The Awakening – Act IV Part II
It hadn’t ever seemed like such a long journey from Ver Lor Reg to the moongate before, but their group had never been so haggard either. As the humans in Ilshenar had increased in numbers the strain on the city of Ver Lor Reg had grown to the point that it was no longer sustainable for some of the businesses and families. Prices had increased to the point that many of the gargoyles who’d lived there for ages could no longer afford to remain. Queen Zhah’s offer had tempted many away, and even some of the town guards had taken it up and left. With the pressure of the humans in the desert sifting and drawing in monsters of all sorts, combined with the opening into Exodus dungeon emitting the mechanical monsters regularly, the situation had quickly started devolving.
Vas-Wen helped to drag along one of her fellow gargoyles as they made their way through the desert towards the moongate, with a gargoyle child in her other arm. The few among them with weapons were tasked with clearing a path through the dangerous areas. She was one of the few who had managed to escape uninjured when the end had started, and now she was doing everything she could to help her fellow gargoyles get away from what was left of their once glorious and beautiful city. It had just happened so fast, it still all seemed like a dream…
A crashing noise awoke her from slumber, causing her to bolt upright in the stone bed. Assuming someone had dropped something, she rolled over in an attempt to sleep but not before another, much louder, crash broke her attempt. A moment later a sparking and hissing monstrosity was flung through the open archway, and a guard quickly dashed in after it, burying his spear deep into the creature and ripping out it’s mechanized guts as the whine of its engine finally ceased. Vas-Wen clutched at her nightclothes as she looked to the guard, whose breathing she could now tell was ragged and from whom blood flowed freely onto the floor. The guard looked to her with a startled visage. “This area was supposed to already be cleared! Get out of here and head for the gate, and if you know how to fight, arm yourself!” With that the guard rushed out into the street once more. Warily, she stepped through the stone archway from whence the guard had just come.
Ver Lor Reg was in chaos. The scents of burning oil and reagents clung heavily in the air, and the sickening essence of blood followed it like a chaser. Screams and clashing weapons rang throughout the entirety of the city, and to the west she could see guards clashing with Overseers, Minions, and even those once thought extinct Minion Lords. She could see that there was no way the outnumbered force could hold the mechanized monsters at bay, and they were in a fighting retreat. Hearing a cry in a nearby home she realized with dread that it was that of a child. Without even thinking, she sprinted towards the building, bursting into the open archway in time to see a juggernaut enclosing upon a lone gargish child. With a roar of fury she didn’t even know she could make, Vas-Wen leapt on top of the creature and raked its exposed human parts until she reached its throat, and dug her talons into it. The mixed spray of blood and alchemical fluid that powered the monstrosity quickly seeped into the creatures exposed circuitry and it cast out arcs of lightning through its body until the creature slumped and its drill finally grinded to a halt.
She quickly moved forward to the child and took him up in her arms, heading past the defunct creature even as a much more vicious looking version of the one she’d killed smashed through the wall and into the building. The massive drill attached to it whirred with blurring speed and wailed like the sound of a dragon’s claws upon stone. With a flap of her wings she threw herself through the doorway as the structure collapsed, feeling strong hands help her up as she joined the retreat, hoping she never saw one of these creatures ever again…
As she’d thought back to what had just happened, they finally reached the moongate and stepped through. Exiting into the sunlight of Ter Mur they were spotted by one of the Ter Mur gargoyles who immediately sent out a wave of alarm, though amidst his shouts he had to pause to cough a few times. As the healers and envoys rushed out of the city to attend to their brethren from Ver Lor Reg, Vas-Wen could only watch and wish she could do more.
“For your contributions and your dedication to the city, as well as in removing and assisting in the detention of threats both domestic and foreign, it is the decision of this body that you be recognized as a Baron of the city of Trinsic. Congratulations and we hope that you will serve well.” The assembled men and women applauded as the brief ceremony concluded, and the newest Baron was named. Despite the hardships they’d endured, not everyone was finding this to be the worst of times, and the merchants of Trinsic had banded together as had those of several other cities. With trading and most of the means of survival in their hands with many of the former nobles ousted by the angry people, the merchants had been able to seize power, and were now in a state of de facto control. While this worked out well for them, not everyone was so pleased with it, one of them being the man who watched what he viewed as a farcical ceremony from a balcony overlooking the inner courtyard.
Stroking his goatee for a moment, the man turned to his servant that was with him, scanning his face for his thoughts on the matter. After but a few seconds he broke the silence and spoke to him. “Tell me, Clancy, what do you think of merchants assuming the role of lauded council?” Unmistakable sarcasm dripped with every word he spoke.
Clancy frowned for a moment and just shook his head. “Lord Archus, I do not think it bodes well for the future of our fair city.”
Lord Archus turned back to look down upon the gathered and then did an about face, his cloak hovering just above the floor. “As much as it bothers me, I fear it is not the primary concern at the moment. I’ve been trying to decide what is possible to do about the situation that’s occurred in Ver Lor Reg. After receiving word of the hardships they are facing I’ve come to my decision. Come with me, and we shall see if the expensive favors I burned have borne the fruit that I need and brought me the only messenger that might be able to get through to him…”
The unmistakable sound of valorite clashing against verite, of iron against copper, and bronze against agapite rang throughout the battlefield. A fierce contingent of knights backed up by a scant few mages were doing their best to fight off every attack thrown at them by the wild beasts and assassins that beset upon them, even while necromancers did their best to level the field anytime the knights started to make headway.
A rallying cry shot up as a man in gleaming, polished armor charged into the front lines, a banner flapping violently against the wind from the horses back as he threw himself into the fray. His helmet was adorned on either side with a battered but clear crest, that of a deep violet chalice. Dazzling sword strokes and parries were flung against the enemy combatants, causing the beastmasters, poisoners, and necromancers formation to quickly crumble. Even as the line advanced the scavengers were already starting to populate the battlefield, rats and crows finding those bodies not already used up from the foul magicks being used. Amidst the noise of battle and the intensity of the fighting, an abnormally behaving mouse was never noticed.
The leader of the knights shouted out for one last surge, and he dismounted as a fireball lanced out and took his steed upon its flank. On foot he closed the distance between himself and the one who appeared to be his opposite number amongst the enemy forces, and quickly brought his blade to bear against her. With a vicious snarl the woman raised a kryss to block, and they locked blades for but a moment before he managed to bring his shield to bear, and bashed her with it. In a single motion she brought a potion to her lips, ripped the cork out and drank it, and with an invigorated look she motioned for the plate armored knight to come at her. Both of them fought on even as their armies continued to battle, until finally the knight managed to gain the upper hand and knocked her to the ground. Hefting one of his plate armored boots onto her sternum he leveled his sword to her face.
“If you know where she is, tell me, and I will serve the virtue of Compassion over Justice today. If you don’t, then I hope your last words are worth it.”
The woman glared daggers at him, a bloody mouthed smile playing across her lips that was devoid of anything resembling warmth as she coughed out her answer. “She’s beyond your reach, Knight-Errant. And she’s beyond your power too. Your little kingdom is crumbling at the seams and we’ll be there to pick up the pieces when…”
Her response was cut short as the knight drew his sword back and silenced her forever. Without a word he turned from her body, surveying the scene before him; those enemy forces still alive were now in full retreat, and most of his forces were walking, if not unwounded. He slashed the blood from his blade and slid it home into its sheath at his waist as he approached his lieutenants, but was stopped as a peculiar rodent ran across the battlefield to him. As he saw her, he doffed his helmet and shook out the sweat from his raven locks, before kneeling to pick up an old friend.
“You are the last I expected to see in these lands, Sherry. I can only assume that it’s of dire importance.”
The knights voice still had a sonorous quality to it, one that brought a touch of familiarity that Sherry had found less and less of amongst others of late, and she made a silent thanks that at least here something hadn’t changed.
“Lord Dupre, it’s about the current state of…”
Reaching a plate gloved hand up he rubbed at his temples lightly for a moment before he held that same hand out in a gesture of asking her to halt. “For you, it’s simply Dupre. But come, I fear this is the kind of talk I won’t be able to handle if I don’t have access to a drink. I promise to only get you the finest of delicacies to nibble on as well.” With that having been said, he gathered up the reins of his steed and waited for one of his mages to provide them with a gate, and stepped through it with Sherry the Mouse in one arm…