The courtyard fell silent with the ambush ended and the sounds of battles in the city began to filter in from the outside.
Some of Kroenen’s men were moving around the grounds, checking for signs of life in the fallen enemy and ending it when it was found. Seifer was field stripping the downed and confused Trask and then binding his hands and feet. Cotton and Meiko had walked up to Exelar along with the still-living Kroenen. Glancing about to double check the status of the others, I walked up to the paladin’s side.
As with our previous encounter with him, Kroenen was straight to business, though with a decidedly different context from before. He wanted to save his men in the city from the remaining forces loyal to Trask. That was the battle currently playing out. We had carried out what we said we would do, so we were under no obligation to help further. Especially considering the role that even this faction of Bowmen has played in our lives here. However, we had already gone this far, risked all of our lives, to preserve theirs. It would seem a waste of effort, and the potential for an alliance, if we stopped here. But, this had to be Exelar’s decision to make, so I stayed silent and looked to him.
He seemed to mull it over and when he didn’t respond immediately, Kroenen made an offer. If we helped them, he would direct us to the group that was under the lead of Aldric Hansen. By memory, he was one of the original group of Watchmen. Specifically, he was the one that turned coat and assisted the Bowmen in entering the Cascades and slaughtering his fellows. My recall was confirmed as Shepard came up to Exelar, having overheard the name and the fact that he was currently in the city. He pressed that we needed to take the offer, that Hansen needed to be dealt with, and that they may never have a chance like this again. Exelar listened to Shepard, but his eyes never left Kroenen’s. After another tense moment, he nodded his agreement.
Hansen was in control of group of loyalist Bowmen that were in control of what Kroenen referred to as the White Tower. On the far of where we initially landed, it was the path that that Meiko and the others originally took in their route to keep in which we now stood. Normally, we’d need to fight our way through the streets and up the path just to get to the base of the tower. However, consulting with the Ironclad, another plan was quickly formed. To keep out of sight, we’d take the airship into the mist and wispy cloud cover over the city and circle to the far side of the tower, approaching from the rift. Then, once we were close enough, we’d drop down and deploy out.
Olt was going to stay here both to keep on eye on the dazed Trask, as well as to work out a plan regarding the dwarves that had been here for negotiations with the Bowmen. Apparently one of them was a prince and there were matters of dwaven protocol with these surfacer clans that needed to be followed involving royalty. I gladly leave such matters to him. One of the Ironclad also would stay here, both to keep guard on Trask, under we determined what to do with him, and to make room on the airship for the combatants that would need to go. With that worked out, Kroenen and company moved out along the ground and the rest of boarded the skiff again.
From the Sky
As we neared the tower, discussions commenced on the strategy. Apparently there were two main points of contest: the courtyard at the tower base, the primary roof, which also held two siege weapons. Hansen was in command of the ground force and most of the initial assault would be concentrated there. However, if the Bowmen took over the weaponry on the roof, it would become very dangerous for the airship. Seifer and I decided that we would begin our assault there, while the others entered the courtyard. After this was decided, Hershel offered to loan me his cloak to make it easier to reach the roof from the ship, and I accepted.
The skiff drew near to the tower and began it’s descent. Once we broke through the cloud layer, we could see a group surrounded behind a shield wall on the rooftop. Once we were close enough, Seifer repeated his maneuver from the precipice battle, and stepped of the ship, his slow fall ring in hand. Waiting for him to draw attention by landing, I then grabbed the edges of my borrowed cloak flew quickly down to the opposite side of the roof, behind what appeared to be the command group. Once we were off, the ship moved forward to continue down to take the fight to the courtyard.
Seifer landed next to a ballista and promptly severed the draw cord so that it couldn’t be used against the skiff. He then bellowed a challenge and laid into the flank of the stream of Bowman that were assaulting a group of Kroenen’s men near the stairwell down into the tower. With the rank and file moving away, I could see the commander and his bodyguards. It was Krosi, the Bowmen that had commanded a squad of lycanthropes in an assault on Three Cedars not long before it was burnt. If these guards were also were-creatures, this was a more dire situation than I initially thought.
The commander had five bodyguards remaining around him and I had to assume that all of them were werewolves and thus, would be a genuine threat. Drawing on the shadow around me, I sent them around the neck of the closest guard and while he was struggling with it, advanced and finished him off with a series of strikes. Still undetected, I wasted no time and advanced on the next guard. A lucky strike lead to a snapped neck and then on to next man. And that’s when my luck ran out.
Krosi and his remaining guards finally noticed my actions. They didn’t immediately attack, but that wasn’t good news, as each one of them began to twist and contort into bestial hybrid forms. Trying to take advantage of the moment, I managed to strike down the third guard before the rest rushed me. In this form, they were immensely strong, so I shifted my fighting style to avoid blows and redirect blows. The first guard swung his clawed hand wide and I stepped forward and to the side of the strike, then shoved his shoulder in the same direction to throw him off balance. As he came back around to bite, I rolled over his back and kicked hard into his ribcage, knocking him back and thrusting myself forward.
The other guard came at me next, charging wildly. With less room to maneuver, now, I dodged his swings, swaying at the waist and dropping low beneath them. Frustrated, he lunged in to bite and I took a chance, grabbed the scruff around his neck, and slung myself along the ground, past his legs, while my momentum crashed his jaw to the ground. Unfortunately, coming up behind him set me at a poor angle to defend against Krosi.
I had to throw myself to one side to avoid his first strike, but this gave him the right angle and his other paw tore into my leg, which burned like no wound I’d taken before. Staggered, I was left vulnerable and his enormous jaws closed on my upper arm and shoulder. Though I managed to stay out of his grip, I was now bleeding freely from several gouges and punctures. A quick glance to the side showed that Seifer was still on his feet, but in danger of being overrun in the crush of men around him. Worse, the row of soldiers at the back of the rush toward him were also shifting into bestial forms. We’d have to hold on as long as we can and take as many of them with us as possible.
Regaining my footing, I prepared to counterattack Krosi. I hoped to shift him close enough to the edge that I could throw him from it, or at worst take him over it with me. At that moment, fire exploded in the loyalist Bowmen ranks. It was magefire, and a dozen bodies were thrown into the air or burnt into so much meat where they stood. Nathaniel’s magic heralded the arrival of the airship. As it drew even with the parapets, Exelar leaped onto the roof and charged in toward the remaining lycanthropes that surrounded me. Using his arrival as a distraction, I focused my connection to the shadow and struck directly into Krosi’s sternum. I felt bone crack and my ki pulled at his own, drawing strength out of his massive frame.
His attention now refocused on me, and his claws drawn back to disembowel me, when Exelar’s attack landed. Calling on Heironeous’ might, the bright flame of his blade crashed down. He torn Krosi’s back asunder as it’s flame purified the wound at the same time. Krosi fell to the ground, insensate as Exelar turned the momentum of his strike into a wide swing on one the body guards. Taking the cue, I advanced on the other guard, shattered the thing’s reversed knee, and it collapsed to the flagstones. With my sightline cleared of the slavering creature, I could see that the airship was raining crossbow bolts in the press of Bowmen around Seifer and Kroenen’s men, mowing them down in swathes. Seifer rallied, scything down the remaining soldiers around him as the others pushed out of their shield defense and overran the rest of the men on them.
That rally spelled the end for Trask’s men at the White Tower. With the werewolves down, the rest of the footmen were dispatched or surrendered in short order. Taking the moment while it lasted, I knelt on the floor and concentrated on my wounds. Many lycanthropes could infect other creatures with a diseased version of their condition. This normally happened via bites, which I had received. Though the wounds still burned, I couldn’t detect any trace of the infection. Still something to keep an eye on. Satisfied, I rose to take in our situation.
To prevent the Krosi’s corrupted fortitude from restoring him, Exelar had separated his head from his body, the burning blade cauterizing the neck. He was again in the appearance of a mortal man. Seifer had taken several hits, but as usual, was still on his feet possibly out of sheer defiance. The airship hovered just above the wall, it’s swiveling crossbows surveying the rooftop as well as the courtyard below. As I walked toward it, one of the bodyguards began to splay a hand out to steady itself on. Swiftly reaching down, I imagined the strings of life force and mirrored my own to reflect them. A quick strike ended his movement and his energy drew to the mirror of my own. I smoothed the wounds on my leg and arm and the torn skin sealed at my touch.
Rising up, I went to the ledge and looked down into the courtyard. Though we were too high up to make out details, it looked similar to the rooftop. Bodies littered the grounds, some Bowmen were gathered on the ground to the side, most likely having surrendered. The ironclad automaton stood in the center of what appeared to be a layer of frost that covered a large section of ground. It looks like we’d won. Not entirely, to be sure, but here, now, the Bowmen were defeated. Trask was…well, we’d see what he was. But for now, he had been crippled. Assuming that Kroenen, Cotton, and Meiko survived, this was a shift in power. Hopefully Kroenen proved to be worthy of Cotton’s admiration.