Battle:The Siege of Larket

From HollowWiki
Summary:  Macon, the king of Larket, attempts a desperate final stand against Cenril's forces, fueled by dark magic. 
Meanwhile, Valrae, the Mayor of Cenril, leads her own troops into battle, determined to seize victory. 
Jaxson and Percival engage in intense magical combat, while others like Meri and Parsithius fight on the front lines.
Amidst the chaos, Zahrani and Khitti work together free Mathollak.
Valrae and her forces ultimately breach the Academy, where Macon's son, Guillem, is orchestrating a deadly ritual. Valrae 
intervenes, halting the ritual and confronting Macon directly. In a surprising turn, Macon surrenders rather than unleash untold 
death, signaling the end of the conflict. Cenril has won, choosing to occupy Larket until the particulars of following Peace 
Talks can be agreed upon. 

Larket Town Square

The square, in stark contrast to its previous appearance, is beautiful and well maintained. Streets from the north, south, and west, cobbled smoothly, encircle a small area of land here, where grass and flowers grow. A small stone gazebo sits in the center of the square, raised a fair distance from the ground by marble steps, so that the structure can serve as a stage for public announcements. A board is fastened to its side, pulled from the wreckage of the old square. Vendors line the roads, selling a variety of wares ranging from food to clothes. East of the square stands a sturdy building of stone, its entrance guarded by armed men in Larket's livery.

Valrae || The Mourningfrost dawn rose cold and gray over Cenril as the mayor sat atop her stallion and addressed her army. For what she hoped would be the final time, she rallied them behind her and led them out of the protective and high white walls of the seaside republic. There was no resistance through Sage this time, only the sounds of a great deal of men and women marching, riding horseback, or leading wagons of war through a forest trapped under the shining white layer of winter ice. Dark clouds swollen with the promise of more snow churned over the heavens and the light of Kafzhash shown weakly through the bare branches overhead as the silence crowded around the fast moving army. There were the holy men in front again, tall shields and long pikes outfitted with celestial bronze to carry Arkhen’s light. Foot Soldiers a thousand or more strong marched in full armor with the white dove of Cenril proudly across their chests as the calvary stamped behind them. Witches, high above upon brooms that sailed silently through the freezing air, swooped over the rear where war wagons with treacherous spikes spun from wheels and carried heavy sieging tools groaning over the narrow path. Their first test would be passing through Larket’s bridge and a wave of wariness rolled through the army like a sickness when, at last, they broke through the trees only to be met with a surprisingly small number of soldiers defending it. Valrae watched as Glendoria took the helm and led the foot soldiers in the first assault. The sound of battle filled the morning, the clang of metal against metal, the death cries as blood was shed on both sides. There was little to be done and the mayor was worse for it as she watched the struggle from afar, waiting for her general’s signal that it would be time to advance. She could feel the tension it left on the men behind, almost sensing the urge to break rank and forgo strategy for wanton destruction in their assault. Just when it was almost too much to bear, the horn sounded and with a great heave the army began its forward march again. With minimal losses, the foot soldiers had cleared the way for the Cenrili army and they seemed to pass into Larket with an unexpected ease that left the High Priestess wary upon her seat as Fury’s feet stamped and his breath filled the air with thick plumes of smoke in his anticipation.

Macon || Alarm bells ring throughout Larket. The sounds originate in part from actual bells scattered about the city, but the majority of the sound echoes magically from various objects around The Hard City; signposts, building cornerstones, and even some individual cobblestones on the roads ring and clang in an effort to both rally Larket’s defenses and signal to the general population to evacuate to designated safer areas within the city. There is bedlam in the streets, with soldiers and war mages moving towards the invading army, and civilians moving mostly against the military’s flow to stay out of the line of fire. Men pour out of the militia outpost to the east of town square. They are the first to meet Cenril’s armies and the roars and clatter of weaponry that make the soundtrack of war fill the air once again. Archers and evoking mages have begun moving into evacuated buildings (including the towering tenements to the west) and taking pot shots out of the windows at the invaders, supporting their foot soldiers from the sides of the streets. Back at Fort Freedom, Macon is ready to move out. His face is marked with burn scars, his usual thick facial hair is patchy in some places where the damaged skin can no longer grow it. Pocked among the scarring are blemishes that faintly glow red, shards of The Broken Rage Stone that embedded themselves into his flesh when it shattered in the fight with Valrae. The angry artifact was distilled from his own blood, and has returned to his body without rejection, so there is no inflammation or other sign of infection surrounding the furious ‘foreign’ objects. As he leaves the fort on horseback, he’s barking orders that are relayed via sending stones to the front, where he intends to be shortly…

Zahrani rides with Cenril’s forces, the paladin armed and armored to the teeth. Her plating is tuned and burnished, the shield on her arm reinforced with the Crossroad sigil of Cyris and a plethora of protection glyphs that shimmer with her Divine aura. Her morningstar mace rests at her hip. She takes her more elf-like form, which was better suited to long marches and high-endurance work without sacrificing strength or speed. Her crossbow is slung over her shoulder, resting atop a winter cloak that keeps out the windchill. Upon reaching the outskirts of their destination, she is met by a small team of 4-5 felines from the Isran Collective. The group is equipped for a surgical strike, most of them carrying bows, slings, and other projectile weapons, with a swords and daggers as a backup. Each has a utility belt that complements their choice of armor. The felines meet up with Val, and the paladin of Cyris speaks, “When there’s an opening, our objective is the prison. We’ll free Mathollak and cause a bit of chaos before and after.” She offers the witch a grin at the last part, before awaiting her blessing and anyone else who wants to join. This is the kind of mission she lives for, and her form bristles with Divine energy, fortifying those nearby with its infectious warmth.

Mathollak :: In the dank recesses of the marble fortress, a feeble and persistent light shines through a damp crack in a cell's formidable stone wall. It almost illuminates Mathollak's face as he sits bare back flat against the smooth stone, arms dangling off bent knees like a gloomy gargoyle. The back of his head hits the wall and he pretends it doesn't hurt, and the unknowing stone is fine at burying the noise. The silence weighs heavily on him here, and the sobriety. And the tediousness. And the tediousness. And the tediousness. He spitefully allows the coldness of the stone to seep into his bones. His thoughts, usually filled with the thrilling gifts of the present, or at least the promised pleasures of the future, are now something gross and infuriating and confusing and so vivid. Scenes of the battle wriggle unbidden from the dark to blind him. A glorious charge, fire, smoke...power! And then a face: familiar, boisterous, met at a bar, maybe? Dimpled chin and wolf toothed smile, nervous to meet him or pretending to be. Then another time, full of movement, of graceless yet impassioned steps. Smells like booze and incense and something else, something special. He could never guess. Now he sees the body half covered in mud and blood and worse, eyes staring up at him without sorrow nor hatred, no passion of any kind. No nothing. He sees a different face and it too resolves into oblivion. His head hits the wall. It gets harder to pretend it doesn't hurt.

Mathollak :: Something changes, coming from outside. A beating, a thumping, a soft trembling that only just reaches him here. Having heard no news, he’s been assuming the worst. His catastrophic defeat meant the worst case scenario for his people and Cenril’s and Larket’s. “I used to like parades,” he mumbles, knowing that this one would be profane and abhorrent. But the bells that ring, they’re rousing, urgent…alarming. Cautiously, he lifts his back from the cold stone and teeters toward the bars that seem to grow in and out of the stone itself. Despite his commitment to languishing until darkness takes him forever, there’s a spark of optimism within him. A selfish one that considers that even if he lead all those people to their early and tortured deaths, he might somehow be spared.

Jaxson rides along the same path as his beloved, though of course the honor of leading her forces falls to Valrae herself. The Captain of the Guard serves as she commands this day, the Red Witch having proved she is more than capable to command and Jax just wishes to see this come to an end, not only for the realm as a whole but for Val as well. There is a deep undercurrent of emotional ties to this that he is glad she will be (hopefully) getting closure with, but even with all that the man clears his mind for a battle he is sure shall be hard fought and harder won. The Kingdom of Stone will not go down without a fight, and as the troops move through Sage and into Larket this proves to be true as the army of Macon rallies to meet them. Looking about, the nobleman examines the current situation, eyes catching sight of the archers and mages taking roost in buildings. Moving so that he covers Valrae's flank, Jaxson prepares himself to be able to counter any possible projectiles of either physical or magical nature. He was her Queen's Guard this day, until the true chaos would break out and force them to seperate on the field of battle. For now the warlock simply channels his eldritch magic for defensive purposes as he awaits for it to all truly begin. He looks over to the Mayor turned Military Commander, and his future wife, for a final good look before returning his full attention back to the task at hand. Before leaving he was pulled aside by her son, Finn, and made to swear he'd protect the little man's mother and that they'd both come back home, and the noble had no intentions of breaking that oath today.

Mathollak :: As the alarm bells ring, the garrison within the great marble prison outfits itself with arms and armor, enhanced by the anti-witch innovations made in the recent years. The prison itself wards against most types of interference a witch might be able to bring about herself, ensuring that they’d be as helpless as anyone else in prison. The zealots prepare a cold and final death for any who might think to bring freedom to these heathens, and they’d love to deliver it personally.

Khitti rode in on her tikifhlee, the dire-sized sabertooth cat, though she left it at the bridge, choosing to keep up with others via shadow-stepping. Choosing stealth over just busting in all willy nilly, and mirroring Zahrani’s light with her own darkness, Khitti, in her two-piece silk dress with the mithril plates sandwiched between the fabric for protection, carefully teleported her way to the feline’s side. “I’m coming with you,” she said. Tapping into her shadow magic, her form seemed to meld with the shadows of the upcoming dawn, in much the same way her tikifhlee now hid itself at Larket’s bridge, the beast lurking and waiting for the time to escape from that wretched region. Despite her dependency on her magic, she brought her two swords as well, the gladius Embershard and harpe Slice of Life (aka Sol) sheathed carefully on her back. She’d accept whatever blessings the witches or Zahrani might offer before getting ready to follow the paladin.

Meri arrives, but not with the army of Cenril, nor does she attempt to command the armies of Kelay-Sage for this. It was plenty obvious to Meri when the armies Cenril would be attacking, they had to move through her lands to do so. Meri will join the fight, maybe, or maybe she’ll just observe in stealth from a distance. The blonde has taken measures to disguise her identity, as has been the norm for her for these fights save for that time Hawkeye and Larketian soldiers tried and failed to invade Cenril’s beaches. Anyway, the blonde is dressed head to toe in black clothing, tattoos covered, face covered, not easily identifiable. She has her bow on one hip and sword on the other, but again…she’s being stealthy, covert, is still distanced from the fighting. Maybe she draws no weapon today. Then again she does have a hate for Larket.

Valrae || The majority of the army follows Glendoria in the continued march toward the fort. Swiftly the mages were accompanied by witches in the sky, and they moved fluidly into a defensive counter against the volley of arrows and magic that rained from above. The heaviest fire seems to come from the tenements and the witches focus their efforts on a summoning a shimmering barrier of pure mana that deflects the worst of this from the army below. The tower begins to weather the worst of their own magics as it is repelled back at them and the Cenril mages below summon great shards of piercing ice or otherwise fall back on the tried and true roaring of fireballs. There are shouts from both above and below as civilians weave through Larket’s defense, warnings among the Cenrili’s to leave them untouched but hesitation causing some to lose their life to a Larketian’s sword for the effort. The advance is slowed but no longer halted completely by the first real show of force from the Kingdom. As the army advances, Valrae and a carefully selected squad of soldiers on horseback and broom move with her through the chaos of battle. They pull forward, leading the charge now as her sword rings out, bloodied for the first time as she swings it down upon a solider bearing Larket’s flag that had attempted to dislodge her from her seat. Sweat beads her brow despite the winter air and her breath plumes white as the first of the snow begins to fall. Through the haze of battle and blood her eyes search beyond, further into the square and toward the path to the fort. Her single focus was on meeting Macon again. With this goal in mind and her own soldiers at her back, the witch reaches down to brush against the shining dome of the emerald crystal skull attached to her side. The mana ripples through her, stronger now as it fed on the errant magic that pulsed through the air, and with a great cry a line of blinding white fire erupts from her pointed sword. It cuts a line through the Larketian army before moving unnaturally out, parting them as they died or were otherwise left burning and screaming, and Valrae lead Fury at a gallop through the newly made opening.

Zahrani looks to her team, offering a grin to Khitti before scanning for an opening. After the initial volley and the advancement of the main force, she gestures to the others to mount up and break off. As they approach a weakened section of the wall, an arrow intercepts one of the smaller feline riders. She shouts as it pierces her shoulder, only to be sent flying when another Larketian projectile cripples the horse beneath her. Rani glances back, just in time to see a second teammate fall back to protect their wounded. Down to 4 + Khitti. She draws her crossbow, spotting an archer above and loosing a glowing bolt in his direction. The bolt misses, but another feline comrade tracks the shot and aims true with his longbow, skewering the enemy soldier through the throat. The paladin produces a runic pouch from her belt, and other 3 catfolk do the same before telling Khitti, “Give us some cover while we breach the wall!” Rani goes to work preparing, reciting an incantation while the magical breaching device is assembled.

Mathollak:: Heavily armored sentinels posted in towers placed at the corners of the prison campus begin loading mounted ballistas with heavy blackened bolts. The mounted turrets swivel and turn while a seeker marks targets for them. The ballistas snap their ropes violently against the bolts, casting them screaming out of the towers as if banshee wails were trapped inside each spear point. With these, they can be a horrifying vex to enemies on lands or in the air. Though with the witches so elegantly whirring up protective shields, they focused their intents on stragglers, sappers, and commandos. The bolts that hit people unmake them horribly, not just tearing through armor and flesh and bone, but seeming to undo the tethers that bind them to this very plane of existence. Even scratches seem to become mortal wounds. A horrible way to die, to have your soul ripped from you, but these people were defending their homeland, their way of life, their king.

Zahrani || The unharmed feline male that goes to check on his wounded comrade only finds a dead comrade. He examines the arrow from a distance, his fur bristling. Amber feline eyes glare at the enchanted ballista guarding the prison tower. The male rides forward again, zigging and zagging while he winds up his sling. Upon release, the enchanted projectile makes a snapping sound, breaking the sound barrier before embedding itself in one of the ballistae and locking it into place with an unseen force.

Khitti || When Zahrani asked for cover, Khitti did her best to summon up said cover in the form of a sort of shadow-ice wall between them and arrows that flew from above. It didn’t hold out for long though, as she forgot to protect herself as well, leading to the redheaded witch getting an arrow to the left shoulder, and another in the right thigh. The latter thankfully missed her femoral artery, allowing the witch to pull both that arrow and its sibling free. Though she bled freely now, she was able to put up yet another umbrella-like wall of shadow-ice, doing her best to protect the remaining few felines, before she too followed them to the other side of the wall. Once there, she melded with the shadows again and kept close to the felines.

Macon’s control over his Rage inducing powers are now somewhere in between what they were during the battle against Cenril when he did not possess the stone, and when the artifact was in his grasp. His innate abilities are enhanced by the shards stuck in his face, but don’t approach what they were with The Rage Stone amplifying them. What he is completely without, however, is the ability to telekinetically control his axe now that he doesn’t have the Rage Stone as a conduit. So the fighting style of this middle aged man now has to rely even more heavily on his Vakmatharas Death Knight powers. He arrives with reinforcements on the scene around the town square, but even a cursory first glance tells him that they are losing ground in this space. He gives out orders to fall back that are bounced through the sending network to the various battalion leaders. One of the tenements to the west begins to crumble, a reminder of the earthquake that shook this place on Macon’s wedding day. Unevacuated civilians and the ranged fighters within and without fall victim to the collapse. The King himself moves forward, to cover the retreat. He concentrates his deathly aura tightly around himself, so as not to affect his own men, and he dismounts his horse for the moment, so it doesn’t turn into a skeleton again while he’s riding it. He catches a Cenrili swordsman’s strike with a strong parry through his axe and delivers a punch to the face that doesn’t have much physical power behind it, but instantly sucks the life from the recipient, dropping them with that single death blow. “Fall back!” The shards of red stone illuminate his features in a ghastly fashion as he walks forward forming a one man filter on the road that allows Larketians to pass while dealing death to invaders. Perhaps, across the square he and Valrae make eye contact briefly as they both drop one of the others’ troops, but The Rage Knight can’t linger on her for more than a moment before the fight swallows him up again. Once he’s satisfied with the amount of Larket forces fleeing in the side streets to their next defensive positions, he backs off as well, turning down the aura of death and jumping back onto his horse. As he rides he watches the carnage around him and grits his teeth, perhaps second guessing himself for a moment before pulling out a personal sending stone and speaking into it… Moments later, the ringing signposts and stones littering the streets and buildings have begun to give off a strange glow. They grow red in hue, almost as if they were heating up. It is faint at first, but over the course of twenty minutes or so, the change is undeniable and noticeably bright…

Mathollak :: The ballista-archer releases the the lever and throws the hellish bolt toward the small group that was now attempting to breach the prison walls. It thuks into a wall of darkened ice, casting shards of it in every direction, but causing no further deaths. Disappointment spurs the seeker into loading up the next bolt quickly, only for the entire mechanism to lock up. A bold feline cast a missile into the wood, lodging itself deeply in the grain and the embedded enchantment causes the entire thing to cease function. They expose themselves to troubleshoot the problem, only to be pelted by Khitti returning fire at them. One falls with a scream of surprise and fear from the tower, and departs with a squelching smack.

Mathollak says “Hey what's goin on out there”

Zahrani || The male feline rejoins the others after disabling the ballista, delivering the news of their comrade’s demise. A look of determination crosses the jaguar woman’s face as they find a gap in the prison wall and mount the arcane breacher to the stone. The paladin’s entire body begins to glow with amber light, the energy flowing like a rushing river through the stone wall and finding its way into the walls of the prison cells. The section of the outer wall closest to them begins to shudder, the stones appearing to jump apart as if taking on their own life force. The breach would provide entrance and cover to the team as they enter the building, much to the surprise of the jailors. Rani places a hand on the glowing wall. With a wave of energy, random jail cells unlock, prisoner’s chains unraveled as if they’re made of sand, as their inhabitants are imbued with renewed vigor. Speaking in a familiar tenor to the prison at large, her voice amplified by her god, she calls out with affection and excitement, “Come on, Mathollak. Let’s show these fools how to dance!” With that, her team proceeds to bring the ruckus, luring a squad of Larketian jail guards into a narrow passage before cutting through them. Another feline falls wounded in the skirmishes, but he would likely live.

Khitti continued picking off the weaker guards with violet-colored shadowfire balls as the felines lead the charge. Once they got to Mathollak’s cell, she’d unmeld for the shadows, a brief reprieve from using her magic as she smirked at him. “Yeah, Listen to Zahrani. Get your ass moving before I bleed out over here.” She wasn’t going to, probably, but she still felt like picking on him anyway. When they were ready to go, Khitti heaved a sigh at her own wounds and returned to the shadows.

Mathollak:: As the wall is breached, so too are the enchantments and wards that interrupt the connection between Mathollak and his goddess, if only temporarily. Immediately he feels a presence nearby, within him, all around, and the despair and oppression of loneliness begins to relent. With great trepidation he allows himself to wonder if his savior was only just out of his view, and he presses the side of his face against the bars to sneak an eye down the hall. Then he swaps, and smacks the other side of his face against the bar to look down the opposite side. The cold metal began to feel less like inevitable doom, and more like a temporary setback. And then suddenly, just due to his own weight, the cell door pushes open. He nearly falls over as he sees many others like him do the same. A familiar voice sings through the gloomy prison, announcing their emancipation. Guards that ward the doors to their blocks are immediately overwhelmed by a flood of desperate and vengeful wretches. Yet it’s worse for these guards, because they’re being pinched from within and without. Mathollak follows a stomping parade that leaves his former tormenter nearly embedded into the marble floor, and he pulls a key ring away from him before moving on.

Jaxson looks on as Valrae leads her chosen troops to meet Macon head on, just as she had planned. Even with this prior knowledge it's hard to stand back with the main force and watch as she goes to meet her destiny with the Rage Knight, but he knows it must be done. So, this leaves the captain with only one thing to focus on now, and that is the battle at hand. Glendoria joins him, leading her own troops and rallying them with just her mere presence. Jaxson’s own inner struggles with his past military endeavors have him feeling a bit nauseous, given that even though they won he lost many men in the defense of Cenril against the undead hordes. But a moment is taken to push down such feelings, and he finds his resolve to see this through as he too rallies the remaining forces to march further into Larket. He takes command, ordering troops into line, with the pikes leading from the front, the celestial bronze weapons perfect to lead the march onward, while Glendoria prepares the calvary for a charge, while the witches provide air support. Within moments the troops are in place and ready for the initial charge, and upon Jaxson’s orders they make their move. The pikemen get into two separate defensive formations that create a wedge for the calvary to rush through, Glendoria leading them, while the witches begin to rain down spells and hexes of various types, while archers let loose a volley of arrows upon Macon’s still rallying forces. The battle truly begins now…

Jaxson ||| Percival wished nothing more than to be back in his study with his books, his time in the field of battle only deepening his disfavor for such events. If he wanted to kill someone he could just suck the very air out of their lungs with naught but a few words and a wave of a wand, but, no, his Lord wishes to show the might of the Kingdom of Stone and after his defeat (quickly turned into Fake News with a spin on pacts made with evil Gods or otherworldly forces, you know the basic stuff witches do) Macon’s mood had been even more sour than ever before. So, there was no time for studies, only battle plans and preparations. This was Larket, afterall, one of the greatest military kingdoms to ever grace this realm. And with that in mind the Headmaster of the Academy would show them what true might was this day, as the Cenril forces rally and prepare their initial assault, Percival’s breathes life into a spell, his hands working in intricate patterns as he weaves a counter to the witches bombardment, shielding the main force from the hellfire and curses those vile creatures were surely hurling their way. A prismatic barrier bursts overhead the bulk of Larket’s forces, absorbing hexes and spells, demonstrating the power of the Headmaster. Below this protective barrier is theMage-Knight, Wendell, the counterpart of Percival. Where the latter is the more skilled master of the arcane, Wendell has learned to mix martial and magical into his own style of combat in a very efficient manner, so much so that he was made a Kingsguard. And it is this very man that now leads the ground forces of Larket into a counter offensive, rallying his men as he weaves his own spell to cause the earth below the charging enemy cav to rise up and stop their heroic charge. Then, in a very swift follow up he orders his own men to charge, the well armed and well armored soldiers take up arms and rush out to meet their foes.

Mathollak :: Dark-armored zealots brandishing banners of Larket and Vakmatharas quickly mobilize to choke the gap that’s been breached, and to stem the flow of prisoners trying to make their escape. They fight valiantly and hatefully, but their advantages have been greatly diminished. The walls of the prison have turned against them, and now they’re trapped inside with Khitti, Zahrani, and a hoard of riotous witches.

Valrae || The biting winter wind smarts on her face as she tears through the narrow and quickly closing opening she’d given herself. It was risky and perhaps even foolish to cut herself so far off behind enemy lines, but the witch had just a glimpse of Macon’s still ravaged face and it was all the motivation she’d needed. There was no hesitation, even as the fight for herself and her soldiers began to intensify - the Larketian’s outnumbered them seemingly ten to one. There was a heady, dark aura in the air. Unmistakably part of the Rage King’s foul magic, a blighted and twisted version of Vakmathras and death itself. In her haste to face him again, she attributed this influx of power to the king himself and did not seem to notice the strange glow that seemed to radiate from every part of Larket. The witch cursed, kicking out and letting the heel of her boot land on the weaker nose protecting portion of a Larketian soldier's helmet. She felt the metal give and heard bone crunch as he fell back with a cry. While she could still hear the roar of her army at her back, it would seem that the further into the heart of Larket the more treacherous the battle turned. Buildings here seemed to have been more thoughtfully fortified, the sieging tools vollying chunks of stone finding themselves met with defense not only from stone but magical fortifications that sent some of the projectiles back into their own army. Rubble and dust filled the air and mingled with the flurries of snow blacked by the smoke of the fires left in the wake of war. “Hold the line! Hold the line!” She heard a general scream, the Cenrili advancing moving into a defensive position as the kite shields came down to form a wall and the holy pike man took up space toward the front to reach over with their celestial spears, raining blows of holy light down on all who neared. They were flanked now, the sides of the advancing army weakening as the Larketians spilled in from side streets as well as the front. Fury reared back, his flaming hooves crashing down brutally over two unlucky soldiers that had been nearest. The High Priestess can feel the roll of magic over her armor, sinking like the cold to her bones, and she loosened her free hand from her stallion’s mane to find the emerald skull. She called to the dark and hungry power within, a spell tumbling from her lips. The magic burst from her like a thunderclap, slamming those nearest to her away. They tumbled like ragdolls in the mud and sooty snowdrift as holy power, blue and green and glowing with the light of Selene haloed around the high priestess.

Zahrani’s team marvels at what they just unleashed, seeing prisoners overwhelm their captors. The paladin stops for a beat to close their comrade’s wounds, as well as Khitti’s should she need it. Alas, they knew that they could not stay long. Not straying too far from the Delishan bloodknight, the felines make their way outside, taking the high ground so they could take shots at the responding Larketian soldiers trying to contain the prisoners. Arrows and bolts meet their marks. With a loud snap of a sling, a steel ball embeds itself in the helm, and the head of a commanding officer. The man buckles, twitching momentarily. As the prisoners clean up the last of the guards, the paladin looks outside, seeing an unusual amount of red glowing emanating from various points of the city. She glances to Khitti and Mathollak. “Let’s get out the same way we came in.” She hopes to check on the Chapel of Cyris beforehand, but whatever the red glowing is...she makes the decision to prioritize getting the prisoners out of Larket.

Mathollak finally beheld his saviors and nearly collapsed into them. His once impressive form diminished to bare bones and ragged cloth, the gauntness of his face hidden only by the dark and neglected facial hair that covers his cheeks and chin and neck. He’s nearly a caricature of himself, wearing his golden belt of freedom overwhat was little more than a sack with holes in it, and dragging his heavy stone axe behind him with hardly the strength to lift it. He tries to convey the deep, boundless gratitude he has to Zahrani and Khitti for saving him, but there simply isn’t time. Not today. He clambers clumsily, warily over the shattered stone that bridges the gap between bondage and freedom, and the light of day nearly blinds him. Amazingly, some of his fellow captors pick up weapons from the fallen and use them to continue the fight. Mathollak however, simply doesn’t have the heart for it. “You go! You have more people you can save, I’ll make sure to get these wretches beyond the bridge, even if we have to swim across.”

Mathollak then sees the ominous red glow emanating from the heart of the city, the height of blood and fury. "Actually we might need your help."

Khitti let Zahrani heal her wounds, though she could do it herself, allowing herself to preserve her magic by not tapping into both shadow and light before the could leave. She’d nod to Zahrani, in regards to the feline’s offered plan of escape. “Sounds good to me.” With her wounds healed and her left arm more available for use again, she withdrew both of her swords. “Let me go first. I’ll keep picking off the weaker soldiers. You two focus on the stronger ones and getting those prisoners out.” Despite her own side of the plan being rather an easy task for one such as Khitti, it doesn’t really go all that well. While she does dispatch several, she gained more wounds than she just got rid of. Her head just wasn’t in the game today unfortunately, as she wondered and worried about how things were going with Valrae.

Macon pulls to a stop at the top of the sloping road near Larket City’s northern exit and turns to look back down at the battle to see his kingdom’s magical defenses holding strong and Valrae herself surrounded by Larketians. He directs a volley of arrows and magic down towards the advancing forces and barks a few more orders to his entourage to be relayed. He spares a glance towards one of the glowing signposts and trots over to it, palming the side of it with a gauntleted hand. The glow subsides, or rather it moves into his arm, which he then raises to the sky and speaks a few dark words from an ancient tongue. The light in his arm subsides and the skies above darken before a hail of black lightning bolts crash down onto individual members of Cenril’s army below. The death magic, channeled through Macon from he single glowing signpost enough to instantly turn dozens of men into skeletal remains from afar. Meanwhile deep inside Larket’s Academy of Magics, in the new Witchcraft Detection Array room, a dark ritual has begun. Priests and Priestesses of Vakmatharas, led (symbolically) by the young Prince of Larket, preside over the hundreds of magic detecting orbs that are arcanely attached to points throughout the city and beyond, conjuring forth a deadly spell. To these practitioners of Vakmatharas’s will, the reason for allowing Cenril’s forces into the city so easily is clear; Larket will become their tomb and the site of the greatest sacrifice to The Death God that the world has ever seen… Back outside, Macon grins at his handiwork briefly before Valrae bursts with the magic of Selene. While the structures here have been defended, The Red Witch is still finding a way to push on through the streets towards him. The king of Larket growls and spins his horse around, “Retreat! Retreat to the Fort! We’ll hold them there!” His voice is strong and confident as the infuriating aura he gives off spikes, but as he watches his people fight against these overwhelming odds to defend their home, his will falters. There are still civilians inside the city, his troops are putting up the fight he knows they can, and most importantly the dark magic being channeled through the streets of Larket is indiscriminate… The order was to retreat to Fort Freedom, but Macon himself hangs a left towards The Academy of Magics…

Jaxson watches as a prismatic barrier suddenly appears to block the aerial barrage of the witches, his eyes falling upon the Headmaster he encountered a few times leading up to the war. The noble knows this man is no slouch, and his presence will need to be dealt with or this will turn bad very quickly. As the cavalry charge is halted by Wendell’s own spell, the momentum shifts against Cenril, as Larketian forces rush into Glendoria’s men and cut a good number of them down. The pikemen that are nearby rush in to help before the paladin’s forces are eliminated, their celestial bronze weapons igniting with divine energy to drive back Wendell’s men. Glendoria is no novice to battle, and has earned her rank and position through deed and blood, and quickly dismounts to meet the opposing force with the trust of her devotion to her God emboldening her every move. The warrior cuts down a good number of nearby Larketian’s as she carves an opening for Jaxson and more of Cenril’s forces. The woman’s determination and heroism infects nearby allies, and war cries echo out from her men. Jaxson uses this moment to navigate his own men, squires, future paladins, into the fight. Eldritch magic begins to course through him as he sends blasts of magic forth to help clear his way into the battle, his men running into an offensive formation, shields up and swords drawn as they ready their own advance on Wendell’s forces to aid Glendoria. Soon they will be in position to flank him, and even the odds…

Jaxson ||| Percival watches the events unfold from his perch in the sky, the master aeromancer able to keep the simple flotation spell active even while maintaining the barrier shows he is a man of vast arcane power. Even so, it takes his full attention for now as his mages still prepare their counters for the witches, so he calls out to Wendell with a magically amplified voice. “Take care of that woman!” Nodding to Glendoria who valiantly has rallied and is starting to gain ground. The Battlemage/Kingsguard is far from the scholar Percival is. Wendell was chosen for such a high honor as Kingsguard because he was a warrior, and one that has studied battle and war as much as the Headmaster has studied scrolls and tomes. Wendell moves with a predatory grace that starkly contrasts his large, bulky and heavily armored frame. The broadsword he uses flares to life with sinister magical energy, as if the blade itself senses it will feast on blood soon, and this only emboldens Wendell, who vastly outclasses Glendoria in combat experience. His command of his troops is absolute, his own abilities far superior to every Cenrili warrior he encounters. The Larketian forces do not let this rally stand, they start to cut down every foreigner they come across with a ferocity and brutality that would make Macon proud. Wendell himself impales one with a spear from a downed soldier, then lops the head off another with a single strike, before a quick spell sets another ablaze. The man is a war machine, and the sheer carnage he causes starts to shake the resolve of the Cenril forces. Wendell makes quick work closing the distance between himself and Glendoria, before the two are now facing on another. Larketian forces surround the paladin as she stands her ground, but Wendell calls them off. “She’s mine.” He says, before the two engage in single combat in a circle of soldiers. The battle almost seems even, as the paladin meets him blow for blow, but it is Wendell’s use of magic and martial skill that earns him the upper hand as with each hit of his sword against hers a devious spell takes hold. Each time their steel met, the weight of her sword seemed to double. Was she being drained of there strength? Did the spell actually make the sword weigh more? Who knows, but before she can truly tell her movements are sluggish and in the instant they become too slow, Wendell drives his blade into her ribs, twisting the blade and holding it there as he says. “I love to watch the life go out the eyes of my prey…” And indeed, Glendoria’s life was indeed fading, and fast, but with a silent prayer to her God, the paladin mustered the strength for one last act. Taking the knife from her belt, the paladin drives the blade right up through Wendell’s jaw and straight into the killer’s gray matter, retorting with. “Enjoy hell, asshole.” Before the two fall to the earth, dead.

Mathollak :: As the riot moves South, several Larketian warriors see what they believe to be a flock of prey. They begin to descend upon the escaped prisoners led by Khitti and Zahrani. What they don’t see, is a spiritual movement emerging as a conflux of religions are reunited with their faiths. Kept from the light, kept from the love of their gods and goddesses, they became small and weak. But away from the dampening bars and marble, they were free, and their connections mended. Nor could they see the bloody path that Khitti was carving ahead of them, they couldn’t see that these were now a protected group, not a persecuted one. Armed cavalry diverted from reinforcing Larket’s garrison to attempt to head off the prisoner’s escape. Mathollak himself bravely tried to stand before one of their insane charger horses, but with nary the strength to lift his axe, he was little more than a distraction. He raises the haft in time to protect his life against the slash of a sword, and is simply cast against the muck by the armored horse’s powerful strides.

Zahrani is right behind Khitti, along with the other catfolk she brought with her. A tall, burly pair of Larketian soldiers with a claymores block their route to the bridge. Two of the felines stand back with bows drawn while the paladin closes the distance with one. The claymore comes down, her shield comes up. The heavy weapon glances off, throwing the man off balance. The Jaguar woman staggers him with her shield, causing him to drop to one knee before meeting his visor with the head of her mace. A clanking of metal, accompanied by the sound of crunching bone and squelching flesh, and the helmet is knocked free, exposing a mangled bloody nose and a mouth full of teeth bared in pain and hatred at the invaders. One of the felines loose an arrow as the human lunges, the projectile embedded into the knight’s eye socket. His jaw slackens and he falls to the ground. Their path was halfway cleared.

Macon rides past several of the glowing stones on his way, black, wispy mist beginning to waft up from them, subject to the turbulence from the galloping Larketian stallion.

Parsithius :: An odd figure stands at the threshold of the bridge, unmoving as soldiers rush around his masculine looking silhouette across the bridge in either direction. Amidst the gray fog of war, tinged by the wispy mist wafting from glowing stones, the man steps to breast visibility, stepping over carefully dead soldiers of Cenril and Larket alike. Long golden hair pulls in the breeze, a few locks streaking with gray of age, and clad in rather unremarkable traveler's garb save for the bright, polished Larketian cuirass over his chest and middle, Parsithius's azure eyes calculate the familiar sight of battle. Sans a weapon, as he walks he leans down briefly to grasp a mere longsword from the loose grasp of a slain soldier. "Fort Freedom!" It's a voice that booms naturally, no magic altering it and yet used to cutting through the din of the battle. "Behind me, go, go."

Zahrani growls at the oncoming cavalry. She unsheathes her crossbow once more, taking aim at one of the horses (regretfully). She fires, causing the horse to veer off and run into its comrades. Just enough to cause more chaos in the ranks. The goal is to leave in one piece with as many people as they could, not necessarily maximize bloodshed. Her squad takes care of the last Big knight as she runs to Mathollak’s side, “Come on! It’s not a party without you!” CLANG! The paladin is knocked forward by a Larketian arrow, her armor taking the brunt of the hit before another Isran feline kills the offending archer. The Jaguar woman helps get the man to his feet while the others continue to cover their escape. The zealots were getting desperate to kill as many prisoners, but their desperation, coupled with the aura of Cyris’ protection, seems to be preventing them from finding most of their marks.

Khitti fared a little better on the way out of the prison than she did on the way in, now that the fighting was in full swing again. But as a ritual elsewhere began and Macon’s death magic took hold, a chill went down Khitti’s spine and she stopped dead in her tracks. “Something’s wrong. Something is very very wrong.” The feeling didn’t waver, and it started to make her nauseous as it often did when her bad feelings were strong. “You need to get them out of here. I’m going to go find Valrae.” She didn’t bother with the shadowmelding now, as she took to shadowstepping her way away from the prison and to where Valrae and the rest of the fighting was taking place. She’d arrive just in time to see undead on the battlefield and Macon’s forces withdrawing to the keep. “Valrae!” She called out to the Red Witch, getting her attention briefly so as to be directed by her friend on where to help.

Valrae || As her line of sight is cleared, the witch can just make out the shape of Macon as he pulls to a stop. She sets Fury forward again, his hooves making short work of the Larketians her magic felled as she trades her sword for the ashwand that had been tucked into the loop of her belt. Spells fly out, some blinding holy light and others murky curses that lock legs and rend flesh from bone. Magic thumps in the air, thick as smoke, and the emerald skull draws it all into itself as it begins to glow at her side. Her braid whipped behind her like the tail of a golden comet as the distance between herself and Macon began to close. It was too late though, he’d reached out and something happened. The air was ripped asunder as the cracking sound of lightning rings out. It was unnatural, bathed the battlefield in the unholy death aura of Vakmathras as the unluckiest of her soldiers were left as nothing more than blackened bones that clattered down onto the slain or clattered pitifully against the cracked stone streets. Shouts of fear rang out. The smell of decay and smoke and blood was smothering now. The mages regrouped to look in terror at the sky, their magic working in hopes of summoning some sort of counter spell to this new attack. Even above the rush of battle and war, Valrae can hear the call from the King to retreat to the fort. While the rest of her army surges forward, for fear of the lightning and with determination to press the advantage, the High Priestess pulls back, Fury turning with a snort of fire as she leads him toward the Academy. She was accompanied by a dozen foot soldiers, three witches that rained fire and worse down from brooms to clear her path, and five pikemen that held the flank of the small battalion as they fought forward through the tide of war toward the King.. Panic caused her heart to pound in her throat, even as the wagons of war neared the fort and prepared their attempt to break through the defensive walls. Whatever darkness gathered, the center was impossible to find in the chaos and overwhelming stagnation of magic. Macon’s defense of the Academy and not the fort could have been laid as a trap, her men marching straight to their death, and yet… She must face him.

Meri has been watching the battle from a distance, lurking in the shadows between buildings, waiting, and contemplating if she would even join the fray today. Her weapons were still not in hand as it seemed that thus far Cenril had the unfair advantage, enough that they were able to press on. It was not until Parsithius made an appearance south of the battle with the intention of aiding Larket that Meri decided to do something. Her bow is taken into the grasp of a gloved hand and an arrow is nocked, the string of the bow is pulled taught, but before the arrow is released toward Parsithius, not his soldiers, it dawns on Meri just who is joining the battle. This realization seems to have a poor influence on her aim, an arrow that would have normally flown true due to years of practice misses it’s mark. It instead imbeds itself right at Parsithius’ feet, which undoubtedly reveals the stealthy position that Meri has been keeping for the bulk of the battle. Whelp. Meri is not about to back down now, she’s never been the sort. Rather than trying to retreat further into the shadows to escape Parsithius’ and his men, the woman who is clad head to toe in black armor and clothing steps out from the shadows to face the mistake she has made. One faceless woman against how many men?

Valrae could just hear Khitti’s voice calling out to her over the roar of battle, her eyes leave Macon for a moment as she turns in her seat. She can just make out the top of Khitti’s red head and sends another flaying spell toward a Larketian that had been advancing on her with his sword raised. He falls back screaminging, his face falling from his skull as his hands claw desperately to keep it and blood runs hot and sticky through his fingers. “Something is happening!” Her eyes are wide and dark and filled with panic for just a moment before she steels herself again and returns to her advance.

Meri has been watching the battle from a distance, lurking in the shadows between buildings, waiting, and contemplating if she would even join the fray today. Her weapons were still not in hand as it seemed that thus far Cenril had the unfair advantage, enough that they were able to press on. It was not until Parsithius made an appearance south of the battle with the intention of aiding Larket that Meri decided to do something. Her bow is taken into the grasp of a gloved hand and an arrow is nocked, the string of the bow is pulled taught, but before the arrow is released toward Parsithius, not his soldiers, it dawns on Meri just who is joining the battle. This realization seems to have a poor influence on her aim, an arrow that would have normally flown true due to years of practice misses it’s mark. It instead imbeds itself right at Parsithius’ feet, which undoubtedly reveals the stealthy position that Meri has been keeping for the bulk of the battle. Whelp. Meri is not about to back down now, she’s never been the sort. Rather than trying to retreat further into the shadows to escape Parsithius’ and his men, the woman who is clad head to toe in black armor and clothing steps out from the shadows to face the mistake she has made. One faceless woman against how many men?

Mathollak manages to get his axe over his shoulder at least, and leans on Zahrani as they make it across the bridge, trying not to hamper her too much since she must also fight these monsters. He makes it across at last, and offers a meek thumbs up to the stranger at the other end of the bridge, not sure and not able to do much more than that. Beyond this point seems to be the temporary camp set up by Valrae’s army before they made their final march into Larket. Mathollak and many of the other prisoners descend upon the abandoned provisions, eager to scrounge what they can of food and supplies. No thoughts of ownership and theft plagued them today, merely survival.

Parsithius has confidence; he has stature, presence, commanding, a practically visible aura of effect on the Larketians around him. He is not a being inspiring rage, but courage- not hate but determination. It feels to him as if he is invulnerable, a sense he gets even further enamored with as the arrow plants between the grout of the stone of the bridge. His gaze tracks it, then lifts to see the black-armored faceless woman. A lieutenant? General? She'd have to be taken out of play- He twirls the longsword he picked up almost lazily, it's like riding a horse right? 'Something is wrong, something is happening' a mantra he hears, but ignores, "Get to the Fort," he bellows loud again, as his gait increases to a run, before he's taking a testing swipe at Meri. Parsithius... felt younger than he is. Than his body is. It's blatant, the man with a name that inspired order and discipline... moved slow.

Jaxson doesn’t make it in time, as the rallying Larketian forces stop him and his men before they could join Glendoria. All the man can do is watch as the paladin fights off attackers, and then Wendell, before falling in battle. She at least took out that monster, but the true menace still remains. With his own forces dwindling, and the air support from the witches being thwarted by the Headmaster, Jax and his men are caught in a rock and a hard place. Arrows from within the barrier still fly from those previously empty buildings, while the death of Wendell only seems to anger the troops of the Rage Knight, an emotion that has been poisoned by Macon for so long that it almost acts like a drug to his men. Their anger makes them shed any sorrow for their commander, and care for nothing but vengeance and bloodshed, the impact of prolonged exposure to the Rage Stone’s influence. If they all fall here Valrae will be left alone, surrounded by enemy forces and cut off from allies or escape. This realization sets in, and Jaxson knows he cannot hold back any longer. The warlock delves into the depth of the eldritch power he has been given, and the chosen of the sea primordial starts to feel the influence the pact that was made so long ago runs through him. Power courses through him, evident as an aura of power starts to radiate off the Ravencroft heir to the point it could be felt from a great distance. He extends his hand out to the side, as he does the resounding roar of thunder can be heard before a lightning strike erupts from the previously clear sky. In that moment, in that flash, the Trident of the Primordial appears in the man’s hand. The ancient weapon is brought to bear now, amplifying his ability to draw upon the pact magic at his command, as well as his physical capabilities, which becomes evident pretty damn quickly as the man starts to tear into Larket’s focus with equal rage and aggression. Carnage, destruction, death, these are all things the primordials crave to unleash upon the mortal world, and through their chosen they do so, for they are still locked away in their prisons, for now. Being beings of raw eldritch power, each is thought to be the original living elemental lords, creatures born from when existence was new, before Sven had perfected his world and created elves, dwarves and men. And as such, the power that Jaxson now wields his terrible and great, raw elemental power of the storm, gifted by the sea primordial to his family. He attacks with almost reckless abandon as his worry for Valrae clouds his mind, blasts of lightning erupt from the trident, striking down many a foe. Torrents of wind cast aside volleys of arrows, while the warlock takes aim with two fingers and fires a concentrated blast of water right through the armor of another. The tempest lives through him at the moment, the wrath of the sea brought down upon the Kingdom of Stone this day.

Jaxson ||| Percival watches as Wendell’s brutish ways and over confidence, and rather sick obsession with killing if he can say so himself, causes the man’s own downfall. “At least he did what I told him to do.” He says more to himself, annoyed that he seems to have to always handle things himself growing. “Fine, I’ll get this done.” He starts to say, before the dark magic and signals he helped personally pout up inform him that his liege was planning to unleash his do or die plan. “So… I better hurry then.” Says the Headmaster to himself, before he turns back to face the battle before him. “Fine, let's make this quick.” The prismatic barrier he has been holding up was not only a shield, but it has been absorbing all the hexes and spells thrown at it for the past several minutes. With a wave of his hand does the aeromancer shatter that barrier, rebounding all those spells it had absorbed right back at those who sent them. Witches are hit by their own or their sister’s spells, random hexes land on foe and ally alike, absolute mayhem as Percival starts to descend, just as Jaxson starts to attack. “Oh… him.” Recalls the Headmaster, the two having clashed briefly with the Ravencroft heir escaping (Barely I might add!) facing justice. The headmaster decides if he kills this man, this battle will be over and his Lord will not have to unleash what he has planned, and so the Larketian Headmaster, -the- mage of the Kingdom, unleashes his own magic upon Cenril’s forces. WHile he may not have the backing of a primordial, Perci has studied magic since he was a child. A prodigy if there ever was one, he unleashes calculated, precise and devastating spells upon his foes in a barrage of arcane fury. Man after man, woman after woman, witch , soldier, soon he couldn’t even tell if it was friend or foe before the sheer destruction he and Jaxson caused on the battlefield. Between the pair both forces are decimated, leaving only the two left soon enough (at least in this immediate area). “You won’t find escape so easy this time, you witch loving scum.” He says to Jaxson, readying himself for the duel the two shall now have.

Khitti || The death magic that flowed in the area unnerved Khitti. Flashes of her home village being overrun by the undead played in front of her eyes, as her clairvoyancy refused to let up, sending wave after wave of sickening nausea. And yet, Khitti did not relent. Valrae must continue after Macon. She cannot be deterred by the dead that now threatened the Red Witch. And so, just as she had in the past during their semi-stealthy attack on Larket weeks ago, Khitti let out a song, and called to her the spirits of the witches--and even non-witches and the newly deceased Larketian guards--that had been murdered on the land. She called to them and they came, and they threw their lot in against the other undead--some of them even fighting their own skeletons. As the ghosts aided Cenril’s side, Khitti returned to the shadows finally and snuck off to try to reach Valrae. While she wasn’t going to come between her and Macon, she’d be there at least if something else decided to go wrong.

Meri was hellbent on not letting Parsithius or his men make it past her to get to the fort, possibly offering further aid to Larket. It would be Cenril that would win the battle on this day, she was determined to make sure of it. Parsithius and his men might try and advance up the road, closing the distance between themselves and Meri and thus themselves and the fort….but the psion was going to slow them down. Inanimate objects that litter the battle-torn streets of Larket begin to take to motion without any visible explanation. Broken carts, pieces of shattered doors, broken furniture, anything that Meri could telekinetically grasp onto, are psionically thrown at the advancing soldiers to slow if not halt their advance all together. The psionic warrior would be more successful at this endeavor if there were fewer men that she was trying to focus on. With her shifting attention, it is inevitable that at least one of them manages to get close enough to Meri to take a swing at her. That someone is Parsithius. The moment that Meri has to adjust her focus to the man directly in front of her is the very same moment that the soldiers have to stop navigating a mine-field of broken furniture and building debris. Meri reaches for the sword at her hip, managing to pull it free from its scabbard just in time to parry that testing swipe that is aimed for her. There is a snort, but Meri does not speak, lest someone happen to recognize the sound of her voice. After successfully blocking that testing swing, Meri thrusts her sword forward toward Parsithius’ gut with the speed of a lycanthrope. Meri did not want to cause serious injury to Pars, but she did not want the soldiers to get to the fort either…

Zahrani watches as Khitti departs for the main battle. The paladin and the Isran Collective has a more mundane duty to attend to. She had succeeded at her mission of freeing prisoners. She raises her mace, and the head glows like a beacon. Within moments, a supply wagon adjacent to the came approaches. Rather than try to establish order amongst the freed prisoners as they ravenously eat their fill, one of the bigger male felines whistles for their attention from the top of the wagon, “Anyone who just got out of the jail and needs a blanket and a tent, come here!” He opens the top of the wagon, tossing prepared camping packs to each person until they were distributed. They were effectively refugees, and it wouldn’t make sense to let them freeze to death before they could get resettled. Meanwhile, Rani sets Mathollak down on a stump, before removing her helmet and revealing a face that he has no doubt seen before. Her microlocs are tied back in a ponytail, sweat beading at her forehead as she takes a breath of fresh air. Cyan eyes contrast sharply with dark skin, before offering a weary grin to the Delishan bloodknight. She kneels down to check on him, scanning for any wounds that his body might be ignoring due to the adrenaline rush. She occasionally glances towards the city, wondering how the others were faring.

Macon dismounts and runs full sprint through the entrance of the academy. A mage stationed to protect the entrance uses a scroll of true seeing in haste to verify that this is not some impostor king running through the halls. The Rage Knight bounds into the Witchcraft Research Department and down into the detection array room where he stops in the threshold, beholding the amassed power of Vakmatharas being directed by his son through countless priests and priestesses. The Academy mages and researchers have since cleared out of this room after giving all the technical assistance they could without succumbing to the intense Death Magic being siphoned through the devices here. Outside and down the road, Fort Freedom’s walls are bombarded by Cenril and defended by much of Larket’s remaining forces. The remaining Royal Guardsmen of Roald, Rava, and Gorehilt, lead the troops there in this final defense. Scrying monitors set up around the detection array room show the battle from various angles. Larketians seem to be faring relatively well, but death consumes from both sides as the ritual comes to its crescendo. Valrae, once she deals with a couple of battle mages at the front of the academy, probably finds little resistance from the nerds inside the academy who cower away from conflict or are actively against what is going on down below. Macon swallows hard, a lump in his throat. He can so easily do nothing and reduce this war to a bloody stalemate and be left to rule a lifeless pile of stone, but instead he bellows out, “Guillem, stop the ritual!” His boy blinks, arms raised, “Father! It is nearly finished. We can win!” Finally he takes a single step into the array room and it is enough to make the boy flinch, “We won’t win like this! STOP IT NOW!” Macon cracks the back of the nearest priest’s knee with his boot, “Now!” getting those closest to him to stop chanting immediately, the others only following suit after Prince Guillem abides by his father’s order and lowers his hands to say, “Don’t finish it… Stop…” It is perhaps at this moment, as all around Larket the death curse subsides and the glowing stones stop glowing, that Valrae comes upon the scene inside the academy…

Parsithius blinks; his attack was slow. It was slow? Has he been out of combat that long? Then there's a thrust to his gut- his instinct kicks in, parrying the blade with a resonating clang that cuts through the yells on the bridge. His azure eyes narrow, while not speaking to Meri directly the gaze tells a distinct 'who the eff are you' sort of look. But hey! His body is moving faster- like riding a horse. He half-dances back, which belies the force of power in his movements, and he bellows again to Larketians, "Fort Freedom, now!" Its the voice so weirdly accustomed to command, and he's idly wasting Meri's time, swinging horizontally a few times as he steadily works backward, blatantly trying to cover a retreat. "Destroy the bridge if need be!" He commands unbiddenly, despite that he's on it. Those swings grow wilder but in an odd way, trying to dissuade others from crossing, from getting to Valrae.

Jaxson and Percival clash, their own magic channeled so strong that the death magic that fills the area isn’t fully registered by the warlock. Percival knows the truth, he knows what was so close to being unleashed, and thus he acts not only as one trying to win a battle, but also save his own skin, because if that spell goes off everything, everyone nearby would die. Including him. Arcane magic meets eldritch power in a battle of skill and determination, drive and will. For each carefully constructed spell recited by the Headmaster, Jaxson meets in kind with Eldritch blasts and raw elemental might. Explosions of arcane energy, blasts of lightning, powerful gales of wind, acid arrows, and of course eldritch blasts continuously bombard the area as these two fight one another. The only thing that starts to matter is Percival is a mage, a human with a limited reservoir of arcane magic to use before it starts to drain him, while Jaxson was born into this “gift”. The primordial that bestowed upon his family their magic is the source, and Jaxson is more conduit than anything. He keeps going, blast after blast of eldritch magic, streaks of lightning clash against shield spells, reserved stores of magical spells are exhausted by the Headmaster, scrolls used, wands depleted, but he cannot keep up with the unrelenting advance of the warlock. And soon the aeromancer finds himself casting a spell he has a thousand times to only see it fizzle and fail, just as Jax unleashed another one of those potent blasts of raw eldritch power right dead center into the mage’s chest, sending him hurtling across the battlefield to crash through one of the windows of those empty buildings. Not taking any chances, Jaxson raises the trident skyward, and calls down the mother of all lightning bolts upon that building, causing it to crumble in upon itself as an eruption of electricity surges through the area in the aftermath of the blast of elemental power. The fate of the Headmaster is truly unknown for now, but Jaxson wastes no time in waiting to see, and heads off to join Valrae’s side.

Mathollak heaves a great sigh of relief, of regret, of exhaustion, and settles into a hunching rest on the stump as he allows the piecemaker to fall off his shoulder and wedge itself in the dirt. His hand even as he releases it is practically gnarled like a claw, and he wonders how he carried it this long, choosing to think it must’ve been early rigor mortis settling in. He’s no scientist. Graciously, yet with hardly any thanks, he accepts his fair portion of supplies as they’re distributed. First he starts with a simple jug of water. He pulls it to his cracked lips and basks in its freshness, swishes it between his cheeks and doesn’t have to ignore any wriggling. He pulls a blanket around him tighter as Zahrani slides off her helmet. “I can’t believe you came for me,” he says. “They told us the war was over, that Valrae and Cenril had lost, that Macon and Larket had won. But you’re here!” Zahrani was looking nearly pristine despite the muck of war that decorated her. “If they need you out there…” he begins, seeing her gaze look back towards the city, or perhaps just piteously away from himself.

Meri :: As determined as the mysterious lycanthrope woman might be, it seems to her attempts to keep what she is assuming are Larketian soldiers from actually making it to Fort Freedom are failing. Parsithius has managed to distract her by pulling her into combat, commanding his men to complete various tasks with the singular woman being unable to do much to stop it on her own. If she was not careful and let her attention stray too much from the opponent directly in front of her, engaging her with his sword, then she runs the risk of injury. But if she does not think of something clever soon, would these reinforcements turn the tides of battle for Larket? Choices. Decisions. Meri was clever, but if she wanted to keep all of her limbs today she needed to keep her attention on Parsithius. He might have been out of practice for a few years, but he is still a seasoned warrior. But so was Meri. “Freedom long left Larket, Parsithius. Let Larket burn. It deserves it.” The words are hissed out as Meri and Parsithius continue to trade blows.

Parsithius is trying to discourage everyone against Larket from crossing the bridge, but Meri's black-armored, faceless form keeps snatching his attention. He's gotten rusty, but it's also kind of like riding a horse, so he's getting more and more comfortable- his blade parries more, he's testing more with thrusts and swipes. The former king seems to have clocked that his opponent is hesitant to hurt him, and its apparent in the way its causing him confusion. That and the way that the faceless person seems to know how to work a blade. Then Meri addresses him- by name, "Sorry, they are my people. I can't let these kids become orphans, these people be displaced-" every syllable is accompanied with a swing for a barrage of blows toward Meri. "Get back, Fort Freedom!" He bellows again, "Behind me!"

Meri :: For a moment, Meri considers reasoning with Parsithius. Once upon a time they did share whiskey in Gualon, and managed to have civilized conversation. It’s not like the woman had a personal vendetta against Parsithius, they were just on opposite sides of the war. That moment of weakness costs Meri dearly, for when she was gathering her thoughts together to try and explain how Macon would burn people at the stake for no valid reason? Parsithius unleashes a fury of blows upon Meri. There are some that Meri manages to block, but plenty more than seem to make their mark, a deep gash to her hip, one on her leg, one on her shoulder, etc. By the time Parsithius is done, plenty of blood has been drawn and Meri has been pushed back considerably and left dazed. Were she still human, she might have been down for the count…but she’s not yet. Meri remains standing, but somewhere amidst Parsithius managing to knock her around more than just a little, the woman lost her sword. The psion is far from unarmed though, she’s just…got to pull it together.

Parsithius :: His gaze is thrown over his shoulder, looking toward the Fort and the flag now waving over it, a flag that hasn't been used much when the aging man was king. A flag he almost doesn't recognize. But Parsithius used to make his living off of fighting in wars, especially for coin. The longsword he picked up is thrown down with a resounding series of clangs and clatters. He kneels, interlacing his fingers behind the back of his head. "They don't know what they're doing. Some dark magics twisted them. They're peasants, let 'em live and take me."

Mathollak clenches his fists weakly, and fatigue releases them. Bruises young and old seem to shrivel up as the color of his skin becomes more monotonous under Zahrani’s touch. Festering wounds begin to knit themselves together, and bones pop back into place. His ribs elicit a freeing cough once she resets them, and he understands how much he’d gotten used to taking half-breaths. He had no heart to argue where people other than himself belong. “I should be over there,” he said, trying to clench his fists again, demonstrating to himself exactly why he couldn’t. But he shouldn’t be so sorry for himself. He was, after all, alive. Mathollak looks sorrowfully out from his sunken eyesockets, identifying the sound of the agonized yowling. He too remains silent, and finds admiration burgeoning within him as Zahrani stoically performs her duty for her people, as if she too wouldn’t prefer to mourn.

Mathollak clenches his fists weakly, and fatigue releases them. Bruises young and old seem to shrivel up as the color of his skin becomes more monotonous under Zahrani’s touch. Festering wounds begin to knit themselves together, and bones pop back into place. His ribs elicit a freeing cough once she resets them, and he understands how much he’d gotten used to taking half-breaths. He had no heart to argue where people other than himself belong. “I should be over there,” he said, trying to clench his fists again, demonstrating to himself exactly why he couldn’t. But he shouldn’t be so sorry for himself. He was, after all, alive. Mathollak looks sorrowfully out from his sunken eyesockets, identifying the sound of the agonized yowling. He too remains silent, and finds admiration burgeoning within him as Zahrani stoically performs her duty for her people, as if she too wouldn’t prefer to mourn.

Meri :: The flags were raised and Parsithius was kneeling before her, offering his life in exchange for Larketian citizens being spared. Was this an offer Meri was going to take up? For a moment it seemed like she might, as she hobbles forward and collects her lost sword. The sword is sheathed back into its scabbard, Meri saw no reason to take Parsithius’ life in this fight. Not today. “You love Larket, but a lot has happened that you do not understand.” With the white flags waved, Meri opts to take her leave from the streets of Larket so that she can tend to her injuries rather than cause more senseless death here today.

Valrae manages to reach the entrance to the Academy with Khitti at her side. Fury dissipated beneath her with a plume of black smoke that seemed to meld with the already choking blackness that filled the air now. Soot and snow fell but were impossible to distinguish now as black and gray fell from the sky. There was little resistance once she stepped inside, though the witch never dropped her wand as her muddy boots slapped against stone and she ran. Her white cloak was streaked red and black from blood and ash. Her hair had begun to loosen itself from the plait and wove wild around her face. It was impossible to follow the magic, the bulk of Vakmathras fueled death aura crouching inside the walls so powerful it nearly squelched the light of Selene she’d cloaked herself in. There was a heartbeat of hesitation as she moved her wand in front of her in a careless motion. More magic gathered then, light dripping like water as blue as the ocean from the ashwood before it pooled into the form of a leaping translucent, Jackalope fashioned seemingly from pure power. One, then two and three and four. They bound forward, lighting and revealing the way. She could hear Macon shouting, hear strange chanting, and for a wild moment thought, ‘This is it. I’m too late. There is only death.’ In even as hope threatened to run like water through her hands, Valrae ran. She burst into the room only a heartbeat after Macon’s boot met the back of a priest’s knee. Without thinking, her wand flashes out again and a black spell rolls forward from the tip. It moved quickly, like ink spreading through water. Its focus was only for the King of Larket but any who came near would find their bodies caught in a horrific twist of agony as their muscles spasmed and seemed to revolt from within. The witches she’d brought with her spill into the room, flashes of light become blinding as killing curses ring out. “Not the boy!” Valrae barks out, taking her eyes off of Macon just long enough to slam her shoulder into a witch who had turned her wand toward the Prince. It clattered uselessly to the ground and she wastes little time kicking it away from her. Confusion and anger war in her heart as she faces the King of Larket, her wand trained surely upon his chest. “It’s over.” Was it? It was harder to hear the sounds of war here, had they taken the fort? Was Jaxson leading them now into the courtyard? The Prince and the priests would be surrounded now, those that crowded in the room with Valrae worn and blood thirsty as their eyes darted between Guillem and Macon. Her free hand raised to halt them, to hold them back from committing an act that would only further the hatred between them. “Macon,” She warns lowly, dropping her wand. “It’s finished now.” She searched his scarred face, her eyes dark and hard. “We need to end this death.” He’d already halted it though, hadn’t he? And why? What had been his reason. She’d led Cenril’s army straight into a death trap unlike anything she’d seen before, or hoped to see since, and… He’d stopped it. She doesn’t wait for his confirmation. She had him, and had his son. “Tell them to halt. Raise the flags, Cenril has taken Larket and the time for peace has come.” There was a hesitation from the witch nearest her, the one she’d disarmed, but after a moment she sprints from them to share the news. The word would spread through the advancing army as horns rang out, as the flag of Cenril rose high atop the outermost wall of Fort Freedom, and as the soldiers moved to defensive lines, halting all advancement.

Meri :: The flags were raised and Parsithius was kneeling before her, offering his life in exchange for Larketian citizens being spared. Was this an offer Meri was going to take up? For a moment it seemed like she might, as she hobbles forward and collects her lost sword. The sword is sheathed back into its scabbard, Meri saw no reason to take Parsithius’ life in this fight. Not today. “You love Larket, but a lot has happened that you do not understand.” With the white flags waved, Meri opts to take her leave from the streets of Larket so that she can tend to her injuries rather than cause more senseless death here today.

Zahrani finishes preparing the departed feline for transport back to the Enclave, hugging each of her surviving brethren. As she returns to Mathollak, some of the braver and more revitalized witches that had been freed would approach their feline liberators, offering condolences, thanks, and hugs, should they be accepted. The paladin watches the solemn exchange, linking an arm around the bloodknight’s and saying, “Times like this...remind us how important it stay tethered to Life. My people came here, knowing this could happen, because they wanted that for others...” The woman is just barely holding it together. She’s seen plenty of kin and comrades die, but it doesn’t get easier. Nor should it.

Jaxson gathers with the remaining troops, rallying and securing the kingdom for Valrae. The Fort is taken, the flag raised, the blood shed stops as no needless killing would happen under the Red Witch's orders. Cenril had come to do what it had to, and the Kingdom of Stone lived up to its name to this day. Macon's rule was coming to an end, the madness that had gripped Larket was over.

Parsithius left to his own devices, lifts himself to stand and begins to wander away, pulling his cloak over himself.

Mathollak joins arms with Zahrani as she helps him to his feet. “We were lucky you and your people came when they did. I don’t think we would’ve fared nearly so well as we did, and the bravery, the skill…we were lucky it was you.” Looking back on the endeavor made him realize how many chances there were for things to turn out horribly, and they didn’t. Not when they met at least. Soon, he begins making his way far from this place, not wanting to be present for the inevitable scavenging, mourning, wasting, thieving, that was bound to take place amid the rubble and devastation. But he can’t just leave. For a moment he overcomes the sense of how repulsive he must seem, and he throws his arms around Zahrani.

Macon ’s slate eyes remain locked onto his son even as Valrae comes through the threshold and her witches engage with the death priests, dark magic sparking and flying all around him until The Red Witch says ‘not the boy.’ The phrase snaps the king out of his little trance of defeat as he turns into Valrae’s wand at his chest, ‘It’s over.’ What was the ‘it’ that was over? “End the death,” he growls in repeat. The Rage Knight still carries his axe. Out of reflex he releases it from his hand. When it had the Rage Stone embedded in its head, it would stand upright, unnaturally balanced, but now that magic that would hold it up is gone and the weapon clatters to the ground with a couple of loud, deep rings. “Send the order through the system, stop the alarm and instruct the Larketians to lay down their arms.” The death priests don’t know how to work the array like that, so a pair of them go running into the academy proper to fetch a technician that can do such a thing. In a matter of minutes the alarm bells stop and a generic voice gives the order for Larket’s surrender through all of those previously deadly stones. “It is done…” Macon says, the red glow of the stone shards in his cheek flaring up as he speaks, “This is not the place. What happens next, we discuss in my home...” Guillem’s own inherited rage aura spikes, but it isn’t enough to provoke anything rash from the Larketians. Losing is a foreign concept to the boy and he’s certainly on the verge of a tantrum, but, sensing the angry aura flaring up, Macon turns and shoots a vengeful stare back at Guy, who bottles up whatever might have been coming… Two entourages, The King’s and The Govorner’s make the short trip from The Academy to Fort Freedom, one in shame, one in glory, perhaps, where they will discuss the terms of Larket’s surrender…

Valrae ’s jaw tightens as Macon begins to bark out orders. Even in defeat, with his son at the end of her women’s wands, he spoke to her as if it were inevitable as the sun rose that she would follow his orders. She could have stopped them, forced him to walk on his hands and knees back to Fort Freedom in front of all of their waiting men and women. Forced him to accept her authority now as a ruler instead of that weak and broken witch he’d once tortured before he led her to the flames. There was a part of her, deep and dark and full of vengeance, that yearned for it. Instead, she nodded once and allowed them to move through the battered and bloody armies toward the fort. She did not walk in front of him, nor did she walk behind him. Instead, she walked beside him, the gold and opal diadem glinting in the watery sunlight as ash and snow fell around them. At first, there was a strange blanket of silence, but slowly the stomping chant of Cenril’s victory reached out to the winter sky. The chaos of battle was done. Now, the long road toward peace, or however close the two kingdoms could manage, was next…