Back at the Blue Eagle Methos has returned. Last night's activities have exhausted everyone, running all over Draman Del in search for links to the past. So many mysteries to unravel, so much happening now. When they sleep they dream and what they dream of is not very nice. Each tosses and turns in their beds, a whirlwind of spinning nightmares.
They dream of hundreds of thousands of roaring savages climbing the walls of the great city, rampaging, raping, murdering. The defenders are slaughtered, their blood overflowing the sewers until literally the streets run red with blood. The slain dwarves of the Cursed Woods are also there mixed in this horrible montage. Beyond all of this something dark moves . . .
When the gray light of morning comes none could truly claim to have rested well. The whole group goes down to the bar and has some cold breakfast. Outside they see the streets are mostly empty. Talking to the servants, who appear to be a bit shaken, they learn that almost everyone is leaving the city. With the Zenith tribes outside they are fleeing. The mood is very grim and all know that a very hard and bloody fight is coming.
Methos tries to bring up some cheer to his comrades, seeing that they all look tired and a bit on the edgy side of things. "Don't forget Deathshadow and the Scarlet Brotherhood. They are here with us too." With that Teider nods, knowing that his people should help some and bolster the defender's courage.
"Well we are Captain Frotes special team. We just need to rest up and make sure we are ready for whatever happens next," says Gashnak. Looking over to Alex he touches the red haired warriors wrist gently to get her attention. "After Jinx and I get back from this morning's council we need to talk."
Not saying anything she merely smiles and nods her head.
Going to the war council both Jinx and Gashnak have their weapons taken from them before being allowed into the heavily guarded chamber. In there is the entire hierarchy of Draman Del, all sitting at a grand table with Lord Ashen at it's head. Far in the back sit the two adventurers, being quiet as to hear everything that is to be said.
Lord Ashen stands and looks out his window to the enemy infested plains. A chilly breeze blows through the chamber. With a heavy sigh he begins to speak. "This is a council I never wanted to call. This is a war council to help decide the fate of our city Draman Del and perhaps all of Corvel. We cannot allow our great city to fall to these barbarians. To the south General Wolf is gathering a force to come aid us but he will need time to do this. We must endure until this happens."
General Tremen, the commander of the military of Draman Del then rises. "Many are leaving our city due to the impending conflict. We have maybe nine thousand men and women who form a rough militia, mostly mercenaries. Eight thousand light infantry. Six hundred knights. Seven hundred archers. Of course we also have the Shadows and the Red Priests. Sadly only a third of this force are veterans and I believe most will die in the first assault. The outer wall is too wide to hold, we do not have enough manpower to protect it. We need to abandon it and pull back to wall six which has a shorter perimeter to guard."
These are hard words to hear and it is quiet until Deathshadow slams his mailed fist down onto the wooden table. I DO NOT AGREE!!! We will not so casually abandon the seventh wall! We will hold it and defend against the assault. If we pulled back and just gave them that wall without a fight it would have a devastating effect on our warrior's morale!" The aged warrior's face grows red, obviously bristling at the thought of giving anything freely to the enemy.
Innikus of the Scarlet Brotherhood nods in approval of Deathshadow's fierce outburst. "We must and we will defend the wall to the south. To do this we must do it as a united army. We must be unified ourselves if we hold out any hope of success."
"I agree," says Nothing the commander of the archers. "My people can rain arrows down on them for quite some time. When they become pressed, if the wall does indeed fall, then we can move back to the sixth to defend it."
Bandegil, the commander of the infantry stands. "My people can help cover the wall. Anyone who is not fighting can help carry away the wounded to be taken care of."
Durmon the Mystic runs his fingers through his white beard. "We can get stretcher bearers to help move those injured from the fighting."
"We must limit our casualties," says Deathshadow matter of factly. "We know very little of our foe. If they breach the walls we can fall back and fight house by house. We can also use the network of caves beneath the city if we must."
Ashen's son, the young Destor looks a bit overwhelmed by all of this. "Father, can we not just negotiate with these people? Can we not make some sort of treaty?"
Turning to his child Lord Ashen's face is quite grim. "I would doubt the success of such an outcome my son." The father pats his son on the shoulder, knowing there is little he can tell him. His eyes then glance to the back of the table to Captain Frotes and his two warriors. "Frotes, get a special team together to protect the walls and the sewers. We are weak in these areas and such an enemy might be able to slip through."
"Yes my Lord," replies the Captain.
There is some more discussion of dwindling supplies, but these grumblings are very small. Lord Ashen looks across everyone in the room. "To work gentlemen. And may the gods be with us."
As they leave everyone re-arms themselves. Only Lord Ashen and Deathshadow had weapons in that council chamber.
On the way out Gashnak goes over to Deathshadow. "Greetings my Lord, I am Gashnak." Very quickly the big orc tells the elder warrior of the statue of General Rangh and the inscription there as well as the blade slot. "In the darkest hour bring Gadrath's servant here."
"Hmmm, very interesting." The old soldier's eyes narrow somewhat as if trying to piece an unseen puzzle together.
"Is not the name of your blade Askadrath?" asks Jinx.
"Yes it is. How did you know that lass?"
Smiling impishly Jinx bows to him. "I know many things. The servant is the sword. Askadrath."
Raising an eyebrow Deathshadow looks over the young lady in a blue dress. "You have gotten my curiosity raised. Perhaps we should take a look at this old statue."
While Jinx goes to get everyone from the Blue Eagle, Gashnak and Deathshadow walk that way together through the cobblestone streets of Draman Del.
"Is it true you have a hanji-shah blade?"
They stop, draw their weapons, and exchange blades. Deathshadow examines Gashnak's weapon while the orc checks out Askadrath. "You have a nice sword, Deathshadow. It's got a good balance, well crafted. I can feel an energy to it."
"Thank you, and I must say the blade you have is also quite unique. I have also heard that a sprig has one of these hanji-shah weapons? You must have a very interesting group of friends, Gashnak"
As they walk on to their destination they talk tactics a bit. Gashnak agrees with him that abandoning the outer wall without a fight would be a terrible idea. Deathshadow talks a little about the many campaigns he has gone through. Even though he is old he is up for this battle.
Everyone meets at the statue of the Steel General. Alric is very excited about this, for even a pixie like himself has heard of Deathshadow. "He is a legend!"
Introductions are made of everyone, and Teider is there as well. Shyly Ganam Oore moves up and gets his autograph. "I would be honored to have your signature sir."
"Certainly," he says with a flourish signing quickly the book that Ganam has been chronicleing all his translations in.
Alric then casts a spell, triggering something within the statue. There is the familiar 'click click' sound and Gashnak puts his massive hands up and pushes it back. When it slides away the inscription below is revealed.
"ER THAKS NACHS HOZER BRINDAH DAKDEH AS GADRATH"
"In the Darkest Hour bring Gadrath's servant here," says Deathshadow. He draws his sword and the blade glows a light blue. He looks at the inscription and what looks like to be a slot amidst all the runes. For a moment it seems like he is about to put the blade there, to see what might happen but he holds his hand.
"The moment does not quite seem right."
In the distance from over the walls comes the wailing sounds of the war horns of the Zenith. They are a deep, thundrous, terrifying noise. They look to each other in understanding. Deathshadow sheaths his blade. "It is time to make ready for battle."
"I am glad we were able to show you this," says Gashnak.
"Perhaps we will fight together on the field of battle. Farewell." The aged warrior then leaves, heading down to the seventh wall and the assembled soldiers there.
Jinx and Ganam head back to the library to continue their research and studying. "We'll meet up later," says the blue robed Jinx.
Meeting up with Captain Frotes at the wall the group looks out and sees the impossibly huge number of Zenith there stretching across the horizon. The barbarians are dressed in skins and furs waving axes, swords, spears and other weapons in the air over their shaggy heads. Banners of red and black are scattered across the countless horde that is moving with purpose towards Draman Del.
Methos gives a half laugh. "Times like this makes me wish I was home."
Before the wall of the city are some of it's soldiers, having built up some earthworks, hoping to cause the invaders at least some trouble before they hit the city. They keep busy, not trying to think of the immense number of foes that are slowly marching towards them.
On the wall is Deathshadow, moving among the common soldiers, talking to each and every one. His presence is commanding and those who look upon him see the sureness in his step and the courage in his heart. Just him being there raises the spirits of the defenders. Getting to the mid part of the wall he stops, and looks out at the vast army assembling. With deliberation he draws his blade and holds it with pride.
Through the Zenith ranks comes a single rider in glossy furs bearing a white banner of truce. Deathshadow motions with his blade and the archers hold their arrow and all eyes go to the lone figure galloping up.
"I have a message for the commander!" yells the rider.
"I am the commander," roars Deathshadow, his voice strong and clear.
The rider gazes upwards seeing who has spoken. "We know who you are, Ka Norath. We of the Zenith respect you for your courage and past deeds." The barbarian inclines his head, whether in mockery or sincere admiration none can truly be sure. "My master, Kryzandia Kefe of the Zenith wants you to surrender your city and stand down."
Deathshadow gives a sly grin. "What if I refuse?" His response evokes laughter from the soldiers. Grim humor but humor nontheless.
The Zenith warrior glares back. "Then we will assalt your fortress and gut your people!"
"Oh my compliments to your master, monkey face! I do not think I will be able to sleep now!" Again laughter breaks out amongst the defenders of the city. "I am Ka Norath and I am here with twenty thousand soldiers. The last time your people came here they were sent running by the Steel General. It will again be the same!"
The rider lowers the white banner, anger boiling in him. As he rides away he calls back over his shoulder. "Sleep well tonight, Ka Norath. Sleep well for it will be your last!" He quickly vanishes back into the folds of the approaching army.
Captain Frotes turns to his special team. "You people will be on sewer detail right now. It is one of our weak spots and our foe may try and slip people into the city to cause chaos. We cannot allow that to happen. There are several large openings, especially by the third wall. I will confess though that strange lab we found last night does concern me as well."
Teider speaks to the group. "I need to go back to my brothers. I will check in with you later. Good luck." The red armored warrior then leaves, heading back to Innikus and the Brotherhood.
"Before we go down in them sewers I think we need to get some stuff," says Dril. The sprig will certainly be the shortest one there except for Alric. However the pixie has wings and can fly and Dril knows he will probably be neck deep in shit.
Moving at a good pace they return to Borem's leather and armor shop. He and his assistant are hard at work cutting and stitching the dragon-hide into usable pieces of armor. The balding and bearded Borem is covered in sweat and looks exhausted. Obviously he has been working long and hard trying to get this armor completed as soon as possible. "Kazier's suit is the closest to being done. It'll still take me and my help here some time to get the other completed."
Alric flies up and laughs. "What they are looking for actually are protective boots. Hip waders."
Hearing this causes Borem to frown. "What the hell do you need hip waders for?"
Gashnak chuckles, putting his bandanna back on his head. "We plan on killing so many bad guys we'll need these to wade through all their blood and guts!"
Everyone gets a set of these hip waders, even the curvaceous Alex. Most are large and loose fitting, but provide some maneuverability. Tromping around in waste and filth doesn't really seem appealing to anybody, and if they have to do it they want a degree of protection. Borem's quiet assistant is most helpful in getting all this put together. Dril slips the leatherworker 60 in gold in appreciation.
It takes an hour and only Dril and Gashnak are not able to get theirs. In the shop they feel a shudder beneath their feet and then hear a thundrous crash. A shelf collapses and all manner of tools go spilling to the floor. A few heartbeats pass by and then there is another one.
The group runs back out, heading back to the heavily defended seventh wall. They get there and see four massive catapults in the midst of the enemy army. Each one is made of wood, rope and iron, flinging impossibly large rocks with deadly effect at the city. Where ever one of these boulders hits a huge chunk of wall gets destroyed or earth splashes upwards. The catapults are heavily guarded with great carts filled with boulders behind them.
Captain Frotes meets up with the group and points out to the Zenith. "Those things will be devastating to us. They are taking range right now but they will soon be pounding our walls into dust. They need to be taken out!"
He looks at his special team, to Gashnak, Kazier, Dril, Alric, Alex, Methos, Wilford and Jinx. "I need somebody for a very dangerous mission!"
Alric buzzes in the air madly, waving both of his tiny arms. "Us! Us! We volunteer!"
"I need you to sneak past their lines and destroy these things. If they are not put out of action I fear that they will be absolutely terrible in the destruction they can deal to us."
Dril raises his hand, an idea bubbling up in his seething brain. "If we could capture one and use it against them it would be fantastic!"
Shaking his head Frotes once again looks back out at the enemy. "Here is the deal. Once you are detected they will swarm you and you will not last long. If one is taken there is no way we could secure it before it could be of any real use. The goal needs to be tao take them out and take them out tonight!"
The ill-tempered sprig frowns and folds his arms across his chest.
There are many discussions and thoughts of diversions and the use of the troops and gunpowder. Many are come up with from the outright suicidal to the plausible. In the end it is decided to have the troops outside of the wall to create a distraction with drums and fire. While this is going on four teams of two will crawl through the grass with kegs of gunpowder to blow them up.
Alric will be key in this since he can alter his form and appear as a natural creature. But of course the only time this can possibly work will be at night. There will be the passage of many hours before this desperate mission can even be attempted.
With his powerful magics Alric will be sent to take out one catapult on his own. Wilford and Dril, Kazier and Methos, and lastly Gashnak and Alex. These teams will crawl through the grasses and then launch a coordinated attack to destroy the catapults.
Captain Frotes gives them three gunpowder kegs with 15 second fuses attached. "This should be enough to do the job. Just remember my people will provide an ambient distraction and you will have to run back as fast as you can once this is over."
Gazing outwards Kazier runs his finger on the underside of his jaw. "We need to be careful. There might be enemy infiltrators coming our way as well in the tall grasses out there."
They leave the wall, knowing they will need some rest before doing this strenuous task. Jinx shows up and she and Alex strike up an intense female oriented discussion. Though the drinking is appealing, Wilford still remembers something that needs done.
"I thirst for vengeance. Leden and Vraden are still out there, somewhere."
Slowly Gashnak sets down his empty stein. "The dwarves need to be avenged." He now knows that any possibility of rest today is now gone.
"We need to find them," says Methos.
Jinx sighs a bit, but knows that there is nothing she can do to persuade them to do otherwise. "Well, gentlemen, do what you have to do. Alex and I will stay back here and rest up for tonight. I will also need to do some praying."
Alric snickers. "Oh prayer. It's going to help us a lot!"
Jinx glances at the pixie, almost getting angry with his near blasphemy.
Gashnak smiles at Alex, seeing her looking back at him. "Rest up. We'll be back before you know it."
They head out, leaving the girls behind. Going to the 8th Wall, the bar they had been to the night before. Going inside they see the usual mercenaries, warriors, bar whores and waittresses. It is a dark place and many eyes gaze their way.
Chuckling Gashnak whispers to Wilford: "I am sure they'll remember us."
Wanting to be careful, Dril slips around to cover the back door. He is just that kind of sprig.
Though the place is fairly crowded nobody messes with them. They clear away from Gashnak, Kazier, Methos, and Wilford. Alric just flies up to one of the ceiling beams to watch the action of all the biggers below.
Up on a top balcony at a small table is Lord Bandegil, Commander of the Infantry. With him are three other people. Wilford sees them and recognizes that Leden is one of them. ‘I have a bad feeling about this,' he thinks to himself.
Wilford takes a deep breath and starts climbing up one staircase to get to the balcony and Gashnak takes the other. Kazier eases himself over to the shadows by the front door in case the man might run his way.
Once up top Wilford puts his hand on the hilt of his rapier and takes a deep breath before shouting out. "LEDEN!"
Startled, the blonde haired Leden glances over to Wilford and immediately tries to leave. He heads for the stairs and Wilford picks up a drink and splashes ale all across his back in front of everyone. He stops walking and turns around, slowly. The entire bar goes silent in anticipation.
Wilford glares at him. "You fatherless goat, you killed the dwarves. I am here to get satisfaction."
"Do I know you? What is this nonsense?"
"You sir claim not to know me? Coward!"
Leden bristles at this. He points to the front door. "Let's take it outside."
Gashnak steps up. "After you."
Leden is sweating now, hand on sword. Bandegil looks over from the table. "What is happening?" Asks the commander.
Wilford replies "A matter of honor."
"Take it outside then," says Bandegil.
With Gashnak in the lead, Leden is escorted outside. A crowd follows along, knowing that a duel is probably going to be fought. Leden wipes his brow and looks about, seeing the big orc and cruel faced elf moving along with Wilford. He realizes that running is not an option.
Seeing the people head out to the front, Dril slips inside the bar. Most of the patrons here have left and he maneuvers around the chairs and tables. Looking up at the balcony he sees Commander Bandegil walk over to one of the walls. He opens up a panel there and puts his arm inside. Straining with his large ears the sprig hears something, like the fluttering of a bird's wings. Bandegil then returns to his chair and his drink.
Outside in the streed Leden whips around to face Wilford. "What do you ask of me? Why do you insult me so?"
With a blur Wilford draws his narrow rapier and begins to limber up. "Ha. By saying that you are not just a coward but a liar as well."
Leden draws his longer, heavier blade and takes a few practice chops through the air. He looks around at the wall of people and sees the orc staring at him.
"Wilford gets dibs on you." Gashnak looks up to Alric who has followed them out. "If he tries to run, blow his legs off."
Coming to a duelling stance, Wilford points the sword at Leden. "Shall we dance?"
It is a very brief fight. Leden lunges forward and Wilford easily avoids the attack, his blade slashing across his opponent's side. Their swords clash in a swift engagement and then Wilford lunges forward and runs Leden through. Gasping the man falls backwards, holding the gushing wound.
Wilford stands there looking down. "My honor is satisfied." Flicking the blood from his blade he sheathes it and turns away from the dying man.
Quickly Gashnak comes over and kneels next to Leden, seeing that his injury is indeed a mortal one. With an arm he props up his head. "Why did you do it?"
Coughing up some blood, Leden looks up into the orc's eyes. "Because I was ordered to." He coughs one more time and then dies and Gashnak eases him back down. Slowly standing back up, Gashnak starts to look around.
The people who saw the quick battle clap, honoring Wilford for his display of skill. For a moment he thinks of playing to the crowd, but thinks better of it. "I do this for a living you know."
Through the doors of the bar comes Bandegil. He looks to Wilford and then to the body of Leden in the street. "You must have won your dispute. Next time wound, don't kill. I would appreciate that. We need all the soldiers we can muster." Bandegil is smiling, slightly. He does his best to keep an aloof appearance.
Gashnak glares at the man, his eyes narrowed into slits. "There will be a reckoning."
Bandegil looks at him and laughs. "Do you threaten me? My you are arrogant!"
"I am not arrogant, Bandegil. Merely truthful. When this is over . . "
"Don't you work for Frotes?"
"I work for Corvel and King. Frotes is my commander right now." With that Bandegil nods and moves on through the crowd. The eyes of Wilford, Kazier, and Gashnak follow him. Most think there will be business to finish with him soon.
Dril emerges from the bar, seeing Bandegil walk away. He motions to the group. "Hey, you ought to see this." Once back inside Dril tells them what he saw Bandegil do and they search the wall thoroughly. It is Kazier's keen eyes that find the compartment and opens it. Inside is a small cage with carrier pigeons and a way to the outside. He has been communicating with someone.
"He must have sent a message," says the ill-tempered sprig. Dril gnashes his teeth and thinks about biting one of the bird's heads off but changes his mind.
"The message must have gone outside the city," Wilford claims. "If it were in Draman Del he would have used a guard to carry it."
Alric claps his hands together and flies into the small area. "Let them go and I will follow them. I can turn myself into one of them to be in disguise!" The pixie weaves a spell and becomes a rather purplish-looking pigeon. They are released and he flaps his feathery wings after them. Together they fly out over the wall towards the camp of the enemy.
The group heads out the seventh wall, getting to a spot where they can look out over the vast plain. Everyone begins to have a growing suspicion. At first most believed that Bandegil just had a grudge against dwarves, but he might not really be on our side at all.
They look over the horizon, at the incredibly huge force spread out there. At such a distance so many bodies lose their distinct form and become a mass of erratic movement. Somewhere out there is Alric. Dril takes out his spyglass and scans left and right, trying to pick out a few birds but does so with no luck.
"Vraden will be harder to find now because of this," says Wilford grimly.
Kazier runs his fingers across his weapons. "We will find him, sooner or later."
A time later Alric comes zipping in, his insect-like wings beating furiously. He lands on the stone wall and and kicks his feet out. "The pigeons are going right into their camp, into a great big tent. I was with them and I see this giant in black armor! His hands almost caught me but I flew like crazy to get away!"
"This isn't good, we must tell Frotes." Gashnak starts looking around for Bandegil, wondering where he might be.
"I'll go and try and find Bandegil," says Kazier. "I am the fastest and can be quiet when I need to be. We need to keep an eye on him. If he runs I'll kill him."
Kazier heads out while the rest start moving through the city to meet back up with Captain Frotes. He certainly needs to be told of what they have learned. They are all at the run, their weapons and armor jostling as they go. The city does seem deserted with only soldiers and armed shop keepers left behind.
As they jog beneath the tunnel that runs beneath the Fifth Wall, a figure leaps out of the shadows yelling "Maurice!" Suddenly Gashnak is pushed hard causing him nearly to fall when three arrows strike the place he had just been standing at. The big orc whips around and sees that it is Tova, shaggy haired and tatooed.
Looking up to the tops of the nearby buildings archers can be seen drawing their bows again. From ahead comes nearly a dozen mercenaries yelling and cursing with weapons drawn. Instantly the group is ready for battle.
Gashnak slashes out his hanji-shah, his crystalline and ruby scimitar. "Good to see you Tova!" He laughs savagely. "I think that Bandegil should have sent more!"
"Sorry about my rude entrance," says Tova, likewise getting prepared for the fight.
Dril sees the archers above and hurls his double headed axe with incredible force. It makes a rapid ‘whooping' sound as it whirls up through the air. It strikes one archer in the midsection exploding out his back in a spectacularly visceral way. The magical weapon spins back around and lands back in the sprig's hands. With blood all over it he turns and hacks at another foe and easily cuts him in two, his separate halves unspooling.
Flying fast, Alric goes right for one of the charging warriors. In a blur he whips off a spell and a bolt of eldritch energy strikes the man in the face, blowing it away from him to reveal skull and muscle below. He screams hideously and claws wildly in the air before collapsing to the cobblestone street.
Methos looks to an archer and launches a fireball. The blast impacts in a fiery ‘whoosh' and his flaming corpse is hurled up and over a wall. He then takes out his sword and hurls another explosive blast into the crowd of enemies charging at them. The flames scorch them all but they keep on coming. One slashes at him, giving Methos a diagonal cut across his skull.
Gashnak plunges his sword through the chest of one, stabbing it through bone, muscle and organs. The man vomits blood before windmilling away to die. He steps to one side and lops off the head of another with precision and ease.
With his rapier in hand, Wilford lunges forward and wounds one enemy in the leg. Several get around him and he takes a few hits. His style of fighting is more for one on one battles and this is something he is not used to doing. Wilford still moves quickly and does a few point-thrusts with his sword to fell one of his enemies.
Tova throws one of his heavy knives, the point of it impacting one in the forehead. The fight goes on for a few moments but it is very much a one sided battle. The sounds of battle fill the streets for a time before it quickly comes to an end.
Dril knocks one mercenary onto his back, placing his axe at his throat. Alric, having cast so many spells, naturally has another failure. It drives him into a homicidal rage, and the little pixie lands on the man's face and then does a magical powerblast on his head. The spell bursts the person's skull, his pinkish and gray insides gush out.
Immediately he comes down from the craze and sees everyone staring at him. "Dammit Alric we were going to talk to that guy!" Yells Dril.
The pixie raises his hands and shrugs, smiling innocently. "It wasn't me, it was Methos!"
"No it wasn't!" Replies Methos. "I was over here."
Alric just shakes his little bald head. "Sorry."
"Should have sent more dudes," says Gashnak cleaing his sword on one enemy's head. Checking them over they are revealed to be Zenith warriors in disguise. Beneath their armor are the tribal tatoos of the barbarians.
"These people have been following you for a bit," says Tova.
"How is Dondre, your girlfriend?" Asks Gashnak.
"Dondre is safe."
Dril pats the bodies down and finds upwards of eighty geld. Gashnak lifts one body up and throws it over his shoulder. "We need to get to Frotes, and fast."
As Kazier is on his search for Bandegil he suddenly finds himself surrounded by six warriors with a wide variety of weapons. He swiftly draws out a draenam blade and extends the claws on his left arm before the fighting begins.
Drawing on his new found ability to wield magic, he blasts several of them back with a powerful burst of wind. The many warriors try to surround and kill the fighting elf. Kazier takes several wounds, to his chest, his skull, and leg. He fights furiously and kills them one at a time in this fierce struggle. The last one takes a blade into the back of his skull as he turns to flee.
In the end Kazier is left standing, but badly hurt and barely on his feet.
As they head towards the fortress to meet Frotes, the group runs into Kazier surrounded by bodies. Alric immediately heals the badly wounded elf and they continue on together. People clear out of their way, seeing this blood spattered mob of many races. Seeing a big orc carrying a corpse is particularly disturbing.
At the fortress some guards come out as does Captain Frotes. He looks them over quickly a look of puzzlement and surprise on his face. "What the hell is going on?"
Gashnak tosses the body down in front of him. Going to a knee Frotes looks the corpse over. "This man is a Zenith!"
"We need to talk in private," says Dril.
Upstairs in the fortress behind closed doors Frotes is told quickly of what has happend. They tell him of Leden, Bandegil's actions, and the pigeons that went out of the city. During all this Frote's experession gets more and more grim.
Alric states the obvious. "Our mission tonight might be compromised, as well as the safety of the city."
Frotes shakes his head, not wanting to have heard this disturbing news. "This is not good. Let me take care of finding Bandegil. With your mission in possible even more danger we must get those catapults at all costs. If Bandegil thinks he has been found out he will probably flee. I think you need to go now. Rellian be with you."
The group leaves the fortress, heading back down to the well defended seventh wall. Tova goes along. "What can I do?" He asks.
"You are coming with me," answers Gashnak. "This is a very dangerous mission and both Alex and Jinx need to stay back."
Kazier looks over to Gashnak when he says this. The elf begins to wonder about his friends true motivations here. Being one who is steeped in duplicity and stealth, Kazier knows when such things are being said in his presence.
Outside the wall there are lots of warriors here, all busy digging and preparing for the upcoming fight. Tova is filled in on what they plan to do and he chuckles somewhat. "At least I can go in like this, I will blend in easily you know."
Everyone else begins lathering on the mud and grass, preparing themselves for the long crawl. Captain Frotes has informed the soldiers out here of what needs to be done, and they provide a screen to block their actions from the enemy lest they grow suspicious.
With dirt across his face and armor Gashnak looks at the group, and with the exception of Alric and Tova all are in a similar state. "Alric, you will be our communications. The plan remains the same as before, except that Tova will be with me instead of Alex. See you all when we get back."
They shake hands and then begin to move out towards the grasses of the plains. Each one has a small keg of gunpowder and fuse. With them in hand they will accomplish their mission or fail. All move on their bellies, crawling slowly, deliberately, a few inches at a time. The sun is still up when they do this, and Alric transforms himself into a crow to watch them down below.
Gashnak snickers to himself. "Alex is going to be pissed."
As night approaches the soldiers at the wall start singing songs, and lighting fires. It appears that they are boosting their morale, raising their courage. All in all it is a spectacular diversion, while crawlilng through the grasses is our group. When darkness does come the campfires are lit and they are able to make faster progress.
The great catapults are perhaps a third of a mile away, and the slow, deliberate movement towards them is exhausting. Everyone feels their muscles aching. The urge to rise and stretch is incredible, but to do that would be fatal. In almost total silence they slither towards their destination.
As they move up they can begin to hear the enemy talking. Their language is coarse, and all wonder in worry if they will be found out. They will all only have one chance at this. If they are discovered early then it will be over and Draman Del will be in grave danger. Slowly, relentlessly they go on.
Annoying insects bite at them. Cramps come up in their arms and legs. Each movement is done in careful deliberation. Something fast could draw an unwanted eye. Sweat mingles with the dirt. Hours pass like eons. Still they keep on going, closer and closer.
They get into position, just a dozen or so feet away from the great catapults. Peering through the swaying grasses they look forward. Bonfires are around them, two to a side. Behind them are carts loaded with rocks and boulders, ammunition to be used when the main seige begins. There are also Zenith warriors as well. Shaggy haired and bearded in filthy animal skins. Each one has several milling about, some more than others.
Behind them, the soldiers of Draman Del continue their war songs and other activities. The Zenith seem to be paying them little attentiion now. They look tired and bored, anticipating the dawn when they can launch a massive attack on the city.
Kazier and Methos feel something ahead of them, something magical. It is distant and slight, but it is there. Without a word spoken they communicate this to each other. They are both skilled in the magical arts now.
Tova moves away from Gashnak. He is a Zenith after all and he can blend in with those ahead. He will distract them while Gashnak does what he has to do. Silently Tova slips ahead to emerge later amongst the barbarians.
Dril sneaks up, his small form easily moving in the swaying shadows of the campfires. He makes it to his catapult and crawls beneath it. There are many warriors around and he moves with as much care as he possibly can. Adrenaline begins pumping in to him as he knows that success or failure is just moments away.
Over head comes Alric. He is now in the form of an owl, slowly spiraling lower and lower, watching the teams as they move into place. When he sees they are ready he moves towards his designated target.
Swooping in he shifts back to his pixie form and immediately draws on his magical powers. Alric feels the mana surge go through him and he unleashes a wave of exploding balls of flame. The catapult erupts as the flames wash over it. From all around the light of the blasts can be seen, an explosion of red flame. The catapult blows apart, it's wooden timbers and corded ropes bursting into fire. The nearby grasses burst into flames as well.
It is the signal for the others to move, the fight is on!
Tova has been mingling with the Zenith, a bottle of wine in hand. As he offers it to one the explosions begin and he crashes the bottle against the man's face. Howling he falls back, totally surprised by this.
Gashnak launches himself up and goes into a full charge, sword in one hand, powder keg in the other. Hacking with his bloodsword he unzips one warrior from face to crotch.
Wilford stands up, drawing his rapier. With a few insulting words he gets the attention of the Zenith before him who truly seem startled by all of this. They pull their own weapons and run at the pale man with the narrow blade. It is four to one and Wilford's whirling blade wounds one before he is surrounded.
Dril uses this opportunity to carefully place his explosive keg and prepares to ignite it. With a spark spell he gets the fuse to light and he begins to run as fast as his little legs can carry him. "Run! Run!" He yells, charging past the combatants.
Wilford stabs one in the throat and then spins away, running as fast as he can after his smaller companion. Behind him they feel the shockwave of the powder keg exploding.
Kazier blasts several Zenith back with a powerful wind spell, the impact blowing them off their feet to tumble away. He slashes with his blade and cuts one across the face, across both eyes and the bridge of his nose. One enemy warrior falls into one of the blazing fires causing a burst of embers to spray upwards.
Methos moves past all this to place his own keg. He gets it underneath, pushing it tightly into the wooden ribs. Again he feels the sense of a powerful magic other than his own. An invisible force strikes him in the chest and it causes him to flip backwards. Not hesitating he fire blasts the keg, hoping the explosion will not kill him.
The thunderous fireball sends the catapult blowing apart in flaming pieces. Kazier is also knocked over from the blast, several of the Zenith who were too close have been ripped apart. Ears ringing he stands up, stumbling towards where Kazier is. From out of the darkness comes a huge figure in black armor, striding towards them.
Gashnak lights the fuse on his keg and rolls it underneath his catapult. He chops the leg off of one Zenith and begins to start running. Already heading back to Draman Del is Tova, having done his part in all of this. Behind him the keg ignites and the last of the four catapults is blasted apart into fiery wooden chunks. They have accomplished their mission.
From above Alric sees the huge figure striding towards Methos and Kazier. It is like a shadow, flowing across the burning grasslands. Kazier stands back up and throws a handfull of ice projectiles at the armored giant. Stepping swiftly aside the missles fail to strike their intended target. Kazier stomps his foot in frustration and then turns and runs.
Alric casts a spell of daylight, illuminating the area below. All can see the dark warrior in his black plate armor with great sword in hand. Methos looks at him and thinks back to what happend before at the keep of the Scarlet Brotherhood. Fear almost paralyzes him and he is just barely able to bring up his shortsword to block the dark giant's attack.
His sword parries but the impact sends him flying through the air, his arm and hand going numb from shock. A ways distant Gashnak sees this and cries out: "Methos! Get the hell out of there!" Methos tries to stand back up, but has extreme trouble doing so.
Alric comes swooping down, shifting forms into that of a great King Owl with a huge wingspan. His talons clutch onto Metho's shoulders and he lifts the dazed man into the air and begins to furiously beat his wings to get away. The armored giant takes a swipe at them as they fly off and cuts only air.
The Zenith are now fully in chase, howling and screaming bloody murder as they try to run down those who have attacked them. Thousands of roaring barbarians charge, the great armored shadow pointing towards the fleeing group's direction.
The advancing Zenith are then met by the archers of Draman Del. The air is filled with arrows as they strike with great accuracy into the massed ranks of the enemy troops. Each arrow finds a target and the Zenith begin to slow down under such a withering assault. For a few moments they keep on coming but all that do are soon pierced with arrows, their lifeblood spilling out.
Directing this attack is Captain Frotes, calling out commands to his warriors. Under his guidance the archers are devastating. With great reluctance the remaining Zenith begin to pull back, going beyond the burning wreckage of the destroyed catapults.
The armored giant of the Zenith is the last to fall back. He is a blur of darkness against the flames. From across the distance the defenders of Draman Del can almost feel his malevolent gaze upon them. Slowly he turns, walking back across the burning grasses. All know that this conflict is far from over.
At the wall of the city the exhausted group gets back together. They look to each other, gasping for air from the frantic run, still covered in filth and blood. The defenders there clap them on the shoulders. "Great show!" And "Good job!" Are just some of the encouraging things that are said to them.
Alric turns back to his normal self, smiling in an almost delirious fashion.
"We did it!" Comes his high pitched voice.
Everyone bursts out laughing at this. Gashnak salutes Dril, Methos, Kazier, Tova, Wilford and finally the grinning Alric. The soldiers around them give cries of triumph, seeing the enemy run with their great weapons of war destroyed.
"We've won the first victory!"
To Be Continued . . .
(Methos will go home to his keep later on. Sadly his player Mark has had to move away)
TO BE CONTINUED . . . .
Chronicled by Ken Paynter aka...Maurice leChevalier
Back to Session 22, Forward to Session 24