As dusk fell, Melara’s dragonling fluttered over to Fiddles and Crash, explaining in its native tongue that Rai, Alexander and Melara were invited to stay in the bastion to see for themselves the ritual Treona said would destroy the rock.
As Crash Translated to Yump, he clutched the stone ever tighter in his hands.
“I still don’ trust ‘err. Tha could be a ruse, and she’ll witch out ‘nother copy o the stone an’ make enough new stones to wipe out Alex, Mel, an’ tha’ infuriating Dragonborn” – weezed out Yump.
“I have the same feeling” growled Fiddles through gritted teeth, wanting to be in the tower so he could slide his dagger into the witches throat in case she tried anything funny.
“Right now, all we can do is keep watch over the tower and make sure to be ready in case something happens” replied Crash, crouched at the tree line petting his panther’s head.
Traxex paced, awkward, something obvious and uncomfortable on her mind.
Then, out of the blue, they heard thunder and saw flashes of lightning come out of the bastions open roof, a storm brewing overhead.
As another flash bolted over the clear sky, and an arrow whizzed past fiddle’s head, and orks leaped onto them, brandishing rusty iron swords with sharp edges that cut the air in front of them, seeking their flesh.
Back at the top of the tower, the angry elementals whooshed around, sharp cold air biting into cheeks and shredding clothes.
At almost the same time, Treona and Alexander were picked up by whirling invisible wind, trying to steal away at Alexander’s breath from his very lungs.
Being one with the element that tried to pluck him up and choke him, Rai flipped onto his feet and growled at the surroundings, noticing how strongly the bastion was built. Melara rolled closer to him trying to avoid the wind that ripped at her clothes.
Alexander choked out a few words in Primordial, the language of the elementals.
Upon hearing this, another elemental, slightly larger than the others, arose from the centre of the ritual ring and boomed out, his voice reverberating like thunder.
“WHERE IS THE STONE?”
Dropped from the grasp of air, Alexander gasped for sweet if bitter-cold air.
“Stone? What stone? We don’t have the stone.” he said, as he heard the clash of steel shatter through the air below, and with a quick glance down, quickly continued; “The Orks down there? They have it.”
As they heard the winds whistle around them, a flash and a clap of thunder came from below.
Hit by lightning, Fiddles stumbled backwards into the tree, Yump leaping into his place and charging towards the orc shaman, Crash’s arrows whizzing in front of Yump’s face as they found their target in the orc Yump hadn’t noticed behind the tree.
Traxex loosed arrow after arrow, which found their marks quickly, but she didn’t notice the orc come up from the side. Knocking another arrow, she turned to face the hammerhead that threw her to the ground, staggering her.
Fiddles aimed his crossbow straight at that foe’s head, who was too engaged in the battle to notice the bolt aimed at him. He turned to face Fiddles, and the bolt landed between his eyes.
Turning and loading his crossbow smoothly, he saw Traxex roll into the river.
The leader, obvious from his naturally imposing stance and eye patch over his right eye, stepped out in-between Yump and the shaman, his sword swinging through the air with momentum.
Blocking with his axe head, Yump brought his hilt up and bashed it right into his knee.
Two arrows and a bolt flew by, one arrow missing while the other consumed the leader’s last eye, the bolt embedding into his thigh, straight through the kinks in the armour.
Feeling a gust of wind rushing through, the dwarf knew he had to get rid of the stone.
Grabbing the arrow’s shaft, he pulled it out, the eye’s tail still writhing in pain, and with his other hand shoved the rock into its place.
Screaming inhuman cries, the orc backed off, blinded and, unknown to him, hunted by the elementals that surrounded him.
Still surrounded by other orcs, their bloodlust unsated, the party drew in their next gasp, the cold air filled with the buzz of the storm and adrenaline rushing through their veins.
The elementals threw Treona off the edge of the parapet, the sound of a crushing crunch clear through the wailing storm. Finished with her, the elementals flew down, and Alexander ran straight for the stairs.
Rai, feeling the urgency, ran to the parapet and lassoed his rope to it, throwing himself off in a fluid motion and running down the side of the tower.
Then, his feet didn’t meet rock, but glass.
Crashing through the window and hearing Alkirk wake with a nightmarish scream, he swung out and caught his feet on the rock below the window.
Scraped and bleeding from shallow cuts, Rai ran down the rest of the way, his feet hitting the ground just as Melara approached the parapet and rained down fire, lightning bursting in the background and rain starting to pour as the sky cried more flames and her dragonling fluttering in what seemed like a dance of insane glee around her.
A giant sphere of fire came down behind the orcs below, cutting off their escape and setting them ablaze.
Rai charged forward as Alexander burst through the doors, his look of confusion replaced with righteous anger.
Stepping out of the woods, Akasha confronted two orcs. They had no chance. The shadow of a large panther rose out of the ground and engulfed them.
Keeping his head down and walking calmly, cries of the dying emanating as the shadows slashed through the orcs trying to stay hidden.
Nodding slightly to Alexander, he continued his light pace onwards and faded into the treeline.
Fiddles sneaked away towards the site of the fall, finding Treona lying in a heap, breathing sharp painful gasps of air, choking on blood and rain.
Quickly tapping her for loot, he found nothing but a small pouch with a measly three gold pieces.
He never once tried healing a person, and didn’t have a clue to what to do. He turned her head to the side to clear her airway, bloody rain pouring out of her mouth; she choked in another gasp of air.
He glanced at her legs, and knew she would never walk again, the bones and sinew bared raw against the elements as the blood squirted weakly into the soil.
He ripped part of Treona’s robe, and used it as a makeshift bandage, at least until Alexander came.
Rai roared at the blazing orcs running towards him, the lightning that arced doing little to singe the already blackened skin that no doubt stung unimaginably.
Yump leaped up from behind and in one fell swoop cleaved his axe through the torso, slicing right through and embedding it in the ground below.
With a smile, Rai joined the fray as Yump swung his axe in the next direction, oddly finding its mark in the dark and storm.
Like the storm that brought them together, this was the storm they fought together in, covering each other’s backs.
Alexander embedded his blade through the gut of yet another one, whispering a prayer to the heretic as he slid off and fell. Glancing at another that managed to somehow slide unnoticed into the middle of their party, he muttered another prayer.
The orc, blinded by a burst of light, yelled in pain.
Rai, hearing the roar of more bloodied calling, rammed his blade into the shoulder and spun the green-skin around, sliding out his blade with a vicious twist as he twirled toward the blinded orc, eagerly sliding his long sword from the abdomen up into the heart, he brought his short sword around and lopped off the head. Blood squirted out and mixed with the rain.
Looking around the hazed battle field, everyone with grim smiles on their bloodied faces, looking back at the tower, he saw Melara pose majestically as she breathed fire from her hands.
Traxex tried desperately to keep her head above the water, her cuts stung afresh in the river.
Frantically trying to grab onto one of the stones of the bridge, her bloody wet hands couldn’t grasp anything, the river rising with rainwater pushing her head below the surface.
She felt her hands wrap around a root near the riverbed, only for the sting of a fresh cut to shock her. Letting go, she drifted down further along the current.
An elemental appeared to Alexander.
“The stone was ours, it empowers us. You had no right to treachery. We will now take what belongs to us, and do not dare follow us mortal.” That said, it vanished, a gust of wind sifting the dust and leaves to cover the tracks.
And with that, a dreadful cry rang through the forest. The elementals had found the blind orc.
Hearing Fiddles cry out for help, they rushed that way. Alexander, brooding in the place he stood, was the last to follow and join his party. As he walked, he noticed the spiral symbol on every orc’s armour, the symbol of mercenaries. He noted it and reminded to mention it to the others later.
Alexander softly brought the pleading Treona into the tower, the frightfully awakened Alkirk pacing beside him.
Pulling him back, Crash and Akasha talked calmly to him, distracting him as the rest went up to the second level with Treona.
Alexander had healed her enough to make her conscious outside, but didn’t heal her completely.
Laying her down on a soft piece of floor, he questioned her.
“Was that your plan after all this time? Consorting with elementals to destroy the stone? Feeding them more power? Do you know what they are! Akin to Demons and the unholy! Had I known from the start I would never have joined…” he raged.
“But it was for the greater good! To destroy the stone!”
“Feeding” interrupted Alexander “the primordials more power is the opposite of greater good”.
Standing up, Alexander put his hands together.
“Do you repent helping the elementals?” he asked.
“Of course! I just wanted that stone rid from this world” cried Treona with a shaky voice.
“May your gods give you rest as they will forgive me” he prayed, and before anyone else had time to react, the smashed her face with his fist, crushing her head under a shield till there was nothing recognisable left.
Shaken, Rai approached him.
“You shouldn’t force your faith on others…I’m shocked you did that!” stuttered Rai.
“I didn’t force my faith on her, simply stated she was helping the elementals, and then gave her the chance to redeem herself for when she met her maker.” grimly stated Alexander.
Silent, they all went about their tasks, Melara burnt the body to ashes, and Akasha swept the ashes away, Rai went down and prepared a stew with what he could find, Fiddles and Alexander approached Alkirk and informed him of his rat like cousin.
Crash and Yump went out into the rain to look for Traxex in case she got beached…
Everything had a surreal feel to it.
As Crash and Yump came back, their efforts in vain, they were welcomed with a warm bowl of thick delicious stew. Sitting at the table quietly, only Alkirk chatting away to Alexander, interrogating him to the details of their amazing story.
Melara and Rai went to the fireplace and tried to light a fire, lightning arching towards the kindle as Melara set the logs a smoulder. They sat there and talked about magic late into the night, Rai writing more notes into his mysterious book.
Yump went into the basement and lay his bedroll there, then searching amongst the barrels for more ale or alcoholic beverage, found a small casket of cider. Drinking his fill, he fell asleep soundly. The rest had gone to bed.
Morning came, and the sun shone brightly. The grass had never looked greener, the sky was a clear brilliant blue, they stood at the doorway, the stairs dry and rough under their feet, and looking at each other, growling a joke in draconic, Melara, Crash and Fiddles laughed.
They didn’t want to go their separate ways.
“You know, after all we’ve been through… we could use people like you to find the people who hired the orc mercenaries.” said Alexander, not looking at anyone in particular.
“I’ve nothing more important to do.” said Rai, solitude taking its toll.
“As long as there’ll be more magical artefacts” smiled Melara.
“I’m always by your side” huffed the dwarf.
“Robbing millionaires or the dead? If you promise excitement I guess” said fiddles with a crooked smile.
“This group is insane…I like it” smiled Crash.
They all looked at Akasha.
“Sure, why not. Someone needs to heal your sorry faces.” He joked.
“So, which way?” asked Melara.
“I suggest Winterhaven. Word in the wind is that there’s something a stirring there.” Said Rai.
“Then lead the way. Were one goes, we follow”
The sun shone brightly through the dew on the grass. The surreal feel of last night faded. They had an entire day ahead of them, and who knew what was in store before the next dusk fell.