V. War on Land
A little earlier, as the battle in the clouds above was just beginning and dawn was moving west towards central Amn, Nalia stood on the top turret of her family's keep. With her stood Imoen and Imoen's old friend Xan. Onyx, Imoen and company had rescued him from the Nashkel mines nearly two years ago now, and, hearing of his friends' plight, he had come down to lend his now considerable magical powers. His demeanor was not so helpful, however.
"Look at this old pile of stones, we'll never win, they'll knock it to pebbles!" he moaned. "We're all doomed for sure, you know."
"Heya, cheer up Xan," perked up Imoen. "Look at all our warriors below. Look at the archers and catapults on the lower turrets of the keep. And the other spellcasters up here with us. They'll be lucky to get close enough to make out the mortarwork before we blast 'em away!"
"I believe the day can be ours, but we must be careful and resolute," opinionated Nalia. "And remember that our foremost duty is to destroy these invaders so they may not terrorize the unfortunate villagers of my lands."
A large fighting force was assembled around the keep below. As with Paradise, it had to be outside the walls. In the very front lines were a large mass of fighters, commanded by Mazzy, and Keldorn helmed some forward paladins and fighter-mages. Along the two front flanks were two divisions of rangers, led by Minsc and Valygar. Behind the warriors, Anomen led a force of clerics. Mages stood on the various turrets of the keep. Nalia, Imoen and Xan stood around an enchanted crystal which would increase the ranges of their spells, allowing them to blast enemy mages that came within range of blasting the walls. Jan walked among the various catapults and scorpions, tweaking them, snapping cords, muttering and scratching his head and scribbling calculations. He had been busy the past few weeks inventing modified war machines which could fire further and faster and use new explosive ammunition, huge variants of his flasher master bruiser mates.
Thanks to Valygar's detailed intelligence, Nalia and friends had assembled a counterattack plan. The columns of rangers were to rush the field, finding and killing the hidden squads of rogues Cyran loved to use. They would then let Cyran's army charge to let it come within range of their tower machines and mages. Keldorn would lead the paladins and fighter-mages deep into enemy territory to try to take out their spellcasters while Mazzy's and Anomen's forces would try to fight and hold off the incoming warriors, hopefully with the aid of the keep's mechanical and magical offenses, enhanced by the crystal and Jan's innovations.
But where were Jaheira and the grove? Nalia bit her lip, uncomfortably wondering where those wavering druids were, hoping they were approaching soon but fearing they were deliberately abstaining.
Far across the field, marching into view with the first rays of dawn, came the huge Army of Cyran. A massive wall of fighters was in front. A large number of human or half-elven recruits and indoctrinated slaves, they were commanded from the center by a large, powerful man who had a personal vendetta against the day's opponent, for they were friends of his half-brother, who had given him a mortal body once again but then cast him aside, as his half-brother had cast aside the godhood which he had so hungrily desired. And so he had allied himself with Cyran, a similarly-aligned but psychotic man who could help him deliver his revenge. Sarevok sneered and itched to draw his sword, Soul Reaver. Alongside these fighters was a company of dwarven mercenaries that Cyran had hired. In exchange for slaves, they lent their axes to Cyran, under their own company leader Korgan, who had a bloodthirsty desire for slaves and the spoils of war. For him, a chance to hack apart the goody-goodies who had rejected him at a slums tavern long ago was merely the sauce on the steak.
In front of the many fighters, already hidden and moving quickly, were Cyran's force of rogues. They were led by Eldoth, gulping down an invisibility potion, and Skie, hidden in the grass. After several Sword Coast escapades with mixed results, the scheming couple had come down to join Cyran seeking fame and fortune. Around them, their thieves snaked silently through the grass, hungry for loot and blood.
Behind the fighters stood several denominations of evil clerics. There were many priests of Cyric, as well a hired sect of Shar-worshipping drow exiles who were willing to crusade under the banner of Cyric or any evil opponent of that hideous creature Lolth. Leading them all, standing by Sarevok in the center between the fighters and clerics, wearing shapely black armor with a mace and shield to match, was Viconia.
After the electric-eyed warrior Sarevok had been expunged from Onyx's disappearing pocket plane, he had first met Viconia doing unholy things in the graveyard district of Athkatla and been immediately enchanted. She, seeing Onyx's likeness in him, and most bitter towards the self-righteous paladin who had puritanically cast her aside despite the secret flash of desire she had seen in his face, had found sick pleasure in taking out her frustration on Sarevok, who bore it with roaring laughter and evil delight. "Eh? Paladin, did you call me, my dark queen? Hardly! I couldn't be more fallen from the sanctimonious perch!"
Behind the clerics was a force of uniformly evil and mostly psychotic wizards and sorcerers. Cyran stood at their center, flanked by Xzar on one side and Edwin on the other. Though Edwin despised the mental instability of the other chaotic evildoers (the cold, calculating evil is ever so much more effective), he could not resist being part of the best bet for taking down Amn (more than part, really, my considerable magical talents may very well make the difference). Surrounding the three evil archmages were Cyran's usual bodyguards and some golems Edwin had conjured up for the battle.
Once the evil army had reached the prescribed landmark, Minsc and Valygar exchanged glances across the front line and began to lead their columns of rangers forward. Casting detect invisibility, they fanned out across the seemingly-empty field and ran at top speed, swinging various armaments in their hands and looking for rogues to whack. Cyran understood immediately what was happening. Thieves would be no match for rangers, unless they could get in the first backstab or the thief-mages could blast them away. Hopefully, some of them would simply manage to pass undetected.
Scattered thwacks were heard as rangers began detecting thieves in the grass and smashing and beheading them, trying to keep up their pace and look for more. A few brave woodsmen went down as thieves found them first, planting blades in their backs. Minsc ran along with Ixil's Spear, stapling thieves into the dirt and continuing along as they helplessly bled to death. Suddenly he felt a sharp pain in his shoulder as an arrow stuck into it. He began to feel sickly as he detected Eldoth, who was drawing back another poison-coated arrow. The ranger's hardy body bore the damage and he rushed forth, spear straight towards the bard. Before Eldoth could fire, Minsc was upon him and Eldoth had to draw his sword. He managed to deflect the first stabs with his buckler, but Minsc too evaded his swings. As Ixil's Spear glanced the buckler again, it let out huge barbs and stapled the tiny shield onto Eldoth's hand. Screaming, he made one last swipe towards Minsc, who parried it with the spear's shaft while driving the head straight through him. Slinging the bard's dying body off his spear, he continued to run.
Slashing the life from many a thief, Valygar kept the katanas Celestial Fury and Hindo's Doom outstretched as he ran. Then he detecting a smirking lady thief flipping forked daggers in her fingers as she ran straight for him. As Valygar swung to take her out, Skie cackled and dove between his legs and slashing one calf, popping out behind him but unable to backstab him before Valygar spun around and countered her. Skie managed to stop his katana blows in the forks of her daggers, kicking him in the chest several times and getting one swipe across his arm, but Valygar
soon hasted himself and, with blows to spare, managed to slash Skie to ribbons.
Sarevok commanded a battalion of fighters to rush towards each column of rangers. Along with Korgan and the dwarven mercenaries, he led the mass of the fighters in a full charge forward towards the main opposing army. The drow clerics and Viconia, as well as some of the wizards and Edwin, began following them. Edwin eyed the top turret of the keep. He could feel the magical energy concentrated there and stroked his beard, sneering. Keldorn prepared the paladins and fighter-mages to make a courageous dash into the enemy at the right moment, their goal to survive their way through the fighters and begin taking out spellcasters. Mazzy and the Amnish fighters braced themselves for the onslaught of the enemy fighters, prepared to go toe-to-toe with them but hoping for some assistance from spells and catapult stones.
Cyran smirked. Thus Amnish buffoons had led their forces too far from the keep. He could see the many mages and machines within it, but they would be out of range while he decimated the Amnish army. Despite he loss of most of his thieves, his fighters and spellcasters, superior in number, would surely dispose of the field army, and then the keep could be blasted to bits and all the farms and towns from here to Athkatla would be ripe for the picking.
As his fighters neared, he screamed and spasmed in rage as exploding catapult stones, scorpion bolts, and magical evocations began slamming into his forces from the still-distant keep. The Amnish mages were standing in rings around the crystal and firing spells at the raiders below. The enchanter Xan was causing them to drool like idiots and spin around and start attacking one another. Nalia and Imoen were causing huge incendiary clouds and horrid clouds of wilting energy to burn and shrivel their flesh. Jan's upgraded catapults and scorpions were firing further than war machines had in Faerun before. Huge flasher master bruiser mates slammed into the enemy fighters, exploding and taking out dozens apiece.
The Cyricists remained large in number and as they mixed with the Amnish fighters, a clamorous symphony of clangs, crashes, smashes and screams was heard. Blood and steel flew everywhere as the Cyricists ran into the Amnish at full speed. Keldorn gave the word and his forces began their dangerous dash behind enemy lines, towards Viconia's clerics and Edwin's mages. Anomen and the good clerics began casting hold person, holy smite and other spells at their opposing fighters, freezing and destroying many. The drow clerics began casting back with the same spells or their unholy variants and the Amnish fighters found themselves victims of those spells as well as of the destructive magics and summoned beings from Edwin and his wizards.
Amidst the frontline melee, Korgan ran about frothing at the mouth and swinging the fiery axe Stonefire about. Wielding her short sword, Mazzy came upon him as he cleft an Amnish soldier in half and cauterized the wound with one blow. The evil dwarf looked upon the noble halfling for a moment, and then charged her in rage. She stepped aside, swiping at him as his axe swung through air. They continued to circle and attack, sword and axe clanging against armor and shield. The more deft Mazzy managed to get in more small stabs and hacks, while avoiding most of Korgan's mighty swings, but he did catch her once across the shield arm shoulder, and she cried out as the mighty dwarf cleft in and injured her. She dropped her shield as the blood drained from her left arm, but then she pierced Korgan's armor with a critical hit and impaled him with her short sword. As he lifted Stonefire to smash in her head, she twisted her sword and gutted him, and frothing and cursing, he dropped his axe onto his own head and fell back onto the bloody grass, dead.
As she knelt and breathed heavily, a huge, dark warrior slashed through Amnish soldiers like butter and came upon her. She recognized the infamous Sarevok and stood, regaining her strength, to confront him. He drew Soul Reaver, an evil and fearsome two-handed sword. He swung it down at her and she tried to parry, but it carried through and hit her across the shoulder again. She felt herself weaken as it hit her, and as the draining Soul Reaver found her again and again, she found her aim with her sword diminish each time. At last, with a critical strike, Sarevok swung clean through her arm and her short sword fell to the ground. She tried to run at and bite him with a last, valiant effort, but the sword came down upon her, slicing down through her. Her left and right halves fell to the ground as Sarevok bellowed contentedly and clambered towards another foe.
As the fighters on both sides took heavy losses, clerics found themselves having to cast desperately and draw out their flails, hammers, and maces and go at enemy fighters or even other clerics. Many were crushed, held, burnt, or destroyed. Anomen and Viconia, swinging and casting angrily, came upon one another amidst the supernatural fray. As Anomen called a bolt of glory down onto the witch, she sent a wave of destruction at him. He resisted it as electricity coursed through her body. Spasming and screaming from the electric current, she regained her composure and conjured a globe of blades around herself as he cast powerful harming energy into his hammer and came at her. She caught the hammer with her shield as tiny blades raked over his armor, some piercing or finding their way through and cutting into his flesh. As he winced and swung again, crashing into her armor but not hurting her, she commanded a small earthquake to appear at his feet. It sucked him into the ground and, with tectonic force, crushed his immobile body. Sighing with relief and wiping the sweat from her blue skin, she looked about for her next victim.
As clerics diminished in number on both sides, Edwin's mages, evil fighters around them struggling to protect them from the remaining Amnish fighters, came within range of the castle. He could feel the energy from atop the keep even more acutely now, and sensed their accursed crystal. No matter, he thought, pulling back the sleeves of his red robe and wiggling his fingers, I am now within range myself. Pointing up and sending terrible energy through his fingertips, he conjured gates to open in the air above the keep. Demons, elementals, skeletons, and invisible stalkers were summoned and fell amongst the people within. The creatures began running wildly about, tearing into flesh and machinery. The reserve paladins struggled to protect the mages. Inquisitors saw through the invisibility of the stalkers as cavaliers expertly combated the demons and the undead hunters knocked the skeletons to bones and dust.
"Oh no what a zoo like at all these summons!" yelped Jan, firing exploding crossbow ammo and powerful spells into them and trying to protect his new inventions. "They're smashing my latest gizmos back to the stone age!"
Xan managed to turn some of the monsters on each other as Nalia an Imoen hit the elementals with the various types of energy they most feared. After destroying the invaders, they turned their attention to Edwin and his wizards, who were starting to blast open the front gate. Nalia looked upon Edwin below and choked back bitter anger. The red wizard stood for everything she hated, the skillful and knowing manipulation of people and institutions to crush those weaker than himself and accrue his own power. She knew also what he had done to Minsc's witch, the late Dyanheir which she had never known, and it was all the two could do to keep from openly attacking him when Onyx led their party into dealings with him and other most unsavory characters of the Athkatla underworld.
Sensing her thoughts, Edwin's mind shot back at her from far below. Time for you and your big heart do die, he hissed. (You should thank me for killing you now, you wouldn't want to see what's going to happen to the people of this land soon after). I'll soon put that delusional ranger out of his misery too. (I never did thank Irenicus for putting Dyanheir out of hers. He was a bit too unstable for me, but overall I liked his style). Ahh yes, he hissed, I see you sense much, perhaps you are not as far below my own intelligence as I thought. (too bad you didn't see through the illusionary face I wore at council meetings until now, when it is much too late my dear).
Their fingers shot out at one another, powerful energies crossing through the air, and dissipating the spell deflections they wore. Imoen blasted away at the mages surrounding Edwin as they continued to pummel the walls. Xan tried to wrest control of the Thayvian's mind, but he resisted it, and conjured a cloud of flame arrows from his fingertips to fly at the enchanter. Some of them absorbed his spell protections and the rest shot through his body, piercing and burning the unhardy elf.
"Oh my friends, we are truly finished!" he moaned as he fell dead onto the stone. Suppressing their fright and channeling their anger, Imoen and Nalia stood side by side, arms outstretched, casting their most powerful spell protections as Edwin renewed his own defenses. The girls began shooting spellstrike and pierce shield at Edwin, knocking out his spell protections, while he shot out a spellstrike at each of them in turn and dispelled theirs. The girls shot meteor and comet storms at him, but with a snap of his fingers he froze time. He brought up another spell trap, a spell shield, and protected himself from magical energy, upped his magical resistance, then gated in a pit fiend above their heads.
As time returned to normal, their evocations blew harmlessly around him, and the girls rolled out of the way as the demon crashed down between them. They leapt through the air onto other turrets below, each shooting out a ruby ray of reversal in midair and dissipating his spell shield and then his spell trap. As they landed and power words shot from Edwin towards them, they drew out wands of spellstriking and began to zap away Edwin's protection from energy and drain his magic resistance. Both of them were too strong to be stunned by the power words, and Imoen summoned a stack of energy blades into her hands while Nalia prepared a magical blast of dragon's breath. As Edwin desperately prepared his next spell, he was disrupted by a slicing stream of magical discs cutting through his body. Imoen continued to hurl them at lightning speed and Nalia's phantasm dragon head breathed a burning cloud of fire over the red wizard, cremating him. The girls briefly shared a telepathic victory cheer, but the battle was far from won.
As Xzar and Cyran were just now seeing Klaongar's death, Keldorn and the half of his warriors had made it through the huge melee and were charging towards them and the fallen paladins, golems, and other mages surrounding them. The few rangers who had survived the flanking fighters joined from either side. The good warriors quickly began hacking away at the golems and unholy warriors. The evil mages and good fighter-mages traded spells, raising and lowering various protections and casting destructive energy at each other. As muscle and magic on both sides fell, Keldorn made his way into the mages and began slaying them with his sword Hallowed Redeemer and dispelling and seeing through their magics. He approached Xzar, sword ready for a killing strike, but the necromancer cast forth a mysterious orb which swallowed Keldorn and imprisoned him deep in the earth. As Minsc ran up him, crushing other enemies with wildly swinging maces Storm Star and Skullcrusher, Xzar prepared another orb for him, but Minsc was already upon him and swung his maces in from each side, smashing Xzar's deranged head to a pulp between them and sending out a burst of chain lightning that fried the remaining mages.
Nearby, Cyran was destroying other oncoming warriors with powerful spells. After he disintegrated another ranger, Valygar flew at him with katanas blazing and Cyran the crazy kensai-mage had only enough time to draw Lies and Madness. The two danced around each other, katanas whirling and clanging furiously. Valygar hasted himself and moved at double speed, trying to get Celestial Fury or Hindo's Doom through his opponent. Cyran sneered and sped himself up as well, in a twisted manner that seemed to cause him to hop around Valygar, everywhere at once. The ranger got one slash across Cyran's chest, but the twisted one cartwheeled back and, as Valygar charged him, leapt high over his head and, as he landed, imprisoned Valygar. He slew with skillful blows the next few warriors who ran at him and cast another imprisoning sphere over Minsc, as his two remaining bodyguards slew the last remaining good warriors. As they went down, Cyran, already nearly regenerated, suddenly felt his blood quicken and an energizing wave of power wash over him, and cackled triumphantly
"Have enough power enough kills now have we!!!! Return must we now to Ith!" he roared. Looking back down the field, he saw that both he and Amn were nearly depleted of field soldiers, and the keep gate had been severely blasted but not yet penetrated. The small remaining forces continued to hack each other to bits. One of his bodyguards sounded a horn, and his remaining troops began running back up the field. As the more valiant half of the Amnish stragglers followed them, Cyran sheathed his katanas and, outstretching his fingers and yawning, blasted the pursuers into oblivion. Sarevok, Viconia, and the few remaining fighters and clerics finished running and stood before Cyran. He looked them over. Matter-of-factly, he polymorphed his remaining fighters into horses. The rest of them mounted and rode off, back to Mouth Ith.
V. War on Land
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