“Rache serviert man am besten kalt” — old saying among Vilholman nobility.
As I stood watch atop the roof of the run-down stone building, I could hear the Dwarf exchanging heated words with the others inside. When I had thrice heard my name muttered in bitter rage, I decided I should look in to see what I had done this time. As my people say, “speak of someone, and their shadow appears”.
Olt did not look happy to see my face. I looked about the room at the bodies of the dwarves as I entered. He was speaking with Exelar about the repercussions of our (my) actions, and how the death of the dwarven prince could very well lead to a war between his Wyrkadrin and whatever this foul clan of Dwarves is called. Our stout ally looked genuinely flustered, as he spoke of his honor-bound duty to bring the bodies of the dead back to their homeland. Being the only other Dwarf present, Olt would need to retell to this prince’s clan his account of the events which had brought about the “noble” Dwarf’s untimely end. If he were to shirk this duty, it might spark a clan war of sorts.
I felt ashamed to see my Dwarven companion in such turmoil. Up to this point, we had spent some time together recruiting members for the new Huntsmen, up at Lochaid. I had taken part in a few training drills with Olt, as he taught those we had selected how to track both game and enemy, and how to blend in with the environment around them. I held a certain amount of respect for Olt, so it weighed on me to have been the closest of his allies to take part in this murder which had put him in such a position. In the future, I will make sure to consult with him before rendering such final judgement on any belonging to his race.
In an attempt to remedy the situation, I offered to travel with Olt to the mountain stronghold of this opposing Dwarf clan. Being that the death of the prince was partially my responsibility, I felt that I owed it to my companion to join him in making this journey. Olt looked surprised, and possibly a bit relieved, as he asked “So you apologize for this offense against my people’s code of honor?” I responded with a curt nod, “Though I did not know of this code, I accept with full responsibility the duty of aiding you in carrying out the resolution of its violation; whatever that may be—”
At that moment, I overheard Kroenen speaking with Exelar “— Hansen commands the other force assaulting the White Tower.” I excused myself from the conversation with Olt by way of a curt bow, and hurried over to speak with Kroenen and Exelar. “What?! Hansen is here?”, I said as I crossed the room, “Where?” Shepherd spoke to Exelar in similar excited, though somewhat muted, tones, asking that he get a chance at delivering justice to the vile betrayer. After a short pause of consideration from Exelar, and some concessions on the part of Kroenen for our aid in a second battle, it was decided that we would assist the Vilholman and his men in taking the White Tower. As I moved toward the door, I turned back to Olt, who was busy investigating the bodies of the dead in an attempt to come to grips with the situation. “My offer still stands,” I said, and then departed.
Into the Air
We decided to take the Ironclad airship up above the cover of the clouds, on our approach to the White Tower, reasoning that it would hide us from the sight of those below, who may otherwise use siege engines at their disposal to blow us out of the sky. It would also mean that we would need to descend from above, which might be a problem for those of us who could not fly. Ser Seifer had a ring which would allow him to drop from the ship and land unharmed on the ground below. I had my cloak, which would allow me to fly. But Sorscha had no such ability. If we were to fight effectively, we would need her entering the fray as quickly as possible. To this end, I offered to trade her my cloak for hers. Though I would lose the ability to fly, I could still channel my ki and transport my body through an arrow down to the ground.
Sorscha and I did our best to get an overview of the state of affairs on the battlefield, and choose where we might be needed most. Through information we had been given by Trask, we were able to determine that there were two primary groups of Kroenen loyalists currently under attack. One, under the command of a man called Malak, was on the roof of the tower; the other, commanded by Ikar Wuller, was in the courtyard below, holding the opposing forces off from accessing the tower’s only entry point. From above, I was barely just able to discern the features of Aldric Hanssen leading the Bowmen against Kroenen’s forces in the courtyard at the foot of the Tower. This is where I would go.
As I drew my bow and nocked an arrow, Shepherd, who had apparently also seen Hansen in the courtyard, grabbed my shoulder. “Leave him for me. Please. I must have my vengeance.” I sighed, and slumped my shoulders a bit. Then I drew out one of the enchanted arrows I had taken off of the dead Bowman, Toby, and took from my pack a vial of what Xar’eth had told me was drow sleep poison. “I will coat my arrow with this. It should knock him unconscious. I will fire one shot at Hansen, and no more. Should he not succumb to the poison, I make no guarantees.” I quickly coated the arrow, and placed it in an easy to reach spot in a secondary quiver. “Be quick about it!” I said, as I turned invisible, nocked an arrow, drew back my bow, and fired at the courtyard below, aiming for just behind Hansen and his men.
Travelling in this fashion is still a feeling that I have not quite gotten used to. I begin to feel a oneness with the arrow as it passes through the arch of my bow, as if my spirit is condensed along the wood of the shaft. I can feel the slight scrape against the arrow rest as a tickling sensation down my right side, and the wind which guides the fletching as a pulling sensation along my legs. Before my arrow reaches its target, my consciousness fades, and I arrive momentarily in a subtle eruption of air, standing over the broken shaft.
Hansen’s men sensed the disruption in the air, and for a moment looked about, confused, for its source. Seeing nothing, they continued their press toward the group of Kroenen’s men at the foot of the tower, encircling them. At that moment, a hail of heavy crossbow fire began to rain down from the sky above us, and I had to dodge, crouch, and roll to keep from being impaled. Hansen’s men were not so deft, and many fell to that volley. As I came up from my the last of my ducking and weaving out of harm’s way, I felt myself become visible momentarily. Quickly, I focused my energy again, and faded out of view.
Tracking Hansen’s position, I repositioned myself such that I could get a clear shot on the traitor. As he commanded his men forward, I noticed the coward backing away from the group; probably meaning to fall back to a safer position. Looking through the crowd for a secondary target, I spied a Bowman commander, Galen, pressing forward with the group attacking Wuller and his men. I backed up a few paces, drew, and fired the poison-tipped arrow at Hanssen, sending two more arrows toward Galen in one fluid motion with the aid of my magical bow.
I didn’t intend to kill him; I swear it on my life. In one interminable instant I could see the arrow sinking into Hanssen’s ribcage, piercing his lungs. He gasped and a puff of fogged breath escaped his mouth as the right side of his body froze solid in a flash. One heartbeat later the arrow exploded with a thunderous roar. Frozen bits of Aldric Hanssen sailed into the air, only to fall down a breath later in a grim hailstorm upon his unwitting men. It remined me of an old adage among Vilholman nobility: “Rache serviert man am besten kalt”; “Revenge is a dish best served cold”. I couldn’t help myself; I began to chuckle lightly under my breath.
My amusement was cut short a moment later, when two spots of burning pain erupted on my back, narrowly missing my vital organs. As the daggers slid out, I turned around, my legs wobbling slightly underneath me, to see another Bowman commander, the one known as Bobby Three-sticks. He smiled as he turned invisible himself, and left me panicking. The daggers must have been poisoned, because my head swam as I stumbled about on legs made of jelly, looking cautiously around me on all sides to try and remain ready for the coming attack from the invisible Bowman assassin.
At that moment, the ground shook with what felt to be the impact of a large meteor, and a fine red mist erupted into the air as I turned to see Keldoron land atop one of Trask’s men. Immediately the huge automaton’s sword was out, and he began to mow down Bowmen as casually as a farmer reaps rice. A moment later and the grounds about the stairs to the White Tower were coated with the remains of Keldoron’s grim harvest.
Atop the Tower
I nodded to the giant machine, and asked him to watch over me while I searched Hanssen and Galen. When I had recovered everything of value that I could carry, I thanked Keldoron for his assistance, and once again channeled my ki, aiming for one of the parapets at the top of the White Tower. I let my arrow fly and a moment later found myself teetering on the edge of the parapet. I was just barely able to recover by forcing my jellied legs to push the mass of my body forward and off the wall, onto the rooftop of the White Tower below. I tumbled as I hit the hard stone floor, but the effects of Bobby Three-sticks’ poisoned daggers still had me off-balance and I ended the roll by landing flat on my chest, knocking the wind out of me.
The scene atop the tower was utter chaos.