducked their heads in appreciation to the brave leaders.

"And now," continued the Crown leader, "it is time we fully prepared ourselves for war. We must find more men to fight for us. Old allies must be called up. Men must be recruited from the countryside. I have sent riders to the elves at Tarim and the dwarves at their grand city of Thorgard. We need all the men we can get."

Gromund rose. "Thorgard is not the place to ask for the aid of the dwarves. The government there is corrupt and your words would be dismissed by the city's steward, if it even reached his ears. We must travel to Gorgorund, to the halls of King Draius."

"I knew not of the halls of which you speak. Go to this place, Gromund, and try to bring us aid. Our fate may lie in your hands."

"Thank you, General Tremoir."

Domrund now rose to speak. "There is now one final order of business to attend to before we disperse to gain some needed rest. I gaze at the stars, for they reveal many things to me. Before I left Gethna, I saw the stars Faelngar and Virigil in the morning sky. And behold! They were aligned exactly. The last time that happened was over three hundred years ago. In the time of..."

A startled murmur ran about the table. "Gallaharr!" it said.

Domrund nodded. "Yes, the stars predicted a new champion of the land. The heir of Gallaharr, though he did not know it before. He was given his father's sword to wield, the sword carried by his line since the disappearance of Gallaharr's sword Fallandron, which means flame. This sword, and the blood an heritage of Gallaharr, are now carried by one boy, one champion who can unite us in a brotherhood of hope as the alliance of old. He bears the same scar that Gallaharr himself bore upon his temple. That boy is Seikfreid, son of Agnar, who now sits before you!"

A gasp went around the table. A flutter of hope filled the hearts of the men in the room. Gallaharr's line was not ended.
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Re: Ashdown

Postby Napoleon » Fri May 21, 2010 5:59 pm

Okay, one thing: this sounds very much like Return of the King. :wink: Seikfreid life sounds a lot like Aragorn. But other than that, I am loving the story! :D I also like the MOCs and I am looking forward to seeing more. Perhaps you should try making a website like me and Sir Zeppelin did. Webs.com is easy and totally free. The Castleland Group Stories site was made with it, as were my two sites in my sig. Anyway, keep up the really good work. :)
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Re: Ashdown

Postby Seikfreid » Sun Jun 20, 2010 5:07 pm

Napoleon wrote:Okay, one thing: this sounds very much like Return of the King. :wink: Seikfreid life sounds a lot like Aragorn. But other than that, I am loving the story! :D I also like the MOCs and I am looking forward to seeing more. Perhaps you should try making a website like me and Sir Zeppelin did. Webs.com is easy and totally free. The Castleland Group Stories site was made with it, as were my two sites in my sig. Anyway, keep up the really good work. :)

First, I'm really, really sorry for not posting in so long, but I have been extra busy recently and I have had little free time. Thanks for being patient! :lol: Well, Seikfreid is based loosely off a combination of Aragorn (who has always been my favorite character from any story) and Shea from the Sword of Shannara. So it is pretty understandable why he seems similar. Just wait awhile in the story and it will differ from the Return of the King immensely.

Ok, thanks for the advice! I think I may try that. Thanks a lot Napoleon!
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Re: Ashdown

Postby Napoleon » Sun Jun 20, 2010 10:18 pm

Seikfreid wrote: First, I'm really, really sorry for not posting in so long, but I have been extra busy recently and I have had little free time. Thanks for being patient! :lol: Well, Seikfreid is based loosely off a combination of Aragorn (who has always been my favorite character from any story) and Shea from the Sword of Shannara. So it is pretty understandable why he seems similar. Just wait awhile in the story and it will differ from the Return of the King immensely.

Ok, thanks for the advice! I think I may try that. Thanks a lot Napoleon!


Don't worry, I understand if you're busy. :) I agree, Aragorn is one the best literary characters ever. He and Samwise Gamgee are my two favorite characters from LotR. I've never read or heard of The Sword of Shannara, is it good? This is just a guess, but is it Celtic?

Oh, we're moving the Castleland Group Stories over to Teenlegofans.com. Would you be willing to join? I wouldn't like to move it if you couldn't join. We think we could get more site members if we moved it there, and we could probably get more writers. I am pretty sure at least a couple of our members on TLF.com would contribute. Anyway, sorry I got a little off topic there, we just didn't want to move it without telling you.

Keep writing! :mrgreen:
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Re: Ashdown

Postby Seikfreid » Thu Jun 24, 2010 1:26 am

Napoleon wrote: I've never read or heard of The Sword of Shannara, is it good? This is just a guess, but is it Celtic?

It's a pretty good series, my favorite is The Sword of Shannara, which is the first one in the series, though not the first chronologically. I seriously have no idea of its origin, but it may well be Celtic.

Oh, we're moving the Castleland Group Stories over to Teenlegofans.com. Would you be willing to join? I wouldn't like to move it if you couldn't join. We think we could get more site members if we moved it there, and we could probably get more writers. I am pretty sure at least a couple of our members on TLF.com would contribute. Anyway, sorry I got a little off topic there, we just didn't want to move it without telling you.


Sounds great, I'll go ahead and join over there!
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Re: Ashdown

Postby Seikfreid » Thu Jun 24, 2010 5:14 pm

THIS CONCLUDES PART II, THE DEFENSE OF THE NORTH. NOW BEGINS PART III, THE JOURNEY NORTH.

The council continued for hours as the Crown generals discussed strategy with Anselfer. The entire Crown army would need to mobilize to counter this threat, and peasants would need to be called up for military service. Allies would need to be summoned, and defenses would need to be constructed in the border regions.

Towards the end of the meeting, Anselfer made a request to the council. "Many years ago," he said, "My predecessor, a great sage, gave a small prophecy. He said that the heir of Gallaharr would emerge from darkness and be delivered into my hands. Obviously, this has come to pass. He also said that Gallaharr's heir would venture north to fight a great evil, and that he would awaken the spirit of Gallaharr to battle the evil that stirred in the land. From these words, I gather that Gallaharr lives on, in spirit form, somewhere in the north! We must find his final resting place, of which there is no record, before our unknown adversary can. Doubtless he already knows of the prophecy's existence and is searching for Gallaharr now. I would ask that the council grant me a few men to accompany Seikfreid on the journey north."

There was silence for a moment, then one of the generals moved around the side of the table and said quietly, "Anselfer, we had, ah, counted on your presence to assist us in the battles to come. Who else possesses your power and skill?"

"Do not think that I am abandoning you!" said Anselfer sternly. "I will return as soon as this quest is completed. But trust me when I tell you, awakening Gallaharr's sleeping spirit is the only chance we have at uniting the lands against our adversaries. And Gallaharr's return will be an enormous morale boost for our troops."

The general nodded slowly. "Then I will give you what men you need. How many do you require? A platoon? A division?"

"No," replied Anselfer, "Only one."

"One," said the general, confused. "And who might that be?"

Anselfer looked across at the captain standing at attention by the door. "Algair."

******************************************************************************************************************************************
The party departed later that day, carrying packs and weapons, which they knew they would need in the northlands. Anselfer led them; Seikfreid; Algair and his lieutenant, Gregor; Domrund; and Gromund followed behind. The six were seen off by a division of Crown troops who lined the path on either side.

Once they had traveled just over a league, Anselfer turned from the path and led the six onto a smaller, barely distinguishable path that led northwest, towards the mountains. They crossed the foothills and stopped to rest near the foot of the mountains at midday. They had a small meal of breads and sausage and rose to continue their journey northward. They walked over a plain for another mile and a half before they came to the edge of an expanse of trees.

Image

Here Anselfer stopped, gazing into the trees.

"What-mmmmph!" Seikfreid found his mouth covered by Algair, who held his finger over his mouth urgently.

"Quietly now," whispered the captain. "This is the Forest of Faran, home to a great nation of men and elves. They have no alliances with other nations, but have always been immensely loyal to Gallaharr's line. However, they don't yet know that you are one of his line. These people call themselves the Centurions. They are mighty warriors, and we must be cautious."

Anselfer turned to face the others. His expression was wary and alert. "We are being watched," he said.
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Re: Ashdown

Postby Tower of Iron Will » Thu Jun 24, 2010 7:54 pm

I like this story so far. I will agree that it does resemble LOTR, but considering how influential that series is I would fault you on that. The story of the HERO is one that has been told and retold countless times. It has been a good read so far, keep it up.
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Re: Ashdown

Postby Seikfreid » Wed Jul 21, 2010 2:31 am

Thanks Tower! I have always enjoyed the story of the hero, even though it has been told millions of times. :)

Sorry guys, no moc this time, I just got back from a 200 mile bike trip and I'm kind of tired.


Gromund stepped forward. "Then I am afraid it is our time to depart for now," he said. "My people will need to prepare for the war that lies inevitably before us, and I feel that I cannot waste a moment's time. The halls of Draius at Gorgorund lie north of here, in the mountains. It will take me a few days to reach them. If ever you have need of a safe haven, seek us there."

The company said their hasty goodbyes to the two sturdy dwarves and watched them vanish into the sunset. Then they turned back and followed Anselfer into the woods. Every member of the company knew they were being observed every step of the way, but there was no turning back now. As darkness fell in the trees and the path grew more and more overgrown, a voice called out in the darkness, low and menacing,

"Who enters the great Forest of Faran? On whose business come you?"

Anselfer responded, his voice even and resonant, "Is this how the great Centurions greet their leader? You already know me, I am Anselfer! I bring with me a descendant of the mighty Gallaharr. We seek to awaken the warrior's spirit as the prophecy has fortold!"

The voice scoffed back, "Of course you do, agent of evil! If he is a descendant of Gallaharr, then let him prove it by defeating my bow!"

"ENOUGH! Lay down your weapon!" the voice came from ahead of the company. A glow lit up the forest and Seikfreid saw a brown-cloaked man holding a torch in one hand and a sword in the other. His face was hidden by his hood, but Seikfreid could just make out a rough beard and a tanned, weathered face. The man wore light, brown woodsman's boots and carried a bow and quiver on his back. he nodded to the company.

"Anselfer," he said, bowing slightly. Then he turned to the others. "I am Fangrim, captain of the Centurion Frontier Guard."
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Re: Ashdown

Postby Seikfreid » Fri Jul 23, 2010 8:29 pm

Early the next morning, after a hearty meal provided by the Frontier Guard cook, Fangrim led the company deep into the Forest of Faran. They walked for several miles, and from the first steps Fangrim and Algair took an immediate liking to each other. They talked about strategy, morale, and battle skills, and the most dangerous enemies they had fought, the greatest battles they had won, and so on. They had so much in common, in fact, that Seikfreid could only tell them apart by their clothing; Algair wore the blue tunic of the Crown, while Fangrim was dressed in the brown cloak and hood of a Frontiersman. Even the two men's swords were almost identical; their blades were exactly the same size and their hilts only differed because Algair's was slightly shorter with a silver pommel, and Fangrim's was longer with a pommel of shining obsidian.

After a little more than an hour of walking along a trail that only Fangrim could pick out, they came to a stone wall that ringed a clearing. The huge wooden gates were opened and they passed into a large open clearing. Numerous simple buildings were built around its edge, but in the center there stood the strangest sight Seikfreid had ever seen. A wooden platform rested atop a tree, but it was the tree that was odd. It was perfectly straight and smooth, and it went up just over sixty feet and then ended in a flat top, upon which the platform sat. A spiraling ramp wound around the outside of the trunk, which led up to the base of the platform.

"That," said Fangrim, "is the throne room of our king. We call the tree 'God's Spear' because of its shape. There are also iron deposits beneath it which anchor the trunk to the ground, and even though it has no leaves the tree is in perfect conditions and bears no sign of age."

They approached the base of the tree and upon reaching it, Anselfer spoke quietly to Algair. "Captain, I want you and Gregor to wait here an keep an eye out for us. If anyone makes a move to go up the ramp, head them off and get up first."

Algair cocked an eyebrow. "Expecting trouble?"

Anselfer was quiet a moment, then said, "You can never be too careful."

The captain nodded and stepped back as Fangrim led Anselfer and Seikfreid up the ramp to the platform. He began to spar with Gregor, but he stopped after a bit because the hair on his neck began to prickle. The two guards who stood impassively on either side of the entrance to the tree stared vacantly out into the clearing.

As if they could not think on their own thought Algair. As if Algair's eyes widened as he realized what he was seeing...

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Seikfreid stepped onto the platform behind Anselfer and followed him out into the center, in front of a low wooden wall. He bowed, as Anselfer had instructed him to, then raised his eyes to look upon the Centurions' king. He was dressed in glossy black plate armor, his head adorned by a golden crown and his face covered by a gray mask. He was seated on a large throne on a platform above the level of the one on which Seikfreid stood. On the king's right was a black winged helmet, and on his left was a thin black sword.

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"My king Vurgond," said Fangrim, bowing.

"Who now stands before me?" The king's voice was thunderous and deep.

"Vurgond," said Anselfer, "this is Seikfreid, son of Agnar. He is Gallaharr's heir, and the one who can reawaken Gallaharr's spirit."

The king was silent for a moment, then he began to laugh. "And why should I believe this? Why should my nation spring to follow this boy into a war after a thousand years with no trace of Gallaharr's line in existence?"

"But there is the prophecy to consider!"

"Bah! Seers make mistakes!"

Anselfer shook his head. "But elves do not. And that was an Elvish prophecy."

"I will not believe you until this boy returns with Gallaharr, rejuvinated, by his side! Now out of my sight!" said Vurgond in anger. "Do not try to fool me again, for I am no fool!"

Anselfer bowed and the three were escorted off the platform by two guards.
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