Thread: Dragon Tavern
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Old 08-26-2010, 07:43 AM
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Ashen Ashen is offline
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Join Date: Jun 2008
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And by "all of us" you mean "just you," I imagine, considering no one else even seems to glance at these forums anymore. I'll have to find a way to draw some attention.


Inhumans Requiem part 28 of 30

Skyclaw Keep

Nilanicus had just finished putting the last rune in place in his magic circle when Noah arrived on the rooftop. "Is that finished?" he asked.

"Yeah, just barely," Nilanicus said, looking out at the horizon. "Still can't hear anything."

"Me neither," Noah said, "Still, you'd better get it raining. I want to know they're coming well in advance." Although they weren't certain of the composition of Baron Bonfire's army, it seemed likely that enough of them would be of the hot-skinned variety that rain would cause a good amount of steam around them, which would announce their arrival. It would also make it harder to see, which was useful for the small force defending the Keep, since once all five thousand demons arrive they'd be able to hit one just by shooting blindly into the fog. The demons, less so. Then again, they'd have enough archers to coat the whole area in arrows, and some of those might end up getting through the slits.

"I was just about to start, actually. Get out of the circle," Nilanicus said.

"Oh, sorry," Noah said, pulling his left foot back an inch and an off of the edge of the circle.

"Further than that," Nilanicus said, "You'll want to stand back once the fireworks start." Noah stepped back a few feet, and Nilanicus took a deep breath, preparing to enter the trance.

"Be careful," Noah said, "We've lost enough people already."1

"Yeah...Do you think Nietra's safe? And Vera?" Nilanicus asked.

"I don't know," Noah said, looking out towards the Shiverwood in the distance, "They definitely completed their mission. The whole place was in chaos last time I flew near."

"But do you think they got out alright?" Nilanicus asked.

"I hope so, " Noah responded.

There was silence for a moment, before Nilanicus closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and cleared his mind of all thought. Noah turned to look at him as he began to rise into the air, the runes beneath him beginning to glow with magical energy. When Nilanicus opened his eyes again, they glowed even brighter.


Sludge Pits

Ashen was the first to notice the elf, and broke away from the kiss to look at her. He had no idea what she planned on doing with them, but whatever it was he hoped she would need to get close to do it. He was trying to figure out what it is she might want, and the thought had just occurred to him that she might end up just killing him at about the same time she notched an arrow to her bow and pulled it back. "Give me one good reason not to kill you, Ajendran," she said, aiming the arrow at Ashen.

Ashen tried to come up with some reason that would convince an elf not to murder an innocent person, but unless he could convince her that she'd be punished for it, he didn't see how. He opened his mouth to respond, but nothing came out.

"You can't!" Kitsune said, "We've already been disarmed. We didn't even come here to fight you in the first place! Why would you kill us?"

"Your Empire is like a plague," Vera said, "It infects all that it gets near. And your people are like corpses already, drained of all life and freedom, serving only to spread the plague further. Why shouldn't we burn you away?"

"Because it'd be horrible!" Kitsune said, "Because you can just kill people because you don't like them!"

"You do it all the time!" Vera spat back.

"No," Ashen said, "We don't kill people."

"Ashen, you're not helping!" Kitsune said.

"Why are you even trying to talk to-" Ashen started, but Kitsune cut him off with a kiss.

When she pulled away a moment later, she said "Ashen, please, just let me handle this." Ashen said nothing, but he looked away and fell silent.

"What right do you have," Vera asked, "To say that we aren't people because we're different from you?" Much of the fire in her voice had gone.

"Take it up with Ajen," Kitsune said, "We're just following orders."

"You shouldn't be," Vera said. Kitsune closed her eyes. Vera had avoided saying anything about her being a half-elf, presumably for her sake. Kitsune wondered if maybe Vera was growing to despise her for fighting for the Empire in spite of her heritage.

"...It's not my fault," Kitsune said, looking down.

Vera walked over towards Kitsune and reached her hand out to force Kitsune to look up into her eyes. Kitsune caught it halfway and lashed out with one of her legs, catching Vera in the stomach and doubling her over. Ashen leaped up and tackled Vera, wrestling her to the ground and beating her over the head with his armored gauntlets a few times before Vera jabbed him in the throat, stunning him long enough for her to push him off.

Vera rolled to her feet as Kitsune began lashing out with her legs, snapping her right foot at Vera's face and stomach. Vera dodged out of the way and punched Kitsune across the face, sending her to the ground, and then pulled out a knife to finish her off, but Ashen, having got back to his feet himself, rushed towards her and grabbed the hand holding the knife, crushing it in his gauntleted hand.

A moment later, Vera dropped the knife and Ashen shoved her away, kneeling down to grab the weapon and then lunging towards Vera again. Before Vera had time to react, Ashen had stabbed the knife into her stomach. He twisted the blade sharply before tearing it out and stabbing it into her neck. Surprise, horror, and anger mixed in Vera's reaction before the lights left her eyes completely.

There was a moment of silence after Vera collapsed to the ground, the adrenaline slowly wearing off in Ashen and Kitsune. Finally, Kitsune said "Did you have to kill her?"

"Of course," Ashen said, "She captured us. She was interfering with our mission. She was in the way."

Kitsune closed her eyes. Vera was the only one she'd ever told the truth about her family. When she asked her not to kill Ashen, she'd agreed. "I'm so tired of all this killing," Kitsune said.

"I know," Ashen said, walking over to pull her close. "If I could, I'd send you back home to Bedua to live the rest of your life in peace. I can't do that for you, but I can help you find Baron Bonfire and end this, Kitsune. Then we can go back to Dragon Tavern and have a few days in peace, at least."

"Yeah..." Kitsune said, "Yeah, let's go."


Skyclaw Keep2

Between the clouds, the rain pouring down from them, and the steam rising up from the demonic army that was now only a few hundred feet away from the keep, it was almost impossible to see. Fortunately, Noah's targets were about three times his size.3

He and his gryphon dropped down on an unsuspecting drake, the gryphon's claws tearing at the back of the drake while Noah's lance stung deep into its neck. The drake roared in pain and spun itself around in mid-air, trying to claw away the stabbing, scraping pain on its back. Noah pulled his gryphon off just before the wounded drake crashed into the ground down below.

Before Noah could even get his bearings amidst the rain and fog, another drake had ambushed him from above, grasping at his gryphon's wings with its massive claws. Noah dived downwards out of the way to avoid the claws and then pulled up just in time to avoid hitting the ground, then swerved to the left to avoid a gout of flame from the drake's mouth.

Noah pulled his gryphon up, around, and over the drake's back, leaving it lost and confused in the mist. As the drake searched in vain for its prey, a sudden bolt of lightning tore through it completely, shattering the ground on impact and sending a pack of the demons down below flying into the air, burning away as they did so.

The demons were at the gates now, charging towards the jury-rigged barricades on the entrance to the Keep, with Dwarven crossbowmen firing down from the arrow slits both intentional and not in the walls above. Filled with the manic battle fury of Hell, the demons crashed into the gate, damaging it by the sheer weight of numbers and momentum. They began to hack away at it with their swords and axes, tearing the barricades apart as the Dwarves on the other side began to fire their crossbows through. Every few seconds, a crossbow bolt would punch through a demon's army, quickly reducing him to a pile of ash, only to see him immediately replaced by one of his comrades.

The drakes were now crashing into the protective wards Nilanicus had placed on the roof of the Keep, spitting streams of fire at it in an effort to bring it down and kill the Storm Lord whose lightning was rapidly thinning their numbers. Noah and his gryphon flew from out of the mist and stabbed a drake through its neck, but the lance caught and it was wrenched out of his hand as the massive creature fell to the ground, shunted away from the Keep by the wards as it did so.

A drake flew up alongside Noah, this one carrying a demonic rider. Noah and the demon locked eyes for a moment before the drake lunged towards Noah, who dived out beneath it. The rider directed his drake down towards Noah's diving gryphon, breathing fire towards them, and Noah's gryphon expertly dodged around the flames. The drake shoved itself up against the gryphon, entangling the two of them and sending them both plummeting towards the ground. The demon and Noah locked swords, Noah frantically trying to get away while the demon grinned sadistically, knowing that his army would be waiting to chop Noah to pieces as soon as their mounts crashed into the ground below.

The demon's expression turned from one of triumph to one of surprise and pain as an arrow caught him in the throat, causing him to light on fire. Another arrow struck the drake on one of its wings and it howled in pain. Noah broke away from the drake, his gryphon flying out just a few dozen feet above the demonic army below, some of whom thrust their spears and pikes in his direction, and a few arrows flew just a few feet shy of him and his mount. The drake crashed into the army below, plowing through a dozen demons on its way down.

The demons, meanwhile, had broken down the barricades and were now rushing into the Keep, a band of a dozen Dwarves with axes and shields desperately holding the line against them. Grigor and his mean charged into battle, knowing that their only hope was to keep the demons caught in the narrow entrance corridor. If they were pushed out into the great hall, the demons would be able to surround them and use their vastly superior numbers to dice them to pieces.

Crossbowmen shifted their attention from thinning out the horde outside to stopping the demons from entering the corridor using the murder holes in its roof. A few abandoned cover to switch positions from their snipers posts to the murder holes, and the demonic army immediately opened up with a massive volley to kill the Dwarves as they passed by one of the many gaps in defenses left by previous sieging armies and the destructive influence of time, hitting several of their marks.

Noah, meanwhile, landed his gryphon on the rooftop of the Keep for a brief respite from the aerial battle. There were only a few drakes still battering away at the wards on the Keep, but the demon army had surrounded them now, and was firing volleys of arrows from all sides. The wards wouldn't hold for much longer, and then the archers would turn Nilanicus into a pincushion and the drakes would tear the Keep apart and attack the defenders from above and behind.

"Seth!" Noah called out.

"Yes?" Seth shouted in return, his eyes still focused on the drakes above as Seth sniped out their riders and the chinks in their scaly hides, slowly bringing the monsters down.

"My gryphon's only got enough left in him for a few more minutes of fight! Can you free up one of the trained drakes for me?" Noah asked.

"Of course," Seth shouted back, firing an arrow into the eye of a riderless drake. Noah nodded and directed his gryphon towards the edge of the roof, pushing off and taking flight just before running out of keep to run on. They flew upwards above the last mounted drake, and Noah prepared to jump off. An arrow flew out towards the rider, who nudged his drake downwards, the arrow passing harmlessly overhead.

Noah swore and leaped off the gryphon, bringing his sword down onto the point where the rider's wing joined his shoulder as he landed on the drake. The wing was very nearly carved off entirely and the rider howled in pain, his wings flaring out in an attempt to knock Noah off the drake. Noah grabbed onto the rider's neck to keep himself on top of the beast and throw its master4 off balance.

The rider pulled his axe out from its sheathe along the drake's neck and began stabbing it randomly over his right shoulder in Noah's direction. Noah leaned left to avoid it, struggling to maintain his balance on the creature's back. He grabbed the rider's arm and jerked it to the left as they passed the wards above the Keep. The drake, feeling a spontaneous tug on its reins, veered left and would've crashed straight into the wards had they not recognized the runes on Noah's armor. The drake, rider, and Noah all passed straight through the wards and crashed straight onto the roof of the Keep itself, instead.

Noah and the rider were both thrown clear by the crash, and both scrambled to get their bearings. Noah found his sword lying on the ground and grabbed it, then looked up to see his opponent charging towards him with his axe. He parried the blow and shoved the demon to the side, and the demon spun around, swinging his axe towards Noah, who ducked under it. The demon swung his axe at Noah again, who was only able to parry it partially. The axe crashed into his armor, denting it and knocking Noah onto his feet. The demon raised his axe to finish Noah off, but Noah rolled out of the way and the axe slammed into the roof of the Keep instead.

Noah rolled to his feet and cut out one of the demon's hamstrings before spinning around and decapitating it. He breathed heavily for a moment before turning around to see what Seth had been doing all this time and saw that the drake he'd been riding had gone loose and been decapitated. Seth had already grabbed Nilanicus and was heading for the roof of the Keep, Nilanicus muttering something under his breath, still half-tranced. Noah ran into the Keep as well just as the wards shattered and the area was covered in volleys of arrows.


1Noah is referring to their Dwarven casualties, here. Between the attack on Muckmol, the battle at the Abandoned/Skyclaw Keep, the attack on Rivana, and various chance encounters moving between locations, they've lost about half of Grigor's force.

2Navras by Juno Reactor makes a really good soundtrack for this last bit. It's the music I put on to set the mood for writing it, at least.

3For certain definitions of "fortunately," at least.

4That was a subtle attempt to convey that Noah's currently grappling with Remmej even though there's no way that Noah or any of the other viewpoint characters currently here would recognize him.5

5That was a very explicity and not-at-all subtle explanation of what was meant to be a subtle literary device, thus defeating the purpose.6

6That was a joke about subtltey in literature.

This is a sworded bunny. For every sworded bunny in the world, one regular bunny is defeated. If we get enough sworded bunnies on the internet, we can stop bunnies insidious plot for world domination.

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- (='.'=)==l--
- (")_(")

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