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Chapter Fifteen: The Fall of Eresinne
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Kalanna Rai



Joined: 21 Jan 2006
Posts: 3075
Location: The Frozen North

Posted: Tue Apr 03, 2012 10:55 pm    Post subject: Chapter Fifteen: The Fall of Eresinne  

You spared the mother and her child...but at what cost?
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Chapter Fifteen: The Fall of Eresinne

Lukan's heart was hammering as he leaned against the stone battlements, Beak standing protectively near. The big hippogriff rested on three legs, his left hind drawn up as rivulets of blood ran downward from a nasty gash on his flank, pooling where the tips of his hoof-talons rested against the stone. He could hear the screams of men dying amid the clatter of bone and steel and the sounds of the stones hurled by the heavy siege engines. His hands were shaking, fingers numb from the shock of it all. He'd never been in something like this. The few ghastly remains left behind by drakes startled from their meals couldn't compare to the slaughter and butchery below.

"Get up Lukan. Get up now." Khafi's voice was hard as steel, his hand reaching down to catch Lukan's shoulder and haul him to his feet. "You need to convince that big beast of yours to go, the smell of his blood is drawing the ones at the base of the wall."

That iron hard grip forced Lukan to look over the battlements at the scrabbling mass of animated bone below. They were just piling up on top of each other, some of them with bloody gobbits of flesh and gore clinging to their bones like prized trophies. Perhaps the only thing that halted their ruthless advance was when they stopped to fight over a corpse or when infighting over a particularly choice bit of flesh broke out. Now they were scrabbling at the stone of the high walls.

The outer rings of the city had fallen an hour ago, he'd helped evacuate the people up into the safer districts. The whole of Eresinne's population was cramped in the confines of the upper three districts, a hundred thousand people. Women and children, the very young and the very old. Men who couldn't wield a weapon in defense of their homes or cast a spell to save their lives a small minority among them. It had been at the barring of the last set of gates where Beak had gotten hurt, taking a slash from the sharpened finger bones of a particularly vicious skeleton. The already torn mail of the hippogriff's barding had lanced his flank open like butter and hampered Beak's ability to fly.

"Alright! Let go Khafi!" He twisted free of Khafi's grip the moment the other released it, making his way over to Beak. With numbed fingers he fumbled at the straps holding the hippogriff's armor on, stripping it down. He tore some of the ruined fabric, sorting the cleaner part out, and wrapped it as best he could around haunch, girth, and the base of Beak's tail to staunch the bleeding. He stroked Beak's wicked curved beak one last time then leaned close, speaking a command word he never thought he'd have to use.

With a shriek the big hippogriff backed up, slowly launching himself into the sky. He circled a bit before landing again, butting his skull against Lukan and clacking his beak. Lukan slapped his good shoulder, repeating the command again and this time the big hippogriff took off for good, winging away over the battlefield. He stared after the fading speck that was his ever faithful companion, telling himself now was not the time to cry. That he was too old and too numb for tears.

He wiped one out of his eye anyway.

Where was Alasdair? He knew that the battle plans hadn't relied on the dragon...but the men had been. They'd expected to have a monster of legend at their backs against a terror hoard from hell. Instead all they'd gotten was Khafi's terse message that the dragon wouldn't be coming and that they'd had to fight on. Lukan had had to watch their faces every time he relayed the news to commanders out of reach of Khafi's mental communication. He'd had to watch men fight and die, listen to men beg him to lift them to safety when he knew Beak couldn't handle the extra strain of another man in armor. He'd had to watch them get torn to pieces from the relative safety of the sky.

And now, as the first of the bone horrors began to scale the walls, he drew his swords and cursed his brother for not being here. Next to him Khafi let out a sigh and drew the curved blade he'd carried out of the desert, pressing the flat to his forehead and muttering some breathless words. A prayer perhaps, though it seemed unlikely. But what was likely was that they would die here on this wall. Their bodies would be torn to pieces like so many other men. Their flesh fought over by the bone horrors until it was so much red pulp.

Astor's hand reached out, pushing Khafi back, his eyes gazing first at the darker brother, then piercing into Lukan. The intensity of that gaze had never changed, not from the first moment he'd met Lukan until now. "Khafi, I need you to call for Yevard. Tell him...tell him that the time for dignity has come. Lukan, go down into the courtyard with your brother and assist the old summoner with one last project will you. The two of you won't help make this wall any safer."

Wait. After all this...Astor was sending him away like a child? "No. If you're going to stand here I'm not going to go cower! I'm not going to quit the field like-"

"You are going to obey an order from your king and you are going to go help get the people of this city to safety. Do you understand me Lukan Stormrunner? Then go. Now!" And with his command issued Astor drew the massive sword at his side, picking up a shield emblazoned with the lion crest of the House Vengivedion, Astor's personal coat of arms. Around him his remaining guards rallied as the first of the ambitious dead clambered over the battlements.

He ran then, wondering what Yevard could do for them. He'd helped with Tessa's visions but other than that the crusty old man hadn't been good for much other than drinking all the wine and muttering cryptically about things in a sour tone of voice. Khafi's breath huffed behind him, his darker brother obviously unused to the armor he was wearing. They nearly tumbled down the stairs as they bolted for the courtyard, expecting total chaos. Instead they found a rather unusual sight.

Everyone was neatly arranged, families grouped together, and in the center of it all was Tessa in a bloodstained gown with a sheaf of parchment in her hand. Nearby the old Yevard muttered, a circle of bloodied linens arranged in a massive circle. As she turned, Tessa's eyes met Lukan's own and she waved at him before pointing upward, drawing his attention to the skies.

He'd thought the darkness was twilight falling and now he knew the truth. Wrapped around the spire of a tall tower was the massive form of Alasdair. Golden talons dug into the stonework, void black wings spread over the keep, the big dragon opened his maw and let a torrent of light pour forth and bath the outer walls. The men fighting there were spared harm but the skeletons crumbled into dust, a ragged cheer going up from the walls defenders. But in his heart Lukan could find no reason to cheer. Only disgust. Where had Alasdair been an hour ago? Two hours ago? When he could have made a difference and saved more lives.

"Lukan!" He became aware of Tessa tugging on him, dragging his eyes away from the dragon and back toward his elder sister. Despite having been nowhere near the battle, she looked like hell. Her usually neat hair was frazzled everywhere and streaks of blood and fluid soaked the overgown she wore over what was obviously her night dress. "Lukan I need you to help me talk to these people. I've managed to get them organized and informed them about greater teleportations, but you're from Haga'Dir. You've been around more Summoning magic in your life than any of us have. Speak to them, reassure them. Let them know it's safe." She just stared at him for a moment, her fingers gripping him tight as she gave him a wan smile.

"What happened to you? Did some of the dead get into the palace? Did someone in the crowd hurt you?" Something was obviously wrong if Tessa was out here like this and his head was strangely clear. He needed to deal with whatever threat had faced Tessa, then he'd talk to the people.

But Tessa only smiled at him, shaking her head. "No, no. It's not my blood. It's Kyrie's. She and the baby are doing fine though, thanks to Alasdair...and perhaps a little help from myself. She wouldn't have made it though if he hadn't been there...it was hard on her Lukan. But without her blood and Alasdair's Yevard wouldn't be able to work this spell. Dragon blood is potent stuff you know...and I'm rambling when we don't have time. Talk to the people please, when this gate goes up we're not going to have too much time to get everyone to safety."

Kyrie...baby...that's where Alasdair had been? In a birthing room? Attending to the needs of his family while thousands died? He ground his teeth for a few moments, acknowledging in his mind that Alasdair was a devoted husband and now father. But that was inexcusable. And taking flight now that the city was lost was a hopeless cause. It would buy them some time with the gate, but not enough. "One damned dragon can't make a difference now."

"Then perhaps two can." Kyrie's voice was tired and soft as she walked past him, a bundle of cloth wrapped tightly in her arms. "Tessa...watch Aaern for me please. I've got to help Alasdair at the river. He's drawn the attention of the assault force but if we can harry them at the river, it'll give you the time you need." Kyrie turned to face him suddenly, her green eyes weary. "Won't it?"

He eyed the ring Yevard had set out on the stones, watching the old man mutter and adjust as he drew symbols in blood on the flagstones of the courtyard. If that was the size of the gate...and they had three quarters full of people to move..."We're going to need at least two hours to move the people left in the city through the gate. If you and Alasdair can give us that..."

Kyrie nodded and he watched her almost stagger away before glancing back to where Tessa held the small, snuffling bundle that was apparently an infant dragon. He didn't look like it, he looked like every other human baby Lukan had ever seen. Red and wrinkled and impossibly tiny. So small...and yet because of him so many mortal men had died. And yet Lukan could just reach out with his hand and...no. This was a harmless innocent. He hadn't asked for the actions of his parents...and he could now serve a greater use.

"People of Eresinne, heed my words." His voice carried far and clear, a speaking voice he hadn't known he possessed but that he instinctively used now. "You know in your hearts what none of us will tell you. You know what is lost...but hope is not one of those things. All of you know of Summoners, the magics they work. Some are no more than charlatans, charming small coins into their hands from purses. Some can call steeds from the plains and fish from the sea into pens and barrels of salt. But they can also open doors between two places. And that is what we will give you, a door to safety.

We cannot stay here in the city, but we can hold the dead long enough for those of us still in it to get out. All that is needed from each of you is a step, and a little faith. You must trust us. We promised we would keep you safe and we will make good that promise. For all my life I have used gateways such as this one and no ill harm has ever come to me...except when I was little and it would upset my stomach. All you need to know is that the gate will open and it will not close until every last one of us is safely on the other side. There will be plenty of time for all of us to cross. And if you don't believe that...if you desire proof-"

His words were drown out by a sudden cry from the crowd. They'd already seen Alasdair, in all his black and gold glory, take to the air. So now the sight of a second dragon had them astounded. The waning sunlight glittered off a hide as red as blood, copper spines glimmering as the green eyed beast gave a silvery call before twisting in her flight and heading for the river. An answering bellow came from beyond the forest ring, Alasdair answering Kyrie's call, and Lukan gestured toward her as if he'd meant to the whole time.

"There is your proof. They cannot hold the dead forever, for they like we are creatures of flesh and bone, but they can and will hold them until we are long gone from here. So what say you people of Eresinne, shall we go together?"

It was at that moment that the summoner Yevard did the last great thing he ever would. He stood, walking over and putting his hands on Tessa's shoulders. Sparing a glance at the infant dragon-child and one more for Lukan and Khafi, he looked at her. "The last bit of knowledge I have to give you is right here. When the time comes, you will know how to use it." He gently tapped her forehead with a gnarled finger, then moved to the edge of the circle.

"Alright Yevard...time's up. Four-hundred years is a good run though. And this is a good end." To whom he spoke there was no telling, to himself likely, to steel himself for what came next.Placing his hands on the ring he'd painstakingly set up, he spoke the final word in the spell.

And suddenly there was a brilliant blazing circle of light in Eresinne's courtyard, a window to a different place revealed inside it. A place where the wind stirred mountain wildflowers and twilight crept tranquilly across the hillside. A paved road ran from where the circle began up the side of the mountain to where the outline of a keep could faintly be seen, torches being lit as the inhabitants readied to greet their guests.

Of Yevard there was no sign. He had been wholly consumed by the magic this last great spell had taken from him. He had given his everything to open this portal. Indeed only a small white stone sat where he had been and Lukan picked it up casually, glancing around at the panicked faces in the packed courtyard. "Well Eresinne...shall we go?"
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And so the city of Eresinne falls. The dead have beaten down all but three of the districts and the last survivors huddle in them. A chance of salvation has been offered them, a portal to somewhere...but will they take it? And if they do...will everyone escape the ruined city to freedom and safety? Only you know.
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You're only one chapter away from meeting the villain of the picture folks. The pace only picks up from here as we race toward harder choices ahead. I hope you liked.
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Lilith



Joined: 10 Feb 2007
Posts: 1597
Location: Happily curled up in a Daemon's lap

Posted: Wed Apr 04, 2012 2:34 pm    Post subject:  

They all better darn well hit that portal if they want to live!

And no hurting the dragons, Rai. I'll be really upset. Anywhoot, I'm sure you wouldn't be too pleased if we just had a happy ever after with everyone getting out of there.. so what if SOME of the dead managed to sneak into the courtyard as the citizens are leaving, and mess with something in the spell, forcing many bunches of people to be sent to different locations rather than where they had originally intended.

Also... does Astor stay or go with these people? Hmm.. that could be a mystery...
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Kalanna Rai



Joined: 21 Jan 2006
Posts: 3075
Location: The Frozen North

Posted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 11:34 pm    Post subject:  

*pokes thread with stick*
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Lost Omega



Joined: 18 Dec 2010
Posts: 88
Location: West Haven, CT

Posted: Thu Apr 19, 2012 9:02 am    Post subject:  

The people should definitely take the portal unless they want to get torn apart by skeletons. I want to know what happens to Astor here... I think it would be interesting if he went down with the city and also what's gonna happen to Alistair and Kyrie? They're my favorites!!!

All in all, nice chapter Rai. I can't wait for the next one!
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Shillelagh



Joined: 11 Mar 2010
Posts: 398
Location: Kansas

Posted: Sun Apr 22, 2012 3:09 pm    Post subject:  

Ugh, I'm really bad about reading a chapter, seeing the tricky DP, and then putting so much thought into replying that I never actually respond within a reasonable time frame.

So... I think Lukan really has a point. Alastair really ought to have put the needs of the many over the needs of his family... and as a character, that's probably what he would have done were it not for the DP vote. However, I have no regrets. As the reader, I'm fine with cutting short the lives of numerous NPCs just for the sake of a few PCs.

As far as this one goes... I'd say that the portal leads into a peaceful valley somewhere. It's probably not ideal for long-term residency, but it's definitely safe. Everyone who chooses to go through the portal arrives safely, and there is no time crunch to get everyone through. However, I would imagine that there are some people, like Kyrie, Alastair, and Astor, who opt not to retreat in this manner; either because they have a secondary retreat lined up, or because they feel the need to make a heroic last stand.
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Kalanna Rai



Joined: 21 Jan 2006
Posts: 3075
Location: The Frozen North

Posted: Tue Apr 24, 2012 11:46 pm    Post subject:  

Apologies on the slowness of my poll going up, but it's here. Votes appriciated.

And while many of you have questions about Astor...you'll all get the chance to have them answered.

But there is a surprise in store for all of you and thus, those questions may have to wait.
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Astaar



Joined: 10 Jan 2012
Posts: 7

Posted: Wed May 02, 2012 12:27 am    Post subject:  

There was mentioning before that the spirits of the land had awakend so the few warriors that stay behind may get a chance to:
- not only fight but also to understand more about using the spirits of the land to deny undead hordes again
- capture some relevant undead and gain insight on the source of undead

Also I think the king will remain with the castle (not dead, but in there should be a stalemate where he is more or less the only remaining living on that castle).
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