RP:The Winds of Change

From HollowWiki

Part of the What You Leave Behind Arc

Summary: Presumed dead for several weeks, Pilar and Yozenra are revealed to have been taken as prisoners by one of Kahran's camp commanders, a man named Amgarak. Pilar's exemplary healing has been used to patch up orcs and return them to the war front; Yozenra has been held hostage so the woman will comply. Happenstance brings Lanara and Johnny into the path of this fraught camp, and heroism compels them to rescue a friend. Amgarak has a very bad day.

Somewhere in Venturil's The Dead Forest

Lionel | Winter does not give way to spring without battle. Through the plains and canyons of Lithrydel’s western reaches, ice hangs in hooks from stone, willful and resilient against the cool-but-not-biting air. The saurians in their herds break the ice with hooves and beaks, cracking fresh stores of water for their lips and fangs. High overhead, a creature soars not like the others. It is a dracolich, a skeletal monstrosity that was once draconian and is now something baleful and malevolent. Its eyes glow a pallid blue in stark contrast to the fuchsia-painted clouds ahead of the setting sun. It is silent as blackest night, but the creatures in the plains sniff the wind and rush ahead on their way to shelter. For the dracolich portends all that is evil, and all that is evil is Kahran. Kilometers from the plains, in the outer reaches of the aptly-named Dead Forest where brambles stretch in dizzying snakelike climbs and every tree seems touched by scorn, brainwashed orcs in boiled leather stab their mealtime hares to death with too much gusto. The orcs snarl and their mouths drool. Within days, there will be no more hares in the Dead Forest. How else can twenty of these creatures feast? They may have lost free will, but they’ll never lose the hunger, and what a hunger has been built! Their wraithen overlords, with orb-like eyes matching the dracolich’s and wiry frames covered in obsidian robes and scythes so sharp they’d cut these decaying trees like butter, have pushed the orcs to the brink. A tiny village, a blip on the most complete maps in the land, will not be missed. Near the forest, such a village has existed for decades. No longer. Its human population has been slaughtered, all but three: a man, a woman, and a little boy. They’re in rags, chained near this stronghold’s central firepit, where the orcs can slobber at the thought of sweeter meat than mangy hare. But the wraiths have other plans. Or, more precisely, their commander does.

Lionel | Enclosing the camp is a series of meter-and-a-half metal barbs planted into the barren soil by stakes. Only at its far eastern and far northern edges are small gaps available for entry, but they’re each guarded by a towering troll in a full plate helm swinging a club recklessly. The camp itself is a series of pitched tents, each with the skull of some ill-fated victim hanging like a holiday ornament. Sixteen tents in all, each filled with war provisions or the corpses of victims; the dead from the nearby village have been butchered, mutilated, and then reanimated. This is necromancy at its most brutal; this is the way that Kahran’s armies have been supplemented with undead hordes craving a singular purpose: revenge upon the living. This is the work of Amgarak, a craven man of middle years who stalks the camp with his hood up against the gusts and his fingers ever-twitching. He’s dwelling on how best to use the last three victims. But another matter emerges in Amgarak’s sullen mind: the wounded orcs from the village incursion. Seven in all; Amgarak doesn’t care for their lives, of course, but Kahran’s war generals could visit at any time, and if they saw him losing troops he would be punished most severely. Amgarak has seen it happen. After all, he wasn’t the first to command this camp. Given what happened to his predecessor, though, he’d like to be the last. So he steps into the largest tent of all, close to the eastern exit. There, a vampire and her naga lover have been hidden from the world for weeks, presumed dead when their house was leveled to capture them. Kahran wants only the finest healers for his forward camps. Pilar made a name for herself to her ultimate undoing. Amgarak steps inside, thoughtfully. An orc lays sprawled, mangled, in front of Pilar. She is chained but not as rigorously as Yozenra; Yozenra is alive only as a bargaining tool. The naga would be orc feed if if she didn’t make for such a compelling hostage. “Work,” Amgarak instructs Pilar coldly, gesturing to the orc. Pilar has had little food and even less water. She has been pushed and shoved and slammed. Amgarak does not care.

Pilar had lost track of the time she'd been prisoner here. Days, weeks, months? All she'd known since their house was torched was pain and death and suffering, and not all of it hers. She healed who they put in front of her without question, her thoughts only on keeping her beloved wife safe. She'd begged them to spare her life, had promised to do whatever they asked if they didn't harm her. They'd agreed, and had taken them both. But they hadn't agreed to spare her pets. She wondered if any had escaped the blaze. She looked up to Amgarak as he commanded her to do her job. Resignation and defeat were plain in her features, not like Yozenra. Her dear Yozenra still had that fire, that belief that if they just waited until the right moment, they could escape. Pilar had been allowed to feed on Yozenra only a few times since their capture, to keep her energy up. Those were the only times she got to hold her lover, to touch her. Even when they went to bed, they were kept chained separately. Pilar looked back down at the orc and went to work. First, she set any broken bones. Then she laid her hands on him, one on his forehead and one on his chest, and began channeling her magic into him. The only thing she was given reasonable rations of were magic potions. Sure, she could stitch and wrap bandages, but magic was so much easier. The manacles on her wrists chafed, but they were never to be removed. One kept her magic in check so that she might only use her healing spells. The other kept her vampire powers subdued. No strength, no speed, no stamina... No bonds. Yozenra and Daermon's mind were closed to her.

Lanara walks along the path, her hands clenched into fists at her sides, as she kicks at random pebbles and leaves that line the way. The elf wears black pants, an oversized hunter green sweater, and tan knee-high leather boots. The straps of her white tank top peek out from the neck line of her sweater, and there’s a small backpack affixed to her back, faded from years of use. Her chestnut locks have been pulled back into a long braid which dangles over her left shoulder, and her full lips purse, as though she were deep in thought. For once, she’s alone, as none of her animal companions seem to be within sight. Lana trudges along, the soles of her boots making scuffling noises upon the ground, as though she were walking with a purpose. Her chocolate hues sting and she often lifts a fist to rub at her eyes, which are red-rimmed, as though she had been crying for hours on end. And she had, as she had just left her home in Denubyrg, after calling off her engagement to Eirik. This also, is why she’s nearing the Dead Forest, an area which she’d only visited once before, with that very lycan, on the eve that he confessed his love and proposed to her, after a ritual. It would be bittersweet, but before she left Venturil, she wanted to visit it one last time. Nearing the outskirts of the forest, she stops abruptly, as on the path before her, stands a large doe, her eyes narrowed on the elf as though she found her to be an enemy. The doe angrily stomps her hooves on the path, and bares her large horse-like teeth, as though she were readying to attack! Deer were known to be docile creatures, though when threatened they would prefer ‘flight’ over an encounter, any day. Something seems off to Lana, and she extends her arm, palm outstretched to use her empathic abilities on the animal, to issue a calming sensation, upon touch. However, as her palm makes contact with the silken fur of the doe, she rears up on her hind legs, and tries to ‘box’ the little elf in the opposite direction. Stumbling, Lana swiftly takes several steps back, narrowly missing the assault of those powerful legs. Only when she is off the path and her boots make contact with the forest floor, does the doe slow in her approach, and return to all fours. Her expressive eyes widen, as though a mixture of confusion and fear, and she lifts her majestic head to the left, as though urging the witch to head deeper into the heart of the dead forest. Lanara presses her back against the thick trunk of a tree, and it dawns on her that this isn’t normal behavior, and that the animal was trying to tell her something. She’d have to investigate what was upsetting the forest dwelling wildlife, as well as pay a visit to the spot where she had gotten engaged. “Okay.” She gives a nod, her heart pulsing violently in her chest, as she flicks her gaze from the deer, to the direction in which she motioned, determination in her gaze. Intuition kicks in, and she slowly walks through the forest, her footfalls nearly silent, save for when she steps upon a branch that may wind up beneath her shoe. The forest is eerily silent, as though all wildlife had vanished from the area, and she frowns, an uneasy feeling settling in. Coming up to a clearing, she slinks behind a tree, and sees a camp that she hadn’t remembered crossing before, enclosed with a barbed-wire fence. Trolls hold guard, waving around a weapon, and keeping a close watch upon each access point, and she can see green-skinned muscular forms, from her vantage point. Orcs, likely. Her dark eyes narrow, as she has an inkling that she’d have to break in and see just what was happening beyond those stakes. Slipping her hand into her boot, she withdraws a dagger, and she keeps her eyes on the far right access point, waiting for the right moment. As of yet, she hasn’t laid eyes upon Pilar, though should she get beyond the perimeter, that surely would change her game plan.

Johnny carries a peculiar walking stick in one hand, just long enough to close the distance from his waist to the ground. It seems a little thicker than it needs to be. On the rare occasion that his shimmering cloak reveals what lies underneath, one could see a coiled leather whip attached to one side of his belt and a dagger sheathed in the other. Brass goggles with thick reflective lenses hide his eyes, though his absurdly wide hat could do the job on its own if his head were only slightly tilted downward. His relatively short blonde hair is visible from any side, though it’s clearly unkempt, almost giving him a sort of mad wizard look. His natural grin doesn’t betray this image, either. Trotting at his side is a young sky blue unicorn, whose head could almost reach his belt. Her curly silver-white mane falls down one side of her neck, covering a few of the bright speckles across her body. She looks a little nervous, passing through such a scary place. And rightfully so, as both spot a number of animals scurrying away in fright. Something is clearly amiss here. Trixie the unicorn sidesteps to brush up against her companion, glancing this way and that. As it happens, Johnny sees a woman entering the Dead Forest ahead of them, and a deer galloping off in the opposite direction. What’s going on in there? He feels compelled to find out for himself, but sneaking up on someone like that may not be the best idea. He doesn’t notice that Trixie has been staring at the woman intently, and as soon as she disappears in the forest, the unicorn breaks off into a gallop after her! “Wait! Trixie!” As he runs along after her, his mind races to try and figure out what might have caused this behavior. It would likely become clear once he caught up, but his inferior two-legged stance had no chance of doing so before the unicorn reached her target. Of course, she knew this woman was friendly and would not be offended by her approach. Her feeling was correct, she hoped, as she slowed to a trot, making just enough noise to be heard by the one she was after. She made no other sound or attempt at communication.

Lionel | If the orc Pilar has saved were capable of conscious thoughts, he might be grateful. Years ago, before Kahran’s scheming began in earnest, this orc was a loving husband and father in a proud clan of warriors. His wife was, in fact, the better hunter. But he tried. He cooked mediocre meals but always put his heart into it. He knitted. He was a devoted junior war chief and his tribe prowled the fields above Craughmoyle and lived decent, modest lives. But then his wife was slaughtered for resisting the capturing wraiths. His children were deemed too feeble to be worth their weight in training hours, so they were slaughtered too. The green tendrils of magic eminent of the Shadow Plane’s wicked portals struck like lightning by this orc’s tribe and before long he and his surviving fellows were wiped of the ability to be grateful… or anything else. He is a husk now, a plaything in the hordes. He growls, only tangentially aware he will go on breathing to brutalize innocent lives in future skirmishes. The orc bows his head in utter subservience to the man called Amgarak on his way out of the tent and into dusk. Amgarak’s yellow teeth flash in cruel admiration for Pilar’s talent. “Oh, but you -are- a keeper. I can see now why your band of friends relied upon you ever so much.” The skinny man traipses over a small pile of hay which crunches underfoot. An owl hoots just outside the camp; has it spotted Lanara? No matter if it has. Owls hoot. Amgarak has little regard for it. “I was at the Battle for Chartsend,” the man speaks in hushed, excited whispers. “The first one, I mean. I should specify, shouldn’t I? Your pitiful settlement has seen so much bloodshed of late and your people’s suffering has only just begun. What was I saying? Oh, right.” Amgarak snaps his fingers. “I was there. I watched Master Kahran’s legion crumble at your very gates. I should clarify, Pilar,” he says her name with a twisted snarl, “I wasn’t on the losing side.” He cackles, turning his back to the vampire foolishly. Gleaming from a holster on his belt is a short sword with too much blood caked on. Amgarak -has- been known to get carried away from time to time. He stands between Pilar and Yozenra, still crunching hay, staring outside the tent at that noisy damned owl. It distracts him, but not for long. “It’s a very appealing thing, being told one has free rein to do as they like. When the Master’s underlings approached me, I was a beggar on Chartsend’s streets. So beleaguered, none had a scrap to spare. But I am a reborn man. Your town will fall. Them that spat upon me will taste my sword. And they will rise like lions, undead at my heel. That is the future you are helping to create, Pilar. I hate you utterly… but I thank you for it.” What a talker, this guy.

Lionel | One of the orcs nearest to the owl growls and it leaves its perch in a flurry. “Stupid stinking owl,” the orc says; perhaps the wraiths have not fully excised thought from every single one of their prey. “Making stupid stinking noises. Hoot, hoot,” the orc poorly imitates, flapping his arms like a bird. “I’ll show you a hoot, hoot.” Another orc approaches. “Don’t suppose that owl was hootin’ ‘cause there be trouble,” she proposes, to which the first orc shrugs indifferently. “Might be we should check,” she insists, and then the both of them tense at the sound of hooves in the distance. It’s Johnny’s unicorn -- she is quiet as the crypt whilst nearing Lanara, but from this range these two lone orcs can hear her prior trot. “Bloody owls sproutin’ legs,” the first orc complains. “Just ain’t natural.” The second orc scratches her stubble dismissively. “Don’t be thinkin’ it’s no owl, what did that.” If the wraiths had any idea these two were so sentient they’d be food for the other eighteen orcs. “Look,” the first orc bickers the point. “I hear what I hear. That be the trottin’ of an owl, clear as day.” The sun dips behind the clouds, ushering in night ironically. “Let’s go haves ourselves a looksie,” the woman urges, and so they do. They’re loud and boisterous on their way past the troll Lanara has espied. The troll almost swats them to death right then and there. Instead, it hawks at them, and decides to join. Well, now there’s a fine and dandy thing: Lanara and Johnny and Johnny’s friendly unicorn are just moments away from being spotted. On the other hand, it -will- take a couple of minutes for the wraiths to realize the troll’s spot has been left unguarded…

Pilar would have helped Amgarak, if she'd known of his plight. If she'd had the help to give. Chartsend had been very poor for awhile, there. She said nothing, having grown used to the occasional monologues thrown her way. Her patient was gone, now, and there was Amgarak, back turned, his sheathed sword dangling there, so very tempting... Pilar looked at Yozenra. Yozenra looked at her. Was this the moment she'd been waiting for? But Yozenra was unable to move, bound as she was. Unable to encourage Pilar without speaking aloud. Pilar would have to choose to take the risk... Or not. Pilar's mind raced as Amgarak continued to speak, she weighed all the possible ways this could go bad. She hadn't her vampire strength; could she wield that sword? If she missed, would they punish Yozenra for it? If she got the sword, what then? Would they be able to make it out of the camp alive? Pilar looked to Yozenra again. Yozenra nodded slightly. Do it. Pilar took a breath to steady herself, and then acted. Putting a foot on the cot, she launched herself across the tent towards Amgarak. She collided with the man and they hit the ground. Pilar grabbed the sword from its sheath and scrambled back to her feet. They had neglected to chain her legs, so convinced they were of her mousiness, of her utter inability to act against them.

Lanara is so fixated on the unusual scene unfolding before her, that she doesn’t hear the hoof-beats of the unicorn nearing her location. Its a few moments later, as she tilts her head to eye the access point to the left, when she sees a streak of sky blue out of the corner of her eye. She gives up her search in trying to see which of the trolls wouldn’t be the dumbest, or less agile, and turns to face the newcomer. A unicorn?! Though her eyes widen in surprise, a smile slowly spreads on her face, and she lifts her pointer finger to her full lips, as though asking the animal to be quiet. Lana closes the distance, extends her hand, and lightly caresses the lustrous mane of the majestic animal, and she scans her surroundings, peering between the trees, in slight suspicion. The forest was void of any inhabitants, other than her and those in the heavily-guarded village. Even the deer had reservations of the dead forest! Although unicorns generally were docile, magical creatures, they weren’t known for making their presence known to outsiders. “You belong to someone… But who…?” She continues to pat the mare, and in turn earns a brief nuzzle, as Johnny makes an appearance. The fact that he’s not a troll, green-skinned, or brandishing a weapon, brings the witch some relief. Of course his cane could be used as a makeshift bludgeon, but the fact that his gaze seemed glued upon the unicorn at her side showed that he hadn’t been following her, but his companion. Opening her mouth to issue a greeting or warning to the male, she’s interrupted by an incessant hooting, from high up in the tree. “Oh no…” Her words are soft, and she ushers the unicorn into the bushes, as she tosses leaves over her head, in an effort to camouflage. The two orcs discuss whether or not they should investigate, as the echoing hoots continue, and Lana crooks her pointer finger, in a come hither notion to Johnny. As he arrives at her side, she firmly takes hold of his wrist, and pulls him behind a tree with her, before pointing to the camp. “Something is going on in there, and we have to find out just what-“Lana’s words cut off as she watches the two orcs, joined by the troll, heading in their direction, though the station was left unattended. It was now or never. Dragging Johnny away from the tree, and into some bushes, she ducks low, seeing as a large orc has been taken down, by what she assumes is a prisoner. Perfect! An unattended entrance, as well as a distraction. They could enter, investigate, and exit, hopefully without notice. Not really, as –nothing- was that easy, but hey, Lana was a dreamer.

Lanara “You with me?” She looks at the male now, taking in his blonde hair and blue eyes, and for a brief moment, her eyes well with tears. He resembled someone she knew from her past, and she quickly looks away. Now was not the time for a trip down memory lane. Without waiting for his answer, she darts from the bushes as the trio of investigators step around the tree she had earlier been using for cover, and she sprints the short distance to the fence. The elf’s slender form slips between the narrow gap, and she slowly advances on the pair that is engaged on the ground, one being an oversized orc, who is now cursing up a storm, and aiming to slug the woman on top of him. Dirt is being kicked up from every angle, and Lana looks from the orc, and up, only to blanche as she locks eyes with the vampires. Pilar. Wait. What!? Wasn’t she presumed dead? Her house had burned to the ground, in Chartsend, and the whereabouts of the vampire and her naga wife were unknown. She had even comforted Daermon weeks ago, at the Inn! As she stands there in disbelief, the orc reaches out and grabs onto her ankle, perhaps for balance as he aims to rise, or maybe he has a weird foot fetish. You never know with orcs! And it’s at this moment that the brunette grows angry, and takes her dagger, and stabs his inner wrist, right where that pale-blue vein would be upon her own lightly tanned flesh. “How. Dare. You. You sick bastard! You imprisoned my friends! You ran off the forest creatures! You desecrated the land on which my ex-fiancé proposed! You will pay!” With each word, she digs the dagger deeper into his wrist, twisting it painfully. Blood begins to well at the site, as she stops her tirade of slashing, and reaches out a hand to Pilar. “We have to get out of here. Now! There’s not much time!”

Johnny is whisked along on a journey of sorts, and Trixie happily follows along, glad her intuition was correct. Her mood is once again soured as she learns what they’ve rushed into. But both are just as stunned as Lanara when they spot the vampire in a tussle with an orc, but for different reasons. Neither had heard of Pilar’s disappearance, only that she had married and taken up residence in Chartsend. In fact, their goal today was to find said residence, but bad directions along with general navigational ineptitude had resulted in the two becoming lost. Once, Johnny would have been scared stiff at the first sign of a conflict, but his years of isolation and introspection had awakened a part of him he wanted to forget about prior. Instead, with confidence, he speaks to Trixie as their new friend runs off to join the fray. “Stay behind me, but watch out for others approaching.” Trixie snorts in response and adjusts her stance, her heart pounding. She wasn’t a baby anymore, but she couldn’t hide her fear completely. Meanwhile, Johnny steps forward, swinging his cane out to the side. The reason for its bulkiness becomes clear as a second and third leg flip outward and lock into place, resulting in a spear about the length of the average human. He grips the other end with his free hand, holding it across his body with the tip pointing to the sky as he moves closer, ready to pierce the orc should his will to fight remain. But he doesn’t get very far before Trixie jumps up and down to grab his attention. Another enemy party is approaching, but they are still some distance away. Thinking fast, Johnny starts heading that way. “Let’s go,” he quietly speaks over his shoulder. As they move nearly within sight of the newcomers, Johnny focuses on projecting the image of an orc, dressed like the others, dragging a dead deer behind him. He figures it won’t be that hard to get these guys to believe him, if only long enough to allow Lanara and Pilar to finish with the other one. As the illusion proceeds to its target, Johnny and Trixie take cover behind a dead bush. “Hey!” the illusory orc calls out. “I got a snack!” The group stops to examine the catch, and Johnny keeps watch from their feeble hiding spot. Trixie is watching Pilar, hoping for a positive outcome.

Lionel | Amgarak squeals like a scrawny little pig and tumbles into the hay. He spits it out of his throat and his eyes bulge as the camp’s commander struggles to make quick sense of what is going on. “You little bitch!” He scrambles across the ground on all fours with the adrenaline-fueled haste of a man whose very survival is suddenly in question. “Guards!” He screams. But Amgarak does not leave the tent. Amgarak, full of low cunning, has another plan in mind. His hubris assures him nearby orcs will soon rush in; it’s a shame he’s unaware the two nearest orcs, bewildered by an owl, have already left the scene. He’s overheard by the farther soldiers, to be sure, but even at full speed -- the camp is erupting into high alert now -- they won’t reach their superior as quickly as he anticipates. An orc grabs their war horn from near the fire and blows lowly. The three shackled human prisoners, last living proof that a nearby village once lingered peacefully near the Dead Forest, only wish they were free to cover their wounded ears against the sound. “You little bitch,” Amgarak repeats with emphasis. He is unaware of Lanara’s approach. Impressively, he grabs her ankle, thinking she is one of his subordinates! It wouldn’t be the first time Amgarak has tumbled and climbed up using another orc as something of a makeshift ladder! It’s only as he heaves his body upwards that he realizes this is no orc but an elf! She’s stabbing him barbarously! If any of his troops haven’t heard Amgarak by now, they’ll surely hear his yelps. His combat knife is out from its hidden place within his pocket and he’s back up in the air, maiming his caught hand forevermore as Lanara’s blade rips right through his flesh, all so he can lunge toward the heavily-chained Yozenra and bring his steel to bear upon her throat. “Drop those weapons, you cretins, you treasonous schlemiels, you harlots! Or I will cut the juice from this serpentine slut and use it for broth! Just say I won’t!” Amgarak is shaking profusely. Where are his guards? Why aren’t they here yet? His display of bravado was intended to suggest dominance, but it’s a falsehood pure and simple, and now he’s paying the price for it. He’s terrified. Duly burdened and grievously wounded, the knife in his hand shakes, beginning to peel at the naga and draw drops of blood. This is -not- how he’d planned on spending his evening.

Lionel | There is one small wrinkle in this camp’s operations: many of the orcs, all of whom have been made aware of their commander’s plight and the departure of two of their brood as well as the eastern entryway’s troll, must run to the armory tent to obtain their weaponry before heading into the fray. Some plan to exit the camp to aid their scouting allies; others make ready to back Amgarak instead. But regardless of their destination, too many of them must grab their swords and axes from the racks first. This frustrates the trio of vile wraiths. In their harsh, dissonant tongue, they hiss at one-another that never have they ever had a more foolhardy commander than Amgarak, who could have streamlined procedure considerably. Perhaps it’s time they take leadership into their cold, sinewy hands. For the moment, however, they have more immediate concerns. They hover over the ice-patched earth, scythes raised high in the air, swirling around the perimeter like searching hyenas. When they pass one-another, they screech, conveying a lack of results. But the wraiths can magically -sense- intruders, too. By the third pass, they’ve honed this sense to detect the flesh of elf and human and unicorn not far from the flesh of troll and orc. Their screeches become ear-piercing. One elects to remain behind, but two float over the barbed fence to give tenebrous chase. It’s just their luck that Lanara has just made it inside the camp just beforehand, offering the vacating pair of wraiths outdated smells. With a lone watcher left behind, and so many orcs scurrying about in multiple directions, the elven rescuer successfully reaches Pilar’s tent. As for the two orcs and troll -- still a ways ahead from the wraiths and thus totally malleable to Johnny’s illusionary mealtime cast, although the proverbial clock is ticking --they ponder at the deer and slabber. “Aye, them’s good eats,” the male orc acknowledges appreciatively. “Better ‘n hare,” the female orc responds in kind. “Who would know if we nibbled?” The troll’s voice is booming. In sixty seconds flat, the wraiths will be here, and their pale blue eyes will see right through the spell. Worse yet, the dracolich soaring over now-starry skies is on a return vector to the camp it oversees. The scattering orcs inside the camp are reaching for their death-dealing pieces, too, and will be out on a hunt or overwhelming Lanara in forty seconds at best. And, pragmatically, the orcs and troll will presumably soon discover that this dead deer tastes like nothing at all! Time is of the essence. Will Lanara save Pilar and Yozenra before everything falls apart?

Pilar's eyes widened. “Lanara?!” Well wasn't this a fine how-do-ya-do. The tip of the sword was digging into the dirt. It was nearly too heavy for Pilar to hold up, with her scrawny arms. She wanted to swing it, but what if, in her clumsiness, she hit Lanara? But it seemed the witch was perfectly capable of defending herself. And then, her worst nightmare. The orc had Yozenra! The naga grunted and struggled, showing no fear even as the dagger bit into her neck. If it weren't for those damned chains.... They'd even chained her tail, making it too heavy to swing around to use as a weapon. Pilar swallowed, her hands shaking. “Y-Yozi...!” “Pilar, just go!” Yozenra was more than willing to die for her love to escape. Ah, but she knew Pilar would never leave her. Damn her. “Y... Yozenra...” Tears came to Pilar's eyes. “I... I love you so much... Forgive me.” Yozenra briefly wondered if Pilar was actually going to run after all when Pilar lifted the sword and plunged it through the naga's shoulder and into Amgarak's neck.

Lanara looks equally as astonished to see Pilar, as the elf is to see the sudden appearance of the witch. Their moment of reunion comes to an abrupt halt, however, as Amgarak roughly takes hold of the vampire’s one weakness, her wife. As the naga’s struggles prove futile and that knife dips into her flesh, she flicks her gaze to Pilar, sensing the emotional struggle that ensues, before the sword is shoved into the forms of both the naga and the orc, simultaneously. Blood dribbles out of Amgarak’s mouth, and his head lolls to the side, as he takes his final breaths. Thankfully, Yozenra takes her new wound with a grace that only she can possess and though blood pools at her shoulder, it isn’t life threatening. As all of this unfolds, Lanara follows the path of the chain and undoes the clasp, she struggles, but eventually Yozenra is freed. The elf had long forgotten about the appearance of Johnny and his unicorn, and even if she had taken notice of his whereabouts, she wouldn’t be able to discern the male from an orc, with his powers of illusion. “We have to get out of here. Pilar. You guide Yozenra. I-I got this!” Lana retreats the way she had come, but a band of orc’s is in hot pursuit and aiming for the gap through which she had initially entered. Not to mention the shrieking of the wraith, that causes her to wince every time its call reaches her tapered ears! Thinking fast, and knowing that she had such a limited amount of time to escape, she narrows her eyes on the dead forest, a mere thirty feet from the barbed-wire fence. “Okay…” Closing her eyes, the witch centers herself, focusing on the spot betwixt her eyebrows, and when she opens her hues again, they’re filled with a predatory glare. “I call on you, the element of air. To spread your nature, from here to there. Grant me your power, it’s what I need. Give me safe passage, until we’re freed. From dust, to rocks, and then to trees. As I speak it, so mote it be!” At first, it seems as though the witch had muttered a poem, but then, the wind begins to respond. Leaves scatter amongst the area, a storm brews from the west, and the trees wildly sway from side to side. The large stakes in the ground are uprooted, and one flies through the air, aiming directly for the dracolich that is swooping in from above, thus causing him to slightly deviate from his target as he glides through the air. Dust and dirt fly in all directions, blinding some of the trolls and orcs, and it’s at this moment that Lana looks to Pilar and Yozenra. “Follow close behind; nothing will harm you as long as you remain close to me.” The invisible shield of protection clings to the witch, and those within a three foot radius, as she heads through the opening where the stake was uprooted, and swiftly aims for the cover of the trees. Heavy branches whip through the air, the barbed-wire fencing menacingly makes contact with some of the newcomers, and some trees near the outskirts are uprooted, falling to the earth with a clattering bang. Lana’s heart beats wildly in her chest, and she looks over her shoulder to make sure that she was getting the party to safety. Would she be able to pull this off?

Johnny : All at once, everything is coming down upon their area. Trixie yelps as she watches Pilar stab the naga and the orc leader, and Johnny jerks his head over to see. Even from here he can tell the vampire is distressed, but at least the immediate threat is gone. Except it’s not, because the shrieking wraiths and all manner of bad things are approaching. And the scouting party has figured out the ruse and are thoroughly upset, making their way toward the fleeing witch and her group. It looks like they’ll make it out, so Johnny decides it’s time for them to make their escape as well. He has a plan, but… The only vegetation in sight is this dead bush. It’ll have to do. The orcish scouts are stopped in their tracks as a massive illusory fireball engulfs the bush, followed by a booming voice. “This is… Uh, your ancestor! You shall not pass!” They watch it for a moment, confused, before giving it a wide berth and continuing their pursuit. Fortunately, Johnny and Trixie are already long gone, with dead leaves and branches tossed behind them for good measure. They head toward the last known location of the others, hoping to finally meet up with Pilar and her friends.

Lionel | Maybe Amgarak should have remained a beggar. He might have starved, aye, but he might have dined. Perhaps, when word of what has happened here reaches the war generals, his own corpse will be used as fuel for the swarms of undead manufactured to thicken Kahran’s armies. Were any shred of the man left alive for it, he’d recognize the dramatic turnabout that he will have become the very thing he ordered a village slain to produce. As his world goes dark forever, one thing throbs through his fading brain like a ripcord: he really should have fled the tent when he had the chance. As the three women leave his body behind, and the witch’s spell bears fruit, a harrowing wind blasts the area like a cyclone and knocks numerous orcs off-course, off the ground, off their rockers, off into the tents and far-flung dirt and -- in a handful of truly unlucky cases -- off into barbs and stakes! Blood and guts join the billowing maelstrom now, accentuating a grey wind with streaks of red and beige. Even the troll must grip soil to maintain balance, hurling its club to and fro to bat against the fence and prevent it from cutting muscular flesh to ribbons. Only the solitary wraith resists the gusts with ease; it curls its slight form into an even thinner stance and flies through Lanara’s assault hellbent on shredding her soft skin vengefully. The jerky course of the dracolich up above, with its closely-rooted mental connectivity to the wraiths, distracts the creature for long enough to give Lanara, Pilar and Yozenra a wider berth than the wraith’s speed ought permit. “Ankash,” it seethes, twisting its scythe hatefully to rip open a wind-tossed nearby orc. “Sevalekh!” The other two wraiths appear on either side, answering the call. In unison they flock forth, zipping over grass and twigs and snow soundlessly. They can still smell their would-be victims; they can still sense their lifeforce taunting. But Lanara’s protective barrier has the unintended effect of helping to distort that detection. It won’t be long before quarry eludes them. With their base in turmoil and their commander slain, they’ll have a lot to answer for. The dracolich, perceiving their dread, roars a terrible roar and joins the hunt anew. All through the Dead Forest, evil things long for a victory that may have already slipped their grasp.

Pilar pulled the sword from Yozenra and Amgarak, dropping it and rushing to heal Yozenra's wound while Lanara undid the chains. “Yozi, I'm so sorry, I--” She was stopped when Yozenra's arms, now freed, wrapped her in an embrace and the naga kissed her ferociously. When she finally came up for air, she was beaming with pride. “I don't think I've ever wanted you more,” she said. Pilar blushed. Releasing her wife, Yozenra shook off the chains and picked up the sword. Her shoulder wasn't fully healed, but it was good enough. She could at least fend off an attacker if need be. Pilar gripped Yozenra's free hand and the two of them followed Lanara closely. Blood and dirt and ash and dust blew about them in a terrifying maelstrom, but they remained undetected and unharmed as they made their way from the camp.

Lanara blushes as she witnesses that shared kiss, the elf’s cheeks a rosy hue as she quickly diverts her gaze. She was pleased that the newlyweds hadn’t perished, and that she was here to help them escape. The trio almost has made it to the tree line, and she smiles faintly as she comes up to Johnny and Trixie, her expression grateful. This stranger had stuck around to ensure her safety. For a fleeting moment she considers pulling him in for a hug, though the moment is short-lived as the wraith’s flit through the air, the center one seeming to have a vendetta for the little witch. If she were an illusionist or arcane mage, she’d be able to create a replica of their forms, and perhaps the wind would muddy their scents, causing confusion. But she’s not, and she hangs her head in dismay, unaware that the man at her side had literally just used such magic with the band of orcs. Any elemental magic would be futile, and none of her pets were alongside her to aide in any of her attacks. They were doomed. Her heroic efforts were coming to a close. Fearing the worst, she stands before Pilar and Yozenra, readying herself to take the hit, should they issue an attack. They were what mattered most, as they had suffered for weeks at the hands of this strange camp. Lana lifts her head, defiantly looking at the wraith’s, and as the wind continues to violently whip things through the air, she aims to at least provide a distraction, so they could try to run to safety. Knowing they were creatures of darkness, she lifts her hand up, as though trying to touch the sky with her fingertips, and she mutters below her breath, in sylvan. The sky seems to part, and unleashes a powerful beam of light, which pierces through the forms of the wraith, melding with their shadowy forms.

Johnny breathes a sigh of relief as they catch up and find Pilar and the two unfamiliar faces made it out. But once again, Trixie jumps up and down to alert him of danger and he cranes his neck to see the wraiths from under his giant hat. There is also some sort of winged monstrosity in pursuit. They had to be tracking the group somehow… Surely not just visually. And the ancestor trick probably wouldn’t work on these, not that it was successful anyway. The winds called by Lanara might be of some help. Johnny motions for the others to continue their escape, and he follows shortly behind, at the same time doing his best to conjure up an illusion to make the flurry of leaves, blood and entrails look much thicker and violent than it really was. All it takes is for the observer to believe in the illusion to make it real for them, and Johnny could only hope this, along with Lanara’s light, was sufficient to provide them an opportunity to escape. Trixie gallops ahead of him to the other group and calls out to Pilar, “Lindita!”

Pilar was so focused on escape that she didn't recognize Johnny, with his big hat and goggles. As the illusion took hold, Pilar took Lanara's arm. “Let's go!” She'd have to find some way to thank this stranger for his help later. They continued to run, only for Pilar to stumble to a stop. She didn't recognize the unicorn's voice, as she'd gone through equine puberty, but that term of endearment, which she hadn't used in a long time, jogged her memory. She turned and sure enough, there she was. “T-Trixie?!” Then that would mean... She looked up to the stranger again. “Johnny...?” Yozenra looked from the small unicorn to the stranger. “Pilar? What's up?”

Lanara is grateful as they enter the thick cover of the dead forest, unscathed. The wraith’s stop in their pursuit, as they are unable to follow the scent of the four and the unicorn, and they all hiss and shriek, blaming each other. The dracolich seems to be focused on the enflamed bush, the trolls are continuing to bash at the windblown objects, and the orcs have just found their dead commander in the tent. All in all, it was an eventful afternoon in Venturil, and they all had narrowly escaped with their lives. They’d have to devise a plan to return and rid the area of such evil, but for now, it Lana wanted to get as far as possible from the dead forest, and Venturil, in general. She had her heart broken. She was attacked by Kybella and sustained burns on her palms. And now this?! As they come to the path, on the opposite side of the dead forest, she looks to the talking unicorn, and reaches out to give her a pat atop the head. She then pulls Pilar in for a quick hug, tears brimming in her eyes, as she gently tugs Yozenra into the embrace, as well. Yes, miracles do happen, and the witch who feared snakes, in a moment of happiness, was hugging a buff naga. The embrace is short, as she leans back and meets Pilar’s big brown eyes. “You two need to get to a healer. I’m glad you’re alive and alright. I have to go. I-I can’t. I can’t be here any longer. I’ll check on you both in a few days.” To Johnny, she extends a dainty hand. “Thanks for having my back. I appreciate it. I’m Lana.” After the introductions and reunions are complete, the witch makes her exit.