Fable - Ask A Call To Arms

Vyx'aria

Military General
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Zar’Ahal was in disarray. The queen’s House was under attack by a rival House and she had called upon Vyx’aria to rally the military to help suppress the uprising. House Avairl had chosen to attack out of the blue, calling for the current drow ruler to step down due to decades of inaction.

Vyx’aria sent out for all able soldiers to rally to the courtyard in the middle of the city. House in-fighting was normal, but an attack on the ruler was unprecedented. Their Shadowmantis goddess hadn’t answered their prayers in almost a century, and it was clear the drow people had been forsaken.

Nevertheless, the military had a duty and allegiance to the ruler of Zar’Ahal. Vyx’aria was bound to her discipline, and she would ensure others followed the same. She paced back and forth, covered head to toe in armor. There was a mantis insignia on her plate armor that designated her rank and position.

She would wait for everyone to assemble quickly before they would venture into the tunnels and towards where the battle was taking place. Even from here, the distant clanging of swords and armor resounded, along with the screams of those falling in battle. House Avairl was a military house, but the queen had the benefit of having a House governed almost entirely by priestesses. It was because of this that she rose to power, having stamped out any house that ever dared to oppose her.

Vyx’aria kept her own thoughts out of the situation. She was always difficult to read, and it was even more so under the cover of armor. A finger carefully grazed along the hilt of her blade as she considered all potential outcomes of this battle.
 

Xunari Auceus

Runic Commander
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Xunari wasn't a big fan of politics but sometimes politics got things moving and when things were moving people tended to bother her less. They needed her for military duties less and they allowed her more freedoms with her pursuit of knowledge.

She much preferred that to being brought in in a military capacity but oh well. Needs must and all that. Her duty as a military commander often came ahead of her desires as a mage and she had to accept that.

Dressed and covered all over in some leather armour, Xunari had a shield strapped to her back and a buckler shield strapped to her right forearm. Both were heavily runed to the point that the dagger at her waist was mostly ceremonial.

Arriving with several other mages of various disciplines, she waved to them imperiously.

"Man the pickets - we shall be seeing action soon."

Xunari herself instead moved to report to whoever was in charge of the defense/attack, whichever this mustering proved to be. Seeing someone she recognized, she advanced to meet Vyx'aria Tor'Rahel. As she approached she placed a fist over her heart in a military salute.

"Commander Tor'Rahel."
she greeted the other commander, "I have a dozen mages of significant skill and two dozen apprentice mages falling in. Wield us as you see fit."
 

Erza Kord

Commander
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Erza answered the call to arms, he and his army were suited up at a moments notice and we're soon marching into the courtyard to meet with the battle commander, Vyx'aria Tor'Rahel .
He wore his black armor styled after a spiders web, the silver spider silk cape draped around his shoulders, and he wore the spider insignia of his house on his armor.

Commander Auceus and her forces had arrived before him. He approached the two commanders and saluted them in military fashion with fist over heart and bowing his head to them.
"Commanders. I bring the forces of House Kord to answer your call. "
He kept a practiced eye to the ground and his head bent even after he finished his salute and report.
They were similar in rank, but the two women still surpassed him in authority.

He regarded the two female commanders from the corner of his eyes. They were both competent and earned their positions, he'd seen them both in action in years past and was indeed impressed, but he kept his observations to himself. He had no doubt that a man holding a rank close to theirs would be viewed as a threat. His life had been threatened more than once on these grounds.
 

Lythrani Undraeth

Spymaster
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The city fell into chaos, sword striking shield as House Avairl took their claim to the throne of Zar'Ahal in a surprise attack. The element of surprise was certainly one the House thought well to utilize; as the Queen's army struggled to organize in the midst of a battle that had already begun without information, victory could be swift.

Of course, the shadows hide many eyes. Information was the greatest asset of any war, and it could be bent to serve any purpose; Lythrani knew this well. The Spymaster had already seen fit to deploy some spies to follow up on a few potential sites of attack against the ruler's House, just as a temporary defense before it can be brought up with the military leaders.

Lythrani entered the courtyard, dressed in simple black cloth and her iconic cloak. It wasn't military garb, clearly, but her place had never been on the battlefield. Her eyes glanced across the selection of commanders present, quickly moving on from the male as she saw those of stature nearby. Ah, Vyx'aria and Xunari. Capable generals, at the very least. She found her way to them, hands behind her back with an ever-regal expression on her face.

Nodding to both and performing the traditional salute, she greeted, "Commanders. I have taken the liberty of deploying Undraeth agents to secure sites of interest thought to be targets of the insurgent House. My eyes and hands are at your complete disposal."
 

Zathria At'Arel

Weapon Master
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While the other senior officers arrived at the courtyard, Zathria was inspecting the troops. Men and women alike in full armor with blades at the ready. Half the lower ranked officers in the courtyard she'd instructed herself at the academy, and the rest were cannon fodder. They would throw the slaves in the front lines, and the soldiers would come after that.

Straighten up and keep your eyes ready. Avairl warriors aren't going to lie down out of obedience like that male you had at graduation, she said to one of her former students. She went through the ranks, making similar comments as she made sure that everyone was ready.

As the others arrived, she made her way over to the main gathering, satisfied that the troops were ready. She had no illusions about how this would go. The winning side would reduce the loser to nothing. The lucky ones would be killed in battle, the unlucky would be ripped apart and fed upon by summoned fiendish creatures or pressed into the worst kind of slavery.

Zathria slipped her own helmet over her head as she joined the others. The roar of the fighting in the streets was enough to get the adrenaline flowing already and she was eager to get into the fight.

The main force is ready, he said. There was no need to point out that they would take heavy casualties. Battles like these always involved widespread death.

Scouts report strength is greater than ours, but the bulk is slaves. Bugbear, goblin, even a few humans, she said with a hint of sneer in her tone.

Their proper soldiers are approximately equal to ours and they have fewers mages and priestesses, she relayed the scout's report. It would be an even fight. The enemy had number, but they had raw power and skill on their side. With proper maneuvering, they would win the day.

We wait on your order, commander, she said to Vyx'aria.
 

Vyx'aria

Military General
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Vyx responded to Erza with a curt nod, not often in the habit with speaking to the men.

Humans?” Vyx responded to Zathria with a grimace beneath her helmet. Why drow bothered to keep humans for any purpose was beyond her. She had a feeling the rival forces would be large, but that only meant they had to be smarter in how they operated.

“Where is Avairl's matron? Is she at the battle or has she gone into hiding?” The question was posed at both Zathria and Lythrani. Nevertheless, she would begin mobilizing all units.

She looked over at all those that gathered and was satisfied with the number. They had no time to waste, and she promptly spun on her heel and drew out her blade, “We march!” She called out, commanding all the forces to follow her to the battle.


It would take them little time to arrive where the battle was taking place. The queen’s house had deployed all its mages, the priestesses leaving droves of humans and other slave races eviscerated and lying in pools of blood. Their entrails served the fuel to spark their devastating magic, cutting deep into the military soldiers that fought against them.

Avairl had lost its share of men and women, but it was far from weakened. It had dealt a heavy blow to the queen’s House, many of its priestesses lying strewn about on the ground. The queen was in hiding and nowhere to be seen, a fact that made Vyx’s lips curl into a snarl.

“Xunari!” She called out to the woman, “Are your mages able to conjure the tricks we’ve seen on the surface? It was called….fire, I believe,” She used the common tongue word for it, “Arm the arrows with it and shoot them into Avairl’s forces. That will stun them.”

Vyx had her blade drawn and rushed into the fray, swinging into an arc to collide with the blade of a weapons master. The woman was quick on her feet, and Vyx was soon engaged in a dance of blades, spinning and pivoting as the clash of steel echoed throughout the underground chambers.

Xunari Auceus Zathria At'Arel Lythrani Undraeth Erza Kord
 

Zathria At'Arel

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Zathria shook her head at Vyx's question.

Our scouts didn't report seeing her, she said. She suspected the matriarch would be back at her house with her closest family, performing rituals and asking for the blessing of the goddess, but to say for certain would have been speculation, and that wasn't what she was being asked for. Perhaps the spymaster would know more.

But the time for talk was quickly drawing to a close, and with a final order, Vyx ordered the assembled force to move out. They marched swiftly, and in short order they had found the battle. A grisly scene lay before them, and although battles between houses were far from uncommon in the underrealm, this was above and beyond the usual. Rarely did a house as powerful as Avairl rise up against the queen, and the streets would flow with blood as a result.

Zathria followed into the battle without hesitation, only her eyes showing through the holes in her helmet. Her two swords came free from their sheathes and began to flash through the air. Blood quickly coated both blades as they cleaved through flesh and armor alike.

The forces of both armies clashed together. The allied force had the advantage of attacking a flank as the vanguard faced down the bulk of the queen's priestesses, but that advantage wouldn't be long lived. The enemy force would quickly turn after the first few lines were cut down, wheeling to face the new threat and happily sacrificing a portion of their forces to secure a new line.

The enemy force began to fall back down the center of the street, buildings to either side, but something seemed wrong. None of those officers present were strangers to combat, and they would each be able to feel that even for a flanking assault they were gaining ground too easily as the enemy forces pulled back.
 

Xunari Auceus

Runic Commander
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Xunari didn't so much glare at Erza as she did barely acknowledge his existance. While she wasn't as bad as some of the other drow, she didn't really care overly much for the menfolk. That he had brought warriors was good - there was always need of fodder when the truly valuable pieces were being moved into position.

Lythrani, on the other hand, was something of a novelty for her. Someone who liked to be quiet and take her time? There weren't many drow like that and she enjoyed collecting them when she could.

News about the enemy was both alarming and... not, at the same time. Numbers were key to all engagements but whoever said the only way through a door was by the key had never met a competant mage. Reaching the battlefield, Xunari felt a rush of excitement fill her as she surveyed the land before them.

Oh many were going to die today.

She flashed Vyx a very excited and altogether unpleasant smile.

"Cover your eyes as you advance!"
she advised, before turning to her mages, "MAGI. ADD LIGHT."

Before the lines could collide the arrows fell, lighting up with brief, blinding, flashes of light before a meter all around the arrow would erupt into flames. Happy with her mages, she continued to instruct them, hanging at the back of the lines with them to act as artillery more than front liner fighters.

"Right flank - bring down that stalactite!"


A grouping of stalactites on the right flank of the army fell, skewering several of the enemy behind the front line there, weakening them. It even felled a creature that, honestly, Xunari had never seen before.
 

Lythrani Undraeth

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Lythrani allowed Zathria to complete her report before she offered her own, nodding along. At the mention of slaves making up the majority of their army, she let out a sharp laugh. Untrained masses against the elite soldiers of the Queen? The generals of Avairl must be holding onto some trick, some hidden dagger with which to strike at an opportune time.

"Spies state similar observations, commander. It appears, however, the majority of these slaves lack any form of military training. They should be easy to break once they meet our blades." Her ring flickered, a beam of pale light leaving it and molding into the shape of a dagger. It danced in her hands, twirled by graceful fingers. "Those numbers, virtue of their morale, can just as easily be turned to an asset."

At the mention of the House matron, she nodded. "Sources indicate she is currently in her estate, preparing a slew of sacrifices to the goddess for the coming battles with an armed guard."

As talks came to a close, however, it became clear that only one step remained: battle. The amassed troops were led to bloodied streets, where heaps of the dead met their soon-to-be brethren. Blades sank into flesh as often as they clanged against metal, the sounds of warfare filling the air like a brutish melody. Elegant drow flowed around stumbling slaves, pushing back the Avairl tide further and further.

Lythrani held the moonlit dagger in her hand. A breath filled her lungs, serenity following amidst the chaos. The shadows around her grew dark, enveloping in their suffocating black. They morphed, bent, and twisted until legions of soldiers and beasts suddenly emerged onto the street.

An army of illusions joined the Queen's side in an instant, more than doubling their numbers—at least, that's what it appeared to be. They mixed with the real and visceral, mirror images standing side by side with true soldiers. Enemies found themselves suddenly overwhelmed, unable to tell which blades would pass through their skin without harm and which would leave pathways of crimson.

She guided some of the illusions to their flanks, in an effort to dissuade any of Avairl's men from attempting anything of note. Something felt off about how quickly they pushed back. She needed to know why. She conjured the illusion of a bat, instructing it to fly above the army and observe the state of things, pulling it into her vision.
 
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Velathina sighed as she wiped the blade of her broadsword off on the cloak of a fallen daughter of House Avairl, her fine armor and trappings showing she had some standing in the aggressor house - not that Vel cared at all for the status of the dying elf from a soon to be dead House. The fighting had been brutal through the winding streets of Zar’Ahal and it grieved the normally stoic Sorceress to see familiar stone passageways littered with the bodies of her kin and slaves and surfaces like some kind of charnel house; but, needs must as they say. The Houses were clashing and if a charnel house was all they meant to rule over than Vel was determined to give it to them. The sound of fighting below the terrace she stood on and a sudden burst of light and heat caught her attention and she could see Vyx'aria Tor'Rahel leading the militia into combat against the vanguard of the enemy forces arrayed below her.

Kneeling over the dying Drow, Vel hummed softly over her weak cries and limp thrashing against her hold and blade as the T'sarran spellblade carved runes into the dying Avairl's exposed skin that slowly pulsed with a sickly green light. The pulses increased in speed as Vel heaved the woman onto her shoulder and shuffled to the edge of the terrace, cursing her father for contributing nothing but his poor height to her, and lifted her onto the railing. The pulses came faster and faster, the light from the runes growing brighter and with a grunt of effort the Sorceress pushed her rune-marked foe over the edge of the terrace and down into the ranks of Avairl's army.

The Daughter of Avairl detonated as her body impacted the ground, bone piercing through armor and corrupted blood burning like acid as the concussive force tore a hole through the ranks.

Peeking over the edge, Vel gave a jaunty wave before running to the other end of the terrace and leaping off, unfurling the whip at her hip and lashing out toward the arm of a statue and swinging down to land beside Vyx'aria.

"Dropping in for duty, Commander."
 

Karanon Ulventhral

Runaway Drow
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The soft clattering of giant spider feet upon the palace floor came echoing from a doorway in the interior wall of the courtyard. The outer arms of the palace, as these wall complexes were sometimes known, housed barracks, supplies, and nonmilitary agents of the royal house such as ministers of finance and their evil tax-collecting minions. It was also apparently where one had to check in any deliveries of living creatures being brought to the palace grounds. And also where civilians we're outfitted with what basic and illfitting scraps of armor could be spared when they were about to enter into a combat situation.

Karanon was the first to enter the courtyard. His mock expensive clothing showed clearly beneath the standard issue armguards, boots, and chestplate of the palace guards. And they all bore the insignia of the Royal House. An insignia which was rather abstract by Karanon's reckoning, yet was supposed to represent Maelzafen, the Shadowmantis Goddess.

To think! Not ten hundred years ago they might have claimed that same insignia represented Lylthryal, the Spider Goddess. It wasn't too surprising however. Even while Karanon was being raised in Lylthryal's Temple, he had heard that she was once the favored goddess of the elite of the nobility. And now it seemed that her replacement, Maelzafen was falling out of favor as well. Or so went the whispers of those not born to higher castes of drow society. The spider breeder and silk harvester certainly wasn't going to bring those whispers up here.

As he walked out of the open archway in the wall a line of giant spiders the size of horses came behind him. They were of the Duark Hamnin species, which resembled giant tarantulas with darkly colored fur and possessed great strength and extremely tough exoskeletons. Perfect for battle, home protection, and even quite popular as mounts. Who wouldn't love one of these remarkable spiders? Only fools, by Karanon's reckoning.

And they came following him. One. Two. Three. Four... The line just kept getting longer. Until it was seventeen spiders long. That's right. 17. His entire stock. Here at the behest of the Queen herself so he had been told. A great deal of valuable merchandise to lose all at once. But it wasn't like any sane drow would refuse the Queen. Perhaps after the battle word would spread of the high quality and excellent training of his animals. That might at least help to make up for some of the losses.

As the civilian, who had been given a bit of armor, a rusty sword and a poorly repaired crossbow, and lead a veritable conga line of war spiders, approached the are were the military leaders stood he identified the commander whim he had been told to report to, and bowed to her in shamelessly civilian fashion.

"Commander Vyx'aria Tor'Rahel? I am Karanon Ulventhral, breeder and trainer of giant spiders, bringing you 17 of the most potent living weapons known to Zar'Ahal."

He too kept his eyes lowered in the presence of such powerful women. It was illadvised for any male drow to give even the slightest impression of disrespect to a female. And he had been taught from a young age that the easiest way to avoid trouble with women was to not cause any.
 
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Vyx'aria

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The sudden appearance of flames caught the forces off guard, blinding and causing many to drop their weapons. There were shrieks of pain from the brightness, hissing erupting as Avairl’s forces recoiled just for a moment. This gave the mages of the queen the split moment to conjure up concussive blasts and to cut deep with their blood magic.

Stalagcites fell and crashed, metal clanked against metal and still the Queen herself was nowhere to be seen. Vyx’aria was engaged in a duel with Avairl’s weapon master, spinning and twirling as she was caught in a dance of blades. The drow commander pivoted on her foot and sliced in an arc that wedged up into the woman’s underarm. Her enemy shrieked from the attack, whirling around with another attack.

The body of the priestess exploded around the slaves courtesy of Vel, sending the humans and goblins flying back with devastating injuries. Their blood exploding and splattering onto the cold floors only served as further ammo for mages to unleash offensive attacks.

In between her duel, Vyx spun and turned to look at the male drow that brought forth the spiders, “Take them directly to House Avairl! We need that Matron captured!”

The remaining slaves were commanded to throw themselves at the illusions, though they mostly scattered and proved to be useless in the face of true fear. They had no loyalty and one of them even tried to run down a corridor, only to be hunted by another mage to serve as fuel for an attack.

“WHERE IS THE QUEEN?!” Vyx’aria shouted as she ducked and rolled from another potentially lethal blow. It had cut partially into her arm and she knew she risked an enemy mage spotting it. Vyx had mere seconds to silence her opponent.

Meanwhile, the bat that flew above the armies continued to go through the corridors and tunnels. It was there that it was revealed that the Queen and her best priestesses were assembled and circled around in a ritual. The Queen’s priestesses back at the battle had simply been illusions and the best were right here far from the fight. None of them had noticed the bat, swaying from side to side and chanting for a great sacrifice.

A few mere snippets would be enough to tell Lythrani that the purpose was to cause a mass cave in where the battle took place. The great sacrifice was intended to wipe out the majority of the military forces, along with the rest of the Queen’s house and House Avairl, all as a desperate measure to gain the favor of the Goddess and have her answer again.

The fighting forces were entirely oblivious to their impending doom. All except for Lythrani.

Lythrani Undraeth Zathria At'Arel Karanon Ulventhral Velathina T'sarran Xunari Auceus Erza Kord
 

Zathria At'Arel

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Zathria ducked a blow from one of the enemy drow officers before thrusting her blade low and piercing her opponent's leg just above her thigh armor. The thrust pierced just below the goin and through the artery and nerve. The woman fell to the ground, and she would die. She just didn't know it yet.

The illusions were effective and the flames caused the slaves to scatter. The battle was going well, or at least it seemed that way. As the force pressed further inward, down the streets and into the belly of the enemy force, dangers began to present themselves.

In the buildings to either side, archers appeared. Wielding crossbows with bolts that Zathria knew would be poisoned, they began to open up on the allied forces. Punching through armor of the drow and skewering slaves. To the praise of the mages, the illusions caused many bolts to hit nothing but air, but nevertheless, many more were killed as they fell into the killzone.

The buildings! Zathria shouted over the clang, pointing toward the buildings and urging others to join her in clearing them. Otherwise, the allies would slowly be bled of troops.

Zathria scrambled into the first building. The enemies here were true drow. A mix of men and women, but each was a trained soldier. Clearing them would be difficult and every second wasted was another dozen dead allies.
 

Karanon Ulventhral

Runaway Drow
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Karanon bowed lower at Vyx'aria's orders. "At once, Commander." he said meekly, barely containing the apprehension in his voice, before turning and issuing military style hand gesture commands to the spiders behind him. The first in line lowered her cephalothorax nearly to the ground in order to allow him to climb on. This one, whom he had nicknamed Gredkiral, was fitted with a seat and reins. He hadn't had time to outfit the rest with so much as a scrap of extra armor.

And now as Gredkiral rose into a standing posture once more, the male drow uttered a silent prayer within his own mind for Lylthryal to spare himself and his spiders the grisly deaths that would likely come from marching upon the traitorous House alone. The young merchant had no military training and only knew command hand gestures so thatvhe could train spiders like these Duark Hamnin to obey them.

The last time he'd fought off anything other than an animal of the Underrealm on his own, was when that drunk initiate had attempted to force herself on him as he took the wrong shortcut home from the marketplace one evening. And that has been less of a fight, and more tricking her and running away. It was a patent miracle that she hadn't remembered him in the morning and come back to execute him for the insult. Yet now he was being told to go to a likely very well fortified manor of a rebel House, assault it, get inside, overcome traps, guardians, and who knew what else. And capture a Drow Matron alive. He glanced around somewhat nervously at the others. Before resigning himself to this suicide mission.

At least he would be with Gredkiral and sixteen more of the most well bred and beautiful Duark Hamnin he had ever had the pleasure of teaching. It would mean death or worse if he failed to carry out his orders, after all. And on the off chance that he did survive, and even complete the mission, he might receive a reward for his service. And his spider sales were sure to benefit from any reputation gained if he lived through this. What if he somehow managed to pull this off? Woukd the charming young Lady Nirkadri be willing to marry him into her House if he achieved glory on the battlefield?

Suddenly invigorated by the thought of the beautiful young noblewomen who had been coming by his shop recently, and actually seemed to be treating him with genuine kindness, he signaled his spiders to break into four squads of four behind him. He knew these animals, he remembered. He knew them as well as the priestesses at the Temple of the Spider Queen, Lylthryal. And in them he had a confidence that far outshone his lack of skill in personal combat situations. These were strong, tough animals, with venom, cunning and webbing. These we're Duark Hamnin Spiders.

And with a head filled to the brim with comforting but undrowlike thoughts, he took up the reins on Gredkiral and started towards the opposite arm of the palace from where he had entered the , which his spiders could climb over and make a shortcut on the way to the Manor of House Avairl.
 

Xunari Auceus

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Xunari had decided to push herself out of her comfort zone and engage more directly. The mages were now very spread out amongst the ranks as there was no safe way to engage with the enemy forces with the lines so mixed. Right now if she opened a fissure or something she would be killing friend and foe alike.

Which was bad from a military standpoint so she decided it would be something to avoid. Instead she turned to her mages.

"Mix in with the ranks - assist on a squad level and push forward the advance!"


Advancing was the best thing for them. Marching through the streets with fellow drow, she brought her shield up at the warning of archers. The runes lit up dimly and her extended shield snapped up, stopping not just the bolts aimed at herself but at more than a few allies around herself too.

She nodded to the weapons master (Zathria At'Arel ) before activating one of the other runes on her shield. The runic array lit up brighter before the shield it projected was pushed outward, rocketing up through the air to assault the crossbows up atop the buildings. Stone and flesh were hit by a wave of force that broke several of them and staggered more.

She pushed forward.

"Onward!"


Cutting the palm of her left hand, she began to draw a runic array upon the street, using her blood as payment. As she activated it the drow within twenty feet of her glowed a dim purple before they felt themselves being filled with more energy than they had ever known. Her mage ran through their bodies, increasing their speed and thus increasing their charge. They pushed on at the flank, pushing hard and almost causing a break in the enemy.

All it would need was someone to capitalize.
 

Lythrani Undraeth

Spymaster
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No.

Lythrani pulled herself out of the illusion's vision, letting it linger amongst the stalactites of the chamber for the time being.

No.

The entire battle was a mere misdirection, a sacrifice on a scale unprecedented in drow history. Thousands of drow would die from both houses, unaware of their part to play as the grand fool. The Queen planned on leaving her devoted servants as sacrifices to call the goddess that had forsaken her long ago. She had no idea how long this trap would take to fire, or the specifics on how they plan to cause it.

All she knew is that she refused to play the part of a fool. She was no one's fool, no one's sacrifice. The Queen would suffer her wrath. She would feel the dagger pressed against her throat, look into the eyes of her previous spymaster, and weep as she descended into an afterlife void of her god.

In her mind, thoughts raced as she laid out the steps she needed to take. Her eyes flitted to Vyx'aria; inform her, and the rest will follow. As for the traitorous Queen... she had a plan.

The Queen would see the darkness around her brighten, as a night sky begins to wrap around the cave walls. Stars twinkled and glimmered in a beautiful and impossible scene. In the air, a form began to shape itself from the surrounding starscape. It remained ethereal, a large ghostly moonlit effigy of tightly wound shadow and sky.

Maelzafen, the Goddess, herself. Of course, it was merely a puppet, but as it stared at the Queen herself, few could tell.


As the illusion took shape, hopefully enough to delay or even halt the ritual for some time, Lythrani darted to action. She weaved between swords and bodies alike as though she were a graceful gust of wind, a dancer of war, illusions vanishing around her. Some who threatened her path quickly found themselves with a slit throat and a vanished spymaster as she carved a path to the general.

At the sight of her in a duel, she cursed. This wasn't a time for distractions. She raced into the fray, pulling her dagger up to block a blow headed to the general. "Vyx'aria..." she murmured before quickly jerking her leg to the side, knocking the weapon master's sword out from her hands. The moonlight dagger was tossed from her hands, embedding itself in the enemy's neck as they fell limp. "This is a trap. Not one of Avairl's, but of the Queen. Tell the troops to move from the cave, now. I can delay the Queen's plot—and with some assistance, stop it."
 
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Vyx'aria

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Vyx was in the throes of battle when the Spymaster intervened. The Avairl weaponsmaster was caught off guard, the dagger making her go limp as she slowly dropped to the ground. The drow general’s jaw tightened at the sight and she whirled around to face Lythrani. She gazed silently at the woman and let her finish speaking before she took a few steps forth.

Without warning, Vyx brought her hand to abruptly grasp Lythrani around the neck. She leaned in close to the woman’s face so she could see the crimson hues of Vyx's eyes through the helmet’s slits, “Do not presume to command me, spymaster,” Vyx hissed as she tightened her grip slightly, “If what you say is true, you have just laid to waste a potentially powerful ally,” She jutted her chin towards the dead Avairl weapon master.

Vyx released her then, backing away from the woman before spinning to face the others, “TO THE TUNNELS! THE QUEEN CALLS US!” The fact that she acted on Lythrani’s words was a testament to the silent respect Vyx had for the woman despite the terse exchange prior. Vyx very well couldn’t explain the potential for doom to the troops and could only hope to lure the fight away from the cave and out of danger.

She fell into step beside Lythrani, slashing at and bodily slamming others out of the way, “How much time?” Vyx called out to the spymaster. She barely got the words out before a large stalagcite fell in front of her, causing her to skid to a halt. The massive structure crushed a few of her own people. A soft rumble began to echo above them, though only few noticed.

“You!” Vyx called out to one of the female warriors running with her, “Seek out the male beastmaster I’ve sent to House Avairl! You must aid him in convincing Avairl of the Queen’s plot and have the matron join us in the tunnels!” She knew this would be a difficult task, especially with Karanon being male.

---​

Meanwhile, the Queen and the priestesses stared up at the appearance of their goddess. They shrieked in delight, swaying from side to side and calling out to her.

“She is pleased! SHE IS PLEASED!” The Queen cried out, gazing up at the appearance.

“My Queen…” One of the priestesses, one that was exceptionally powerful in magic, slowly began. She stared at the manifestation for a long moment, her keen eyes picking up the slightest traces that all was not as it seemed, “My Queen I do not believe that…”

“SILENCE!” The Queen shrieked, delirious and desperate for answers. She took a blade and swiftly plunged it into the priestess’s throat, slamming her down to drain her blood into the circles they had drawn, “TAKE HER, MAELZAFEN!”

Unfortunately, instead of delaying things, the appearance of the Goddess was seen as a glimmer of hope. It only spurred the remaining priestesses and the Queen to hasten their ritual.


Zathria At'Arel Lythrani Undraeth Xunari Auceus Karanon Ulventhral Velathina T'sarran
 

Zathria At'Arel

Weapon Master
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Zathria had proceeded into the buildings to the side of the street, and the battle in here was no less intense. Warriors on both sides were slammed into walls and furniture was smashed. Crossbow bolts whizzed past and one nearly skewered Zathria before she managed to close in with the shooter.

One sword came up while the other came down. The crossbow was cleaved and the woman who had fired it now fell to the ground, missing her right leg. She cried out, blood drenching the floor and spattering Zathria's armor before she plunged her sword down in an executing blow. The fights in the other buildings were still unfolding with intensity, but she had confidence that her troops would overcome the enemy given a few more moments.

Unfortunately, time was not something they had. Peering down from a window into the streets below, Zathria took stock of the situation, spotting Vyx'aria after several moments.

She was utterly shocked to hear and see the retreat signal. They were winning, how could they retreat now?! Rage seized her as her eyes scanned over the battlefield, looking for any reason to call a retreat. The Queen calls us?! Stuff the Queen. She caught herself a moment later, remembering the situation. She knew Vyx'aria, and if the General was calling a retreat, then there was a reason. It wasn't Zathria's job to see the reason yet, it was her job to get her soldiers out.

Fall back! We take the rearguard! Spread the word! she commanded to the other soldiers in the building with her. She began preparing the best plan to pull out when the first of the stalactites fell, crushing allied forces. It wasn't the only one, and it began to dawn on Zathria why they were falling back, though she had no way to divine the cause of the collapse. Urgency became of the utmost importance.


---​

Inside the matron's home, Karanon Ulventhral would find that things were not so easily accessible. The gates and walls would be an easy obstacle for the spiders, but within the structure were a series of guards. Nearly twenty drow warriors - male and female alike - were ready to die to protect their matron, standing watch on the parapets with bows at the ready.

Inside, the matron and her two daughters were performing rituals to support their troops from afar. A dozen bodies lay slain already, drained of their blood into pools that covered the entire floor of the main room.
 
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Xunari Auceus

Runic Commander
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Not one for berserk states or getting too into the moment of battle, Xunari wasn't too distracted to ignore the call for a retreat to the tunnels. She might not have had the same level of military experience as Vyx'aria but she was certain that their forces had been winning. To retreat from a battle that was being won... there were reasons to do so and they were a small list.

New intelligence.

Reinforcements for the enemy necessitating a falling back to a better position.

She backed away from where she had been heading, frowning as she searched for someone who could explain the situation to her. Allied troops were dying and she could taste magic on the air, a foul and tainted thing that felt ugly to her. Narrowing her gaze, she spotted Vyx'aria ahead of her but dismissed asking her for an explanation directly.

She knew enough of the woman's temper to not risk questioning her orders to her face. Instead she focused on a woman not too far from her, a spy-mistress if her memories served her well. Quickly catching up, she called out when close.

"Undraeth!" she called out to the spymistress, "What's the word? Why do we fall back?"

When encountering something new, something unexpected, best to ask the woman in the room who pretended she didn't know as much as she did.

Lythrani Undraeth
 

Lythrani Undraeth

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Shit.

The form of the Goddess suddenly tightened, the stars becoming bright with a burning rage. The room was showered in illusory light that burned the eyes all the same. A voice rang out through the cave; angelic and coarse, vicious and calm, young and old. "End this. Your ritual is futile. To enact it, is to forever damn your people and condemn them from my blessing. It is to betray my children, strayed as they might be. You will end this."


---​

The general's grasp wrapped around her throat without warning. In an instant, she gasped for air, hands instinctively reaching for her throat—to no avail. Her only response to Vx'aria's statements was choked out words that were only half-discernable. For the first time, fear had entered her visage.

She was dropped to the ground, immediately gasping for air in some attempt to regain her composure. Lythrani cast her gaze upward, a sigh of relief leaving her air-ridden lips at the sign of Vyx'aria still heeding her warning. In other circumstances, she would list off a biting remark. At this time, it was too urgent to be anything other than focused. Judging from the Queen's reaction to the illusion, they might not have long.

"Unclear, though they seem to be quickening the pace. It's best to assume to we don't have long. I've attempted to delay the ritual, but in her race to please the lost Goddess, she has abandoned sense." The dagger appeared in her hand once more, struck into the flesh of a foolish male slave. "The way is known, I can guide a group there if mustered." The drow laid the information out, a sign of her own respect.

Her eyes flitted over to Xunari, narrowly releasing a dagger in her direction before she called. "A traitor sits on the throne, ready to kill us all in service of a dead god." The tone was biting yet still strangely measured, quiet so as not to alert the rest of the army near them. "The Queen plans on enacting a ritual to collapse the cavern soon."
 
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Karanon Ulventhral

Runaway Drow
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"BEASTMASTER. HALT AT ONCE!"

Karanon instinctively grew apprehensive at the voice of a drow woman. It was either an enemy, an enemy in disguise as an ally, or if he were exceptionally fortunate, someone who would at least be honest about the ways in which she wanted to use him for her own benefit. This was the day to day reality of a drow male. And although he wasn't as at home in Zar'Ahal and it's many dark cultural norms as were his fellow drow, he hadn't survived this long by assuming the best of others. Perhaps he had an inner desire to do just that. But he did all that he could to ignore that part of himself. It was his dirty little secret. And one which might get him killed just as easily as this mission were it to become known.

He commanded the four squads of warspiders to stop as he turned and saw that it was a soldier in the shadowmantis emblazoned armor of House Tor'Rahel. He was no less apprehensive, however. For there was no telling if she had come as backup or betrayal. A plot to kill him and steal his stock of warspiders might be more easily enacted by a lone soldier than a squadron. Or others could be waiting nearby. He waited as the warrior approached, hoping that his body language did not betray his fear.

"Captain Nachmir Yaenecheri. The Commander sent me to save your pretty ass from an early death." The Captain almost laughed as she spoke down to the male. Yet although those words brought a wave of relief to Karanon, he did not know if they were indeed true. Not that he had any authority to question her. Still perhaps he could ger some information on the matter.

"She did?" He pretended to be surprised as well as he could.

"Yes. Did you really think you could capture a House Matron on your own? You may have deadly pets little boy, but it takes a woman to assure victory." It was a sentiment that any female soldier or one of high noble birth might have expressed. Still Karanon got the feeling that he was being misled.

"She said that to you?" That made the soldier glare at him. And from the glare, he knew that his deadly pets were the only thing protecting him from facing her wrath then and there.

"Perhaps no one ever taught you the only thing that a male's tongue is good for... Now, I'll be taking command here. And if you'd like to survive this mission, I suggest you start showing proper respect to your betters."

"Forgive me, mistress" he hated addressing females in that way, but it like so many other male dark elves, he often did so when trying to get on their good side. He also bowed his head a bit extra as he said it. "I merely wished to ensure that I can command these creatures effectively to serve..." He gritted his teeth despite trying not to. "...my betters."

The Captain smiled and said that she would ride the lead spider. He began to get off of Gredkiral. But she insisted that the saddle had room for two riders and sat in front of him, taking the reins herself. As they approached the matron's home, perhaps his words had been weighed by her, for dispite not getting around to mentioning the Queen's trap, she told him that Matron Avairl was to be taken as a potential ally, not a prisoner.

As Gredkiral took up a position atop a nearby property so that Captain Yaenecheri could snipe the Avairl archers in the parapets with arrows of her own. One squad of four Duark Hamnin Warspiders each covered in battle-rigged spider silk armor (essentially layered patches of nonstick webbing such added extra protection to their cephalothorax and abdomen. This however meant that these four would not have much webbing to use for paralyzing attacks in battle.) approached the main gates to act as a distraction.

It worked well as the archers took aim and a wall of arrows flew at the four warspiders. The creatures had been commanded to take zigzaging paths forward and so some arrows missed them. Three spiders took shoots that didn't stop them. One was caught through the eye and went down shrieking. But the Captain took the opportunity to launch an arrow through the eye of a guard while Karanon Ulventhral issued orders to another squad of four spiders who had also taken positions on nearby rooftops. These four held their rumps up and forcefully scratched off the hairs from them. Hairs which flew like darts towards the archers and would cause burning damage within the flesh that was priced by them. Anyone unlucky enough to be struck by twenty of more of these hairs would be incapacitated by the overwhelming pain for at least an hour.

The Captain had entrusted Karanon with Gredkiral's reins in case the archers took aim for them whike she was shooting. Meanwhile the Three armored spiders were climbing up to assault the archers as the four who had unleashed their burning hairs turned and joined the ground assault. They would provide tempting targets to the remaining archers, allowing their armored friends to get to the parapet and engage the guards directly. The Captain's covering fire allowes them to take a few of he guards out who were still aiming at the second spider squad. Karanon noticed an archer taking aim at Captain Yaenecheri, however and rode Gredkiral away, dodging the arrows that began to fly their way.

As they went to the ground and circled around the nearby building to take position from the ground, the found two more spider corpses upon th ground outside of the now open gates. The warriors on the parapets were still losing to the spiders, however. But there was a new problem a sorceress walking out the open gates greet them with a blast of magical energy.

Gredkiral jumped out of the way on her own before Karanon could even move to guide her. Good thing she had, too. Or the three of them would have been no more than ashes. Drawing upon the fallen soldier above her, the sorceress then reanimated the bodies of the fallen spiders to fight against her opponents. Nachmir fired an arrow at the mage and then whispered to Karanon.

"Call on the others to help me take care of her. You deal with your former pets." With that, the Captain leapt from the warspider, and switched from bow to blade as she attempted to divert the spellcaster's attention from Karanon and the coming spiders.
 
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Vyx'aria

Military General
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Vyx knew that Zathria and others would be questioning the command, and drow weren’t known to be trusting. She only hoped that they would have the sense to follow the orders instead of delaying. Vyx grimaced at Lythrani’s words, but she couldn’t see the woman having anything to gain from lying. The fact that the tunnels began to cave in already was a testament to the fact that the Queen intended to kill them.

It was only through Lythrani that the group was able to be guided towards the Queen, and Vyx drew her blade to prepare for a fight. Stalagcites began to fall and debris crushed entire groups of drow. The battle that had taken place was fruitless now, slaves and soldiers dying just the same under the Queen’s selfish desires.

She shoved past anyone in her way, spotting a group of drow ahead. The Queen was covered in the blood of the priestess she just killed, her white garbs completely drenched. She even soaked her hair in it, looking psychotic as she gazed upon the group.

“Stop them! Their blood is the price Maelzafan demands!”

The priestesses acted at once, tendrils of black shadows extending out towards Vyx and those by her. Powered by multiple priestesses, the shadows felt solid, dealing a massive concussive blow to the entire group to send everyone flying back. It would feel like a solid gut to the solar plexus, hard enough to cough up blood if proper armor wasn’t worn. The Queen spun on her heel and ran down one of the side tunnels.

The fight had just begun.

Zathria At'Arel Xunari Auceus Velathina T'sarran Karanon Ulventhral Lythrani Undraeth
 

Zathria At'Arel

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Zathria continued her retreat, falling back with the remainder of her soldiers. The slaves weren't eager to pursue, but some of the more zealous drow warriors continued their pursuit. Several were struck down but they claimed soldiers on the way. As more of the ceiling continued falling, though, most pursuit was cut off.

The weapon master didn't hesitate as she made sure that the remainder of the soldiers left, dodging the falling debris as she went. a muffled cry sounded out as a woman was crushed under the weight of a 6 ton boulder.

It was only as they reached the queen that things became even worse, however. The initial magic was dangerous and knocked Zathria from her feet, but the blood, sacrifices, and summoning rituals had attracted something else. Those well versed in magics and lore might recognize the creature as a third or perhaps even fourth level ascendent.

A wicked creature of incredible power, the entire force gathered would be faced with a dangerous task in downing the creature.

---​

The guards managed to down one of the spiders and in return the guard was riddled with hairs that sent her to the ground, crying out in agonizing pain. Others took cover behind the parapets while more were felled elsewhere.

Javelins descended on the spiders as the sorceress emerged from the house. She would be, by far, the most dangerous of the enemies they faced outside the manor.

She raised her hands and from nowhere, lightning descended, cracking bright and loud. The sound echoed through the entire cave and the flash was bright enough to temporarily blind the unprepared. The lightning itself was aimed to slam at the lead spider.
 
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Xunari Auceus

Runic Commander
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A traitor on the throne and a dead god thrown in the mix?

Xunari was actually rather close to demanding that Lythrani save her bullshit for a series of shitty romance novels. Such a story was so very pathetic but... she could feel the magic in the air. She could feel the way it twisted as if brought into the world by foul emotions, foul thoughts and fouler deeds.

And besides, she doubted the spy had the imagination to think up such a story.

So she believed her with a grunt.

"Politics taken to their logical extreme - fucking over everyone else."

Nothing really new there.

Of course the proof, as they say, was in the pudding. In this case the proof was in the fact that they could see the Queen, clearly deranged, with priestesses throwing their lives away to cast darkness at them. Bringing up both hands, she glowed briefly in a purple light before the darkness hit her.

The spell hit her just like all of the others but unlike them she didn't feel the pain. Instead she was thrown backward into a wall with arms throbbing with pain at barely restrained energy. Throwing both hands forward, she shot back a comparable blast of the same darkness back at the priestesses, catching one entirely off guard and sending her flying backward without time to brace herself.

Cracking her skull open like an egg against the wall made Xunari smile.

Of course then spotting the ascendant that the priestesses had summoned ruined the moment. Cursing, she pulled up her sleeves and frantically grabbed her dropped dagger from where it had landed on the floor. Scowling, she knelt down on the ground and began to carve runes into the floor. She really hoped that some of the others could, at least, slow the thing down so she could get a shot off.
 
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Karanon Ulventhral

Runaway Drow
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Javelins came flying against the Duark Hamnin Warspiders that were already crawling upon the property, assaulting the guardians. All were unprepared. But those wrapped in battle-rigged armor faired well, one of the other two was pierced through, however.

Karanon signaled the remaining 8 warspiders to charge in from behind him as the Captain ran ahead to take of the sorceress. And as the 8 came running down walls to join the fight, and Karanon prepared Gredkiral to fight the undead spiders, he went to pull the rusty sword from it's scabbard. But it was stuck. Fidgeting and distracted, he didn't know what hit him when the lightning came down. He flew far and crashed upon the ground. Looking around he saw... Nothing. He saw nothing at all. Terrified at the loss of vision, the male drow frantically unbuckled the scabbard from his swordbelt, intent to use it and the sword jammed inside together as a bludgeon. Swinging frantically all directions. Paranoid that the next attack could come from anywhere.,

Gredkiral a ways behind him missing most of a second leg and still rushing towards him. The undead spiders were also rushing towards him. The 8 were rushing in, 4 to attack the 3 undead spiders in support of Karanon and Gredkiral. 4 go assault the sorceress. Spiders who had been enhahed in tye fight already crawled all over the parapets to get the guards they missed. Webbing was used to immobilize. Venom was produced to slay.

Meanwhile Captain Nachmir Yaenecheri charged forward engaging the sorceress with her blade. She activated a ring she wore with a stored shielding spell and charged the magic user to catch her off guard. She would do damage if she could. But her main goal was to didtracte the enemy mage from the spiders and Karanon while four of the beasts closed in around her with paralyzing web blasts.