AN: All right, hi guys. The is S. Crossman. Laurana's Quest is mine.

I am giving you all fair warning. This story is long. The chapters are short, but overall this story has almost reached 200 pages. Single-spaced. So you have been warned.

Summary: Going off to find the Sword of Heart, Laurana and her friends go through betrayal, pain and death. But together they remain strong, first searching for the legendary sword, then in their quest to stop Inferna, the Queen of Darkness. But when one of her own betrays her, will Laurana have the strength to keep fighting?

Laurana's Quest

Book # 1

A Question of Faith

Part 1: To Survive

Chapter 1: The Female Knight

Mistowa stood at the castle gate, watching the people heard through. There was a large crowd gathering for the tournament. It was an annual event that the king held to determine who would become his Chief of Guards. Mistowa smiled at the thought. He had been Chief of Guards at the castle for almost ten years, since he was fifteen years old. No one had ever beaten him. He was the best fighter in the county, perhaps, he reasoned, the best in the country.

Just as it was approaching noon, Mistowa began to close the heavy gates. The tournament was scheduled to begin at noon, and he had to get ready. It was a glorious day, perfect for such an event. The sun beat down, a cool, northerly wind caressed the earth. He looked up, squinting. He could see three more travellers on the road from the town. They did not appear to be together. The first was wearing a white dress. He was surprised to see that her dress was not dust stained from the roads.

"Wait!" cried the first, coming to a stop. She was petite, maybe fifteen, and very pretty. She crocked her head to the side. He was caught by surprise when he saw her ears were pointed. She was an elf! "I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to be late."

"Not a problem, miss." He bowed deeply, keeping his eyes on her. Elves were supposedly a magical people, which explained why her dress was as clean as linen hanging to dry after a wash.

Mistowa opened the gate enough to let her pass. He watched her disappear down the hall and out into the court yard. He felt a tingle in the air that came from the hall she had gone down. He shook his head, dismissing it as his excitement.

Mistowa watched the next of the three travellers come closer. The traveller was clad in heavy armour, but he jogged along at a descent pace. Mistowa did not recognize the armour. It was old, yet not rusted, and well cared for by someone. The sword at his hilt was ornately carved, and Mistowa wondered briefly if this new young man was the son of a merchant. His face was hidden with his visor.

"Whoa there, young man," Mistowa said, glancing down at the knife that was in a sheath tied to the man's body. "Only one weapon per fighter. Surrender the knife or the sword, it is your choice." The young man lifted an unarmoured hand, and drew the knife, presenting it to Mistowa blade first. Mistowa studied the youth's hands: they were not calloused, unscarred, reminding him of a child's hands. He waved the young knight in, taking the blade. The knight disappeared down the opposite hallway, without so much as a word. Mistowa smirked after the young man.

"That one will be no challenge," he thought. "He's probably never wielded a sword in mock battle, let alone in a true fight."

"I am not too late, am I?" asked a new voice, startling him. The third traveller had arrived, clad in finely tanned leather, a metal helm covering most of his face. Boyish blue eyes stared at Mistowa.

"Go on in," he replied. "I see no weapon," he added suspiciously. The youth motioned to the quiver of arrows strapped to his back, along with a short bow. He let the archer in, then closed and looked the gate, smiling to himself all the while.

* * *

Christiana took her seat. Children's giddy shouts and men's loud exclamation filled the air. Christiana grimaced. Humans were too rowdy! She wished she could leave, but it was important that she see this. If King Edmond had recruited any more men, then she had to know. The council of Karinet was suspicious of King Edmond. They suspected he was in league with a woman who called herself the Queen of Darkness. If there was foul play, Christiana wanted to stop it before it spread to the nearby town.

She, unlike most elves, had a soft spot in her heart for humans. She had always figured it was because she was part human. She was, in fact, a half-elf. Her mother had been a human, and had died of old age when she was only forty, which would work out to the maturity of an eight-year old human child. She wondered what her mother would say if she knew Christiana was spying on humans.

Christiana pushed the thoughts out of her mind. She didn't need to think such thoughts. It wouldn't be long now, before the festivities began. She hoped that the crowd would die down a little. The men behind her were singing lewd songs. She hoped they weren't drunk. Drunken men died to easily. She felt the presence of the daggers hidden in her long sleeve, and in her boot very acutely, praying she would find no need to use them.

She sat back and watched as the knights began to parade in. Most of the knights carried themselves with very little dignity, yet two of the knights carried themselves proudly. One Christiana recognized as the knight who had let her in. The other wore ancient ceremonial armour of a Knight of the Pegasus, an elvin group committed to the defence of the city of Corillia. This troubled her. The elves of Corillia did not usually come out of their ancient sanctuary to visit the human world, unless it was to visit the High Mage Tower. The Tower was far from here, over the mountains.

The Knight of the Pegasus surprised her. He was actually a superb warrior, but something was amiss . . . He lacked the natural grace of an elf. What he lacked, he made up for in strength and skill. Christiana noted the prowess with more then a passing interest. This was an elvin taught fighter, but he was not graceful enough to be an elf. His power was almost unnatural. He beat every opponent that was sent against him. So did the knight who let her in. It was proving to be a very exciting match.

The field was finally narrowed to two knights, The Knight of the Pegasus, and the knight who let her in. Both knights fought diligently, but they couldn't last forever. . Eventually, the bigger of the two began to tire. The Knight of Pegasus was much younger, and much quicker on his feet. The human had probably never faced an elf in battle before. The human knight had managed to adapt to each of his previous opponents, but the Knight of Pegasus changed his strategy relentlessly, leaving the human knight confused.

Christiana watched them as they brought their swords at each other. The circle in which they battled had been placed under an enchantment, so that no weapon could not pierce flesh within the circle. It was the only spell that was in the palace. Christiana could feel the power of the ensorcelled circle fading. Something was straining the spell.

The Knight of the Pegasus brought his sword down with such force that it snapped the other knight's sword in two. Christiana felt a odd tingle in the air. "Magic! He wields a magic sword! That is why he is so strong!" she thought. The familiar tingle subsided. The human knight threw the broken sword from the arena in disgust, and fell to his knees.

"That warrior has great potential" whispered the man on Christiana's right. Christiana turned to him. She swept her hair over her ears self-consciously.

"Indeed," replied Christian, "but he is an elf."

"What?" the man whispered angrily. "No elf has ever entered this castle as a guard! The king will be upset if he finds out. Someone should tell him, so that an elf doesn't gain too much authority!" The man jumped from his seat and ran over to speak with a soldier who stood guarding the king. The soldier whispered to the king, who looked puzzled. Christiana smiled. She needed to talk to the knight of Pegasus, and it wouldn't do if he joined their side.

"Ladies, and gentlemen, I regret to inform you that there has been a slight misunderstanding. This fine young warrior has never been in my ranks before, so he cannot become my Chief of Guards. For his outstanding skills, however, I award him the position of second in command, answering only to Mistowa and myself. Mistowa Mistique, you are the Chief of Guards for yet another year. I invite you all to join us in the banquet hall for refreshments," called out the king.

The Knight of the Pegasus dropped his head in disappointment. Mistowa, on the other hand, let out a great excited roar. They left the circle Christiana pushed her way through the crowd, trying to follow him. She realized that he was emanating tons of magical energies now that he was out of the circle. She followed the magical trail that he left behind. She arrived at a small, one room hut, part of the barracks, she surmised. She snuck around to the back of the hut and peered in.

The knight removed his helmet, and stared into the fire that he had built, little of his face showing to Christiana. His hair tumbled down to his shoulders in golden blond waves. He pulled his hair back off his neck, wiping it with a cloth from the wash basin. Christiana noticed his ears. They weren't as sharp as the ears of an elf. "A half-elf," she whispered with a smile. "I thought as much." This young warrior was a half-elf, just like her. The knight pulled his sword out of its sheath. It glowed brilliantly in the fading light.

"It can't be!" exclaimed Christiana. It was Bianco Saetta, a mystical sword with the power to control lightning and call down storms. It explained much of his strength. She wondered if the elf before her was a descendant of the guardian family who kept the ancient artifact, or if he was one of the few whom the sword called Master.

The sun had set, so it was now dark everywhere but in the little hut. The knight sheathed his sword and placed both sheath and sword on his bed. He began to pull off his armour. Christiana flinched, but could not keep her eyes off the half-elf. She breathed a sigh of relief when she realized that the knight had left clothing on under his armour.

The knight looked around, then pulled off his breast plate. Christiana stifled a cry. The knight was a girl, at most eighty years old. She heard a muffled cry come from the opposite side of the hut. Christiana got up and raced to the other side of the hut. The half elf was trapped in a corner by the Chief of Guards. He had a knife in his hand.

"Back away," ordered Christiana. She held a ball of fire in her hand. The man looked from Christiana, then back to the girl. He sighed. The Chief of Guards decided not to go up against her magic. He ran out the door, and threw a piece of parchment at Christiana.

"If you care so much about your little friend, why don't you join her!" he yelled as he disappeared into the darkness.

Christian smiled at the half-elf, and extended her hand.

"Thanks," she said, smiling back. She took Christiana's hand, and helped herself up. "I don't know what he would have done if you hadn't stopped him." She sighed. "So much for this job." She shivered. "You command black magic, don't you?" There was fear in her voice, but a measure of respect as well. "Without white?"

"How did you know that?" Christiana asked softly, staring at the other girl in amazement. She knew that only a natural mage could read someone's magic in their touch. The girl only offered her a little smile.

Christiana flattened the parchment out. "This is not good," she whispered. The girl looked puzzled.

"Why? What is the matter?" the girl asked.

"Young Knight, first let me commend you on your fine skills. They are extraordinary," Christiana read aloud. "But it is my duty to inform you that magic is strictly forbidden by the king. Should you wish to continue this job, I suggest that you meet me in the courtyard at dawn tomorrow to receive your assignment of trust. Signed, Mistowa Mistique, Chief of Guards."

The girl sighed. She rubbed her temples with her forefingers. "Do you have any idea what he wants?" she asked.

"I don't have a clue," replied Christiana.

"Thanks for all your help, miss... um, what did you say your name was?"

"I didn't. I am Christiana, Christiana Bloomindale, of Karinet," replied Christiana. "What is your name?"

"I am Laurana Willows, of Corillia," said the girl. "Do you have a place to stay?" she added.

"No, I was originally just going to return to the High Tower of Mages, but it would take me much too long, even if I cast a Swift spell."

"Then you should remain here for the night," replied the girl, another troubled look crossing her face.. "Ami til roup elle t, samno donna gamics." As Laurana whispered nearly incoherent words, Christiana felt the room pulsate with power. A cot, similar to the one Laurana was to sleep in, appeared in the corner under the window.

"Good dreams to you, Christiana," Laurana whispered in Elvish as she climbed into her cot. Christiana could tell Laurana told the truth of being raised in Corillia. She had the accent when she spoke Elvish.

"To you as well, my friend," replied Christiana, using the traditional response. Christiana reached over to put out the fire that had been lighting the room. As the darkness began to take the room, she smiled. It had been one of the most interesting days she had in months. As Christiana closed her eye she wondered what would happen when the sun rose the next day, and if she could truly trust this half-elf, Laurana.

AN: So what did you think? It's a start, anyway. Please R and R. I'd really like to know what people think.