VII. War of Two Worlds: The Old
Near Suldanesellar is a lone mountain, down which a great waterfall cascades, around which fields meet forests.
Dimension doors opened amidst this tranquil predawn scene and Xzar and Edwin stepped through. Nearby birds and beasts scurried away as if sensing the twisted evil of the wizards.
“Now the mythal comes down!!!! Oh joy!!!!” Xzar ranted. “I feel like a flying elephant!!!!!” He drew one of the statuettes from his green robe.
Edwin sighed at his insane colleague. “While I admire your enthusiasm, perhaps we should get to work (and perhaps then I won’t be tempted to conjure a black blade of disaster and kill you with it).” He drew the other statuette from his red robe.
They held them together, pointed toward Suldanesellar below, and began chanting. Magic energy flowed out of their hands and into the statuettes, which began to glow a sickly green and a bloody red. As Xzar completed his rambling chant and Edwin his faux-dramatic incantation, a beam of energy, a putrid red-green color, shot from the tips of the statuettes and struck the mythal of the city. Its former pale whitish-green shimmer turned the revolting color and the entire mythal soon dispelled.
“Oh, wonderful magicks!!!!” Xzar cheered.
Edwin sighed again. “Let’s get down there and vaporize some elves (Sarevok has promised us first dibs on their legendary arcane artifacts and I mean to get my share – off Ellisime’s charred corpse).”
The two wizards teleported away again. As they did, a twinkling light in the city and an usual increase in the moon’s brightness could have been seen, just before night faded and the sky began to lighten.
Suldanesellar was surrounded by a high wall, which had numerous narrow slits for arrows and spells and was topped with ramparts for the same. The wall was of artfully chiseled and colored stone, which almost seemed to disappear in the large leafy trees enveloping the city. Even without the magic that made Suldanesellar nearly invisible, it would have taken a keen eye to the camouflaged city in the forest.
As Sarevok looked upon all this through his spyglass, he cared not. “Those tree-loving elves think their little forest-hideaway is so discreet and secure!” he chuckled to Viconia. “They will soon see just what a liability trees can be! If only those two fruitcake wizards would hurry up…”
Just then he saw the a beam the color of bloody puke – something he’d some a lot of in his hundreds of drunken brawls - shoot through the air and dispel the city’s mythal. “Ha! I knew those loons could do it!” he roared.
“Korgan!” he commanded as Xzar and Edwin dimension doored back. “Commence Operation: Timber!”
“Ye gots it, Z-Lord!” Korgan spat, “We’ll show them tree-hugging elves what a good timber axe is for!” He blew a horn and his Bloodaxe clansmen picked up large timber axes. Zhentarim wizards cast haste over them and then the dwarves ran at comically high speeds toward prescribed trees. Elves from within the city walls began shooting expertly aimed arrows at them, but some of the dwarves were carrying pairs of large shields and stood in front of their axe-carrying brethren, making nearly impenetrable walls of shields. The axe-dwarves began swinging away at the trunks, many of which were as thick as a giant is tall, and working in teams in their hastened states with adamantium-alloy axes, they soon had wedges cut out of the trees, all carefully angled toward the city.
Korgan blew the horn again and the dwarves ran to the sides of the trees opposite Suldanesellar and drew out hammers. They began pounding them, and the enormous trunks slowly gave way to their carved-out wedges.
“TIMBERRRRRRR HAR HAR HAR!!!!!!” Korgan roared with delight as the huge trees majestically fell. Having been carefully chosen, they all landed on the ramparts of Suldanesellar, crushing the top few stones and sticking out over the city. The tops of their trunks crushed many elves on the ramparts, their upper branches skewered or bludgeoned many more, and their leaves left those still alive on the ramparts trapped, confused, or swept off and falling to the streets below.
No sooner had the trees landed than Zhentarim soldiers had wheeled small ramps up their bases, which formed a continuous ramp with the now nearly-horizontal treetrunks leading from the ground over the ramp and trunk up to the ramparts of Suldanesellar. Many more soldiers, having just been hastened, strengthened, had made more resistant to all manner of physical and magical attack by the wizards, began charging up the wide tree-ramps multi-file.
Sarevok laughed out loud at the genius of his plan. Not only were his soldiers now easily getting past the city walls, they were doing so nearly completely protected from the elven archers. Because the tree-ramps lay on top of the walls, and the soldiers ran on top of the tree-ramps, the archers shooting out of the arrow-slits within the wall were blocked by the tree-ramps, and those still alive on top of the wall were blocked by the leafy branches of the trees. Not only that, but the Zhentil soldiers were coming into city on top of the ramparts, and thus immediately gaining the high-ground advantage, allowing them to draw bows and shoot down at the elven forces lower in the city once they had polished off those on the ramparts themselves.
The elves had been expecting the Zhentarim to knock down the gates with evocations or trebuchets and counted on shooting the incoming armies with arrows and spells from above as they marched through the gates, now, it was the Zhentarim who shot down upon them.
Soon Zhentarim wizards and Sharite clerics were following the fighters up the tree-ramps and getting to the ramparts as well, and they began casting destructive spells down into the city. Fireballs, ice storms, lightning bolts, stinking clouds, hold spells, and confusing enchantments were raining down on the elven army within the city, which had been situated to confront invaders at the gates, not on the ramparts. The powerful elven spellcasters, however, were shooting back and many invaders were blasted or enchanted on the ramparts as their reinforcements came up the trunks. The elevation disadvantage made less of a difference for magic and the superior arcane abilities of the Seldarine elves soon began to turn the tables of casualties.
Sarevok had known this would come and had given his disciplined fighters appropriate orders for this situation. They came down the ramparts, dispersing through the crows of elven warriors and wizards, fighting with great hastened ability. Surrounded by the enemy, they were to die for sure, but each took down many weak elves – several fighters, or many wizards if he could get to them – before being slain himself. They fought to their certain death like mindless golems, having been indoctrinated by the Black Network, often since childhood, to follow commands and fight without question. The Zhentil fighters, by dispersing through the enemy, made it difficult for the elves to use their area spells, thus putting the fight often to steel, where the invaders had the advantage.
Queen Ellisime, with Aerie and Xan by her sides, looked out the windows of her spelltower with a face of despair. They and other elven mages in the tower cast spells at the ramparts which destroyed or enchanted the Zhentarim, but they came up the tree-ramps as fast as fast as they could be taken out.
A dimension door opened and a human archmage stepped through with a halfling paladin. “Nalia! Mazzy!” Aerie cried happily at the sight of her longtime companions.
“As noble as your refusal of human assistance by have been, Queen,” Nalia said with both seriousness and sarcasm, “neither dear Valygar nor myself were content to obey your wishes and watch you be slaughtered. Like it or not, I am teleporting in the Cowled Wizards, and Valygar has gathered the rangers – human and elven alike - of the surrounding region and they are running up behind Sarevok’s position as we speak.”
“Oh that’s wonderful!” Aerie squealed, “I tried to tell her we should work together!”
“We’re still doomed, you know,” Xan moaned as Ellisime shot both him and Aerie scolding glances.
Just then Cowled Wizards began stepping through dimension doors that appeared about them and ran to the windows. They began chanting and preparing spells of burning and fire. They cast fireballs, incendiary clouds, and even fiery dragon breath not at the ramparts themselves, but at the tree-ramps behind them.
“No!” Ellisime screamed as the fallen trees, and other still-standing ones around them, caught fire. “You cannot destroy our trees! You will burn the forest down!”
“Only if the Black Network takes this city will the surrounding forests be razed,” Nalia corrected. “The quicker we win this battle, the quicker we can dowse the flames with water magics. The magnificent trees which still stand will live, those that are now mere ramps for invading Zhentarim are dead anyway and must be burned.”
Outside the city, Sarevok was fuming as he saw his precious tree-ramps catch fire. The thick trees would take hours to actually burn to the point of collapsing – although the magical meteor showers the mages within were casting upon them now might speed that up – but the troops running up them were getting hit before they could even get to the ramparts. This was causing some to fall to the forest floor below, or even worse, stumble back and disrupt the marching columns behind them. This not only sent more tumbling to their deaths, but also interrupted the pace of reinforcements arriving on the ramparts. Luckily, they were packed much to close for a bona fide domino effect to emerge and each meteor or burning fool only managed to take a few others with him at most and hold up the line for a few moments.
Viconia’s sensitive elven ears picked up the sounds of hooves in the distance. “Unless you were expecting mounted reinforcements about now,” she addressed Sarevok with irreverent sarcasm, “I suggest you cover your rear – literally. Mounted rangers approach behind us.”
Still far off in the woods, Valygar rode at the head of a company of rangers. The movements of the Zhentarim army to Suldanesellar had by no means gone unnoticed by the rangers of the region and they had converged in the area, where Valygar had mobilized them, convincing Kivan and the other elven rangers of Suldanesellar to disobey Ellisime’s orders and join the battle alongside their similarly-unwelcome human colleagues. Now they were coming up behind the Zhentarim position fast. Valygar just hoped their surprise attack wasn’t already too late.
Kivan rode beside Valygar. He had been an area ranger in the service of Queen Ellisime for some time now, finding friends and a purpose in his defense of the elves and life of the area. But in his heart, he was still a brooding, vengeful soul. Haunted by a terrible failure in his past. It had begun so simply. A romantic sojourn with his one true love, Deheriana. One week of pure bliss, concerned only with the beauty of the land and the woman he loved. The raiding party of Tazok. The week of unspeakable torture and disgrace. His love slain and desecrated before his very eyes. Finally, escape in the night. A lost trek across the wilderness, scarred within and without. Wandering for years, sometimes with the company of other adventuring parties, sometimes alone. But always, inside, alone.
Sarevok cursed repeatedly and thought quickly as he could hear the rangers approached and he watched his tree-ramps burn. “Xzar! Edwin!” he shouted.
“What!?!?!??!” Xzar screeched.
“Yes, Lord?” Edwin sighed with mock reverence.
“Take a kidnapping squad – you there, Montaron, Safana, Coran – and don’t come back without Queen Ellisime ALIVE – then take us to the Tree.”
“No!!” Xzar whined. “Want kill kill kill kill!!!”
“Soon enough,” Sarevok grinned. “After we’re done with her, have her heart burnt to a crisp and its blood on your daggers for all I care! Leave! Now.”
“It be a delight, lawd,” Montaron bowed as Edwin and Xzar cast dimension doors and led him, Safana, and a still-charmed Coran through.
“Korgan! Take your clansmen behind our position!” Sarevok shouted. The small dwarves would make for a better ambush team, and were more expendable. “You dwarves spring out from the trees and take out the horses’ legs and then slay the toppled riders before they can get off the ground! And you Bloodaxers be QUIET for once!”
“Ar, these wood-wussies be meat o’ the worms they love! Har Har!!” Korgan growled and began running off with his clansmen.
The rangers were now getting closer. Kivan was squinting and perking his ears, his acute elven senses searching for an ambush. His eyes scanned just over the bushes, looking for approaching Zhentil soldiers, and his ears attuned to the shouting soldiers in the distance, trying to ascertain the distance. Beside him, Valygar was chanting a detect invisibility spell, trying to find anything that could possible be lying in wait. The two shared a moment of shock as rangers beside them were suddenly thrown forward off their horses, whose legs were being swung at by the axes and hammers of dwarves that were popping out from behind trees or even merely bushes that were taller than they. The two were assaulted themselves and Kivan managed to take out his assailants with crack-shot arrows but Valygar was thrown from his horse with just enough time to land in a role, dismounted but unhurt.
As Valygar sprang up from his role with his katanas Celestial Fury and Hindo’s Doom already drawn, he came face-to-face with a laughing, screaming Korgan wielding two axes and frothing at the mouth. The berserk dwarf charged him and swung but Valygar crossed his katanas in front of himself and parried both axes. The force of Korgan’s charge pushed him back but as the dwarf charged again he disappeared into the many shadows of the forest.
“Come out, come out, wherever ye are! Har har!” Korgan laughed and ran about, swinging his axes around trees and through the underbrush. Then he saw Valygar cartwheel out from behind a tree and charge, but the stalker fired a magic missile past the trees at him and it slammed into his chest. He kept on running even as several more orbs hit him, but his foe disappeared again just as he came upon him. He swung his axes around, enraged, unable to find his foe. Soon, however, he found a dagger in his back and the stalker appeared again, swinging at him with both katanas. Korgan managed to spin around quickly and parry them and the two began a melee of slashes and swings. Korgan took a number of hits but kept on fighting in a mad rage. When the dwarf swung low, the human hopped over his axe, when the dwarf swung high, the human ducked under it, and then the dwarf swung up or down, the human sidestepped the swing. Korgan then swung in with both axes on opposite diagonals and Valygar managed to stick his katanas out to parry them, but then Korgan charged into him and stabbed him through the stomach with the horns of his helmet. Grimacing, Valygar used his swords to push the axes away and then brought them up high over his enemy’s back before plunging in with both. The hardy dwarf bellowed in pain but continued to push and twist his head. Valygar roared and twisted his own katanas in Korgan’s back, then pulled out a dagger and stuck Korgan through the back of the neck, paralyzing him instantly. Valygar stepped back and pulled his katanas out of his foe who fell dying into the underbrush, and gulped down several healing potions before returning to the fray of dwarves and rangers.
Aerie, Ellisime, and Xan were continuing to fire spells out of the spelltower alongside the elven mages and the Cowled wizards. Nalia was doing the same, and Mazzy stood beside her firing at the Zhentils on the ramparts with her show bow.
As Aerie faced her window and prepared a spell, she glanced back across the room at the others. Then she noticed flickers of shadow through the green-glass dome of the spelltower’s roof and sensed a magical tingling from them. A soundwave evocation shattered the glass and three roguish figures, a human, elf, and halfling, dropped from the roof with swords held out and landed on the floor of the chamber. Two wizards levitated down after them. Before the tower mages could turn to react, the necromancer had cast an especially terrible death spell across the room that felled many of them and the conjurer had summoned a horde of demons that ran about tearing apart the rest.
Mazzy quickly positioned herself between Nalia and the attackers and crossed shortswords with the oncoming Montaron. At Safana’s bidding, Coran ran around them at Nalia, who cast a dire charm spell on him and he started running back toward Safana swinging his longswords. Edwin and Xzar grinned wickedly at Aerie, Ellisime, and Xan and the five mages all sent up various protection spells.
“You’ll pay, Monty!” Mazzy screamed as she blocked Montaron’s acidic and electric shortswords with her shield and sword. “I heard about Alora! You won’t get away with it!”
“Ar, she meant nothing to me, my pretty,” Montaron grinned as she ducked his swipe. “Now ye, on tha other hand, are a right lovely little hobbitess. What say we take our little dance to a more private place?” he suggested amidst the spells and weapons that were flying about around them. Montaron caught her next blow between his swords and then pushed forward. He leaned in on his swords and sent her tripping back over the top of the stairway. As she fell back, he lunged again but fell after her and the two halflings went tumbling down the circular stairway to the level below.
As Safana was being charged by Coran, she breathed over her hand and sent enchanted perfume wafting over him. Looking bedazzled, he turned around again at her suggestion and charged Nalia again. The mage cast another dire charm and sent Coran back to Safana, who puffed her perfume over him again. Nalia had just finished casting a disintegration spell at Safana, who pushed her charmed Coran forward to intercept it and be vaporized. Nalia began casting another spell but Safana drew a dagger from her thigh and flung it at Nalia, who grimaced as it sliced across her side and disrupted her spell. Before she could prepare another, Safana was charging her with a shortsword and Nalia parried it with her own Short Sword of Mask. The two thieves hacked back and forth, each managing to evade or parry the blows of the other.
The air was sizzling with the energy of the magical battle between the three elves and the two humans. Chains of spells shot off in seeming instants and time stops, contingencies and sequencers were cast. The air billowed with fire, electricity, and sand, annihilating summons and dashing off the wizards’ various protections, which were being dispelled and renewed.
On the floor below, the halflings were still fighting. Mazzy chased Montaron under a table and he slashed out both legs at one end as he ran out from under it, brining it down on Mazzy. The halfling paladin managed to swing her shield up to break its fall before it hit her head, but she was then left with only one sword to defend against both of Montaron’s. She fought him off deftly but he managed to get several swipes at her. She winced at the electricity and acid on her flesh, but when Montaron came in again with two side swipes, she lunged right at him and plunged her sword through his chest while his own swung around her and clashed into each other behind her. As she twisted her sword and gutted him, he let his blades fall the ground and made a last attempt to strangle and bite her.
“Arr, a right tasty lass ye be!” he snarled. She squealed as his hairy hands and face clamored at her neck and brought her shield crashing down on his head. He fell to the floor, unconscious and dying.
Upstairs, Nalia stared Safana in the eyes over their crossed shortswords. “Trading on temptation and wiles to try to steal dear Imoen’s place as Onyx’s party thief and soulmate?”
“Ah, I could have given him so much more than that little girl. The tin can of a man never knew what he missed!” Safana grinned. “Neither did that strange berserker who was ignoring me in favor of his hamster….” She trailed off, feigning a midcombat daydream as she drew another dagger from her belt with her left hand. Nalia caught her movement just in time and backed away as Safana’s dagger slashed harmlessly through the air. Nalia followed its arc with one of her own and before Safana could react, Nalia had slashed her stomach and her sword of Mask sent vines wrapping around Safana.
Before she could finish off the trampish thief, Xzar cast an earthquake spell that sent her and the other good mages tripping to the ground while the spelltower shook. Before they could get up and cast again, Edwin followed up with a time stop. While the world around him stood still, he cast spellstrikes upon Aerie, Xan and Nalia, vaporizing all their spell protections, and then cast a power word stun at each of them. As time resumed, the three stood frozen while Edwin and Xzar turned their full attention to Ellisime. The queen stopped time, removed their magical and physical protections, and cast fiery dragon breath at them. They wailed in anguish as time resumed and their flesh burned, but Xzar, following a few hysterical screams of pain, cast his own spellstrike on her and then a singed Edwin fired a flock of magic missiles at Ellisime, disrupting her next spell and sending her flying against the wall.
“Now you shall die!!!!!!! Die queenie die!!!!!!!!” Xzar began chanting a power word kill.
Edwin kicked him in the shin and disrupted his spell. “We must take her alive, you fool! (We have to get her to the Tree!)” he cast a power word stun upon her instead. As Ellisime began her next spell from the floor, the power word flew into her and she ceased her chanting and lay still.
Mazzy came back up the stairs, hurt and panting, just in time to see two red and green wizards disappear through a dimension door carrying a limp Ellisime. Aerie, Nalia, and Xan unfroze and joined her in despair.
Sarevok was angrily commanding his troops both back to join the dwarves against the rangers and toward the city up the tree-ramps, some of which had burned through and collapsed outside the walls, taking troops with them. His divided forces were losing momentum inside the city, and he could hear the sounds of the ranger-dwarf skirmishes drawing closer in the forest around them. Viconia and her Sharite clerics were angrily summoning elementals and skeleton warriors and sending them in both directions to reinforce the Zhentarim troops.
As Viconia was gathering unholy energy for her next spell, she sensed another divine presence in the air, as if the very flora and fauna around her was becoming charged with energy. “Iblith!” she cursed. “Druids, dear Sarevok. They’re coming this way! I can feel it.”
Further out in the forest, Valygar was sticking to the shadows of the trees and popping out to drive his blades through angry dwarves and disappear again as quickly. He heard the sound of persons approaching opposite the direction of Suldanesellar and sensed druidic energies in the air. He turned to see a force of leather-clad druids charging his way, impaling enemies with spears, braining them with clubs, and slashing them down with scimitars. Running front and center, he saw a woman he recognized flashing scimitars around with furious speed and beheading Zhentarim and Bloodaxe warriors as fast as she could run. “Jaheira!” he cried with joy as the druids entered the thick of the fray alongside the rangers, summoning their own elementals and animals and calling the very vines and creatures of the forest against the human and dwarven invaders.
Now Sarevok could hear the sounds of druid spells flying about and hear the screams and curses of his men as they were burned, bitten, and entangled. He breathed and audible sigh of relief when a dimension door opened and Edwin and Xzar stepped through, struggling to carry an inanimate Ellisime.
“About time, you psychos!” he yelled at them. “Now, to the Tree!”
“Can’t teleport! Is shielded!” Xzar moaned while Edwin cast a silence and a power word sleep on the stirring Ellisime and one of Sarevok’s bodyguards bound and gagged her.
Sarevok swore. “Tazok!” he commanded and his half-ogre general grunted in reply. “Field command is now yours! Do not disappoint me!”
“Battalion Alpha!” he yelled to his retinue of bodyguards and elite soldiers. “Up Tree-ramp 14! Full charge to the Palace! Keep around us!” Viconia, Edwin and Xzar began casting all manner of protective spells over themselves as the fighters, clerics, and fighter-mages with large shields surrounded them and they began running toward the specified tree-ramp with Sarevok, Ellisime effortlessly slung over his shoulder, at their helm. They began to run up it, the previous battalion that had come up before them securing the ramparts at the top and the staircase down the inside of the wall, and covering Battalion Alpha with arrows and spells as it made its way over the ramparts, down the stairs, and toward the nearby Palace of Suldanesellar.
Sarevok grinned at his own genius as he saw that the Zhentarim forces had already taken the heavily-defended palace, no doubt at great cost, as per the anticipatory orders he had given his captains. The troops there opened the doors as Battalion Alpha ran through, and covered their rear against the Seldarine forces, who perceiving the deliberateness of the battalion’s movement and now vigorously trying to retake their palace.
Sarevok dismissed Battalion Alpha to join the palace’s existing defenders. He could hear elves clamoring all around the outside of the palace, their swords and bows whizzing through the air and their magics exploding against the walls and causing echoes throughout the palace. He ran with Viconia and the two wizards down the stairs at the back and came to the hidden Tree of Life.
It was eerily quiet and still, as if there were no battle going on nearby. Sarevok took a moment to wrap an arm around Viconia’s waist, smiling as he breathed in the refreshing air, filled with various forest fragrances he so rarely smelled anymore.
“It’s almost too bad we’ll have to destroy it,” mused Viconia, sharing the moment and giving an ambiguously devilish or longing smirk, snapping Sarevok’s mind back to the task at hand.
“Xzar – find the conduit!” he commanded. The wizard began babbling a divination and then Sarevok saw a portal become visible nearby, in the very spot where his brother had battled Irenicus long ago. They ran over to it, Sarevok looked through the portal, which at first showed a mist of jungles, then a city, and finally zoomed to the top of a pyramid at its center.
Sarevok laughed. “You all know the preparations!” He tied the sleeping Ellisime to one of the tree branches while Viconia drew a ceremonial dagger and stood over her. Edwin and Xzar drew out arcane tomes and began chanting, causing a greenish fog to swirl around their feet and then the nearest leaves of the Tree to began wilting and dropping and its bark to shrivel.
“Excellent!” Sarevok roared. “Now, I must pay a quick visit to our dear allies and see that the same preparations are being made for the Fountain!”
Edwin stroked his beard and laughed. “Irenicus was a bumbling fool to have overlooked the duality (that unstable amateur deserved his fate).”
With that Sarevok leapt through the portal.
VII. War of Two Worlds: The Old
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