Open Chronicles The Attack on Fort Endurance

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    A land once ruled by Dragons and Gods opens, but not every secret of Arethil's past is safe to uncover.

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Jürgen Kaiser

The Third King, Slaughterer of Reikhurst
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He lay dying on the ground. And though it seemed so distant to him, the thudding footfalls and knucklefalls of the creature--that beast, that grinning thing--as well as the shouts and battlecries of his fellow Guardsmen came from further inside the interior courtyard of the fort.

His name was Tartus Albright. An Anirian Guardsmen serving in the Army of the East, stationed at Fort Endurance for three years now, and tonight would be his last night of service. Debris from the fort's gates was strewn about him, and among this rubble was Tartus's sword.

He reached for it.

("Daddy, why do you have to go?")

He stretched. His fingers just out of reach of the hilt. Yet his training would not allow him to quit.

("I'm going to protect our home. You and mommy and everyone else. Because that's what daddies do.")

Tartus's hand dropped to the ground.

Falling short of his weapon.

* * * * *​

Hours prior to the attack on Fort Endurance, hours just before nightfall, King Jürgen Kaiser was pleased. Enthusiastic for something, and had it not been a truly long while since he felt this way?

Down in a hollowed out cavern beneath the ground, the place where he decided to allow Lord Mulder and his beastshapers and fleshcrafters to work, it was finally done. And tonight Jürgen would see. The Mulder vampires had been brought into the Slaughtern host alongside the Mistweaver clan, and while they were few in number and lacking in strength themselves, their specialty was this: the creation of vampiric beasts and creatures to do their bidding. Lord Mulder had promised Jürgen a new breed, a masterwork exceeding the scale of vitality, ferocity, and might of what had been crafted before. And with the aid of Jürgen's Bloodstone, this promise had come to fruition.

The Wargheit. A portmanteau derived from the old tongue from the lands of Reikhurst. Fear in the night, indeed.

But the mere sight of Lord Mulder's success was not enough. A test was in order. There was a reason Jürgen had bid the Lord Mulder and his clan to travel all the way to Liadain, all the way to the giant shadow of Vel Anir itself, before they began their work. Not only were they a continent away from Reikhurst, but here could be found the so-called finest military in the world: the Anirian Guard. Jürgen desired to test the strength of this new breed of monster not against some hapless town or city with poor defenses and fighting men of low quality, no. If Wargheits were to be all that Lord Mulder said they could be, then an appropriate target was needed. A hard target. And Mistweaver spies had found just such a one.

Fort Endurance.

The test: to break in, fight through the defending soldiers, and find and kill the fort's Commander. A suitable challenge for Lord Mulder to prove his clan's worth to the Slaughtern host.

Perhaps, Jürgen mused, all of this would have been unnecessary if the rising of the Great Ones Drakormir and Neha was not so poorly timed for him. Or if they had bothered to live for more than a single day and keep the world occupied with their presence. Such would have kept attention far from Reikhurst, far from the coming Ritual. But, as it was, Jürgen needed to prepare to defend himself and the Bloodstone within his possession from any and all who might interfere. He needed to keep setting fires across Arethil to keep eyes and efforts away from Reikhurst. And this matter with Fort Endurance satisfied both of these needs.

Hm. Fort Endurance.

That would be seen.

* * * * *

THE ATTACK


Night seized hold of Arethil, and the Guardsmen on watch along the walls of Fort Endurance stared out at that tenebrous land. Thick clouds choked the sky. On occasion the silvery light of the moon would be freed and made to spill across the rough undulations of the grassland, and even the dark silhouette of Falwood to the east became visible. There had been some recent tensions with the denizens of Falwood (and truly, when was there not?) involving House Virak, so the soldiers were indeed on alert. Night watches were fully half of the fort's garrison. Thus far Fort Endurance suffered no assault, but The Homeguard stood ready all the same--even if a pronounced weariness from their prolonged vigilance strained them from time to time.

It was heard before it was seen. Tiny thumps at first, made quiet by distance but carried by the stillness of the night. A certain rhythm to them: thump-thump-THUMP, thump-thump-THUMP, thump-thump-THUMP.

The men in the gatehouse, high above the sturdy gates sealing shut the interior of the fort, were the first to see it. The black clouds had parted, the light of the full moon shined down, and there was something moving.

Something right there. A fiendish creature of enormous size, grinning wickedly, eyes glinting with a near manic glee and ferocity and hunger, its face with the shriveled and grotesque features of some kind of twisted bat, its arms huge and its legs squat by comparison, its gait like those of the jungle gorillas on the other side of the world, its speed terrifying for its size, its whole existence a seething embodiment of the feral, unquenchable, vampiric lust for blood.

And it was charging right for the gates.

"HOMEGUARD, TO ARMS!" Tartus Albright yelled, and these would be his last words.

The Slaughtern Wargheit slammed into the mighty gates like a living battering ram, its shoulder bursting through first. Broken wood and twisted metal and shattered stone exploded inward in a spray of debris into the interior courtyard. Gallons of blood within the Wargheit had been burned to power such strength, and it left the Wargheit that much more ravenous. The beast lifted its grinning face and manic eyes to leer down at the hastily assembling Guardsmen in the courtyard.

The Homeguard had their mission, and the Wargheit had its own.

The attack had begun.


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The Slaughtern Wargheit

• Retains the powerful magic dampening from the Slaughtern strain, but is still weak to fire/light-based magic.
• Has a dulled sense of pain, but is an unnatural creature powered by blood. It will slow and weaken as it loses this blood. Every hit counts.
• Is being given direction and thus increased combat proficiency by a Mulder-vampire handler. The handler is nearby. Exact location unknown.
• Has a surprise deep inside its massive body.
 

Shisha

Golden War Dog
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Shisha was proud of her occupation as a mercenary. She was proud of every scar in her beautiful golden fur, every muscle that moved fluidly under that coat. Other devourers might have counted on their natural strength but might not necessarily improve it. She had run until her legs were stronger than any male she’d come across. She’d watched her diet, carried rocks in her pouch, exercised her neck, back, and powerful shoulders. Shisha had dedicated her life to crafting herself into a weapon, and she had just now found enough gold to get the next step: armor. She had chosen Fort Endurance’s blacksmith for the job, and had paid him well.

It certainly was an unusual ask.
She was no two leg. It had taken the blacksmith weeks of fittings, especially considering where her unusual head was concerned. He’d eventually settled on a mixture between war dog armor, and war horse armor. It seemed to fit her unique anatomy. The accordion plates along her neck allowed for more movement, while chain mail protected her pouch and belly. Across her back were hinged plates protecting her ribs, padded with the pad from a hunting saddle. Her helm had been tricky. Not so much in keeping it on her head, as her crown served that perfectly. Rather, giving her space to pull back her impressive lips without compromising the armor. They eventually settled on a very short, squat nose bridge. She even had saddlebags along her flanks; she didn’t need to carry everything in her pouch anymore, freeing it up for client transport.

Shisha also needed assistance in and out of the armor. That was an absolute pain. She could get out of it herself, by wiggling and shifting, but it was terrifically awkward. However, she was determined to have it. Every two legged mercenary in Arethil had armor. If she was to be taken seriously, she needed it as well.

Shisha trotted in a circle around the blacksmith in late evening, watching the man scratch his chin.

“Ain’t perfect but...it’ll do.” He muttered. “Weirdest damn job I’ve ever taken.”

Thank you kindly. Shisha wrote on the ground in front of him, rolling her shoulders and lifting her chin proudly. She didn’t have too much time to bluster about her new armor. Loud banging from the courtyard below caught her attention, as did the splintering of wood and a terrifying roar.

She rushed down toward the courtyard, lips drawing back over her fangs and her fur bristling under her new armor. She hoped this blacksmith had earned his reputation...

Jürgen Kaiser
 
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Zana

Second Level
Dreadlords
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Zana sighed and set the map down on the wooden table that took up the majority of the hastily created war room. Her hands came up and with deft fingers she began to massage her temples in slow delicate little circles. She had been going over the plans for hours now by the fading candlelight but nothing new was jumping out at her. The visions that were usually only a blink away stubbornly stayed out of her reach. Even when she urged them on with cuts across her skin which would usually send her into several in a horrific chain reaction didn't work. It was like that part of her had simply vanished. A part of her didn't really want to complain. Her sleep was better, her health improving, Talus was happier... but...

"It's not just magic that makes a Dreadlord, Zana," she muttered quietly to herself. Dreadlords were deadly even without their abilities. Trained from the moment they were pried from their mothers bosoms they were broken down and recreated into the perfect loyal soldier. Their training was legendary and feared and one Dreadlord even with their hands bound behind their back were worth at least 50 Anirian Guards. Zana should know, she had been attempting to train them for the past six months.

Besides, it wasn't like she was without magic. Whilst her visions might have faded her other powers had grown wildly with her ongoing pregnancy. Lightning, energy fields, javelins of pure... being they could tear holes through mountains. No, Zana was not powerless but she wasn't --

The shout from the walls had her head whipping round to face the single narrow window that the room offered. Perhaps the elves had done her a favour and she wouldn't need to predict the next attack anymore. But the shouts were far more urgent and panicked than they would be for mere elves. The Second Level Dreadlord stood and pushed back her chair to make her way over to the window to see for herself.

"What the..."
 
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Trajan Meng

An Old Soldier
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The calamitous crash of the Wargheit through the gates of Fort Endurance interrupted and brought to a swift halt the personal meeting Trajan Meng was having with Commander Farrus. The two of them had served together, their service in Guard beginning around the same time and the two of them being assigned to the same unit. While Trajan separated from the Guard, Farrus continued on and rose up to the rank of Commander, coming to see Fort Endurance, one of the largest forts and garrisons in the Army of the East, falling under his command. Trajan and Farrus talked of the old times as young men and fresh recruits, of foolish things which could be laughed at and cherished in retrospect and of solemn things which brought their voices low in remembrance. Farrus did quite a lot of the talking, and Trajan shared mostly his wandering time of twelve years after his separation--leaving out his founding of the Luminari.

For that he was on the cusp of revealing just before the Wargheit's crashing of the gates. He did wish to reconnect with an old friend, yes, but he had also come to ask Farrus for aid. Trajan knew the Luminari Purists would be coming back to Vel Anir, seeking to secure the assets of the Meng estate for their own radical ends. And Trajan, having undergone a quiet change of heart from his old xenophobic ways after seeing the manner of man it had turned him into, had taken it upon himself to destroy what he had created. But he needed help. Men. Fighting men and women for a battle to end the Luminari before more damage could be done.

Yet this plea to Farrus would have to wait.

"What in the name of the gods was that?" Farrus said, looking over his shoulder toward the noise.

Trajan, his face hardening into a severe expression, stood from his seat, as did Commander Farrus. Both men crossed the span of Farrus's quarters and went to the window. Looked out with a bird's eye view down at the front courtyard of the fort.

"Glory be..." Trajan said, his voice a low rumble as he saw the monstrous bat-creature down below.

Farrus, his mouth made slack by his initial disbelief at what he too was witnessing, shook his head to banish the shock and fell straight in to level, calculating mindset that had seen him become an officer in the Guard. "Trajan, we've a Dreadlord present. Down in the war room. Zana. Join in her company and buy me time. I must rally and organize the men not on night watch. Go, I beseech you."

Though he was no longer in the military, Trajan still retained the bearing and composure he had gained from his service. And moreover, he would not let down a friend so old and dear to him. "You need not beseech me. I will see it done."

Trajan hurried back to his seat, secured his warhammer, and made for the door--

"Trajan."

He stopped, his hand on the door's handle. Turned halfway to regard Farrus.

"Do not let her fall. She is more important than you know."

"Aye."

Trajan threw open the door, and both men exited in haste, going separate ways down the outside hall of the Keep. As Trajan ran, he could not help but to ponder for a quiet and fleeting moment about why Farrus had made special mention of Zana's importance. Did it not go without saying that Dreadlords were important? Were valuable assets to Vel Anir and the protection thereof?

He let it fall from his mind. Focused exclusively on the task at hand as he made his way to the war room.

* * * * *​

The Slaughtern Wargheit stomped forward, toward the loose formation of Guardsmen arrayed in the courtyard. A great sweep of its massive arm and giant hand sent men and women spiraling through the air, most dead on impact and others soon after slamming into the nearby fortress walls and sliding down in crumpled heaps to the ground. Those Guardsmen fortunate enough not to be struck by the sweep had the opportunity to retaliate with their swords, their spears, slashings and thrusting into the beast's meaty arms and stocky legs. Arrows and bolts from the archers and crossbowmen along the wall thunked and thudded into the Wargheit's bulk, yet seemed to do nothing to slow the terrifying creature down.

The Wargheit snatched a spearman away from his comrades and tossed him into its gaping maw. It swung its head side to side, then after a few seconds spit the desiccated corpse of the spearman out and down at his fellow Guardsmen. The bloodless corpse bowled over a handful of men, and the heavy knucklefall of the Wargheit outright crushed another.

Another few steps forward, the Wargheit advancing slowly through the hastily assembled units of Guardsmen and the length of the courtyard.

Its grinning gaze caught sight of Shisha. Looked beyond the Devourer to the Keep from which she had come. The Keep (the commander) the Keep (the commander) THE KEEP (kill the commander)--

THE KEEP.

The Wargheit arched its head back like a wolf howling at the moon and let loose a piercing screech into the night, a baleful cry so horrifically loud that rattled the marrow of bones and cracked the glasswork of the Keep's windows and stunned the Guardsmen in close proximity to it, their very eyes vibrating in their sockets from the overwhelming pulse of sound, each man and woman clapping hands to their ears in a futile effort--blood trickled from them regardless and a deafening ringing muted the world for them.

The Wargheit's eyes shimmered with a crazed glee.

* * * * *​

Trajan threw open the door to the war room.

"Dreadlord Za--"

The piercing screech of the Wargheit interrupted him, and Trajan grimaced and turned his head down and held a hand to one ear and pressed his shoulder into the other. A glass vase on a shelf in the war room outright shattered and shards fell down to the floor. When it was over, he continued with all due urgency.

"Dreadlord Zana, I am Trajan Meng, a friend of Commander Farrus's. He has called upon you to aid in the defense of Fort Endurance and upon myself to be at your side as you work your magic."

Trajan held a great deal of respect for the Dreadlords, for what they endured to secure Vel Anir's prominence in the world, though he had not met very many. Brief interactions, like that with Dreadlord Talus during the battle at The Rogue's Hollow. He only wished that this meeting now could have been under more amiable conditions.

Alas, it was not to be. The wicked did not rest, and Mankind was again beset by foes whose malice was palpable. It fell to Trajan's warhammer, the Dreadlord Zana's magic, and the steel of the Guardsmen to drive the evil back once more. To slay the creature which assailed Fort Endurance.

And Trajan embraced with all his heart the defense of his fellow man and woman, kindred Guardsmen, and the citizens of Vel Anir for whom they stood as a bulwark. What cause was more noble, more righteous, than this?

Zana Shisha
 
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Shisha

Golden War Dog
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Shisha bravely ran down to where the other guards were gathered, slowing when she caught sight of the monster. It was huge! Huge and horrific, even for her. She filled her lungs and roared a challenge at the monster, emboldened by her newfound armor. Between this and the natural chainmail in her skin, she felt invincible. Like a true knight in armor now.

The thing tilted it’s head back, and screamed. Shisha felt the noise in her very head, and she pulled her head back in pain. Her ears were ringing! Even the cry itself made the armor on her back rattle. She hissed in pain, shaking her head to try and get the tinnitus to stop. She couldn’t be distracted like this. The humans needed help. She looked back at the creature, eyes crazed as it looked at the keep.

It clearly had a goal. If it hadn’t, there was prey aplenty in the yard. This was no ordinary creature. Shisha snapped her teeth and roared her challenge again, moving to block the creature’s direct path to the keep. Like hell it was getting through her.

Zana
Trajan Meng
 
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Zana

Second Level
Dreadlords
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Zana threw her hands over her ears and screwed her eyes shut as the scream tore through her. It was like she could feel it vibrating in her very bones. On and on it dragged until it felt as though her whole body might shatter like the glass she had just been drinking out of. When it did eventually come to an end the Dreadlord gasped in relief and put her hand against the wall to steady her. The rough rock anchored her and though her mind swam and her body shook still with the echo of the beasts cry, she was still able to concentrate enough to listen and take in the soldiers words.

"Well I will gladly cut the things vocal chords out that's for sure," Zana replied in the usual dry manner of a Dreadlord. They were not known for their sense of humour although Talus and her odd little group of Guards who had become... friends of a sort, were attempting to teach her how. It meant in these circumstances though that whilst her words might have been construed as sarcastic or witty, her tone made it hard to decipher whether humour was her aim or if it was actually a threat.

Her sword and shield had been propped up against the table but with an odd purple glow around them they flew to Zana's hands. She slung the shield over her back and then tied the sword about her waist as she was striding to the door then past the soldier - Trajan? - and out into the corridor.

"Is there any information about the thing yet?" she demanded as she walked. Her long legs and purposeful stride carried her quickly to the nearest set of stairs which would lead them up to the battlements of the keep. "Where did it come from, what is it, weaknesses?"
 
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Trajan Meng

An Old Soldier
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Trajan fell in at the Dreadlord's side. A small unit of Guardsmen hurried down the other way in the corridor. Trajan turned to the side to create a bit more space as they passed.

Is there any information about the thing yet?

"You know as much as I, Dreadlord. Or anyone else here at Fort Endurance I would wager," Trajan said as he walked at Zana's brisk pace. "Humanity's enemies are vast, but I do not think that this creature is the work of Falwood's denizens."

He and Commander Farrus had spoken briefly about that incident with the House Virak logging effort. It wasn't so long ago that Trajan would have presumed without hesitation that yes, indeed, of course the xenos of Falwood were responsible. That elves were, down to the individual, a conniving and duplicitous lot. This, despite some of the more pleasant personal interactions Trajan had with them in the past. But times had changed. Humanity did indeed have enemies that were vast, but Trajan had--or at least was making the effort to--throw away his broad brush. As it so happened, many of Humanity's enemies were shared in kind with the likes of elves, dwarves, orcs, and others. Things like the demons of Pandemonium, and this gargantuan beast threatening the Endurance now.

If ever there was a call to arms, a sacred duty for righteous warriors to engage in, this was one such example.

Trajan hiked up the stairs and to the battlements of the Keep. Guardsmen armed with longbows who had been on night watch duty were already there, turning their bows and their arrows inward instead of their eyes and their vigilance outward, for the enemy was here.

"LOOSE!" commanded the sergeant among them, and a volley sailed down into the Wargheit's thick back. The Guardsmen on the ground had the beast surrounded--as much as a word like "surrounded" counted for ordinary men facing off against a creature so large. The Wargheit lifted a huge arm and swept it out in front of itself, sending another tide of men flying, and a WHOOSH from the force of it reaching the battlements a moment after. Guardsmen to the creature's rear took the opportunity to strike at it, drawing more cuts and wounds. The Wargheit whipped a fist around and slammed it down on some of these men behind, crushing several. The beast snapped down at another, a lone Guardsman made so by the strike of the big fist, and caught him in its fang-lined mouth. The body was drained of body in seconds and spit back out.

The Wargheit wholly ignored the lesser roar of the Devourer. Simply striking and snapping at the men closest to it for now.

Trajan looked down at the Wargheit from the battlements. Said to Zana, "A wretched, unnatural abomination, it is. That much is made certain by a mere glance."

* * * * *​

A hazy brown cloud of dust still lingered around the destroyed gates of Fort Endurance. Shifting idly as such clouds did, blowing out in this direction or that in reaction to gusts of wind made by the gigantic swipes and strikes of the Wargheit.

Yet a subtle shift, as some of this cloud, something apart from the dust, moved. Retreated. Repositioned.

* * * * *​

Inside the Keep, a Guardsman who was certainly no Guardsman, was hurrying in search of Commander Farrus. To get eyes on his exact location.

Zana Shisha
 
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Shisha

Golden War Dog
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Shisha looked at the animal. It was ignoring her challenge and scattering the humans! Well, two could play at that game. She crept away from blocking the Wargheit’s path and snuck around its side. When it was distracted sweeping the men in front of it, she was edging toward its flank. She saw it seize a man in its teeth and begin to feed. It was distracted by the men in front of it. Now was her chance. The beast was more than capable of attacking in front of it and behind it, but the ultimate weakness of most monsters was on their back. He also couldn’t roll without exposing his belly and hurting his wings.

Shisha crouched low to the ground, her rear legs waggling back and forth as she gathered her energy and planned where she would land. She counted down in her head. Three, two, and go!

The Devourer leapt up from her crouch, and landed squarely where she wanted: the creature’s lower back. She sank her hooked claws into its flesh to prevent it from dislodging her, and climbed up between its shoulders. It couldn’t hit her without reaching behind its head and putting its fingers in range of her powerful jaws.

Shisha sank her teeth into the Wargheit’s back and tore free a chunk of flesh and fur. She was trying to get to its spine, where her strong jaws could crack a vertebra and cripple the beast. She just had to hope it couldn’t throw her off. She had both sets of claws dug in, her body close to its back to make throwing her off even harder. She was doing as much damage to its back with her jaws as she possibly could. Getting through its hide so the archers had an opening was her priority.

Zana
Trajan Meng
 
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Zana

Second Level
Dreadlords
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Zana wanted to tell them that they were wasting their arrows but Talus had taught her that ordinary humans had this odd need to at least try even when the tactic clearly wasn't working. So instead her eyes swept over them as if they weren't even there and settled on the creature below. She couldn't help but nod in grim agreement with Tajan's judgement. It was an abomination and definitely nothing like the elegant creatures and magics the elves fought with that were built with finesse and skill. This was closer to the horrors she had seen in the keep with Blackforge. Mindless, rage-fuelled, destruction that was being directed towards something.

For a while Zana leaned on the battlements and simply watched like one might a joust. If anyone thought she was taking the matter lightly though did not know the workings of a Dreadlord. For as her eyes roved over the scene every little detail was logged; its obvious strength and power, the way it fed like a vampire, its apparent disregard for any of the injuries it had currently sustained.

"It looks to be vampiric in nature," she commented lightly when the drained guard was thrown away like a used doll. "Which means it may share some of their weaknesses," the lieutenant in charge seemed to overhear her for suddenly there were calls for fire. But still Zana did not move. There was no point in wasting her energy just yet.

"What on Arethil is that?" Zana pointed to the odd dog that threw itself at the creature and began to scale its back. At first she had thought it was Grey but her direwolf was beyond the walls, she could sense him out there chasing some game or other.
 
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Trajan Meng

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Trajan could hardly stand to simply watch as the Dreadlord Zana did. He knew that such patience was essential, that if the Dreadlord was going to spend magical effort to aid in the monster's slaying, then it had best be calculated and well spent. But there was a fire in Trajan that had compelled him to join the Anirian Guard with dutiful acceptance when he was younger, a fire that compelled him to found the Luminari and make his ill-fated attempt at realizing his dream of uniting his fellow man and woman together. He was a son of Mankind, a son among other sons and daughters, and it pained him greatly to stand idle and watch as they down below, those fighting men and women giving their all, were butchered by the beast. That old camaraderie, of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with those in arms with you, came calling back. If it were not for the request of his friend Farrus, and the plain truth that the Dreadlord had the single greatest chance among any in the Fort to end the beast's rampage in a timely manner, then Trajan would have gone down there, and lent his warhammer to the fight.

"Vampires," Trajan said, echoing her assessment with a concurring tone. "A veritable plague upon Arethil. Their lust for blood drives them to this madness."

He thought of his own encounter with a certain vampire. Thought of the man he was at the time, what he was doing. He disregarded his thoughts. Now was not the time. Focus on the task at hand.

The archers across the Keep's battlements obeyed their lieutenant's orders, and quickly set about outfitting their arrows with cloth bundles and dipping these into a barrel of flammable oil and then alighting them at the nearest torch sconce.

What on Arethil is that?

Trajan looked, following the track of Zana's pointing finger. His brow furrowed and the skin of his forehead creased in puzzled consideration of the large animal that was swinging haphazardly off the back of the much larger monster. "Some manner of war beast, I presume. Commander Farrus did not tell me that the Endurance has accommodations for breaking and training such beasts."

A mist, thin and hazy, began to seep slowly up from outside the walls of the Fort and gather silently about the battlements of the Keep. This while attention was focused inside the Fort, backs turned to the outside.

The sergeant of the battlements commanded the archers to nock and aim. In disciplined unison, the flaming arrows were drawn back in their bows and each Guardsman aimed at the Wargheit below.

"LOOSE!"

(turn around. around. AROUND.)

The Wargheit turned around completely. Turning its back and, purposefully, Shisha upon it to the archers to suffer the volley of flame-drenched arrows. The Wargheit screeched in bestial pain when some of these arrows inevitably struck it. It lashed out with a redoubled viciousness at the Guardsmen below, wide and frantic swipes with its huge arm, the thunderous sound of each strike accompanied by frenzied gouts of dust billowing up and the final shouts and cries of the infantrymen on the ground being crushed or being sent broken through the air.

"Flame does so command the attention of the fiend," Trajan said. "Mayhap--"

A sound--quick, sucking, and airy. Behind Trajan and Zana and the archers of the Keep's battlements. And a certain disturbance in the air, the presence of something massive and alive suddenly manifest.

Trajan turned his head. Looked back over his shoulder with the wide and wary eyes of a commander who had been outflanked.

Another one. Another Wargheit. There. Suddenly there. One foot on the battlements and a stone's throw from Trajan, the other foot on the wall of the Keep, one huge and long arm grasping the very top of the Keep's highest point--the bell tower--and the other arm hanging free.

The Mistweaver Wargheit was looking down at them. Zana, Trajan, the archers. Grinning.

Grinning.

Zana Shisha


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The Mistweaver Wargheit

• Retains the Mistweaver strain's ability to morph into and out of a cloud of mist. Also retains their unorthodox weakness to frost and cold magic.
• Has a dulled sense of pain, but is an unnatural creature powered by blood. It will slow and weaken as it loses this blood. Every hit counts.
• Is also being given direction and increased combat proficiency by its own Mulder-vampire handler. This handler is currently infiltrated in the Keep.
• Also has a surprise deep inside its massive body.
 
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Shisha

Golden War Dog
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Oh gods. Why had the archers chosen now? Did they not see her?! Shisha bellowed and pulled her limbs in underneath her, letting the arrows ping against her armor. Thank the gods it held! Even the arrows that had managed to stick within the gaps hadn’t penetrated beyond the first layer of skin and fur. It hurt, but it was something she could live with.

More importantly the creature couldn’t get her off, and she’d finally peeled back enough muscle. Shisha sank her teeth between the Wargheit’s shoulders and found bone. Devourers were strong, and had impressive jaws. She grasped the spine in her teeth, and crunched downward. If she succeeded it would cripple the creature. It was what she was aiming for; sawing through that spine so she could clamber up to the rear of its head and deliver a fatal blow.

She heard another cry. Another Wargheit. Another beast. Well, lucky they had her around weren’t they?! Shisha snarled and wrenched her head back and forth, needing to hear that fatal, loud pop that would be the spine giving up. She had trained for this. Her neck was strong enough. Her back was strong enough. Her claws were held fast. She pulled, bracing her paws against its fur. Her neck strained, every muscle taut. She would kill this thing. She would prove herself!

Zana
Trajan Meng
 

Zana

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Nothing was said to me either... Zana's brows pulled down into a frown and her lips thinned into a flat line in the perfect expression of displeasure. The Dreadlord did not like not being informed of things such as this; she should know every asset the keep had so she could utilise them in circumstances just like this one. Mentally she made a note to reprimand whoever it was who oversaw the beast for their negligence. Either way with the archers now firing their hail of fire down upon the fiend and the creature tearing at its back, Zana saw no need for her to exert her magic just yet. The Anirian's were the best army in the world and she was confident in their ability to handle a base creature such as this.

That was, until, Zana was caught by surprise for the first time in her life.

She whirled around as the hairs on the back of her neck stood up on end along with the majority of the archers and soldiers on the battlements. Some fired in a folly of fear, flaming arrows soaring harmlessly through the misty body of this new creature. For some reason it felt as though it enjoyed the fear of those below it, fed on it even. One archer broke ranks and ran for the safety of the tower with a stomach curdling scream and Zana watched, transfixed, as the beast reached out and, much like the first beast, devoured them in a sickening symphony of crunching bones and choked off screams. Those upon the battlements held a collective, horrified breath.

Then chaos erupted.

More archers and soldiers tried to flee from the creatures path as the lieutenants hollered for order. Zana stepped back as one archer nearly trampled her in an effort to get to the door behind her. Reaching out she hooked the man by the scruff of the neck and pushed him back towards the fray.

"Are you an Anirian or a coward?" she snarled and the man paled sensibly under her glower. Almost as soon as she had spoken she forgot him and turned her attention back towards the task at hand. "Stand back," was her only warning to Trajan before her eyes began to crackle with purple energy. The tendrils spread outwards over her skin creating a veiny mask and an odd energy electrified the air about her. Yet the magic that came from her hands was not the purple energy she was used to. Instead a blistering blizzard of snow and ice erupted outwards towards the creature. Zana staggered back in surprise but held the spell firm even as sweat beaded upon her skin with the effort. A thousand thoughts ran through her mind about the impossibility of her magic.

Was one of her children a future ice mage? And was it their energy she was drawing on to harm this beast?
 
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The Slaughtern Wargheit fell, its legs buckling as if turned to water.

The Guardsmen on the ground scrambled to get clear, and the ground rumbled as the huge beast struck the dirt. It let loose a crazed howl, eyes flickering madly to the men arrayed around it. Still the monster grinned. Grinned. And it raked its long arms across the ground of the courtyard, mighty arcs that swept away the Guardsmen whose luck in getting clear did not occur to them twice.

Then the fallen Slaughtern Wargheit stopped flailing wildly.

(Iber, the Slaughtern Wargheit's vampire handler, was stumbling in from the dusty remnants of the destroyed gates. Pretending to stumble, he was, playing the part of a wounded Guardsmen. The Mulder vampires looked indistinguishable from humans, but they'd no formidable powers of their own; in the armor of an Anirian Guardsmen, Iber could blend in well. With a single, brief glance to the devourer on the Slaughtern Wargheit's back, his order was given.)

The Slaughtern Wargheit reached with both of its hands, massive enough to ensnare a grown man, and attempted to snatch the devourer from its back. Such that it could feast on the smaller creature.

* * * * *​

Trajan scowled as the morale of the archers upon the battlements broke. He pointed the head of his warhammer up at this new beast and hollered, "Stand your ground and loose your fire arrows upon it! It is their weak--!"

(Annette, the Mistweaver Wargheit's vampire handler within the keep and also in the guise of an Anirian Guardswoman, heard the command, for she was close to a window and not so far below Trajan.)

Some of the archers, more as a reflex of fear than discipline did so, and--glory be--the beast had some manner of infernal intelligence. It turned its body of flesh and bone and blood back to mist for the blink or two of an eye, enough time for the arrows to pass through and bounce off of the stone behind it and go tumbling down without causing any damage.

Trajan's bottom lip curled down in disgust, even if his eyes told a story of grudging admiration for the clean tactical move, by a monster of all things. "I will be damned."

He would have moved forward, gone to engage the monster and strike at its accessible foot, but Zana told him to stand back. And when a Dreadlord tells you to stand back, you had best comply, lest you inadvertently find yourself between them and their objective--a poor place for anyone to be. So Trajan did indeed stand back as directed, clutching his warhammer and keeping it ready. And the Dreadlord's magic became manifest.

Ice.

Trajan at first thought the Dreadlord to be at a disadvantage, what with these creatures having been proven to harbor a weakness to fire instead. But the barrage of arcane snow and ice struck the Mistweaver Wargheit directly, spreading gruesome frostburns over the creature's thick chest. The beast screeched in true pain, and its grip on the uppermost parts of the Keep slipped.

And it came crashing down onto the battlements. The massive body of the beast and force of the impact shattered a level of stone and caved a portion of one floor of the Keep down onto another.

The very floor that Trajan stood upon gave way. Flat to diagonal to gone from under his feet, and over the edge of the battlements he fell, along with the Wargheit and a dozen of the archers. The Wargheit's corporeal body turned to a cloud of mist again far before it came close to the ground below, that mist now swirling toward (being directed toward) its fellow monster, the Slaughtern Wargheit in the courtyard.

Trajan tumbled in the air. He saw the facade of the Keep. The night sky. The ground. The Keep again.

His warhammer was loose in his grasp, the very tips of his fingers keeping it from flying away.

He stretched his arm. Trying to get a better hold. Swung his other arm around to reach with as well. The air of his fall whipped against his face. A rain of broken stone and wood and glass and metal was falling around him.

He needed to touch the head of the warhammer. Just a single touch to call upon his Iron Skin.

Before he hit the ground.

Shisha Zana
 
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Shisha

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Shisha felt the creature fall. She’d delivered a nasty blow to its spine but that wasn’t enough. She shoved her head into the considerable wound she’d made, her jaws snapping and yanking at the Wargheit’s insides. It was a common tactic among wild dogs and occasionally Devourers with something that was too big to eat. They would just begin feasting while it was alive, and let nature take its course.

Shisha felt it’s weight shift and she yanked her head, wet with its blood, from the hole. It was reaching for her. She hunkered down and lunged upward to seize the Wargheit by the back of the skull. If she succeeded she would bite down as hard as she could like a leopard with a stubborn pig. If she could get ahold of the back of its skull, she could snap its neck at the source or crush the back of the head entirely. Or both. But that depended on if she could reach it.

As such the creature would have a hard time getting to her. She was flattened against the middle center of its back. If it did manage to grab her, it still would have to actually pull her off. She doubted it had the angle to do that.

Zana
Trajan Meng
 
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Zana

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The stone underneath Zana's feet gave way along with most of the section of the battlement upon which she and the others had been fighting. Only a few seemed to be able to cling to what remained or jumped for the stable bits of wall that remained. Usually such a fall wouldn't so much as phase the Second Level Telekinetic. She would have simply willed the stone into staying where it was. However, as she reached for her magic again it wasn't the usual purple energy or sensation of force that drove her magic that came to her.

Ice shot from beneath her feet and recreated the section wall. Men and women she had managed to catch slipped and skidded their way about trying to find purchase but at least they didn't tumble off the edge entirely like had happened with a good chunk of the force. They threw her grateful looks but she was already peering over the edge, arm flung out, desperately reaching for her magic. But it didn't come. It was like a wall parted her from it and no matter how much she strained against it it wouldn't budge.

Instead a good three foot of softest snow met the Guards as they hit the ground.

Zana stared first at the pile of snow, then at the icy wall onto which she gripped, then at her hands. A wave of nausea overcame her and abruptly she sat down with her head on her knees. The world spun so fast she thought she might throw up.

"Zana?" Lila approached cautiously and knelt in front of her. She was one of the few guardswomen who had been brave enough to befriend the Dreadlord and was even rarer in that Talus trusted her with their secret. "Is it...?" she glanced down then back up. "We need to get you somewhere to rest..."

"I'm fine," she croaked and eventually lifted her head. "We need to find their Masters... they cannot be far. Things that big don't just attack with no orders," she heaved herself to her feet and grimaced. She had to be ready for if that thing came back.
 
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Trajan Meng

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Trajan hit the ground. Not nearly as hard as he thought it would have been, and as well it was far colder. To his dawning amazement, it was not the grass and dirt of the courtyard that he had fallen upon, no, but a suddenly manifest bed of snow that had cushioned his fall and saved his life--and indeed the lives of several Guardsmen. Trajan glanced back up toward the wreckage of the battlements above, now with what appeared to be ice also clinging to the some of the edges and stones. Though he could not see her, Trajan offered up an informal salute to the Dreadlord as he lay for a moment longer in the snow.

Do not let her fall, Farrus had said. Hah! Perhaps Trajan should make the necessary correction to that statement when next he could speak with his old friend.

Trajan gathered his warhammer from the snow and stood. Behind him, foot soldiers were pouring out of the Keep's main entrance and flooding onto the courtyard. Ahead and distant, the Slaughtern Wargheit down on the ground and the war beast tearing at the back of its massive skull and Guardsmen hacking and slashing at its flesh from all sides and the fire arrows lodged into its hide catching hideous fire now upon its vampiric skin. A spray of blood came from the back of the monster's skull then from the war beast's efforts. The Slaughtern Wargheit's arms tensed, then went limp and collapsed, and its head sagged down to the ground and the baleful glow of its eyes slowly dimmed. Still it grinned, its teeth forever locked in that manic expression.

The Mistweaver Wargheit--the cloud of mist that it was--stopped. It quickly changed directions, floating away from the fallen Slaughtern Wargheit and toward the Keep. Toward Trajan and the flood of Guardsmen getting into formation. The Mistweaver Wargheit burst into being from the mist, a creature of flesh and blood and bone again. A vicious swipe of its huge arm felled a dozen Guardsmen, and a follow-up swipe felled a dozen more, their bodies tumbling through the air and smacking into the ground and slamming into walls. But the formation of pikes ensured that the Wargheit bled dearly for each Guardsman life taken. The monster did not attack further after this, and instead milled about slowly and menacingly as if taking the measure of its numerous foes. It glanced here and there, behind it and up at the fort's walls and to the formation again.

Trajan stepped off of the bed of snow. His face hardened with a warrior's determination and he touched the head of his warhammer. All the flesh of his body transformed in an instant to metal.

And he strode with his Iron Skin forward to the front of the formation. Faced down the massive, grinning Mistweaver Wargheit with the fighting men and women of Vel Anir. In this a unity that made his heart swell with pride.

* * * * *​

Iber did the only thing he could do: join in. He stumbled forward with feigning of renewed vigor and hacked and slashed at the fallen Slaughtern Wargheit along with the Guardsmen. He drove his sword again and again into the feet of the magnificent creature he was supposed to guide to victory. And when he saw the arms of the Wargheit tense and go limp and collapse and its head sag, he knew that he had failed. The devourer was far more than the nuisance he had thought it to be.

It was up to Annette now. Only she could save the Mulder clan from King Jürgen's wrath. He had a single, desperate play he could make, but he doubted that it would work. Not without Commander Farrus coming close to the fallen Wargheit.

* * * * *​

Annette saw what happened to the Slaughtern Wargheit through the window. And she knew that there was an ice mage about somewhere. She did not know what else to do but to communicate a general command to her Mistweaver Wargheit to be defensive. She needed to find Commander Farrus. He was not in any of the places within the Keep the Mistweaver spies had told her he might be.

Her eyes were wide and hollow with a mounting horror. The fate of her entire clan rested upon her shoulders, and the weight was staggering.

"Guardswoman!" called a sergeant running down the Keep hall that she stood in. Three others were running with him. "Down to the courtyard! Now! That's an order! EVERYONE FIGHTS!"

She turned to regard him. And suddenly a realization struck her. Everyone fights...

She brightened up. Replied enthusiastically, "AYE!"

"Let's go, Homeguard!" said the sergeant as he ran past.

And Annette joined in after him.

Shisha Zana
 
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Shisha

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Shisha felt it then. She felt the hot spurt of blood and crunched down harder until the beast collapsed. She tore the back of its skull clean off and lifted it high in the air, showing off her prize. She tucked the trophy into her pouch and reached her mouth back into its skull, pulling out its brain. She ate that, and roared her victory. She had done it! She had killed it! The guardsmen had failed to, but she had!

Shisha rolled her shoulders and stepped down from the dead Wargheit. She walked to its mouth, and pulled one of its dreadful fangs free. That went into her pouch as well, a trophy. She walked toward the other with her head high, a rear foot kicking dust toward the dead body of the Wargheit.

She strode toward the other Wargheit, who seemed to be at bay from the guards. She had to wait, and see if she could get onto its back as well. Had it been watching its brother die? Would it know to guard itself? She showed her teeth, stained in blood and scraps of meat from the fallen monster. She had no problem challenging it.

Zana
Trajan Meng
 
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Zana

Second Level
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Who could it be?

Zana leaned against the icy battlement as she surveyed the scene below. With one of the creatures dead everyone was focusing their efforts on the thing made of mist. They seemed to have cottoned on to the fact that fire did not seem to harm this one as it had the other and there were shouts going up for the special acid known as Frosts Bane to be brought up from the cellar. It worked similarly to fire yet it burnt at sub-zero temperatures. The stuff worked surprisingly well with the undead.

She knew that the creature would take a handler of some kind, they always did, and unless they were very powerful they had to be within the keep itself. A thread of anger ran through her at the thought for it meant that one of these Guards was not one of their own. Either they were a traitor, or they had been deceived. It took time to join the regiment and be posted on missions such as this, so if it was the latter this had been carefully planned for quite a while now. Her hands clenched and unclenched against the ice and she wished, briefly, it had been fire magic one of her babes had fostered and not ice.

Talus was going to be thrilled.

She caught the smile before it grew too large, a brief window of happiness in the storm of the attack. Clearing her mind she went back to looking. There would be signs...
 
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Trajan Meng

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The Wargheits had killed scores of Guardsmen, but the full force of the garrison in Fort Endurance was now roused. A wall of armored men wielding spears and pikes and polearms was forming about the milling Mistweaver Wargheit, boxing the monster in but presently giving it a wide berth. Eight full units of Guardsmen in formation comprised this wall of metal and men, like a spiked octagon where the myriad points of all the weapons were arrayed inward, tracking the single massive creature. The surplus Guardsmen stood in reserve around the units presently boxing the Wargheit in--their sergeants and lieutenants telling them to "watch their ass" and "stay wary," for they knew the thing could turn back into mist and fly free from the encirclement at any time. But the encirclement was all that ordinary men and women could do.

Trajan, along with the war beast (whose name unbeknownst to him was Shisha), were inside the octagon with the Wargheit. The Mistweaver Wargheit would pace one way, glaring and grinning at Trajan and the Guardsmen behind him. Then turn and pace the other way, glaring and grinning at Shisha and the Guardsmen behind her. Its arms, wounded by pikes from its earlier swipes, bled freely.

"Has it lost heart? Does it fear us?" mused a Guardswoman behind Trajan.

"Just keep that pike ready, Homeguard," said one of her comrades.

"It is to our advantage that the fiend waits," Trajan said without looking back at them. Zana, he presumed and hoped, was still above on the Keep's battlements and faring well. Though her magic was icy in nature, Trajan had seen with his own eyes the damage it had caused to the Mistweaver Wargheit, and he could see the lingering, violent scars on the monster's chest now. A peculiar weakness for a vampire, but one that was fortuitous for Fort Endurance, and the good men and women who yet lived. Mayhap it was that the creature's mist-form would not save it from another barrage of such magic.

In the Dreadlord, Trajan had placed his faith. They were Vel Anir's most powerful warriors, the spears from the heavens that crashed down to smite the foes of the great bastion of Mankind. Even this foul creature would know the meaning of "Dread" before the coming of its death.

* * * * *​

Iber was among the surplus Guardsmen in reserve, loosely arranged around the outside of the octagon. He had to go along with it. Godsdamn it, if only he could send a message to Annette, so she could try to bait them back over to the corpse of the Slaughtern Wargheit. If only she could think on her feet for once and figure that out for herself.

His options would be limited if things went sour. If Annette and her Wargheit failed, there wouldn't be any getting out of here for him.

But he didn't need to die alone. Not if he was quick enough.

* * * * *​

Annette came running out of the Keep's main entrance--spear in hand--with the sergeant and the other few Guardsmen, some of the very last remnants of the force within Keep. There were so many Anirians out in the courtyard. They had her Wargheit surrounded, but that wasn't the problem--not for her Wargheit, cry more Iber. She didn't know where the ice mage had gone, or even if said mage was still alive truthfully, and she still didn't know where Commander Farrus was.

Until.

The sergeant Annette was with approached another group of Guardsmen who had recently come from within the Keep. The tallest among them, with an arming sword in hand and an aiguillette on his armor, turned about and lifted his free hand. Said, "Sergeant, keep your Homeguard in this area. We need more spears and pikes here should the creature come this way."

Annette almost gasped. His face was exactly as the Mistweaver spies had described it, down to the smallest detail. It was him. Commander Farrus.

"Aye, sir," said the sergeant.

Annette sent a subtle command to her Wargheit, and the Wargheit stopped. Drew in a huge breath.

Preparing for another piercing, earsplitting screech.

Shisha Zana
 
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Shisha

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Shisha watched the creature as it paced back and forth. It had eyes on her, and on the man inside the ring with her. They had it surrounded, and it seemed to be unsure of what to do. Ice magic had struck it in the chest, and its arms were bleeding from the pikes. Shisha was wary of getting too close; she’d gotten behind the first Wargheit by a stroke of pure luck. If it tossed around fistfuls of men like they were nothing, she has no doubt it would be dangerous for her as well. The armor didn’t render her invincible, even if she was grateful for it. The metal was now scratched from the scrabbling of the first Wargheit attempting to grab her.

The creature could turn to mist and escape them. But why hadn’t it? Why hadn’t it just gotten out of the octagonal ring instead of humoring them? The mage up on the battlements...was she preparing to strike again? Shisha shifted. She didn’t like this, and when she saw the Wargheit stop and inhale, she had to move. She didn’t fancy what would happen to her poor ears at this range.

She had to do something. If she forced it to run, it might get somewhere she couldn’t reach. If she provoked it into an attack, perhaps to one side, the pikemen could attack the unguarded flank. Her kind did this with large prey. One dealt with the dangerous end while the other attacked an unguarded rear. Were humans smart enough to know this without her writing? She had to hope.

Shisha began to slide around the perimeter of the octagon, trying to get to the creature’s side. She hit quickly, trying to get to a rear foot, ribs or its wings and do some damage before springing away. Something to interrupt that terrible scream.

Trajan Meng
Zana
 

Zana

Second Level
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The memory of the other creatures first scream was more than enough for Zana; she didn't intend to live through another. As the creature drew breath the guards below braced themselves. Spears, swords, axes and arrows all ready with the precision of a warrior trained in some of the most excruciating circumstances to become the best soldiers Arethil had to offer. There was a wave of pride from the Dreadlord for a brief, singular moment, before she drew on her magic and flung it towards the creature's open maw.

Ice erupted forth from her hands in the form of razor sharp javelins and rained down from her vantage point like a violent hail storm. She was mindful, at least, to try and keep her attack away from the guards and war-creature as best as she could. Of course if one of them were stupid enough to get in the way of her line of fire she wouldn't pull her attack - sometimes a pawn had to be sacrificed to take a rival queen. All of them would be more than happy to die in the service of Vel'Anir anyway; it was what made them all such good soldiers.

Her jaw clenched as her own spell sliced the palms of her hands causing droplets of ruby red blood to decorate the snow below. The more she used this unknown magic the more it would backfire on her yet she didn't know how to bring back the magic she did know. She could only hope it reverted before it was too late. Her eyes moved from her drawn blood back to the people below; her attack should have some impact on the mage. Perhaps they would betray themselves.
 
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The Mistweaver Wargheit's screech was interrupted. A malformed and curt sound, stifled in its birth, now more of an annoyed and rumbling growl. The monster looked back and down to the smaller creature attacking its foot. Its eyes and forever-grinning rack of teeth tracked the devourer's retreat, and it--

(Annette, deciding now to simply forego a preliminary screech to first disorient the Guardsmen, issued the command to her Wargheit: to go into its mist-form and go straight for Commander Farrus, no matter the cost.)

The Wargheit shifted, its corporeal body blinking into a white cloud of mist--

And then, with barely a second's worth of time for the Wargheit to move in its vaporous form, Zana's ice magic slammed into the mist--slammed into wisps that appeared so much like intangible fog-- as if they were solid. It was clear: the monster's mist-form did not protect it from the fury of the cold magic.

Indeed, the Wargheit was forced back into its corporeal form of flesh and bone and blood, and it staggered about the octagon of Guardsmen like a punch-drunk man losing a tavern brawl. Vicious scars of purple and black colored more than just its chest now: its arms, hands, neck, back, one of its feet. A sickly shiver had overtaken the creature, and a strange--almost confused--series of half-gurgling sounds came from its throat.

Trajan's nostrils flared. Good. The creature had idled for too long, and not only did the war beast stifle its earsplitting screech, the Dreadlord Zana had also struck it with a barrage of magic that it could not withstand no matter what form it took.

"Now!" Trajan called out. The fiend was reeling under the retaliatory weight of the righteous, and it was high time to put it down for good.

Trajan, his skin still comprised of Iron, strode forward with purpose and arced his warhammer back and struck at the scarred foot that monster planted before him as it stumbled about. And the impact with the flesh scarred by Zana's ice magic produced a devastating result: Trajan's warhammer inflicted far more damage than what would normally be, striking loose an enormous spray of weakened flesh and bone as if it were nothing more substantial than wet parchment. It came as a surprise, but Trajan did not hesitate to call out a tactical opportunity.

"See here the weakness of the fiend!"

The Mistweaver Wargheit let out a howl and what was left of its foot snapped off and it stumbled further and only stopped its fall by planting its massive hands on the ground. And the Guardsmen unit in the nearest part of the surrounding octagon marched forward, pikes and spears leveled, and stabbed with unified thrusts into any part of the monster they could reach--but particularly those brittle, scarred patches.

* * * * *​

Iber grimaced as his morale plummeted.

It was over. It was over now. Annette's Wargheit was going down, and surely King Jürgen would not accept the death of Commander Farrus if it did not come at the clawed hands of one of Lord Mulder's creations. That was whole reason why they were here!

There was nothing left for Iber now. He could not risk returning as a failure into King Jürgen's host, no, that was most certainly not the way. He would have to go on his own. To leave his clan behind. Damn! Jan, Juliet, every other friend he had in the Mulder clan, the only people he could trust, all of them he could never see again. But he would not even see another day if he did not get out of here. Now. His window was slim--all of the Anirians were focused on the Wargheit. Slim, and closing.

Iber, near to the very back of the Guardsmen and close to the ruined gates of Fort Endurance, made certain that no eyes were on him from the others. And then he turned and started sprinting for the gates.

* * * * *​

Annette gasped as she saw everything that was happening to her Wargheit.

No! No, no, no! It wasn't supposed to happen like this! Her head and Iber's would both be on pikes, now by either the Anirians or King Jürgen himself. But wait. She could...yes, what if she killed Commander Farrus? Surely King Jürgen would accept his death even so. Did the Wargheits not wreak terrible havoc upon this fort in either case, whether one of them killed the Commander or if she did? Was that not enough of a testament to what the Mulder clan had to offer the host?

...And was she not dead anyway? Would it not be better to try to save her Mulder kin from King Jürgen's wrath? Even whiny Iber?

As eyes were focused on the struggling Wargheit, and as Commander Farrus was calling out commands...

Annette let go of her spear, reached for the knife on her belt, and started to close the small gap between herself and Commander Farrus.

Shisha Zana
 
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Shisha

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Thank the gods, the scream had been interrupted! Shisha knew that getting near the creature and staying close for any length of time was dangerous. She’d seen it fling guardsmen to and fro, and immediately backed away from it when it turned its attention toward her. She growled, warning the Wargheit. She wasn’t afraid to face it face to face...but her distraction had allowed the mage up on the ramparts to strike it.

The creature stumbled drunkenly, and the humans rushed in with the aid of their captain. Humans would rush in when they had the numbers and the advantage. Like insects, they milled around until their prey was weakened, and then swarmed. Shisha backed away when the war hammer struck true, snorting in surprise. She’d seen spears and blades, but never this large lump of metal stuck to the end of a stick. She never would have imagined that would be more effective than a spear! All she had to do was see the massive wound splashed across the Wargheit’s chest before the humans rushed in.

Shisha let the guardsmen take care of the second. They stabbed at the creature as it fell, piercing the screaming monster again and again. Shisha backed away from their frantic rush; like a large mass of puppies after a kill.

She decided to walk down near the gates to fill her belly with the other Wargheit. Instead she saw one of the humans running. Couldn’t he see it was dangerous out there? Shisha tilted her head. Crazy creature. Humans got so scared, and bolted right into danger. She’d correct the problem. Shisha broke into a trot, then a canter, and into a full out run. She reached out to seize the fleeing human by the shirt.

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Zana

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A wave of nausea and blurry vision made her grip the icy battlement in front of her.

"Zana-"

"I'm fine, go," she waved a hand dismissively to the Guard who hovered by her shoulder. Lila gave another worried glanced to her but nodded and set off for the stairs down to the courtyard to offer her assistance to the rest of the guards. They all wanted to carve a piece of flesh from the monster who had attacked them so suddenly. The Dreadlord however wanted the hide of the people who had brought such things in to her fort. She was perhaps more annoyed at her lack of foresight than she was the attack itself but she couldn't bring herself to be mad at her pregnancy and the fluctuating powers so the full weight of her anger would now be directed at the other mages.

Of course her eyes first went to the fleeing guard; no worthy Anirian would do such a thing especially when it appeared as though they were winning. The war beast went after him though so her eyes returned to the rest of the group below. If there were two monsters there had to be two mages... Piercing jade green eyes scanned the carnage with a hawk like accuracy before settling on the girl who threw aside her spear and turned her back upon the howling beast.

"Got you," she murmured quietly then jumped up onto the icy wall. With another sickening wave of magic she created a slide of sheer ice down to the courtyard, landing her directly in Annette's path.

"Problem, soldier?"
 
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Trajan Meng

An Old Soldier
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Through the commotion of the Mistweaver Wargheit's slaying behind him, Iber heard the lumbering approach of something coming upon him. He'd a scant moment to look back to see that twisted thing, the Anirians' own monster, charging him down. Another moment yet and the thing had a hold on some part of his Guardsman's armor.

All the gods be damned and curse Annette too! What'd the spies have to do, take her by the hand over to where Commander Farrus was? How hard could it be? His Wargheit took the brunt of the assault and bought her all of that time and still she couldn't get the job done and break the Anirians. And now Iber was going to die and it was all her godsdamned fault.

He'd but two things left to him.

First, to sell his partner out and make sure she joined him. He shouted as loud as he could, "Her name is Annette!"

Second, to go out quickly. Detonating the Mutation Core within his Wargheit was not viable--he wasn't close enough. So Iber drew the knife from the sheath on his hip and tilted his head back and drove the blade into the soft flesh beneath his jaw and the metal pierced through all until it struck the inside top of his skull.

And the vampire went limp with true death.

* * * * *​

Annette gasped as Zana, seemingly out of nowhere to her so focused was she on approaching Commander Farrus from behind, landed in front of her.

She stammered for words and all at once dispensed with the idea that words or any kind of continued facade would have any use whatsoever. She fumbled at her belt--her hand had slipped from the hilt of the knife in her surprise. She fumbled and briefly glanced down and saw it and clutched it again and looked back up and with a strangely meek desperation drew the knife.

She had to get through the mage to get to Farrus. But her fumbling had already set her precious seconds behind.

Regardless, Annette tried to take a swipe at Zana.

* * * * *​

The Mistweaver Wargheit fought back with an effort made lame by injury and weakness. No longer were its massive arms and hands sending men flying off of their feet and crashing to their deaths. The monster may have knocked the front two ranks of the nearest unit down, but the Guardsmen got right back up. And the wounds the Anirians inflicted on the fiend were plentiful going into myriad.

Soon, with blood on the spears and pikes and other weapons and with blood turning red the dirt and grass of the courtyard and with blood covering nearly the whole of the monster, the Wargheit collapsed onto its stomach, its chin flat on the ground before Trajan.

And Trajan's lip curled with disgust for the fiend and its wicked deeds. In those baleful eyes and behind the forever grin lay the same manner of monster that lurked in the mists of Pandemonium, a thing which had not a shred of humanity or decency. A thing which only found common cause in the wanton destruction of all things good.

"For those you have slain this day," Trajan said.

Then he held his warhammer up high and brought it crashing down on the creature's huge skull. The last strike in the series of many, and the Wargheit stirred no more.

His Iron Skin faded, and his flesh returned to normal.

Satisfied, Trajan was, but he unaware of what was happening behind him and outside the octagon of Guardsmen. What was happening between Zana and Annette. And he had not heard the shout of Iber over the dying shrieks of the Wargheit.

Shisha Zana
 
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