Fort of Last Hope

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DoranditeIlsarianRofireinite
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Fort of Last Hope

And as the Cult arranges themselves for battle in Fort Miritrix, and the leading elements of the large Cult force approaching Nesar engage and smash the front ranks of the Nesar armies in Nith another larger army approaches south and west of Fort of Last Hope.

Overhead in the early hours of the morning a massive Red Dragon is seen circling lazily over the Fort high above as the Cult forces begin to make their approach. By Midday the Dragon descends content merely to destroy and burn everyliving thing and every structure lying between the Forts walls and the edges of the surrounding valley until nothing remains but burnt and blackened ruins of the large village that once nestled around the mighty walls of the Fort of Last Hope.

Inside the city forces dispatched from Fort Miritrix to its defence can do nothing but wait helplessly as the Mighty Red Dragon has its way with the area. By afternoon, heavy black smoke forms a massive pyre into the sky obscuring vision for all those in the Fort itself.

And as night falls thousands of campfires begin to set up a few miles from the fort to the south, then to thewest and finally by midnight to the north. Thus, as morning light filtered across the ruined town and the Mighty Fort standing within it. The defenders looked out at huge force made up of Myr'drachs, Drachs, soldiers and Dragons of the Cult army with some trepidation.

Only the eastern passage through the mountains was still theirs since the Fort itself backed up against the ravine passage meaning an army would have to break through the Fort, or somehow scale massive rugged mountains to get behind them. For now the supply lines through the eastern pass to the makeshift docks for supply ships guided through the reefs by the Sindalerians remained open. How long that would remain so with he dragons present was not known.

After three days of Seige a letter arrived for the Forts leaders demanding their surrender from the enemy General Jaedon Siphe, a man rumoured to have never lost a battle under his direct command, a man who already had stamped his authority on the conflict in Hilm. His tactics and battle plans the ones that had enabled them to so far take over and control almost half of Hilm. The messages returned from Sir Lance and Lord Alexander were sent to the Cult General and within hours the first attacks began.

The Cult armies began building large seige towers and catapults while Two Cult corruputed Dragons began dropping large rocks on the Fort from above . Occasionally the Mighty Red dragon was also seen gliding over the pass to the east.

This continues for over a week.

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DoranditeIlsarianRofireinite
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In the War room of the dwarven built Fort the mixed leaders of the forces currently stationed inside the Fort gather to talk about their options.

A grizzled dwarven veteran, currently Fort Commander, Logren Rockeater stands over a large map on the floor of the chamber. Cleverly created over forty years before by dwarven crafstmen from coloured tiles are set into the floor in a way that forms the landscapes and surroundings of the Fort for upto fifty miles. Small figurines and markers are arrayed in an almost enclosing circle around the Fort.

To his left stands Sir Lance, who arrived barely moments before through the portal in the main hall. To his right the Castellan of the Fort, Captain Markhum Menais, a staunch Toranite and able field commander. Across from them are several captains, lieutenants and other ranked men and women from the forces currently serving in the Fort, all gathered grimly to assess whats going on.

As they speak another rumble echoes as a dragon drops several more boulders onto the areas inside the fort. Dust trickles from the ceiling and onto the map over the main gate. Commander Logren scowls and wipes it away with a heavy boot.

Sir Lance looks tired and weary but he appraises the situation then speaks to those assembled.

"The Commander and I have reviewed all the current intelligence we have. The South is lost at present, we have conceded this. Fort of last Hope is all that remains in Hilms control, the Cult control everything from here to Fort Hilm and out to Kuhl and south to Nesar.

We've had no word in the last week of whats going on in Nesar. We are particularly interested in the battles being fought in Fort Miritrix. If the Cult win there we can expect them to send additional forces north as soon as they are free to join those already gathered around you here in the Fort.

The Good news is that the eastern supply lines to the makeshift docks through the mountains remains open, two ships are being guided to those docks as we speak with reinforcements and supplies by the Shindalierians. You should have those supplies within the week. Also this Fort is dwarven built and as solid as they come, we have ample provisions and water supplies to last indefinitely. If the eastern passage is lost then it becomes another matter, but for the moment I am assured if need be you could hold out for a year or two at this current pace.

The not so good news is that the fort can hold about eight to ten thousand soldiers and thats it. The Cult also have two corrupted Dragons and Ractrafiorez flying around for them out there as well as over fifteen thousand varied troop types which includes a sizable force of Myr'Drachs.

We've seen the advantage those Myr'drachs give the Cult. They shocked and bloodied the nose of the Rael armies in Sederra and it cost them dearly to hold the city against a similarly sized force that face us here.

We are under no illusions that should you fail to hold the Fort then Hilm will fall next. You cannot allow the Cult to be content to seige you here and to send their additional forces north. The task falls to each and every one of you to ensure that the Cult forces that are facing you now stay here. I cannot understate the importance of that directive.

This Fort is aptly named, the Last Hope. It pains me to place that burden on you all. I know that command ensures that many more good men and women will die but it must be so. There are plans even now to try and infiltrate Kuhl and bring an end from within their ranks to this scourge that assails us all. We need to give them the time to carry out that plan. Only then will we be able to respond and fight back. For now, we must hold them, hold them and try not to lose anymore ground."

Grim faces stare back at him as he surveys those before him. Lance sighs a weary sigh, a resigned sigh.

"Now, we need to review placements around the Fort, the Main gate will be their focus once their catapults are up and running. If they can't weaken the foundations there I'm sure they will use the Dragons so we'll need to be prepared for that. I believe Captain Argali may arrive soon to help install the ballistae with the custom bolts for the dragons.

I pray that Toran and those who worship Gods amongst us pray to their own gods that we can do what needs to be done in the dark days that will follow. Now, if you dont mind I have need to speak to the Commander and the Castellan."

Those assembled slowly file out of the door and to their various positions around the city. Overhead another dull rumble and another trickle of dust drifts from the ceiling and ominously lands in a small pile in the eastern passaged through the mountains.

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DoranditeIlsarianRofireinite
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// Forces residing in the Fort:

500 Voraxians Lost: 297
500 Toranites Lost: 242
250 Rofireinites Lost: 165
150 Mixed faiths Lost: 102
500 Unified regiments of Lor Lost: 213
500 Runic Anvil Lost: 248
120 Blackford Blue Helms Lost: 67
550 Brelins combined forces Lost: 303
150 Telish Dejan Archers Lost: 138
500 Driran Archers Lost: 214
24 Southern Vale Arcane Archers Lost: 14
25 Mixed Mages Lost: 18

500 Hilm Dwarven Heavy Infantry Lost: 281
2000 Hilm Light Infantry Lost: 1092
2000 Hilm Heavy Infantry Lost: 839
1000 Hilm Heavy Crossbows Lost: 536

Giants of Grannoch: 3

// 18-04-11 // Updated end of day 23 since seige began, which is when PCs arrive back in the Fort from rescuing the wagon supply train.

// 30-04-11 // Updated end of day 3 countdown to Ractrafiorez return, the collapse of the southern gate tunnel.

// 14-05-11 // Updated as Daniella and jaedon parlay

// 18-05-11 // Updated on day 24 of the deadline

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DoranditeIlsarianRofireinite
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Two days later from when lance last spoke to the leaders in the Fort and he returns, this time with fresh intelligence and accompanied by Lady Daniella Stormhaven. Both appear grim.

As they all gather once again in the War room of the Fort Lance begins.

"We've had some more intell from the field. Many of the adventurers who have been tied up in engagements elsewhere have started to merge on Hilm. Sederra is almost under control, Rael and Succession are working together with the Synod to get order restored there. There are still some small elements of the Cult forces left over that are causing some havoc but Raels General there has specialist units in the field now tracking them down.

THe Cult invaded Nesar over a week ago now and just today I've had word that Fort Miritrix is under seige and the Cult forces have taken Prim and are threatening Holar. The Nesar forces in Nith are holding at the river but I've had some disconcerting reports that the Black Wizards are up to something and have met with Cyn Chen without consultation with anyone. I fear it has something to do with the War Council dismissing their offer for help in this campaign."

Daniella speaks suddenly, "Lord Alexander was quite clear in his recommendations for the Black Wizards help Sir Lance."

Lance nods, "Yes, yes he was. We can't worry about that now. We just have to hope they don't make peace because if they do Cyn Chen and that army are going to turn straight around and head north towards us here. We've got enough Cult forces out there already without giving them enough soldiers that they believe that can overrun the Fort. Anway, whats your report Commander?" He looks to Logren who is chewing on a stick of licorice that has stained his bottom lip and front teeth black. He spits the licorice into a pot plant on the side of the room and walks over.

"They've tested our defences so far an got nuthin cept for some broken teeth. Dis Fort was built by dwarves, its a tough nut to crack. Deh dragons are a nuisance but deh men are keeping dere heads low an under cover as much as ken beh expected. We've taken casualties but nothin sever so far. I reckon dere waitin fer somethin and they are just going teh keep probin fer a weak spoke in deh meantime."

Daniella speaks again as the Fort Commander finishes. "The problem is that they may be content to keep us here. You've nearly nine and a half thousand battle hardened soldiers tucked up nice and cosy here Commander. If I was on their side I'd be reluctant to engage you as well unless I had an overwhelming force. Truth be told Fort Hilm is their real objective. If it falls then Hilm is lost whether you are still here or not. They might just figure its better to keep you locked up here while they break Hilm, then they can do with you what they want afterwards."

Pale faces, grim faces, angry faces meet her bluntly spoken words. The Fort Commander is quiet for a few moments than speaks again thoughtfully.

"Den what do you suggest Commander? A rally forth and take them on outside the fort? Suicide with the numbers they have out there."

"No Sir, but you need to do enough to make sure you tie up that army out there. You heard what Sir Lance said about Fort Miritrix. The Cult laid seige to lock them in and then went around them and are doing what they like to the people of Northern Nesar with no one to stop them. Fort Hilm has to hold. If that means you have to lead a few sorties out the gates to keep their attention, then you need to do it."

"Alright." Lance's voice interjects as the Fort Commander was going to retort. "Lady Daniella makes a good point Sir. It's no use sugar coating things. We are stuck between a rock and a hard place. You and everyone here in this Fort have to hold whatever armies you can here. If that means you have to engage them outside the fort to ensure they cant afford to send soldiers north then thats what has to happen."

The grizzled dwarf looks up at Lance biting his bottom lip hard. "Is that an order....Sir?" He bit of the last Sir as he said it with annoyance.

Lance sighs. "I'm afraid it is."

"Roight, well, I better order more wood."

"Wood?" Lance glanced at him perplexed.

"Yeah, gunna need more coffins fer all deh soldiers dat are going teh die in them sorties yer talkin bout."

Lance glanced at him coldly while beside him Daniella fought to control her rising ire. "Jsut make sure it happens, more and more adventurers are arriving every day and you'll have all the firepower you need. Have you distributed all the supplies you've received from the mercantile trade groups that have contributed to this campaign? The donations, the provisions and such?"

Logren hooked a thumb through his belt. "Aye, some bloody nice stuff too, picked out a few things fer meself as well."

"Good, see that as as many soldiers as possible receive that stuff, it can make a difference between life and death for many."

Logren grunts in reply. Soon after the meeting disperses with Lance and Daniella returning to Fort Hilm just in time to receive word that Molvarens army is marching.

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*Griff makes the trek to the Fort of Last Hope to meet with the kin there and his fellow Voraxians. He surveys the situation and gathers as much information about the state of things from various sources at the Fort. He does his best to keep a proud and confident face as he goes about the Voraxian warriors posted there. He helps check their equipment and weapons making sure they have what they need for the most part. He insures the kin that anything that bleeds can be killed, and these basserds is no different. A well placed axe, good feet and the might of Vorax will get them through.

He seeks out those that have already fought the Drachs and organizes meetings in the Fort allowing all experienced on Drach warfare to speak on what the enemies strengths and weaknesses are. They take turns, including Griff, explaining their encounters and the battle tactics that worked and those that didn't. Demonstrations are performed on axe wielding techniques and foot work. Descriptions are given of the different types of Drachs and their particular fighting styles.

Prayers to Vorax are held in the morning and evening, and before and after each battle meeting. The presence of Vorax is heavy in the air, as all the Voraxian dwarves pray in what will be their biggest test to come. Their committment is strong and their reslove sound. This is the time they have waited all their lives for and they are ready.*

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DoranditeIlsarianRofireinite
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// We begin a day after the Black Wizards quite the field of battle in Nesar and the Queen gives her stunning counter orders after meeting with the Sanctis Mortis.//

In the last few days, freed up from campaigns around the world in Audiria, Nith and Fort Miritrix adventurers begin to flow into the Fort of Last Hope to help bolster the defences. Their first port of call an important meeting with the Campaign Commander Sir Lance, and the Fort Commander Logren Rockeaten.

Also present at the meeting with people such as Toranite Commander Lady Daniella, Captain Argali, Toranite Field Commander Adran Kirk, Fort Captain of the Wall Sir Olemic, Al'noth coordinator Ardris, Adjutant Werrin of the hilm heavy dwarven Infantry, Lord Herdford of the Blackford Blue Helms, Knight Captain Alerancy Gree of Rofirein, Captain Thrakson Oremonger of the Runic Anvil, Thane Kobal Bluntaxe (who arrived a bit later), Captain Nelson of the Brelin Infantry, just to name a few of those responsible for the lives of those under their respective commands.

Added to this were a most capable assortment of adventuring individuals, each who have made their own mark on the world in way, mild or remarkable.

It was obvious at first that some tensions were showing in the chain of command between Sir Lance, Lady Daniella and the Fort Commander. However, differences aside the Fort Commander got down to business informing those gathered of the startling news just in from the south. The Black Wizards had quit the field of battle and sold out Hilm. The Cult armies in the south had turned around and were headed north towards the Fort of Last Hope and were expected in 3-4 weeks. Bad news for the Fort that was already beseiged by upwards of 25,000 to 30,000 Cult forces that had arrived from Sundance and Briardusk over the previous weeks.

As as least two dragons flew overhead at times dropping rocks onto parts of the Fort the Commander informed everyone present of their situation and the plans for the future. The only good news here that Ractrafiorez had not been seen for days.

Then he spoke directly to the adventurers gathered about a special mission they could help with, given their particular skills and abilities in facing the Myr'drachs of the Cult.

Even as they spoke the Fort Commander informed them of a massing of Cult soldiers to the north and west of the Fort indicating the Cult were about to engage in the biggest assault to date on the formidable Fort. The enemy were also forming a large group of Myr'drachs to the north with the purpose of possibly trying to cut off the Forts supplies through the Eastern passage. This was a huge problem. As such the biggest supply train yet was coming up the passage from the Shindalerian makeshift docks.

In this supply train was armour and weapons supplied by adventurers and merchant guilds around the world, Argali's dragon warheads for the ballistae and the parts for the anti-dragon nets arranged by the Coalition amongst other things. Items critical for the Forts defense against the Cult.

The Adventurers were dispatched along the eastern passage with all due haste leaving the Fort to face the oncoming assault by Cult forces. Travel was slow but steady along the narrow rocky ravine passage. Huge literally unscaleable mountain peaks rose on each side of them giving them limited daylight.

Outpost 1 was reached with little difficulty and after some initial misunderstandings with the Outpost Captain many were greeted warmly by members of the Unified armies of Lor who had been stationed to protect the outpost. People like Andrew, Argali, Andrew, Vrebel and Kromlek.

Outpost 2 The outpost leader, Captain Jenny Grange of the 1st Telish Archers proved an efficient and organised leader. At this point one of Jillseponies Vale Arcane Archers also serving at the outpost agreed to join Sir Lance to help scout ahead in the narrow ravine.

Outpost 3 was in a wider section of the ravine and as such had a larger compliment of soldiers stationed there. Captain Alyssa, the outpost leader reported all the all clear from Cult forces but reported seeing giants moving along a nearby ridge for the last few days using a narrow trail that led intot he next valley. It ws here Captain Argali, Andrew and Porlie set out in darkness to climb the trail and seek out the giants. Upon their arrival Argali found a band of approximately 12-15 giants, servants of Grannoch who had come south to find Arrrrgali to honour Father Mithrils request for aid. After some conversation the giants agreed to meet Argali in the morning at the outpost.

Argali, Andrew and Portlie returned to the camp just after midnight and informed the Captain of the giants arriving in the morning. After a few moments of tension when the giants arrived things settled down to business and before long the adventurers with their giant allies were on their way to outpost 4. They were hoping soon to meet up with the wagon train heading their way.

It was at outpost 4 that things started to change dramatically. The adventures entered the wider area to a scene of destruction. The entire outpost had been destroyed and as far as they could tell there were no survivors. A single dead Myr'drach the only evidence of the enemy that had come upon them.

Amongst the dead; over a score of Hilm light infantry, 10 Order of the Longsword Toranites, 5 Voraxians, 30 Brelin Infantry and 25 Unified Armies of Lor soldiers as well as the outpost functionaries. Even the horses and animals at the outpost were slaughtered.

Even as the adventurers began to gather the dead for later transport back to the Fort they were set upon by a flight of Myrdrachs. The fight was brief but furious with the giants entering the battle against the Cult for the first time. Myr'drachs dealt with the adventurers finished up quickly and pressed on fearing what may lie ahead. Especially since the giants reported seeing several flights of Myr'drachs and a dragon flying over the mountains in the last 24 hours.

Hours later the adventures fended off yet another attack by a flight of Myrdrachs before pressing on, more urgently now.

Perhaps it was the urgency, perhaps it was a lack in coordination, but whatever it was, as the Arcane Archer scout raced back to inform Sir lance of odd things ahead the forward elements of the adventurers had already stumbled into the ambush set by the Myr'drachs for the wagon train.

There was suprise all round as the adventurers gazed at the towering Myr'drachs in position around the open area of the ravine then all hell broke loose. Myr'drachs poured from hidden positions around the area towards the Adventurers who had fanned out to meet the coming assaults. Alas as they pressed forward they came to grips with the numerous deadly traps the Cult had set on the floor of the valley to kill those protecting the wagon train.

Lightning arced from person to person around the area as in the midst of it the Myr'drachs unleashed their fury and the embattled adventurers fought to hold their ground. It was almost too dangerous to move initially as each step created death around the area. Iellwen unleashed a barrage of magics into a group of Myr'drachs then perished as lighting penetrated her wards and sent her crackling and sizzling to the ground, her body burnt and blacked with smoke rising from it.

As usual Vrebel, Argali and Kromlek pressed forward, their weapons arcs of death cleaving into the hard skins of the Myr'drachs. To their left Sir Lance and lady Daniella along with Richard held their ground against their own group of Myr'drachs, desperately fending off their mighty slashes while trying to cut through their tough hides and inflict injuries.

A short distance from them two Myr'drachs charged Hardragh who staunchly stood his ground and bellowed at them causing them to stumble and falter clutching at their hearing olfactories. Then three giants leapt at them clubbing them with huge spiked clubs. Hardragh moved onto help two nearby giants being ripped to shreds by four Myr'drachs. This time his bellow sent them reeling and the giants, joined by Griff, Portlie and Arfur ripped into them doing what they could as fast as they could to try and bring down the ferocious beasts.

Above it all Andrew sought a slightly higher position and sung until he thoughts his lungs would burst urging the struggling adventurers to feats beyond their normal abilities.

The battle raged back and forth, giants started going down around the area as Myr'drachs tore them to shreds. Then in the forward ranks Kromlek was struck from behind by two more Myrdrachs as lightning crackled across the area. Tough, but not that tough the battle hardened dwarf collapsed to the ground armour and back exposed where the Myr'drachs had tore it apart like it was mere material.

Vrebel and Argali found themselves fighting back to back against multiple opponents.

Aside from them Lady Daniella and Sir Lance found themselves cut off from the main group of adventurers and fighting desperately to survive as more than five Myr'drachs surrounded them lashing out at them each time they left a side or a back exposed. Wounded badly both fought with a tenacity an strength belying their injuries. Moments later Richard, now also cut off from Daniella and LAnce lashed out one more spell as a Myr'drach grabbed him from behind and tore his head off throwing the corpse aside like a piece of rag and launched into the melee against Lance and Daniella.

On the other side of the field Arfur and Portlie suffered terrible injuries and retreated to the small rise where Andrew still stood signing as best his voice could hold out.

More and more giants went down under the onslaught of the Myr'drachs but Griff was there in the midst of them helping them, fighting side by side with them doing his best to help defeat the Myr'drachs facing them. Then a Myr'drach slipped past his defences and a talon ripped through his chest spraying blood. Griff looked down in suprise as the life taking injury and with furious anger launched himself at the wounded Myr'drach taking it down then rolling to the side of it fumbling desperately to find a spare potion as his lifes blood left him. But time was against him and he slipped into unconsciousness.

Things looked grim for the adventurers when overhead a massive roar echoed through the ravine and a corrupted dragon descended to the ground and entered the conflict.

The remaining giants dealt with the last few Myr'drachs near them and engaged those around Sir lance and Lady Daniella giving them a moment to restore their health before they disengaged and targeted the greater threat, the Dragon.

Argali shouted to Vrebel to take the Myr'drachs as she charged the Dragon. Vrebels sardonic response was lost in the ensuing combat but he did his best and found himself fighting desperately just to hold of the Myr'drachs and stay alive.

The Dragon roared, slashed, swept its tail and buffeted its wings at the giants and adventurers assaulting it. In the narrow confines of the ravine it was clearly at a disadvantage.

The battle raged back and forth until the Myr'drachs took down most of the remaining giants and turned to engage those against the Dragon. Hardragh found himself grabbed from behind and crushed in a Myr'drachs grip. The suprise on his face evident as his lifeless body was throw against the wall of the ravine. Then Lady Daniella was struck with crackling energy even as the Dragons claw almost tore her arm from her shoulder. Spun through the air, lighting cracking over her form she collapsed on the ground. Moments later the Dragon bit down on Sir Lance, crushing his body in its teeth and flung him twenty metres where he crashed in a pile of metal and blood.

Seeing her allies falling around her Argali found herself the sole recipient of the Dragons attacks. Her teeth set in determination she held her ground against the assault doggegly resisting the dragons efforts to knock her to the ground so it could get its teeth around her properly. Argali was tiring however, blood flowed from a number of injuries, her weapon felt like it weighed four times its usual weight and her left shoulder ached terribly from an earlier strike from the dragons hard wing.

Out of the corner of her vision she saw Vrebel surrounded by Myr'drachs fall to one knee, blood covered most of his body, most of it his own. Myr'drachs struck at him again and again.

Then Portlie flashed past screaming abuse at the Dragon trying to gain its attention. Angry beyond sense the dragon saw the moving target and charged off after Portlie. The precious moments gave Argali time to drink a restoring draught. Feeling the warmths spread through her body she raced as best she could to help Vrebel, reaching him just as a Myrdrach raised its claw to finish him off. She crashed into the creature and they went down in a tangle of arms, legs, wings and steel. Vrebel struggled back to his feet and plunged his blade into the creatures back then offered a hand to her to help her stand again. Giving her a bloody grimace Vrebel took teh moment of relief himself to quaff a healing potion then together Argali and Vrebel launched themselves at the few remaining Myr'drachs attacking the remaining giants nearby.

Meanwhile Portlie and Arfur were leading the Dragon a merry chase trying to give the others time to use their healings and get back into the battle. The Dragons angry roars reverberated around the walls of the passage as the two raced here and there fear clearly evident on their faces and giving them the strength to race around. Andrew watched in horror at the unfolding scene but his voice did not falter and he sang to give Portlie and Arfu strength to continue their efforts.

As the last Myrdrach's were taken down the dragon cornered Portlie who, seeng the end approached turned and draw his sword to face the dragon. it rose up and he bravelt stood before it and as it descended to crush him he closed his eyes to await the moment. But it didnt come, instead the dragon roared in greater fury and spun around to face Argali and Vrebel who had struck in from behind opening up great gashes in its scales.

Portlie was struck hard by the dragons tail, flung a dozen metres and gasping for breath from his crushed ribs he struggled to crawl from the battle. Arfur raced to him and helped drag him back to where Andrew was singing.

Argali and Vrebel double teamed the dragon, one engaging the other luring, then a strike, and the same, again and again. The dragon was so incensed it didnt know where to turn or who to face first. Back and forth they battled until Vrebel put a deep gash in one of the creatures wings. Finally, having taken some serious wounds the dragon struggled into the air, fighting to gain height and rise to the tops of the mountain peaks before disappearing over the edge.

Silence descended across the scene of the battle. Over two score Myr'drachs lay dead and a good number of adventures and giants amidst them.

Andrew's voice faltered and he stumbled before moving to check on Portlie and Arfur before moving to some of the bodies littering the area.

Vrebel and Argali stood leaning tiredly on their weapons surveying the scene. Both were covered in Myr'drach and their own blood and not a small amount of the dragons blood.

Hours later, lives restored as best as they could the weary group heard the approach of the wagon train and went to meet it. 10 wagons and over a hundred soldiers as escort stopped as the Adventures explained what had happened.

As Campaign COmmander Sir Lance took command of the wagon train and together they escorted it back to Outpost 1 where 500 Hilm Light Infantry had arrived to take over when runners sent ahead of the wagon train finally reached the fort and reported in.

Just over eight and a half days it took to bring the desperately needed supplies to the Fort.

As they finally entered the Fort the adventures realised that in those nine days a lot had happened in the Fort.

The fort had been under heavy sustained attack for all of that time. Twice the Cult had managed to take the western wall of the city and twice they had been beaten back, but not without heavy losses occuring.

The Captain of the Wall had been killed in the battle to reclaim the wall the second time and Fort Commander Logren had been killed by a dragon attack three days prior. Castellan of the Fort, Captain Markhum Menais had assumed command and subsequently been critically wounded and was commanding from his recovery bed in the main keep.

The south wall had remained virtually undamaged, the northern wall had taken a pounding since the Cult had gotten their seige engines up and running several days prior. The pounding had not stopped since then but so far the wall was holding.

The western wall however was in trouble. The enemy seige engines were also pounding it day and night. Dragons regularly straffed the top of the wall preventing allied archers from manning their posts to drive back the Cult froces working to undermine the western wall. After two assaults that had almost taken the wall fears were that the wall might not be able to hold out if it kept taking the pounding it was taking, dwarven or not.

As the adventurers arrived in the Fort the ballistae, specially prepared for the dragon head bolts were ready. One had been badly damaged in one of the assaults but the other 9 were good to go. Argali was informed she was now in charge of those forces protecting and directing the special Ballistae.

Captain Markhum handed over authority of the Fort to Lady Daniella Stormhaven as he recovered with Sir Lances blessing. Vrebel was granted a commission as a Captain and put in charge of the northern wall while Griff was granted a commission as Captain of the western wall and Kromlek Captain of the south wall, each with their own command and responsible to Lady Daniella.

Elsewhere, developments had continued. News had arrived that Nesar had officially re entered the war for a third time and had marched a large army right into southern Kuhl defying the Black wizards deal with Molvaren and threatening Kuhls southern realms. Welcome news to the Fort when they found out as the army led by Cyn Chen changed course again and headed west to try and reach the Nesar army before it got to Westgate. The Cult forces from Fort Miritrix were still expected to arrive in just over a week. Meanwhile Nesar had formed a sizable army made up of mainly peasants in Fort Miritrix and were preparing to march north on Sundance.

And in Hilm, Molvarens army had come into contact with the outermost defensive positions of the Allied armies of Hilm. Sir Lance was ordered to Hilm Castle as soon as he stepped foot in the fort of Last Hope in order to help arrange the withdrawel of allied troops from the forward defensive positions as Molvarens army smashed into them.

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*Richard smiles when the stories of him getting his head torn from his neck circulate back to him and says to himself.* Perhaps in another temporal existence it is so. And if it is so in one reality... *trails off into temporal theory and multiple string existence.*


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Once in the Fort again, Andrew accompanies Argali for a brief while, then breaks off to do a sweep of morale-boosting. He sings, tells stories, sits with soldiers who are hard-hit by their first time in battle or by losses. He does his level, Ilsarian, Resonance best to raise the fighting spirit, singing his songs and popular songs and taking requests.


When they start unloading the wagons, however, he returns and is surprised to find a note addressed to him attached to a bundle of wooden planks and beams, metal shafting, nets, connective hardware, wires, three gauges, four hooks, sixteen springs of various sizes, a small steam box, and another container of things he can't even begin to identify. The note reads COALITION - ANDREW REID in common on the outside.


He slits it open with a widening grin, humming merrily...and the humming slowly fades, like a calliope running out of crank. There is a sheaf of papers inside crammed with tiny print. He holds the papers out at full arm's length, then mutters impolite things in Old Tilmarian and puts on his spectacles. He examines the papers close, then far, then sideways, then upside down...


...some time later, he approaches Lance with a sheepish smile.


"...Lance, I need a gnomish engineer or at least someone who reads gnomish...like, now."


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*Griff makes it back in the Fort dirty and bloodied, the Voraxian insignia on his shield amost masked by the darkened inerds of a Mydrach. Once he hears the news of his commission of Captain of the West Wall he perks up and beams a bit. His excitement is short-lived when he learns about the casualties of the Fort, especially the Fort Commander and The Captain of the Wall.


Griff makes a direct line for the West wall to survey its condition. He speaks with the wall guards and other troops assigned to the wall to gain as much information as he can about the nature of the attacks on the wall, its current stability and if the troops have any ideas about how to save the wall from falling.


After gaining as much information as possible he reports back to Commander Lady Daniella. He would brainstorm with her and others about what might be done based on the facts before them. He would suggest the Coalition net launchers and/or Argali's Balistas be positoned strategically near the wall. If they can be camouflaged or disguised, they might have one shot, only one, to strike at the sweeping dragons as they attempt to skim the wall top. After that the dragons will be aware of the new devices and they will become much less affective. He would also suggest placing some standard balistas on the interior of the Fort, and positon a spotter to guide the balistas projectiles to the enemies siege engines now targeting the West wall. The spotter will have to have a good look down below and direct changes in distance and sidewards. Once the balista has been properly sighted in, a tar and fire projectile could be used to burn the construction of the enemies sieges. Griff listens for ideas and after excused he heads back to the Wall to build the morale of the wall guards and monitor the situation.*


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**Lance looks down at Andrew as he is supervising the preparations from his steed, his wife mounted on the back of the old steed, his eyes look at the scene with some concern, and yet, he seems calm looking how the armies of the Fort*


Speak please with Lady Commander Stormhaven on that, She might have better knowledge of what resourses the fort hold, She will surely help you if you explain what you need.


**the man seems concerned , yet someohow calm, he is seen speaking with a group of elite, of his personal guard, the famous Company of the Star, Giving specific instructions for them to retrieve the bodies of their fallen comrades and bring them back, where he orders the preparation for burying rituals for them *


// This is before he departs to Hilm of course


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*Wren Finally makes his way to Last Hope. he seeks out Steel if he cant find him he goes to the Lady Commander to to see where he can be of use*


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Quote:
As the adventurers arrived in the Fort the ballistae, specially prepared for the dragon head bolts were ready. One had been badly damaged in one of the assaults but the other 9 were good to go. Argali was informed she was now in charge of those forces protecting and directing the special Ballistae.

Argali makes a congratulatory nod of acknowledgment to Vrebel, Griff and Kromlek on their commissions before heading off to take charge of the ballistae crew.

She instructs the crews in the use of the dragon head ballista bolts, how they are designed to pierce dragon hide, being made from mithril dug from the Deep by an elf named Razeriem, and forged in the hottest furnaces of Molten Island. She points out the critical thing is to remove the safety pin(1) before shooting them, so that the bolt will explode, hopefully after penetrating deep into the dragon.

She deploys the ballistae about the largest open area(2) in the Fort, against the walls that define the area, such that they collectively have a clear field of view of the sky above, but aren't (too badly) exposed to other potential ballistica(3). She instructs the crews to fashion defensive walls about their positions from whatever broken masonry and rubble is to hand.

She then heads up a work detail, gathering up whomever might be available, to lay their hands on any available tarpaulins, curtains, drapes, even tapestries. With these materials, she instructs them to fashion makeshift awnings above the ballistae(4) so each ballista is concealed from above, even going so far as to have gravel and dust thrown over them to attempt to help them blend into the general debris about the fort.

// that's the plan, anyway ;) //

(1) safety rod/spike might be a better description; viz, the "pin" is not insubstantial
(2) though hopefully back from the bombarded western wall
(3) ballistica: the collective name for all that ballistic material flying around in the air that might kill you; yes, I just made it up, but there should be such a word; shrapnel is a specific type of ballistica
(4) the awnings are completely clear of the the ballistae, such that the ballista are fully operable under the awnings

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*Vrebel accepts the battlefield commission with a nod to Commander Daniella and immediately heads to the North wall to access its integrity. He briefly introduces himself to the wall unit congratulating them for their valor and steadfastness and makes sure they keep it up.


Utilizing his skills in forging metal, and working with all manner of stone and wood he directs those with such skills in how best to repair and strengthen the wall's weaker areas.


Vrebel gathers information from the troops on the types of attacks they have encountered. Over the next couple of days he observes their prowess and makes note of those with advanced skill in archery and melee. He combines the advanced archers together into a special unit ordering them to target the cults seige weapons using flame tipped arrows. He also gives them direct orders to shower any drach units heading north toward Hilm especially the wooden caravans and supply units if they are in range.


He lets his troops know he is there for them and any ideas he will listen to but, in no uncertain terms, he tells them their job is to keep the cult occupied and no matter what hold the wall.


He then suggests to Commander Daniella that they implement a means of notifying the fort of dragon sightings such as horns on each wall to give advanced notice of incoming dragon attacks to reduce casualties.*


In a brief and uncommon respite in the attacks Vrebel lights up a yew pipe stuffing in some golden splender and ganders over the walls at all the drach units and campfires muttering with a grin.*


If only Sasha could see me now


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Andrew searches for Daniella, waiting to speak to her in a line of people with concerns and information.


When it is his turn, he bows and does not waste time with pleasantries.


"Paladin Stormhaven. Lance said you were more in touch with the resources of the Fort; I have both the plans for and the materials to build one of the net-throwers the Coalition was working on, bless the Muse. However the instructions are in...er...gnomish. Which I do not read. Is there anyone on the grounds who can? Preferably an engineer or tinker or someone with a good eye for putting complicated things together?"


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Quote:


He then suggests to Commander Daniella that they implement a means of notifying the fort of dragon sightings such as horns on each wall to give advanced notice of incoming dragon attacks to reduce casualties.*


Daniella nods to Vrebel and tells him to see to it that it is done.


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In the final week (s) of fighting in Sederra, Daniel dispatches letters to the Church Authorities of Western Gate asking for direction and after one battle seeks out Generel T'sek. He inquires as to where they will fight next and when making it clear that he would much prefer to bolster the defenses of the Fort of Last Hope, but stands ready to aid where ordered.

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Quote:
Andrew searches for Daniella, waiting to speak to her in a line of people with concerns and information.


When it is his turn, he bows and does not waste time with pleasantries.


"Paladin Stormhaven. Lance said you were more in touch with the resources of the Fort; I have both the plans for and the materials to build one of the net-throwers the Coalition was working on, bless the Muse. However the instructions are in...er...gnomish. Which I do not read. Is there anyone on the grounds who can? Preferably an engineer or tinker or someone with a good eye for putting complicated things together?"


Daniella assigns a few soldiers to help Andrew figure out how to put the plans together.


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As preparations are made, fortifications are strengthened, duties are assigned and drills are run, Gel'larian wanders about the Fort engaging those whose duties are not pressing at that time. For those who need mirth he sings and play on his guitar, for those who need inspiration, he tells the tale of their victory in Sederra, for those who need soothing he talks of home, and those who need comfort he merely listens to their tale.


After he has seen to the emotional comfort of all who are open to it, he approaches the command center and politely asks to speak with the duty commander about some relief for the brave men and women putting their lives on the line.


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*Following the battle, Portlie Dumas escorts Andrew Reid about on his tour with his head held even higher. He does not mention the battle, but his voice holds an extra frisson when he talks to the ladies he comes across.


His brother Arfur is always there or thereabouts, composing poems and rhymes, usually while Portlie is making sketches of any that strikes his fancy (and that usually of the female persuasion).*


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Hardragh spends some time recuperating from their little foray, though his mood does not seem to improve much. At some point he may be seen wandering towards the Fort Commander's tent.


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Quote:
Daniella nods to Vrebel and tells him to see to it that it is done.


*Vrebel gathers the loudest Horns he can find and distributes them to Captain Griff on the West wall, Captain Kromlek on the South, as well as his own unit on the North. Each horn has a unique tone and pitch so no one is confused as to which wall the sound is coming from. He instructs the Captains to designate a blower at all times who's sole purpose is to alert the fort of incoming dragons and they better have keen sight and hearing and a good pair a lungs.*


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Later in the day, perhaps even by evening after the captains have had a chance to meet their men and review their positions and even to make a change or two, the various commanding officers and adventuring types receive word that there is a meeting in the war room.


Though she has already explained their [POST=1717842]usage[/POST] to the ballistae crew, Argali makes a formal presentation of the dragon head ballista bolts to the Lady Commander and particularly the remaining Last Hope commanding officers. She makes a brief dedication to the fallen Fort Commander and Captain of the Wall.


Taking leave from the Lady Commander, Argali addresses those assembled.


"Firrstly, the ballistae have been deployed and obscurred," she makes a brief nod to Griff, "and arre the ready forr the action.


"Zecondly, she has instrructed the trebuchet crrew to ztarrt flinging the debris and rubble back at the enemy ziege engines. Alzo, that the trebuchet zhould be deployed back frrom the westerrn wall, preferrably behind the building to be giving it the coverr(1).


"Thirrdly," and perhaps more for the benefit of those not on the supply wagon expedition, "you should be awarre that the Childrren of Grrannoch have answerred Fatherr Mithril's call to honourr theirr pact. We werre honourred by theirr presence in the battle against the Drrachs to securre the supply wagons. Many paid the ultimate prrice to be helping us. Hopefully, morre arre making theirr way to be assisting the Forrt of Last Hope. Thereforre, do not be attacking any ztrray giants that arre making theirr way to the Forrt." She looks pointedly at the Fort's original commanding officers.


"Now, forr the moving forrwarrd. Argali has brrought herr collection of the Cloak of the Watcherrs with herr. Any of you who arre wishing to take the fight to the drragon, please be letting herr know."


She takes a brief moment for those to realise what that would entail before continuing.


"One of the principles of the warr is 'the best defense iz the good offense', no? To zis end she has two zuggestions. Firrstly, we zhould be harrassing the enemy's flanks. One method would be to zend the catapult orr zmall-trebuchet crews into the mountains. They would have the prrotection of the zcouts to make surre the way ahead of them iz clearr. Frrom the zides of the mountains, prezuming the catapult iz having the range and the enemy iz close enough, they arre to rain the boulders down on them.


"The enemy must react, eitherr by moving theirr trroops, orr by zending the rezponding forrce afterr the catapult. In the laterr case, the catapult crew brreak down theirr siege engine and melt away into the mountainzide. We then have the opportunity to ambush the rezponding forrce, which she believes arre likely to be the winged Drrachs orr the Myr'Drrachs, with the elite forrce of warriors. And if they arre zending the drragon, at least it cannot be drropping the boulderrs on the castle walls at the zame time."


Argali pauses to allow for the consideration of the audience.


"Herr zecond 'best defense' zuggestion iz to deploy the heavy infantry in the mountains to the north and zouth of the Forrt. Then, when the enemy zeek to overrun the Forrt, the heavy infantry make the pincer counterrattack on both theirr flanks. She cannot prromise zis will be enough to turrn the tide against zuch a larrge forrce, but it will make zurre they do not have everrything theirr own way."


She looks about for any response from those gathered.


(1) if it isn't already so deployed


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Under shelter from prying eyes, Andrew and the soldiers lay out the pieces ot the net-throwing device. Beams, supports, connections...all of which make at least some sense...and the multitude of other bits and bobs, which do not. Andrew scans the diagrams to see where each piece will eventually go, jamming his spectacles back in his pocket and using pinches of the amazingly expensive incense that fuel a song to sharpen his sight and clear his mind for recollection when he needs it. One of the soldiers wiggles a hand for the instructions and Andrew hands them over and sits down with a thump, arms on his bent knees, waiting to see what the soldier can make of the tightly cribbed notes.


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Shrowded by the Dragon, Daniel makes the Fort of Last Hope gates, dismissing the shroud he calls out to the guards indentifying himself. Who is in command here?

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Shrowded by the Dragon, Daniel makes the Fort of Last Hope gates, dismissing the shroud he calls out to the guards indentifying himself. Who is in command here?

Daniel is escorted through to find Daniella discussing something with Captain Argali. She turns at the sight of him and as the soldiers introduce him and state that he was looking for the Commander. She smiles as she sees him, but one could see the lines of worry and fatigue that have crossed her face in the recent time.

"Captain Poetr, welcome to the Fort of Last Hope. As you can see, we've been a bit busy here holding this place to its name. I heard of your achievements in Audira. Well done. What can I do for you, sir?"

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Daniel tilts his head respectfully to Daniella and Argali both, "Thank you, but I did as was prescribed by my order, not for glory. If you have need of a steady hand here in any capacity, I have come alone. My forces remain in Auderia assisting the locals in rebuilding and truth be told, we paid a terrible price in lives to secure the victory there." Daniel finishes with a bit of grimace thinking of the losses then he straightens his shoulders. "It would be an honor to serve beside you once more, Lady Daniella."


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* A day after Daniel arrives at the Fort of Last Hope Kobal Bluntaxe arrives by a narrow mountain trail. With him he brings an ox - an old and scarred beast - laden with boxes and barrels.


Kobal seeks out his warriors already stationed at the Fort before announcing his arrival.


After a couple of hours he emerges with a polished armor and a freshly groomed beard from the camp of the Runic Anvil. He makes a round on the Fort grounds, greeting those he knows and dogding any boulders from above. Finally he seeks out the command room and formally announces his arrival. *


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A lone halberdier stands guard in the shadow of an Ilsarian bard watching the arrival of the Dwarf in all his formal useless strutting and shrugs digging deep for words to cover the moment. His own uniform tailored and unusually clean he whispers words at the bard.

"Halted against the shade of a last Fort,
We fed, and, bled so easy, were at ease
And, finding comfortable chests and knees
Carelessly slept. But many Captains held court

We to face the Drach, and Dragon wings unfurled
Knowing our Halberds had come to the end of this our world."

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Ell spends most of her time tending to the wounded, sick and dying. She can be seen at other times sitting with the recovering soldiers, talking to them, helping them write letters to send to their loved ones, promising the soldiers their families will receive the letters. In her quiet moments, she writes down the events that have happened, the people involved and their place during this trouble time. Ell observes the mood of the Fort, the moral of the Fort writing it in her journal. Praying always, that the Gods will save them all.


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Arfur stops abruptly, folds away a cloak and produces another one from a pack which seems more suited to the mood of the evening. Emboldened by recent events he speaks directly to his charge Andrew, Bard of Ilsare.

"Sir it seems our Free Company of Stone bound, a fine mix of heroes true, bold, and well some downright dangerous has a broad range of skills. Our little dalliance to the east surely showed that.

Only I am a mere halberdier and will defend you till I fall but fall we will it seems unless...

Well I was wondering if you could inspire one from this mix of a hundred or so Captains, Lords, Knights,Sorcerers and other assorted souls titled or otherwise, to go kill this undefeated monster of a General that leads the filthy foe?"

Realising he may have crossed a line into the world of tactical thinking and operational decision making he shrinks back a pace and adds.

"I'll just go and make another patrol then.."

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Gel'larian bumps in to Arfur during his patrol, and after the shock of seeing someone familiar in an odd context, smiles broadly.


"Arfur, I know you serve the Muse, I have something I need to talk to you about."


He puts an arm around the human's shoulders and has a quick word with him.


//PM Sent


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//back in the war room with Argali


*Vrebel listens to Captain Argali's tactical suggestions and with a respectful nod he chimes in*


Agreed Captain them giants fought bravely out there. If we can get some them with rock throwin skills inside the fort they may be of use to us again. We gotta hole stockpile of boulders pilin' up from those dragon attacks, ripe ammunition for a giant skilled in boulder chuckin'. A well placed boulder on them seige weapons out there will put it outa commission and if it misses you've at least squished some mydrachs. If we can find someone ta get on the wall ta direct their chucks that knows giant all the better *looks for Andrew*


As for the others things ya said I'll leave that to those more experienced with the rugged terrain surroundin the fort, breakin down balistas on the fly, and cloak jumpin dragons.


Let it be known every boulder them dragons dump on this fort is gonna be commin' back at em' with their name on it.


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// These events begin several days after the adventurers met with the Castellan and assumed various commands around the city under Lady Daniella's leadership with support from the recuperating Castellan. I have tried to include as much of what people are undertaking as possible in the determination. If I have missed you I apologise. Let me know in a PM. I am also factoring into the events as they unfold the help and support, monetary, items, armour, weapons etc that people have donated over the years in preparation for these times.

Fires crackle and burn along the length of the western wall. So hot that some of the topmost blocks of stone crack under the intense pressure. All around is chaos, men and women screaming, wounded moaning, the dragon alert horns adding to the din. Flames roaring, a dragon rising ovehead roaring its triumph, Captain of the East Wall Griff yelling commands over the cacophany of noises. Nearby an undamaged trebuchet whirs, thumps and sends debris over the burning wall into the massed soldiers outside. The voices of thousands of soldiers thunder from behind the wall followed by a heavy dull thud then several more and then a few more after that. Heavy blocks of stone thud into the thick dwarven built eastern wall which shudders in sections and bits of morter crack away from where the blocks join.

For the last few days the enemies had continued an intense bombardment of the western and northern walls trying to weaken the thick stone. In between, Dragons would strafe both walls sweeping them free or archers and crossbowmen and women and trying to heat up the stone to cause it to crack when hit by the enemy catapults.

Lady Daniella made her way to the western Wall where once again the defenders are huddled at ground level in the shelter of the wall unable to get to its top due to the fire raging above. As she arrived the precious few mages available to Griff were casting several ice storms to try and put out the fires so the archers could resume their positions and stop the enemy undermining the wall from beyond.

Over the constant sounds of battle around them Daniella leaned towards Griff and yelled to be heard.

"Whats your assessment Captain?"

Griff, tired, covered in filth, soot and blood, parts of his clothing burnt from dragon fire responded witha dreary overview.

"We nay beh makin any ground yet ifn dats what yea meanin." He smiled through the grime and the attempt at humour in a dark situation. "Truth beh told, deh walls tough, but it nay be holding out under all dis stress forever. Dey keep poundin dis wall an Oi figure we got a week or so before dey weaken part of it enough teh really try an break through. Biggest problem is deh sappers. Dey workin out dere teh undermine us an we cannae get at em when our archers ave teh keep leavin deh wall when deh bluudy dragons strafe em. Oive lost a lot of good people in deh last few days already. Deh General out dere be canny, he moves his people up when we drop down an den he pulls em back outta range when we come up again. Our catapults cannae reach em half deh toime an when we do they spread out to avoid to many casualties. Oi tell ya dis Jaedan fellow is too clever by 'alf."

Daniella nods at the summary. "It's as much as we feared, I'm going to pull the mages off the southern wall, the Cult don't seen to interested in whats going on down there, they seem content to throw boulders at the wall and mount a few feints towards the wall. No doubt still testing its strength. I think either the North or west wall will be their main focus when they finally come again in strength. I'll get you some more mages, in fact I'll see if Iellwen can make it over here too. Also I think Argali has a plan mapped out to try and get one of those dragons tomorrow. I'm going to assign Captain Daniel to you as well, you'll need all the help you can get and he's been through this already in Sederra, he's experience might help. I'll send word when we know whats going to happen about the dragons."

"Aye. Send him over." CRASH...a huge thud occurs directly behind Griff that causes a tremour in the ground they stand on as a boulder slams into the outside of the west wall.

Daniella leaves Griff as he orders the archers back onto the section of wall the mages had put out the fires on and makes her way through the rubble strew fort surrounded by a dozen guards to the North wall. All morning the Cult forces had been assaulting the wall bringing up grappling rope ladders, makeshift ladders and even a seige tower trying to gain a grip on the top of the wall. As she got closer the sounds of the raging battle were like a thunderous din of steel on steel and the voices of thousands in the mix. Turning a corner of a buiding near the western edge of the north wall she look up to the battlements. A group of Myrdrachs landed on top of the wall and started tearing into the archers and crossbowmen gathered there. As arranged a heavy pikemen team race from a nearby protective embrasure in a neat line forming a wall of steel points trying to force the Myrdrachs to retreat. Two launched back into the air and well trained crossbowers using heavy bolts aimed at their wings putting numerous holes in them and forcing them to turn and flee. The other three came on tearing through the defenders. Daniella uttered a short prayer to Toran, drew her glowing blade and raced towards the nearby steps takling them two and three at a time followed closely by her own men and women. Several bodies tumbled from the battlements and past her as she raced higher and higher. Reaching the top she paused a moment to regain her breath and then charged the Myr'drachs. Around her she felt the presence of her Toranite guards as they too followed her faithfully into battle. The Myr'drachs felt their blades in their backs and turned to face them wherupon the well trained pikement staggered to their feet and drove their heavy adamantium steel tips into the creatures from behind. Roaring in anger the Myr'drachs were assaulted every which way they turned. One sought to flee leaping off the battlement but not before Daniella's sword cleaved its wing in two. The creature plummeted to a sickening thud far below crushing some of those assaulting the wall. The other two were cut down but not before another two soldiers lost their lives to the creatures ferocious claws. Order was restored once again for a moment and Daniella had the chance to gaze out over the battlement mindful of enemy archers.

She swallowed hard to see the size of the forces facing the Fort. On every side is was almost the same, thousands and thousands of soldiers, Myr'drachs, mages, clerics of all sorts in vast campsites spread over miles of land around the Fort. Rising from them were tall seige towers almost ready for assaults to come and beyond that heavily fortified positions where theur numerous seige engines and catapults were ceaselessly pummeling the walls of the Fort. She leaned back against the crenallation, closed her eyes for a moment and prayed for Toran to help them in the face of such adversity. Then, determination in her stride she pressed forward encouraging the soldiers she passed, sharing words of wisdom and giving directions. Halfway along the wall she passed through a tower to emerge into...chaos.

Several ladders of the cult were up against the wall and at least twenty Drachs were on the wall fighting hard to make space for the hundreds of others already making their way up the ladders. The allied soldiers were falling on their with a savagery that only war can produce. At the far end of the battle Daniella could see Vrebel engaging two Myr'drachs that had landed on the wall to try and help with the breach. He had already suffered a number of injuries but was holding his own.

Once again Daniella ordered her guards forward and they crashed into the ranks of the Drachs on the walls. Even as they fought more and more poured from the ladders into the breach forcing back the defenders on the top of the wall. The fighting became furious and bloody and raged back and forth, slowly by sheer weight of numbers the Cult began to get a larger space allowing their people free access to reach the top of the wall.

Daniella found herself engaged on several sides and fought furiously at the same time as yelling for the reserves from the tower to engage the soldiers on the wall. They had to drive them back, they could not lose the wall.

After what felt like an eternity dwarven warriors suddenly poured up the steps from the street below and onto the wall. Captain Thrakson and Thane Kobal side by side and leading hundreds of dwarves of the Runic Anvil thundered into the melee. The sheer force of their charge carrying the defenders with them as they pushed the Cult soldiers back, back further and further, axes chopping and cutting. The defenders rallied and within half an hour were using long pikes to push the Cult ladders back over the seething mass of soldiers below.

With the threat averted Vrebel, covered in blood and stonedust presented himself to Daniella with a calm salute and a cheeky grin.

"That was a close one. Those Cultists as tenacious I'll give them that."

Kobal regarded the young bladesmith with a critical eye. "Aye, dat dey are, you just watch yerself laddy and give em what for."

Daniella took in both of them. "How longs this assault been going for Captain?"

"Nearly three hours now, all the way along the wall they are trying to get those bloody ladders and grapple hooks over the edges. We are spread out right along the line. I dont like it, they could gain anywhere along its length. I've had to station troops in each tower as back up. I had the Thane and his dwarves moving up and down the wall from below to watch whats going on and provide support where necessary.

"Good tactics Captain, Howe much longer do you think they can keep it up for?"

Kobal spoke up then, "Given deh numbers out dere Oi figure dey beh testing us pretty good this time, meybe a few hours more yet."

Daniella sighed trying to quickly calculate numbers in her head. "Alright, I'll send up two reserve units from the centre of the fort they can provide support at each end of the north wall in case you need them. As you say we are getting spread pretty thin."

Both men nodded and returned to their duties as the Commander left the wall.

Daniella headed south passing through the main bouvac in the centre of the town. She spoke briefly with Knight Captain Alerancy to arrange the additional soldiers for the northern wall then round a corner of one of the many stone buildings inside the fort to a relatively quieter area to see Gel'larian, Andrew and Arfur entertaining the off duty troops with a makeshift concert. Nearby Andrews shadow, Portlie watched carefully.

Around the area were men and women in various states of armoured dress, dirty, tired lounged around the large area or sat quietly in groups, content to listen to the music and stories of the trio in between their turns on the walls. Many present had lost friends and family in the last few weeks and there seemed no chance of any end to it at this stage.

Arriving soon after at the southern wall it was eerily quiet. Only the sounds of many voices, the occasional thudding of boulders on the wall or over it at times could be heard. Archers lined the walls and men were in huddled camps at its base taking the opportunity presented to rest. Daniella soon found Kromlek on top of the middle section of the wall with several soldiers standing over three Hilm soldiers who were bound and gagged.

"Whats going on here Captain Kromlek? Why are these men tied up?"

Kromlek snapped a salute then proceeded to kick one of the soldiers.

"Stop that Captain, tell me whats happened here?" Daniella's eyes flashed angrily.

"Dese here beh traitors, Oi caught dem meself near deh gates an hour ago messing wit deh mechanisms. Lord Herdferd had an engineer look at deh damage. Dey was trying teh mess wit deh lowering bits of deh gate so it would could be lowered fast an not beh raised. Deh gates can beh fixed but it going teh take a day or so."

"Remove that mans gag." Kromlek leaned forward and roughly ungagged the man who coughed and sputtered and cursed the dwarf, getting a hard cuff on the head for his efforts.

"Enough Captain," snapped Daniella. Her anger rising she leaned forward and cusped the mans chin roughly in her hand. "Is what the Captain said true? Were you trying to disable the gates for the enemy?"

The man hawked and spat at her before replying, "Long live the Cult! Death to all who oppose them."

Daniella's eyes flashed angrily and she stood straight ignoring the mans spittle running down the thigh plate of her armour. In a quiet voice, a voice almost trembling with anger she addressed two of her guards.

"Take these men to the dungeons and secure them there. Notify Captain Daniel to determine their official guilt and then to administer their punishment. I believe the punishment in Hilm for traitors is death by hanging."

The guards salute promptly and grab the bound men leading them away. Daniella turned to Kromlek her face white with anger.

"Report Captain."

Kromlek brushed a hand down his matted beard. "Been fairly quite loike. Oi heard reports from deh odder walls about deh foightin but apart from deh attempted sabotage dere been a few sorties against us but nuthin firm loike. Oi got deh men and women rotating in shifts to rest em up gud in case deh do pull somethin."

"That will be all Captain. Keep up the good work." Daniella turned to leave as Kromlek gave an enthusiastic salute.

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*Griff's dust-circled eyes peer through at Daniella through the visor in his helm* Aye Aye Commander, O'll keep ye posted on how tings goi'n. *Griff then straddles his legs to keep balance as the tremour shakes the ground.* Beh good tah get Daniel n Iellwen over 'ere, gona need em.


*Griff turns suddenly as he watches in terror as the mages cast ice storms to put out the fires* Stop dat roight now ye book-read'n-no-common-sense magicers! Whacha tink'n? *He gathers the mages together to have a talk* Aye ye lot beh needed 'ere fer sure, but ye nay go'n do'n tings unless Oi tell ye see? Put'n ice on a pitch'n hot rock gon'a crack it fer sure; never moind deh ice boulders dat spell drops ain't help'n things. A quick blast a wind beh betta n weh gona need some wata. If'n ye wana cast yer ice storms aim dem at deh blasted enemy out der. *After which the mages use gusts of wind to blow out the flames and cast their icestorms at any drachs within range. Buckets of water are used sometime after the wall's cooled a bit. He instructs the water buckets also be poored over the enemy side of the wall to reduce their ability to flame that side*


*Griff then goes to the trebuchet operators launching chunks of rock over his West wall at the enemy* Aye laddys ye do'n a good job, but weh gota change tings up cuz der onta us. Oi want ye tah start us'n different soize objects tah chuck. We gota keep em guess'n. Oi want ye tah lure em in with deh big ones at first, den once deh tink deh got us ranged, weh gona go wit lil mixed bag of bullets. Aye, get ye some fist-soized metal bullets or mountain stones and fill dat launch-bugger up. They not gona be able tah see all dem lil bullets com'n at once and we take more a dem out wit a bigger spread. After dat, ye can keep em at range wit a mid-soized stone *puts two fists together* about twice dis soize. Dat give us deh farthest launch meh tinks. Dat way it'll take em longa tah get to deh wall when deh try. Soon as deh come in close again...swich back tah deh bundle a bullets, n repeat dis tactic.


*When Daniel and Iellwen arrive he would greet them with kindness and respect, but would get right down to business.* Aye Danny in Ell, glad tah see ye both. *He explains the status of the wall and the attacks upon it* Aye, deh dragons keep swoop'n down n mess'n up meh archers, so Oi can nay keep any steady foire power on de blasted drachs dig'n under meh wall. O've instructed meh men to start dropp'n chuncks ov rock over deh soide tah fill deh holes, but dat jus slow'n dem down. Any oideas? *Griff removes his helm briefly to shove half a pork sandwhich in his mouth and chase it with some warm beer.*


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RofireiniteVoraxian
Joined: Feb 17 2007

// FYI, a ballista is similar to a giant crossbow, and typically shoots (ballista) bolts, though occasionally spherical stone projectiles.


Catapult is a generic term for any projectile thrower, but most people tend to associate it with a "rock lobber"/"stone thrower", such as a mangonel or onager (note that the design of both of these siege engines has changed over time).


The trebuchet is the ultimate medieval stone projecting engine. //


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Steel continues to be conspicuously absent, from both council and the battles in Hilm, after disappearing almost immediately following the battle for Audira.

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DoranditeIlsarianRofireinite
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// The very next day...

Daylight, wan and fragile appears over the walls of the Fort. Already much activity has been going on for most of the night. The unceasing assaults on the walls of the fort have continued from the enemy catapults. At irregular intervals dragons have straffed the walls of drops large rocks onto areas of the city. Some of them so big it takes a dozen dwarves to move them.

Sleep is hard to come by and by now the soldiers go about their tasks with a detached automatic response. The northern wall assault from the day before lasted a lot more than a few hours. Only ending after dark with the Cult forces withdrawing leaving large numbers of dead against the walls. The Cult lost a lot of lives in the asssault but every attack whittles the numbers of defenders as well.

On the West wall by days end one of the eight wall towers collapsed into ruin taking with it an entire unit of archers. For the rest of the night the many of the Cult catapults began targeting the wall around the collapsed tower to try and make the most of the weaker section of wall. Captain Griff having to bring up a dwarven stonemason crew to try and shore up the wall from inside the fort as best they could.

By midmorning the dragon horns sounded again as they were want to do at irregular intervals. On the southern wall. Kromlek stared into the ever lightening sky and chewed on a tough bit of salted beef. Arrayed on the wall for hundreds of metres on either side of him were his crossbowers, archers, mages, clerics and backup groups of pikes and heavy infantry. Almost eight hundred soldiers in all spread across five hundred metres of heavy dwarven stonewall, complete with crenallations, archer holes and eight reinforced towers, two of which were larger ones that joined the corners of the east and west wall.

Kromleks eyes widened slightly then narrowed, his jaw working on the salted beef as he considered his options. There was nothing he could do.

"FALL BACK, GET TO THE GROUND. ABANDON THE WALL!"

Those who had been looking at what he was looking at fled immediately, rushing for the many stone stairways that led up to each part of the long wall. Those who hadn't seen what was coming stayed moments longer before they too turned and fled. Inside the Fort resting units of soldiers wondered if the walls had finally been overrun with hundreds of soldiers from the southern wall appearing to be fleeing their positions and flooding into the fort.

Lady Daniella, Knight Captain Alerancy, Lord Herdferd and Captain Nelson came running from a nearby street where they had been discussind the upcoming use of Captain Argali's famous bolts later that day. Daniella actually cursed thinking the walls had been overrun and started screaming orders at the fleeing soldiers to get back to their posts. Then she saw Kromlek in their midst and realised many were looking fearfully over their shoulders at the southern wall but there were no pursuers. Shouldering her way through the soldiers she reached Kromleks side about to demand answers when a terrible roar thundered around the area and there was a terrific crash and dull rumble. The very ground trembled and many were shaken from their feet.

The thunderous roar and crash were heard all around the fort and the resultant explosion of earth and stone, dust and flame was clearly seen by the defenders on each wall.

"Toran grant us strength, what is it now!" Daniella raised her shield to protect her from falling chunks of rock and dust that once belonged to the central two towers on the south wall, one on each side of the gate. Both had disintegrated in the thunderous explosion and as she watched the terror unfold she saw why.

Massive claws suddenly appeared over the top of the wall and tore a chunk out of the wall as if it was a piece of clay. Then great gushes of elemental fire licked around the small cracks in the huge main gate. Even as they watched in abject horror the gate seemed to glow bright red, the metal bindings in some places melting to liquid steel. the heavy timbers in the gate, soaked in anti flame and heat liquids for regularly for ages seemed to resist but streams of what looked like sweat blistered and peeled off the inside of the gate.

Daniella turned and roared as loud as she could.

"Form up! Get me every available crossbower and archer. NOW! Get that Ballistae turned around! NOW. Soldiers form defensive lines."

Chaos seemed to strike as suddenly soldiers were running everywhere. Kromlek, Daniella and the other leaders present did their best to form lines and prepare hasty defensive positions in the street inside the gate entrance.

Partway through their organisations the gate exploded sending shards of wood into the air and into the fort. Men and women screamed as shards of wood impaled them and they collapsed on the ground while healers and medics who had rushed to the area dragged them back into the nearby streets to tend to them.

Fire engulfed the tunnel into the fort where the gate once stood, bright pools of molten metal covered the ground. Broken rubble that was once the two towers and part of the top of the wall lay in scattered heaps around the ground.

Then rising above the shattered remnants of the wall a monstrous red dragons head appeared as if watching the soldiers gathered and daring them to try and stop it. It used a claw to tear another huge stone block from the wall almost casually and flicked it towards the soldiers. It crashed into their ranks crushing five and injuring more before it came to rest against a nearby building. Up and up the dragon rose until it stood at its full height. Even on the ground outside the fort the dragon still towered over the high walls.

The dragons head extended over the wall and its voice boomed loudly.
"You think to defy my strength and power. See now how the strongest thing you can build is torn apart so casually by my power. You will rue the day you turned against me. Argali the Traitor. This is my vengeance!" He sucked in great volumes of air and Daniella, realising what was coming ordered the soldiers to retreat. Some did, but many didnt hear the order and were standing in awe and horror at the monstrous dragon towering above them that had so casually wrought destruction on the south wall.

Vast sheets of flame poured into the fort engulfing hundreds at once, igniting the buildings nearby and even cracking the stone paving on the street. Those outside the main area of the devastating enferno instinctively began lossing arrows and bolts at the creature. Most bounced off without any effect and the dragons head snaked towards them and its roar bellowed forth sending waves of fear into the men and women. Most fled at that point, those remaining many fell to their knees whimpering and cowed by the terrible sight before them.

In the midst of it all Daniella and Kromlek worked to try and prevent the rout going on, trying desperately to salvage some sort of hope amidst what they were facing. with adventurers spread out all around the keep there was no hope they could assemble and face the dragon in a combined way before it had torn half of the fort to pieces.

Suddenly a terrible thought entered Daniella's head, Did the dragon know about the special ballistae bolts that Argali was even now preparing. IN the chaos she called out to Kromlek.

"Do what ever you can to hold him here, I've got to see to Argali's position."

"Aye lass, yea do dat." Kromlek gazed up at the massive dragon, then the raging fires in the street and on the buildings nearby, the dead and dying and the fleeing soldiers all around him. "Oi'll...do somethin bout dis mess." He slipped his trusty axe of his back and muttered. "Well, guess dis beh as gud a day as any teh die." He strode into the burning street and stood on a patch of ground that wasnt burning yet and used the wings of his axe to flash sunlight into the dragons face to draw its attention.

"Come on den ya big lizard, come and play wit da liddle dwarfie!" Under his breath Kromlek added, "An Oi'll shove me axe roight up yer ..." The last word was cut off as the dragon roared once more and heaved its massive bulk onto the broken wall of the Fort. It flicked its claws and several more stone blocks tumbled to the ground with great thuds. Then it dropped down into the fort itself and stood opposite Kromlek almost regarding him as a predator regards its next meal.

Suddenly five Myr'drachs appeared over the wall and started to descend into the area. The Cult in the chaos created by the dragon had sought to move into the breach the dragon had opened up.

Several expletives emerged from Kromleks mouth as he watched the new adversaries enter the battle. But his mouth dropped open in suprise as the Dragon seemingly annoyed at the intrusion on its attack lashed out with claws and wings smashing the five Myr'drachs into bloodied pulp within moments. Then its long sinuous neck disappeared into the tunnel where the gate once was and it breathed flames out of the tunnel to the area outside the fort where two divisions of Cult Drachs had marched up to the fort. The lead ranks were engulfed in blistering fires instantly and the rest fell back under the intense heat. The burst of dragon flame so hot the tunnel was impenetrable for some time due to the heat of the stone and the flames on the walls outside.

The Cult stopped in their tracks the Dragon turned back to Kromlek just as Vrebel came racing up from the northern wall having sprinted the entire way through the fort, then Griff appeared, Iellwen and others fanning out and taking in the scene of destruction. The Dragon regarded them all then spoke aloud.

"I give you this warning now. If the Cult do not take this fort then in one month I will return and level it to the ground. Such will be my vengeance. And to prove that I will do this I leave you this reminder."

He flapped his massive wings and leapt into the air, from below arrows, bolts and magics flashed up to try and hit the massive dragon but none seemed to have any effect on the monster. Ayes watched in abject fear and frustration as the dragon reached the Forts main tower where the Fort Commander dwelt and where the Castellan now recuperated. All the tactical planning, support staff and administrative staff, the portal to Fort Hilm all resided in that building.

A sick feeling in many peoples stomachs, the Dragon crashed its body into the wall of the building and tore it to shreds with its massive claws, great chunks of rock, people, cupboards everything was torn apart and then it breathed into the interior several times, and when it was done the tower was a blackened ruin of debris. Only then did it roar its defiance and fury to all those present and launched into the air.

"ONE MONTH" was bellowed to all those in the fort.

Outside the Cult hesitated at first then tentatively moved forward to try and exploit the breach in the southern wall.

Kromlek started shouting orders to every available man and women trying to restore some semblance of order. Those who came to his aid joining him preparing for the Cult soldiers massing outside the gates.

The signal of a wall breach echoed across the fort and every single available soldier in the place flooded towards the south wall reaching there just as the Cult Drach elite squads starting pouring into the fort. The battle for the south wall was engaged.

On the western wall, with Griff gone to the southern breach Captain Daniel assumed command. Within moments of the wall breach being signalled the Cult at the west wall signaled their advance and before long Daniel was engaged in ensuring no breach occured on the western wall.

On the Northern wall, with Vrebel at the south wall Thane Kobal assumed command and prepared as the Cult massed troops to begin their charge. Up and down the line Kobals orders flew from mouth to mouth and within minutes the Cult were charging across the land outside the north wall to engage them.

Battle raged all around the Fort, everywall, every soldier committed while inside the Fort the main tower of the Keep was a smoking ruin. The Castellan and numerous others killed, the plans and tactics room gone, the portal and the Lucindites watching it, gone.

Daniella surveyed the scene of carnage even as several soldiers picked through the debris trying to find survivors. Frustration was evident on her face. For a moment she stopped and closed her eyes wishing Toran would tell her what to do to stop all this madness. But, there was no response. She took a deep breath and opened her eyes. Just in time to hear the dragon horns whirring again. She hated those horns and everything they represented. A stern look appeared on her face and she summoned her guards and raced back to the compound where Argali was madly preparing her bolts for the ensuing attack.

She reached the compound. Heavily fortified and covered with campflauged canvas she ran into the bustle of the area to find Argali sitting on the back of one of the ballistae.

"Its time Argali, we need to do this now or we are going to lose the Fort today!"

Argali glanced down at her with grim determination. "We're ready!"

Tense excitement fileld the ballistae crews and Daniella gave the word and messengers raced to around the fort to their designated points.

Moments later one cult dragon straffed the western wall, forcing a temporary retreat and as it reached the southern corner town of the wall and started to lift up Net launcher crews on top of the tower fired their gnomish nets under Andrews supervision.

Four nets opened up, the first one fell shrot and dropped onto the cult soldiers below the wall. The second caught over the dragons claw and draped there with little effect. The third snarred a wing and the fourth went over the creatures head. As the surpised creature struggled the nets tightened it further.

Anger took over and the dragon became oblivious to its surroundings. Its wing partially constricted it crashed into the top of the wall and struggled and fought to free itself from the nets capturing it.

Meanwhile in the centre of the Fort dwarven crews worked the mechanism to hoist three of the ballisteas clear of the buildings around them. This was the dangerous bit, up in the air they were sitting ducks. Spotters shouted commands and Argali worked the mechanism to rotate the ballistae and then set the elevation.

Looking down her sight Argali lined up the dragon thrashing about on the western wall as did the other two crews with her. "FIRE" she shouted and released the lever. There was a thud and a kickback and her bolt arced over the fort towards the Dragon. Two more thuds followed hers and there was a pregnant pause as people held their breaths to watch the glittering bolts fly through the air.

Argali's first bolt flew true and thudded into the creatures back, a second followed and thudded into its read leg and the third into its neck. The dragons screams of fury and pain could be heard across the fort followed by three low detonations. The dragon kicked and struggled feebly for a few moments more than collapsed and slid down the wall into the fort below where the soldiers fell on it with pikes, axes and swords, venting their hatred for the creatures and their incessant attacks on them.

Almost simultaneously on the north wall another dragon straffed the wall facing the same net throwers where Portlie and Arfur stood on top of the tower on the corner of the north and western walls. This time three of the nets scored direct hits tangling the dragon so well it collapsed in a mass of claws, wings and teeth into the soldiers on the wall. Charging along the wall Kobal gathered some of his Runic anvil soldiers that had helped him take down the dragons in Sedderra and en masse they raced to reach the dragon Kobals loud voice booming at soldiers on the wall to get out of his way.

In Argali's compound another three ballistae's had wound up and were setting their sites on the struggling dragon and within minutes of Argali and her crews bolts hitting home the second crew released theirs. The first two bolts thudded into the dragons body while the third missed and hit the wall sending up a shower of sparks and embedding itself up to its neck in the hard stone. Then they detonated, the dragon staggered around, still alive but mortally wounded. The third detonated exploding the stone around it and sending stone shrapnel into the nearby soldiers and causing Kobal and his men to duck for cover from the explosion.

Getting to their feet, several with bloody shrapnel wounds the Runic Anvil Dragon killers as they were fast becoming known, led by Kobal leapt into action and within a short time the dragon breathed its last breath.

The last remaining dragon descended over the north wall seeing the ballistae positions in the centre of the fort and aimed directly for the raised platforms.
Argali could do nothing but watch as the dragon flew towards her position, her own ballistae empty as were the others around her. Even as she watched the remaining three ballistae were being wound up into position but it looked as if they wouldnt make it. Time seemed to go into slow motion. The first ballistea clicked into position and the crew was setting the bolt head. The second one mere seconds later the third a second after that.

Mechanisms whirred and turned, clicks, elevations, settings. The dragon reached the first ballistae and the crew in it dived off for cover as the dragons claws bit into the machine itself.

THUD, the first bolt was away, tearing a great hole in the creatures wing and continuing on into the fort somewhere.

THUD, the second bolt released, teh dragon crushed the ballistae in its claws and roared in fury at the hole in its wing. The Bolt flashed passed its neck cutting a red streak through its scales but finding no purchase. The deflected bolt struck another ballistae mount and detonated destroying it instantly.

THUD, the third bolt penetrated the back leg of the dragon and passed through the other side detonating while hanging out of the creatures leg. Bleeding heavily from its injuries the dragon flapped as hard as it could. nearby two net launchers tried to prevent its escape to no avail and the creature flew away to the north leaving a thick trail of blood.

Cheers reverberated around the centre compound and Argali received many claps on the back for the damage they had wrought on the dragons.

Outside however battles continued to rage on the north and western walls but without the dragons to strafe them the allied archers and crossbowers took a heavy toll on the beseigers.

The southern breach battle lasted all day and well into the night with every available reservist thrown into the conflict and it was only when Daniella ordered the eastern wall stripped of soldiers and the rest sent to reinforce the southern wall were the Fort defenders able to push the last Cultists out of the Fort.

The rest of the night was spent trying to shore up the badly damaged southern wall and by morning the Cult were moving divisions of soldiers and some of their catapults from the northern wall around to bring them against the southern wall.

By midday the Fort looked exactly what it was, a war zone, but at least the dragons did not return. Daniella had ordered one of the remaining Lucindites to teleport back to Fort Hilm and tell them of the events of the day before and of the lost portal.

And as the day progressed more and more Cult soldiers began to gather on the plains south of Fort of last Hope.

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Angels Guild MemberIlsarianToranite
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The net throwers worked better than he'd imagined, although not for the purpose he'd originally intended. One of the soldiers helping him, it turned out, had a gnomish nanny growing up. He thanked Ilsare that there was one person who could read the instructions. Assembly had been interesting, doubly so when they realized there were plans for two - not exactly the same ("we thought you'd like to test the improved model as well as the original model!") and they had to figure out which went with what. Thank the Muse thrice when the contraptions had been mercifully simple to use, if murderously difficult to put together. Arfur and Portlie had been alternately hanging about and he pressed them into service on the ("New! Improved!") model while he and the soldiers commanded the original prototype.

They'd tangled one dragon for Argali's bolts to finish, although he'd sung a song for the Heartsong's loss, and chased off another, badly wounded. They'd also used most of the nets.

He clambered down, singing as he did for those around him, and went to find more net material and metal hooks for the tightening laces.

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GamemasterIlsarianKatianRofireiniteToraniteXeenite
Joined: Mar 20 2008

After the fighting was over and Daniella had seen to the orders of getting the wall repaired and sending back soldiers to the abandoned wall, seeing that the soldiers resumed shifts of rest to keep them as fit as could be in such conditions, Daniella retreated to an interior room of the fort, one of her soldiers following her while the other stood guard outside.

"I just need a few moments to pray, Sgt Davidson. Could you please collect me in twenty minutes? Unless something happens of course."

Sgt Davidson hesitated some. "Commander, may I speak freely?"

"Of course, Sergeant," Daniella replied, her fatigue evident.

Sgt. Davidson looked at her with a respectful, but concerned expression. "You know that I will follow whatever order you give me, Lady Commander. I have no doubt in your ability to lead us here and see to the needs of those here at the Fort so that we can hold as long as possible." He hesitated again. "So if you tell me to collect you in twenty minutes, I will do so. But perhaps you could take a bit longer. If something happens we will let you know, but take advantage of what time you can to pray... and sleep. You see that we all get our shifts to recover, but as the days go on you take less and less hours at a time for yourself. I would simply let you sleep as a kindness, but please do not make me defy your order."

Daniella listened quietly as the concerned soldier spoke, and as he finished, she smiled, a weary smile of one who has been awake for far too long. "Thank you, Sergeant. Sometimes I forget. You humble me by your concern, and I am grateful. Give me five hours. Wake me at once if the alarms sound or if anyone needs me."

Sergeant Davidson let out a breath of relief. "Yes, Commander. I'll see if I can find someone to bring you a bit of water to wash off the blood from the day."

"Thank you Sergeant"

Sergeant Davidson saluted crisply and turned, walking away, his armor clanking with each step.

Daniella closed the door and began to slowly unbuckle her armor of blue dragonscales that almost felt like a second skin in recent days. Before she finished there was a knock on the door as she was brought a small bucket of water and a couple rags. Daniella began the slow process of washing the gore from herself as well as her armor while she spoke softly as if to a trusted friend.

"Toran, I would tell you of what happened today, but I know you saw. One month. The dragon says he will give us one month and if we are not destroyed by one enemy, he will come and destroy us.

"Nothing is ever easy, it seems. I remember a time when another Dragon gave an ultimatum. Is this any less important? I look out on the faces of those men and women, dwarves and elves and human alike, and I pray for each of them, that they'll remain strong and have faith that we can and will win out. But, Toran, I look to the horizon and I see what lies ahead. Each time we lose someone.." She stops and takes a breath. "Toran, how could those men... soldiers of Hilm... people we trusted... how could they betray us like that?" Her tone is tinged with frustration and anger barely contained. "Do they not see that we fight for their freedom as well as ours?"

Daniella pauses a moment, placing both hands on the table, her armor laid out before her. She lets her head drop to her chest, eyes closed as she takes several long and slow breaths. "Please be with those that have given their lives to this war. Please be with those of us that have lost loved ones and still remain here, but now without them. We are giving this fight our all, my Lord. But if something should happen for whatever reason and our all is not enough... Please.. please don't let evil win." The last of her prayer is spoken so softly in just the barest of a hushed whisper.

She takes a few more minutes in silent prayer and meditation and then looks at her reflection in the bucket of water. It was no wonder Davidson was worried. She looked like she'd been dragged through the Pits and back after today's battles. Quietly, she washed herself as best as she could and then fell onto the cot in the corner of the room. She was asleep before her head hit the canvas.

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* After the fighting of the day is over Kobal sends messengers to the captains as well as Daniella to meet with him at the South Wall Gate, if possible. He then immediately goes there to get a view on the damage caused by Ractrafieroz.


Once those that will come have arrived Kobal starts a discussion. *


T'anks all fer comin' so quickly. We donnae got much toime an' come tha' day termorrow we gotta 'ave done some salvagin' at least.


Oi can oversee wha'evar repair we decoide ter carry uht 'ere, bu' firs' we gotta decoide on wha' we do. Oi gots a few oideas... though none of 'em perfect.


One. We coul' collapse tha' arch above tha' gate ter fill tha' breach. We coul' use some well placed earthquakes an' detonations. It woul' damage tha' wall of course an' it woul' remove tha' protection fer our archers 'ere. However, tha' cultists will have ter charge uphill through tha' rubble ter git inter tha' Fort. Tha' will give us tha' hoigh groun' and an advantage.


Two. Iffen ye can bring in some of those goiants Oi been hearin' 'bout ye coul' ask 'em ter poile boulders inter tha' gate openin', effectively closin' it. Depending on tha' toipe of stone available we coul' atempt ter melt it in place, creatin' one block of stone tha' acts as a stopper. Tha' means, however, tha' dah gate be closed ferevar.


Three. We coul' troi ter build a gate wit' wha'evar materials we got 'ere. We only gots a couple of hours, so it wont be good. An' it wont hold tha' day, bu' give us some pertection at least.


Any odder oideas?


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Druid
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*As he makes his way to whats left of the South wall all the way stepping over rubble and dodging falling hot timbers, Vrebel gives a quick "well done" to Captain Argali as he passes and a thumbs up to Andrew, Portlie and Arfur if their looking.


Once he gets to the wall he stops and listens to Thane Kobal speak as he stares in awe at the damage done.*


I like yer idea of gettin the giants involved. We got lots of heavy liftin ta do and in a short span a time. I'd say rebuild the wall with the giants haulin those huge boulders dropped by the dragons. One on top of the other they'll stack em. Once its high enough maybe we got get some masons ta smooth out the top with morter or what not to make it easier ta shoot and walk on. All done under dwarven supervision ofcourse *his eyes light up a bit with a tired grin*


As far as the gate I dont see a need fer one. The least amount a ways they can get in here the better.


If there a way ta solidify the boulders through heat or some other means then I'd say do it.


We best make sure whoever is workin is well covered from attacks, you can be sure the Cult is preparin as we speak ta make a push for this breach.


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*Once the horns stopped blowing and the dust began to settle, Griff returned briefly to the West wall to quickly access the status and check with Daniel.


Aye keep a good watch on 'er Danny, she's all yours, gonna go meet wit Kobal n deh others.


*Griff then heeds the Thane's call and meets with the others. He nods and smiles in respect with he sees Kobal and the others gathered.*


Aye Kobal, hell ov a hole dat dragon dun put n our Fort wall der.


*Griff nods and listens to Kobal, Vrebel and the others as they discuss their options*


Aye, Oi loike deh oidea 'bout get'n deh goints in 'ere too. Weh got plenty ov large sections ov wall broken off everywhere. Lets clean deh foundation loike n get it as smooth as weh can. Den weh start wit deh most square pieces weh can foind n have deh goints lay dem suckers down firs'. Weh can get some ov dem goints tah start work'n up a big batch a mortar. Dis ain't gon'a beh perty but it should beh strong. Weh mortar as weh go, lay'n deh noicest, squarest chunks firs, and build up loike n den use deh more damaged pieces on top. Weh can smooth out deh top wit mortar *nods to Vrebel*


Weh gona nay have a gate nay more, but weh can get out thru deh east still. Problem is weh n a bit ov a stale mate. In a month dat dragon com'n n we'll still be 'ere trad'n blows wit deh Drachs. Somtin' gota change or weh gona have tah deal wid dat big Red again.


*Griff then helps supervise a bit identifying the better section of the wall rubble and helping in the mortar mixture. After which he returns to the West wall.*


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Argali sees to the injuries of the ballistae crew as best she can, mostly by pouring small green potions down their throats. The able bodied crew then set to tending their machines, making repairs as required, and salvaging any intact components from the wrecked ballistae. Finally, the hoists are checked over and kept operational.


***


Argali attends the meeting at the ruins of the south wall gate. At the remarks regarding giant lifting, she makes a mental note to get the surviving giants to begin shifting the stone blocks.


She expresses that she is in favor of blocking up the south gate.


"Argali iz zuspecting that we will not see any attacks by the drragons for the while. In zis regarrd, the tables have in fact turrned in ourr favorr.


"She iz alzo finding it interesting that the Ractraferioz iz giving us the month to be holding out against the Cult beforre returrning to be destrroying the forrt, when he could have done it then and therre."


She purses her lips heavily and thoughtfully.


"Did not the dispatches from Blackforrd Castle mention that, on the day that the Molvaren iz [POST=1718030]crushing[/POST] the outerr lines of the Hilm defence, they arre [THREAD=283165]receiving[/THREAD] the letterr from the Lorrd of Ash forr the talkings?"


She purses her lips again. "Therre iz the game being played, and we arre needing to be finding out what."


***


As and when the meeting concludes, as well as speaking to the giants about the fort, Argali gathers a dwarven(1) scouting party and heads out into the night for the mountainside to see if any more giants have made their way to the Fort.


(1) dwarves can see in the dark


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*Griff makes his way to the West wall as he walks through the debris and smoking stones. He seems troubled by something. He makes it up the stairs of the West wall as he looks at his troops covered in ash. The achers now on the top of the wall doing their job of launching arrows at the attackers below. He gets to the top of the wall and looks up into a sky that is blue except for the smoke plumb rising from the Fort. The sky is clear; no dragons. He quietly turns to survey the view from above. He watches as solidiers clean the mess around the Southern wall breach and then he focuses on the destroyed main tower; the Red dragon had so easily make quick work of both . He turns his head slightly and then looks out at the enemy. Their camps are relaxed, the drachs eating and drinking in comfort, they roar in alomost a playful and mocking manner as they spar and banter. Griff looks down at his axe and holds it in both hands and then kneels to pray. It is a quiet prayer and after he is done he stands, now with look of determination on his face*

Vorax grant me strenth n wisdom in wah Oi must do.

*Griff calls a Meeting of the Captains. After the Captains, Daniella and other Fort leaders are assembled he would speak.*

Tank ye fer com'n n short notice, but Oi been tink'n. Oi changed meh moind about deh South Wall breach. Meh now tink deh breach in deh Southwall beh a bless'n from Vorax. Deh enemy is soft as they sit in dere camps; Oi have seen dis. Two ov deh dragons have been slain n one is mortally wounded. Deh wounded dragon may heal itself n deh drachs prolly gona bring more dragons tah replace deh fall'n ones. The sky's now is clear. The Red Dragon dat crashed our South wall n wrecked our Command tower give us one month. Deh toime is now to stroike out at our enemy! Weh have deh element ov surproise fer us. Oi'm toired ov fight'n on der terms, its toime weh foigh on ours.

Weh launch a main offensive through the breach in deh south wall, n follow with a second offensive wit some of our soldiers from deh mountains n squeeze em. They will not expect dis. Maybe send out an elite force tah try n take out der Lead'a n his command. Weh keep some in reserve 'ere at deh Fort, n weh can fall back if need beh to deh fort if'n weh get over run. Maybe weh can foind a way tah rebuild deh gate on deh South Wall to close on our return.

If'n weh wait, den deh win. Deh will pick at us and pick at us n toime will pass. Den the big Red dragon will return n weh see what he can do. Weh gota whole lota bloody good dwarves n soldiers n 'ere dat are ready to foight n deh sit do'n nut'n. Whoile weh hold up 'ere in Hope, the drachs move around us n head tah Hilm, happy tah keep us bayed up n dis Fort. To win dis war weh gona need tah face deh enemy on the battle field. If weh sit, Deh will send a strong'a force tah Hilm whoile weh held out 'ere den deh come back for us lata. Deh toime for Hope is now, not to defend but to attack!

*Griff raises his axe in the air as he grabs it by the middle of the handle. He waits for their responses.*

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Daniel leaves trusty Mulevy to watch the west wall and joins the other captains. Listening to Griff's speech, he nods slightly throughout then steps forward, "Vorax would counsel such a bold move and I believe it to be an appropriate one with a wall smashed and such a doom pressed upon us by the foul red, but I would caution this company not to throw all into one assault." Daniel turns to Daniella if she is present. "M'lady Daniella, Champion, ever have I watched your courage and wisdom and marvelled at Toran's choice, yet hear my entreaty. If you agree to this charge, allow me to hold the fort in your name and offer what succor I am able to those that must be pulled back from the fighting. While the hand that holds the blade must be extended to gain the victory, ever the shield protects the heart." Daniel steps back and waits for his orders.

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Daniella listens to Griff, and then Daniel.

"I'm going to consider this, but I am not giving my authorization to it yet. Things are developing in the War Council from what I've heard, and I will wait to see what unfolds there. Apparently the Lord of Ash has requested to cease hostilities so that there can be diplomatic talks.

"As for holding the fort or running out there and going full force against them, I'm not sure you quite understand what we are doing here. This is not the only force that Kuhl has sent against us. Our job here is not whether we hold them out or defeat them here, but rather that we hold out in this fort and keep them here fighting us instead of joining the force that is marching towards Hilm Castle.

"As grim as it may sound, we are here to buy others time. It isn't a glorious job. It's deadly, and terrible, and *curses* I wish that I could simply agree to this, but not before I have all the information. If we empty this fort and we charge against them, if we lose, we lose. There are no second chances. I'm not sure that they don't expect it, to be honest. They want us out of this fort. They can't destroy us here yet, so if we bring the battle to them they have us where they want us.

"For now, send out small strikes. Start hit and run tactics along their weak areas. Use those soldiers that are trained in stealth tactics and quick movement. The goal is not to try to go in and take them all out with these smaller offensives, but to keep them on their toes- and keep them awake. Don't let them rest. Wear them out. Take out one or two of the enemy, then retreat and regroup. Use archers where you can. Make them fear us. Make them make a mistake.

"And in the meantime, I want the south wall fortified, so that when they come back after us we'll be ready here.

"I'll consider the other option and I will let you know. In the meantime, you have your orders."

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Arfur stands resolute looking over a fire near to where Andrew stands and not so very far from Daniella as she issues orders.


He raises his head slowly flicking around the camp fire from left to right. He takes a breath and looks to the Fort Wall using his freshly polished Halberd as a prop to lean on both physically and mentally as he pleads.


"Warriors of the Last Hope, I am Arfur Dumas, who stands in the shadow of Andrew the Bard.


Andrew who kills Darch by the hundreds, and if he were here he'd consume the Cult with fireballs and bolts of lightning with but a few well chosen words.


I am of this Free Company and I see a whole army of stonebound here in defiance of tyranny. You have come to fight as free souls, and free souls you are. What would you do with the Free Company ?


Will you take the fight to their General ? Kill him and we buy others time. Valuable time.


He pauses puffing out his chest and easing himself onto tiptoes and stares manfully towards a smoking tower in the fort.


"Aye, fight and you may die. Run and you'll live -- at least a while. And dying in your beds many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take our cause."


He casts his head to the ground and holds it there before looking up sharply at Portlie. He has no other audience.


"What do you think? Was the left side of my face best - would it be better if I faced the other way.."


Further afield other voices debate in ernest that which this eternal romantic practices towards.


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Argali looks between Daniella and Griff(1).

"With the drragons gone, at least forr the moment, therre iz indeed an initiative to be seized, an advantage to be taken. However, even zo, werre we to fight them on the plains, it would be a last ztand. And then, when we have fallen, they arre heading forr the Hilm Castle.

"As the Lady Commanderr iz zaying, we have to give them the reazon to be ztaying herre. We have to harry them, make the hit-and-run. Wherre arre the azsassins and the shadow walkerrs when you arre needing them, no?"

She makes a small ironic smile to herself.

"If you arre wanting to get really crrazy, we find wherre the enemy generral iz camped, we fling ourzelves using the trebuchet into the air, then use the Cloak of the Watcherrs to be making the soft landing," her tone suggests she is not entirely confident the cloaks would work that way, "beforre killing their generral. That would be upzetting theirr plans zomewhat, no?

"Eagles. Do we have any giant eagles to be flying us in?"

(1) likely before she [POST=1718169]went[/POST] out into the night

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* Kobal arrives with Argali and nods at her words. *


Even sending out a small force will weaken the Fort - perhaps sufficiently that the walls will no longer hold back their forces trying to scale them on ladders.


I would agree that the General as a traget would be worth taking a risk. If we might learn the location of his command tent we could consider what options we have.


In order to get at him we could attack in one or two places to create a diversion. But how to get close enough to him... even then?


// Kobal speaks in dwarven.


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"You're not in my shadow, you're blocking my light. And hundreds is a tear much. Maybe one with a lucky shot after Stormhaven or Argali softened it up a while." Dealing with the aggravating foreignness of gnomish technology was bringing out his snappish side and he hummed, listening to himself, before speaking again. "Not that I want you to tell them that...carry on." A glance over at Arfur. "Left side. More symmetrical."

He crouched by the fire, using it and the burning parts of the fort to light the nets strewn across dirt and rubble. They didn't have enough metal hooks for all of them and the fort smiths were full-on repairing weapons and could not be bothered. He rested one arm on a bent knee, looking across to his fast-becoming-indispensable infantry friend. "What do you think; rocks? I'd like to see if we can use this to tangle myrdrachs as well - knock them out of the skies."

"Not sure..." The soldier ruffled the instructions and checked the edges of the net closest. "We got no hooks but rocks won't work on a dragon, should it return, so we save these nets for that, but means reloadin'."

"Not in combat. Should we dedicate one for dragons and try one for drachs?"

"Might work. Cat's outta the bag now, they're gonna target this an' Cap'n Argali's cannons right off, though."

"Mmm."

The soldier hestitated a moment, plucking at his thick mustache. "Got an idea, Andy. But I'm just a grunt, maybe you can toss it to the Commanders." Andrew's eyes shifted up from the nets and he nodded for the man to go on.

"Got a ton of timber lying around, let's build some decoys. Can be right quick, maybe then we'll get a few shots off before they pick off the real one." The soldier's voice was quiet - the quiet of fearful resolve. The bard studied him a moment.

"Are you stonebound, Mister Tiller?"

"Nosir."

A long pause. Andrew examined his hands before looking up. "I will do my damndest to keep you alive. If I can't, it's small comfort, but I will sing of you. Is there anyone who needs to know if you die?" No more nice words for it, no hesitation. They'd all seen too much.

"My mum and dad and sisters, yeah. They're in Erilyn."

"Give me an address. And a letter, if you can. If the worst happens I'll see to it. And I'll pray you can deliver it yourself, on two feet. Start building the decoys, don't wait for approval." The soldier nodded and Andrew went to speak to Daniella.

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Daniella looks at Argali for the dwarven language translations, musing softly, "Where is Chaynce when I need him?"


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