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Invasion from the Blood Star 
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Evil Genius
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Post Invasion from the Blood Star
From the Journal of Andrew Senoris:

No one would have believed, in the year 770, that affairs in the core were being watched from beyond the stars. Few even considered the idea that life could exist in the cosmos, and yet, from beyond the firmament came horror so unlike anything the people of these lands had seen, even in places known for horrors.

It was early August of that year when I was summoned to the office of the Professor at the University of Dementlieu in Port-A-Lucine. The Professor was the foremost authority on astronomy throughout the core. All the greatest scholars considered him the primary pioneer of this new learning. As a former student, I was quite flattered that he summoned me to bear witness to what he refered to as 'his greatest discovery'. I found him in the tower where he spent almost all of his time with his telescope. He was quite proud of that instrument. It was of his own design and had been built to his exact specifications. It had given him more insight into the nature of the cosmos than anything else he'd gathered or made. He excitedly asked me to look through the eyepiece as I'd done many times before. I did so and for the first time in my life, I saw something in the sky I had never seen before. High in the western sky was a blood red star that had not been there before. How was this possible, I asked the Professor. He didn't know, he said. He'd observed the star there a few days earlier and had verified the positions of all other heavenly bodies in order to be sure that no other star had somehow shifted. None of them had. We were observing a COMPLETELY NEW ENTITY. It was astounding. Even during the changes wrought by the Grand Conjunction thirty years earlier, no new stars had appeared in the sky. The professor pointed this out and I responded that perhaps this new star was a precursor of something terrible. The Professor mildly chided me in his way that perhaps it was a harbinger of great things, perhaps terrible things, perhaps nothing, but we would never know without study. We began what would be several days of study of the red star.

We discovered that the path that the star traveled across the sky was an eratic one, meaning that the star was, in fact, a wanderer or planet as we call it, as opposed to a fixed star. The third day after we discovered this, a new wonder took place. A huge mass of luminous gas erupted from the surface of the blood star, as we'd come to call it, and sped downwards. I had no way of knowing this at the time, but within it was the first of the missiles that would bring so much horror to an already grim land. As I watched that night, there was another jet of gas, and another after that. And that's how it was for the next ten nights: A flare spurting out from the red planet bright green with a green mist behind it. A beautiful if somehow disturbing sight. I felt a strange fear growing within me but the professor only grew more excited. He said we were witnessing things that had never been seen before. We would be the first to even speculate about the events that happened.

Then came the day when the first of missiles fell from the sky. It was treated as an ordinary falling star but it landed in the sea just off the coast of Dementlieu. The professor and I immediately chartered a boat to go and examine what had fallen. As we passed out of Lucine bay, we were astounded to find what seemed to be a large round rock formation a good two miles off the coast where there hadn't been one before. The Professor re-checked his calculations and further astounded us by telling us that that was the exact place where the meteor had fallen. The owner of the boat we chartered, a fisherman, added to our dismay by telling us that he'd fished these waters his whole life and that part of the sea was a good ten fathoms deep. We cautiously approached the rock hoping to learn more only to discover that we were not the only ones to notice this new formation. Coming towards us out of the bay was a ship flying the flag of the Council of Brilliance. We paid them no mind as we approached what we thought was the rock.

What struck us immediately was the symmetry of the thing. It was a perfect circle thirty yards across with seemingly no seams or indentations of any kind. Our friend, the fisherman pointed to the water around us and we noticed it was full of dead fish. From mackerel and carp to large sharks. Suddenly there was a large screeching sound- like metal scraping on metal- coming from the rock. We turned and saw an inner section of the rock rotating like a potter's wheel. We watched in awe for several minutes as the section continued to spin. As it spun it rose and the professor observed that it was UNSCREWING! The boat's owner grabbed my shoulder and said that this entire thing was unnatural and nothing we could pay him could make him stay a minute longer. I hastily agreed. This was clearly something better observed from a distance. It took the professor a moment longer but his sense finally overwhelmed his curiosity and he too agreed we should leave. The owner raised his sail to its full height and handed each of us an oar so that we could move as quickly as possible. We tried to wave off the ship but it was no use. They were bound for the rock and there was nothing we could do to warn them. Suddenly we heard a loud sound of metal on metal, like the sound of a hammer striking iron in a forge but much deeper and louder. We looked back to the rock and saw that the unscrewing section had flipped off.

Two luminous disk-like eyes appeared above the rim. A huge rounded bulk, larger than a bear, rose up slowly, glistening like wet leather. Its lipless mouth quivered and slathered and snakelike tentacles writhed as the clumsy body heaved and pulsated. A tall inverted funnel rose and pointed toward the ship, then a near invisible ray of heat leapt from man to man and there was a bright glare as each was instantly turned to fire and the entire ship became a mass of flames at the touch of this savage other-worldly fire device.

Thinking quickly, the fisherman maneuvered us behind the burning ship and out of sight of the creature and it's weapon. We quickly made all the speed we could for the shore. We reentered the bay and made for the docks with all haste. I was struck by how life was proceeding as normal. Fisherman repaired their nets and boats, ships loaded and unloaded cargo, and children ran and played in the streets. All oblivious to the annihilation that lurked barely three miles away. The professor and I left the fisherman to see to his boat and family and made our way directly to the Council of Brilliance to warn them of what we had seen.

We arrived to find the council already in session and discussing the matter we had come to warn them about. I had always heard about the efficiency of the council but I had never dreamed they could be like this. I had expected to see disbelief, confusion, panic. The councilors were already drawing up plans for both battle and defense. Messages had already been sent to the various nobles estates to call their militias together and bring them to Port-A-Lucine and, more importantly, to bring their cannons. The city guard had already been mobilized and were preparing to repel the invaders. I was amazed. I learned later that most of the council had been observing the ship they'd sent through their own telescopes when the invaders had destroyed it. It was clear to all assembled that Dementlieu was under an attack the likes of which had never been conceived of, let alone seen. I followed the Professor's lead here. He had dealt with the council before and knew his way around them. I followed him directly to Dominic d'Honaire, whose powers of persuasion were legendary. If anyone could get what we knew into the right ears it was he. The Professor managed to outline what he had discovered in the last weeks and M. d'Honaire led us directly to Lord-Goveneur Marcel Guignol himself. The Lord-Goveneur called for quiet in the hall and The Professor was allowed to outline our observations to the entire assembly. I watched the faces of all assembled grow more and more fearful as the implications of those discoveries became clear. Invasion from the stars! This the first of many to fall from the sky! It was then that one of the many councilor's aides entered the hall looking pale as a ghost. This man had been detailed to further observe the rock, as we still called it, while the council began to prepare defenses. This man informed the assembly that it was beyond his ability to describe what he had seen, that it would be best if we all came ourselves to see what the monsters were doing. Someone said that it might be a good idea and so we all filed up to the roof of the castle to see what was happening.

At the top of the stairs, we were all given long spyglasses that we may see the rock from where we were. What we saw was disturbing INDEED! The creatures had been quite busy in our absence. Already there were two poles, taller than the tallest tower, jutting up from the rock with a third under construction, but that wasn't what had so frightened the councilor's aide. Coming toward the shore, seemingly walking on the water, was a squat metallic insect with a hood in which sat one of the creatures from the rock. The councilor's aide said that he had observed the creatures building this thing, some sort of machine he believed, and when it was finished it stood as tall as the poles which now stood on the rock. Indeed, he said, those poles were undoubtedly the legs of another machine being built. What had frightened him was the creature using it's fire device to scorch the top of the water for some reason and indeed, I noticed that terrifying funnel shaped appendage jutting out from the front of the machine. And now this thing was coming towards us, striding through ten fathoms of water as casually as a man might walk across a street, growing taller as it stepped into shallower water. If we had any doubts about its intentions, they were dashed when another ship sailed out of Lucine bay and was destroyed by the machine's fire device.

Watching the second ship burst into flames lit another fire. This one under the council. Each of the nobles raced to the stables that they may retrieve their horses and join their militias in the field. Strangely, I didn't think any of them would just run away. Perhaps they knew, as I did, that if the monsters were not stopped here, they would not be stopped anywhere. When all had left, Only The Professor, myself, and Dominic d'Honaire remained. We went quietly to the roof to further observe the monsters. We found the creatures had made significant progress since before. The second machine looked about ready to begin moving and the first was just about to the breakwater which separated Lucine Bay from the Sea of Sorrows. Now that it was closer, I was finally able to more closely examine it. It had three metal legs with a metalic egg-shaped pod at the top from the front of which sprouted the funnel shaped fire device that wrought such havok. Just above the device behind a green shaded window that looked almost like a pair of eyes, I could see one of the monsters moving about, doing whatever it did to make the thing walk. For a brief moment, the machine reminded me of a tripod holding a kettle.

The first machine stepped out of the sea and onto the breakwater. I noticed that its three legs ended in flat shoes that were attached with joints like ankles. Suddenly I noticed that, where before the everyday sounds of the city of Port-A-Lucine had drifted up to us, now suddenly an eerie silence hung over the city. The entire populace had stopped to stare at this impossible invader! Then, as if in response to this silence, the machine emmitted a great roaring howl that thundered across the bay, rattling windows and spooking animals. Then the machine brandished it's fire device and the nigh-invisible bolt of fire shot across Lucine Bay to strike the docks. Fire leapt from ships to docks to buildings and finally to houses. The Merchants Quarter was almost immediately engulfed in flame. The population paniced and ran and we could do nothing but watch in horror as the terrible fire device incinerated streets filled with people. The machine began to stride across the bay while its fire device would regularly rake the city with fire, immolating dozens of people at a time. By the time it reached the shore, all of the city north of the guild halls was aflame. I suddenly noticed a peculiar greyish dust floating through the air around us and I felt my limbs grow numb and the spyglass fell from my nerveless hand as I realized it was the ash of completely incinerated people.

Suddenly, a great explosion erupted from behind us, startling us all. We turned to see three cannons perched on the hill surrounded the ruins of Ste. Mere des Larmes. One fired and it's payload roared across the sky to clank loudly against the machine's metal hide. The machine staggered. I never dreamed that cannon fire could be so acurate. Second and third cannon reports came from behind us again and the cannon balls struck the machine's side loudly, again staggering the machine. The machine fired it's device wildly, narrowly missing the building in which we stood. All three cannons fired now and somehow all three shots found their mark. The machine again staggered, then stumbled, then fell over like a cut tree. It fell parallel to the shoreline and crushed some buildings as it fell. A cheer, barely audible over the roaring flames, could be heard across the city as the surviving populace celebrated this victory over this impossible enemy. The Professor pointed to the fallen machine and I looked to see it was retracting it's legs. It wasn't dead yet! Suddenly, from the surrounding, surviving, buildings, people who'd survived poured from the buildings to attack the machine with whatever they could find. Sometimes with nothing more than their bare hands. The creature fired it's heat device and did set fire to many more buildings and also managed to incinerate a few more unlucky souls, but for the most part the crowd had figured out how to avoid the fire device. Suddenly a tall, barebacked, musclebound sailor charged toward the front of the machine with a harpoon. He launched that instrument clean through the window at the back of the fire device and raced around it to pull the harpoon out. As the sailor pulled with all his might, the machine's window caved outward and we could see clearly that the sailor had indeed speared the creature inside with his harpoon. The creature thrashed on the end of it as the crowd set upon it directly with hammers, axes, knives, and again, sometimes just their bare hands. A cheer rose up from the crowd as the creature was torn limb from limb, drowning out it's dying shrieks. The enemy was NOT unbeatable. Suddenly the cheers were overwhelmed by another roaring howl coming from across the bay. The whole city looked to see another terrible machine standing there ready to attack. A third one could be seen striding through the sea behind it towards us. It, too, emitted that terrible howling noise and the city again fell silent in it's echo. Behind them, in the sky, we could see more green streaks, like a half-dozen comets of doom, announcing the arrival of more invaders. Many more. We were in for a long battle.

Like its predecessor, the second machine began striding through the bay while raking the city with it's heat device. Again the air was filled with those terrible ashes. It sickened me to know that dozens were dead and even if the city survived, we would have no way of knowing who they were. It was as if the invaders were erasing all trace of us from existence. Suddenly, from our left erupted a series of explosions so loud they nearly split our ears. We turned to the west to see the coastline beyond the Government Quarter lined with cannons. There must have been a dozen, with more arriving. Before we could even count them, they fired again and a hailstorm of cannonballs sped across the bay toward the invader's machine. Many missed, but enough hit that the machine didn't just stagger, but flipped over like a capsizing boat. It looked almost comical, the upended machine with it's pod sunk beneath the waves and it's three legs sticking up in the air. Had the third machine not reached the breakwater, I might have actually laughed.

The cannons quickly targeted this new invader but their shots fell short. This machine had wisely moved out of range of them along the breakwater. Before the cannoneers could adjust or retreat, the machine turned it's heat device on them and scortched the entire coastline from clear across the bay. Stores of powder exploded alongside men being incinerated as the invaders ray of fire swept eastward down the coast and into the Government Quarter where we were. We dove down behind the wall which surrounded the roof of the Goveneur's Palace and prayed to Ezra for deliverance. Somehow, the fire missed us and we looked cautiously back over the wall to see what was happening.

The machine was making it's way toward the east side of the city. It moved cautiously, looking for where the next attack would come from. The cannons within the city suddenly began to play a sort of hide-and-seek game with the invader. The first shot came from the ruins of Ste. Mere des Larmes. As the machine turned to return fire, the second shot came from behind us, within the Government Quarter, again drawing the creatures fire towards us, then the third shot came from the southwest side, likely near the road to Chateaufaux. We could only guess as we couldn't see that side of the city and only knew the shot had been fired by seeing it strike the side of the machine. As the machine began to swing back, M. d'Honaire pointed to the top of far west road and cried out. Though our spyglasses, we all saw a great wagon pulled by four powerful horses and loaded with six or seven huge casks racing at breakneck speed down the hill toward the invader. Was the driver mad? He certainly looked it as he cracked his whip over the horses like one possessed. The machine aimed its heat device at him and fired but by some miracle the man steered the wagon around it and continued his mad charge toward the machine. The fire from the device chased the wagon all way down the hill and finally ignited the rear of the wagon just as the horses noses began to pass beneath the machine. Suddenly the barrels on the wagon erupted in an explosion that dwarfed all others of that day. Almost idly, I realized that the barrels had been filled with gunpowder. One of the burning unexploded barrels flew up and struck the machines pod like a boxers punch striking an opponents jaw. The machine keeled over backwards and crashed to the ground to be set upon again by outraged survivors of the attack. The driver's ingenius act of self sacrifice had destroyed the final attacker. Port-A-Lucine had survived the most insane attack anyone could have imagined. Little did we know that it was just the beginning.

_________________
Do us a favor Luv, Stick yer 'ead in a bucket a kick it!

So, gentlemen, that's how it is. Until Grissome.... resurfaces, I'm the acting president, and I say starting with this... anniversary festival, we run this city into the ground! :D


Last edited by Manofevil on Fri Jun 08, 2012 11:41 am, edited 6 times in total.



Sat Aug 21, 2010 7:47 pm
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Post Re: Invasion from the Blood Star
The next days were harsh. The fires begun by the invaders were consuming the city. The summer had been hot and dry and the wooden buildings were easily ignited. Even the Professor, M. d'Honaire, and myself found ourselves in the streets helping to battle the blaze. The warehouses in the waterfront were still burning like so many coals in a forge. The half destroyed government quarter rapidly became the front line in a battle with the flames constantly threatening the rest of the city. As the surviving populace began to gather into fire fighting companies and the women and children beginning to move south into the surviving city, travellers from other parts of the core began to arrive with other stories of the invaders. It was then that I began this chronicle of the Invasion from the Blood Star.

The first story came from Lamordia. It was an eyewitness testimonial given by the captain of a Lamordian ship that sought refuge in the harbor the day after the attack on the city. Ships began to anchor on the far side of Lucine bay on that day and provided us a constant inflow of news of the invasion from around the core.

Eyewitness account of Jans Schlosser, Capt. of the brig, Mitternacht:

'We had just taken on our cargo in Ludendorf, cast off, and traveled down the Black River into the Sea of Sorrows when we sighted the- ye say they're machines? - anyway, we sighted the... thing chasing a fishing boat off the southern tip of the Isle of Agony. Standing in the water, it looked about as tall a ships mast. It used that 'fire device' as you call it, to reduce the boat to ashes right in front of us. We were stunned. We had no idea what we were witnessing. It was a sight like the eyes of a sailor had never seen before, even on the Sea of Sorrows. One o' the fisherman had dived into the sea before the boat was burned and a long snake-like arm like an octopus' tentacle came out from beneath the machine monster and caught him by the foot and hauled him up inside it. Many of the crew were thinking that it was some kind of sea monster and that it's mouth must be down there. I managed to get me head together and order the ship be brought about but not before the machine monster noticed us and started our way. Those next few minutes were very tense. I heard some o' the crew crying and others praying. I even heard one call for his mother. The ship was barely halfway brought about and we all thought we'd breathed our last when a large rock, maybe about as big around as a wagon wheel, came flying from somewhere on the Isle of Agony and struck the monster machine cleanly in the side. Come to think of it, the rock striking the side o' the machine did make a sound like a hammer striking an anvil. I guess we could have guessed then that it was a machine. Anyway, the monster machine turned to the island to answer the threat only to receive another perhaps smaller rock clean in what we thought were it's eyes. The monster machine responded by burning the coast of the island with it's fire device, but that didn't stop the rocks from coming. I see that look ye're giving me. Sounds impossible, does it? That's only because ye're not Lamordian. Ye don't know what lives on that island, but every man, woman, and child in Lamordia knows it from the day they're old enough to understand. That's the lair of the Beast o' the Ice. The Man-Corpse. The Scourge of all Lamordia. The farmers believe that he's the reason their crops fail and the snows come at odd times of the years. I don't know anything about crops, but we sailors believe the same thing about the Beast and the snows. Adam? Aye. I've heard it called by that name. Ye'd think he was as human as us, but every Lamordian knows better. Make no mistake. Every story about it has it being more than strong enough to throw rocks that size that distance and, aye, even hit the machine. The rocks continued to fly though they missed as often as struck and the machine continued to fire on the island and even began to walk toward it. As it got closer to the island, the rocks began to hit more often than not until finally one especially big one hit it just to the left of that fire device and the machine staggered a little, then it seemed to lose its footing. I think it may have stepped onto or into something under the water. Another rock struck it a glancing blow and it seemed to lose it's footing entirely and fell over into the sea and sank below the waves. If we had any doubts as to what killed it, they were dispelled when we saw the Beast o' the Ice itself standing atop a glacier bellowing his rage. I ordered the ship brought about again and set at full sail for the southeast. I saw the mists rolling in and the clouds gathering. The Beast was calling his snows down upon the land again and I didn't want us trapped there, especially if more o' those monsters were coming. We managed to beat the storms down the coast to Dementlieu only to find the city in flames and more o' those...machines. And ye say there may be dozens more o' them. I don't even know what to begin to make o' that.'

_________________
Do us a favor Luv, Stick yer 'ead in a bucket a kick it!

So, gentlemen, that's how it is. Until Grissome.... resurfaces, I'm the acting president, and I say starting with this... anniversary festival, we run this city into the ground! :D


Last edited by Manofevil on Sat Oct 20, 2012 10:15 am, edited 2 times in total.



Sun Sep 05, 2010 3:24 am
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Post Re: Invasion from the Blood Star
This next account comes from rather repugnant renegade Falkovnian officer who was captured while preying on the refugees who fled the city along the road to Chateaufaux. He was brought to the city to be hung. He had already been tried for the crimes of rape and murder and was sitting chained in a gaol cell when I went to see him. He spoke only Falkovnian and I copied it down exactly as it was said by him. Fortunately, I studied Falkovnian in the university so I could write it and translate it. The translation follows.

Eyewitness account of Zhargo Dmitrovic, Talon Stabshauptmann of Falkovnia:

'So they've sent a bookworm to talk to me, have they? Well, I suppose I shouldn't be too surprised. They'd have to dig deep and far to find a TRUE man in this country of fops and limp-wrists. If you were TRUE men, you wouldn't need a man like me to show your women the place where they belong and the joy of that place. Do you think any one of those women fought me half as hard as they could have if they didn't want what I was giving them? Oh, they shrieked and bawled and begged and whimpered at first in fear, but later in pleasure. They may never admit it to anyone, even themselves, but I know the truth. What's that? The machines? Oh you came to ask me about the machines. Well I suppose I might as well tell you about those. How they found their way across the country from the east is, I'm sure, as great a mystery as how you gangly wretches managed to defeat three of them. Yes, that's right we were attacked by a single one of those things. Tell you about it?....Hmm why not? It happened some days ago. I was stationed in the city of Morfensi in the east of Falkovnia at the time. As it happened, at the time, our lord and leader, Vlad Drakov himself, had come to observe us in our duties so we were at our best. It would not have done to displease the Great Drakov. Our armours were always freshly polished when he was about, our fighting edge always razor sharp, though as I will tell you, this time it wasn't quite sharp enough.'

'We were preparing to go into the field for drill when word came from the east. The horseman was seen coming down the road from the Shadow Rift. He was traveling at breakneck speed and as he got closer we could see the the fear in his face and the foam dripping from the horses mouth. He wore no helmet. Every one of us knew that if this man wasn't bringing news of some sort of attack by horrible creatures from the Shadow Rift, then his fate at the hands of the great Drakov would be horrible indeed. Drakov met him in the courtyard in full view of us all. I stood in the front ranks behind the man with a clear view of our lord's rage.'

'"WHEY-FACED COWARD!!" bellowed our lord at the sight of him, "HOW DARE YOU SOIL THE NOBLE ARMOR OF A TALON WITH SUCH FEAR?!!ESPECIALLY IN MY PRESENCE!!! HITEH DAMN YOU, SPEAK!!" he roared.'

'"My-my-my-my lord," stammered the man, "I must report to you what I have seen but know not how to do so."'

'"SPEAK, WRETCH!!" thundered our lord, "LEST I WRING IT FROM YOU WITH YOUR OWN ENTRAILS!!"'

'"My lord," continued the man fearfully, " a... THING comes this way. Something never seen nor heard of. It stepped out of the Shadow Rift this morning as our patrol was scouting the border. It is TALL, taller than the tallest tower and it walks on three thin legs. From its mouth comes a strange power that reduces men and horses to ashes in less time than takes to blink. This filth I am caked in is all that remains of the men who rode with me in that patrol. They were struck by this things power. Fourteen Talons and horses were reduced to dust blowing in the wind in less time than it takes to tell it. By some twist of fate, I was spared and rode with all speed down the road to Morfensi to warn the city. Behind me, I heard the thing give off a terrible howl that sounded like-" suddenly a loud groaning howl came echoing across the plain from the east that spooked the horses and rattled the windows. "-like THAT!!" finished the man.'

'"Bring him!" ordered his lordship to me and another and we seized the man and followed our Lord. He led us not down into the keep as we expected, but up onto the battlement to look out on the eastern valley. There, we indeed saw the machine striding through the forest along the Zapodnost river, driving what seemed like all the forest's animals before it. It was indeed as tall as the man had said and as we watched, one of it's long, whiplike, arms reached down, caught a deer, and lifted it into itself. There was a shepherd who was fleeing from the machine with his flock on the southern riverbank. The machine turned toward him and he and several of his sheep were instantly turned to dust in front of us. '

'"You are no liar!" our lord acceeded harshly to our prisoner, "but you ARE a COWARD!!" he roared, slapping the man viciously across the cheek. Had we not been holding him up, he most certainly would have fallen. "YOU AND YOU!" he barked to me and my fellow, "Strap this wretch to a horse and chain a lance to his hand! Let them both be driven with whips toward the enemy! He will not flee from this enemy again! THE REST OF YOU-" he turned to the courtyard and bellowed to those assembled, "PREPARE FOR BATTLE!!" '

'A limp-wristed paper-scrawler like you could never understand the feelings Talons have as we prepare to go into battle. We were already armed and armored and within a quarter of an hour, our horses were saddled and we were mounted and ready to charge while our lord had already formed his strategies. Morfensi is a city with two gates, each with a road, one leading north and the other east. Trumpets and messengers sent signals of one sort or another to every fighting man in Falkovnia. Oh the GLORY of it. If only you could understand... but anyway, we were quickly ready to fight.'

'Many outsiders fail to realize why everyone in Falkovnia, especially the army, is so loyal to Lord Drakov, but none of you have ever fought under him. In the few minutes our lord had observed the enemy, he had already come up with a strategy for defeating it. He divided our army twice. One half were issued lances and the others, hand weapons such as swords, axes, maces, or hammers, then half of each were sent through each of the gates.'

'We who charged through the east gate were the primary attack force. A Talon cavalry charge is a beautiful thing. Over a hundred armored men on horseback charging in close ranks toward one enemy. Is it any wonder we're the finest fighting force in the world? One of our lord's whipmasters drove the disgraced Talon before us as we charged. He was well beyond the whip's reach though. We never will know if he just feared the whip or if he was trying to prove that he wasn't a coward, for he was one of the many to fall.'

The man paused for a few moments before continuing. It was clear he was struggling.

'What happened next is difficult to talk about. We were Talons. We had been trained to fight impossible opponents-from Darkon's undead to Richemulot's rats, but what happened next took us all by surprise. Perhaps that's the reason why we disgraced ourselves so. It began when the charge was halfway down the valley. We all knew, starting that charge, that there would be men who didn't make to the other side of the valley. That's just something we're taught to live with as Talons-it's another one of those things little men like you just couldn't understand-but this was definitely something more than even we could handle.'

'It started on the right side of the charge. I only barely saw the power the machine used to strike us down for a heartbeat-a strange distortion in the air, like looking through a lens at the landscape behind it- then the men and horses began to simply...vanish in clouds of dust. They made strange popping sounds like chestnuts fallen into a fire. I remember noticing that the armor and saddlery of the riders would seemingly fall to ground scorched but otherwise unbroken, while the dust that was the rider and horse that wore them would blow away on the wind. This fire device, as you call it, could only seem to strike one or two riders at a time, so as it cut through our ranks, it would only leave fairly thin gaps in the charge, but it was the damage it caused in the secondary sense that truly shattered the charge. You see, when one of us would get...hit and turned to dust, the armor and saddlery left behind would crash to the ground in front of the charging horses and riders in the ranks behind, tripping the horses which would then trip the horses behind them and so on. The dust that the riders and horses were reduced to would then fly up into the faces and noses of the surviving horses and riders blinding and choking us, and then there were those men who lost their courage in the face of this enemy, and those who couldn't control their horses who had panicked. Imagine all of these things happening at once, little man! Imagine the smell of the ash and the noise of shouting men and screaming horses, and you have at least an idea of what completely...DISGRACEFUL.. disarray this once proud Talon charge had degenerated into.'

I could tell the man was DEEPLY ashamed.

'We might have all been massacred right then had the remnants of the first, second, and third ranks, who had escaped the first destruction, not continued the charge down the valley to attack the invader. My own horse had been one of those spooked. While trying to regain contol of it, I was able to see just barely what the surviving charge was doing through the ash and the chaos. The power of the fire device chased them all the way down the valley but couldn't seem to catch them. Somewhere between twenty and thirty Talons made it to the place where the machine stood and began to attack it's legs. I managed to regain control of my horse but in getting it to charge forward, I might as well have been riding a mule, as stubbornly as it shied. I was not so preoccupied that I could not see what was happening down the valley, though.'

'The remaining Talons had made it all the way to the machine and had begun to attack it. It turned out that while the device could fire straight down, it could NOT fire at the ground directly beneath itself. There only it's long arms could defend it, and THOSE could be FOUGHT!'

The man was actually smiling at this point.

'I was staring right at the battle as I continually tried to spur my horse onward. The Talons had already adapted to the enemy's movements. The men with hand weapons began hacking at the legs and arms of the thing while the men with lances tried to stab its underside. One even thought to aim for the joints in its legs. The machine's...top began to spin around and the fire device with it. Clearly trying to get a better shot at the men below. The Talons were so well trained that they evaded the fire even as they continued to attack, though the ground beneath them was scorched barren by the invaders weapon.'

'Suddenly, arrows fell from the sky like rain upon the machine. They struck, making the same noises they make when striking metal shields so any doubts we had that it was no beast were completely dispelled. Falkovnian archers are also the best in the world and the machine was a good sized target. I saw not a single arrow fail to strike it's head. They did no damage, of course, and fell down upon the Talons who were still below, but they were not MEANT to do any damage. Rather, they were meant to draw its attention north and west to the treeline. The archers retreated into the trees as the fire device blasted the treeline. If any of them were killed, I didn't see it. The arrows had the desired effect. The machine forgot the men at its feet and moved toward the trees. Some Talons were unhorsed by the machines moving feet and fell heavily to the ground. Most of those did not get back up. The arms continued to battle the horsemen beneath them, even as the legs moved the machine towards those in the trees. The forest was ablaze. As a Talon, I can tell you without fear of contradiction that there were no Talons where the fire was burning and no fire where the Talons were fighting. We Talons are skilled enough to avoid a fire while fighting a battle. By this time, I'd finally managed to regain control of my horse and I followed the battle into the forest. The Talons were still battling at the machines feet. The men with hammers were pounding at the lower legs and feet while the lancers stabbed at the joints higher up and the men with axes, swords, and maces battled the arms. Though the metal was clearly stronger than our steel, both the legs and the arms were both looking badly scarred by this time.'

'As Talons' weapons finally broke against the machines metal, the Talons would retreat north, further into the woods, only to shortly return with fresh weapons. When I noticed this, the genius of my Lord's plan became clear to me. The Talons who had been sent through the North gate had been sent into those woods to ambush the machine when it was drawn into them. Perhaps, had I been less preoccupied with the battle, I would have recognized my Lord's anger in the fact that fresh Talons were not being sent to battle the machine instead of fresh weapons.'

'We continued to draw the machine further into the woods until we reached the foot of the Balinok mountains behind that forest. It was there that our Lord sprung his final trap. As we continued to battle the arms of the machine while avoiding its fire device, we were stunned when a thunderous clangor, like the splitting of the tower bell, rang out, splitting our ears worse than the machine's howl had. Several things happened at once. Two of the machine's feet lifted off the ground almost as high as the back of a horse before falling back to the ground shaking the earth beneath us and a huge rock fell into the midst of us, crushing two men and their horses beneath it. We looked up to see what was happening and saw more huge rocks flying at the machines head. We looked to the mountains where the rocks had come from and saw at least half a dozen trebuchets and catapults strategically placed among the peaks. The giant rock that fell amongst us could only have come from Iron Klaus, our Lord's mightiest catapult, upon which we could all see him standing. We redoubled our efforts to bring down the machine as the catapults and trebuchets continued to deliver their payloads in kind. The machine's fire device ceased its attempts to kill us and turned its terrible fire on the siege engines.'

'The first engine to fall was, of course, the mighty Iron Klaus. Lord Drakov and most of the other Talons barely managed to leap clear before the machine's fire device burned it to a cinder. Two Talons were reduced to ashes with it. As this happened, another trebuchet launched its great stone and struck true against the machine's side. Again, staggering the machine. This time however, the Talons with hammers struck at its legs while it was still regaining its balance, and finally, the machine keeled over and fell to the ground like a downed tree-crushing one last Talon even as it crashed.'

'Our blood was up. Most of us were veterans of the wars against Darkon, but this was still the stiffest battle any of us had ever fought. That is perhaps the only reason there could be for our next lapse.'

The shame came over his face again.

'A cheer went up from our ranks as the machine ceased to move but that that cheer died as the machine began to thrash. The legs began to move up and down and the arms began to thrash back and forth. Three Talons were struck down by the machines thrashing limbs. Then it's fire device began to shoot at us again. Two more Talons were reduced to ash by it before we finally recovered from our stupor and thought to strike back. We charged in a rage, bound and determined to avenge our dead, or at least I did. The machine was at our level now. We didn't even bother with an attack plan. We just hacked at it. The arms, the legs, the joints, the head, and especially the fire device which proved to be weaker than the rest of the machine as it didn't take much to break it to pieces. We felt the ground rumble beneath us and we knew that our Lord was coming with reinforcements. Finally, some of us thought to hack at the panel which we'd mistaken for eyes. It turned out to be a window of some sort and behind it, we finally met our enemy. They are an ugly breed, aren't they? All that slime and those tentacles-like moving nests of snakes or worms, aren't they? I've seen my share disgusting things, but they are definitely something new. Huge, too. It took five of us to get the ropes on the creature so that the rest of us could drag it from its hole. It was as tall as a man mounted on a horse when it stood up. The horses shied from it and that seemed to embolden it. It attacked much like an angry treant which, in truth, is perhaps what most resembled. It began by pulling at one of the ropes which we used to drag it from the machine. The men holding that rope were caught off guard and pulled from their feet. Free on one side, the creature charged its captors on the other and thrashed at us with its many tentacles, each moving like a deadly whip. One Talon was struck in the neck and fell from his horse with his head at an odd angle, his neck clearly broken. Another's head was struck clean from his neck and another struck unconscious. It entrapped others in its tentacles. We took only a few seconds to respond. We were on the creature with what ever was in our hands. Swords, axes, knives, sometimes just our fists. I was one that moved faster than most for I was right next to its head slashing at it with my sword. We might have continued like that until we dropped had not a clap of thunder stopped us in our tracks. A clap of thunder that came in the form of a command that chilled us to the bone and that could only have come from our Lord Vlad Drakov himself.'

'"HALT!!!"'

'He moved among us, bareheaded, unmounted, unarmed, striking out at us with only his mailed fists left and right at whoever was closest. Very few of us had seen our Lord like this and lived to tell the tale. Our Lord was in fury and woe to those who had displeased him. Just as he reached the creature, I heard it hiss its last breath and saw it eyes go dark. It took less than a heart beat for my Lord to turn on me snarling and strike me down with his fist as I stood there dumbly, one of the creatures tentacles which I'd hewn off clutched in my hand. I was barely conscious as I heard the rest of our Lord's words.'

'"That creature was a fountain of war secrets and it's dried up thanks to YOUR actions!! How many of your fellow and future Talons have you killed in future battles with your indiscipline!! Was it not enough that you shamed yourselves so terribly on the plain?! YOU HAD TO DO IT HERE, TOO?!" He roared.'

'Every man in that clearing shuddered at the word 'indiscipline'. The mounted Talons who had ridden with Lord Drakov quickly surrounded us all and forced those who were mounted to their feet and took our weapons. We all knew the penalty for indiscipline in the face of the enemy-decimation. What's that you ask.' He smiled at my questioning look. 'Well I'll describe to you. All those guilty were broken up into groups of 10. When it was discovered that there were seven Talons left over, our Lord himself ordered us back into ranks, then he walked down the rows, inspecting each man. When he finally went back to the head of the ranks, he called out seven names, commanding them to come forward. In front of all, he pronounced amnesty upon them. When we heard him say why, we immediately recognized each of them as men had honored themselves battling at the machines feet. They were the only survivors of the charges first rank. We were then again broken up into groups of 10. One of our Lord's adjutants then came around to each group and each man in the group was made to pull a coin from a bag. The one who drew the coin painted black from the bag was the one chosen. All others in the group were given back their weapons to be used to execute the one chosen. The first man chosen from the first group took off his helmet and stood proudly like the Hawks we are named after. I knew him. He came from a good family and had many relatives. Had he shamed himself, they would've been made to pay as well. His fellows slit his throat without word or ceremony. He met his end with the dignity that befits a Talon. You see, a man with a simple cut throat may be taken back to his family to be buried honorably. More destructive methods of execution make that more difficult.'

'The one chosen from the second group dishonored himself however. He backed away from his executioners, condemning those who had not fought the machine directly as lucky cowards. Where were they, he shouted, when the enemy made men into dust? Where were they when the enemies arms had smashed men like bottles? Had Lord Drakov chosen them, they would've done exactly the same, he shouted. Had the man been paying more attention, he might've heard our Lord quietly trotting up behind him.

'"TRAITOR!!!" bellowed our Lord causing the man to turn around fearfully just in time to see our Lords broadsword descend upon his head and split his skull. His corpse would be taken back to the city and thrown to the dogs.'

'The third man chosen met his end with the same dignity that the first one did. It was his executioner who came closest to disgracing himself, for the tears were clear on his face. Then again, I might have wept too, had I been executing my brother.'

'It was when they came to the fourth group that my story began, or perhaps ended. You see I was the one chosen from the fourth group. It was one of the only times in my life that I felt my stomach fall. When my fellows came toward me, I made a decision. You see, unlike the first chosen, I had very little family. My father was a Talon who died in the Dead Man's campaign and my mother was far too aged to be made to suffer much. So I fell in the unarmed combat stance. A Talon without his weapon is a Talon still. My fellows moved on me carefully. They closed slowly. One finally charged my left. I had expected it. I had always been weak on my left. It was what I would have done. I grappled him and seized the back of his head and chin and twisted, breaking his neck. You look shocked. Didn't you know a man's neck could be broken in such a way? No, how could you? Anyway, I seized his ax as he fell and turned to face the rest of my fellows. Another charged with his sword bringing it around and that swift, deadly way we Talons are taught. I could've parried easily, but instead, I ducked under and sprung forward leading, with the pointed edge of my ax and pierced his throat as he recovered. I recovered just in time to parry one of my fellows' maces. For a few minutes, it was a clash, mace on ax crashing against one another, filling the forest with thunder, until an even louder crash of thunder stopped all in their tracks.'

'"HALT!!!"' bellowed our Lord and all stood still. He rode his horse up to us and looked upon the fourth group in judgment. "Bring this man's horse," our Lord said, pointing to me. Another Talon came forward leading the very horse I could not for the life of me have budged not too much earlier. I was ordered to mount and I did. What came next, I had never heard of in all my life. "You are guilty of the indiscipline in the face of the enemy," said our Lord, "but you have shown courage so I issue this challenge: you have a half an hour. Ride as you can before we come for you. If you can escape, you shall have your life, but if you ever show your face in Falkovnia again, I shall see you in Draccipetri. Now GO!!!"'

'Draccipetri was all I needed to hear. None of us knew for certain what happens there but the stories are more than enough to know what it meant. I reined that wretched horse I couldn't move but a couple of hours before around and rode as if bent for the abyss east toward the Shadow Rift. Better to take my chances with the insanity that lurked there than learn what really happened in Draccipetri. Behind me I heard my Lord assuring my former fellows what would happen if THEY failed to hunt me down. It wouldn't be Draccipetri, but all knew it would be more than enough. I fled along the mountains, every falling hoof and heartbeat seeming an eternity long, but whatever gods there are were with me. Even as I heard my former fellow Talons charging behind me, their horses shaking the ground, I came within sight of the Shadow Rift. I immediately began to head south along the rift. I didn't want to enter it if I didn't have to. But my mount was exhausted, and I could hear my former fellows gaining ground on me. I don't know why I thought I could reach the southern border with Borca. It was miles away, but I forged ahead. I crossed the road to Morfensi into the forest south. I quickly found myself among the trees we call the Vigila Dimorta. in your language, sentries of death. Stark white trees with neither bark nor leaf. They say a tree dies for every person our Lord executes. Be that as it may, I rode among them as swiftly as I could, my former fellows growing ever closer. If I looked back I could see them. I began to dodge arrows, then I had a stroke of luck. With everything we had been doing, I hadn't noticed that the sun was going down. Clouds filled the horizon and blocked it, making me more difficult to see. Then something happened that I'd only ever heard of. The Mists rose up from the Shadow Rift. Of that, I can only say I was engulfed in a world of white but I continued to ride. I couldn't see again until I found myself in this land of yours. Imagine that. I had ridden east and found myself in a land to the west. It took me a few minutes to realize what happened. I'd only heard of such things in old wives tales. When I finally realized I was no longer being pursued, I dismounted. The horse which had caused me so much dishonor collapsed not a few minutes later, dead. I was of mixed feelings about that. It had shown cowardice in the face of battle and caused me dishonor, yet it also carried me to freedom, giving its life in return. I decided to simply leave it there unmourned, but also unscorned. The rest, you know. And I guarantee you,'he smiled wickedly,'if you don't, your women certainly do.'

I asked him if he considered Lord Drakov's judgment of decimation to be justice.

'Yes, of course.' He said.

I asked him why.

'I suppose you would ask that,' he said,'so I will tell you. It is true that I dishonored myself in that battle. I didn't have to to sit on that skittish horses back like a clinging tick. I could've leapt from the saddle and done my best on foot. Instead I stumbled about trying to get that stupid horse to move. Looking back on it now, it seems so obvious. Such foolishness on my part.' His face again darkened with shame. 'Still, my Lord spared me for some reason, and I accept his judgment. They seek to hang me tomorrow, like a common thief. I will not go quietly to their gallows. We shall see tomorrow, paper scrawler, how many of your countrymen it takes to kill a Talon.'

With that I left him. It did indeed take two dozen men to execute him the next day. Five didn't live to tell the tale.

_________________
Do us a favor Luv, Stick yer 'ead in a bucket a kick it!

So, gentlemen, that's how it is. Until Grissome.... resurfaces, I'm the acting president, and I say starting with this... anniversary festival, we run this city into the ground! :D


Fri Oct 19, 2012 8:12 am
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