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 Post subject: The End Times: Spires
PostPosted: Wed Jan 21, 2015 7:19 pm 
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Finally getting round to chronicling Spires' exploits during the End Times. Yes, I know I'm late for the ESC. So I decided to just give him his own 'book'.

First post actually is a repost from the End Times announcement, as it starts with Spires' first encounter with the End Times. And I liked having it all in a single location.

Anyway, without further ado

****
Prelude

Spires looked at the papers on his desk in front of him. Behind him, the noise from the city that had given him his name drifted in through the paneled balcony doors. He permitted himself a small, tired sigh. No one was around to notice this lapse in hard, unshakable exterior. The lack of sleep was getting its toll. But too many things still needed to be arranged if even only half of the documents contained some truth. It was hard to be sure about news from afar.

Things were afoot. Too many pieces seemed to be moving at once, independent from one another. But his years in the colonies had shown him coincidences rarely occurred. There was bound to be a connection. Some piece of the puzzle he was missing.

He looked at the different documents again.

The first was a letter from Ailana of Saphery. After Arakis they had kept up a regular correspondence. Both of them had information the other could use. It was always useful to keep up with the latest gossip from the upper echelons of the Ever Empire.

By itself, the content of the letter was relatively innocent. The phoenix king was being reclusive and eccentric again. But then he had always been that way. Creatures were stirring in the Annullian mountains in greater number then before. And there were reports of things moving in the swirls of the Vortex. Some claimed to even have seen flashes of Grom the Paunch in the mists of Yvress.

Of course, the Vortex was always acting up. By itself it wouldn’t be much to worry about. But Chaos was also rumored to be on the march. Spires’ ships and contacts in the Old World reported greater than average movement in the far North. Whole tribes and nations were said to be on the move. Deamons driving them on. Of course, no one reliable had actually seen them. It was always someone who had talked to a trader who knew someone who had had a drink with a lad who had seen something.

But then, most people wouldn’t live long enough to report Chaos Deamons on the move. Especially if the person in question was human. They generally either went mad or cowered somewhere until they were overrun.

The rumors were also backed up by reports from closer to home. All along the north eastern order of the territories of the City of Spires skirmishes were breaking out. Ogres were pouring out of the mountains of Mourn in ever greater number. So far they mostly had been turned aside and been diverted around the colony. Directed towards easier prey. But if the numbers kept increasing at this rate then Spires’ border guard would be hard pressed to keep the lumbering brutes at bay.

The whole mountain range seemed to be emptying. But if it was because the Ogres had joined forces with Chaos and were looking for plunder or if they were being driven onwards by invading legions no report told. Standing in the way of an Ogre migration was a surefire way to get eaten. Even for one of the Nagarathi scouts.

And then there were the lands to the west of the city of Spires. The ancient kingdom of Kemry. The land of the Dead. Dreadful and bleak. Devoid of life and yet home to one of greatest human civilizations. The dead were restless. Ships had disappeared while mooring in previously safe harbors along the coast of Kemri. Those ships alone had lost Spires a small fortune in goods from Ulthuan.

But if the coasts were unsafe, then the inlands were even worse. For some reason, fighting had broken out amongst the different undead factions. And living explores were simply considered new recruits. After losing large parts of several expeditions sent to gather intel from Kemri, Spires had stopped sending them. He now was blind as far as the Southlands of the Old World were concerned.

Spires put the different documents down again on their different piles. There had to be a connection. Gracefully, cat-like, he got up and walked out onto the balcony. Down below the city of Spires spread out towards the harbor. Several of the rock spires that gave the city its name reared up around the palace. To the left was what was known as the Little Tower, a nod to the white tower in Saphery, home too many of the mages of the city. Over to the right, nearer the city wall, the watchtower stood guard. Highest of the spires, an elf standing atop it could watch all the way to the foothills of the mountains of Mourn. And over by the docks, the Spires chapter Company. Lower and broad, it housed the largest trading chapter of the city. Much of the wealth of the colonies was linked to that spire.

Around this last spire, Spires saw several of his regiments march towards the docks. At the moment it was still Sea Guards, Ballista’s and one of his units of Swordmasters. Not too many yet. But the call from Ulthuan would come. Spires could feel the storm brewing on the horizon. The Ever Empire would come under attack again. And Spires intended to have his pawns in place when it did. And so the sons of the colonies were being shipped home. To be ready when the call came.

Behind him the door to Spires’ study crashed open. His secretary El’An rushed in. Three steps brought Spires back to his desk. He arched an eyebrow in anger at El’An. This was not to be accepted. Proper form needed to be followed. And one does not simply rush in on a Prince. El’An was young, granted. But youth only could excuse so much.

El’An raised his right hand almost like a ward before him. “A report sir, from the Dragon Isles” he said in a timid voice. “It was just now delivered by Eagle”
The Prince of Spires looked at the sealed scroll. And saw the reason for El’An’s haste. Four ribbons were attached to the seal. Each of them Red and White, the colors of the City. His personal colors. An urgent missive. For his eyes only. The ribbons were his code, known only by the commanders and high magistrates he had appointed to rule his different outposts. The only message more urgent then this one would be one from the Phoenix King himself.
“Thank you, El’An” Spires said as he took the report. “You may go now.”

Spires rolled the letter in his hands for a short while after El’An had closed the door behind himself again. He felt a trepidation to open it. Would this be the missing puzzle piece? What could be so important that the message carried this encoding? With his nail Spires broke the wax seal and unrolled the letter.
“Dear sir,
Great disturbances have shaken the Dragon Isles. The different volcanoes of the archipelago have become restless. And the dragons are awakening and rising. Not just one or two. But they all seem to be waking from their eternal slumber. Even the oldest species, which were already in deep sleep 500 years ago when we first found them are getting restive. It won’t be long before even they rise.
Already at this moment, large flocks of them circle on the thermal currents surrounding the islands. And, which is the direct cause of this letter, the first Star Dragon has left his lair. As I write this, he is currently feeding on one of the herds around New Harbor.

This seems news of great importance. Hence the urgency of this missive.
Yours,
Commander An-Ar Oleth”


Spires dropped the letter to the ground. The dragons were waking. He never thought it would actually occur in his lifetime. It was indeed the final piece of the puzzle. He thought back to his lessons in the White Tower in his youth, almost a 1000 years ago now. There were the prophecies. In all Elven writings about Dragons, there was always only one reason why the dragons would wake up. It was worse than he had anticipated. For once, the Prince of Spires was caught off guard.

The End Times had come.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 21, 2015 7:19 pm 
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War by committee

The board with black and white squares stood in front of Spires. The pieces upon it stood in a complex configuration with no discernable pattern to them. In one corner a tall white model stood besieged by black ones. On the rest of the board, clumps of black and white figures vied for dominance. A precarious balance was held between the two colors.

A long while Spires sat staring at the configuration. Finally, he picked up a pen and wrote down a single line on a scroll. b4.

"Send this one, express mail." Spires said to the aid waiting near the door, handing him the note. "Wait for the answer."

Afterwards, he picked up a single piece on the board and moved it to a new square.

Spires got up and walked towards the desk in the center of the room. Though not as lavishly furnished as his offices in the City, this apartment in Lothern was comfortable enough for the few times he visited. The carpet was perhaps not as deep as it could have been. But decorum was everything here in Lothern. And he had to be careful of not offending some of the princes of less wealth but more lineage.

A polite knock. "Enter."

A broad shouldered elf stuck his head around the door. Unruly dark blond hid a pair of deep set white eyes. Opening the door further, the elf walked in. His firm walk indicated a military background even if the robes he wore were more suited to court then a uniform would have been.

"They have finished their conclave. They are now going about scheduling meetings with different Legion commanders, handing out orders. Yours is scheduled in half an hour."

"Typical. Who knew you could run a war using a committee. Thank you, Bob," Spires replied. "As we expected then. At least they gave us the honor of putting us at the front of the list. Time to inform them of our plans then. Best not be late. You know how committees react to tardiness"

****

Two liveried servants opened the large double doors to the war room. Erect and in full military regalia Spires walked through them.

"C'al-Vyn, Sovereign Prince of Spires!" One of the two announced.

In front of Spires the room spread out. The walls were covered in maps. Some of them dated back to the time of Aenarion himself, showing lands and places which no longer existed. Others had lines and arrows drawn on them, depicting troops and movements of famous, and usually long dead, generals during their great victories.

Centrally in the room, on the floor a large map was built. Landmasses and oceans were faithfully build up. Nations drawn in lines and cities marked. Upon it, playing pieces laid out the armies of the Ever Empire and its enemies. Troop numbers, supplies and movements were all mapped out. Almost as if it was one big game.

Off to one side of the room, a large table was set on a raised platform which offered an overview of the landscape below. Behind the table a group of seven Asur was studying several reports laid out before them. Their insignia marked each of them as a Prince of the Empire.

Spires came to a halt in front of the table, facing the princes. Legs spread slightly apart and hands clasped behind his back, he stood looking straight at the wall on the other side of the table. It wouldn't do to speak to a prince before being spoken to.

"Ahh, Spires. Still using that silly title. Nice of you to join us." the prince second from the left said. "I don't suppose introductions are needed?"

"No indeed, prince Rathal. I think we've all met."

The silence dragged for perhaps half a minute.

"Right then", said Rathal. "Go on, report. We haven't got all day."

"I have with me here in Lothern about one quarter of the forces of the colonies."

"What?"

"Impossible!"

"The orders were clear! Full mobilisation!"

Cries came from around the table. Each prince trying to outdo his neighbour in cries of dismay. Spires gave them a moment to vent their outrage and then held up his hand, commanding silence and a chance to speak. One by one the princes fell silent.

"As I was about to say, I've brought one quarter of the army of the colonies. I was already underway when the orders found me, past the fortress of Dawn. Hence, I had to draw from my own plans."

"The force here in Lothern amounts to about one full legion. I left another to reinforce the fortress of Dawn when I passed through. When I left the City, I ordered a third legion to do the same at the Gates of Calith, which should leave the southern oceans, and thus most of our colonies, secure. The last legion remains in the City, defending it against forces coming in from the north. I felt at the time, and I still do, that unless there is no other way we should not abandon our trade routes or give up on the colonies."

"Four legions? You command four legions?" Ciryatan, third from the left, asked, surprised. "Only a Prince is allowed more then two. And of those with the rank, not many have 2 whole standing legions. Let alone four. How come the war commission was never informed of this?"

"It's in the founding charter of the City of Spires, drafted by king Bel-Hathor and accorded by the whole conclave. At the time of the cities founding, the colonies were deemed a dangerous place. And so king Bel-Hathor reasoned it needed protecting. So the City and its ruler are awarded the same military privileges as a prince."

"So, my legion is at your disposal. How can we serve?"

Flustered, the princes around the table glanced at each other, seeing who would find a correct response first. In the end, Prince Rathal as chairman of the committee spoke up.

"Well Spires, you've surprised us a bit. We hadn't expected you to show up with a whole legion. This changes plans a bit. Where do you think your forces would be best suited?"

"That of course depends on the overall situation in Ulthuan. Give me a moment to consider."

With that, Spires turned around and walked over to the balustrade to look down on the map laid out on the floor below.

"Caledor has the south. The eastern approach is defended by the isles and the Sapherian mages. As for the north, well, I doubt the shadow prince will appreciate my presence or need my help. The western approach, through Tiranoc, on the other hand. That seems most open to attack."

More surprised faces at the table. Given the choice none of them would have picked Tiranoc as a base. Not when they could have picked the courts of Eataine, the glamour of Saphery or the safety of Avelorn.

"Right, Tiranoc it is then" said Rathal. "We'll pass your orders down and have all the necessary paperwork ready in writing soon. You'll be able to ship out after that. I think that will be all. Unless you have something else to add?"

"I would like to request an audience with the Phoenix King. I have personal intelligence for him that he'll want to hear."

"The Phoenix King is busy" the right most elf, Bel'Ath Eleithnir, secretary to the Phoenix court said. "He doesn't have room in his schedule to meet each noble that visit Lothern. Pressing matters of state. If you have any relevant information, then you should share it with this councel, so that we may consider it and use it as we deem fit."

"In that case, I will make an appointment through his office. As said, the information I have is of a private nature. It does not belong in this room. If there is nothing else, then don't let me keep you occupied. I'm sure you have more work this afternoon."

With that, Spires turned on his heels and walked out the room.

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Eirik wrote:
Please try to remember that, no matter how 'official' the source seems, rumours are basically just a dictionary combined with a random number generator

For Nagarythe: Come to the dark side.
PS: Bring cookies!

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 23, 2015 3:59 am 
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Better late then never! :wink: and the ever calculating prince of spires is always intriguing to read about... Him and his legions... 8)

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 25, 2015 10:06 pm 
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Glad you like reading it. And indeed, better late then never. though I doubt I would have finished it in time even if had started earlier. Here is the next installment

Mud and rain in Tiranoc
****
Bob trudged on through the muck. God, how he hated Tiranoc. A whole month of rain had made him remember why he had moved to the colonies.

And then the marshes. His feet had been soaked from the moment he got off the ship. Dry land they dared call it. How did they manage to keep those chariots moving? The baggage train had been stuck all the way from Tor Sethai. At least this patrol had been to White Peak. Uphill there had been a semblance of dry land.

Up ahead he could see the lights of the main camp reflecting off the light drizzle. Not much further now. And then for a hot bath and some wine.

“Sir!” a yell came from behind. “Deamon activity to the right!”

“Company on alert!” Bob shouted the orders. “Prepare for assault!” Soldiers were already in motion as the second command was issued. “Wheel right! Spears at a ready, this is no weather for bows. Cavalry take the far flank!” Time to find out if these new dragon princes were any good, he thought.

“What did you see Halarfan? And where?” Bob asked the soldier who had given the initial warning cry.

“Up there, amongst the peaks.” Halarfan pointed. “Magical flash. A lightning ball I think. The same as with the pink horrors last week.”

Great, Bob thought. I hate those mad things. I’ll take a sane opponent any day of the week. Better get this over with. “Reavers, divisionary tactics. Move up and investigate. Draw them out if you can.”

Several horses shot up the mountain in flashes of brown. Another magical discharge rolled off the mountain slope. It exploded as the bolt crashed into a tree halfway up the slope. And out of the explosion a mass of pink limbs appeared, thundering down the mountain side.

The front reaver knight fell in surprise as the deamon spawn washed over him at close range. The other few wheeled aside like a wave splitting on a rock. Veering left and right, they drew on the horrors, splitting the unit in two.

The left knights managed to keep ahead of the flailing tentacles storming down the mountain side. They made for the impossibly small gap between the Sea Guard and Swordmasters. The Elven horses squeezed through and fled to the relative safety beyond the two units. The unit of horrors crashed into the shieldwall, dying on spears as they struck at the elves.

It seemed impossible that the Sea Guards would hold the chaos monstrosities at bay. The first wave of attacks from the elves had managed to halt the front rank of horrors. But the later ranks simply barreled over their fallen brothers and struck deep into the Sea Guard unit. Slowly the line began to give way under the pressure.

And then the swordmasters struck the deamon horde’s flank. They swung their long blades with lightning speed and impossible grace. Each stroke cut of limbs or felled a horror. The swordmasters went through the unit like a knife through butter.

On the other flank, the Dragon Princes had kicked their steeds in motion as soon as they had seen the horrors appear. The fleeing reaver knights passed through their ranks. Moments later the elven cavalry unit crashed into the deamon unit. Their momentum carried them through the unit and out the other side. They wheeled their steeds around for another pass.

The battle was over almost as fast as it began. The deamons lay dead or dying and slowly the magic that had taken them into this realm dissipated and retreated into the Annullii Mountains.

****

“You could have taken a bath first you know.” Spires said. “You’re dripping on the carpet now”.

“I know” Bob replied. “But I also know you like getting the reports in as soon as possible. Also, it keeps me from having to point out it’s still raining.”

Bob stood, arms clasped behind his back, inside a large tent. A thick, dark red carpet covered most of the floor, except around the stove which sat to one side. The table in front of him held several maps, held in place by an assortment of rocks (another thing Tiranoc seemed to have enough off) and a few cups. Most detailed parts of Tiranoc, but there were also a few detailing the other kingdoms.

“Besides, I’ve never liked this carpet.”

“You’re still upset about the Ind campaign?” Spires arched an eyebrow. “You don’t take losing well.”

“I still hold that you cheated.”

“A Nagarathi hurt. Report then, if you must keep dripping on my carpet.”

“We had several Deamon incursions this patrol. They were mainly centered in the higher Annullii. Here, here and there” Bob marked three places on one of the maps in front of him. “The other patrols report much the same. We’re managing, but so far the incursions have been small. It feels like the rate at which the incursions appear is increasing.”

Spires moved several pieces around on the maps. “Did you check on the waystones?”

“Yes, the ones I saw are still standing and fully functioning. You're still afraid the vortex is destabilizing?”

Spires let out a sigh. "You know of the mission. The vortex will fail. These deamon incursions are already proof that magic is leaking back into the world. And when the vortex collapses it will be a catalyst for the end times."

"So, what are we doing in Tiranoc again? Wouldn't a beach in Saphery on the dream coast have been better? A sunny beach coast, preferably."

"Nobody else is here. Someone has to defend my acestral home. The other princes are all lying on their sunny Sapherian beach. But, I have good news for you" Spires said. "I've received news from our contact in the north. We're leaving in the morning."

"What's our destination?" Bob asked.

"The Druchii are going for the Eagle gate." Spires replied. "And if our contact is right, then they are coming on a scale not seen before."

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Please try to remember that, no matter how 'official' the source seems, rumours are basically just a dictionary combined with a random number generator

For Nagarythe: Come to the dark side.
PS: Bring cookies!

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PostPosted: Sun Jan 25, 2015 11:38 pm 
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Quote:
Wouldn't a beach in Saphery on the dream coast have been better? A sunny beach coast, preferably.
Got to love the tentacles, yes! :lol:

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 29, 2015 8:03 am 
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Aicanor wrote:
Quote:
Wouldn't a beach in Saphery on the dream coast have been better? A sunny beach coast, preferably.
Got to love the tentacles, yes! :lol:

:P
I'm sure you know the Sapherian beaches best ;)

On the road
****
"Rider approaching!" One of the scouts announced as he came running back to the head of the column. "It looks like of the Elyrian outriders returning."

The army was crossing a long mountain plateau. The scout came jogging out of a small copse located ahead in the bright green field. A small stream crossed their path, coming out of a small lake which was surrounded by reeds and small grasses. It dropped away over the edge to their left, where the

land fell away steeply towards the Tiranoci fens and marshes. To the right, the Annulii mountains disappeared into angry grey clouds. For the moment, the rain had let up and a weak afternoon sun was peering through the clouds as it sunk towards the great ocean far in the distance.

"Thank you, Hal'Darvan" Spires said. Turning to Bob, he said "We'll make camp here and wait for the outrider. Set up a perimeter."

****

"Commanders," Spires said, speaking to the elves gather around the table. "I've received news from up north."

Spires stood leaning on the long desk, maps spread out on it and a single scroll unrolled on top of it all. Behind him, servants were setting up the large pavilion tent. Further away was the hustle and bustle of an army camp being set up, cooking fires being lit and a defensive palisade being set up. Seated around him were elves from around Ulthuan and the colonies. The commanders of the different divisions of the first colonial legion.

"And I don't know if I've seen news this dire in all the long years. The Eagle Gate has fallen. A large Druchii army forced its way into inner Ulthuan."

Cries of dismay came from around the group.

"However," Spires went on, silencing the group, "it gets worse. The reason the Druchii managed to overcome the defenders was treason. A thunder of Caledorian dragons aided the Druchii and overran the garison."

The commanders fell silent in shock. "Impossible" one of them muttered. "I don't believe it" came another.

"I fear it's true," Spires continued. "Prince Imrik himself was seen leading the charge. Caledor has turned. And we are now in a civil war."

"So we have Druchii to the north of us, traiters to our south. Probably a sea full of pirates to our flank" Captain Nonchalantis said. "We're sitting ducks out here. Where do we turn to?"

"I say we go north," Aeremhar, commander of the dragon princes, said. "In the current confusion, we push through to Nagarythe and join up with the host."

"No," came another. "We should head out to sea. With our fleet we can make it to Lothern."

"I vote south," came a third. "We turn around to Whitepeak and dig ourselves in. Not even a whole thunder of dragons can dig us out there."

The discussion went on for a while. Several plans leading in all different directions were thrown forward and rejected.

Finally, when most plans had been mentioned twice at least, Spires cut in. "Commanders, please. You're only thinking of your own and your troops safety. You're not considering the needs of our enemies or what's truly at stake here."

"All right," An-Ar Oleth said. "What do you suggest then?"

"Once the Druchii crossed the Annulii, they will either head north for Averlorn or south for Lothern. If they turn north, we can't catch up with them in time to aid the Everqueen. But I don't think they'll head that way. Imrik may be a traitor, but he's not going after the Everqueen. Even he wouldn't dare. No, I think they're going for the Phoenix king. Strike at the heart of the Ever Empire's military first. Lothern is the key."

"And if they do, they will pass right by us. We can strike at their flank and rear. We can aid Lothern and put a big dent in the Druchii forces."

"How?" asked An-Ar Oleth. "In case you failed to notice, there is a whole mountain range between us and them. And all safe passes near us are either controlled by Druchii or Caledorians. Tiranoc has no access to the iner kingdoms. We have no way of getting to them."

"We cross here." said Spires.

"it can't be done."

"It can. Tiranocii do it sometimes. Though rarely without need. But there are some passes across the mountains. If you know what you're doing."

"And you do?" Asked An-Ar Oleth.

Spires stated "I do."

"As an Elfling, I spend a lot of time high up in the mountains." Spires explained. "The animals won't bother a group this big. And if we stick to the waystone routes magical discharges should be kept to a minimum. The main thing we need to worry about are the reality bubbles."

"Reality bubbles?" Aeremhar asked.

"I don’t think anyone really knows what they are. Or if they are actually real or imagined. But in some places magic seems to build up and form dream realities. They are mostly harmless if you keep your wits about you and don't let them get to your head." Spires said.

"But some people have been known to disappear inside the peaks only to emerge a decade later again, while for them only a day passed. Or the reverse, where people are gone for only a day, but they return aged years."

"And that is what you want us to go into?" Aeremhar asked.

"Yes. If we want to save Ulthuan, we must. And I believe we can do it." Spires looked around the circle. Some had their heads bend down. Others looked back or gave a small nod. Spires waited for a second longer. No more replies came.

"All right. It's decided then. We leave in the morning. Tomorrow we cross the Annulii.

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Please try to remember that, no matter how 'official' the source seems, rumours are basically just a dictionary combined with a random number generator

For Nagarythe: Come to the dark side.
PS: Bring cookies!

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PostPosted: Thu Jan 29, 2015 11:43 pm 
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Nice use of the bubbles in your story by the way. And... shouldn't Bob actually like water?

Also, the tentacles are not my idea, but GW "creative team's". I am not into that genre. :lol:

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 03, 2015 9:02 am 
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I did draw some inspiration from GW, both from the actual Khaine book and from the rumors floating around. The eagle gate assault which is mentioned didn't feature in my original plans. So it did give some direction to the story. Another source of inspiration is our own Headshot (some secret communication). In case you're reading Headshot, hi...

As for Bob, he does like water. Just not the rainy, cold kind of water. Anything under 20 degrees (Celsius that is) is a no go...

I am actually looking for a place to insert Gulleplutt into the story. But I haven't found a decent place for him as yet. Crossing the Annulii on a dragon does feel a bit like cheating. ;)

Speaking of which, next part coming.

Comments and critiques welcome, as always.

Rod

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 03, 2015 9:03 am 
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Location: The city of Spires
Mist was pushing in on all sides. Line of sight was perhaps 10 feet. Slowly the army wound its way up the rocky sides of the Annulii. Each elf in the army kept a close eye on the person in front of him . Losing sight of the person in front of you could easily mean getting lost or breaking up the column and leading those behind you astray.

No one spoke much. The mist dampened all sounds until it seemed the person next to you was whispering. Even the clinks of armor and clops of horses were subdued.

At the head of the column Spires and Bob rode through the damp. The path, such as it was, led up a narrow, steep sided valley. Shadows grew out of the mist to announce boulder and turns in the path. Here and there, a single rune was drawn on a boulder. Slowly, the sides of the valley became lower and fell away to the sides. The land flattened out.

Ahead, one of the shadows dissolved into a person. An elf was lying on a large boulder, one arm behind his head, the other held a piece of waybread. His hair was shaved except for a small top knot. A well worn cloak, which has probably once been blue hung around his shoulders. He looked up as the column approached, a slight small playing on his lips.

Bob halted his horse next to the elf. "Well met, Anlar'Sel. Walk with us as we move on. We don't want to hold up the column longer then needed. Tell us what's ahead."

"Well met indeed." Sel said, jumping of the rock. "Welcome to this lovely plateau."

"You seem awfully happy," Bob said.

"The weather reminds me of home. Except that, unlike in Nagarythe, the chance of a Druchii raid happening here are next to non-existent. What's not to like?"

"Right." Bob dropped a small pause. "Well then, report. What have you seen of the road ahead?"

Sel darted in and out of the clouds floating past, easily keeping up with the horses. "Seen? Not much. In this weather, even a griffon doesn't see much," Sel said with a slight smile on his face. "As for the situation ahead, we're on a small plateau here. The land drops away sharply to the left, that's not the way to go unless you've grown wings since last night."

"If we veer just slightly right of straight ahead, then we should have another short climb. That should find us on the ridge between this peak and the next, after which the land fall away into a valley where we could camp for the night. The way is slippery but passable."

The mist quickly became thicker as they moved forward. Soon Bob and Spires had trouble seeing each other. And then even seeing more their own hands became hard, until the whole word was a white, wet blanket.

Bob urged his horse forward just a few more steps. Then, like waking from a dream, the mist blanket was pulled away. In the blink of an eye, an otherworldly vista unfolded itself ahead of them. They stood upon a cobblestone road, which ran straight as an arrow. The sky was a dark yellow, almost orange, with not a cloud in sight. And instead of stopping at the horizon, which was missing, the sky seemed to continue on to pass underneath the road.

Ahead in the distance lay a fortress town. Grey stone floating in the yellow sky. Like the road, the city rested on nothing. High towers with red roofs stood above the walls. In the middle of it all, a high bell tower rose high above the rest. The road ran straight at it, ending at an arched stone gate. In the distance other road could also be seen running towards the city in a similar fashion. Like the city was the hub of a wheel with spokes running out of it. No living thing was seen anywhere. Not even a blade of grass showed between the stones of the road.

"Turn around!" Bob shouted.

Bob pulled hard on the reins to turn his own horse. He looked over his shoulder. And froze in place. Instead of seeing the wall of mist he had walked out off, the road simply continued on into the distance. It finished in a tiny speck at, for lack of a better word, the horizon. And it was filled with the legion that had been trailing them through the Annullii.

"Well, there is a sight you don't see every day." muttered Sel.

Behind them, the column came to a slow halt.

Bob looked towards Spires. "Any ideas?" he asked.

"It's safe to say we've walked into a bubble. It looks like we could either go back, go forward or try sideways and aim for one of the other roads we see in the distance" Spires answered.

Anlar'Sel picked up a small pebble and threw it over the side. When it fell past the level of the road, he wandered over to the edge of the road. He looked over the edge to see the stone rapidly disappearing into the deep. "I think sideways is not an option, Sir." Sel said. "At least not one I want to try."

"I would say we go back then," Bob said. "We're bound to walk back out of the mist that way sooner or later."

"Unfortunately," Spires answered, "that's not how these reality bubbles work. Once you're in them, you become part of its reality. The way we came in doesn't exist here. And north and south don't necessarily lie in the same directions. Or even exist here at all for that matter."

"Well, what do you suggest then?" Bob asked.

"We should pick the option that makes the most sense in this bubble. The one that gives the biggest chance of finding a way out. There doesn't seem to be anything to our backs. We could walk for days without seeing something. We might even just go in a circle. So, I say we go forward. We should reach that city sooner or later. Then we can check there if there is anything else around here and if we can perhaps find a way out."

"Pass the word. We make for the city. Water is being rationed until we know if there is a source of water nearby. And tell the men to stay away from the edge. I don't know how deep the fall is. And I don't think anyone wants to find out."

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Please try to remember that, no matter how 'official' the source seems, rumours are basically just a dictionary combined with a random number generator

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PostPosted: Thu Feb 05, 2015 8:18 am 
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3 posts in a row. Starts to feel like I'm talking to myself... ;) I'll keep going anyway. Time for the next part.

****
The sky turned from yellow into dark orange as the army marched on. Slowly the city grew larger. The army had closed perhaps three quarters of the distance. Finer details could now be made out on the city. Empty windows stared at them from the towers. No watch could be seen on the city walls. The gates showed a relief drawing hewn into it, depicting some great battle scene. They were still too far away to make out the exact story that was shown.

Then, a group of dots spread out from the towers. The flight of birds circled around the city, picking up more and more members. Slowly it spiraled up around the central bell tower. The lowest member of the flight rose above the top of the tower. The flight of birds changed course and headed straight for the army.

"High alert," Spires commanded. "Be ready for defense. Prepare your weapons. But let's find out what it is first. We don't want to threaten it and destroy an alliance before it even began. It could simply be friendly, or simply curious. "

"Let's hope they are," Spires added as an afterthought to Bob. "We certainly could use an ally."

The birds quickly grew in size. Before too long Spires could make out that it was a kind of harpy that was approaching. The man-sized creatures sported large bat-like wings and large eagle claws. They displayed a variety of female faces, each one contorted in a feral scream.

The clamor of harpies passed over the front ranks. The warriors shuffled as the harpies passed overhead, jingling armor and weapons.

"Steady!" Spires shouted to the troops. "They could just be checking us out."

The clamor passed over half the army, giving little indication of even seeing the elves. Then, as if by an unspoken command, the harpies dove down on a unit of spearelves, picking up several of the soldiers, knocking over others. Several of the young elves were pushed off the road, both by the harpies and by their comrades who tried to get out of the way. Their screams could be heard for a long while as they fell.

"Bows!" Spires shouted. "Fire at will!"

The narrow road hampered the movement of troops, further increasing the chaos. The elves of the attacked unit tried to get away from the onslaught. A nearby unit of White Lion warriors tried to move towards the fight. A unit of seaguard dropped their shields to bring their bows to bear. Several of the harpies started making off with some elven bodies.

Then a single black-shafted arrow spead through the sky. Anlar'Sel was already drawing for a second time when one of the harpies fell from the sky. His aim was true and his mighty bow from the north hitting with the force of a warmachine. From several other places around the army column similar arrows sped up towards the harpies. One harpy fell, and then another. The harpies shrieked in a high pitched voice as they were struck down.

The seaguard and archers started adding their arrows to those of the shadow warriors. They started taking their toll on the clamor of harpies. As more and more fell, the harpies started fleeing. First in ones and twos. But soon, the whole clamor was in rout.

The skirmish was over as suddenly as it had started. It had lasted perhaps five minutes in total. Warriors from the attacked unit slowly got up again a brushed themselves off. Order reasserted itself over the army.

"Get a report about the dead and wounded," Spires said to Bob. "See how the unit is doing. We need to get moving again soon. We don't want to stay out on this road longer then usual. It's safe to say they aren't friendly. Let's get to that city learn what we can."

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Please try to remember that, no matter how 'official' the source seems, rumours are basically just a dictionary combined with a random number generator

For Nagarythe: Come to the dark side.
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 09, 2015 1:23 pm 
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The story is slowly growing out of control. I was planning for a relatively short piece. O well...

As always, all comments and criticisms welcome.

****
The stone gateway loomed up ahead of them. The relief printed on it showed not a battle scene, but a great hunt, where harpies descended on various groups of people. The was an army in a scene similar to the earlier battle. But there were also scenes depicting merchants, women and children being hunted. The harpies didn't discriminate when finding prey.

Other scenes depicted groups of people coming to pay tribute and worship the harpies. Wagons filled with meats and prisoners were shown being carted into the city.

Both the gate and the wall above seemed unattended. No movement had been seen since the harpies had disappeared back into the city. But slowly a feeling of being watched descended on the army of Spires. A feeling that increased as they had gotten closer as they neared the gates. Now, as they stood underneath the wall which was perhaps a hundred feet high, even the most hardened veteran shifted uncomfortably or looked over his shoulder.

"Let's see if we can find a way in," Spires said.

"We could try knocking," Bob replied

"Ah, but who, or perhaps what, would answer?" Sel asked.

"Stop joking you two. And get those gates open."

Bob and Sel approached the gate together with two other soldiers who stood nearby. Cautiously, they ran their hands over the stone door. A tap on it gave a small thud, but nothing more. Sel pushed harder against the left door. Slowly, without a creak, the door swung inwards. Surprised, one of the soldiers pushed against the other side of the gate. That too opened without much resistance.

"That's unexpected" Sel muttered.

Cautiously, the army walked forward through the gate. The wall was easily thirty feet deep and dark and shadowy after the eternal, directionless glow from the sky.

After a hurried walk, the front rank emerged on the other side of the wall. Ahead, the road forked in three ways. Left and right, the road followed the curve of the wall until it disappeared around the bend. Straight on the road ran for maybe a thousand feet until it ran into a building where it split left and right.

As Bob, Sel and Spires emerged from the gateway, the feeling of watchfulness increased even further. The silence hung over the city like an aggressive blanket. It sucked up all sounds so that even their footsteps on the cobbles were muffled.

"I think we should split up," Spires said. "That way we cover ground faster and have a better chance of finding where we are and perhaps a way out. Here at least, it doesn't look like we should fear getting lost in mist."

"I don't like it," Bob said. "What if one group falls into another bubble? Or if we're attacked again?"

"I don't fear the harpies that much. They were too disorganised to do us much harm. And now we know they are coming." Spires replied. "As for other bubbles. I guess that's a risk we have to take. If only one of us does make it out, remember the mission. The Vortex must not fail."

"Very well. But I still don't like it."

"You take the left road," Spires said. "Take Anlar'Sel along with you. Nonchalantis, take the right. I'll go straight ahead."

****

Spires slowly advanced through the straight street. Still, no sign of life was seen anywhere in the city. As they passed buildings, groups of soldiers veered left and right to inspect them. Doorways revealed little of use. No building was inhabited. But it was hard to tell if they had been abandoned recently or ages ago. No dust or wear was seen anywhere. The few narrow side streets they passed contained no information, showing only the same abandoned buildings.

Spires halted at the junction. The road split at straight angles left and right. In front of them, one of the towers they had first seen when they had entered the bubble rose up.

Spires strode up to the tall arched door of the tower. As with the other buildings they had seen, it wasn't locked. Spires pushed it open wide. And almost fell down into the void at the other side of the door. He quickly stepped back from the edge. The doorway showed another world hundreds of feet beneath it. He looked down on a landscape from high above. Mountains, rivers and a whole coastline showed. A small white cloud drifted by.

"Say, that looks a bit like I would imagine the Nagaroth coastline would look like from up above," a soldier, looking over Spires' shoulder said.

Spires pushed the door closed again. "No way down from here. Let us move on."

They went down the right street. It seemed to follow the curve of the outer wall. The situation here was the same as before. No sign of life or habitation showing anywhere. They came to a right angled corner taking them left again, deeper into the city. Another left and a right again. The city followed a geometric pattern leading them to the centre of the city where Spires expected the bell tower to be located.

As they got closer to the centre the harpies started appearing again high up in the sky this time. First a single one passed overhead, flitting over the street to give them only a quick glance at it. Then, in two's and three's. They were never visible for more then a few seconds and they flew out of range of even the mighty bows of the Nagarathi.

At last came the final right turn and the central square came into view. Straight ahead, the bell tower rose up out of a cathedral, higher even then any of the buildings in Lothern. The cathedral stood in the focal point of the round plaza, streets leading up to it from all sides. Statues lined the periphery of the plaza and stood scattered all over it. A whole host of magical creatures was on display. Sphinxes and minotaurs stood besides griffins and gargoyles.

As Spires and his troops walked into the plaza several hundred harpies took flight from the bell tower, joining the clamor already circling it.

"Be ready. Prepare for an attack!" Spires ordered. "We need to get a look in the cathedral. The building is different enough from the rest to offer the best chance of some real information. Get ready to cross the square. On my mark we march."

Spires waved his troops forward. As they started across the plaza, Nonchalantis emerged from somewhere on the right into the plaza as well. They started moving on an interception course towards Spires and his troops.

Spires and his troops had closed perhaps half the distance across the square to the bell tower when the harpies attacked.

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Eirik wrote:
Please try to remember that, no matter how 'official' the source seems, rumours are basically just a dictionary combined with a random number generator

For Nagarythe: Come to the dark side.
PS: Bring cookies!

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Painting progress, done/in progress/in box: 167/33/91


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PostPosted: Tue Feb 10, 2015 2:21 am 
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:lol: ahhh that is also what I said long ago... when I first started my story, then two years/ 3 volumes later I finally finished it. Not to mention the small addition of the end times that I blame Aicanor for .. lol

Interesting read though. This bubble is boggling the mind a bit, and allows for a choice from an endless amount of events to occur. ... though I wonder if they will get out before the vortex fails. . :-k

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2015 1:06 am 
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Apologies for not reviewing this earlier, just started holidays and I'm catching up.

I love that you don't force the reader to accept the Prince of Spires Machiavellian cunning by constant reiteration of his traits, you lead the reader there through the story proper. I love the feeling that I get from him that he almost has this Age of Enlightenment, Jane Austin theater, staid and proper attitude to everything. The worlds going to hell in a hand basket and the Princes of Spires simply smiles and says, 'well of course, these are all the circumstances that have led into this occurrence and these are the natural responses and these are the ways in which we will mitigate it.' It's almost as if his sense of superiority supersedes the sense of danger from even the End Times.

Very entertaining.

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PostPosted: Sat Feb 21, 2015 8:21 pm 
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Apologies for the delay in updates. Real life got in the way big time... But, I have the next part lined up.

@Larose: that's exactly how I'm starting to feel. I'll manage to keep it in one volume (I think at least). But stories have a way of telling themselves. I'm just the guy typing... Without giving away too much, I can give you a slight glimpse in the future. They will get out before the vortex fails. And yes, the bubble is really weird. Not sure how I ended up in there.

@Makiwara, thank you for the kind words, and for reading it. Writing is always better with an audience. I do try to let people make up their own minds about the characters. Personally I'm always a bit distrustful of people who tell me what someone is like.

Anyway, on to the next part.

****

The harpies came in groups, diving down on the soldiers from above at lightning speed. They picked off soldiers who strayed too far from their unit and soldiers in the middle of units where the soldiers lacked the space to move. Picking up their prey, the harpies swung back upwards and dropped the unfortunate soldier back to the ground.

Spires wheeled his horse. "Shields up! Keep formation! Archers lay a cover fire! We press on."

Slowly, the column started moving forward again. The pace of the harpy assaults increased. "Reavers, set up distracting manoeuvres! Keep our flanks clear!"

Foot by foot, the bell tower loomed closer. Slowly the archers were starting to take their toll on the harpies. Red and white fletched arrows were thick in the sky. Whenever a harpy landed for a few seconds it was run down by a horsed elf.

They would make it. The bell tower was in reach. Nonchalantis and his troops were closing in.

Then one of the bells high up in the tower rang out in a deafening peal! Battle forgotten, more then a few elves pressed their hand to their ears, trying to keep out the noise. The harpies screeched and wheeled away.

As the bell rang down, silence descended over the plaza. The whole city held its breath. Then, a crumbling noise came from one of the statues spread across the square. Stone grating over stone. One of the minotaurs stretched its legs. And then another statue. And another. Soon, the square sounded like it was in the middle of an avalanche. Statues were stepping off their plinths left and right.

"Defensive formation!" Spires' voice cut through the rumbling. "Lions take the left flank. Reavers go buy us time!"

Brown horses flitted out from amongst the troops. They flew at the different statues, veering away at the last moment. The statues chased after the fleet horses, momentarily distracted from the troops trying to organise themselves.

Those few seconds were all the colonial troops needed. They set up a tight formation. A large ring facing outwards. Nonchalantis soon joined them, enlarging the ring with his troops.

Then the statues crashed into the red and white line. They struck like a force of nature. Any soldier unlucky enough to stand in the way was crushed underneath the impact of stone. Bones were broken with a single sweep of an arm or claw.

A couple of sphinxes half flew half jumped into the middle of a unit of White Lion warriors, squashing several of the hardy warriors. The remain White Lions stoically set to work with their mighty axes. They rained down blows on the sides of the stone statues, slowly wearing them down until they collapsed into the ground, turning to dust.

But it was too little. Slowly, inexorably Spires' lines started folding in on itself. The stone statues were too tough to wound reliably and there were too many to evade them effectively. Each elven warrior who went down was one who couldn't be replaced. The pressure from all sides pressed the ranks back one step at a time. Finally, there was nowhere left to retreat to. The circle had closed in on itself. Warriors stood back to back. Swords, axes and shields pointed outwards, like a giant porcupine, defending itself.

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Eirik wrote:
Please try to remember that, no matter how 'official' the source seems, rumours are basically just a dictionary combined with a random number generator

For Nagarythe: Come to the dark side.
PS: Bring cookies!

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PostPosted: Tue Feb 24, 2015 10:58 pm 
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Suppose now Spires needs to come up with something clever. Or someone just pop the bubble. :mrgreen:

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PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2015 5:30 pm 
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the cunning of spires will not be undone by some mere bubble world! [-X lol

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 27, 2015 10:10 pm 
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Clever stuff? :shock: not my forte... ;) But Spires will probably find a way out at some point. Either that or I need to retcon the whole thing to keep my general ;) And I wouldn't want to rob Headshot of a decent villain to fight.

Time to pick up where we left then, surrounded and in dire straits.

****
And then, in the moment Spires' line threatened to collapse under the pressure, a single horn rang out. Loud and clear it came in two long, drawn out notes. It brought memories of a crisp morning, untainted by shadow.

In answer to the horn came the thunder of a hundred hooves, growing louder and louder as the rhythm picked up pace and the horses closed in. Bob had come together with the Dragon Princes of the colonies.

All around, the moving statues turned around to see what this new disturbance was. The momentary lapse in concentration was all the encouragement Spires needed.

"Forward! For the Ever Empire! For the Colonies!"

With that, Spires broke into a run, his long mithril sword raised high over his shoulder, charging the nearest stone griffon. Following their lord, the different regiments charged out en-masse, each seeking out the nearest foe.

And then the Dragon Prince charge struck home. The waves of horsed elves thundered past, splitting around the elven circle. It was like a force of nature sweeping over the plaza. Lances lowered they struck into the statues. Their magical lances, propelled by their momentum, piercing the though hides of the monstrosities. First one and then another statue exploded in a shower of stones.

The unexpected assault tipped the balance in the elven favour. In moments, only a few isolated statues remained upright. Taking advantage of their now superior numbers and skill, the elves made short work of these.

Soon, it was all over, an archer picking off the last circling harpy. As it struck the ground silence descended upon the square. Here and there, wounded elves sat down, giving their tired legs a rest.

Bob dismounted and approached Spires, who leaned against the remains of one of the stone statues, drinking from a waterskin.

"You could have come earlier, you know," Spires said, a small smile on his lips.

"Here I come, saving your hide, and what do I get? Not even a thank you!" Bob replied, grinning.

"What took you so long? Did you find anything in the city?" Spires asked.

"Only empty buildings and wide avenues. The towers were weird, they offered a glimpse into a different world from above. One of my guys said he recognised some of the terrain from his travels in the Empire of men."

"Much the same as our experience then. We've had no more luck then you in finding a way out. The way I see it, there is one place left to look," Spires said, point over his shoulder at the cathedral.

"Let's set up camp here," Spires said. "Get things organised, do a headcount and look after the wounded. After a hot meal, we'll take a small team into the cathedral to investigate."

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Please try to remember that, no matter how 'official' the source seems, rumours are basically just a dictionary combined with a random number generator

For Nagarythe: Come to the dark side.
PS: Bring cookies!

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 04, 2015 1:22 pm 
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Big update this time

****
Spires and Bob stood at the bottom of the stairs leading up to the grand entrance of the cathedral. Behind them stood Nonchalantis and Anlar'Sel, together with another handful of scouts. All stood looking up at the entrance with a slight trepidation. Anxiety over what they might find inside mixed with the hope of finding a way out of this bubble and fear that they would not.

Nonchalantis fidgeted with his coat. "Shall we get moving then?"

Slowly Spires looked around. "Yes, let us get moving and see what we can find out."

Spires led the small group up the stairs, arriving at the foot of the tower. Two oaken doors, the first wood they had seen in the city, rose the height of two elves above them. Surrounding it were images of harpies. At the highest point of the door, a large cockatrice reared up between a pair of harpies, its scaled body offsetting the feathered harpies.

The door was sealed shut. Together, the elves managed to slowly force open the doors. An ominous creek accompanied the door opening.

The inside of the cathedral was dark and gloomy compared to the bright sky outside. The smell of decay was heavy on the air. As their eyes adjusted to the darkness, they slowly started making out more details. Unlike the other buildings they had visited, this one was cluttered. Piles of debris lay scattered across the floor. On closer examination, the piles turned out to be bones. Whether elven, animal or other was hard to tell in the gloom.

Left and right, doorways showed stairs leading up into the building. Ahead of them was a long, open space, an altar filling most of the space at the far end. A large pit occupied the centre of the room. As they approached they edge, they could see a double ramp running down left and right along the edge into the dark, deep below the ground level of the cathedral.

"You go investigate the upper reaches of the building," Spires said to several of the soldiers behind them, gesturing at the doorways left and right of the entrance. "We'll investigate the ground level and head down below."

Cautiously, the group circumvented the pit, working their way towards the altar while scanning the different piles for some useful clues.

A wailing screech rose up from behind the altar. It echoed of the chamber walls until it seemed to emanate from all around them. Then, slowly, with an otherworldly grace, a cockatrice reared itself behind the altar, revealing itself as the source of the screech.

It had a long, serpentine body, easily stretching longer then three or four elves. Its head showed a pair of intelligent, charcoal eyes above a pointed beak. As it reared up on its long clawed legs it spread its wings which consisted of a blend of feathers and membranous bat-like stretches. The part of its body above the wings, around the head, was covered in bright, blue green feathers.

Two beats of its wings, disturbing the piles of debris around the altar, took it into the air. With another screech, it circled around the ceiling of the room. Banking hard, it dove at the elves standing below. With lightning reflexes, they jumped out of the way.

Another handful of wing beats took the cockatrice back up towards the ceiling. Then, the mighty bow of Anlar'Sel sang. The long, red and white fletched arrow flew at the beast and struck it just below its left wing.

Screaming out in pain, it sailed down towards the opposite side of the pit, landing in a heavy thump.

The elves spilt up, drawing their weapons as they headed around the pit towards the wounded animal. Spires and Bob headed towards the head of the cathedral and Nonchalantis and Sel went in the opposite direction.

Cautiously they approached the cockatrice. It hissed at them in defiance.

Sel loaded and other arrow onto his bow and let it fly. With a nonchalant flick of its uninjured wing, the cockatrice swatted the arrow away.

Swords raised, Bob and Spires came at the beast from the other side. Quickly dancing in and out of its reach, they dealt several small cuts across the side of the animal. A deadly dance unfolded. The cockatrice was too tough and too fast to wound seriously. Any hits the elves managed resulted only in minor cuts. The four elves worked together too efficiently for the cockatrice to be able to strike at any one of them reliably.

Suddenly, the cockatrice changed tactic. Instead of trying to fend of all the elves at the same time, it charged headlong at Spires in a mad, lightning quick run. The distance between the cockatrice and Spires small enough to close the gap in seconds.

Nonchalantis saw what happened. "No!"

In a quick rush, Nonchalantis threw himself at the cockatrice, driving his sword into the long, scaled legs.

Injured and distracted, the cockatrice missed Spires. Battle crazed, it rounded on Nonchalantis. It flicked out its beak and drew a long gash in Nonchalantis' side. It placed its other leg on top of the elf's chest slowly crushing it.

The distraction was all the other elves needed. They struck the beast with hammering blows, aiming at its head and the weak spots along its chest. Moments later the large animal lay dead on the cathedral floor.

Spires knelt down next to Nonchalantis, grabing his arm in a strong grip and putting pressure on the wound with his other arm. "Quick, get a healer in here!" he shouted at Bob.

"I couldn't let it take you" Nonchalantis said. "You. You're what's keeping the colonies together. They are the future of the elves."

"Quiet. Save your strength," Spires said.

"I hear my waystone calling. Don't weep for me. You already gave me a second lease of life. I couldn't have asked for more." Coughing interupted Nonchalantis. "Lead the troops out, will you? You'll need them at the end of the road. The vortex may depend on them."

Spires held Nonchalantis' hand, slowly feeling the wounded elf's strength failing. A single tear ran down his cheek as he felt Nonchalantis' life leave his body. "Safe journey, my friend," he whispered. "May we meet again someday, on the other side, and share some happy memories."

Spires laid down Nonchalantis' body and slowly stood up. A group of elves came running from the cathedral's entrance, Bob at their head.

"It's too late. There is nothing that can be done for him anymore."

Spires turned to the mage that was on Bob's heels. "We're going to look for a way out. Once we're all on the way out, I want you to set off a flame storm inside this place. I don't want to leave any of our dead to those beasts out there."

With that Spires strode away towards the ramp leading down into the catacombs of the building.

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 09, 2015 4:14 pm 
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Spires and Bob stood at the bottom of the ramp looking up. The ceiling was a distant pin-prick. Slowly the last of the colonial army move out through the arched gate and into the mists of the Annullii beyond.

After the defeat of the cockatrice, finding the exit had been relatively easy. The ramp in the centre of the cathedral had led down through rooms and along the edge of the pit, finally ending in a small courtyard with a single gate. Unbarring it, the elves discovered a mist covered landscape beyond. Spring grass ran down a mountain slope. The freshness of it hinting at the magical grass of Ellyrion.

Guessing this was their best bet to get out of the bubble, they had mobilised the army and brought it down here. And now, a few hours after first setting foot in the cathedral, the last of the troops were leaving the bubble.

After a last look up, Spires turned to the mage at his side. "Burn it." With that he walked to the gateway and into the country beyond.

The grass felt springy underneath Spires' feet after the cobbled streets of the bubble as he walked past his troops. Anlar'Sel was waiting for him at the head of the column.

"Anlar'Sel, send out your scouts. We need to find out where we are. And, perhaps as important, when. I'll take the army down the mountains. We'll be heading east, as far as we can tell in this mist at least. Hopefully we'll hit the Bleak Coast at some point."

"Yes sir," Sel replied. "I'll have the lads report back as soon as they know something."

The shadow warrior flashed some hand signals at one of his comrades and then darted off to pass on the order.

With that Spires waved his army into motion and rode into the mist.

****

As they descended, the mist thinned until they rode out of the cloud and could survey the landscape ahead of them. A gentle slope rand down into a wooded valley in the distance. Wavy grass, coming up to the horses flanks in places, covered the ground in between. A couple of wild horses ran across the field on the opposite side of the valley.

"I think it's a pretty safe bet to say we're in Ellyrion," Bob remarked.

"Yes, so it would seem," Spires said. He pointing at the valley floor. "Often, Ellyrion lords have streams running through their houses. The horses like having a bit of wilderness at hand. Let us follow the stream and see if we can find someone who can give us a bit more information."

Before long, an elf emerged from the dense undergrowth near the stream. His shaven head and long cloak announced him as one of Spires' shadow warriors.

"Well met!" the elf said. "You’re certainly heading in the right direction. Another hour or two should get you to a fairly large mansion. Judging from the smoke rising from its chimneys, I would say that it's occupied."

"Thank you," Spires replied.

Turning to Bob, he said "Let's continue on ahead with a small delegation. Without knowing what's going on, we don't want to scare whoever is occupying that mansion."

"I'll have the army set up camp here," Bob replied. "But I'd be happier if we also bring along an advanced company. Just in case. We won't know who we'll run into."

"Very well."

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 09, 2015 11:50 pm 
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So they managed to step out of the bubble again. But where, and at which time? I hope we'll learn that soon.

In other news, check here if you already didn't: http://www.ulthuan.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=67642&start=30

Endanel_Athanwe wrote:
With the sacred lands of Ulthuan claimed by the sea, the House of Athanwe, its household, vassals, dependents, warriors and ships formally begs to join the City of Spires and be granted a suitable fief or the chance to carve one out under the high suzerainty of the Prince of Spires. Niemendil Athanwe, Lord of Tor Diadon and of the Isle of Galadon, son of Talandar, Companion of King Bel-Korhadris, son of Raenor the Silent, son of Calaeron the Mariner, promises to pay Homage to the Prince of Spires and to swear Fealty to him. To assist him with deed and counsel when he calls and to uphold his justice in his lands.

What says the Prince?


Now that I call a first post. =D>

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While we are getting a little bit off topic and because it has the foresight of someone like the Prince of Spires written all over it...

The original Phoenix Crown is up for grabs now right? Thorgrim Grudgebearer is dead and his hold is being over run by Skaven...

Kind of an opportunity for a savvy empire building elf Prince right there no? Certainly would be a good way to test the loyalty of a new vassal...

:wink:

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Aicanor wrote:
So they managed to step out of the bubble again. But where, and at which time? I hope we'll learn that soon.

In other news, check here if you already didn't: http://www.ulthuan.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=67642&start=30

Now that I call a first post. =D>

All will be revealed... ;) (which is a mysterious way of saying, working on it...).

I did indeed saw that post :D. Great first post. World domination here I come. :)

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The original Phoenix Crown is up for grabs now right? Thorgrim Grudgebearer is dead and his hold is being over run by Skaven

That is one brilliant idea. I hadn't thought of that yet. First, Spires has to get out of his current mess. But after that...

Hm, I have a feeling I won't be done when Ulthuan sinks.

Rod

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 10, 2015 9:41 pm 
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Well then, my job is done, the Laughing God will be happy.

:wink:

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 20, 2015 12:34 pm 
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Sorry for not getting the next installement up faster. But here we are:

****
The landscape got friendlier and flatter as they got closer to the mansion. The wild fields gave way to fenced and cultivated fields. The trees and undergrowth got thinner. Here and there trees had been felled along the riverbank.

And then the mansion appeared around a bend in the river. The structure was all arches and towers. Pale yellow sandstone bridges connected outlying buildings with the main house.

The river they had been following split and split again into a multitude of small streams, which wound their way around the different buildings. Several statues, mainly depicting horses in different positions, were located on small islands scattered around the garden.

Spires, accompanied by Bob, Anlar'Sel and a handful of other officers approached the mansion following the winding main road. They dismounted in the small courtyard in front of the main building and approached the front door.

There was slight movement to the curtains of the window on the floor above the front door. Someone was watching them approach.

They reached the steps leading up to the door. Spires made to ascend when the door burst open and a tall elf burst out.

"Cal'vyn?" he asked, incredulously.

Spires raised an eyebrow in surprise. "Aithlin. What are the odds. I go by Spires now."

"Yes, yes," Aithlin said. "The rising star of the empire, the colonial lord. I know. But you were Cal'vyn when we served on Ardreth's ship, so Cal'vyn you'll remain to me.

They said you were dead, or rather, missing, presumed dead." Aithlin continued in a torrent of words. "What on earth are you doing here?"

"I walked here. My army is camped up the valley."

"But? There's no road leading out of the valley. I hear there's a story in there."

"Yes, there is," Spires said. "Do you have some place we can talk? We can probably use an update on what's going on in Ulthuan."

"Yes, of course. Where are my manner? Come in, come in," Aithlin said.

****

Before long, the party was sitting in a large reception room. High backed, cushioned chairs stood around a low burning fireplace. A mural depicting a stampeding herd of the famous Elyrian horses covered most of the ceiling.

"You know, it didn't take long after you disappeared for the different factions in the conclave to try and claim pieces of your little empire,"Aithlin was saying as he led Spires into the reception room.

"What?" Spires replied. "They couldn't do that. I can't have been gone long enough to be declared dead. They wouldn't dare."

"Yours is a big price Cal'vyn. And with the war going on, they figured they could just claim you as a victim of war. Speed up the procedure and get ahead of the competing claims. It's hard to say who started it. But it's safe to say a lot of princes have had their eye on your colonies for a while.

Pretty much the only reason they didn't get any bills passed and you still have your lands was because the whole conclave was in disarray. Or rather, still is."

"Uproar? You mean with the betrayal of the Caledorians?" Spires asked.

"That started it, yes. But then the conclave split between supporting either Malekith or Tyrion for Phoenix King,"Aithlin said. "And now, no legitimate majority can be found to pass internal affairs bills. Though, if you ask me, the reason they haven't is because with all the infighting the princes have forgotten about you for the moment."

"Supporting Malekith?" Spires aksed, surprised. "How can that be a discussion point? How long exactly have we been gone?"

"You disappeared well over half a year ago my dear Cal'vyn."

"What? Tell me everything," Spires said. "What's been happening in Ulthuan?"

"Well, it's a long story. But here's the short version of it"

With that Aithlin started giving an account of the civil war that had been raging across Ulthuan. He tried to stick to the minimum of information. But even so, the tales lasted well into the evening.

Aithlin told of Finunbar's murder. Of the Caledorian betrayal and how Tyrion had raced to the Blighted Isle to draw the Sword of Khaine. How Teclis had sided with Malekith and how Malekith had walked through the flames of Assuryan unprotected. How Tyrion had burned Averlorn and started a dark reign similar to Aenarions Nagarathian court. Ulthuan was split down the middle, with only a few independent Princes left like Aithlin himself.

"The only reason I think they are letting me be," Aithlin concluded, "is that I have no strategic position, few resources and even fewer men under arms. I'm too much trouble for little gain."

As Aithlin finished silence fell on the group as each of them tried to process what they had just been told.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 28, 2015 10:41 pm 
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Bob looked up at Spires. "All right then. Where do we go from here?"

Spires considered for a moment. "Our first priority is the mission. We need to get to the vortex. Ulthuan is more important the any power struggle. After that, we shall see."

Spires paused for a moment. Continuing, "Though I doubt I could support Finubar's murderer. But we'll cross that bridge when we get there."

"Mission? What's your mission?" Aithlin asked curiously.

"I can not go into too many details," Spires answered. "It is a sensitive matter. I am sure you understand."

Spires dropped a pause, letting his audience wait for a moment.

In a low voice, forcing Aithlin to lean forward, Spires continued. "In short, the Vortex is failing. In past raids, Druchii have managed to damage it enough to start a chain reaction. And I am sure that Grom's invasion accelerated matters. Slowly but surely, the Vortex is unravelling and more and more magic is seeping back into the world. I think it is even one of the triggers of the End Times."

Silence descended on the reception room. Aithlin looked aghast. "But. That can't be possible!" he cried out. The Vortex has been here for years. It can't just collapse!"

"The vortex is collapsing," Bob said. "Listen to the winds singing. You can hear the magic. Once you know it's there, there is no denying."

"Bob is correct," Spires added in. "We learned of this decades ago. And we have been looking since then for different ways to stabilise and restore the Vortex.

We think we have found a way. We have managed to recover one of the creation artefacts from Caledor Dragontamer. With that, we should be able to stabilise the Vortex."

"Impossible." Aithlin had dropped his head in his hands. "But, somehow, it would explain much. And I can indeed hear the winds stronger then any time before. I wish I didn't have to live through these times."

After a moment, Aithlin nodded to himself. "Very well. I suppose we have no say over the times we're born too. Is there anything I could help you with? If you don’t mind, I'll stick to the safety of my hills. But other then that, I can see what I can do for you."

"We need to get to the Isle of the Dead" Spires held Aithlin's gaze. "For the ritual, we need to be at the heart of the Vortex. If you have some way of getting there that would be a great help. Or any information on what lies between here and the Isle. Army movements, balance of power, that sort of thing."

"I've got some trade relations in Tor Elyr who might be able to help," Aithlin said. "Though it's possible they've been caught up in the wars one way or another. I'll write a letter of recommendation you can take with you. They may help you, though I can't make any promises."

"As for information. I don’t have much. I stay in the valley as much as possible, lest someone remembers I'm here. But I'll ask my reavers what they know."

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 30, 2015 11:45 am 
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Well if there is one Machiavellian mind the equal of Teclis in these End Times I do believe it would be the Prince of Cats... Very interested to see what he's got in mind for the Vortex and Ulthuan.

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I'm afraid the end of the story is already known, even though it isn't written yet. I suppose Spires never considered the possibility that Teclis would actually aim to destroy the Vortex and sink Ulthuan in the process. But, we shall see. Perhaps Spires will find a way out and send my universe on a different course from the one GW took. Sort of parallel universe.

For now, there is still a fair bit of walking to do before we get to the Vortex. ;)

****
Two days later what was left of the colonial army marched out of the Annulii foothills and onto the plains of Ellyrion.

The journey to Tor Elyr was a risky one. Already of themselves, the Ellyrion plains had magic woven into their bedrock, making travelling them difficult for the unwary traveler. You could spend days magically going in circles without even noticing.

Even more dangerous was the fact that the road from the Eagle gate ran straight for Tor Elyr. Any army occupying this part of Ellyrion was bound to patrol this region. There was every chance they would run into either Druchii or Aestyrion patrols. Going from Aithlin's accounts, Spires wasn't sure which would be worse.

Still, Spires though, it was better then trying to travel the whole of the Bleak Coast to the next port large enough to have ships that could get them to the Isle of the Dead. And perhaps at the end of the road Aithlin's contacts would prove valuable.

The plains spread out onto the horizon. The tall grass spreading out as far as the eye could see. Only here and there did a tree break the monotony. There were no roads in this part of Ellyrion. The lords of the land went where they pleased and often just followed the roaming herds around.

The sea of green around them shifted and turned. Some places that looked far away were reached in mere minutes. At other times it could take hours to reach a nearby tree. But in the end, the endless plains started giving way to more cultivated regions, signalling their approach to Tor Elyr.

Signs of the war that raged across Ulthuan were everywhere. The farms they passed where burnt down or ransacked. No dwelling was inhabited and the fields went untended. Whole towns were abandoned.

By contrast, death was everywhere. They found numerous burned or unburied corpses. In several places a pack of wolves needed to be chased of before they could provide a decent funeral for the unfortunate Elves.

It was difficult to tell who was to blame for the destruction. Some places showed clear signs of Druchii violence. In others, Asur seemed to have done most of the damage.

After about a week of travelling they halted early one afternoon. The highest spires of Tor Elyr could be seen on the horizon and were about a days march away.

"Send out scouts," Spires said to Bob. "I want to know what's waiting for us and who is in charge of Tor Elyr. We don't want to run into any patrols before we know what we are dealing with."

Before long, reavers set out in different directions. The rest of the army started making camp, digging the fortification ditch and setting up a secure perimeter.

"I never thought I would have to do this in an inner kingdom," Bob said as he looked out over the defensive measures being taken.

"No indeed." Alar'Sel replied. "These are dark times, when the inner kingdoms resemble Nagarythe. So much we've striven for all come to naught and the world turned upside down. I'm not even sure who the enemy is anymore."

"What's this? A Nagarathy having doubts about the Druchii?" Bob asked. "I never thought I'd see the day."

"It is no jest," Sel replied defensively. "The Druchii are still the destroyers. Their debt to Nagarythe will never be forgotten. But I just wonder if the other side is any better. You've seen the corpses. Tell me, can we still call ourselves High if that is what we have lowered ourselves to?"

Before Bob got a chance to answer, a dusk cloud rose up over the horizon. Beneath it, growing closer by the heartbeat, an army rode with a multitude of banners. The magic of the plains delivered the army right in front of them.

"Get Spires!" Bob shouted at Sel.

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As Sel sprinted off, Bob strode out onto the low wall that now surrounded the camp. In front of him, a pair of mounted elves detached from the battleline that was setting up and rode up to the camp.

"Well met," Bob said. "We're en-route to Tor Elyr and would love to hear news from the lands. With whom do I have the honour of talking?"

"Who are you, and what are you doing here?" the elf on the left said as the pair rode up to Bob.

"I'm Bob, herald of Spires. Behind me, you find the first colonial army. And as I mentioned we're on our way to Tor Elyr."

"Why are you here?" the elf on the left asked again. "Who do you serve?"

"Me? I serve the Prince of Spires, and through him, the Phoenix king." Bob said proudly.

At this the elf on the right started laughing, a harsh, unpleasant sound. "You should be more precise these days," he said in a mocking tone. "Which one? The imposter in Lothern or the one true heir of Aenarion, the bearer of the sword of Khaine?"

Bob hesitated in answering.

"I told you so," the elf on the right said to his companion. "They're followers of Malekith. He's even now thinking of what lie to tell us to save his hide. They're cowards and turncoats. All of them. I say we teach this one a lesson. My draich has been dry too long already."

With that he started unsheathing the large sword at his waist.

"Hold!"

The command came from behind Bob. Spires had arrived.

"By what right do you draw arms against an envoy in a parlay?"

"I am Malchath! I don't need no right. We are the law," the right elf replied. "Bow down to us or we will teach you the might of the Aestyrion!"

"So you forgo the conventions of settlement?" Spires raised an eyebrow at the pair.

The two elves looked at each other, surprised by the calm reaction. "I've had enough of this," the right elf said, drawing his sword again.

"I would not do that, if I were you," Spires said. "At this moment, a full battery of repeaters is aimed straight at you, as well as a pair of Nagarathy sharp shooters. By foregoing the conventions of settlement, they are now free to shoot you at will. Which they will the moment your sword leaves your scabbard."

With that, Spires turned around and strode back.

The pair of elves only now seemed to notice the army camped behind the fortification. As one, they turned their horses and fled back to their army.

"What? No negotiations?" Bob asked Spires as they reached the encampment.

"I don't deal with envoys who have no qualms about killing unarmed negotiators," Spires answered. "Besides, it would not have made a difference as to the outcome. They were looking for a fight. There was no other possible outcome. Such is the way of Khaine."

"Most of the defences are in place," Spires continued. "You take the eastern cavalry contingent. We'll refuse the western flank."

Horns sounded. The Aestyrion battleline surged forward. Without order soldiers sprinted across the open field. Each trying to outdo his neighbour and be the first to shed blood in the name of Khaine. They flowed closer in an unstopable line. 500 yards. 400 yards. The fastest troops reached the 300 yard line.

Then, the bows of the army of Spires sang, darkening the sky with arrows. They fell where the troops where thickest. Each warrior who went down tripped one or two soldiers behind him. Boltthrowers added to the mayhem, their huge missiles impaling several warriors with a single shot.

Each arrow slowed the advance down. From the initial mad dash to a run. Then down to a fast march. And finally a brisk walk.

With less then 100 yards separating the two armies, the colonial troops came into motion. On the western flank, Sea Guard locked their shields, forming an impenetrable wall, spears bristling out.

On the far eastern flank, ranks of disciplined Swordmasters strode out to meet the onrushing horde head on. Next to them walked a unit of Phoenix Guard. Grim determination shone from their eyes.

And then the lines crashed into each other. First on the eastern flank, but soon after, the whole line was in combat. Slowly, the eastern flank started pushing the Aestyrion troops back. The battle fury of the Aestyrionites was no match for the cold, methodical skill of the Swordmasters.

Slowly, Spires' battleline stretched and pivoted, forcing the Aestyrion troops into a smaller space. Then, Bob and the eastern cavalry contingent crashed home. They had ridden out behind the army until they could charge into the eastern flank and rear of the Aestyrion army. What was a slow grind forward turned into a rout.

The eastern flank pushed forward, slowly encircling the Aestyrion army. Finally, a small pocket of Aestyrion elves remained, surrounded by Spires's elves.

The colonial elves took a step back, weapons drawn and facing inward. Spires strode to the fore and addressed the Aestyrion elves.

"Drop your weapons and surrender. You will not be harmed."

One of the two messengers, Malchath, had survived the battle up to here. He again acted as spokesperson. "Bow down to the might of Khaine! You don't stand a chance."

With that he drew his draich, raising it high.

Spires lowered his head and waited for the charge that would come.

With a scream of rage Malchath and the elves around him charged forward. They had perhaps taken two paces when the bows of the colonial army sang. At this short range the elven bows knocked back the warriors several paces.

In moments, the battle of the Ellyrian plains was over. Silence descended on the battle site.

Spires shook his head. "Fools," he muttered.

He turned around and walked back to his troops.

He walked over to Bob.

"Bury the bodies with all honours. They were Asur once. Let's show them the respect they would have received."

"After that, we move out," Spires continued.

"What? But. The troops are tired. We need a rest. A good nights sleep."

"We just wiped out a large patrol," Spires said. "They will be missed. And I plan on being as far away from here when they are. We move at sunset."


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 03, 2015 2:59 pm 
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What sort of silly name is Bob?


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Bob of Beleriand wrote:
What sort of silly name is Bob?


Its the long version of Kate

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