Mori: Rise of the Heroes

Plans of the Isktashi

(Setting: Sage’s Tower, Falcrest, Sessenne)

Sylvarius eyed the situation and contemplated as he hid amongst the fallen bricks atop the wall surrounding the courtyard. There were roughly 50 orcs and goblins below him in the courtyard, and a huge beast perched on the tower. Clearly whatever they wanted was inside, seemingly protected by nothing more than a crazed figure of some sort clambering about the beast and a completely useless spellcaster.

“Hmm..” Syl thought to himself, “Whatever they’re after is up there in the level of ‘priceless artifacts’ and might be a bit difficult to find a market for without being caught. Clearly not worth the risk involved. The beast on the other hand… A few scales from that could definitely buy some happiness.”

A rogue spray of hot sand came a bit too close, and snapped Sylvarius back into the situation at hand. Apparently this thing breathes heat and dirt. Great. Even for him to attain a few scales would be no easy feat, but Cally’s shop was going to no doubt need some repairs, and this seemed the best opportunity for some quick cash if he could find a buyer. He just had to figure out a way to avoid a brawl with an army of orcs, and getting eaten by a large flying demon-beast. If only the tower’s defenses stood half a chance, there might be a hope of killing this creature so he could snatch a few scales in the wake.

As if on queue, his ears heard wild shouts from the air in the distance. Squinting, he could make out two figures on another hellspawn in flight, heading straight at the tower, swinging weapons wildly overhead. Again he thought to himself that these two new combatants were either destined to be heroes, or dinner for a monster. “Then again, martyrs get the best bards’ tales.”

Mila saw the claw smashing against the table and swung her body to grab the ledge with her right hand as well and climb back through the window into the room. The breath from the dragon scalded her face but she had to ignore it- not putting much thought into her actions before she slammed her blade into the creature for leverage and lept forward onto the claw, removing a small dagger from her side. She thrust it as hard as she could into the claw, hoping to break through some of the armor not only for distractions sake, but so she would have something to hold onto should the creature attempt to move. She looks at Viera and shook her head, the air becoming harder and harder to breathe as her lungs and face burn like fire.

“I won’t let him take it…but he’s going to take down this whole tower. You have to get the Sage and your initiates out, now!”

She thought about reaching for her blade that had fallen onto the floor, but her reach would be too short. ‘Amonta de’ Toya!’

Walgrin grinned. The Thing Ashen had made wasn’t half bad. They’d cleared the distance and their prey was back in sight, and that was all he could ask of the beast. He pulled on his makeshift reins and coaxed the creature ascend to above the dragon, before drawing his sword. “Alright Ashen. It’s time for some insanity,” he said with a grin, “I’m going to try to leave the beast’s underbelly exposed; try to pound it with something – spells or even our ride.” He patted the neck of the proto-drake, and grinned again. He quickly calculated the right moment to leap from the drake, and took to the skies in a plunge. Screaming as he plunges through the air with Cleft Reality in hand, he aimed for the dragon’s neck hoping to sever the Dragon’s Head.

Ashen’s eyes went wide as Walgrin lept from his steering position. Rather than take the reigns Ashen attempted to sooth its mind and lower it into the tower courtyard. As he descended he thought he saw someone behind the bricks, but decided that was a worry for another time. Finally back on solid ground Ashen backed away from the green monstrosity and severed his connection with it. The proto-drake seemed shaken for a moment, but regained its composure and returned to the air.

Mila gave up on trying to retrieve her blade- the fire in her lungs and on her face becoming too much to bear to put extra energy into anything else. She hears the sound of wings outside and says a silent prayer that it isn’t another one of these creatures. Without many other options, she digs the heel of her good leg into the claw and removes the dagger, only to slam it against the scaled skin once more- again, just hoping to distract the beast until the tower can be cleared.

Walgrin’s blade landed true, slipping between the scales and plunging a good 20 inches into the beast neck. As the pain from the crystal blade spread through the dragon’s body, it screamed, released itself from the tower and tried to steady itself midair with its wings. Mila, still holding on to the leg that was holding the Galanti, found herself now above nothing but 45 feet of air. “No…no, no, no, no, no!” Mila cried as the beast took off into the sky, though she was too stubborn to let go of the dagger that still held to it; refusing to let him get away with what the Magi clearly held dear.

Amin delotha lle!

Confident that the transfigured beast would not return and attack him Ashen took up position in the courtyard within spell distance of the massive dragon. Walgrin told him to prepare an attack when the belly was exposed and Ashen knew just what to do. An exposed underbelly was a weak point on many of the animals of Mori, and if he assumed right, something sharp would be ideal.

Ashen was becoming fatigued and was having more and more trouble maintaining his illusory skin. But there was more battle to fight. The Isktashi could not be allowed to obtain the Galanti. He reached once more into the churning ocean of essence, its power even stronger now that he was back at the Sage’s Tower, and began to manipulate the water in the air. Molecules of water began to condense and freeze into long heavy spears of ice. Six spears floated in the air, hovering just above Ashen’s head, and Ashen waited for an opening.

The dragon, oblivious to the threat, lashed out at Mila with it’s jaws, trying to free itself from one of the nusiances still clinging to it.

Walgrin completely expected the Dragon’s attention on himself, but once he saw the wyrm turning its head beneath itself to blast something down below, he used all his strength to wrench Cleft Reality in the wound, hoping to cut the muscles its using to turns its head. No longer possessing the strength to move mountains however, he feels the wear on his body from his insane drop from the sky, and the steellike fibers of the dragon’s insides refused to yield, despite his efforts.

Mila cursed the beast as if it could understand her, though it’s head turning to snap at her suggested perhaps it did. She shifted her weight to avoid the first bite but the second was too fast for even her quick movement and two of the teeth latched onto the hand that held fast to the dagger, breaking through the armored gauntlet that protected it. She let’s out a blood curdling scream as the teeth pierce through her skin and blood starts to flow down her arm. She had no choice but to let go. Either way, she had failed.

Namaarie…” She whispers to herself and the gods as she releases the blade and falls through the air toward the courtyard below. She takes once last look at the night sky before closing her eyes. “Amin hiraetha.

Ashen heard Mila scream in pain and begin hurtling toward the courtyard. The dragon was going to get away with the Galanti if Ashen did not stop it. On the other hand, if he did fire his spears, Mila would surely die. Ashen cursed under his breath; the world may be a wicked place, but he would not let someone die while he had the power to save them. He released his hold on the spears which crashed to the ground shattering into thousands of shards of ice. He closed his eyes and reached out to the green proto-drake that had perched on a high rooftop. Feeling its mind, Ashen sparked it into action. The proto-drake jumped from the rooftop fell into a sharp dive toward Mila. Through Ashen’s direction it slipped its scaly feet around Mila’s left arm and left leg then spread its wings quickly to break the fall, gliding gently down to the courtyard beside Ashen. The proto-drake released her and spun around taking back to the sky.

Ashen kneeled down next to her to make sure she was still breathing. Finding her beaten but alive, he looked up at the dragon to see if there was still time for an attack.

Meanwhile, Syl continued to watch, continued to gather all the information he could before alerting anyone or anything to his presence. Clearly the two beast-riders were attempting to stop this devil beast…this “Dragon” as he heard one call it, from taking something from the tower which it now appeared to have a grasp on. The prior combatant to the dragon had taken a fall from the tower, but was saved by the wizard in the courtyard; clearly she must be on their side as well.

Sylvarius didn’t know anything about “Dragons,” but he knew something about hunting, and that these amateurs were doing it wrong. Any flying creature will escape you if you don’t terminate its means to do so. You aim an arrow to either sever the muscles and ligaments, or to pin the wings of a turkey so it can’t fly off. As best as Syl could tell, this thing was just one giant turkey. One VERY giant turkey…with razor sharp talons…and teeth.

Moving himself into as close of a position as he could, Syl nocked an arrow. Focusing in on what appeared to be the tendons at the base of the wing, he waited and timed the flaps of the dragon’s wings, tried to watch and estimate the dragon’s movements as it reacted to the figure climbing and slashing at it, and calculated the distance between himself and the target. Waiting until the massive wings were just starting to spread would be crucial, so as to leave the tendons in their tightest and widest position, and provide more of a chance to do any good.

When all the pieces fell in place, Syl drew his breath in, and in one fluid motion, leveled the bow, drew to point, and released. Perfect timing on his part, the rest was up to fate and fate was kind. The arrow hit directly under the arm of the left wing of the beast, who immediately pulled the wing close to its body and began to spiral around the tower, heading toward the orcish host gathered in the courtyard. As it began to lose altitude, it made a desperate snap at the interloper still riding its back.

Walgrin grinned as the dragon twisted trying to grab him off of its back, and he used the brief loosening of muscles as an opening. He ripped his sword out through the side of the Dragon’s neck, while darting his hand into the wound to keep on top of the beast. Unfortunately for the Sand-Wyrm, Walgrin wasn’t done with trying to bring down the beast. He flipped his hand upside down to use Cleft Reality to stab back into the wound. As the creature started to fall, Walgrin pulled his hand from the wound briefly, placed it onto the pommel of his blade, and shoved it down with all his mortal frame can muster.

The dragon reeled again. Finding itself unable to use its wings properly with the damage it had sustained, it quickly began to lose altitude.

“Perfect,” Syl spoke out loud to no one but himself. The dragon was going down, spiraling around the tower and then straight into the mass of orcs, and neither had any idea he was there yet. He clearly didn’t have enough arrows to fight an army, but if he could use the dragon to sew chaos amongst the Isktashi, perhaps they would thin their own ranks. The impact, dust, and confusion should cause the whole lot of those half-wits to either flee, or lash out wildly at anything and everything. With any luck, that should also frighten the beast into lashing back as well.

Sylvarius knew he only had a short amount of time before the dragon slammed into the ground, and he wanted to get as many orcs in its path as possible. He quickly pulled out the oil soaked arrows he kept in his quiver. Six was all he had, but it would have to be enough. Pulling the small piece of flint from his pouch, he lit one arrow and used it to light the rest.
“Shit. Hot,” he again spoke to the air. Syl took a running leap from the wall onto the nearest rooftop and on to the next, until he had come up on the side of the standing army. He laid four of the arrows down, nocked two and quickly loosed them toward the already dry grass on the closest side of the orcs. The second the arrows cleared his bow he grabbed the remaining arrows and took off toward a new position, letting two more fly into the rear flanks of the startled horde. Fires had cropped up on both sides of the group, and it turns out orcs aren’t too much smarter than sheep.
After he sent his two remaining arrows into the grass on the far side of the courtyard to funnel the confused orcs into the path of the falling dragon, he slipped into the shadow of a chimney, tightened up the scarf around his face, and watched. Much like herding cattle, for this tactic to work, he was going to have to nip at the heels of any who strayed from the pack.

Mila let out a soft sigh and slowly opened her eyes, expecting to get a glimpse of the almighty Polvec himself but instead saw Ashen standing beside her.

“What….you’re no god…”

She sat up slowly, her head spinning from the fall and blood loss. As the feeling in her leg, hand, and throat began rushing back, she gripped her ripped arm, stifling a cry of pain.

“Damned beast…I thought it was over for me…”

She looked up at Ashen and then to the Dragon who still flew with Walgrin on its back and the Galanti in its hand when a thought strikes her.

“That dagger is embedded pretty deep in those wretched scales. If you could summon another storm…perhaps the metal that lines the handle could act as a conductor…give it a little shock and make it drop the Galanti.”

Ashen nodded, glad to see Mila conscious again. “Save your strength mellon. See if you can find refuge from the Isktashi. I’ll see what I can do to put your plan into action.”

Mila sighed and laid back again, gripping her hand as tight as possible to stave the blood loss. There wasn’t much more she could do now and she secretly cursed Ashen for being present even though he had saved her life. She could attempt to heal her own wounds but she wouldn’t do so in front of strangers that she didn’t completely trust yet.

Ashen decided there was not enough time to summon an entire storm, the lightning would have to do. He took a step toward the dragon which was now plummeting straight toward the courtyard. How could he hit the dragon and not fry Walgrin at the same time? Ashen looked over the panicking Orcs running from fires on one side of the courtyard, and to the dragon that was falling from the sky, Walgrin riding on its back. Unfortunately lighting was not going to work. Instead Ashen decided containing the beast once it was down would be far more beneficial. Grounding it was one thing, but controlling it once it was down was another.

The essence in the courtyard was strong, partially from Magai, but also from the many trees that lined its perimeter. Ashen tapped into the essence of the vegetation, manipulating cell walls and causing the tree branches and roots to grow rapidly. Ashen raised his fingers in front of his face, swaying them as if mimicking the branches, but it was the other way around; the branches were following his command. Once the dragon landed, Ashen was ready to use the branches and roots to ensnare it. He had trapped the goblin leader earlier the same day with this trick, but he was afraid that the same idea would be for naught on a creature this massive. Either way it might buy some time for his companions to prepare another attack.

Suddenly the dragon had no more room to fall, and it slammed into the pack of orcs. A number were crushed completely under the weight of the beast and more were knocked backward by the rush of air that accompanied the crash. Walgrin rolled with the momentum over the dragon’s front shoulder, and when he rose to his feet he found himself staring down the massive jaws of the beast. The orcs cleared a space around him, half afraid of the man with the crystal sword who rode the beast, half afraid of the beast itself.

As the dragon slammed into the ground of the courtyard, Ashen intertwined his fingers and roots of the courtyard began wrapping themselves around the scaly feet of the dragon. At the same time the tree branches, moving swiftly through the air wrapped themselves around the wing joints and neck causing the dragon to once again writhe in pain, the rough bark of the branches digging into the wounds already present. From the movement leaves flew everywhere.

The dragon wrenched its body trying to free itself from the floral restraints but the trees held fast to the dirt of the courtyard. Though the roots had grown and wrapped themselves around the beast, deep taproots still held the trees in place. Even so the dragon’s might was too much for several of the trees. The one holding its undamaged wing and another with roots ensnaring its left leg were ripped from the ground and slung across the courtyard.

As Walgrin came to a stop in the courtyard, he figured the dragon wouldn’t ignore him for long, and he was right. The dragon rose up onto it’s feet and roared at him. It flapped its wings to fly, but halfway through the movement winced in pain. Instead it stared down Walgrin, and let fly a burst of hot sand from its mouth. Wall tried to position himself so the blast of sand would hit as many of the orcs behind him as possible, holding his cloak open wide to obfuscate the scene. As soon as he saw the telltale shift of the scales on its neck, once it was too late for wyrm to change its action, Walgrin dropped his cloak to its natural position, and darted off to the side away from the dragon. Without Wall there to catch the brunt of the blast, 3 orcs standing in the line of fire took a direct hit from the breath weapon, leaving them little more than charred husks.

Mila sat up in time to see the beast come crashing to the ground and Walgrin dismount it.

“Not bad.”

She huffed and stood weakly to her feet. The Galanti was still in that claw and she intended to get it back. She looked at Ashen and the robes he wears and rips off his sleeve, wrapping it around her injured arm tightly so she would at least have a free hand to work with.

“Sorry. I’ll replace it.”

She gave him a sly smirk before darting off as quickly as her battered body would allow towards the dragon, coming up from the side to ensure she didn’t get blasted by that horrid breath again. She glanced back to make sure she wasn’t being watched carefully and, confident that no one was paying her close attention, placed her right hand over the injured left and incanted a prayer-spell. She felt some discomfort as the bones in her fingers and hand slipped back to their proper places, then felt the familiar burn of magically healing flesh, closing the puncture wounds beneath her gauntlet. Once the effect ended, she flexed her fingers, grinned slyly, and set her sights on the orcs in front of her.

As Sylvarius watched the chaos, he couldn’t help but grin a little. “Really big turkey indeed,” he thought to himself. These other three warriors and himself seem to be doing the city guard’s job. Syl was pondering where in fact the magai or the city guard even were when he noticed an orc leap through the fires and start running down the hallway. Orcs don’t like fire to begin with, so for him to intentionally jump through a flame, whatever this dragon beast was spraying around was clearly nothing to joke around with.

As the orc stepped a few feet more into the alley Syl pulled his daggers from their sheaths behind his waist and made his move. He dropped gracefully on top of the fleeing orc, using its own momentum to knock it forward. Before it even had time to hit the ground however, his subclavian arteries had been severed. He was unconscious by the time he hit the ground, and Sylvarius let inertia carry him into a roll and back on his feet as he scanned the alley for any other escapee that might have followed.

The dragon howled in pain again, ripping at the roots that held it to the ground. It reared back and spit at Walgrin once again. The dragon let on its plan a bit too much, and Wall deftly rolled out of the way while keeping his ‘moving target cloak’ tactics up; no wanting to become a nice new polish for the dragons claws. He grinned, as this far its actually been working. ‘Tangling with dragons isn’t the brightest of ideas,’ he thought, ‘but options are limited.’

A loud pop and a blast of chilled air announced the sudden magical arrival of three cloaked figures. The largest, an ogre, started barking orders at orcish horde and they began falling in ranks. The other two made their way toward the dragon and Wall, one blasting a spell at Walgrin, the other motioning to the galanti in the dragon’s hand. The three orbs flew out of the dragon’s hand and began to float around the mage’s body, orbiting slowly.

The force of the blast knocked Walgrin backwards into the gap area between the orcish lines and the dais of the tower. He hit the ground hard, and decided to fall on an old skill he mdidn’t use very often anymore: acting – more specifically playing dead. He tumbled to the ground pretending to be knocked out by the blast.

The mage holding the galanti turned to the horde behind him and spoke, magically amplified by the godstones now floating around him. “The city belongs to the Isktashi!” he yelled. A cheer clamored up from the assembled horde.“Not only have we demonstrated our power over the grinasu, we have summoned the mightiest of allies from worlds unknown to further our cause. And now, now my friends, we shall use the powers in these stones to bring forth the reign of the Isktashi throughout the whole of Mori! Isktashi gru rektari!

As the orc spoke, Ashen could feel the essence pouring from the stones into the courtyard.
Veira stepped out onto the dais, flanked by the two initiates that followed her up the stairs of the tower. She stepped down to the courtyard to join Ashen and Mila. “The sage is dead, likely before we ever reached him. He was covered with burns.” She paused for a moment to compose herself. “I missed the signs. They were not simply after the galanti to bring down the city defenses. They had to kill the sage to sever his attachment, to tap into the full power of the stones.”

The three cloaked figures sauntered out in front of the lines, and cast their gaze at the figures standing on the dais. “Long have the grinasu squandered the power of the gods. It is ours by right, we are the favored sons.” As the orc continued to speak, the other two began to draw runes in the ground with their staves. He turned back to address the orcish army. “Vortus himself has shown us the path to powers our ancestors could only dream about. The elves hide in their trees and the dwarves play in the snow. It is the orcs who should rule the world – and with creatures like this,” he gestured toward the dragon, who was now being tended to by a number of orcs, “we will be able to stomp out the grinasu plague.”

Walgrin, from his now sprawled position on the ground, cursed at the fortunes here. The Orcs summoned a Dragon from another world,maybe even his world, but it kept its power. They launched a coordinated and successful assault on the city and its hierarchy, stole the objects of power from their locked vaults, and who’s this Vortus? So many things are stacking up against this poor city. Walgrin tries to ascertain an advantage, or something to turn this around, but frankly the former Godking doesn’t have many cards left to play here. What? Stand up and announce myself as a defender from another world and get blasted by ALL of them at once? He grimaced at the thought.

Mila stepped back towards Ashen upon seeing the newcomers, sensing the powerful magic that coursed through their veins. She bit her lip when they took the galanti from the winged beast. Her eyes glanced over to Veira as she joined them and she sighed with regret.

“I am sorry I failed you…”

Mila looked back to the three figures and makes eye contact with each one as she contemplates the best action to take. That is, however, until they speak of the elves ‘hiding in their trees’. Her attention snapped to the bastard that spoke the words. Yet another thing she wouldn’t let stand was having her people spoken ill of. She brushed her hair back, revealing her ears. She no longer cared who knew or what they thought. She took a few steps closer towards the three though retains the distance between them.

“So the elves just hide in trees? The dwarves only play in the snow?”

She spat on the ground in front of them, a mixture of her saliva and blood soaking into the stone. She was exhausted, sore, and angry, not a good combination for anyone but especially a hot-headed half-elf.

Nadorhuanrim! Lle naa haran e’ nausalle…en! You hide behind winged beasts and mindless goblins! Yet you dare to insult the elves! You have no right…and I will not let you have this city, Saurarea! I will not let you walk away with the galanti! Your lives end here. You will get to see your precious Vortus soon. For Polvec is the only true god…and he’s about to bring chaos upon you all.”

She looked to the Orc closest to her and charges him, raising the elbow of her right arm to his neck in an effort to knock him to the ground so she could take his axe.

Gurth gothrimlye!

Syl had had enough. Clearly this snatch-and-grab-the-dragonscales plan that Syl had was not going well. He had managed to corral all the orcs for only a short time, and these new wizards were reorganizing them.

To make matters worse, the flailing combatant Syl had seen with the dragon earlier had now revealed herself to be a halfbreed elf, and was charging at the orcish wizards in response to some halfwitted comment they made about elves. Pride. Always the downfall of his people, but for a half-breed to get offended, and stupid? Syl couldn’t even fathom what was going through that woman’s head.

Something though, something was keeping Syl from making his escape. Something told him this situation had gotten much bigger than just a bit of extra cash. Something told him this was the beginning of a situation that he and Callista couldn’t just run from. He had to stop this.

Almost before Syl could react to his own body movement, his muscles took over for him. He lowered himself into the shadow of the smokestack on the rooftop he was perched on, nocked one of his few remain arrows, took aim at the orc next to where the half-elf was charging, and loosed the arrow. It was a long shot, but the second the arrow left the string, Syl knew the shot fired true. He dropped flat to the roof, barely peeking over the side from the shadows, and waited for the scream of death.

Ashen’s mind whirled around possible options. Just when he thought they may be gaining an advantage over the horde and the dragon, these orcs show up. Though Ashen assumed they were just conjurers of cheap tricks, they were able to summon this massive beast, and to make matters worse, they now had the galenti. Ashen could tell the glyphs they were drawing would cause even more problems. Something still did not add up though. Why would so much power from these orcish casters be wasted on a feeble goblin attempt to steal the galenti?

‘A question for another time perhaps’ Ashen thought as he reached into the essence. The power coming from the godstones was almost overwhelming. Quelling the power they generated was not an option. Instead, perhaps Ashen could conjure a cheap trick himself. Instead of attacking them directly, perhaps he could make them a target…for their own army. Ashen had mastered illusion and it was now second nature to him. He Though the power coming from the stones was intense, a bit of illusion should be easy.

Ashen’s eyes rolled backward as he created the image in his mind. Illusion was a craft as much as magic and the illusion had to be both realistic and believable. After he had the proper vision solidified in his mind, he unleashed the well of essence boiling within him and channeled it into a thin veil centered directly on top of the three Orcs. Suddenly there was a bright flash of light and the three orcs vanished leaving three humans in their place. Ashen grinned, but maintained concentration. Now for the cherry on top. In perfect common the lead Isktashi caster, now veiled in an illusion of a human magai yelled, “You Orcish fools! While you listened to my useless banter my colleagues are tracing a spell to destroy you all! There is no way any Orcish idiots can defeat us,” Then the human illusions all broke into a hearty laugh that echoed through the courtyard.

Mila pulled up short as the now human looking mages yelled at the horde. A wave of confusion rode through the horde.

And then Sylvarius’s arrow burst through the chest of one of the mages.

Pandemonium ensued. The orcs began to yell and chant. The two surviving mages looked to each other. Another teleportation spell was cast, and the three mages and the dragon disappeared into a puff of essence smoke.

“What just happened,” Viera asked over the rising din of the orcish mob. “Where did that arrow come from?” She glanced over the rooftops of Sagetown, but saw nothing, and turned to Ashen. “Could you tell what they were trying to cast? I felt the ripples but they were unlike anything I’ve experienced.” She paused for a moment, but before Ashen could answer she continued. “Three mages of that power setting up a spell that large is worrisome… especially in a place as tuned to the essence as the tower. Our archer friend may have done us a great service in stopping their preparations.”

Ashen shook his head. “They were stronger than I. The ripples felt like the spell that brought that massive beast here. Had that arrow not stopped them, I fear we would have been greatly outnumbered.”

“But now,” she said concernedly, “we may need to consider retreat.”

Ashen stroked the illusory skin on the right side of his face. “I fear that may be the only option. Unfortunately we cannot leave the Galenti in the hands of the Isktashi. You must send your best magai after them. The city of Falcrest is lost, but if the Isktashi retain possession of those artifacts, the rest of Mori may be in grave danger.”

An orc and a goblin set their sights on Mila as she listened to the Magi tried to decide on their action plan. The goblin thrust a short spear out at her, as the orc brought a large saber down in a slash at Mila’s neck. Still weaponless she had no choice but to use her flexibility to defend for the moment. As the Goblin thrust his spear she managed to miss the brunt of it by just stepping out of the main path but the blow glanced off her arm that she had just used energy to heal, causing her to glare in anger. When the Orc brought down his saber she bent at the waist and brought her leg out to bring it under his, avoiding the hit he was aiming for and also knocking him off balance for a brief moment, giving her the chance to retrieve the saber so that she had some chance of fighting back.

Mila took the saber and stabbed at the Goblin’s arm that held the spear; careful to stay in a position to avoid being hit by him, as she was still weak from the earlier fighting. When the Orc began steady himself she charged him and swiped at his torso with the blade, hoping to put him back on the ground. The orc brought his blade up to match, and they ricocheted harmlessly off one another.

Meanwhile, an orc approached Wall as he lie in the courtyard, his eyes lit up at the sight of the crystal sword seemingly ripe for the taking. Though it’s naught but an unbreakable shard of glass here, it’s Walgrin’s only connection back home, and he wasn’t letting it go lightly. Walgrin waited for the right moment, then quickly stood. He slung his arm beneath himself as he pushed up from the ground rotating his legs as he grandly came back to his feet, dashed around the orc and pulled the blade to its throat, “Quite the pretty trinket, isn’t it, friend? Care to see its magical colour changing abilities?" The orc struggled against the hold, but the feel of Cleft Reality’s sharp edge against his neck seemed to take the fight out of him.

Sylvarius’s keen elven ears heard the puncture his arrow had made in the mage, and smelled the magical residue left when the mages vanished into thin air, taking the dragon creature with them. All that was left now was a mob of unorganized orcs, and the tower defenders he had been watching seemed rallied by this turn of events. The city may not be lost just yet.

Syl carefully surveyed the layout of the remaining orcs, and planned his path. If he intended to continue this battle, he needed to get behind the defenders with armor and battle experience. Syl was clever, and no slouch with his weaponry, but he was no warrior, and fighting head to head with a bunch of orcs in open sight wasn’t going to work out in his favor.

After a couple of seconds, Syl spotted an easy enough path, through smoke and kicked up dust that he could make his way through with minimal resistance – only one orc in his way at the current point. Slinging his bow back over his back he pulled both daggers from his belt, dropped off the rooftop into the clouds below, and lunged at the back side of the first orc in his way. Both daggers plunged into the back, and into the lungs, of the orc. A wet sigh escaped his throat and his body went slack. Perhaps the Isktashi had never heard the legends of this ghost that haunted the city of Falcrest, but today they would soon believe the stories.

Viera yelled out into the courtyard. “Walgrin! Mila! Fall back to the tower!” She turned to Ashen, “I must make preparations. Get them inside if you can, and join me in the atrium.”

Both Walgrin and Mila heard Viera’s call and began to move toward the tower. ’Can’t help but agree,’ Walgrin thought. ‘Falling back is the best and safest option now. Falcrest may well be lost, but it certainly is going to have reaching implications for humanity at large.’ Walgrin shook his head and started moving backwards with his prisoner, “Fancy a talk inside, sir? Or do I have to leave another orcish corpse on the ground?” he asked idly to the brute. Honestly, he hopes the man wants to talk, and that he has answers, though he most likely doesn’t have anything to offer him. Walgrin pulled the orc back towards the tower, while looking forward to make sure nothing followed.

Meanwhile, the orc wheeled around and let the blade fly at Mila again. Mila began to move backwards quickly, not wanting to turn her back on the pair, but the orc’s blade sliced at Mila’s arm once again and she decided that haste was more important that complete safety. She turned and broke into as much of a sprint as she could, but caught the goblin swinging at her back out of the corner of her eye a split second too late. She tried to strafe to the ground and roll, but the spear lodged firmly in her shoulder. Mila could feel the tip of the weapon grinding against the bone of her shoulder blade, and winced painfully, cursing as the pain shot down her arm. After the instinctive reaction, she steeled her mind and steadied herself, breathing heavily and overall annoyed with the incessant creatures. A thought crossed her mind and a smirk spread over her lips. She raised her left hand, ignoring the pain in the shoulder as best she could, and gestured to both the goblin and the orc.

“Tula sinome,” she said to them, in almost a sing-song voice. She gripped the weapon she had taken in her right hand, took two steps up on the dais and waited for them both to approach her on the steps. As the orc stepped onto the step, Mila kicked a shield of a fallen warrior. It landed just beneath the orc’s foot, and the orc was flung backwards onto the grass of the courtyard. The goblin was shocked for a split second – all Mila needed. She took two strides forward, and swung the sword as hard as her injuries would allow. The sabre cut through skin, muscle, and spine; and the goblins head began to tumble down the steps. Mila let the force of the swing twirl her around, then used the momentum to leap into the air. Before the orc could react the sword plunged through his armor and chest and into the ground below, pinning him there as the last breaths of life left his body. Mila turned and purposefully strode up the stairs to the tower doors.

Ashen turned to try and help Wall up from the ground. He had seem him go down just a few moments before, but now the tide had turned and Wall was forcing an Orcish prisoner back to the Tower while warding off the horde. Ashen then turned toward Mila sure that her injuries had caused her trouble on the battlefield. He found her just in time to see her make a flying leap and plunge her sword into an Orcs chest. She walked smugly up the steps not even meeting Ashen’s eyes.

Ashen shrugged and backed through the doors, and with the help of two initiates the battered doors were forced closed. Ashen closed his eyes and silently warded the door to provide extra protection. He reached into the essence and knit wood and metal back together. Finally he placed a spell on the door to both reinforce the physical aspects as well as charge it to provide a nasty shock to anyone trying to get through. Ashen finally turned and rejoined the rest of the group.

Syl broke through the far end of the smoke just in time to see the doors close in front of him, soon glowing from the magic being cast from the other side.

“Bitches,” Syl grumbled to himself. No time to wallow in self pity now though, there were plenty of angry orcs around, and now Syl was the only target left in the courtyard. Glancing around quickly he saw his best chance of getting inside, the hole torn in the tower by the dragon. It was quite a ways up, but if there was anything in the planes that Syl was better at than an orc it was…well…everything, but especially climbing.

Veira turned from the back of the room at the sound of the doors closing and allowed herself a slight smile. “I’m glad to see you three are okay. We can use the magegate to evacuate to the enclave at Havensbridge. We should let them know what has happened here tonight.” She stopped, as if trying to decide her next move. “Word should also be sent to Lord Falstead.”

She slumped a bit. “I’m not even sure what happened myself. It was all so sudden. I”m usre there’s more that needs to be done, but I’m not prepared for this."

“Forgive my bluntness, but what happened was a planned and successful massacre.” Walgrin took the orc captives head, and bounced it off the wall of the atrium. The orc collapsed into a heap, and Walgrin continued. “These Ishtashi are either so lucky they piss fine gems, or this is a plan that has been in the works for a long time." The ageless pointed-eared man sighed out of both relief and frustration as he sheathed Cleft Reality. "Everything lines up far too perfectly to claim otherwise. The hierarchy has been incapacitated or killed, and it left all the rank and file of the city defenses in shambles.” He points out to the city, “Much like Captain Tornus out there? You’re most likely the highest power remaining in your tower.” Walgrin frowned, “What was the goal? What were the stones? Why did the call a bloody DRAGON from Unknown realms to take them from you?” He sighed again. “Damnit. What I wouldn’t give for some of my old knights right now.” He points to the orc he threw, “Maybe we can get some information out of this one, but I have a feeling our luck isn’t that good.”

Ashen nodded, “Unless you got lucky, that lump is probably just a grunt. I doubt he knows much.” He sat next to Veira trying to collect himself and sighed, lightly touching the illusory skin of his face. He needed to sleep…it was getting more difficult to maintain the illusion as he became more exhausted. “We need to go after the galanti. The power those Isktashi mages possessed was only the beginning. As they begin to learn to use them their power will grow. Soon I fear they will bring something worse than a dragon to this plane.”

Mila leaned in silence against the wall beside them, listening closely to each as they speak their opinions on the situation. “Uuma ma’ ten’ rashwe, ta tuluva a’ lle,” she mumbled as she slowly slides her body down until she is sitting, the adrenaline having finally given out and every wound on her body pressing against her spine like fire. She bites her lip to hide the pain and waits a moment before speaking again. “I agree with Ashen. The galanti needs to be found. Sooner than later. As the raging Walgrin mentioned…” She rolls her eyes briefly as Walgrin’s rant had given her a headache, “This was planned long ago. So whatever they plan to do with it is likely already in action as well. We are already behind simply sitting here discussing it. This goes beyond this city, now. It now involves the entirety of this world.”

Sylvarius crawled through the gaping hole in the tower and came face to face with two mages attempting to clean up books and vials from the floor. Upon seeing him they spooked slightly and stood up into what Syl could only assume was their best attempt at a defensive position. Clearly these were closer to librarians than soldiers. He paused and picked up a vial off the floor which he mildly recognized to have some healing properties, nodded at them, then continued down the staircase on his left. The two apprentices were clearly unsure who he was or what to do, and it was simply best to not give them time to really think anything through before he disappeared.

As he came upon the main chamber, Sylvarius could hear voices conversing about the fate of the city, the orcs, and this _ galanti_ object they apparently made off with. Syl took a deep breath and tightened his scarf around his face. He wasn’t a huge fan of interactions with groups of people, especially not when he was in his “work attire.” The ghost of the city doesn’t exactly…talk. He tugged the cowl of his hood down a little lower and strode in the main room purposefully.

“Whatever they plan to do is done. Every step you take pacing back and forth in here is a step further that they’ve gone,” Syl began as he tossed the vial of healing liquid at the injured red-haired elf against the wall then refocused his attention on Veira, who appeared to be the one closest to being in charge of anything in this mess.

“We need to get out of here and regain control of the city, and the situation. You’re all panicked and confused about things in the past and future. Deal with the present first, or none of us will have a future to give a damn what they do with this galanti you’re so worried about.”

Mila sighed again and closed her eyes. She didn’t have too many years on her but in those years she hadn’t seen the kind of power the galanti possessed or the orcs that now owned it seemed to wield. What concerned her even more was the thought of a tempered warrior, shy magi, and mysterious man who liked to kill things but remain unseen seemed to be the only ones willing to fight for it. Though how far they would get she was unsure. She popped the cork out of the bottle that Sylvarius threw to her, sniffed it and turned it up into her mouth. The healing draught spread through her body and she felt her muscles relax for the first time since the orcs began their attack.

Veira touched the ring of stones in three places, and a portal sprang into life. She sent the initiates through then turned to the four heroes that remained. “I don’t know you all very well, but your actions tonight have shown me that if anyone is to stand up to whatever this new threat is, you are by far the best hope we have.”

“You are all right. I have to report this to the necessary authorities, and then the next step is to find the galanti and their new masters. This portal will take us to Havensbridge, we can formulate a plan to find them from there.”

Wall reached down and offered a gauntleted arm to Mila, which she grabbed and stood. The group moved toward the portal, then stopped, realizing Sylvarius hadn’t moved.

“Archer, will you accompany us?” Viera asked him.

“I cannot,” Syl replied. “My sister, she’s..” he paused for a moment, “somewhere in the city. I have responsibilities to her.”

“Know that you have an ally in the city,” Syl told them. “If you are able to return, there is a well, which leads to a cave. Northeast part of the city, behind a curio shop. That is where I plan to be.”

The group nodded and turned toward the portal again. Wall stopped short and turned back to the elf. “I know it’s probably in vain, but we left Tornus at the corner of the south walls.”

Syl nodded solemnly, and the group strode through the portal, which collapsed as soon as the four were through.


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