Jonas Kane (Part V)
Having ended his life just about 12 years prior, Jonas Kane was not around to see again the one thing he dreamt of constantly, excitement in Travance…
Aubrey inherited Jonas’s fortune and while she had never found the time to locate much of it, there was enough in Travance to hold her over for as long as shed like. She stayed on and ran the Dragons Claw Inn up until the very end. When the heroes of old Travance flocked to the proper, she made them feel as welcome as she could. She would not join them, for she had no skills for battle. She was however part of the emergency plans to get the weak and injured to safety in the event of disaster.
The emergency plan was enacted within five minutes of the battle… From the porch of the Dragons Claw Inn she heard the screams from the battlefields and they were terrifying. Two younger adventurers came fleeing back towards the Inn. Just as they had passed the old Adventurers Guild building, shambling but fast moving figures grappled them to the ground and began biting down on them hard. Aubrey turned to the weak masses huddled in the inn. “We have to run!” she yelled. However just as the words left her lips, a figure leapt up and seized her, biting hard into her neck and pulling out her vocal cords. As the blood gushed out, she quickly began to lose consciousness.
As this was happening, she could hear something, or feel something rather… something perhaps invisible, something perhaps not there. It was as if something monstrous was watching her die, pacing and sputtering and waiting impatiently for her soul to leave her body. She could feel her bones contorting, and her right leg moving underneath her to prop herself up… and that would be the last thing she felt before leaving this world forever…
The Coursing of Hounds, Part 5: A Broken Pack. Donald’s people got the message out-hopefully- on how to defeat the undead. Follow on instructions were sent home. When things looked grim, Donald put his wife on a horse and got her out with the last of the Dawn Blade. How a man dies is not as important as how he lives. Donald lived, serving his people- even butting heads with Lowlander authorities over issues he viewed with great import to his people. Serving Justice by teaching the highborn humility with training in arms, and when that failed, acting. Acting as the voice of ethics, and admitting his own fallibility. Doing what he could to preserve his people even at the end. The sigil of the Bull fit him well, as well as the blue hound he was born under.
Ultimately, Eodra united the husband and wife pair and kept them together. Donny ever the warrior, and Hazel ever the calm voice in his ear. The pair continue to teach the lessons of both Andorra and Valos, now and forever.
How could it come to this? Crystanthalis was all but rubble, the once lost Leihune were once again just a memory. Those that remained shambled across the arctic wastes aimlessly in search of prey.The Black Keep was nothing but ruin, long since overrun by the dead. Travance and Kormyre were gone, what remained of the once great kingdom now lived as only bitter memories within the mind of a lone aged elf, Grashügel. The memories lingered like smoke dancing around the old warrior, filling his senses with sensations of a better time. Willinde. Nesterin. Tari. Pluvious. Victor. Lois. Wren. Magnus. Seth...Grashügel’s brow furrowed. Seth. Their last night together played out over and over again within the Elf’s mind,every second seared into his memory. “Be seeing you”, he said. It was a lie. Grashügel didn’t know it at the time, but Seth deceived him. While Grashügel has since forgiven his old friend, he knows why Seth lied…because he would have followed him to this death all those years ago.
It almost seemed silly in retrospect, the folly of kings and the right to rule over others, the great lie of the kingdom and the death of Sebastien Everest, and the eventual removal of his body to the far reaches of the northern wastes.When Grashügel last saw Seth he had a location, however, said location was a decoy. Those responsible for hiding the Count took great care in their deception and rightfully predicted that some may seek to find him out. It was back to square one and Grashügel was without his greatest friend and ally. He would need to find another way and without the knowing of the wards of Kormyre, He knew such acts were treason and would likely result in his execution, but Grashügel could not rest until he found what he sought.
Two Months earlier........
Grashügel would bide his time and collect any information he could all while faithfully enacting the duties entrusted to him, after all the world was changing and not for the better…...The rats were manageable at first, even so when the swarms swelled in size, but the dead, that was another matter entirely….Grashügel was running out of time, he needed a breakthrough. Fortunately enough, that breakthrough would come in the form of two old friends once thought to be lost forever at his own front door no less. Grashügel recognized the aged faces instantly. “How can this be?”cried Grashügel tears welling in his eyes. “We come with grim tidings, Travance and Alieander have fallen”, said Victor Sylus emerging from shadows beyond the doorway. Followed by his peer, “Xualla is on his way here” It was Ser Pluvious, his eyes hung low to the ground heavy with sorrow. “We know of your mission, we know where he is”, Victor mused. “Where?”, cried Grashügel. “To the north, far beyond anywhere you may have thought to check”, explained Pluvious. Victor tightened his cloak obviously cold, “We can explain more inside, I’m not as accustomed as I once was to the chill of Winterdark in my old age”. “Of course! Please come inside, we have much to discuss”. And discuss they would, the old Shadow of the Dragon and the once Castellan of Travance would lay out the final resting place of their old lord in great detail. “How do you know all this?” asked Grashügel. “Dear Gras, you should know better! After all you probably thought me dead!” exclaimed the once Baron. Grashügel paused for a moment and recounted the cunning of his former ward. “Aye, that I did” bemused Grashügel. However, it was at that moment their demeanor would turn to stone.
“You must depart at once, Grashügel. The armies of Xualla are no more than a few days' march from Winterdark, they will not stop until all life on this plane is extinguished”, whispered Pluvious. Victor followed, “ they will never stop, you must leave. The North is too harsh for the likes of us, it must be you. You know the North,it is the land of your kin, the land of your people. The cold doesn't affect you like it affects us.” Grashügel rebutted, “I have not heard from my family for some time, I fear the worst’ “That doesn’t matter now, all that matters is that you find his Grace”, replied Victor. Grashügel was ready with his reply, “but what of Winterdark and her defen”. “Don’t worry about the old keep, leave her to us and we will see that she has such an end…..an end worthy of the apocalypse” interjected Victor. Grashügel paused for what seemed like an eternity, “very well, the keep is yours”. They would truly say their goodbyes for the last time within the hour, at least this time they could do it properly, Grashügel finally had his true heading and would make for the North with all haste.
The journey was long and treacherous, it was filled with its fair share of close calls and dire moments. In the far North the sight of his once lost people shambling across the wastes filled him with great pain, he often wondered if his cousin, the now Queen of the Leihune was amongst them. He took great care in avoiding them if he could. Grashügel knew how silly it must have seemed to continue his mission, to find his liege in the vain hope of undoing all that has been done, if it could even be done. However, too much blood has been spilt, too many lives lost, the death of his people, the death of his home, all of it in the name of finding the Count. The guilt of all that transpired to this point weighed heavily of Grashügel, nevertheless he pressed on. Grashügel would eventually find his way to the Count’s final resting place, it was a great mountain almost out of place for such terrain. Grashügel was ragged and tired, but he knew there was no turning back now as it would only be death laying in wait to greet him. The climb was tortuous even for the likes of a half Leihune like him. But, he would eventually summit the mountain and find what he sought.
Grashügel came upon the great structure, built into the side of the mountain. It was not ornate by any sense of the word, but it was built to be strong, to be defended. Grashügel was ready to be challenged as he approached the gates, but the challenge never came. In fact, the gates were open as if frozen in place after years of neglect. Grashügel shambled into the inner sanctum, the fortress was abandoned...it looks as if it may have been abandoned for some time. Perhaps the defenders of this place decided to forgo their post once word of the dead reached their ears.Grashügel felt this to be the case, however, he proceeded with caution at least that’s what he told himself. Grashügel was old and he was by no means the elf he once was, not by a long shot. To add to his misery, the elf was utterly exhausted, spending much of strength on his final mission.
As the elf found himself moving deeper into the caverns, he let his mind wander, to that Barony, those nights, those adventures all those years ago. It seemed fitting then, that between his exhaustion and his memories, that he didn’t notice the spell coming. What little remained of his powerful wards from Draka'thul were activated just a split second too late. Ahead, he saw it, a blinding light, and behind it a hooded figure. In his lower abdomen a sudden burning sensation, a familiar pain that he hadn’t felt in years. But there was no time to waste. In an instant, his sword was hefted forward, and out of his sheath, and towards the enemy. With a shout, he called the power of his primal liege. Out of his sword a beam of light shot past, and directly through the form in front of him. In the blast, horror spread across his face as the figure's hood fell away , knowing the mistake that was just made. Their eyes met as blood came from her lips. While time has made its mark there was no mistaking the heart of Winterdark, Angeliana. Regret filled both of their faces, though her countenance also held a smile. That smile said it all.
Years, she must have been here. Years she has been here, guarding. And that means that Grashügel was right. Pluvious, Sylus, they were right. But that smile also held such pain, such sorrow. If they had just known. If they had just waited. How distrustful these long years had made them both. How on edge. The two allies who had not gazed at each other for decades looked into each others eyes for a moment, and it seemed a lifetime of conversations flooded between them. The ground struck the elves knees, as he realized finally he had fallen to the floor, sword clanging to the cold stone behind him. Instinctually, his hand rushed to his stomach, the warm blood filling his hands, pouring out. This spell was powerful, this wound deep. If only he had but waited, if only he had reacted. He looked up quickly, as another flash of light burst forth from Angeliana, blood flowing from the hole in her chest, as well as from her mouth. The light was green in nature, and Grashugel felt an all-too-familiar coolness soothe the biting pain of the wound. She was attempting to heal him. But he knew, from the look in her eyes, the regret and pain, the sorrow. She did not have enough energy left to truly heal him. Still, she stayed true to her character, and used the last of her power. It was almost as if Gras feeling her magic leaving her for good that he realized his had as well. The spell he cast through the tip of his sword was the last of his power, the last of his strength. They were both going to die here. Silent, unable to speak, Angeliana gave a warm, yet sorrowful smile to her old friend, before looking back over her shoulder. Gras followed her gaze, and there he was. Count Winterdark. They were correct. They all were, in the end. They were all correct. This bittersweet feeling tugged at him, as his sharp inhale was interrupted by blood forcing its way out of his lungs involuntarily. Her healing was not enough, and they both knew it. Nor could he sustain himself any longer. Angeliana, using the last of her strength, used her hands and knees to crawl towards the Count and place her head above where his chest would lie. It was then Gras understood. She had been by his side through it all. And there, she would die. It seemed fitting, then, that he should die on his knees before the Count he served.
“This is it, all for naught. I am going to die here”, Grashügel muttered even though knew that’s how it was always going to end. I miss my friends, he thought, I miss the way life once was for all its hardships, at least it was better than this. He glanced at the iced over body of Count Winterdark and said, “Well if you’re gonna do something you might as well do it now”. He didn’t remotely expect a response, but what happened next shook him to his core. Grashügel felt a surge of energy, he did not know from where, but only that it was powerful. He could hear a voice in his head, it was a voice that he had not heard for many years, a voice of raw might, a voice that once instructed the dragoons of old to seek out the legendary verdrain blades. Mirrormere…..
“The Sword”, she echoed. Grashügel gazed upon very sword bestowed upon him by Draka’thul, the moon itself. It was at that moment that Grashügel knew what to do. With his dying breath Grashügel extended his sword and unleashed the fount of energy bestowed upon him into a lance of immense power whose arc of blinding light cut through the deep mountain fortress into the night sky itself. Grashügel smiled upon the newly revealed moon through the freshly cut crescent shape as the light left his eyes.
The great army of New Galderon marched south, and found itself amongst many heroes of legend in Travance. Bitzzz, elderly as she was, remained in the front line as a leader. Just as the4 lines fell into place, the dead came upon them. The well organized orcs, ogres and hobgoblins did not break rank as many of the goblins did. Still, many of the goblins did not break rank.
The army became a circle with archers and caster in the middle.
Those goblins that looked like they ran in fear, turned from the shadows, felling the undead. Once the began to re-rise, the hammers came out, and the ogres began to crush them as soon as they hit the ground.
They held the line for as long as they could, but eventually began to tire, and their numbers began to diminish. The horns of was were blown, and any allies were called into the circle to work in tandum.
Seeing the undead not be affected by the sun high in the sky, Bitzzz called for a swarm retreat.
They retreated to Pendarven, the most defendable city in Travance.
They will hold the city, with the residents, protecting who they can, resting when the can. They hold it as long as they can. Attrition eventually to the point the city falls, but it is the last to fall.
Mae watched as her older family moved to their places before her. In her heart, she knew there was nothing they would be able to do- with her dimming senses, she could feel the power of the demon before her.
"It's not fair," she thought briefly. "The rest of the world diminished as he stayed the same." Still, perhaps the fact that he had been dead counted for this power dynamic. Perhaps, in the spirit realm, he had found his own salvation. Ironic if true.
As the first blow fell, she was too wrapped up in trying to save those that she could to feel the wash of death that rolled over the field. As the second fell, the pain and agony of those who succumbed swept up to her, awakening old memories of her past and causing them to briefly mix with her present. There was no escape- she knew that in her heart even as her mind screamed to run. There was no salvation to come. Her family at least was spared this for now. Her family would survive...
"Namisar," she thought as she watched the arm raise in preparation for the third blow. "Namisar, I am coming home."
And then she thought nothing at all.
Kleidin stood before the Malloran Tree/Glamour Grove in Seledria, he former Knight,and long time friend and ally, Reno beside her.
”Are we insane?“ she asked.
”No, there is no hope for survival. All those who answered Aleister are dead. The word is the dead are all rising, Zualla has won.” Replied Reno.
Kleidin nodded, tears flowing freely down her face. “What we are trying to do...”
She turned back to the tree. “Over the past 20 years, the songbirds helped me gather her songs. I found the branch closest to Miranda’s house. I pray she has it in her to help us.”
”We will know if she approves, if we can get there.” Replied Reno.
Kleidin nodded, and pulled out a few things from her pouch. “The last bits of Druidic energy I could find. Ancient relics kept in our Queen’s vault. The only things that retained any energy.“ and she placed one ring of maiden circle gold forged with the help of he who taught Brazen, and a few leaves from the Dream Tree and the base of the Malloran tree. She then turned, and pulled up a great shield with the symbol of her god upon it. “The only thing I have of him.” And placed the shield over the other objects.
Then she began singing a song; Reno joining in when the melody repeated. Kleidin pulled out the black mythril dagger from its scabbard, and hit the shield at the one place she knew was its weak point, shattering the shield.
at that moment she and Reno clasped hands and with thoughts of love and sadness, perseverance and desire to do what must be done, thought of the branch of the Malloran with the song they were singing loudly.
Merikh- Full Circle
Merikh stands in the throne room of the Reaper. The Death Heralds who until now were milling around his Lords domain like normal suddenly started disappearing, heading to the material plane to escort souls to Eodra. Merikh sighs. He knew this day was going to come. It was written in fate long ago. Even then it doesn’t make this any easier. As the last of the Heralds disappear, Merikh bows to his Lord so he could perform his duties.
He disappears like the Death Heralds and is back in Travance. No one was able to see him except the hundreds of spirits that died to this demon as well as the Death Heralds that serve his Lord.
Merikh examined the spirits and saw one he never thought he would see. He approaches Aleister and holds out a hand. One of the men who first gave him a chance here. It was only right that it came full circle as Merikh escorts him to Eodra.
As he leaves he looks around and sees many of his old friends and sorrow filled his heart. Death is a part of fate. But to see all these former heroes die this way, while heroic, was unfortunate that all they worked for was coming to an end. They just didn’t know it yet.
After Aleister, there were many others. Too many to count. Merikh escorted many of his old friends. Those who greeted him with open arms when he was mortal and walking the Material Plane. He now took these people to their final rest, welcoming them with open arms.
Caelvan, Part 5 1255: Caelvan is overlooking the men and women he has been training over the past year as they train. Arrows slam into their targets, most hitting the inner three rings and very few misses at all. The melee fighters doing drills on practice dummies, the rhythm of the drills reaching Caelvan’s ears.
The numbers were still nowhere near where he thought they needed to be if these rumors were true. He sighed. His Vice Commander, who had worked under him the last 15 years came up to him.
“Still not sure if we can win if it happens, huh.” Caelvan looks at her with a sorrowful look on his face. “To be honest. No. I don’t think we could win this with 15 years of preparation. But I can’t let them know that. Most of them won’t make it back home if this fight is as bad as I think it can be. We can only hope that the other Elven leaders were able to get more numbers than we did. Or that the three armies together will be enough.” She looks at him with concern. “You don’t know the numbers yet?” “Not the exact ones. If they are as low as they said a few months ago, we’ll put up a hell of a fight. But the three nations wouldn’t win regardless. Keep them drilling. I need to prepare for my meeting in Quinaria.”
“Yes. Lord Marshal.”
She turns back to watch the drill commanders as Caelvan heads back to the great tree.
1258: Caelvan is running through his obstacle course, fashioned similar to one he was forced to run almost 50 years ago, his physically 35 year old body keeping his agility rather well, even if he couldn’t do as many maneuvers as he could at his peak strength, running this course everyday was bringing him back closer to be able to take out multiple opponents surrounding him as easily as before.
1265(Tower field): Caelvan watched in horror. He knew they weren’t prepared. But his men were being slaughtered. Worse yet, they got back up and he had to keep firing arrows at them to put them back down. He looked at the other two Elven commanders that came with their armies, Davolo and Ondela, both next to him.
“Should we retreat?” Ondela is the first to respond in a panic. “We need to. Look at them!”
She points to a group of Quinarians that just rose from being slain fighting heading to another group that was still alive, frozen in fear.” Davolo replies slightly more calmly. “Agreed. We need to retreat, sail back home and defend our homelands from what this will bring. Perhaps they won’t reach us in large numbers back west.” Caelvan looks at the battlefield, the years of battles past and strategies used and comes to a decision. “Take as many as possible and head back to the inn. Regroup and get to the ships to return home. You three with me.” He points out his three closest friends and best Marshals, ones who in the past would have made great Heroes. They were going to do their best to buy everyone time. The horn of retreat sounds and breaks through the paralyzing fear that gripped the elven forces. They ran, no discipline or formation, they broke and ran.
Caelvan’s group took to the treeline and fired arrow after arrow that they had remaining into the front line of the dead, trying to give the forces of the living some breathing room. It worked temporarily. Then they were spotted. The group moved from the tree line and drew short swords and daggers and charged the line of dead. Aelar on Caelvan’s right was the first to go down. He took a thrust to the chest and dropped. Oloren, who was right of Aelar, was stabbed in the back due to the opening from Aelar dropping to his knees. Enrie, the deputy commander of Selendrias was the last of them to fall. She took a sword stroke to the stomach and kept fighting, her twin blades flashing, reflecting light from the pillar of fire. In the end two dead approached her from both sides and, unable to fight them and the third in front of her off, she too, dropped.
Caelvan stood dagger in one hand, a free hand over his throwing knife sheath remembering his practice and muscle memory from years ago. Three show up in front of him and he throws three knives at the enemy. All three connect in the head and they go down. Another one, who killed Enrie, approaches him from behind. Caelvan jumps and lands behind it cutting its head off with a killing stroke. That’s when he noticed his friends’ bodies moving. All three stand up. Caelvan looks around at them and takes a stance. He trained all three of them. He knew how strong they were physically. And they had more coming behind them. He knew that he couldn’t win. He dropped the knife in his right hand and took out a throwing knife. A thought was forming.
“Don’t. You. Dare.” Balana’s voice sternly spoke in his head.
“I know what you are thinking. And don’t. I won’t let you.” Caelvan lets out a sigh, tears coming down his cheeks. He concentrated on the knife, channeling all the power he had left in his spirit and threw the knife at a tree near the fleeing soldiers.
At the same time, his three former friends jumped on him to kill him.
As his vision faded, he saw a Dryad with elven ears, tears running down her face, standing next to the tree. Her arm was outstretched as if she was trying to help him.
As his knees hit the ground and the last of the strength faded, with no one alive around him, he smiled and said, “Live……. for both of us.”
Aleister - Shattered
Ten years was a long time for the garrison to be in operation, but had it not been for the rat swarms and undead, it might have even been a worthless endeavor. Even with all the answers, it was rarely ever enough to make any meaningful impact against the growing dead end endless vermin.
But it was also ten years staring at the sky night after night watching for the comet, watching for his return. And then one day, Aleister's greatest fear became true. After ten years hoping, he stood in front an army of heroes, champions, and soldiers from across the world staring at that same red hair, those same demonic features. It was unmistakable, this was Xualla.
Aleister gave no great speeches, no soothing words or inspiring cries. His eyes never left the from the demon when he spoke. "Carry this request. Fight. Fight for as long as you can, so that others may have a chance to survive."
It was then Xualla began his attack. The demon raised his spear to strike at the front line and Aleister readied his glaive. It had been decades since he last fought in such a dire battle, but the memories of those long past adversaries were present in his mind like they were still new. He was once a great and powerful sorcerer -- a pentirr -- but he did not have his magic at his disposal this time, though he hoped that it would return to him like the other memories. He could not get lost in the past if he had any desire to see the next day.
Xualla swung his spear with tremendous force and Aleister raised his glaive to block the blow and shield his allies. The two weapons met and the glaive shattered like glass in the wake of the demon's ferocity, sending the front line tumbling to the ground broken and bleeding. The battle was lost as quickly as it begun.
The force of the blow alone broke Aleister's arm and several ribs and shards of the shattered glaive pierced through his lung. Broken, bleeding, and defeated, he lay on the killing field choking out his final words, "Ali'ana... one more chance..."
His breathing stopped, and body fell limp. Yet not long after, his body had begun to rise again...
The line had held, but at the end of the day (or the world), it came down to a simple question of mathematics---and there were simply more undead than there had been defenders in Port Valandria.
Behind a beleaguered strong point, Cobus Puren fell with his barrels hot, the smell of black powder drowning out that of necrotic flesh, as a tidal wave of the undead crashed over the defenses. The last of the Kormyrian Navy Raiders, having rallied to their old Captain's call one last time, fell like stalks of wheat to a thresher.
None escaped to pass on his last words. No special effort was made to retrieve his body. For his last battle he had eschewed his Admiral's coat with its gold trim and finery---just another sailor in a blue coat, rifle hot and bayonet coated in blood, dead in the mud next to so many others just like him.
The Final Chapter Part 5
Kel stared at the goblin in front of her, fingers drumming on her desk. “Gix…” she says quietly, her face showing her uncertainty. “You can’t…” “I can and I will,” Gix said, drawing himself up. “I might not be young anymore, but I can help.” “But your family…” she protested. “There are plenty of them there. They will be fine. You know how dad taught them all.” He met her stare, obviously not willing to back down. Kel couldn’t argue with that. With a resigned sigh, she leaned back in her chair, studying him. “You have to understand… my team… we’re not going to…”
“And you are okay with that?” Kel watched him carefully at this statement. During all the meetings with Duke Aleister, she and her team had volunteered to be on the front lines. Despite each one being given the offer to return home to be with their loved ones, most of them had chosen to stay at Kel’s side. They knew that they wouldn’t survive this. More than likely, they were just buying time for everyone else. But this was what they were training for, wasn’t it?
As Gix nodded to Kel, she fought back tears that sprung to her eyes. Remembering her days all those years ago babysitting him and his siblings, she stood up and walked around the desk, grabbing him into a bear hug. “Your dad would be proud of you…” she whispered into his ear before letting him go. “I don’t have a squire right now to be at my side during the fight… I know you’re a little old for it and don’t have the training… but would you…” her voice fell off as he was already nodding. “Good. Then it’s settled. Let’s prepare.”
The day of the final stand came. Kel glanced to Gix at her side, both of them were armored up in the colors of the Kingdom and somber. She clasped him on the shoulder before the march began. As the armies moved out, Kel flashed back to memories of old, when they made these walks as a town, the heroes at full strength. This was different. The air felt different. These people didn’t have the same power or the gods behind them like before. No… this was a bunch of normal folks determined to make a stand, knowing full well that it probably wasn't enough.
When Xualla came onto the field, it took all of Kel’s willpower to not just fall to her knees. Some of her folks did. A few ran. She did not begrudge them. With a deep breath, she closed her eyes and shouted. “FOR KORMYRE AND TRAVANCE!” Those who didn’t falter began to take up the shout. Kel gave a small smile as it echoed down the line of warriors. With a nod to Gix, the two charged forward. Footsteps behind her told her that others followed. Not as many as came, but some did. Unfortunately, that was when Xualla swung his spear for the first time… and the front line was no more.
OLD MAN STERLING
“Fire all cannons.” “Yes, Chief.”
The thunderous reports boomed behind them as a dozen cannons mounted on flatbed railcars unloaded their payloads. Hunched in his motorized wheelchair with his respirator mask over his face, William Sterling once again congratulated himself on his foresight in laying down tracks for a railspar that came nearly to the Dragon Claw Inn’s back door. His eyes still keen after all these years, he watched with pride as the cannonballs came down among the screaming horde heading for the Inn and the heroes, both young and old, who had retreated to it.
He’d heard the reports in real time coming back to him. Xualla’s return, countless dead swarming the Proper, some of his only remaining friends being cut down, and the bodies rising almost immediately. Well if this was to be the end, he had a nasty surprise for that crusty old demon who didn’t have the decency to stay dead.
“Keep firing,” he told his aid, even as he could hear shouts and screams that the dead had worked their way behind the cannons. He turned his wheelchair, and drove it up the ramp into the driver’s compartment of the locomotive engine that brought the cannon train to the Proper. Finding the appropriate grooves in the floor in front of the controls, he locked his chair into place, tightened his safety belt, then pulled a key from his pocket, flipping open a hidden cover to reveal the keyhole this particular key was designed for. After taking a deep breath that for once was not broken up by hacking coughs, he inserted and turned the key.
The cacophony that ensued was almost enough to drown out both the thundering cannons and the bloodcurdling screams. Banging, clanging, whirring, buzzing, steam hissing and gears grinding, the locomotive shook violently all over and William held on with what was left of his aging strength. The machine gave a great lurch as it disconnected from the rest of the railcars, and William’s stomach lurched as he felt himself lifted higher off the ground.
Those who remained manning the cannons and others nearby were stunned as they watched something they had no way to explain. Parts of the locomotive moved in ways they had never seen, splitting out from the main bulk of the engine. Within moments, what stood before them was a huge mechanical monstrosity in a vaguely humanoid shape, but with distinctly locomotive parts, and within the driver’s compartment William Sterling started manipulating levers and pushing buttons, and the contraption began walking towards the open field behind the Inn. As it made its way past the back porch, those huddling there could hear William’s voice yelling out exultantly, “magic may fade, but science remains!”
Trampling the dead swarming around it, the machine walked through the field and down the path past the old Adventurer’s Guild. Some of the horde tried to climb up the machine’s limbs, but spinning blades popped out of hatches and sliced them to pieces. Finally, William saw through the front windows the form of Xualla floating in the air before him, large and radiating power.
“Something special saved just for someone like you,” he muttered to himself, as he raised one hand from off of the controls and concentrated, summoning the very last spark of positive energy within him that he had nurtured and held on to desperately for all of these years. Pressing another button a hatch popped open revealing a hand-shaped depression, which he placed his now glowing hand onto. On the outside, the locomotive’s smokestack moved on inner tracks up to the machine’s shoulder and pointed like a cannon’s barrel straight at Xualla. The opening glowed briefly before a ball of white light launched out of it, sailing unerringly at its target. William watched with a smile on his face.
That smile faded when Xualla took his spear and simply batted the sphere of positive energy out of the way. He then reared back and launched the spear like a javelin, and William had no time to prepare before it penetrated the driver’s compartment, and him, straight through, coming out the other side and then flying back to Xualla’s waiting hand.
Both William’s and the machine’s inner workings damaged beyond repair, the mechanical monstrosity fell backward, landing with a crash among the undead. William’s chair was still locked in place, but he no longer had the energy to release himself. The last thing he saw was dozens of dead hands prying open his prized creation, and then coming for him.
Serr Thomas Bell III- Ratcatcher
The farmer ran screaming through the abandoned village. The demon chased, it's cart sized torso slithering as it crawled talon over talon- knashing and screeching- it's utterances hateful up until the silver snares sunk into it's joints. Around that time it's screams turned pained and rabid as it struggeled against the slips of the razor wire.
"You dumb sum-bitch." Serr Thomas Bell the Third stepped from his spot, casting his armored coat aside, hand flexing over the grip of his Gogger "Didn't y'all learn last time- y'all stay outta my damn plane."
"Waits-" Jude Bell's voice croaked as he rocked on his chair, contracted fingers wrapped tight about it's oak handles,"Why's them demons still got magics?"
"Wells cousin," Serr Bell sighed as the little hellions came scuttling to it's patriarchs pained screeches, taking the bait. He drew quick as always, pounding them down, "I don't rightly know. 'Spose Valos wanted Bells tah get a shot on 'em fer' Esther's sake."
"Hell with that-" The elder Bell spat,"Why's all the necromancy still works'-!? Why won't the Gods lets' me die?!"
"That's twixt you an Valos cousin." He clacked 9 rounds back into the cyclinders as more vermin poured from the reeds. A grin spread across his face.
"All them God-botherins passed long ago! I ain't dead and you still out here slingin that steel-!"
"Wells' I ain't no God Botherin'-! I's hard science-!" His fingers flashed white as the hammer flared, rapid-filling the Vidrian rounds as the cylinder spinned, " I's a Bell- and I gotta be a good man cause world's still gots' too many vermin-!"
Tom clacked the rear hammer- leveling it on the ensnared demon as it screeched against it's restraints- releasing the scattergun tube of the gogger,"And y'all gon' wish yer daddy wasn't afraid of me!"
The crack of the gun faded over the valley. Jude cleared his throat, "None of this makes any Goddamn sense!"
Winks Part 5
Oringard had never fallen.
Growing up, Lyra Sharpthorn, aging matriarch of the Sharpthorn family, had listened in wonder to her father’s stories of this city that was their home. Stories of the great spirit Orin, who in times of need would awaken and protect the city from overwhelming danger.
Hearing the screams and other unspeakable noises outside, those stories were hard to believe.
Lyra never thought she’d end up the de facto head of the family, though being named after her grandmother maybe she shouldn’t be so surprised. Until his death over ten years ago, she had started to think her father would be around forever. Even then, her older sister was the more organizationally minded of them, but Ada moved to the Proper to work with Baron Piper as one of his intelligence agents. Her older brother Gix wasn’t serious enough to lead the family, and her other two younger siblings had always looked up to her anyway, so it was a task Lyra took on with pride.
“Gramly, what’s going on?”
Blinking herself out of her reverie, Lyra looked down at the rest of the family, all gathered in the main room of their large home, where once again three generations of Sharpthorns lived. She turned to the one who spoke, and in her haze she couldn’t even recognize who it was. Is that one of my grandchildren? One of Ada’s? One of Green’s? The entire family had been pulled back as soon as they started hearing about the horrors that were encroaching not just on their city, but all over Travance, all over the world. Well, the entire family minus two. Ada stayed with the Baron, and as soon as they had gotten the message from Keladry that she was going to the Proper as well, Gix had gotten his old polearm down from the wall, fashioned in the same style as their Auntie Bryk’s, and left to go meet her. It didn’t matter that he, like the rest of the siblings, was closer to fifty years old than forty, he’d always been a fighter, and so off he went. Lyra wasn’t sure if she’d see him again.
Her younger brothers, Green and Twelve, were doing their best to help her, shushing the little ones and trying to get everyone settled. But they kept sending glances her way, expecting her to say something, to take charge. They had already boarded up all of the windows and barricaded the doors, with the original thought of just trying to ride out whatever was happening. But as the noise outside got worse and worse, Lyra was thinking it was time to use the secret passages underneath the house that her father had established to get everyone out of the city.
She steeled herself to get everyone’s attention, but at that moment there was a loud crash from upstairs, and another from the kitchen, and the foundation of the house rumbled. A groan echoed through the building, and then two dozen goblin voices cried out in alarm as the ceiling crashed down on them, bringing down most of the rest of the house in what seemed like an endless torrent of rubble and wreckage. Most of the voices were silenced instantly, and Lyra couldn’t even get her own scream out before she suddenly found herself on her back, pinned under heavy beams, her legs crushed and a long wooden plank stabbing through her chest.
Coughing blood, Lyra tried to see if anyone in her family had survived, but her fading vision couldn’t penetrate the wreckage. Slightly turning her head, however, she could see through what was left of the wall and watched helplessly as the hordes of dead surged through the city, wreaking havoc. Before she lost herself completely she had one final thought:
Oringard had never fallen.