Of Faith and Loose Ends
by Joseph Barone


        All about Sadosed were fallen warriors… bodies as far as the eye could see. The ground was soaked in
  crimson, and it seemed to rise up to the horizon, touching the setting sun and turning it dark with the color of
  blood. He glanced down at one of the bodies at his feet. Its blank gaze seemed to stare right into MacDougail’s

     The celt was pale as he stared down at the crest that the other wore. A gray shield, with the tree of life in its
  center, flanked by two crescent moons. The rune of defense rose high above them both and in the center of the
  tree, a skull and axe silhouetted. It was the symbol of Tir Thalor. Sadosed’s eyes drifted to another, and he too
  bore the same mark. As did another… and another.

      A lump formed inside his throat when Sadosed realized that all of the fallen warriors were of Tir Thalor.
  What has happened here? He thought to himself.

      Looking about, he did not see any bodies but those of his brothers and sisters. No other crests but those of Tir
  Thalor littered the ground. MacDougail then looked at one of the slain warriors to see what manner of man or
  beast may have slew them.

      "Uuuhh, Sadosed is that you?" a strained voice came from his left. Sadosed immediately stood up, craning his
  neck to see where the sound was coming from. Only the frozen grimaces of the dead greeted him.

      "Who’s there?" He responded, drawing out Thulėmegil and making his way towards the voice. For a moment he
  stopped and looked at his sword, regarding it. Something was not right but he could not put his finger on it.

     "Help me," the voice brought him out of his thoughts.

      He realized he was standing on a small hill of bodies, his feet and legs stained a deep crimson. The voice
  seemed to be coming from the top of the hill. From this angle, Sadosed saw the standard of Tir Thalor gently
  swaying in the wind. As he ascended the hill of bodies, he slipped more than once, his tabard and hands were now
  covered in the lifeblood of his fallen comrades. The hill seemed to grow larger the higher he ascended.

      More than once he saw a face he recognized in the pile of dead, someone he met on the field of battle. It felt
  to him like he had climbed for hours before reaching the summit. As Sadosed approached his destination he heard
  the sound of battle. Climbing even faster, he reached the top. From where he stood, MacDougail saw Granarinth
  Alandore, his sword in one hand and the battle standard of Tir Thalor in the other. He was engaged in combat
  with another figure, but from his vantage point Sadosed could not make out who or what he was fighting.

     Without thinking Sadosed charged forward to give aid to his commander and screamed, "Tir Thalor!!!"

     Upon hearing this, Granarinth turned briefly to see who was coming to his aid. The half-elf grinned with relief
  when he saw his friend charging madly. Just then, Sadosed was overcome by a strange sensation. His pace
  slowed, but not by his own accord. It was like he was moving through water. Sadosed’s thoughts were sharp and
  alert, but his body was dull and sluggish. To his shock everything, else about him was still normal. The one
  engaged with Granarinth raised his sword high and came down upon the half-elven commander. It seemed that
  Granarinth made no attempt to parry or to dodge the blow as the blade came across, slicing the standard of Tir
Thalor and biting deeply into his right shoulder.

      Sadosed screamed out but no sound left his lips. He tried to move faster but it seemed that the distance
  between him and the melee grew before his very eyes. MacDougail gazed in horror as he saw his friend’s blood
  flow freely from the shoulder wound. Frustrated, he could only watch his commander, the one Sadosed was sworn
  to protect, fall to his knees awaiting the blow that would end his life. Sadosed tried to close his eyes, but he
  found his gaze drawn to the conflict and unable to look away.

      Then he saw Granarinth, who now, knelt directly before him, clutching the broken standard in one hand and his
  battle sword was held limply in the other. Blood was sprayed across his face from the open wound in his shoulder.
  His face showed much pain and despair. Sadosed wondered how his friend ended up kneeling in front of him.
  Before he could bend over to assist him, MacDougail noticed that his blade was covered in blood. As he wondered
  how, Granarinth looked up at him and Sadosed saw nothing but hate where once respect and admiration used to
  show. It unsettled him to the point that he took a step back.

      "Betrayer!" the half elf hissed between clenched teeth.

      Sadosed just stared back in disbelief.

      "You failed me!" Granarinth said as his eyes burned into Sadosed’s very being. Granarinth waved the torn
  standard towards the bodies that surrounded them. "You failed your brothers, and you failed yourself. You bring
  dishonor on the name of Tir Thalor!" Finally, he spat.

      An overwhelming sense of fear came over MacDougail, so much that he could not even speak. He stumbled
  backwards from the words hitting him. He looked down at his sword covered in the blood of his friend and
  watched in horror as it writhed and twisted, taking on the appearance of a serpent. Sadosed let go of the blade
  but the serpent wrapped about his arm. The beast bit deeply into his sword hand. Surprisingly he felt no pain,
  only the pressure of the weight upon his arm.

       As Granarinth still knelt before him, head downward, something shifted behind the half elf, causing Sadosed
  to look in that direction. The bodies seemed to be melting, together, as if they were created from ice. Forgetting
  the serpent on his arm, Sadosed stared intently at the swirling chaos. Almost like a whirlpool it enveloped more of
  the bodies. It grew as if to drag them both down to some watery demise. In the midst of the chaos, a clawed,
  demonic hand came forth and snatched the kneeling Granarinth, pulling him quietly into the chaos.

      Sadosed attempted to lunge forward to his friend’s aid, but his arm seemed to be held fast. Looking at his
  hand, he saw the serpent was no longer there. In its place, a great wolf, darker than night and as large as a horse,
  held Sadosed’s hand in its mouth. He pulled and pulled to free himself but the creature gave no ground.

      "No!!!" the warrior of Tir Thalor howled. "Not again!!!" He frantically flailed his arm in a vain attempt to get to
  his friend. Alas, all Sadosed could do was watch his friend slowly sink into the chaotic abyss that lay before

      "Now the blame is yours, Sadosed Padreag MacDougail." A claming voice pieced the chaos. Standing to
  Sadosed’s left, opposite to the wolf, was Stalzer. Dressed in all white, the cleric of She of Storms and Running
  Waters, regarded the whirlpool of chaos before them. "You were not at Demonsgate, even though your duty is to
  protect Granarinth. I shielded you from the blame. But, now, you are the one who shall carry it." During this whole
  conversation, the red haired holy man did not even turn to regard Sadosed. "You know what you must do." Stalzer
  stated after a moment.

      The wolf growled, as if only to let Sadosed know that they were still joined. With a background of swirling
  chaos, the wolf and MacDougail locked gazes. He sensed the chaotic nature of the wolf, but also found a familiar
  place in the recesses of that chaos. In a moment of pure clarity, he knew what must be done. With his free hand,
  he drew his dirk and in one quick motioned sliced off the hand that the wolf held. Somehow Sadosed was not
  shocked on how easily the blade cut through flesh and bone. Now free of the wolf’s grasp MacDougail jumped
  headfirst into the abyss to save his friend.

      A sudden burst of laughter awoke Sadosed with a start. For a moment he still believed himself on that
  battlefield diving into the abyss. The warrior of Tir Thalor hastily looked about, and soon the realization of
  where he was sank in. He was in the main hall of Corellon Moon Manor, home of the Baron GhostDancer of the Red
  Hand and his newlywed Shadesong. It was, in fact, their wedding reception. Laughter and mirth filled the air and
  the clinking of cups rang in time with the tunes that the bards sung. One could feel the love and happiness in the
  great hall. Sadosed shook his head to drive out the visions of death he just witnessed just moments before.

     "Drank too much of that Hero’s Mead, eh?" a voice said loudly enough top draw him out of his nap.

     Sadosed looked up to see his Clan brother and friend Indigo smiling back. The swamp elf had an ornate bottle
  in one hand that resembled a monkey of some sorts. He followed the gaze of the swamp elf to the bottle that
  rested next to the chair. MacDougail smiled back at his friend as he retrieved the half-full bottle from the floor
  next to him. "No friend, I still have some. When I reach the point when this bottle is empty and I have no more to
  drink, then I will have drank too much." As to drive his point home, Sadosed took a long swig from the bottle. The
  liquid warmed the Celt’s throat, and the clove numbed his mouth. He wished that these nightmares would end soon.
  Indigo, quite pleased at his friend’s appreciation of the mead that Indigo himself had brewed, smiled before
  making his way to where the fairies fluttered about and caused mischief.

     As Sadosed scanned about the great hall, his eyes fell upon the dancing from of Kittarina. Her half-elven form
  moved as graceful as a bird in flight. For a moment, it seemed that the brightness of the room increased the more
  Kitta danced. Her paced quickened in time with the drumming, and Sadosed knew that all of the smaller
  conversations in the hall went dim as all attention fell upon the gypsy dancer. Faster and faster she moved her
  motions almost a blur. The sound of clapping hands and mugs being slammed against wood added to the drumming
  beat. The sound rose to the point where the stones themselves vibrated to the beat, then the dance ended and the
  noised ceased. Kittarina stood silently for a moment, her head down, which signaled the conclusion of the dance.
  Even in the torchlight one could see the perspiration on her brow, and her heavy breathing. Then, like thunder, the
  assembled group broke out into cheers. From the crowd, a figure approached her, and as if no words were
  needed between them Kittarina looked up and kissed him. Granarinth and Kittarina held their embrace, which, for
  the onlookers, seemed only but a moment. But, for anyone who has ever known the love of another, an embrace like
  this would seem to last an eternity. As the onlookers went back to their conversations and merriment, the voices of
  Hoot Dreamsinger and King Starshadow Moonbeam could be heard preparing to sing. Sadosed took this
  opportunity to approach his friend and commander. Kittarina saw the approach, and sensed something was
  bothering him. Feeling it better to leave the two alone she went in search of something to drink, kissing her
  beloved on the cheek as she went.

      "Granarinth milord," MacDougail began, "I wish to take my leave. I shall spend the remainder of the evening
  outside of the Manor. I will prepare the horses and equipment for our departure on the morrow."

     "It is quite early," the other replied. "The festivities have just begun."

      "Yes, but I am feeling a bit under the weather, and do not want to spoil the good cheer of my friends."

      The half-elf looked in the eyes of the other. Sadosed had served him for many years and Granarinth knew
  when something was troubling his aide. He also knew that when Sadosed wishes to talk about things that bothered
  him, he will, and by the look in his eyes, Sadosed did not want to speak of it. Granarinth rested his hand to the
  shoulder of the other, and simply stated, "You may take your leave."

      "Thank you, my friend" was the only response Sadosed gave. He then turned about and made his way through
  the hall and left. For the first time since he lost his sword, Thulėmegil, Sadosed Padreag MacDougail began to
  doubt himself.

*        *      *        *      *

     In the forest surrounding Starhaven, a well-worn path glimmered in the moonlight. A cool wind blew across the
  path, dancing through the trees and under the brush. At an unremarkable stretch of the trail, the wind
  unexpectedly died down. To most, this place would mean nothing for it looked the same as any other spot. To
  Sadosed Padreag MacDougail, however, this was the place that his spirit was broken. Though in body he was
  leagues away, his mind had been trapped in this place for what seemed to him like an eternity. This was the place
  where his blade Thulėmegil was shattered by an assassin’s enchanted blade. It was on this very spot now that a
  figure emerged from the woods. Dressed in a cloak of leaves, one might think this figure grew upward from the
  very earth itself. This assumption was not far from the truth, for anyone looking at this figure’s movements would
  at once notice that this was a creature of the forest. As the figure drew back his cowl, elven features were
  evident. He quickly scanned the ground, as if searching for something. He brought his hands up from his cloak and
a low mummer could be heard.

     "Nuvalye Ener.."

     The dust and leaves upon the ground shifted as if riding along the wind.

     "Nuvalye Ener.."

     The wind began stronger, blowing in a circular pattern. Within a few moments, a cyclone barely the height of a
  man was formed. Clouded in dust and debris it danced along the path, seemingly at the commands of the elf. As it
  swirled about, something glittered within the small tempest. It was as if tiny gems were scattered within the
  swirling form. The elf’s hands moved like a blur and his voice cresendoed as he chanted "Nuvalye Ener Sadosed!"
  Suddenly, the chanting halted. In a flash the figure withdrew a small crystal container from under his cloak, and
  opened it. With a final motion of his free hand, the glittering objects in the cyclone flew out from the dirt, and,
  like insects to a flame, entered the crystalline container. The Cyclone died down as the gems entered the

     In a few short moments, all that remained of the tiny twister was a small pile of dirt and debris. The now-full
  container was quickly replaced into the folds of the cloak. He glanced briefly at the moon and smiled. The moon
  smiled back.

     Fear not Sadosed Padreag MacDougail... you shall be whole again
, were the Elf’s final thoughts as he
disappeared into the shroud of night.

copyright 1998 Joseph Barone All Rights Reserved.

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