As it happened, Elwynn had flown over to the opposite end of the keep, where she had been directing the assault from the drawbridge. Sweeping back over to the ruined tower, she spotted her friends clustered on what remained of the floor, and brought her carpet alongside.
"Hullo there!" the elf maid said, smiling, "Care for a lift? It's a long way down from where you are and I don't think the stairs are safe any more. Have you seen the bookseller anywhere? How about Kieraan, or Keiraan or Kieraen or whatever he calls himself? Is he still hiding? Hey! That's a Bog Beast down there! Did you kill it? That's no easy feat! Why is it covered all over in olive oil dressing? You weren't planning on eating it, were you? That's gross. Hurry now, we don't want to miss the end of the siege. Step lively!"
"Olive oil," Sammel repeated dazedly. He looked at Chaer, who was doubled over with laughter, and then at Brea, who smiled sheepishly at him. He shrugged helplessly and smiled. "Ah, well. The best laid plans... Come on, Laughing Boy." He grabbed Chaer's arm and propelled him onto Elwynn's carpet, stepping up after him.
Brea simply had to laugh as she climbed onto the carpet. She was beginning to feel like this whole affair was nothing but a strange dream.
*Olive Oil? Bog Beasts?* she thought to herself with a chuckle. Never in all her adventures with her mum and dad, had she ever done anything like this, and the most disconcerting part, was that she actually felt she was enjoying it. Regardless of the dangers they all still faced.
He calmly stepped onto the carpet. Then-
"Where in the bejeebers have you been, I really could have used you help over here! " the ninja fumed at her, "I was dangling off the side of the edge of the floor, for crying out loud...I was literally crying for you help! ...' The ninja paused.
"Well I'm very sorry I wasn't around to help," Elwynn said, somewhat bemused and somewhat annoyed, "but it's very difficult co-ordinating four different branches of service from two different countries without the benefit of a decent command staff or even a Combat Information Center. I'm afraid my other duties prohibit me from rescuing dangling ninjas when the opportunity arises."
"Must keep anger down, and in check," the ninja thought, as he looked at Elwynn's somewhat stern face. He then realized that she had her work to do, and saving him all the time wasn't it. He then took off his hood to reveal his scarred face.
"Sorry, my anger creeps up on me every now and then," the ninja apologized and his face showed it.
"Oh think nothing of it, young fellow." Elwynn said. "When we get back to the Hall I'll fix you up a nice batch of my patented featherfall serum (A Product of Elwynn, INC.)."
Then a smile cracked his face, "Yes, I do feel better now."
"Anyway, we haven't seen Melyda or Kieraan, but since the Aerial Servant isn't around, we know that Kieraan is still alive. So how goes the storming of the castle?" The now serious ninja said.
"Spectacularily well, it seems." Elwynn replied. "We pincered them neatly in the courtyard and most of them surrendered quite readily. No casualties on our side as far as I know. Now, all we have to do is find the bookseller and that Kieraan fellow."
"They both dropped down into the rubble." Karyn said. "I didn't see where, though."
"Very well." The elf maid lowered the carpet slowly to the ground. "First floor, assorted rubble and squished Bog Beast Salad (with dressing), watch your step."
Karyn led the others into the rubble with weapons drawn.
"Fan out a little, but don't loose sight of each other. They've got to be around here somewhere. And don't call for Melyda. We don't want Kieraan to know we've lost her too."
They needn't have worried. Melyda had found the two Rangers who had shot arrows at the Bog Beast. She'd watched the fight anxiously, and sighed with relief when part of the floor came crashing down on the beast. She was chatting with the Rangers when she noticed Sammel and the others stepping off of Elwynn's carpet and slowly fanning out, looking around carefully.
'They may not know where I am,' she thought, frowning. She took a step forward, into the light of a torch, and began shrilly whistling the song Sammel had whistled yesterday when he visited her at her stall.
Sammel was scanning the edge of the debris field when he heard a shrill whistle. He looked around and saw Melyda waving at him from a pool of light. He waved back.
"There she is," he said to the others. "She was smart enough to get away from possible trouble. So...should we look for Kieraan ourselves, or wait for backup?"
"Oh I think we can manage him ourselves." Elwynn said. "Go grab Melyda and bring her here, Sammel. I think she deserves to be in on this."
Sammel nodded. "That she does," he said as he began trotting toward her, waving. When he reached her, he looked at her tired face and asked, "How are you feeling?"
"Rather banged up, but otherwise fine," she replied. "Any sign of Kieraan?"
"Not yet. We're going to start searching for him. Come join us."
Melyda nodded. "Just give me a moment." She closed her eyes and sent healing energies to her ankle, until she knew she'd be able to walk, or run if it was necessary, without much discomfort. Then she followed Sammel back to the others, who were still gathered around the debris pile.
Along the way, Sammel told her about the fight with the Bog Beast, and the rather anticlimatic ending. Melyda chuckled. "It was a good plan, Sammel--even if it didn't work out as you intended," she said.
When they reached the group, Melyda accepted a knife from Chaer to replace the one she'd dropped when she fell. Then she looked at each one in turn.
"I can't thank you enough for all you've done for me," she said. "It means a great deal. And believe me, I'm willing and eager to find Kieraan--and that blasted book."
"I think we can manage him ourselves as well, luckily..." the ninja paused, "only person that might know where he can be is Melyda. However, he is pretty powerful wizard, and we do have the scars to prove it. Nonetheless, I believe that the along with you Elwynn, Kieraan's Aerial Servant will soon be our ally. Unfortunately, Kieraan has definitely got something up his sleeve, if he summoned the Servant. However, he does not have Melyda... We do! So, based on that, any suggestions?"
The ninja looked over to Brea, "As I said, I am still up for that ale." He grinned at her, before he put the hood back over his face.
Brea grinned back, "I'll keep ya to that." Then turning to Melyda, she adds "I don't believe we've ever been properly introduced...I'm Breannyn O'Connor, bookworm extraordinaire." She then bows dramatically, and offers the bookseller her hand in greeting.
The elf maid was poking the rubble with her staff and calling out into the early morning darkness. "Kieraan! Kieraan, woo-hoo!!! Kieraan? Are ya there?"
"I'm over here."
Not far from the ruins of the wall the wizard lay on the ground with a large slab of rock pinning his foot. His clothing was covered with dust and dirt, and there was a bad cut above his left eye, but he seemed otherwise unhurt. Nearby floated the strange Aerial Servant.
"I must congratulate you on your siegecraft, Lady." Kieraan said, quite matter-of-factly. "I don't think I have ever been witness to such a completely devastating assault. Well done."
The elf-maid bowed cordially but did not take her eyes from the pinned wizard.
"I am afraid I underestimated all of you." Kieraan continued in conversational tones, "I apologize for that."
"Well that's all right." Elwynn said. "I actually sort of encourage it. You'd be surprised at how often being considered silly and unimportant can be an advantage. Why I remember one time...."
Karyn touched Elwynn's arm, silencing her. Evidently the wizard had more to say.
"Well, be that as it may," the wizard said, "I'm afraid before I surrender I must do one last thing."
From his cloak he hauled out the book and before anyone could stop him he handed it to his Aerial Servant.
"Take this. Find some otherworldly guardian to take care of it. This is my last summons. Go."
"I'm outta here!" the Servant said, "I'm sure I speak for all your employees when I say, you suck."
The Servant rose with a rush of wind and disappeared into the still dark sky.
The Wizard smiled his old scheming smile. "I believe that is called detente, Lady. I don't have it, and neither do you."
"Well that may be so," Elwynn said, smiling, "we don't have the book, but we have the bookseller, and that's what was really important, and we also have you."
The elf-maid produced a pair of handcuffs (designed specifically for mages) and fastened them securly to Kieraan's wrists.
"You have the right to remain silent. If you give up the right to remain silent anything you say can and will be recorded and used in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorny one will be provided for you at no charge. If you are looking for an attorney I am available for a modest fee of...."
Melyda gasped and took a step forward as Kieraan handed the book over to the Aerial Servant. She watched helplessly as it disappeared into the sky, and let her breath out in an exasperated sigh. She stood by, stone- faced, as Elwynn clasped the handcuffs to Kieraan's wrists.
As Elwynn finished her recitation, Melyda heard the sound of barking, distant but rapidly coming closer. She turned, with a glad cry, to see two shapes dodging through the ranks of the Rangers and elves, approaching with a speed that astonished even her.
Ari reached her first. The wolfhound skidded to a stop, reared up, placed her paws on Melyda's shoulders, and frantically licked her face. Before Melyda could react, Ari bounced down, placed herself between Melyda and Keiraan, and began growling ferociously.
"No, Ari," Melyda called above the cacophony. She knelt down and put her arm around the dog's neck. "It's all right, Ari, he can't hurt me anymore." She continued to sooth Ari until, with a final, menacing bark, Ari turned back to Melyda and began licking her again, whining with joy.
Khale, meanwhile, had stalked up to Kieraan. She looked him over contemptuously, as only a cat can do, then turned her back to him. She trotted to Melyda and rubbed her head against her, purring loudly.
Sammel grinned as he watched the reunion. Once things had calmed down a bit, he drawled, "Now, Melyda, what was the deal with what you were saying to Kieraan? Quartz? *Seaweed?* You've never needed that before."
"True," Melyda replied as she stood up. "But you know how mages like *him* are." She tossed her head back at Kieraan. "They think magic has to be *so* complicated. I was planning to give him what he expected-- a complicated mixture that would take time to prepare. Time in which I hoped you'd fight free of that Bog Beast, or Elwynn would somehow break through to help."
"Melyda, do you realize how dangerous that could have been?" Sammel paled a little and placed his hands on her shoulders. "What if he realized you were bluffing?"
"You'd have been in more danger than I," Melyda replied. "He would have threatened you again, not me. And I would have started trying to remove it properly. But at that point I was so emotional--I'd *let* myself become so emotional--there was no way I could have concentrated well enough to remove it. He would have been delayed in either case." Melyda smiled and gave Sammel a quick hug. "All's well that ends well, Sammel. Don't worry about it."
Chaer had been standing nearby, listening. Now he stepped forward. "No need for scolding her, Sammel. What she did showed much-much courage." He took one of Melyda's hands in his and touched it, first to his forehead, then to his heart. "I greet you, podsister."
Melyda's eyes misted over as she repeated the gesture. "I greet you, podbrother," she said. The pod was a very important aspect of Chaer's people's close-knit society, and Chaer hadn't abandoned that simply because his wanderlust had taken him far away from his accustomed waters. For him to bring her into his pod was the highest honor he could give her. She looked at Sammel and laughed. "And you too, podbrother."
The ninja felt warm, upon knowing that Melyda was alright, and also knowing that Brea was up for that glass of ale back at the inn. However, the mission (to him) was not complete.
"I hate to break up this warm and enchanting reunion, but we are still missing the book," the ninja commented loudly, "If a very powerful wizard or some extraplanar creature gets a hold of that book, they will have a better chance of removing Melyda's spell than him!" The ninja gestured over to Kieraan.
"Moreover, Kieraan outta be glad that I didn't get my hands on him! Nonethless, we have to find that book..." the ninja continued then paused as thought he was thinking, "Only three people know where it is, the guy who has the book, the Aerial Servant, and possibly Kieraan or Melyda. Obviously we have the last mentioned people here, however, the Aerial Servant could be of use to us. Unfortunately, we don't know where he's at, or where to find him. So any suggestions?"
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