IV. Siege on Heaven
Paradise City was built on a steep mountaintop, Mount Paradise. A mountaintop which was part of the mountain range, but stuck out beside the main line of mountains. Only one narrow pass of walkable surface connected it to the other mountains. Though the avariel could fly in and out, raw materials, particularly the stone used for almost all of the city's construction, was not feasible for the weak avariel and fly in and out en masse so a path for carts and caravans was necessary. This path ran from the front gate of Paradise along the pass to the next mountaintop. It was, however, still relatively easy to defend the city from landbound mountain creatures such as giants. Archers, mages and catapults could fire into the pass, making it a death trap for invading armies. The mountain it connected to, Mount Limbo, stood slightly lower than Paradise, proving a range disadvantage to any who would try to fire back from across the path. As such, the city had withstood eons of attacks and never yet been critically threatened.
Generally, during a siege it was necessary for the defenders to stage a force, of fighters at least, outside their own walls. Otherwise, even lacking the range advantage, it was not difficult for the attackers to get armored rams or destructive mages within range to damage and destroy the walls. This force would also be necessary to actually defeat and drive away the attacks, lest they merely bide their time and starve out the population within. The avariel could probably have manually flown enough food and supplies up from the lands below, albeit while racking up a debt from the Amnish or surface elves, but they did have ample reserves within Paradise for such situations. And though they probably could have destroyed any mages or rams that dared to come within firing range of the walls, evil armies were known for hosting kamikaze wild mages who would blindly run towards castle walls, blasting at them with wild magic and often able to do severe damage before dying from defending archers or their own unpredictable energy. And thus an army had to be stationed outside the walls.
As the day of battle dawned, a large force of avariel warriors and spellcasters were thus outside the front gate of Paradise. The front line paladins, Onyx not among them, could easily detect the distance of the approaching cloud giant army. They were close, nearly in sight, soon they would walk over Mount Limbo's shallow top and come into sight. Onyx cold detect this too from the top of a turret over the main gate. He stood with a reserve battery of paladins, and many spellcasters, including Aerie, who stood close to him. Archers lined the walls, peering through archer slits, and catapults and scorpions stood along the roof behind them.
Onyx was idly spinning Hangard's Axe around in his hand, studying the evil's movements and itching to make a toss with the throwing axe. Then he
noticed, right at Mount Limbo's peak, a small but strong spark of the aura of good. He saw that the paladins below noticed it too. As the cloud giant army, enormous in size and almost shaking the mountain range with their cadence, came into view at the other end of the mountain, a lone figure, who had been sitting under a bush, invisible to the naked eye but generating the aura, stood up at the peak, between the giant and elven armies. From the martial artist's bright white close-fitting robe and golden tan close-shaved head, it appeared to be a monk. He had a pair of katanas sheathed behind his shoulders, and his hands were clasped as if in prayer. None knew it yet, but this was Kan. Moving slowly and gracefully, he turned to face the cloud giants. Suddenly he drew the two katanas, their glowing white and golden blades almost brightening the entire dawn sky, and snapped into a fighting stance.
Klaongar, with Xzar and Cyran watching through the eyes and controlling his mind, ordered his front lines into a full charge at the lone monk. Klaongar bellowed, "To the peak of the mountain! Maintain the protocol! If you find a scout in your way, trample it quickly and then move into gate assault formation!" His front line of fighters began charging, staying in formation. Cyran's plan was to run this entire army forward as fast as possible, trying to get the destructive giant mages and the boulder-hurling giant fighters within range of the gate before the catapults and elf mages within blasted the army to bits. He knew the avariel had the upper hand in magic; he was betting on the vastly superior strength of the cloud giants to press the elven fighters far back and then blast the front wall down quickly and have the surviving fighters charge into the city, killing as many as possible. Though he just might be able to take down their mages within and take the entire city, in truth it was mass death, not the real estate of the city, that he wanted, and maximizing carnage was his objective.
The avariel, with their keen eyesight, eagle-like and far beyond even that of surface elves, watched in amazement as a wall of giant warriors ran up to the monk. As they approached, he leapt high into the hair, kicking off the head of the front and center giant as he slashed forward with each katana and beheaded the giant to either side as well. As he flew over the middle giant's headless shoulders, his feet then planted on the chest of the giant behind, shattering his ribcage as the monk ran up his torso, beheading the next two giants in the columns to his left and right. Dodging the raised clubs and axes, the continued like this, making a beeline straight for Klaongar.
"Full gate assault now, you fools!!!" the angry king roared. As three columns of his men continued to topple back like dominoes, the rest began charging towards the avariel army, mages mixed amongst the fighters, eyeing the gates and casting adjurations on themselves. The avariel army responded with a full charge, and the two sides flew into each other, a blizzard of weapons. The dexterous avariel feigned and dodged the giants' swings, hacking at them as they went, but when a powerful giantish blow did connect, it was usually fatal for the poor elf. The mages in the two armies began hurling evocations at each other. The avariel mages were fairly well magically protected, and the giantish mages somewhat so, but sides were soon racking up losses among the warriors.
Onyx was watching with keen interest the progress towards the back lines of the avariel paladins and fighter-mages, and especially of this strange but fortunate monk, when he noticed dark specks on the horizon behind them. Though it would be a few more seconds before even the eagle-eyed avariel could make them out, the cavalier's blood began to boil and his eyes widened. He could smell it on the air. He could feel it in his heart. He knew what it was. "Dragons!" he roared like a lion, pointing his axe towards the horizon.
The keenest-eyed archers squinted and could confirm it. "Red dragons! One huge ancient one and many fierce young ones! They'll burn us out!!" they cried. The town was constructed of stone, but flesh was not so fire resistant.
"All cavaliers towards them immediately! They must not reach the city!" Onyx yelled as he put the axe back into his bag of holding and drew out the Dragon Shield and the Dragonslayer Sword. Glad he had already decided to suit up in the dragon helm and red dragon scale armor, he quickly summoned a small deva and strapped her onto his back. As the clerics began casting bless, prayer, resist fire, and strength of one (strong-as-a-giant Onyx was careful to avoid the effects of this last) upon the cavaliers, with a running leap they flew off over the walls and took flight towards the oncoming squadron of dragons.
"Onyx! Be careful! I should have known it'd go like this!" Aerie whimpered as her husband flew off, a heavy body of muscle and metal held aloft only by a deva. If she dies, he dies, she thought. She understood the importance of stopping the dragons, and that her cavalier was not about to stay back, but why does something like this always happen? Next time I actually convince him to stay back, a gang of demons will show up on the horizon, oh, I just know it!!! She wiped away her tears and stood tall, fingertips outstretched and ready to blast anything that came within range.
The company of cavaliers was rapidly approaching the dragons. They began to chant, and Onyx, familiar by now with the custom and the words, joined them.
"Hark, do we see evil.
Hark, do we see our enemy.
Hark, does our duty bid us fight them
And smite all that would harm our innocent and beloved.
Hark, do we brave the breach
Hark, do we go now into battle
For all that is right and true
And uphold the good that shall triumph, forever!"
Shield and sword clashed against claw and fang in a dissonant medley of clangs and scratchings. Avariel knights engaged the various young dragons
in battle to the death, deftly swooping around their gnashing teeth and claws and their swinging tails and their blasts of fire. Onyx and two other cavaliers engaged the ancient dragon. Onyx skillfully avoided its tail while parrying its claws and bites with his shield and sword, and trying to catch its breath across his shield and chest to protect the deva, who was not immune to fire as he now was. The paladins fought gracefully and valiantly and the dragons fiercely and hungrily, and each side began taking losses as avariel were slashed, bashed or burned and dragons were stabbed and hacked, each dying or losing his ability to fly, a death sentence in itself. The ancient dragon bit into one of the cavaliers, cooked the trapped elf with firebreath, and then swallowed him whole. Onyx hacked into the dragon's limbs and body, but had yet to significantly slash its wings, hack open its throat or pierce its heart. The other cavalier managed to tatter part of the old wyrm's wing, but not enough to bring it down, before he was smashed by its mighty tail and fell lifeless to the battle below. Onyx flew up in front of the dragon's face and, as it opened his mouth to bite and breath on him, he stopped both fire and tooth by wedging his shield between its teeth as they clamped together and then blinded it with a mighty back-and-forth slash of his sword. The dragon screamed and fire bellowed from its mouth as Onyx removed his shield and swooped down to its belly and, gaining speed, flew straight at it and plunged Dragonslayer deep into the dragon's chest, piercing its heart. The wyrm let out a mortally wounded roar as Onyx pushed with all his might and dragged the sword around in its heart, cutting it apart and slaying the awesome beast. But as it died, it reached for him and both its foreclaws sank deep into the deva's body. She let out a dying moan and vanished from the plane.
Suddenly, Onyx could feel the beast's body grow heavy as its wings ceased to flap. Thinking quickly, he switched the shield for the sword Angurvadal and, stabbing firmly into dragonflesh with each longsword as he went, began crawling around its body towards it back as the huge carcass began to plunge. When he reached the base of the untattered wing, he began to shear it away from the body, and, putting his swords away and pulling along the edge of the lifelessly flapping wing, grabbed its far tip as he separated the last corner of the base with a mighty tug. He leapt away from the body and into the open air, gripping each end of the wing tightly and holding his hands together over his head, trying to curve the wing around so that it would open up and serve as a natural parachute. Aerie, watching all this from the turret, nearly fainted at the sight of her love plummeting from high in the sky like a stone towards the ground below. He continued to hurtle downwards, gradually twisting his grip on the wing in a difficult struggle to get it to open fully.
Onyx saw visions of his days in Candlekeep flash before his eyes. Long, dull hours in the stuffy library and adventurous days running through the surrounding fields. Playing, walking, or talking with Imoen as the sea winds blew her wild hair about. His early training as a warrior and devoting himself to becoming a paladin. His first, lost love, taken away from him and far to the east. His many adventures throughout Faerun and other planes. To no being in particular, he began to pray. I have spent my days in pursuit of many things. Much that I have not done, I ought to have done. But nothing that I have done, ought I not have to been done. Much I will do that I have not yet done. And those things I will never do, I regret that they will not be done. But at this moment, I know what I must do, and wish only to use the next few minutes well.
Managing to fully pull the wing around, he got it caught in the full wind and it billowed into a taut curve. He lost speed and began to float down at a fast but survivable clip. He began to make out the details of the battle raging below. A few evocations and hurled boulders were flying at the gate and walls, taking out small chunks. The avariel still held the back half of the pass and giants were few and dying quickly there. Aerie and the other spellcasters and the archers in the turrets were quickly shooting and blasting away any giants that came within range. Further down the pass, the cloud giants were fighting the elves that had rushed amongst them. Many of the division of giant mages and shamans in the back lay dead, but many still remained and most still casting and protected by a few fighters. He saw avariel paladins and fighter-mages, charging at them bravely, breaching and dispelling their magics and attacking them, but many getting smashed, slashed, or blasted themselves in the process.
He noticed that strange monk, still leaping from giant to giant, taking out mages as fast as he could and trying in vain to get to Klaongar, who stood with an inner circle of his most powerful wizards, all surrounded by a thick ring of fighters. Avariel magic-users were hurling spells into them, but Klaongar and the mages were well protected. Steering the parachute with his arms, he aimed straight for the evil king. As Onyx got down to the right height and managed to position himself over the king, he let go of the wing and drew Carsomyr as he fell, pointing it down and straight at Klaongar. As he fell, Kan saw his chance and leapt high into the air, over the ring of fighters and towards Klaongar as well. The mighty and wise king raised both of his massive clubs and, as each hero fell upon him, smashed them both aside and to the ground. The mages immediately began preparing powerful spells aimed at the two. Onyx regained his feet and cleaved through them with Carsomyr, disrupting and spells and dispelling their protections. Kan leapt up and slashed at them while parrying and reflecting spells back at the mages with his katanas, causing them to disintegrate themselves.
As the fighters closed in and Klaongar raised his clubs to smash them both a final time, the strong Onyx went into a whirlwind attack and bashed aside the fighters' weapons while hewing into giantish flesh and the quick Kan darted and rolled among their legs, cutting them with his katanas and knocking them back all around him with telekinetic force rippling from his fists and feet. As avariel warriors and wizards began shooting, swinging, and casting at the fighters from the outside, Onyx and Kan felled many from within. As the ring of fighters thinned, the paladin and the monk turned back towards Klaongar and, still narrowly dodging his huge clubs, Onyx impaled him through the gut with Carsomyr as Kan leapt high and used both blades to behead him. As Kan killed him, he felt his blood quicken as his mind flash back to the thousands of kills of evildoers he had made over his career. Onyx sensed the power surging into the monk.
Xzar and Cyran grabbed the sides of their heads and screamed in torment as their link with Klaongar was broken. "link too weak i could have won it your powers were diminished foolish necromancer" Cyran ranted angrily at Xzar.
"What!?" Xzar responded. "The link was perfect!!!! It was Klaongar's clumsy body that lost it for you master....I hated being in his head anyway....it made me.....tense.....I'm not nice when I'm...tense!!" He bit his knuckles and continued to babble insanely.
Cyran merely looked across his own battle, but his thoughts were own the paladin and the monk he had just seen through Klaongar's eyes. He had suspected - and sensed in Xzar's twisted mind - that the paladin was the legendary Onyx, whom he had successfully occupied with the cloud giants while he did battle in Amn. But neither wizard knew the identity of the other hero.
The remaining cloud giants began to scatter and flee and the avariel, with heavy losses but still great in number, chased or shot them down. As the sounds of battle died, they let out a fatigued cheer. The gates opened and crying civilians began to rush to find their loved ones, looking hopefully among the faces of those walking and then fearfully at the faces of those lying dead. Kan and Onyx faced one another, having known they were on the same side from the start but each continuing to size up his mysterious ally. Despite the bloody battle, Kan's fighting robe was as pure white as ever. His skin was a deep and healthy tan; like Onyx's. Kan's hair was cut extremely short however, nearly bald, like most monks. He was obviously younger, he had the face of a boy who had quickly and recently grown a young man's body. Almost as muscular but more compact - Onyx's great natural strength had been magically enhanced several times during his travels - the monk's body did make him remember his younger self. The youth seemed as if he had grown too fast somehow - hasted too often perhaps.
"I am Onyx, a paladin. Surely each of us is wondering how the other human came to be involved in the battle between cloud-dwelling creatures," spoke Onyx.
"I know of you, great Onyx," Kan began, his voice warm and calm. "All know of you and the tales. You are here with the great priestess and mage Aerie, the adventuring companion you came here to marry."
"Yes, and if I know my lore, I believe I may have heard a tale of one that might be you," spoke Onyx. "A mysterious monk who came out of the great desert. Mind, katanas, hands, and feet dealing swift death to evil."
"Then the bards have not stretched the tale so much you did not recognize me. I am Kan."
"But they say little of you, noble monk. Who are you, other than a great avenger?" Onyx asked.
Kan took a deep breath - he did not often speak of his past - and began. "I was raised in a monastery in Kara-Tur. Discipline in learning, training and meditation were my sole pursuits there. As I grew in power, I found I could move faster than any monk, that my focused mind could slow the world around me and yet my body could remain fast. Training endlessly in martial arts, often at supernormal speed, I grew rapidly. Though grown to a young man, I am but a child in years in this world. When at last I became what I am, the wise head of my order recognized the time was right and bid me go out in to the world and do as I have done. He said he believed I would be the one to fulfill a prophecy, but more he would not say. I left and thus a bard or two in these western lands picked up on my deeds since, of which you have apparently heard."
"And what of before that?" asked Onyx. "Surely you were not born to these monks?"
"I was left by my young mother - and her parents - I was very, very young, but I remember it well. I was born on their journey and left behind as they traveled still. A baby yet, I learned not their tongue, but passing my memories over in my mind in the years since, seeing the meaning of their words in their faces, I know what came to pass. They bade her to leave me - she wished not to - she cried and begged them. They told her they would come back - they never did at least before I left, why I can not say - and I knew nothing since of them. They were not from Kara-Tur. They were from, I believe, the west. And, in your lands, learning these western tongues, I know that it is such a tongue they spoke. The place they were from - I remember the sounding of the word clear - was Can-del-keep."
Onyx studied Kan's flat cheeks and angular jaw. He peered deeper into Kan's haunting steel-blue eyes. Familiar. Where? "And, child in years, do you remember your mother's name?" asked Onyx. If Kan was a child in years, he should know the young mother.
"Yes." stated Kan, studying Onyx's face and thinking things. Onyx recognized his eyes. A clear pond. A mirror. Myself. The monk spoke, "It was Araschel."
Onyx nodded. "I too am from Candlekeep, and she was my first love. A lost love. Gone with her parents to Kara-Tur. Carrying something I gave her. Carrying a child. You are my son."
As the two walked back towards Paradise, Onyx looked down at the land below. He could sense that the evil had been decimated in number, but that the power had consolidated. Suddenly he detected a distinct surge in it at a single point. As they continued walking, Onyx told Kan of him of the news from the lands below, of the army of Cyran which had been raiding across Amn and was attack de'Arnise Keep as they spoke. He told Kan all he knew of Araschel, and of how he had no memory of his mother at all and knew not even her identity. He told him also about Kan's new stepmother Aerie and his unborn half-sibling.
Kan told Onyx of his training. As soon as he had become strong enough to wield them, he had begun practicing to dual-wield katanas and continued his already highly advanced martial arts training. He had been given by his sensai two unenchanted but finely crafted katanas, and as he practiced and increased in skill and strength, so too his katanas became increasingly enchanted and gained in power and accuracy. As Kan's speed increased and he became able to dodge weapons, missiles and spells, so too his katanas gained the ability to deflect and even reflect them. He had also wore form-fitting gloves and boots, which had stretched in size as he grew and had grown from mundane clothing into powerful items able to deal piercing damage from his fingertips and toes, slashing damage from the edges of his hands and feet, and massive crushing damage from his knuckles and heels. By concentrating, he could even cause ripples in space and send telekinetic projections of his fists and feet through the air. Other than his few memories of his mother and the various minor evils he had slain since leaving the monastery, all he knew was the years spent focused on perfecting his body and mind.
The gates were beginning to open and clerics were spilling out, rushing to heal the injured. Onyx looked around for Aerie. She had disappeared from the high turret above, and she would probably be making her way out soon to lend her considerable healing powers and to find him. Just then a bright column of light descended from the heavens, and a deva stood proudly as it faded. "You have fought well, Onyx and Kan. The cloud giant threat is no more, but grave matters far below require your attention," Solar sang.
"Take us to the battle below, that we may crush the evil there!" Onyx declared as Kan nodded.
"Cyran synchronized the battles with good reason, brave Onyx, yet that is where I will now take you. There is much to be explained." With that, the three of them disappeared.
Aerie, just rushing out the gates, recognized Solar's celestial aura and sensed what had just transpired. She hung her head and tried in vain to hold back the tears as she went about healing her many gravely injured brethren.
IV. Siege on Heaven
No replies to this topic
0 user(s) are reading this topic
0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users