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Book Three Pt 2 - The Reckoning

Written by - Talonmane Page 39 Book 3

Of the final crew of the Ironskane frigate, only two remained on board and surrendured, cowering at the prow, too afraid to follow their shipmates into the water.

After a few moments of pushing by Aquanimbulos, the two linked vessels have come alongside the 'Hammer, where Sergeant Porgrims party of marines and sailors came aboard and hastily crossed to the Overpride to commence a full sweep and take over the ship. A field healer stopped to check the condition of the crew and eventually tended to the Jenara's shoulder wound. A second apporoaches Ardwenn and inquires about his wounds and the condition of anyone below. Bimglin also comes aboard and speaks with the Captain, then gives final orders to Porgrim.

Only 5 minutes has gone by and the lines and ladders are removed and the Overpride casts off from the other two vessels, now under command of loyal forces and on a mission only known to a few.

In the middle of this, nothing can stop Kildef and Archeantus from descending to the Fair Seas Call as well. The Ranger had not seen his former comrades for a time uncountable by years. He is torn by the joy and, yet the grief of Turin and Ariana's conditions.

In the distance miles ahead, the sky is still filled half with fire, and all know they are free only to charge ahead into that conflagration, and into the jaws of something that even the sea-storm elemental fears to challenge.

Written by - Agmund

“By Gromall’s Beard he’s goin’ ta’ take a wee!” Throrgum looked down the rope as he cursed out loud. Directly above him, perhaps thirty feet, an ogre thundered his way to the edge of the cliff. At first Throrgrum had thought nothing of it, at least not until some unusual devilish orc laughter could be heard coming from the same direction. It didn’t take but a second for the old dwarf to figure out what was next, which lead him to look down at Morthand for more reasons than cursing.

Morthand snapped a glance up quickly, not because he paid any attention to what the dwarf said, but more so because he had said it very loudly. “Shhh,” he uttered, but then he realized what was about to befall them. Shooting his head back down, he whispered just above the roar of the orc city, “Don’t move my friend.”

“Easy for you ta’ say!” Throrgrum replied very angrily, with both brows arched into a V, and jaw line clenched. Both of them were braced against the canyon wall, but neither was prepared for the smelly foulness that assaulted them. Throrgrum caught the worst, and it seemed to him to be the equivalent of a barrel of orc sewage.

After it had passed, visible tears could be seen in the Dwarf’s eyes. He murmured “my beard,” in a childlike terror, and his face grew pale white. Beads of sweet began to form rapidly on his forehead. Morthand had no sooner managed to look back down again, before catching the old Dwarf’s breakfast on his head.

It took the crashing footfalls of the ogre to remind them of their surroundings. Each seemed to hold their breath as the laughter of the orcs faded into the distance, to be replaced with the monstrous roar of the hive. “I might as well chop the damnable thing off,” Throrgrum suddenly spouted. “And you!” he added as he began to climb, “just get ta’ climbing!” Morthand knew the Dwarf well, well enough to know when it was a lost cause to argue with him, so they once again began the slow descent.

They reached the ledge just as a loud thunderous boom echoed against the canyon walls. The sky above had turned dark, and the wind had just begun to pick up. Ominous black clouds raced across the moonlit sky, and lightning could be seen dancing across the horizon.

The two had barely begun to scan the trappings adorning the ledge, when the downpour began. Neither of them wasted any time in taking advantage of the falling rain. Throrgrum quickly unbraided his beard, and held it outwards in the water with one hand, as the other fished around for a bar of soap in his pack.

Around half an hour passed, during which they had changed clothes, and disposed of what they were wearing previously. They had settled in underneath an outcrop of rock that jutted out above the ledge overlooking the massive bridge. Skeletons, still in their armor and many with weapons still in their belt loops, were propped up as trophies along the length of the edge, providing a sort of screen to shield the pair from keen eyes.

“This is a good spot,” Morthand said as he peered down at the bridge, “Wasn’t easy to get to, but at least we can get a good idea of their numbers.” Throrgrum, however, did not respond. His eyes were fixated on one skeleton in particular. It was one of his kinsmen, and while Morthand could see that he was obviously saddened he could equally see an unusual gleam in his eyes.

Morthand, who had been raised by the old Dwarf, was unaccustomed to his lack of words, and it was not until after he looked at the skeleton more closely, that he understood the look in his eyes. The armor that the skeleton wore, though damaged badly with the passing of time, was clearly marked with the Icehammer in several places. More importantly, it was the armor of a king, which in turn identified the skeleton before them as one of Throrgrums grandfathers.

Written by - Ardwen

Ardwen knew little about sails and guiding a ship through water, but it was becoming rapidly obvious to him that something preternatural was occurring with their ship's bearing. First, there had been the jarring and swift change of direction, and then the ship had remained eerily steady and on course, even picking up speed as it went. Ardwen's brow furrowed as he looked from the entrance he was guarding, to Vylia, to the sails of the ship which no longer seemed to guide their course.

"Just for a second . . ." Ardwen said as he tossed one last look at his surroundings before dashing out next to Vylia. She was indeed still alive, and as Ardwen knelt next to her to make sure she was going to remain so he finally caught a glimpse of what was causing the two joined vessels to move so unnaturally. Pushing the ship the boarders had crossed from was a water elemental, the likes and kind of which even Ardwen had rarely seen. The upper part of the creature seemed composed of storm clouds, and at the top of this swirling mass of cloud was a crown. It was obvious that it was a lord of elementals, and Ardwen knew that to summon and command such a powerful entity would normally take a circle of mages, or one insanely powerful one. So the question hung in Ardwen's mind, who had called this one?

Almost as if in answer, another ship pulled alongside the two conjoined vessels. Ardwen tensed himself, looking from Vylia to the entrance below, but it became rapidly obvious that these were not more enemy raiders. Bandages and healing magics were being applied to the wounded, and a human healer approached Ardwen. He took one glance at Vylia and then at Ardwen and immediately asked to treat their wounds. "Treat this one first," Ardwen said as he rose from his kneeling position, "I'm fine." The man seemed to want to protest, but Ardwen sliced a hand through the air as if to signal him to cut his chatter. Annoyed now at the bellicose Elf, the healer remembered his duty and asked, "Are there any other in need of my skills? Any wounded below deck, perhaps?"

At the mention of the holds below, Ardwen's eyes darted to the entrance and back. "Per--," but Ardwen cut himself short and said, "no, nothing you can do. Though . . . Turin . . ." Ardwen trailed off once again, his eyes narrowing.

The healer was already preparing to aid the wounded female Elf unconscious on the deck when he heard the difficult Elven warrior finish as he walked toward the entrance, "You'll need to be heading below deck anyhow. There might be someone down there you can help. But stay away from the lady. You'll know of whom I speak when you see her."

As Ardwen reached the entrance he took one last look at Vylia to make sure the healer was doing as he was told. However, Ardwen also caught a glance of someone else moving along the vessels. Two people, to be exact. One was Archeantus, and Ardwen was silently glad to see he had not only lived, but also looked none the worse for wear. The other, however, caused Ardwen some concern. While nothing seemed impossible in this world, from the dead walking and breathing to lords of the primal elements aiding them, Ardwen was still loathe to give voice to his thoughts. All Ardwen could muster in fact was a single, puzzling word, "Jagan?" He whispered.

Written by - Tempyst

Kaya took down two more of the enemy boarders before the flow subsided and the boat began to speed off. The glow surrounding Alanthear subsided and Kaya could feel the effects of battle take her over. Dorve ran over to her and when realizing she could do nothing for the elf, scoulded Kaya for her over exertion. Then Dorve saw that Kaya was passed out and her scolding was falling on deaf ears, so she made sure Kaya was tucked out of the way of the sailors and went to attend the other wounded.

Written by - Rikshanthas

With the immediate threat over, the firey glow left Astalder, and the blade returned to its now-customary golden hue. Leinad suddenly felt the weight of his exertions, to which the battle-lust had blinded him, and sank to his knees. The impact sent a shock through him as he abruptly became aware of the numerous wounds he had received; though the injuries were mostly superficial, none critical, the pain was like a bucket of ice water over the head. Seeing the great ship pull alongside the small courier, Leinad stood, with difficulty, and walked over to the gangplank that was extended between the two vessels, sheathing his blade.

One of the first men to cross, a particularly stout Dwarf with the look of a seasoned marine, eyed Leinad as he approached and said reassuringly, "ye kin put away tha sword, lad, we're on tha same side after all." Lienad looked down at his hand in disbelief. Why, he'd just sheathed it as he stood to greet them! But sure enough, there was Astalder, at the ready in his grip. His eyes on the sword, he slowly and deliberately slid it into its sheath, only to find he could not remove his hand from the hilt. Quickly, he assumed a casual air, placing his other hand on the pommel, attempting to hide the fact that the sword had glued itself to his palm. Nodding to the sailors as they boarded to help clean up and refresh the 'Call and her crew, Lienad turned toward the hatch to the lower deck, slightly annoyed but not surprised at this turn of events. Astalder was a fickle blade, prone to throwing him surprises like this at random times. Though it had never openly communicated with him or anyone, he would swear on all the gods' names the thing had a mind of its own. This last battle had pretty much proved it.

He drew the weapon once more, casually, letting the tip drop to the deck before idly bringing the edge vertical. He pulled a cloth from a small belt pouch and began to lazily "clean and polish" the sword (anyone could tell it needed neither cleaning nor polishing), silently hoping no one else would question his "choice" to remain armed.

Written by - Agmund

Throrgum looked Morthand dead in the eye when he finally spoke up “For us there will be no final oath… there will not be one last march in our final days. I will not return here as a king, and nor shall my father end his rule in this hell. Neither in yer last days will you come here. There will be no final oath for you ta’ proclaim.” His face grew grim, grim with the face only an aged dwarf could produce. It was one of stoic grit and determination, the face of a dwarf who was proclaiming a binding oath.

His cheek began to quiver with a sort of angry twitch as he continued, causing one large braid of pepper gray hair to jump back and forth, “Nor shall yer children, or the children of the mountain or any of Njorundr… take the oath of Dagafeln.” His voice became a low rumble. “For I will return long before the final oath, and I shall lay waste ta’ this place and these… rats!” he reached forward and grabbed Morthand by his shoulder armor.

“And when I am finished, I will strike the oath stone with my hammer, and crush the dwithar written upon it! THIS I swear… by the bones,” he pointed to the skeleton, “of my kin.” He squinted his eyes angrily at Morthand, barring his teeth, as if the man questioned his words.

But Morthand said nothing, and his face was free of expression. He knew the seriousness in which all dwarves took an oath, and with Throrgrum even more so. He knew that Throrgrum would follow thru even without an army. And he knew that if Throrgrum saw doubt in his face, the dwarf would jump onto the bridge and attempt to slay every foul creature in view, and of course perish in the attempt.

Thru out his youth, he had thought that Throrgrum did this in an attempt to teach him, in a somewhat resentful manner, the traditions of his people. As if he, a human, would not understand. Later he had learned that in fact it was very much the opposite. To an old dwarf more than others, it was a game. One in fact, that they took great pride in. It was a personal test of mettle that only the sternest of dwarfs have the guts for. But to call it was not taken lightly, because once proclaimed they will follow it thru, or curse themselves in whatever death seeking fashion they can locate.

However, there was one more thing wrapped up in this particular oath that Morthand took great note of. In his years living in Kazukthule, he had seen many a dwarf proclaim an oath, but oaths written in the ancient runes of the Dwitharim, were considered sacred. Some had been carved in place with the very hands of the first five kings of the mountain, and have remained ever since. Removing this oath would essentially remove an age old tradition of the kingdom itself.

“You want to remove the Oath because it has sent our people to die needlessly?” Morthand suddenly asked, and then quickly realized he made a mistake. Throrgrum responded by snarling in rage and shoving him almost off the edge. In fact, he had to scramble in order to make sure that he didn’t fall, or knock down the skeleton.

“Stay calm, I appologize, I should not have questioned your motives,” Morthand blurted out and quickly snuck back under the outcropping. This, however, did not cause the anger in Throrgrums eyes to abate, which neither comforted nor surprised Morthand. Something deep had drawn this peculiar oath from the dwarf, something even he could not understand.

“Can you not see it lad?” Throrgrum waved his hand towards the insanity around them. “This is what the blood of our people has purchased us… not honor, not glory, but madness! They perished here and for what… ta’ slow our deaths? Don’t get me wrong boy, our for-fathers had a vast wealth o’ wisdom… but why let such a place fester under yer very noses for so long?” he spat. “Ignorant pride, which is the same reason it has taken so long to make peace with the Elenshauer.” He added angrily.

“They should have contacted the western kingdoms, they should have banded together and dealt with this threat, long before it grew into this!” he pointed his finger straight out towards the canyon. Morthand could only listen, and since he knew full well that Throrgrum was speaking the truth, he saw little reason in making him angrier by interrupting.

But Throrgrum had finished, and out of nowhere he simply sat down and stretched out. “I think I’ll have a smoke,” he exclaimed and started rummaging thru his pack. “Just like that?” Morthand asked in shock. “Wha?” Throrgum replied, like he didn’t even hear what the man had said. “Just like that your going to shut up, sit down and have a smoke?” Morthand responded in complete confusion.

“Yes,” Throrgrum said as he looked over to him, “You have a problem with that lad?” he added somewhat annoyed. “Well… sort of yes, but at least your not going to attract as much attention… so no… go right ahead,” Morthand said slowly. “Ahh,” Throrgrum let out, and then held out to Morthand like a kid winning a prize the wooden pipe he was hunting for.

Morthand just shook his head, and grinned, “You amaze me, I don’t think it would be possible for me to ever really understand you. You just went from beserk rage to a relaxing smoke in 10 seconds flat,” he chuckled.

“That’s yer problem lad, you never know when to give up,” Throrgrum said gleefully. “Give up what?” Morthand laughed. “Trying ya dimwit, yer never going ta’ understand me, so give up tryin!” the dwarf chuckled merrily. “Yer part of a long tradition of fathers confounding their sons, a tradition I simply attempt ta’ pass along,” he grinned with pride.

Morthand looked rather surprised to hear Throrgrum call him son, something he had never done. The dwarf, had always treated him like a kid, but since Throrgrum lost his wife to an illness, and customary to dwarven tradition, refused to remarry. He had no children, thus leaving Morthand unsure if he was being reared as his son, or out of friendship for his father. He had no siblings to compare how he was being raised, so in many ways, his sought to understand what it was to be both human and dwarven.

Seeing the curious look on Morthand’s face caused Throrgrum to beam a toothy grin, “Wha? You don’t think I know you try with everything you can muster ta’ understand me? That you don’t take every action and word I commit ta’ analyze in that brain o’ yers? I’m way ahead of ye lad, way ahead.”

“But not far enough to figure out how to light the pipe in the dark, without drawing attention,” Morthand said. “Well, no, not that far,” the dwarf conceded with a chuckle, “But then I raised a smart son fer that.” To which he added with a nod of his head and a low rumble of a whisper, “Yer never goin ta’ win lad.”

Written by - Vylia

The healer looked Vylia over closely and he was quickly able to ascertain that her unconsciousness was not due to bloodloss, but from exhaustion. He found and healed all of her visible wounds, including the badly damaged knee but she still didn't wake up. At that point his work was done except for one thing, which meant he had to talk to that fool stubborn elf warrior again.

It didn't take him long, the man stood out like a sore thumb amongst the rest of the crew. He walked over to him quickly, "Your friend is healed to the best of my ability, but she has no energy left. She needs a place to rest and seeing that everyone else is busy, and you refuse any healing yourself, would you be so helpful as to find her a place to sleep until she recovers completely? I need to return to my duties." The healer quickly turned to attend to several wounded crewmen without waiting for Ardwen to respond, putting the man from his mind as he got down to business.

Written by - Ardwen

Before Ardwen could return below deck the healer he had dismissed earlier returned to him. He had a simple request: find Vylia a room for her to recover from combat fatigue. Ardwen was honestly a little surprised Vylia needed to recover even after her healing, had she really pushed herself so far? The healer had scurried off before Ardwen could respond, but it did not matter.

The Elf walked over to Vylia's prone form and lifted her off the ground, using both his arms to support her. Thoughts fluttered through the warrior's mind, useless distractions, but he could not set them aside. In truth, he was starting to resent how complex things were becoming, and how hard these complexities made it to simply fight unhindered. "Such must be the feelings," thought Ardwen as he carried Vylia below deck, "of all those who have someone to protect. Am I simply worried about losing them again . . ."

Ardwen allowed the thought to end there as he shifted Vylia slightly to enter Ariana's room. The Elf could think of no better place, indeed, no other place Vylia would rather rest in then in the same room as their Abbess. As Ardwen's eyes swept over the room though, the scene was far from what he expected. For collapsed on the floor was the Priest of Battle, limp as if dead. Ardwen's breath caught in his throat as he walked as quickly as he dared and layed Vylia gently down next to the bed.

Ardwen placed a hand on Turin's shoulder and shook the paladin gently, "Priest of Battle, Priest of Battle, sir!" Ardwen said urgently. Turin did not respond, but Ardwen noticed he was breathing steadily. "What the hell?" Ardwen hissed as his mind raced through what could have possibly knocked Turin out without anyone noticing.

"Abbess?" Ardwen questioned as he turned his gaze on the bed Ariana was in. Then he rememebered that Ariana was in not condition to help. "No," Ardwen growled as his frustration turned to anger, "none of you get to go to hell without me!" The warrior ran back out into the hallway and began to fling open doors with abandon, he found a room for storing extra arrows and arms, a room with what appeared to be foodstuffs, and at last a room with a single small cot next to a desk with books and papers spread on it.

Ardwen yanked the blanket and pillow from the cot so swiftly they flapped and made an audible noise. He ran back into Ariana's room and used them to make Vylia as comfortable as he might in such a hurry. Giving one last appraising look at the room he ran as fast as his legs would carry him to the above deck and shouted Archeantus's name once, before remembering a trick that sometimes worked with Sycon.

"ARC," Ardwen's brow furrowed as he focused on the thought so fiercely it almost seemed to echo within his skull, "NEED AID, TURIN'S DOWN AND VYLIA WOUNDED, DO-" Ardwen cut the thought short and shook his head, he had no clue if it was working. So he simply went back to shouting the warlock's name again.

Written by - Talonmane

"Alright, we're nae goin'ta wait fer 'em. Bragni, full sail! Feburt, tell Bim to get the business o'er with and cast that boat off our side. An' make sure they stay in our shadow." Munchadin paced the pilot's deck, impatient that they were not making better time back to the mouth of the harbour. He was in a Dwarvish brood.

Within five minutes Kildef returned. "Admiral, our elemental friend is suggesting that the courier not cast off from our side. He'll get us there faster if he concentrates just on our sails," said the Ranger as he once more readied the ballista with the special payload.

"'s unnatural, that. But I'll take anythin' at this point that'll get us out there fast." Munch walked to the front of the upper deck and caught sight of the sailmaster again. "Bragni, change o' plans. That big wet blob o' wind'll be gi'en us a hand...or...whate'er. Orient the sails fer...well...ach, by His forge, ye'll figure it out!" He returned to the wheel, mumbling - something he did more when in foul spirits.

Aquanimbulos ascended off the Port side, and began to inhale. The wind fell from the 'Hammer's sails. For two minutes this continued, and the sea-storm elemental grew to twice his normal size. All wind in the area seemed to cease, and all was quiet but for the collosal intake of breath.

"Brace yerselves!" called out Bimglin from amidships. He stood at the Starboard rail where his booming voice could be heard as well by the crew of the 'Call. It was a tense moment in time, and an electric charge to the air could be felt building...

....It was shattered by the crack and flash of a huge thunderbolt from the Southerly sky that impacted upon the backside of the elemental at the moment that he began to exhale. At the same time, a light mist of rain fell around them. Everyone in the vicinity jumped or cowed at the explosion of light and noise. All but Kildef, who was laughing.

"By the gods, lad, me heart nearly burst from me breastplate. We've got sailors droppin' ropes an' shocked witless an' divin' fer cover...and here's you, havin a giggle! What madness?"

"I can't help it! Our big friend out there may seem an awesome and awful creature, but he is just like us. When the lightning struck, in my head, all I could hear was "Oops...!" And the Ranger burst into a new round of uproarious mirth. And after a pause, his beard and brows now wet with rainwater, the Dwarf joined him, for a time at least, losing his brood.

The great exhalation began slowly. As the natural winds once again filled their sails, the elemental added to it almost gently. But this grew...and grew. Bragni had his sailcrews tune the great rigging to the abnormal source of power, and before they new it, the sea was breaking across their prow at a speed at least twice what the 'Hammer had ever made in the best of conditions even with her full catamaran's compliment of canvas. A deep - if such a description could be applied to the sound of wind - blow filled the sky around them, though it was not over-loud and in fact was rather soothing to the ear. But it did make sending voice orders difficult.

Munchadin had Feburt pass the word to Bimglin and ship's mates to be ready, for momentarily, they would again be in a warzone. And no one could know just what they would find there. In particular, several sailors stood ready at the cruiser's lit signal lights, and Marlie was ready with flags. Organized communication with the other ships of the fleet would be crucial in the battle with the harpy.

Written by - Agmund

It had been hours since either the man or dwarf spoke, and both were busy in their own fashion. Morthand was taking detailed notes of the surroundings, including what was coming and going below them, while Throrgrum seemed to be preoccupied with an attempt to map out the best direction for an assault.

A loud cry of terror pierced the air, causing both to jump slightly. Too far away from the edge to see what was going, Throrgrum whispered to Morthand as he looked up from his work “What’s happening lad?”

“A siege engine, looks like a sort of trebuchet knocked off an orc as it was crossing the bridge,” Morthand replied. “It’s the second one to cross in the last hour or so, and it has a great host of orcs following ahead it,” he said worriedly, “but I cannot make out the direction they are going.” Morthand looked over his should to Throrgrum, “Its not that the orcs are silent, its as if they aren’t aware of where they are going. The masters are merely whipping them into file, and herding them out. Just grumbling, and complaining, no other clues from there lips, its almost as if they know we are here.”

Throrgrum nodded his head no, “nay lad, if’n they knew we where here, we’d have dun’ been killed or captured hours ago. The orcs are more cunning than ye realize. They know this is a big place, and that spies could be anywhere. They are tight lipped merely as an added precaution.”

When Morthand turned his attention back to the bridge, something of great interest caught his eye. A small shriveled up orc, old and ugly, with a nose that jutted out several inches from his face like an axe. The skin of the orc was a drab olive color, but it had large white crack like wrinkles of near bone white, appearing almost like an affliction. Apparently to feeble to walk, the orc was being carried upon a sort of canopied throne, though without a seat.

Instead it was covered in layers of various furs and hides, while the canopy seemed to be a form of cloth, albeit roughly made. It was held aloof by poles at either corner, and one central beam directly behind the orc. The litter itself was about eight foot by eight foot, and while it wasn’t very grandiose, the method in which it was being moved was.

Large wooden beams underneath it extended out from the front and back by an additional eight feet in either direction. These were attached, strangely, to a system of wooden supports built directly onto the bodies of eight ogres. Four of them were in the front, and four were in the rear of the litter. Each bore a thick leather harness that wrapped around their shoulders and waist. The harness in turn had large upside down metal pouches, crude, but sturdy looking, that held columns of iron rods.

The rods supported a flat circular block of wood about a foot above the head of each ogre. Atop them were iron coils which meet another block of wood above them, but these blocks were cut in a U shape at the top, allowing them to fit snuggly beneath each support.

“Looks rather comfy doesn’t he lad,” Throrgrum whispered from beside Morthand, which startled him somewhat. Upon seeing the young man jump, Throrgrum cracked a wide grin, his lower jar line jerking far off to the side. “Well, ye got quiet and wide eyed all tha’ sudden, so I had ta’ see fer meself, what ye were lukin’ at,” he looked back to the bridge and the litter which had journeyed roughly half way across it, “I can sure see why… cause that is one helluva n’ ugly… rotting piece of…” Throrgrum seemed to stop there searching for the next word, his head lurching left to right. He was making a horrible face, his tongue sticking out just barely between his barred teeth. His cheekbones curled up high; almost breaking against his brows as is they battled for supremacy.

But then out of nowhere, he stopped. His gaze turned slightly dark and twisted, as he looked Morthand dead in the eye. “Lets kill the damned thing,” he said in a low rumble. Morthand was about to protest, but Throrgrum gave him no chance. He placed his hand on the boys shoulder, grasping it firmly as he continued. “Listen lad, don’t talk, just listen… That thing down there is a shaman, an orc shaman, and likely of great power. I have told ye stories, how many times, when ye were a child. Stories of our ancestors, these are no mere myths lad.”

“That is the evil of those stories,” he pointed down to the litter as it passed the middle of the bridge. “That orc has the potential ta’ kill far more of our kin, than the armies of Dagafeln could ever do alone. He will imbue those ogres beneath him with untold powers of protection… AND death wielding powers in turn!”

“Your out of your mind!” Morthand shook his shoulder free. “Our purpose is to report back with numbers, that is the only way we stand a cha,” he didn’t manage to finish before both shoulders were gripped and the dwarf shook him a moment. “IF we manage to get out alive lad… there’s no way Dun-Algur would stand a chance against that army, we are here now and,” but this time it was Throrgrum that was cut of.

“How do you know that army is heading to our home, we have no way of knowing where it is going,” Morthand said with little effect. The dwarf was shaking his head no, and a soft smile lined his face as he replied, “It doesn’t matter where its going lad, the point is we are here now, and we can stop that thing from killing many, no matter where it goes. What does matter son, is that soon, he will be directly beneath tha’ ledge we debate upon. He will be exposed, and that you and I have the ability ta’ slay him.”

“But,” Morthand protested and was cut short yet again. “Nay lad, the time fer talkin’ is fixin’ ta’ pass, I have chosen my path, oath be damned, and perhaps I along with it. You have ta’ decide for yerself if’n ye wish to join me on this one, because likely we will both die.”

For a brief moment the two said nothing. Throrgrum was looking at Morthand but Morthand seemed to be weighing things in his mind. He was looking over to the side, eyeing the position of the litter. Then he let out a long breath, as if he had made his decision, he looked back to the dwarf and whispered, “Your right… count me in.”

“Morthand,” the dwarf said simply, “I have always been proud of ye lad, as if ye were my own blood. You have served the memory of yer father well, and I am certain he looks down upon ye from the mount with equal pride.” Throrgrum glanced over the ledge, and suddenly shuffled to his feet, but continued to talk: his voice growing in volume and ferocity.

“Lets go ta’ meet our kin now, but before we do lad… lets show what were made of!” he finished in a shout; yanking one hammer up in his right hand, and ripping a hammer from the rotted belt of the kinsmen beside him. He shoved the skeleton as roughly as he could off the side of the ledge, and leapt off behind it, leaving the man wide-eyed, but with almost equal zeal.

Written by - Talonmane

Battlesmoke now ruled the bay's surface again as the sounds of creaking masts, crackling fires, and sailors at war arose in the distance. Looking out ahead of Wavehammer and Fair Seas Call, the world was intermittantly grey with a deepening red sky. The rain had stopped, and the unceasing low thrumm of the sea-storm elemental's breath brought with it an unexpected warmth. The crew was energetic, curious about the fate of their fleet-mates at the nearing mouth of the harbour, and their confidence rode the steady and determined will of their captain.

"Smoke clears ahead! We're coming through!" The ever-enthusiastic voice of the young dwarf woman rang from the top of the foremast. But her voice then trailed off and cracked, "Oh, my god..."

They emerged into a custom-made arena on the sea. It was as though they stepped through a wall that made up a grey perimeter encompassing an area at least two miles wide. Something was pushing all the smoke to this circular edge. It could be seen drifting in thick wisps from the wreckage of vessels across the vista, getting blown radially outward from the center of activity, a point seemingly beneath the harpy and her summoned charge. No special wind could be detected...the smoke simply moved at a constant rate from wherever it formed toward this artificial edge, even against the flow of natural wind. Ships of both navies, many dozens, were burning hulks. Just as many were engaged in boarding actions, grappled together for hand-to-hand fighting. Less than 10 vessels in sight appeared to still be moving and firing in ranged exchange. Of these still maneuvering, none were of Munchadin's ships-of-the-line: the long schooners, galleons, destroyers, and dreadnaughts were either burning, sunk, or in close combat. Only the lighter ships still danced, both Ancoran and Doledrun, against an equal number of enemies.

Accompanying the revelation of the scene before them came a wave of nausea and fear that broke over the crew. Merely being in clear sight of the demon shifted the emotional atmosphere, and a darkness seemed to plunge in upon them making colours less apparent and the contrast of black and white more stark. Bimglin had tried to prepare the sailors for the coming of such a moment and worse, so most held on tightly to their duties, while a few fell to one or both knees and lost composure. One man who was new to the crew with this voyage and whom they did not know well, backed away from his post at ship's center, holding his head in his hands and with a contorted, soundless expression of tortured pain. Brogni tried to approach him, but the poor hand took one look his way, screamed from his core with a hysteria no one ever expects to come from the throat of a grown man, ran to the port rail and collided with it, tumbling over the side. Bragni was left to stare with his arm still reached out. All on board needed no explanation - everyone could feel that if one would just let go, not hold on to duty and sworn courage and vengeance against Ironskane - or whatever else would drive them - just a moment of letting go could mean a similar fate. Bimglin looked up from the rail toward Munchadin at the pilot's deck, shaking his head. The man was lost, going under without an attempt to swim.

A moaning laughter echoed around the dome of sky, increasing to dominate the moment. It was a noise carrying promise of doom and the end of all things; change without control, and the burning of whatever it encountered. Only a god could laugh at the volume of thunder. Or the opposite of a god...such as this. And next to the source of that cacophony, the harpy spoke. Despite her still being more than a mile away, it was as though she were in the head of all listening, with a voice that cackled and screeched, that was nothing but unappealing and wretched. Her focus was the dwarven admiral.

"At last, the fool of fools arrives! The sorryest navigator in an ocean of damned pawns...and with him, comes the main course: a feast for the Red Realm, a dinner that will feed Adramelech's fifty-nine legions for time unknowable! Behold - Munchadin - your schemes unfurled...and know the beginning of the Masters' reign on this Earth!"

As the witch spoke the clouds above shook with energy and from her left, at the command of her hellspawn, a blazing meteor tore down and toward Wavehammer.

Written by - Talonmane

"To starboard, NOW! Bim, cut the lines t' the courier! Get them off and away 'ere they can maneuver to save their lives! And I hope that elf Capt'n has half a wit in 'er pointy 'ead..." Munch cranked the helm over as Bragni's sailhands tried to assist with the orientation of the canvas as best they could. The ship was then slammed hard from port as Aquanimbulos rammed himself into their side and pushed. Some of the water that made up much of the elemental's body crashed over them like a storm wave, soaking half the crew. But the cruiser was saved - the fireball hit the bay just off their left side. As a massive volume of water was vapourized, the elemental then turned his power to containing the steam and forcing it to become liquid again in an instant, thus keeping the ship from destabilizing.

With a hurricane roar Aquanimbulos rocketed away and up. Crashing bolts of lightning erupted from each of his arms and slashed at Hrulga and the demon-lord as he charged them. While hard to see at this distance, to Marlie it appeared that the electricity was intercepted and dampened by something else, as though a magic protected the targets. Rain then fell in great sheets over the foes, but it turned to steam before ever reaching their foul heads. The steam from that rain then betrayed the arrival of a building tornado of wind. Marlie watched as the elemental joined with this tornado storm and flew at maddening speed around the demon and harpy, the steam getting pulled with these winds and revealing the shape and strength of the cyclone. Lightning thundered from the clouds now as well, as Aquanimbulos poured on everything in his power. Nothing could be seen within the tornado but a reddish glow fighting to dominate the electric blue of the elemental's assault.

Kildef cried out from Munch's left "Oh! this is a distraction, admiral! our friend says to do whatever we can now, he can't keep this up."

"Alright lad! Ahoy me crew! Get yerselves together. Dunnae let the fireworks make you think we're naught but little bugs compared to these giants. The day will be won by the actions of dwarf and man and elf! We are as great as they, I say! We carry the heart and blood of ancestors who fought these same enemies of Life. We dunnae run from them - we war with them as we must! Fer Ancora, fer her heart that still beats and to not see the providence we carry devoured in the din...and fer the 'Hammer that will sail out of this night and be rebuilt whole again, HUZZAH! I say!

Brogni, ahead full. Signallers, tell all ships that have guns t' break their other fights and execute the mage's plan! Kildef - stand by to fire, and ye'll 'ave to make it count. Make yer old man proud..." by His Forge, I wish Jagan were here with us now. Though he ne'er spoke of it, Ah've always known his life, his purpose, was to see us through moments like these. Ye'd better still be alive, Barbarian. Fer if this is just the beginning of the real war, how can we get through days worse than this?

The Fair Seas Call banked off and away, allowed herself to clear the cruiser and fall behind her.

Written by - Tempyst

Kaya could feel the warm ground under back, hear the birds chirping and the insects buzzing, the sun warm on her face. I could sleep here for hours...

"We do not have the time for that Mistress, our presence is needed elsewhere."

Kaya opened her eyes slowly, then sat up, then turned to the direction of the voice. Standing there was a tall, handsome man, dressed in full plate. "Who are..."

"I am A'lanthear Mistress and I am here to guide you." He could see the questions in her face and already had the answers for her. "We are in the dream realm; you are unconscious on the ship, having over extended yoruself fighting, though it could not be helped. This is my true form, well, at least it was before my body was destroyed, but that is another story, once we do not have time for right now. Right now, our presence is required elsewhere. Nyrondis seeks to see us both."

"Well," Kaya started, getting to her feet, "it is a pleasure to meet you like this. And, I should like to hear your story when we have time." A'lanthear nodded and held out his arm for Kaya. Kaya smiled and took it and let A'lanthear guide her to their destination. He lead her from the small clearing through the woods. Kaya could tell that they were being watched, but the eyes upon her did not worry her. She glanced about at the lush woodland, marveling at the trees, flowers and creatures she could see.

"We are here." A'lanthear said softly. Kaya looked forward into a new clearing. It ws filled with creatures of all kinds, predator and prey alike, but neither paid head to the other. But at the far side stood the largest oak tree she had ever seen. She gazed upwards and still could not see the top. But her eyes drifted downwards to its base, where sat Nyrondis. Just gazing upon his form caused her to drop to her knees, for here was her God. Nyrondis stood, brushed his dark hair from his face and moved to Kaya.

"Greetings youngling, please, rise." He held out a hand to Kaya and helped her to stand. Kaya stood, her knees still shaking. "I wish we had more time, but you are needed elsewhere. For now, the two of you are here to complete our bond, so that you may be able to go and help in the battles ahead. Please know, what you face, you cannot face alone, for this thing is greater than you, though any lessers it may summon you should be able to take care of." Nyrondis then stood to his full height, and power eminated from him that could not be denied. "Kaya'Talas, do you swear to me, your allegiance, to be a full fledged demon hunter in my name and my name alone? To this do you so swear? ANd you A'lanthear, do you still swear as well?"

Kaya knelt on one knee, her hand still within Nyrondis'. "My Lord and Master, I hereby pledge to you my heart, body, mind and soul. Your cause is mine and your command my will." Upon saying the words, she could feel the warmth and affection eminating from him, and felt her soul become whole.

A'lanthear knelt as well. "I too give to you my soul Nyrondis, to continue this fight for you and all creatures of good."

Nyrondis smiled. "Very well, I take your pledge Kaya'Talas, Demonhunter, and now I am afraid our time is at an end. It is time for you to go back and help your friends against our enemy." Nyrondis leaned over and kissed Kaya upon the head. Kaya sighed wishing this could go on forever.

Mistress...mistress, wake up, we are needed. Kaya opened her eyes, her notrils filled with the stench of smoke and blood. She jumped up, placing her hand upon A'lanthears hilt. She smiled, feeling refreshed and renewed and ready for action. SHe could feel the new strength within her, the power from Nyrondis. SHe looked around then stopped, her eyes on the horizon, gazing at the monstrosity there. This is not going to be easy.

Written by - Archeantus

He could feel their presence growing closer and closer through the sounds of battle and the spray of the wind. Archeantus leaned forward off the side of the 'Hammer, sensing they were now but yards away.

Finally he heard Kildef's anxious voice.

"Come old friend, it's time."

Archeantus nodded, at once relieved as he was worried. He detected a few were unconscious.

Being led across the thrown planks between the two vessels, Kildef hurriedly took them directly toward the Far Seas Call where at long last most of the Hands of old were finally in one place.

The old warlock stood a moment, taking in what he could learn, opening his mind to the ship's condition. It was during this that a stern elven voice pierced his probing mind.

"ARC, NEED AID, TURIN'S DOWN AND VYLIA WOUNDED, DO-" Ardwen stopped, wondering if he was getting anywhere.

Touching his finger to his temple, Archeantus replied mentally with an edge of lighthearted concern. "I am coming. No need to keep calling my damn name."

Stepping past much of those who were being tended to, he descended to the lower quarters, Kildef and Pharsalus in tow, where Ardwen stood; Vylia, Turin, lain about the floor, Ariana remained, resting upon a bed.

The old warlock appeared in the room, his staff in his weathered hands. His blindfolded face worked it's way about the room, and then centered on Ardwen.

"Telling them accounts of your many war campaigns I see."

He detected the sudden low grumble, and smiled gravely before the stern Elf had a chance to reply.

"I am as happy as you are to find them still with us."

"As am I!" Kildef roared in from behind him.

Pharsalus, simply gazed long at those he hadn't seen in ages with those deep gemmed eyes of his, reflecting the soft candlelight of the room.

There was a stillness then in the air, as a pause fell through the room, all of them looking and sensing each other as the precarious situation began to propel forward once again.

The ship lurched forward, powered by the magical elements up above.

Written by - Tempyst

Kaya could feel the demon's presence; feel its magic flowing through the air and over the people on the ships. She could also see and hear the crew of the ship she was on, begin to react to the magic and it was not pleasant. Stay steady A'lanthear, we shall do our best to give these people some strength. Kaya positioned herself by the main mast, placed a hand upon A'lanthear's hilt, then began to sing an old battle chant, one meant to give strength and hope. First, the chant started out low, almost inaudible, Kaya closed her eyes and focused her new found energy, reaching out to Nyrondis for strength and guidance. Then the chanting grew louder, more defined, the sounds coming from her soul rising above the cries and screams of her shipmates. I hope this will help them A'lanthear, I hope this will help.

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