This thread is for the Mithril Knights to post any travels or adventures that they or their friends have had in Arda. (In other words, this is a thread for the members to share their creative talents.) Feel free to comment on the stories and poems, but please keep the posts serious and on topic! Elenya clears her throat. "This is about a friend of mine, Jephrey Bartok, during a war that he participated in. I hope you enjoy!" Sardon Jephrey Bartok leaned against the trunk of a great karpa tree. Its cracked and knobby surface extended up toward the night sky and abruptly burst into a spray of thin branches which hung down from the heights in sweeping yellow-green vines. Jephrey tried to squeeze his back ****her into one of the many cracks scoring the karpa trunk, but it was too painful. If only there were a wider crack.... but this tree was perfect. The cuts and gashes of its trunk combined with the numerous vines offered a great hiding-place, and concealment was what Jephrey wanted. It would be no good if one of the men from camp decided to scout this way and saw him. If that happened and he was caught.... The shiver that ran up Jephrey's spine was not from the chilly night air but from pure terror. He ruthlessly crushed his fears. He may still be young but he should have more courage than that! Jephrey stared glumly into the muddy pool a couple of steps below his feet. The dim reflections of karpa trees were visible in the pool. This mirror would offer a full view of the forest and of any interlopers who might chance this way, however muddy and distorted. Yes, this was the perfect spot. Jephrey's head started up at the soft coo of some bird. He strained his ears for more but heard nothing. No, that wasn't his signal, but he kept his ears open anyway, listening for the twitter of a Night Peerwa. His efforts were answered by silence, and little by little his bushy brown head drooped down onto his chest. He knew what he must look like - little more than a boy, albeit a muscular one, sitting motionless against the back of a tree sulking and cowering, his white travel-stained shirt so dirty that it almost matched is brown pants - a pretty pathetic picture in need of a change. Jephrey rubbed his fingers through his bushy hair impatiently. If only he had his shoes, but he had had to have utter secrecy, and his heavy boots would not have helped his escape from camp. Brrr.... it was chilly, though. What useless thoughts! But still, this was better than thinking about what was before him. Yes, he was sulking and he knew it. What must be done, must be done. If the Maasha was allowed to continue with his plans then all of Wirther would suffer, and other kingdoms would fall like dominoes. He had never realized the truth until he had joined the Third Sardon Regiment, but his King, the Maarach, was little less than a ruthless, bloody, power-hungry tyrant. The Maasha was no better, probably even worse, but wasn't he, after all, the Maarach's head general? He was expected to be a bloody rogue like all the other commanders who marched and conquered under the mask of charity. Oh yes, they must keep the world safe, safe from the tyranny of the Couirans! Jephrey let a dry chuckle escape from his compressed mouth, the sarcasm of his last thoughts dawning on him. A sudden movement seen through the pond stopped the chuckle abruptly and seized Jephrey with fear. He froze in an instant but his sharp, black eyes moved quickly toward the movement. Not breathing he tried to fade into the tree. What had that been? There were no signs of anything. Then suddenly, off to his right, Jephrey saw the wind catch the branch of a karpa tree and throw it to the ground. Yuck! A moldy karpa! Jephrey shot out of his uncomfortable karpa crack and began to inspect the knobby tree for mold. He had no wish to contract karpooma.... What was he doing? These hours of waiting must be beginning to take a toll on his nerves, especially if he was worrying about mold when he could be missed at camp, or his fellow-conspirators had been caught, or if that hadn't been the wind in the tree.... Springing up silently, Jephrey tried to calm his fears as he made his way toward the moldy tree, gracefully slinking from stone to tree to bush across the marsh-like landscape. His bare feet made no sound on the springing turf and mud, but his heart - surely anyone could hear it! Stopping dead in his tracks, Jephrey made a visible effort to control himself. It felt like some sort of mechanical twisting trying to mask his face with a calm look while fear was trying to slip through any cracks it could find. It would be no good to meet an enemy with a fearful face. Smiling grimly, Jephrey moved on, every one of his muscles twitching with agitation. He reached the fallen branch and glanced all around for any human signs making sure that he kept clear of the infected tree. He relaxed. It had been the wind and nothing more, but if they didn't come soon he would be missed at camp or worse. If that happened.... He glanced at the moon. Wait, he couldn't have been waiting here for any more than an hour and a half. But still! Time was precious, and the minutes were passing quickly. They had to arrive soon! The sharp twitter of a Night Peerwa jerked Jephrey's eyes from the log on which his foot rested. They were coming! Was this the right thing to be doing? No time for that now. Jephrey sent an answering twitter into the chilly air. Now they would know his exact location and find him. Another twitter confirmed his visitors' presence. Jephrey concentrated on relaxing his feature and body - he wanted his visitors to see a young, keen-eyed man filled with confidence and surety, not a whimpering brown idiot who was frightened and unsure. That would be no good. He certainly felt like the latter, but as long as he made a good impression he would be fine. Resting one arm on his knee and letting the other hang down at his side where his sword should have been - if only he had been able to take his sword without attracting any notice, he tried to look completely relaxed and at home, the perfect picture of confidence. Not a single sound pervaded the slumber of the night, but Jephrey's eyes were roving from tree to tree, peering each and every direction into the shadows for any sign of his visitors. A slight movement and he saw them. Three slinking shadows, impossible for all but the most trained eyes to see, moving under cover in complete silence. One of the shadows lifted it's head and was aware of Jephrey, and abruptly, the three phantoms became gray-bearded men in deep blue uniforms moving with precision and caution. They skirted the sides of the pool and made their way toward Jephrey, hands resting on sword hilts. What was he about to do? Jephrey squeezed his eyes shut for a fraction of a second. Yes, he was about to reveal all of his army's battle plans to his late enemies. He was ultimately helping the Couirans - even if it meant death for him. But it had to be done. "The sun has not yet risen," intoned one of the men. "No," replied Jephrey, continuing the agreed-upon passwords, "nor will it until the darkness has fallen." He tried to keep his voice steady. He must appear confident. The leader nodded, his razor-sharp features cutting in the moonlight. "Opate Kasidious Owen," he said simply extending his hand toward Jephrey. Jephrey grasped the offered hand briefly while listening to the introductions of the other men. "Orate Marcus Romhen and Orate Lucas Marnen," the Opate said deeply nodding to the other two bearded men at his side. The Orate's faces were hidden in the darkness, but the moonlight brought out a certain feeling of wariness unlike the Opate who showed no sign of being on his guard, but Jephrey knew that the Opate was merely hiding what he felt. These men did not trust him. But why should they? "Opate Kasidious, Sirs," Jephrey replied addressing the men in the proper Couiran fashion, "Jephrey Bartok." It would be no good to add the Sardon. These men would rather he left off his title, especially since they had no regard for it. As a matter of fact, neither did he. He was completely giving up that old life, and might as well start now. He stopped attempting to relax on the log and stepped around it. "Are you the only person present?" the Opate asked mechanically. The other two men nodded their heads approvingly but said nothing. "Yes, Opate Kasidious. I can see that you do not trust me." Jephrey said abruptly. The way these men fingered their sword hilts made him feel uncomfortable. He might as well get to the bottom of things and straight to business. If they suspected that he was lying they would see to it that he did not escape to tell any tales. There had to be some trust involved! "We must learn to trust each other if we are going to make any progress. We have taken on a very large project that must succeed - the world depends on it, but without trust and friendship we will get nowhere." A little abrupt perhaps but to the point. There was no time to play little games. The Opate nodded. "Then let us begin our negotiations. I will be reporting everything said here to the Omara. We three will be the people meeting with you most often, giving you your orders, sending messages, and so on. Also, the Omara wishes to express on behalf of all the people of Wirther our gratitude to you for your invaluable help." The rolling voice filled Jephrey with a sense of duty. He was sure that he was doing the right thing. He had to be! A small, grim smile lit up his face as he settled down with the Opate and his soldiers to discuss his own acts of treason. His fear was replaced by a strong sense of duty. There was a job to be done, and he would see it accomplished!