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  1. A Balian artist's depiction of the Island Guardian _________________________________________________________ It did not take the titanic palm long to garner both adoration and disdain from the realm; she was a shining beacon of hope to some, or foolish defiance incarnate to her enemies. Her name was Koko Mama, Guardian of the Barrier Islands, She Who Dances With Hurricanes. This is the story of her last waltz. A date with death itself, surrounded by the soldiers and druids that rallied around her. Bolts of fire hailed down from the mesa like crimson hail, spearing shield and entling armor as the surprised druids scrambled to defend the tropical titan. In the brief pause of shock at the surprise attack, the infiltrators prepared for another devastating and distracting volley. Far below, echoing laughter of a troll breaking their allies taunts them. The plan to paralyze Koko Mama was clever and effective, but as the battle prepared to rage on the guardian palm began her dance as she often did, with a creaking lean in the eerie stillness of wind... Then, as if a windstorm had suddenly crashed over the mountain, Koko Mama swept over the mesa with a swiftness to rival even the sieging dragon itself. Her fronds swept the crossbowmen like dustbunnies across a tile floor, bodies careening down the hillside. To the minds of the attuned, her voice was delighted and proud upon the storm she made, her supple wood spinning the elder palm in the air like the skilled twirling of a lasso. Down she came, slumping low to wallop the ground in a thunderous display of nature's fury upon the unlucky few to tumble towards her. Then, she stood tall once more, the light of sunset painting dazzling lines past her feathery fronds in the sky. It was time for her grand finale, and the druids prepared to support Koko Mama in her final act. The palm leaned back, her bark glimmering bright in her dancing dress of many shades; a kaleidoscope of colors from the four maestros of her music. Dazzling displays of druidic energies in purple, gold, red and blue painted a picturesque beacon of renewed hope for the warriors tangled with the troll far below the valley. A single coconut grew within her boughs, a massive fruit with a thick hide of green exocarp. It grew until it bent the delicate fronds, pausing for a moment whilst the team coordinated and aimed. Streaking across the sky like a comet, the valley thundered with the tremendous toss of Koko Mama's single fruit. Nearly cosmic in impact, the coconut hammers atop the stubborn troll and embeds his fat body deep into the earth. A wild cacophony of cheers erupted from the waterfalls then, the sunset and coming night seeming less hopeless. The palm twirled and twirled in the air, waltzing along the gusts of wind from her toss. And then, the sky above shattered with lightning, commanding the attention of all and silencing the brief moment of victory. The Dragon itself, veering violently towards the guardian with maw wide and screaming in horrible, apocalyptic agony trailed a wake of smoldering smoke. In the heat of battle, the artillery sent Cloudbreaker rocketing towards the palm. The tree snapped, echoing a crack so loud the heavens shook. It paled in comparison to the crack felt in the hearts that looked on in horror as the tropical titan was decapitated before their eyes. A blink later, and Koko Mama was gone from the realm. Her stump smoked in the twilight, warning of more atrocities to come... It is rumored that on the dawn of the pyrrhic victory, a golden coconut was gifted to the royals of Balian; a memorial to the palm tree that stopped the canyon troll.
  2. “With the Eagles foresight, we reign victorious.” With great sadness, the Vuiller household announces the passing of their Patriarch, Count Drako Rickard Darkwood alongside the passing of their heir, Lord Godric Ivan Vuiller in the battle against Undead Cloudbreaker this last Saint’s Day. A time of mourning is called, as is for most of the Kingdom at the many lost in the battle for our nation and home. It is with this announcement, that another comes which would often bring great joy to the Household, though we find it only bittersweet in this time of mourning. Upon the same day as the fight for our beloved nation, Lord Godric Vuillers wife and now widow, Lady Liliyana Vuiller has given birth to a set of twins, healthy with a set of lungs that could blast out one's eardrums and a head full of hair upon downy heads. For what was once meant to be the grand-heir is now the heir, we announce the birth of; Lord Edvard Baenyx Vuiller, heir to the County of Aquilae And Lady Eirene Linh Vuiller The Household asks that prayers and well-wishes are given for the newly gained children of House Vuiller. “Finally, Horen and his tribe built homes of wood and cloth in the plains, and they built temples of stone, and had many children.” Line 13, the Scroll of Gospel. With this announcement, should any family or friends wish to pay their respects to the deceased, they may make their way to the chapel within Renduzzo and join those within. Letters are sent out to the family branches outside of Balian, ensuring all are fully informed. May GOD bless us. May Saint Harald Vuiller look upon his descendants with pride and tender care. And may Count Drako Darkwood and Lord Godric Vuiller find peace within the Seven Skies. Signed, The Right Honourable, the Countess of Aquilae, Johanne Alstromeria Vuiller, Countess-Dowager of Renduzzo, Lady Procurator of Balian. Her Ladyship, Liliyana Sonia Vuiller
  3. An AI's portrayal of Cloudbreaker. (Yes I am part of the problem, but I'm also broke and bad at art) It was the day of the battle, and like any true warrior ready to face their death in the coming hours, Malii'evarir was asleep. Snoring as she was, she was awoken by the shouting of her brothers and sisters preparing for battle, readying themselves for the huge amount of druidic energy that was to be consumed and sharpening their swords and spears. Mal let out a slew of curses, pausing for a moment to check her armour and sword were where she left them, and rushed to get herself ready for battle. Donning her red scaled armour and strapping her greatsword to her hip, the elfess grabbed her staff and went out to the gates of the Underlight Grotto to meet her kin. Meeting with Redtail, Timberwolf, Corvid, and Theo, the motley crew of druids ventured off to Balian to take their positions on the form of Koko Mama. Taking the name Igne as she did for all battles in the name of the Aspects, the elfess connected herself truly to nature in readyiness to offer her strength to the druii taking on the brunt of the work in growing ammunition and launching it through the great feat of druidism that Koko Mama represented. As the druii sit tense, waiting for battle, the words "'Ow are we feelin'" came from behind her only to be met with a chorus of "Excited" and "Ready to kill a dragon." "Yer all nuts" responded the same voice, before it launched into a prayer. "Morea, Ellaurir’Chirran heya iheihuii... blah blah blah" Or at least that's what Igne heard of it. She'd once also been the type to say a prayer before battle but, with as many as she'd seen, she had found herself comming to the conclusion that the Aspects and the Mani didn't care much for the prayers of descendants whether they were druid or not. Instead, she offered a silent rite to Morea, pulling a vile of boar's blood from a pocket and drinking it down. Less for the mani and more for tradition, she reasoned with herself each time she followed this rite. And with what came next, it's not a tradition she's soon to stop as the silence soon broke. While the druii were too busy looking up for a dragon, a troop of undead had snuck onto the ridge near them and were openning fire. Igne barely had time to hear the cries for the druii to duck before a bolt from a crossbow hit her shoulder plate, knocking her back. The second was taken by an Entling that she was too busy screaming to identify. Slowly advancing behind the Entling and next to Redtail, Igne was struck with a burning rage. How dare the undead be the first to injur her? If she was going to die this day, it would be to a dragon, not to some tavern-keeper's grandfather that couldn't sit still in its grave. As Igne and Redtail advance behind the eternally slow Entling, Timberwolf and Corvid had been working on their own solution to the audacity of the attack. As the pair behind the Entling were approaching the half-way mark, Koko Mama began to creak and grown before one of her giant limbs reared back and sweeped the cliff, swatting the undead from the ridge as though they were but dust on her great shoulder. The druii cheered as the undead were knocked away. Allowing the pair influincing Koko Mama to dispatch of the last undead clinging on, Igne and Redtail returned to their job of creating ammunition not a moment too soon. As the first of the great coconuts was growing, a troll was spotted in the distance. Emboldened as a pair of non-drui had showed up, and eager to show off, the druii prepared Koko Mama to fire a test shot at the troll. Whether through their own skill, or through the Aspects themselves wanting to show off the might of the druii, the coconut flew through the air and hit it's mark dead on, flattening the troll under it's might. With a celebratory cheer and a new found confidence, the druii worked to reset, another coconut growing. With the thrill of a kill underneath them, the group were chatting away as they worked. That was until the great dragon showed up. As the sky above them seemed to darken under the sheer size of the dragon Cloudbreaker, the group barely had a moment to take in the sight before the beast, injured by the cannon and ballista fire from the city, came crashing through Koko Mama, only to regain it's flight and carry the mighty tree with it. Or, at least the half that it had broken off. "YOU BASTARD! I'LL KILL YOU AND MAKE OMELETTES FROM YOUR CHILDREN" Igne roared as the dragon took the tree with it, shaking it off before it turned back to the city. Blasted with a cry from nature, the druii were unable to move for what felt like minutes. Theo brought them all to their sense, possibly saving their lives in the action, and began to lead them into the city. Still numb, Igne only recalls flashes of memory. The druii entered the gates. They were on the walls. They were then back on the ground, using the cities trees to fire more artillery at the beast that had desecrated Koko Mama. Fueled by rage, the druii attacked until the beast began to breath its infernal fire over the walls. With a mix of admiration for the pure heat of the fire melting stone, fear for the lives of her and her kin, and hatred for the beast, the group retreated. Converging past the rear guard, the group determined their next course of action. Of the group that had assembled, all but Igne and Corvid seemed ready to leave. As the only two not related by blood, it seemed that the lack of family ties had left them both less to lose. “We cannae jus’ abandon them all, can we?” Corvid voiced. Igne remembers almost laughing at the man's eternal desire to always do the noble thing, helping others and righting wrongs. “I’m just here for the dragon, who cares if some descendants die?” Igne voices in return. Her motives to stay were far less noble. She'd long since stopped caring about the plights of the descendants. It was them that gave the druii half the problems they had to clean up, after all. Outnumbered though, the group of druii clambered down a wall and called forth their horses ready to ride away. At the last moment though, Timberwolf broke away, calling to the others to "Get back home" What Timberwolf hadn't accounted for, however, is that on one horse sat his wife behind the reigns, and his fellow archdruid riding behind her. As he broke away, the pair wordlessly agreed that he needed to be tracked down. So around Balian they rode, looking for the fool of a druid. They sighted him once, but then he was gone in the next moment. "Let's face it, he's gone back" "But I can't just leave him!" "Oh ne, that's not what I'm suggesting. I'm suggesting we also return" Igne's grin was near audible behind her mask. She'd come for a fight, and she'd be dammed if she left without one. There were some objections from Redtail, but Igne had becomed deaf to them. Clear that she wasn't going to be returning on the back of a horse, Igne waited for Redtail to slow and look for Timberwolf before climbing off the back of the horse. Not waiting for any shouts from Redtail, Igne began sprinting back to the battle on the outside of the wall, only to slide to a halt and hide behind a small mound as she saw the Undead Army ahead of her. Sizing up her options, Igne heard the sounds of hooves behind her. Redtail joined her and began surveying the situation also. Clearly having admitted defeat, Redtail asks "Is there any way back up?" "Only the siege ladders from the in front of the Undead" Igne responds as the loud thuds of an Entling signalled the return of her earlier saviour. Amidst the shouting from the walls between Igne and the soldiers up top, Redtail sent her Entling into battle where it trampled and mauled several of the army. Over the next few minutes Igne waded into battle with her flaming staff as the undead began to thin, only to be met with the reason why the Undead were slowing down. "THE DRAGON IS APPROACHING!" Cried several voices from above the wall. From the following screams and shouts, Igne was able to deduce that the dragon's wings had been torn, and it was now trampling through the city to get to the troops up top. Preparing to climb the siege ladders that were now unoccupied, Igne was pulled away by Redtail. "We have to go, now!" Redtail instructed. "There's an entire wall of descendants up their. The dragon will chomp them up first, then we can leave" Igne protests as she's pulled away and pushed back to the horse. Relenting, and fuming, Igne climbs back on the horse and the pair flee back to the Underlight Grotto. As they return, they were met by several of their kin. Igne pulled off her mask and hood, throwing them to the ground. "I hate that we left without seeing it through" she says, as a nearby wolf lets out a hearty "woof". "Oh shut it" she scowled, "It's ne like you would have stayed" she says to the wolf before storming back to her bush-home to fume and sleep away the night. That night she dreamed of her attunement again, though this time instead of seeing the Father at a campfire as she escaped the caves that tormented her, she instead broke free into the inferno of a dragon's breath.
  4. Artists Rendition of the undead Cloudbreaker A POV from Fal’leon Maehr’uhier 7th of Peter’s Glory, Year 41 BA Fal’leon hadn’t seen combat in well over 50 years, not true combat, not since a war long since passed, in a kingdom long since fallen. But the threat of Cloudbreaker was enough to rouse the buried soldier within his spirit, the call to protect the Balance with his druidic brethren stirring him to action. The days leading up to the battle were full of weary collection of gear, procuring potions and items alike, intent on walking away from the battle standing. Nevertheless, despite all his preparations, when he placed his owl helmet atop his head and rode out to the ash lain Balian, nerves pressed deep into his chest and threatened to cut his breath. He kept his composure all the while, thankful to have his features concealed. When they arrived, greeted with the majesty of Koko Mama’s great form, for a moment he was calmed. Fal’leon stood and readied alongside his brothers and sisters: Nemea, Aerendyl, Malii’evarir, and Theo. Comfort came from the familiar faces, though the nagging pit that he may have to see them fall refused to give way. “‘Ow are we feelin’?” He’d ask them, looking at their armoured forms. “Excited.” They replied, determination evident. And for a moment, he was too. But the sky split with red lightning, and such feelings were quickly stolen. And for another moment, Fal’leon could only think of his children, of how he had to return to them alive. He gripped his glaive, Kermetta’leh Vihai, a little tighter. Brother Corvid, graced with a few moments to simply calm his mind, muttered prayer to the warrior Mani, his desperation to see the sun rise the next day calling him to his worship. “Morea, Ellaurir’Chirran heya iheihuii Velulaei hiuwera, kaean’leh ortilrun nae illerae. kaean’leh Sirame ay’nae’leh lye myumierae. Oh Morea, llytan, nae’leh ahern kae illera.” “Laran Moccus. Oem heya ordivhiuw ito nae’leh. lae heya cerun malarehan lomera. kaean’leh ortilrun nae illerae. kaean’leh Sirame ay’nae’leh lye myumierae. Oh Moccus, ordivtilrun, nae’leh ahern kae illera.” The five of them stood atop a great mesa stone and looked out into the distance, eyes gazing over the canyons in search of the undead beast. Fal’leon turned to see if it had come elsewhere, met with an unpleasant sight. “Shi’. DUCK!" He cried out. Behind them stood a brigade of undead, all baring crossbows, all aimed at the unknowing druid squad. The Corvid himself ducked down against the rocks, moving his Entling dubbed Evar’ame to stand in front of Malii, to protect his oldest friend from the incoming barrage. A moment too late, she was struck with an arrow, though the following bore into the Entling with a thud. “Get down here!” Called a voice from below, spoken from the ‘Gator’, Aerendyl. Fal’leon slid down the rough, red stone, perplexed by the request. “We’re going to use Koko Mama.” A look of realization and understanding split his features, and the Corvid offered a single nod. He turned passive to active connection, figure concealed now by shimmering translucent feathers of black and purple; a monsterous, raven form over his body, whose eyes leaked purple tears. With a hand on his shoulder, offered his friends power to keep himself lively, Fal’leon brought his focus to the behemoth Palm and her joyful voice. His figure covered in translucent feathers, the sound of shouts and arrows filling his ears, he made his command to her known. Creaking filled the cliffs as Koko Mama’s final waltz began. Her great figure reared back, twisting to the side slowly, at the Corvid’s instruction. She was brought to the limit of her own flexibility and no further, held in place for but a moment. And then he let her go. The massive tree flung to the side like a great hand swatting dust off a ledge, sending all but one of their antagonists-- Who had been so gleefully boasting about their success in disabling the Palm and its users -- flying rom the cliffs and down into the canyon, presumably to their demise. “That’ was fun.” He said, despite himself. Job not yet done, the pair of druids waited for Koko Mama to return to her upright position, her song filled with pride and glee as she was made to sway so vastly. Once prepared, Corvid returned to his command of the great Palm, bringing her to bend backwards, away from the cliff. He peered out for a moment, noting the singular Undead remaining, struggling to find hold on the ledge and threatening the only unattuned in the party. Locating his target, the familiar creak returned to the cliffs. Koko Mama reared back to her fullest extent, nearly bend in half, wound back with the most tension Corvid could offer. And yet again, with lethal intent, he let her go, gesturing forth with his staff from their concealed location. The sound of the Palm whipping through the air was a scream of wind, the crash of her mighty branches rivaling the cries of Cloudbreaker himself. The Undead jumped down from the cliff in an attempt to escape the worlds largest fly swatter, narrowing managing to do so, to Fal’leons dismay. Noting the threat, the two druids jumped down from their place on the ledge and made their way around, back to the combat, flanking the Undead. For a moment, they paused. Aerendyl placed a hand to the younger ‘ame’s shoulder and offered a rare moment of affection and comradery between the two. “You did well.” He told Fal’leon, a notion that revitalized his determination and confidence. And so the pair returned to their friends, finding the Undead had become simply dead thanks to a well placed spike trap. Joining them, offering a semblance of relief, were three newcomers. Now they bore reinforcements, an armor clad figure, a woman who’s title he had never come to learn, and a king. Their backsides protected, the four present druids began their true task. Each druid took to their designated, practiced locations, a sense of unity in their divine goal of turning the mighty tree into a slingshot to put all others to shame. This time, Fal’leon set his hand atop Gator’s shoulder, pushing his energy into the man while he took aim. It was at that moment that the Arch druid took notice of a troll within the canyon. Forgoing their search of the skies for the fiendish draconic presence, the quartet turned their focus to the ravine’s assailant. Red and blue energy swirled to create the coconut, one that dwarfed even the largest cannon ammunition. Whence formed, Koko Mama’s massive form began to take back to her lean, her trunk winding back to all but fold over as it had done before, the druid's auras mingling into a kaleidoscope of colour. The coconut sailed through the air, its mother singing with glee as she swayed back and forth, towards the troll below. The party watched on with celebration as it hit its mark, smashing its target into the ground as a hammer would unto a nail. Cheers filled the air for only a moment, silenced by a demonic voice known only to pertain to the wicked Cloudbreaker himself. What followed broke the hearts of the druids. The sky above turned a shade darker, a dreadful shadow overcasting the land, bringing forth the promise of devastation in its wake The dragonic figure had a lapse in control it seemed, cannon fodder having sent it sailing towards the canon in an unconstrained fall. A sickening snap filled the air as it hit her, twisting stomachs at the sound. But it was the sight that befell the group that shattered them. Broken clean, they watched on with unbridled pain and rage, helpless to save their beloved Koko Mama. The Corvid cried out “KOKO MAMA, NO!”, useless to save her from the crushing weight of a fallen dragon. She who dances with Hurricanes, completing her final tango… a waltz with fate. [!] Artist rendition of Koko Mama's fallen form It was only for a moment they remained unmoving, staring with wide eyes at their most precious weapon. But the proximity to Cloudbreaker forced them to their wits, and so Fal’leon followed on as the group trudged up the cliffs and hillsides to the entrance of Balian. “Druids at the gates!” A voice called out, and they were permitted within, their collective sense of duty outweighing the deep seeded mourning for the time. And for but a moment, Fal’leon was able to take everything in. The city he’d visited seldom prior had become a war front, covered in ballistas and canons alike, walls clad in descendants all sharing purpose. A familiar, terrible cry filled the air all over again, cutting the moments breath short. Metal on stone followed, armored men and women running to man their respective weaponry. And thus, the druidic party made way to the center tree, mingling their abilities yet again, causing it to take shape into a ballista itself. A barrage flew towards the skeletal dragon as it drew nearer, striking it numerously. Two volleys were able to lodge into the figure before it returned the gesture tenfold. The heat was tremendous, and Fal’leon couldn’t help but think about how he could be cooked within his plating as his eyes were forced to watch stone turn to liquid. He dove behind cover, watching in horror as the courtyard was turned to all but ash. He was frozen, a sick memory in the forefront of his mind, one that had been granted to him nearly half a century prior by the Voidal Hollow of Ando Alur, a premonition of a fiery demise. His ears rang, silencing the screams and cries of his allies. He had burnt alive once, without perishing. Everything was quiet, time felt stilled and the mali'ame couldn't tear his eyes from the beast. Perhaps the promise of it ending would suffice in comfort, as the dragons maw opened yet again. [!] A painting of Cloudbreaker's breach “Lets go!” The voice of Theo broke through the ringing, stirring the Raven to return to the moment at hand. On shaky legs, Fal’leon joined his companions behind a second layer of walls. “There may still be people up there!” Called a voice from nearby. A familiar notion, one he himself had felt many years ago. A fools duty. “Dunnae play ‘ero! We ‘ave tae go.” He replied, joined by Redtail in the sentiment. And so, those that remained standing began to run, fleeing into the heart of the city. They were met with the rear guard, focus trained on a group of undead. Fire and Corvid watched on for but a minute before they were pulled from their mesmerized state by Redtail. Together, the squad of Koko Mama converged away from the combat, whose sounds of terror lulled to a distant clamor. “We cannae jus’ abandon them all, can we?” “I’m just here for the dragon, who cares if some descendants die?” As much as he hated to admit it, Fal'leon couldn't help but agree. He had forgone his duty to the people of the world long ago. Without their grand catapult, they were unarmed. Horse hooves bore into the dead ground as the five retreated from combat, their task forced to an early completion by the devastating demise of the beloved Koko Mama. But five soon became two, and when he looked back, he and Theo were alone. They rode to their home, the Mother Grove, without so much as hearing the gate of other horses around them. They were met with none of their party. Fal’leon waited at the gates for what could have only been 20 minutes, but time was a cruel mistress, and fooled him into believing it had been hours. Hope came with Timberwolf, but when the women failed to follow, dread overcame the three. They waited… And waited… And then the two returned. Relieved and worn, Fal’leon brought himself to his home, removing his armour and returning to his furs. He was unscratched, unharmed. The guilt of their failure to strike down Cloudbreaker weighed heavy in his chest. "Did you have fun?" His guide asked, and in their moment of privacy, Corvid answered truthfully. A truth he wouldn't admit to another soul, not while knowing the result. "I did." And then he found himself alone, sat in his home with no company but his own mind. Daunting tremors of the earth couldn’t bring him to rise much further than the couch. For all he knew, they had lost. Balian had fallen to the undead. He fell asleep with this notion, and dreamed of his vision of blaze and death he had attempted to forget.
  5. THE DAY OF RECKONING A POV Post of the Rear Guard from Gaius Rosius var Ruthern 7th of Peter’s Glory, In the Year 41 BA The ashes covered the city of Atrus but its citizens were more than ready to defend their beloved city from the oncoming onslaught of the necromancers and their pet, Cloudbreaker. Gaius Rosius var Ruthern awoke early that day. He read his prayer book and murmured a soft prayer as he signed the lorraine before donning the armor of House Ruthern. He had only one mission in his heart and mind, to defend Balian. Breakfast was merely an afterthought as he exited his home. He first went to the square to check on the preparations the Balian Army and its allies had made for Atrus. Next, he made his way through the streets of the city and around the walls to ensure the walls were all properly defended. The young Baron of Marsana made further plans to properly ensure the wellbeing of the cannons and ballistae, helping the Lord Seneschal Ledicort Vuiller deliver the black bolts to the defenders tasked with manning the ballistae. He then set around cauldrons with water for the cannoneers to use. All of this was done through help from his good friends and comrades Kasimir Sarkozic and Hreidunn Fehn. Once the final preparations were done, he and his comrades made his way back to the square. From there he met his sister, Eryane de Rosius who came to see him, fearing it would be the last time she would be able to speak to him. The two exchanged words and assurances that their family will be together again before she departed with the other citizens of Balian in their evacuation to Castle Renduzzo. “Are you ready?” Kasimir spoke to him as he donned his helmet. “Da. Y am.” Gaius would respond as he too then donned his own helmet. The call from Drako Darkwood, Count of Renduzzo, to the defenders of Atrus to rally was heard by all of the descendents in the city. Gaius and his comrades made their way to the rear of the city, they climbed the ladders to man their station at the rear walls where a certain orc shaman that went by the name Borok delivered an inspiring speech to his comrades from Krugmar and Nor’Asath. The descendants tasked with the rear defense of Balian soon went to their respective stations upon the rear walls. The humans made their way to the middle and right side of the wall whilst the orcs and mali’ker stayed at the left side. Gaius, Hreidunn and Kasimir manned the rightmost cannon. The three of them checked the health of their cannon and the proper supplies were ready for use for the artillery. The three comrades were soon joined by Drako Darkwood and Cardinal Teodosio, ready to keep the right flank of the wall secure. Soon enough, the Haelunorians and the Aaunites arrived to offer their assistance in the rear. The Aaunites took hold of the ballistae at the right hand side whilst the Haelunorians and the Paladins took control of the one at the tower. Among the Aaunites was a familiar sight, Gaius’s Raev brethren, his cousin, Jan Ivanovich. “Yam here to help cuz.” Gaius smiled underneath his helmet as he then nodded, “Da cuz. Jest dobry to see you. Come stand with us.” Now they were all ready. After a few hours of intense anticipation and small talk among the defenders crimson lightning broke through the skies above. It was soon followed by a distant roar of a dragon. Cloudbreaker was coming. King Alexander I of Balian stood at the center of the wall calling for his human brethren and his fellow Balianese citizens to offer a quick prayer to GOD. Gaius and his comrades joined in the prayer. Another streak of crimson lightning followed, battering the skies. Now was the time to fight, the defenders manned their cannons, aiming it beyond the wall towards the field. The ones who manned the ballistae in the rear kept their focus upon the sky. As for the others who were not stationed at the artillery, they drew their crossbows and potions, ready to wreak havoc upon the Iblees worshippers and their undead minions. First came Cloudbreaker, distant roars and shouts from the front gates of the city could be heard as the defenders at the front walls of Balian scampered to shoot the dragon as it approached Atrus. Gaius tensed his shoulders but he kept his torch ready to light the cannon as his comrades loaded it with powder and a cannonball, focusing on the impending invasion from their side of the wall. The Baron of Marsana took a deep breath as he waited for the oncoming onslaught at the rear. Finally, the shrill laughs of the necromancers could be heard from beyond the rear wall out towards the trees. They were coming. A certain descendent shouted, “Ready your cannons!” As soon as that was said, the voidal obelisk that was built upon a roof of the building close to the rear wall exploded behind the defenders, the concussive force caused some who stood there to fall from the roof of the building whilst others were knocked back. The shrapnels pelted many of the defenders. Fortunately, their plated armors shielded them from the shrapnels. Gaius felt his own body being pushed against the cannon as he regained his balance. He was fortunate to not be too close to the explosion radius. The descendants recovered from the explosion quickly, returning to their posts as the undead army now began to March towards the rear wall with only one goal: the destruction of Atrus. Gaius quickly ordered his friend Hreidunn to aim the cannon towards the right flank of the marching undead. Once Hreidunn had done so, the young Baron then lit up the fuse with the torch. After a few seconds the cannon was fired towards the mass of necrotic bones at the right flank, pounding them into the ground. The other cannoneers continued their work at the middle and left flank. Cardinal Teodosio filled a bucket with water from the cauldron beside the cannon and passed it to Gaius who immediately poured it over the barrel to cool it down. Once it was done, they prepared and loaded another cannon ball for a second shot. Jan Ivanovich and Drako Darkwood used their own personal ranged weaponries to give Gaius and his fellow cannoneers cover as they continued to prepare the cannon for another round. However, the second shot did not arrive. The cannon began to malfunction as soon as Gaius lit up another fuse. He cursed under his breath as he stepped away from the cannon, about to call to his cousin for another bucket of water until he heard a familiar roar followed by a flapping of wings and a streak of lightning from the clouds. This time, it was close. “BRACE YOURSELVES!” Someone in the rear defense shouted those words. Immediately the Ruthern looked up towards the sky to see Cloudbreaker circling above them before diving downwards. He then opened his mouth, ready to breathe whatever horrific harm it could bring upon the descendents. Immediately Gaius brought up his shield, stepping in front of Hreidunn to protect him. As he did so, he called to the Cardinal, Kasimir and to his cousin Jan Ivanovich to form a shield wall. The three of them quickly stood shoulder to shoulder with their shields raised towards the Dragon. As Cloudbreaker breathed its gorey substance upon the descendants, the shield wall protected Gaius and his comrades. The dragon then flew away to terrorize the front gates again. A sigh of relief escaped Gaius’s lips as he brought his shield down for the moment, only to hear shouts from the tower. It turned out that the gorey substance had formed into undead corpses that were now terrorizing the people who were manning the ballistae. Some went up the ladder to help whilst the others focused on the undead who were still marching towards the walls. Amid the gorey chaos, Gaius turned his head towards their cannon, only to see it had been destroyed along with part of the wall in front of them. Cardinal Teodosio immediately shouted, “Form a shield wall here!” Immediately, the former cannoneers complied. They raised their shields forming a wall whilst Gaius withdrew his crossbow, loading it with a slayer steel bolt as he stood behind the shield wall. The undead archers were readying their bows, aiming towards the middle of the wall. As they did so, the field trembled slightly. Behind the undead army lumbered two giant behemoths of flesh, blood and gore making their way towards the walls. Amid the potential doom that was spelled by these flesh giants, the descendants however, did not lose their morale. Rather, they were further emboldened to fight when one of the paladins had managed to cast a form of holy flame against one of the giants. The shamans had begun casting their own spells. "DO NOT LET THIS WALL FALL!" A defender shouted amidst the oncoming second onslaught. In the midst of this fight, Cardinal Teodosio attempted to raise the morale of the group at the right flank by coining their shield wall, the ‘Shield Brothers of Ablution’. The name was befitting for the sons of Exalted Horen who took up their shields and arms to protect a bastion for humanity. The shieldwall was soon accompanied by the Haelunorian phalanx at their right flank, protecting the descendents stationed there from any other potential volley of arrows or projectiles from the undead monstrosities. Gaius continued shooting his slayersteel bolts towards the giant and the undead archers, managing to hit the giant a few times while downing some of the undead archers. He grit his teeth under his helmet however when he saw the giant readying a cart full of dead cattle carcasses. Soon enough the cart was flung towards the middle of the group of defenders upon the wall followed by a volley of arrows at the same location. The Ruthern turned his head to see some of them hit by the carcasses whilst the arrows bounced off their armors. However, a few soldiers felt the arrows pierce through the joints of their plate armors, leaving injuries. Drako Darkwood himself was almost hit by one of the carcasses, until he was quickly dragged out of harm’s way by another soldier. Nevertheless, Gaius focused on the battle before him. The shield wall was protecting them from the volley of arrows so far and that was a good thing. Both giants were downed finally by the ranged weapons and spells from the defenders. However, there was no time to celebrate. More undead reinforcements joined the ranks of the invaders. They were now scaling the walls, ready to climb. This did not look too good. Gaius prayed to GODAN in his mind that the descendents tasked with destroying the Phylactery and the reinforcements at the canyon would be victorious. Who knows how long they can hold down the city for? The morale of the soldiers however were slowly diminishing. Reports of a breach at the front gates and the burning of Saint Lothar’s Square and the church seemed like a grim omen for the defenders of Balian. The Duke of Minitz had now begun to argue with Borok the Shaman about retreating back towards Eternal Sun Square and continuing the fight there. However, the orcs and most of the defenders on the wall preferred to stay on the wall and hold it down until reinforcements from the descendents arrived. As the descendents prepared themselves for the potential breach of the walls, infighting began to develop. The orc shaman who was arguing with the Duke of Minitz kicked him off the wall and down into the city. Fortunately, the Duke of Minitz did not die but was severely injured. King Alexander I and King Charles Alstion of Aaun immediately rushed to save him. The actions by the orc now sparked a fight between some Aaunites and the orc of Krugmar. However, this fight was soon settled by both sides when they realized that dealing with Cloudbreaker and the undead were more important at the moment. It was at this moment that the cavalry had finally arrived. The soldiers who had ventured to the canyon had come back victorious, cutting off any future undead reinforcements, they were now charging with the thundering hooves of their horses towards the undead horde in the back, cutting down the archers one by one. Some of the undead, however, had now finally managed to climb the walls and reach the top. The descendents, with their newfound morale, however, were ready. Gaius sheathed his crossbow as he then equipped his shield and mace. He charged forward with his comrade Hreidunn, using his mace to deliver a blunt impact on the undead and force them to stumble backwards and fall back from the wall, back down to where they came from. As the breach from the top of the wall was taken care of and now that the reinforcements had arrived on the ground, Cardinal Teodosio, having heard news of the church burning, wanted to save it. The Shield Brothers of Ablution followed him as he climbed down the wall and back into the city towards the church. Unfortunately, they were too late, the Church was beyond saving. Cloudbreaker demonstrated its wrath of its malflame throughout the square and the Church. Gaius, Kasimir and Hreidunn gently guided the Cardinal towards the Arena, promising him that Atrus will be rebuilt and its house of GOD will look better than before. It was then that Cloudbreaker now arrived, right in front of them, atop the roof of the library. Immediately, the Descendents clambered down the walls and made their way to the square either to escape or go forth towards the Arena and into the evacuation tunnels. King Alexander I himself manned the singular cannon in the Eternal Sun Square with some others, aiming it towards the skeletal dragon of ruin. However, there was something odd. The dragon was unmoving, immobile even. Within a short minute, it then flew back up towards the sky, before crashing down, landing outside of Atrus with its head severed. The soldiers that had gone to destroy the Phylactery had succeeded, Cloudbreaker is no more. The help from the paladins and the other soldiers who fought it until it was gravely injured only further nailed its coffin. Its severed head rested upon the mesa desert in front of Balian. The descendents now made their way towards it cheering in victory. They have felled the great necrotic dragon and amid the chaos, the raining fire from the sky melted the remaining undead, forcing many of the necromancers to flee whilst the others were slain by the blades of the descendants. It was then that Worm, the devourer of realms, appeared. It let out a screech before burrowing itself deep into the ground, causing a small earthquake. Immediately Gaius called to his comrades to flee to Renduzzo, knowing Atrus might collapse completely if the Worm made its way to the city. The remaining descendants, having defeated Cloudbreaker, now fled towards Renduzzo Castle to regroup and rest. The injured were quickly taken to the clinics whilst the others conversed with one another and embraced their family members and friends, happy to see each other again. However, they all knew that many lives were lost during this siege. Many of whom do not know their names yet. Gaius and his comrades returned to Atrus after all was said and done to find any stragglers, injured or corpses of their fallen compatriots. It was there, among the ruins and bodies of the deceased that Cardinal Theodosio led the soldiers of GOD to sing “Non Nobis Domine” to honor them. Gaius returned back to Renduzzo that night wiser and more learned from this siege. He had defended Balian, his home. The descendants were victorious against the necrotic Cloudbreaker and its masters. Atrus will be rebuilt soon, its citizens determined to bring their beloved city back. However, this pyrrhic victory and the sighting of the Worm made Gaius wonder what the future holds for Almaris. If the descendents were to save themselves they must work together for another reckoning is on the horizon for them. Hence, as Gaius entered within the gates of the castle he thought to himself, What jest next?
  6. Threat By Hamish Markus Kortrevich For the people of Balian IIt had been quite a while since the Haeseni musician and composer had seemingly vanished from the public eye as he attempted to find inspiration for his future pieces. He wandered, he traveled and he investigated, but it was one notice that helped him find what he was looking for: The Kingdom of Balian was under a looming threat it had never experienced, that being the Cloudbreaker. Without being able to take the issue away from his mind, the Kortrevich Lord would thus return to his office and set to work in order to orchestrate said threat into a musical piece with the instruments and harmonies available, aiming to portray the story of a potential outcome onto the notes.
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