(Setting: Callista’s, Falcrest, Sessenne)
Callista hated fire. The smell of it. The taste of it. Yet here she was again, surrounded by it.
The arrows had began nearly ten minutes ago, falling flaming from the sky, bringing back long suppressed memories of fleeing from the human army, marching through the town setting fire to elven homes. ‘And of course, Sylvarius is no where to be found,’ she thought to herself as she dampened a blanket to smother the small patches of flame popping up wherever an arrow had landed.
She opened the door to the shop and tossed the blanket over the fire burning three feet away. Seeing no other fires threatening her space, she turned to move back inside.
“I’m tellin’ ya, nobody’s gonna miss the little elf bitch.”
Callista stopped and listened. She knew that voice. A man had been in the shop two days prior, accusing her of cheating him out of 30 gold. Cally’s shop sold all kinds of various items, from armors to candle wax, and this man needed a medicine that he couldn’t find elsewhere. Rarity equals cost in the business of resale, so naturally Cally’s price was high. The man talked her down 20 pieces, but paid when Cally would budge no further.
“She’s a cheat, I tell ya,” came the voice, now nearing the door the small building. “She disappears in the battle, and we take what we like. Who’s gonna stop us.” He had dropped his voice to a whisper, but the slur in his voice said that he was obviously too drunk to know exactly how loud he was speaking.
The knock startled Callista slightly. “Hey Cal, open the door,” the man called in, “I need somethin from ya.”
This was not a fight Callista wanted to have right now, especially without Sylvarius around, so she quietly went halfway up the stairs, and waited.
“I said open up,” he said, louder and more forcefully than last time. He knocked again. “I ain’t gonna ask no more, bitch.” When no answer came from inside, he laid his shoulder into the door.
“Fine, we’ll do this the hard way.” Two more times he laid into the door, and a third caused the lock to fail. He tumbled into the shop followed behind by two more men. “Where you at,” he called.
The thunder had awoken Sylvarius from his much needed nap. He’d had a long night, but the smell of fire and screams of death he heard from the well told him it wasn’t over. Springing from his bed, he threw on his usual “work” clothes, pulled the hood of his cloak over his head, and wrapped the scarves around his face. Daylight was not his norm, but the fires were clearly close, and he needed to figure out what was going on. Despite his nightly routines of pilfering and…eliminations… this was his city, and he didn’t like the idea of it being under fire. Besides that, he…
Sylvarius snatched his belts, knives, arrows and bow, and threw them around himself as he ran. He had to get to Cally. He had to get her safe.
As he crawled out of brush covered secret entrance from his cave-home, he heard the drunken shouts and a crash from a few meters away. Cally’s shop. No doubt someone taking advantage of this chaos to loot what they could. Syl could only blame them so much, but they chose the wrong shop.
As he snuck around the corner to the front of the shop, he saw a brutish looking man, facing the opposite direction, hovering around the doorway, continually poking his head in and out, clearly checking on something going on inside and standing watch. As Syl pondered his best plan of action, he heard Callista’s screams from inside. New plan.
In one swift motion, he grabbed a dagger from his right boot sheath and stood up behind the man, covering his mouth with one hand, and plunging the dagger up under his ribs with the other. He quickly slid the dagger back out and slammed the hilt into the man’s gut, blasting what air he had left out the newfound hole in his right lung. No screams.
Normally, this would be body disposal time, but more shouts and curses from inside made Syl forget protocol. He dropped the corpse and rushed through the broken in door. At the top of the stairs he saw the other man holding a knife, trying to bust his way through the upstairs door. Syl quickly noted that given this man’s size, it wouldn’t take long, but the drunk hadn’t paid the slightest bit of attention to Syl even being in the shop. Syl sheathed his dagger and pulled his bow from behind his back. Pulling a black feathered arrow out of his quiver, he lined up a shot with the man’s ankle, took a deep breath, and let loose.
The arrow was dead on, slicing right through the man’s tendons, and knocking him off balance, toppling him backwards down the stairs. Thump. Thump. Thump. As the man landed at Syl’s feet, he looked down into his face. He knew that look. Death.
Sylvarius slung his bow back into place, and hopped over the corpse as he made his way upstairs. He had to get to Cally. The flashbacks of pillagers, chaos and fire, were hitting hard, and he knew this was just the beginning of what was going to be a long day.
At the top of the stairs Syl found the door shut tightly, with something obviously braced against it from the inside.
“Cally, it’s me,” Syl shouted through the door. Callista had no more managed to unwedge the door and open it for him when Syl began to chide her for irritating more customers.
“Callista, seriously. How do you expect to make money if you irritate everyone you…”
Syl stopped short as something caught his eye from the window behind Cally’s head. It looked as though something was flying over the wall and darting out of view. As he moved closer to the window, he saw it again, diving over the wall, spewing something from its mouth onto the men stationed there, and flying off the the west, toward Sagetown. It was huge, easily twenty times the size of the men on the wall.
As the creature moved out of view, Syl noticed that the streets near the gate, once empty, were now full of armor clad orcs and goblins, and they were coming this way.
Sylvarius shook his head, clearly he was tired, and hallucinating, but one can’t exercise enough caution.
“We’ve got to move,” Sylvarius sternly shot at Callista. “Now.”
Any hesitation Callista may have had was instantly washed away by the roar of some ungodly creature and the screams of what sounded like hundreds of men dying at once. Syl knew of no creature with such power, but he wasn’t keen on the idea of sitting in a small building and waiting to be its lunch.
“Cally. The well out back. Grab some rope from downstairs and lower yourself to the bottom. Do it just like I showed you, and pull the rope when you’re at the bottom so nothing follows you. You know the directions to my cavern from there. Stay there and I’ll find you. We need to know what’s going on out there.”
As Callista grabbed a rope and filled a small bag with some rations and a lantern, Sylvarius peeked out the windows on either side of the building to the street.
“You’ve got a clear path right now. Nothing seems to have made it into the back. I’ll cover you.”
Syl quietly opened a window and readied his bow as he watched Callista slip around the building and lower herself into the well behind it. Once she was safe, he began searching for a way he could get into a better vantage point in the city. Architecturally, the Sage’s Tower would clearly provide the best look out over the city, but it wasn’t going to be easy to get there. Perhaps the best course would be sticking to the rooftops? In the chaos, not too many people are going to be paying attention to what’s above them. The grunts and crashes he heard downstairs sped up the decision making. He grabbed a vase from Callista’s bedside table and tossed it out the window. Hearing the grunts below stop, and the footsteps run toward the front door, he knew the distraction had worked. He quickly flung the back window open, and making sure nothing had yet crept into the back allies, slid out and scrambled up onto the rooftop.
As Sylvarius began making his way from rooftop to rooftop, across the city toward the Sage’s Tower, he began to hear the sounds of war fade and then grow again several times. The orcish hordes were attacking very specific parts of the city, and not ones that seemed structurally significant. There had been no siege, no threats. This wasn’t a dispute over land or rulership. There was something here that someone wanted, and Syl couldn’t help but wander what.
Sylvarius was so wrapped up in his thoughts he almost didn’t notice he had made it atop the wall surrounding the tower courtyard. As he peered down, contemplating ways to avoid the orcish hordes that were amassing below, a huge shadow began to pass over him, followed by another startling and indescribable roar. He looked up in time to see what he could not have fathomed in his wildest dreams. A gigantic, scaled, winged beast seemingly moved by rending the sky itself apart and then gliding effortlessly through the hole it had created. It was truly the most majestic, and yet most terrifying thing Sylvarius had ever seen in his whole life. He found himself in awe, completely off in a state of mesmerization as this creature went about its terrible business – flying and slamming into the walls of the tower, clawing out huge sections of the walls then breathing a foul something unknowing into the hole it had torn. Sylvarius was immediately beginning to reconsider his decision to climb this enormous creature’s new play thing.