The night is still, the winds from the east has dropped and the stars shine brightly. The candles have been replaced several times, and the wine ran out long ago, replaced now with a sweet and strong coffee. Several groups of people stood talking in small clusters in the corner of the command tent. Some heated debates and others in quiet whispers. All going silent whenever Leo spoke to them at different intervals.
“We all know that we have a big job ahead of us, and that there is more at stake here than just our lives, there are also the lives of my people…our people that hang in the balance. Those that haven’t been born yet, those that have lived their lives in slavery.” at the mention of slavery Jalanas eyes shone. “I thank all of you, and once again, would like to offer you the chance to turn back. I know many of you have families, and I’m not sure why others of you are here, – his eyes flicking to Grash, but I thank you for your aid, and it will not be forgotten.”
There was a general hubbub of people voicing their support and acknowledging their camaraderie. “We’re with you to the end, Leo!” etc.
Leo, with his arms straight on the table, leaning against it, looked up and smiled at all of them. “Well, you’re either all as stupid as I am…or very brave.” small laughter ensued, “and again, we have a big day ahead of us tomorrow, and we’ll need our rest. I will see you all at dawn for the attack.” and with that he turned to indicate Jalana, Baer and Grash, and explained to the gathering their critical involvement.
Jalana spoke to them of the magics of the centaurs that she had learned, the screen of sand and lightning she had witnessed seemed to ring true to her, and she believed that with the help of the druids, if she could find them, she could create such a diversion.
Grash offered his assistance in leading a group of people in opening the gates when the battle started, his quick wits and stealth would come in handy.
Baer chose to spearhead the attack with the rest of the forward assault group, his skills in archery honed to perfection in order to pick off choice targets and troublemakers.
Grash offered his magical ship to Baer, knowing the the enchanted wood that had been fitted would help in attacking the main gates.
The morning broke bright and true. The twin suns peaking above the horizons and spreading their light across the lands.
The muffled sounds of the weapons clad by the men following Grash down the tunnel would not be heard by those above when they made their way to the gates from the inside of the city. Djymmi motioned to Grash in an old thieves hand signal, showing him that he was excited about the events to come. Grash motioned back to be careful, and to have vigilance, however a smile came to his face, knowing there would be much to gain from this fight.
The wind in her face and the feathers of the bird underneath her giving some purchase for her grasp, Jalana soared through the skies, about a dozen other birds with druids mounted followed. seemingly half elven men and women, naked but for the leaves in their long flowing hair, road along side her on their winged mounts. Jalana, with the grouped power of their communion with nature spoke to the others using the wind and the glint of the sun off the sands, with no need for words. The felt the compelling need to strip the armour from her body and fly away with these folk to live with them, but the thought of the mission, and of the people she was here to save brought her back to reality.
Heeeeeeeeave he yelled at the men manning the giant skiffs. Put your backs into it, we need more speed! yelled Baer as he stood on the wooden bow, one hand on the effigy figurehead of the Dragon. He had his bow out, it’s supreme curvature as subtle and deadly as the man himself. It had been years since he’d met Leo and joined the resistance, and he wasn’t about to let his thoughts stray from the job at hand now. He signalled to his right and flags were raised, coordinating the vast navy of skiffs to the city and keeping them perfectly in line.
Grash slips behind a barrel full of crossbow bolts and quivers of arrows used by the guards on the wall. He motions to Djymmi to come up to him, he can see the rest of the men moving to position across the gap in the wall where the giant gates are. “When we get the signal, we move up and kill the guards, we can’t let the gates close.” gestured Grash, in the subtle hand gestures of his craft. “Sure thing boss” returned Djymmi with a smile.
Grash looked out to the horizon, seeing a small plume of dust a few hundred leagues out. “Looks like a sandstorm, bit early in the season for that, isn’t it?” said one of the guards to the other. “Yeah, not unheard of though, if it gets any closer, we’ll need to close the gates. Go tell the captain to spread the word.” and with that the guard made his way to the stairwell and down.
“They’ll tell the populace to head indoors and shut the windows, might make our job a little easier” gestured Djymmi to Grash with a wink.
The apparent sand storm came closer, rolling across the desert like a thing possessed. No movement to either side and about a league across, it’s direction was unnervingly precise.
“That’s odd” said the guard, pulling his face scarf over his mouth as the first winds reached them, carrying errant grains of the stinging sand. “CLOSE THE GATES!” he yelled to the other guards near the portcullis.
“Fuck” said Grash aloud, and stood suddenly, moving forward towards the portcullis throwing daggers fro his hips as he went, the first skewering the guard the yelled the order, his second command never leaving his mouth as his lifeblood drained from his neck.
The sands seemed alive from this perspective, the rolling, tumbling heaving mass of earth in it’s finest form, boiling across the world with the force of a landslide. Jalana swooped her giant eagle down, the other druids in line beside her, a giant V in the sky slightly ahead of the storm of sand.
be careful, brothers and sisters, the fight to come is not yours, we wish only your assistance in this distraction Jalana said to the others through the Druidic cant.
They acknowledged her message and they flew ahead, seeing the sand storm start to smash into the city walls. Knowing that the giant skiffs in the storm would need to be very precise in their routes to ensure that they sail through the open city gates without smashing against the walls like tinder.
Jalana pulled ahead of the others and aimed at a spot on the wall where she saw several men pulling hard on chains in order to close the gates.
Baer saw far above the indistinct shapes of the birds, and one that was a little different pull ahead, with his keen eyes he knew it to be the Druid Jalana. He knew this as the signal they needed, and took out his bow, yelling words of encouragement to the others, and lit the arrow in the thick tar and raising it to the sky. Along the line of skiffs the others did the same, and when he was satisfied that they were all ready, “FIRE!” he yelled as he loosed the first arrow at the shapes on the wall.
Grash ran past a guard that tried to call out the alarm, but the man found his voice caught as his throat was slit and Grash moved past him without pause, heading to the portcullis, intent on stopping it from closing the gates. As he ran his instinct told him to stop, and he pulled up short just in time to see an arrow fly but 3 inches from his face. He breathed out heavily and ran on towards the gates and to the lever controlling them. He grabbed at it and started to haul it back, stopping the momentum of the closing gate, but he was not strong enough alone to reverse the direction.
Jalana swooped down, like an avenging angel, her flaming sword in her hand slashing at the man on the wall that had the daring to raise arms against her with the forces of nature at her back. The man would have died from the blow she dealt him, that’s if he survive d the fall from the wal after she struck him. The giant bird landed on unsteady legs, and Jalana tried to find off the archers and men with spears that attacked her and her mount.
Jalana battled the guards, but there were too many, she left the wall and flew to the ship at the head of the armada, and landed next to Baer, who was systematically picking off the archers on the wall from the moving skiff, his shots ringing true.
Grash saw Jalanas valiant effort and her subsequent escape, “Uuuugh, do I have to do everything myself.” as he took a runup and leapt across the walls, over the gate, and to the other side, and jammed the lever opening the other side of the gate. He saw the ship in the lead, his ship, with the great open mouthed dragon on the bow, with Jalana and Baer at the front.
As the ship came up to the gates, it was clear that it was on course, but that the gates had closed some-what. “Be careful with my baby!” he yelled as he sprinted back towards the gate, the entrance that the ship was aiming for, and leapt into the air before the ship reached the gate.
Just as the ship entered the portcullis, smashing through the gates, with bits of wood splintering and the blood of the poor few guards that remained standing at the gates spraying like the foam of the sea on the bow, Grash landed on the deck and looked up to see Baer standing right at the bow, arms raised above his head and blood spraying over him from the dying men below.
Grash smiled, thinking it a great coronation for his vessel.
The skiff crashed through the gates, smashing over carts and stalls, people and crates going everywhere. The scene was repeated at several points across the city, with Leos men pouring off the skiffs and setting up defensive perimeters before moving deeper into the city.
The heroes jumped from the skiff, fighting the shocked and unorganised city guards who put up little to no fight. When they thought the had the situation under control they heard on of their men yell the dreaded word..“GIANT!!”
They all looked up as from around the corner a giant earth giant came at them, yelling in its guttural filthy language.
Grash climbed to the rooftops and leapt towards the thing, getting the mighty Bands of Billaro ready, Baer did the same on the opposite rooftops firing off shots from his bow, distracting it whilst everyone got into place.
Grash threw the bands at the giant after it was weakened by the hail of arrows. The bands flew open waiving through the air sand spinning like a machine of legend, and then once it got tot he surprised and confused giant they suddenly contracted, it’s limbs contorted into very uncomfortable positions and it dropped the giant club that it held and fell against a wall, taking half of it with it. The group killed the thing from range, wary of its grasp.
They made their way quickly to the palace, avoiding the main battle being fought, knowing that they needed to get to the Rakshasa as soon as possible. When they got to the steps of the Palace they saw Marjara, to their surprise, healing wounded, and could see many of Leos men battling to keep the way clear for more reinforcements to arrive and bolster their efforts.
“Marjara, what are you doing here?!” asked Baer in obvious anguish, “this is no place for one such as yourself.” he berated her.
“I have as much reason to be here as you do, even more so, Baer!” she answered with no small amount of annoyance in her voice. She leant back over the wounded soldier to administer healing to him. The others noted that she carried no supplies, just a warm yellow glow coming from her hands told them that she employed magic. “Well, be careful then..” Baer replied, uncomfortable at being put in his place, and turned back to the others and towards the palace.
As they made their way up the steps, battle raging besides them, Grash noticed a ledge above them with a way in “I’ll be heading in that way, never did like using the front door” and started deftly climbing the walls, using the vines and nooks to gain purchase.
“Well, I suppose it’s up to us to knock and see who’s home, aye?” said Jalana to Baer with a sly wink. Baer nodded and they made their way to the entrance.
Grash found a window that was able to be opened, and made his way inside, climbing on the rafters in a room that seemed very dark and ominous. He climbed about until he found a door underneath him, leading to another room. He slipped down from the rafters and came to the door, looking for any traps that would impeded him, finding none. As he was about to open it he felt more than heard someone behind him in the dark.
“Look what little rat has fallen into my hold…” grated a voice behind Grash as he turned around. ’We have unfinished business, Grash."
Grash started as he saw the huge form of the white skinned Orc, the very same that he’d met on the fateful day many months ago on the ship carrying himself and Jalana to Al’Miad.
“Well, look who it is, I though I killed you and your friends on the Jack Tar” replied Grash, as he slowly reached towards his knives.
The Orc ripped a giant axe from his belt, and snarling at the Dragun-borne launched himself at Grash and the fight was on.
Meanwhile, in the palace ante-chamber, Baer and Jalana were met with a puzzle of statues, which they eventually found had switched behind them. The door opened and they looked into the room beyond, seeing a room to their left they moved towards it, but before they got there the door opened and a weary looking Grash stood there, soaked in blood up to his elbows and a large, defiled body of an Orc behind him.
They looked past Grash, shock on their faces, “Long story..” said Grash casually, as he made his way past them towards the opposite end of the corridor towards a seemingly important room.
Inside the found a giant dial, with different symbols on it, sixteen of them in fact. After some deduction they remembered that there were that many planes of existence, and Grash remembered that the symbol of the Nine Hells, where the Rakshasa was from, was the one on the bottom and promptly pressed it.
The group decided that they’d follow a small abandoned shaft leading to main palace room that Grash had seen in his fight with the Orc. Squished together in the vent, they made their way to the throne room. From what they cold see they found the portal standing behind the throne itself, upon which they presumed the Rakshasa sat upon, but could not be sure from this angle.
They climbed out of the vent, stealthily making their way closer to the throne. The portal behind the throne above with arcane magics, denoting that the entrance to the Nine Hells was open. The Rakshasa, in all his splendour, stood on the raised dais and spoke calm commands to his commanders, who left the room in a passage to the right, presumably to continue the fight, unknowing of the danger above.
The heroes heard sounds of fighting outside the door tot he room, knowing that Leos men would be hard pressed and that this fight needed to happen now. Grash sneaked about trying to find a better vantage point and the others gained better points also.
Once the first shots were fired they realised that this Rakshasa was the Sha-Khan for a reason. Mighty swipes of his claws sent them reeling, and their vantage in the rafters meant little as the demon flew up to them on the air, seeming to claw and climb the very air itself.
The doors at the front of the room burst open and the fight was brought to the king of Dharma. Leo was there, along with his commanders, looking the worse for wear, especially Leo who sported an ugly cut along his sword arm, barely deflecting killing blows. Marjara held her own, helping others with an inspiring shout and the occasional insult to the Kings men.
Jalana saw the need for haste and turned herself into the cave bear and used her mighty paws to batter at the rakshasa. Baer himself shot arrow after arrow into the coming crowd, always hitting the mark, and then decided to have a brief excursion into the Nine Hells, and valiantly jumped through the portal. Once there, he realised the horror of what he’d done, and leapt back through. The memories of that horrid place to wreck his dreams and deprive him of peace for months to come.
As the battle reached a frenzied pitch, with all parties at the end of their rope, they realised that the Sha-Khan was the only one that seemed unhurt. They did not despair, knowing that they could hold their own, but also knowing that there were no more reinforcements on the way.
Leo knew there was only on thing left to do, he leapt through the crowd, taking a few hits, possibly fatal, to his body. Making his way to the dais, and the fight between his father and the heroes he’d come to know and respect, he leapt at his father and with the remaining strength grappled him hard, pinning his arms to his side. Leo, obviously in tremendous pain growled and looked to Jalana, Grash and then Baer. Keeping his eyes on Baer and somehow being heard over the din of battle he whispered to him “Take care of my sister.” and threw himself and his father backwards through the portal, instantly destroying it and the magic keeping the portal open. The resounding boom threw them all to their feet, and they knew the day was theirs.