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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.
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.
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.