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Incursion [Part Three]
I apologize for the wait. It's been a long week and I am pushing myself to the limit of my craft. I hope you find this story as enjoyable as I did with the writing process. Without further ado here is Incursion:
Night fell over Brekfuntle as torches were lit on the main street. Men returned to their dwellings, embracing their loved ones after a long day of hard labor, while others crept into their favorite haunts. Drinks flowed from the taverns as their nightly patrons filed in. The sound of music and other festivities could be heard filtering through the windows and opening doors. For these citizens of the farming town, it was the promise of a good evening after a long day of hardships. Even the stabled animals were content with their evening meals and undisturbed sleep.
Kesarakk referenced his makeshift map when he came to a fork in the back alleys of Brekfuntle. Earlier that day the Mage discussed his plan with his seven companions, The five mages of his order, Miller and Anastacia. The Bard suggested it would be suspicious to have so many strangers moving together in a town where everyone knew each other and their business. Kesarakk was not pleased with the prospect of separating from his companions but yielded to Miller’s logic. Their plan depended on secrecy and avoiding confrontation.
Once the Bard woke from his much-deserved sleep and given a potion to help manage a migraine brought on by a nights worth of drinking and the spell cast over him by Kesarakk, he set to work making six maps to help the mages move through the town. When he finished, Miller and Anastacia went ahead of the mages. After a few minutes, two more of their group left. They followed this pattern until all were gone, save Kesarakk. This was in part to keep a low profile from the noisy individuals of the town and to ensure they were not all captured together. Their plan seemed to have worked, as no alarm sounded in the two hours that passed when the Mage finally left the hovel.
Kesarakk moved down the final alley, crouching behind a storage crate near the mouth of a large clearing between the town wall and buildings. He had a full view of the tower Miller had described as the cleric’s hideout. It was impressive, for a town made of timber. It stood fifty feet high with the western wall on either side. Stairs led from the clearing and up to the wall in a zig-zag pattern. The clearing itself was wide enough to hold five platoons of men, with room to spare for horses and supplies. The walls could hold two rows of archers with room for a commander to walk abreast. At the base of the tower stood a double wide door, made of oak, with an iron bar covering its length. Two members of the Watch stood on either side of the entrance. Kesarakk could tell that they were bored and not too pleased at being stationed so far from the night life of Brekfuntle.
The Mage scanned the surrounding area, careful to not expose his position to the two men. He could see Thren, the dwarf mage, peering over a collection of barrels. The dwarf gave him the slightest nod. The Mage returned the gesture then continued his scan of the clearing. Zalen and Phestos crept along the shadow of the wall. They paused long enough to acknowledge him, before continuing their slow pace to the tower. He couldn’t see Chaka or Thingalla but knew they were close by. All six mages were in position. All that was left was the bait.
They didn’t have to wait very long as Miller and Anastacia turned from a side street and approached the two men. The Bard wore a hood to cover his face and hunched forward, in much the same manner a man did from too many hardships and old age. Anastacia held his arm as a daughter would, guiding her father home. The men of the Watch reached for their weapons when they saw the pair, but relaxed when they saw them as no threat. They left their position by the barred door and met the father-daughter pair halfway.
“This is a restricted area.” Said one the guards. He had a high pitched voice, as though someone was pinching his nose.
“Please, forgive me,” said Anastacia as she stopped, still holding Miller’s shaking arm. “We’re new to this town and I’m afraid my father as imbibed too much ale. Could you please point us in the direction of the Golden Friar? I would like to send him to bed before sickness begins.”
The two men looked to each other then back at Anastacia. Kesarakk could see their heads moving up and down, undressing the woman with their eyes. The Mage shook his head in disgust as he watched. He wanted to cast a spell that would send them flying over the walls but knew this was the most crucial part of their mission. If the alarm sounded now, there would be no hope of freeing Grelan. It took effort, but he calmed himself and allowed events to proceed as planned.
The second man smiled at the woman. Even in the darkness, Anastacia’s elf eyes could see the man’s three missing front teeth and that the rest were in an advanced state of decay. “Aye, we can help if ya willing to meet the price.” Said the man. The missing teeth forced his speech to sputter. He grabbed his crotch for emphasis and leered at Anastacia openly.
Anastacia blushed in mock surprise, taking a step back as if to ward against their advance. The men laughed, filling the night air with their evil intents. Both stepped forward and reached out for Anastacia. Had they been using their first brain, they would have noticed the shadows cast from the torch light did not belong to them. Zalen and Phestos acted quickly, bringing their staves up. Wood connecting with metal sounded, their implements cracking in the backs of the men’s head. Anastacia and Miller caught them as they fell to the ground, silently. Zalen and Phestos moved to the guard posts, taking on the mantle of the Watch. They looked around as though nothing happened. Phestos even sighed in exasperation.
Miller and Anastacia dragged the bodies of the unconscious men to a pile of trash. After covering them with the discarded, stained bedding, they joined the remaining mages who moved from their hiding places and gathered in front of the door. As Kesarakk approached, he snapped his fingers and the torches went out leaving them in darkness.
“That was simple enough.” Said, Miller, as he threw his hood back. Now that he was closer, Kesarakk could see the Bard wore a white beard. The man smiled to the Mage and took the beard off, tossing it to the ground, serving its purpose.
“This was the easy part.” Chastised Kesarakk. He closed his eyes and muttered an arcane phrase. When he opened them again they were no longer the eyes of a man, but a serpent’s. The man examined the door with his spelled eyes then waved his hand at it. When he did so, the tower doors became shrouded in a red haze.
“That’s a problem.” Stated Thren, moving closer. “The Archbishop must have sealed this door before leaving. They could be expecting us.”
“Not necessarily.” Said Thingalla. The elf extended her hand and closed her eyes. She focused her magic, examining the door with her mind’s eye. After several seconds she opened her eyes and smiled to her companions. “There is an alarm set on the door to warn of any magical intrusions, but I believe I can dispel both it and the barrier.”
“How long do you need?” asked Kesarakk. He was again thankful that Thingalla had agreed to help.
“Several minutes. This barrier and warning spell are complex and I’m not familiar with the power clerics wield.” Said Thingalla. She withdrew a spell book from her satchel and flipped past several pages until she found what she was looking for.
“Perfect! That gives me time to call for help.” Said Anastacia. She winked at Miller, who gave her a concerned look, before spell casting. White vapor formed around the area in front of the elven summoner, ten feet wide and another ten feet tall. She sang to it, beaconing a creature from the other plane to come forth.
Thingalla set her spell book in front of her extending her hands to the angry, red barrier shrouding the doors. Magical symbols formed around her hands and spiraled to the barrier, taking hold. The glow of the barrier began to wane. After what felt like an eternity, there was a popping sound and the light vanished. Kesarakk watched with a mixture of pride and amazement as the area around the doors returned to the darkness of night.
Behind the Mage, there was a gust of wind that emanated from the planar gateway conjured by Anastacia. A figure stepped through and looked down at the summoner. It had the outline of a man, with two arms and legs, but had no facial features. Electricity danced in the two orbs that made up its eyes. Every now and then the eyes would flare, sending pulses of energy through the body.
“Why have you summoned me?” the figure asked. Its voice was distant and deliberate as though it had not spoken the common language in many years.
“Sentinel, I seek your aid. A friend has been taken hostage by a group of clerics, inside this tower. Will you protect us as we venture inside to get him back?” asked Anastacia. She spoke with the innocence and reverence a child would give their parent when asking for permission.
The creature of air looked at the summoner then to each of her companions. His gaze was penetrating, as though he could see into the souls of all present. Finally, it looked back at Anastacia.“I do not have the power to face your enemies, little one, but I will accept your request.”
Anastacia smiled at the Sentinel, kissed her hand and blew on it. The light of the creature’s eyes moved to fill its entirety. On an unspoken command, the Sentinel dissipated in a cloud of white vapor and was no more. Anastacia turned back to her companions with a look of triumph.
“How were you able to conjure an air elemental with such detail and awareness?” asked Chaka, a note of envy entering her voice. “No elemental I’ve seen conjured could speak and interact in such a manner.”
The elven summoner giggled at the orc. “I didn’t conjure the Sentinel, he -rather it- is a consciousness within the plane of air. They are not mindless arcane creations that exist only to serve their masters. They have their own thoughts and ambitions outside our understanding. It could have as easily declined my request as accepted.”
“Why did he… it shimmer like that after you blew a kiss?” asked Phestos.
“Breath of Life.” Said Anastacia. “Every plane of existence has their price for a summoning and appointed task. These planes don’t hold the same values as we do and gold is useless to them. Air gives us life but is deprived of the experience. By giving a taste of that vital essence, I have fulfilled my end of the bargain. The Sentinel will remain with us until its task is complete.”
“And where is it now?” asked Thren. The dwarf looked around as if expecting the humanoid figure to appear any moment.
“Everywhere.” Said the summoner. “It’s rather hard to explain, but suffice to say it’s still here.”
“Can you send it in to discover the exact location of Grelan and the clerics?” asked Kesarakk. The urgency in his voice brought everyone back to the present moment.
“No, I didn’t ask it to. It will only protect us and fight for us if it comes to that. Once a creature from another plane has been paid its price and steps from the gateway, it will not change its appointed task without another summoning.” Said Anastacia.
The Mage nodded to himself, expecting the answer. “Very well, I’ll go in first. When it's safe I’ll cast a light spell. Then everyone can follow me in. We’ll clear each room one at a time. When a floor is cleared we move on.”
“And what if you run into the clerics?” asked Chaka. The two mages locked eyes in a battle of wills.
“Then I will knock them unconscious with this.” Said Kesarakk as he produced a small, brown bag that had been tied to his belt. “It's poppy powder. One whiff of this and it’ll be several hours before they wake.”
Chaka didn’t look pleased, but remained silent, crossing her arms in protest. Satisfied the matter was settled, Kesarakk approached the tower doors. The mage set his staff down and went to lift the iron bar. After several tries, Miller came up and together they set the bar off to the side. The Mage picked up his staff, opened one side of the door and stepped through.
Torch nor candle lit the room. Cautious not the give the “clear” signal too soon, the Mage tilted his staff forward and sent his will to it. A faint blue light appeared on the staff’s end, casting long shadows across the floor. To his right were spiraling stairs that led to a balcony, overlooking the first floor, then continued through the tower. He stood on the threshold of the door for a long moment, scanning the room for any threat. Kesarakk stopped his search when he noticed a cell on the far side of the tower wall. A singular figure looked back at him but did not move. He approached the cell, shining his light through the iron bars. The occupant was an elven woman with green eyes and lace-like blond hair. Her dress, though disheveled and dirty, exposed more than a few curves while at the same time gave the woman a grace that was other worldly. Chains hung around her neck and wrists that pulsed with power. With one final look in the room, Kesarakk stamped his staff into the ground. The dim light shone brighter and leaped from the staff, circling above the Mage’s head.
“Who’s this?” asked Miller, entering the room. Behind him, the five mages entered with Anastacia at their heels. When they saw the chained woman, they looked on in surprise. The Bard’s informants said nothing about a second prisoner in the tower. Kesarakk thought through the implications as the elf spoke. What other surprises did this tower hold?
“I’m Makinoji,” said the woman. “ I came to this world through your Gateway millennia ago, trapped within the great power that built those monstrosities. It wasn’t until your experiments that I could finally free myself.”
“How did we not notice your presence, if that were so?” asked Chaka. Her eyes narrowed in suspicion.
“Because I didn’t take physical form until I was many miles from the Gateway. When I did so, I came across a group of men. One of them wields powers I don’t fully understand and was taken, prisoner. I’ve been here ever since.”
“How do we know you’re not in league with the clerics?” asked Zalen.
“I’m not sure how to convince you otherwise…” said the woman. She tried unsuccessfully to shift to a more comfortable position. “I only know that I was brought here in chains and left to rot. I’m unable to change my form, nor can I become incorporeal.”
Kesarakk stroked his beard, trying to answer a puzzle he didn’t have all the pieces to. It was unheard of for anyone, even mages, to become incorporeal and change form at will. It was rumored that elves and orcs held these powers in secluded tribes, but if they did it was a closely guarded secret. He decided he would investigate the possibilities after their mission was complete. He turned to his companions as he spoke.
“Thingalla, free our friend from her bonds and take her outside. The rest of us will continue into the tower until we find Grelan. We will decide what to do with her once we complete our mission.” Said Kesarakk.
The mage nodded and moved to the cell. With a snap of her finger, the cage opened. Thingalla set her spell book in front of her and flipped several pages until she found the proper spell. As she worked on freeing Makinoji from the chains, Kesarakk and the rest of his companions began their accent. He brought the orb of light that had been circling his head into his free palm. He turned his hand, so that the magical light could illuminate the stairs, but positioned in a way that no light escaped further up the tower.
Their climb was slow and deliberate, each testing their footing before continuing further up the stairs to ensure minimal sound was made. Finally, they reached the second level of the tower. Kesarakk held his position at the step before the stair landing. He maneuvered his magical light so that its glow would shine down the passageway. The room was twenty feet across and twice as long, with a set of doors lining either side. The balcony to his left also held a single door. He guessed it was the entrance to an officer’s quarters. Seeing no threat, Kesarakk took another step forward. In that same instant, the Sentinel appeared in front of the mage facing the passageway.
“Danger approaches.” It said in its distant and deliberate voice.
As if on queue a crossbow twanged at the end of the hall. The bolt hit the Sentinel square in the chest protruding out its back, inches from Kesarakk’s face. The lightning that made up the Sentinel’ eyes shot out covering the creature completely, then dissipated in a cloud of white vapor. What had been a silent and abandoned room moments before, now came alive with activity. Sconces along the wall flashed with magical fire, driving away the darkness. Both sets of doors on either side of the passageway opened. In the time it took Kesarakk and his companion’s to adjust their vision, two lines of men barred their path with another line of crossbowmen positioned on the balcony, their weapons pointed at the intruders. At the end of the passage stood four clerics. They grinned at the Mage as they gave the order to fire.
Crossbows twanged as the Watch shot down at the group. One blot hit Kesarakk in his left shoulder, forcing his concentration to fail, dispelling the orb of light. He heard the cries of two of his companions behind him. The mage turned in time to see Phestos and Zalen tip off the stair railing and land on the floor below. Thren cried out to them, but there was no response. Kesarakk’s gaze went from his fallen companions back to their assailants. The crossbowmen cranked their weapons as the two lines of men charged forward.
Miller stepped in front of the wounded mage. He held his lute that had been strapped to his back a moment before and ran his fingers across the strings. In that instant, three knives shot forth in a shower of green and blue from the discordant music. They did not travel as a normal knife would, striking the shields and landing on the floor. These knives were made of magic and answered to the Bard’s will. They approached the shield line then arced to the ceiling above the men. A second later Miller commanded them to fall, sending cries of pain and anger into the Watch. Three men fell to the magical attack and moved no more.
“Out! Out!” Kesarakk shouted as he raised his staff. The oak implement pulsed with a pale, blue light that arced forward and split two dozen times. As the lights fell on the ground they took on a hexagon shape with a symbol of warding in the exact middle. They piled one atop the other until they made a wall of magical energy. The Watch halted their charge, with the exception of one man who couldn’t stop his momentum in time. He collided with the barrier and bounced off of it, skidding several times until he finally stopped on his back.
The companions ran back down the stairs halting long enough to check on Zalen and Phestos. The two mages had been shot in the jugular and heart respectively. Death had claimed them before they landed. With heavy hearts, the companions said their silent farewells and left the tower. Behind them, they could hear the sound of thunder and muffled cries of alarm. The Sentinel had returned with vengeance. Lightning flashed as the summoned creature brought the full power of air against flesh, blood, and steel. When the last of the companions excited the tower, Thren extended his hands. The doors slammed shut. Yellow lines of arcane power crisscrossed along the door and its frame, sealing them in place.
“What happened?.” Said Thingalla. She took a mental note of everyone then noticed two were missing. “Where are Zalen and Phestos?”
“Killed by the clerics and their Watch puppets. We barely escaped ourselves.” Said Kesarakk between deep breaths. He leaned on his staff, shying away from the burning pain in his shoulder.
“We should never have come here.” Said Chaka, her voice dripping with anger.
“That spell won’t hold them fer long.” Said Thren, ignoring Chaka.
“We make for the woods. With any luck, they will lose our trail and be halfway to Malenden before they realize we’ve fled.” Said Kesarakk. He took a step then sank to his knees. His shoulder burned in pain, demanding attention. The Mage’s breathing became shallow trying to take in more air than his body pushed out. Anastacia and Miller grabbed the Mage by his underarms. Carefully, they eased the Mage into a sitting position.
“You have some spell that can help him?” Miller asked Anastacia. The summoner shook her head.
“I could try to contact a being that has been known to heal grievous wounds, but I have nothing to offer it.” Said the elf.
“Allow me.” Said Makinoji. She grasped the wooden shaft of the bolt with one hand while holding his shoulder with the other. “Grab his other shoulder and hold his legs. The pain will force his body to spasm. Keep him as still as possible while I work the bolt out.” Miller and Anastacia nodded to the elf as they followed her instructions. Miller undid his silver belt and wrapped it around the Mage’s legs then secured the buckle. Anastacia placed her hands on either side of Kesarakk’s shoulder. When they were in position, Makinoji pulled on the bolt, forcing the fletching through the open wound. Kesarakk hissed in pain. His right hand found Anastacia’s arm and squeezed it with all his might. The summoner flinched but did not complain.
To Kesarakk, the removal process took several hours instead of a minute. With a final tug, Makinoji pulled the bolt out and tossed it to the ground. With her now free hand, she extended it, calling on her magic. A green haze formed around it and elongated until a staff appeared. Makinoji pulled it from its haze and stabbed it into the ground. The staff itself was wooden, dark brown, with carvings like roots spiraling upward. At the top sat a tree in the middle of spring. At first, it remained still, but as it drew in the power of the earth itself it began to come alive. The leaves rustled in the wind. Seed sized fruit formed randomly on the trees many branches, then grew. Makinoji placed a hand under one fruit as it grew to the size of an egg, dropping into her hand. She moved over to Kesarakk and crushed the fruit between her fingers. Its nectar found its way into the open wound, filling the Mage with a comforting warmth.
Kesarakk’s breathing began to return to normal as he felt the warmth course through his body. Opening his eyes again he looked at the wound. All that remained of the bleeding, open wound was an angry red circle. The Mage tentatively rotated his shoulder, testing it. He had full motion of his left arm, though it protested when he lifted it above his head. Kesarakk couldn’t help but smile at the healing done to him.
“Careful,” said Makinoji in a soothing tone. “I have sealed the wound, but it will need a couple of days to heal naturally.”
“Thank you. I’m in your debt.” Said Kesarakk.
Their moment was interrupted by a loud bang coming from the tower. The doors shuttered under strain but remained closed. Then a voice called to them from above. The company looked to see a man, wreathed in flames, standing at the precipice of the tower. Kesarakk’s eyes grew wide in fear. He remembered this man from the road to Brekfuntle; the same man that captured Grelan in a magical whip and started the string of events that brought this group of companions together.
Archbishop Lurio pulled on a golden strand in his hand. A stout figure came forward then, its head bowed in submission. Kesarakk’s heart pounded in his chest, first in fear then rage. Mentor and student locked eyes for the first time since their separation. There was no question that the Magus had been tortured during his captivity. His eyes were swollen, one shut completely, with splotches of blood staining his mouth and beard. The Archbishop waved a hand down to the gathering. They heard his words in a thundering voice. Several of the companions fell to their knees in the sudden mental onslaught.
“None can escape the justice of the gods.” Lurio proclaimed in finality. With his free hand, he produced a long, curved knife. In a swift and fluid motion, he tilted the dwarf’s head back with his whip hand and unceremoniously slit the Magus’ throat. Grelan’s life blood poured freely over the tower’s edge. Kesarakk cried out to his dying mentor. Lurio shoved the dwarf off the precipice and he began tumbling in slow circles until he met the ground.
Everyone flinched at the sound of breaking bones as he landed, face first on the ground. Blood splattered against the tower’s wall when the Magus’ head exploded. Kesarakk sank to his knees, sorrow and guilt taking hold. The emotions threatened to crush the Mage. Grelan was two hundred and twenty-nine, or so the dwarf had claimed for the past seven years. The memories, lessons, and knowledge of the old dwarf were gone, entering the void of nothingness that was death. As he sat there staring at the headless body of his old mentor, Kesarakk played the past two weeks in his head. All his careful planning, the sacrifice of Zalen and Phestos - all of it was folly. He should have listened to the orc, should have left for Zazel. The Mage understood in that moment that Grelan was dead the moment he was captured by the clerics. Was that to be his fate now? The fate of them all?
Laughter reverberated in his mind. The Archbishop had enjoyed killing the dwarf and was not bashful in sharing his glee. Anger boiled in the Mage’s stomach. He knew the Abbey was filled with fanatics and idealists, but never did he expect to see this. This was not the will of a god or gods. This was the insanity of one man, made reality. Kesarakk rose to his feet, his eyes locked on the mad Archbishop. The Mage stamped his staff into the ground, dispelling the mental intrusions of Lurio. His companions looked to him for their next move.
“They all die, tonight.” Said Kesarakk. The Mage brought his implement before him. Arcane symbols circled the staff in a myriad of colors. The unstained oak pulsed with a white light, starting with a faint glow then grew. Chaka was the first to move, extending her hands forward. An arcane symbol formed between her outstretched hands, allowing her to connect to Kesarakk’s spell, lending her strength to the casting. Anastacia, Miller, and Thren joined their powers to the spell as well forming a small circle around the Mage. The area around the casters darkened, as though all light was being drawn into the staff, allowing the shadows to come forth and claim this world as theirs. Cracking sounds emanated from the staff. Splinters formed and shot outward, evaporating into the night air. Still, they fed it energy.
Archbishop Lurio’s eyes grew wide when he realized the spell Kesarakk was casting. He prayed to his god, rushing through the controlled cadence of the casting hoping beyond hope that his Deity would answer. A bolt of lightning struck the Archbishop in his chest, sending him to the ground. Had it not been for the holy fire he had donned earlier, he would have been fried alive. Lurio rose to his feet and brushed the dirt off his robes. He moved to the edge of the tower again looking for the source of the magical attack. He ducked in time as another bolt of lightning shot past him, lighting the night sky. The Archbishop covered his ears as a roll of thunder threatened to bust his eardrums. Glancing down he saw Thingalla with her hands raised at him. She was bent over a spell book. Electricity danced between her fingers as she began to cast another lightning bolt at the man.
Lurio backed from the precipice of the tower and prayed to his god. Holy fire wreathed his robes. When his prayer was complete and protections in place he stepped to the precipice again. He closed his eyes and raised his right hand, confident that his god would protect him from any spell this elf could send at him. Fire danced in his outstretched hand, growing several inches as his prayer continued. Thingalla’s spell released then, sending a bolt of white-hot light into the Archbishop. Sparks showered the image of Lurio as the lightning bolt collided with the holy fire. When the shower ended, Thingalla could see the Archbishop in the throws of casting. Realizing her error she hastily conjured her own protective barrier. Hexagonal panels covered the mage in a dome of magical energies. Lurio released the fire. A Phoenix formed the leading edge of it, its mouth open in a soundless screech. The fiery bird passed through the barrier as though it wasn’t even there, bathing the elf in its destructive power.
Kesarakk watched as the Phoenix engulfed Thingalla in its flames. She had been standing several dozen feet from them, but still, he could feel the flames on his skin. The Mage was drenched with sweat by the time the flames finally dissipated. Thingalla stood in a protective stance, trying to shield herself from the flames. There was no life there, only a burnt husk of the elf’s former glory. A gust of wind disrupted the standing pillar of Thingalla, carrying her ashes away. It took all of Kesarakk’s mental strength to keep from ending his spell. The power of the Archbishop could not be denied as the companions watched the final trail of ashes float in the wind. Thingalla was dead, her life ending in fiery damnation, just as the Abbey promised.
A crashing sound brought the companions back to the present. The doors had been breached. The Watch formed a battle line before cautiously stepping through the threshold. When Thren, the last to cast his energy into the spear, stepped back, Kesarakk hurled the spear at the approaching men. They watched in abject horror as the spear of light came at them. Each man understood in that moment death had come for them. There was no cry or alarm, only silence. The spear struck a cleric in the chest and pinned him against the back room of the tower. The spear dissipated, leaving a white light that engulfed the men still inside. The ground shook as the light expanded, rising to the top of the tower, breaking through and continuing into the night sky. A fissure formed in the foundation as the tower and surrounding wall began to crack. Those inside the tower were saved the fate of being buried alive, their bodies vaporized by the light. The men just past the threshold were not so fortunate. Their screams were muffled by the collapsing stone and wood of the tower as they fell into the widening crack in the earth.
Everyone sank to their knees, humbled and horrified by the devastation their spell had wrought. When the dust settled the tower and connecting wall were gone. The fissure began to close itself. The earth trembled as the stone and wood of the destroyed sections of wall settled into their final resting place. There was no sign of Archbishop Lurio. Kesarakk guessed, if not hoped, he had been caught in the initial blast. The Mage couldn’t help but feel a grim satisfaction to the poetic justice. The feeling was quickly replaced by guilt for the fallen members of the Watch. He understood their duty and loyalty to Brekfuntle. He also knew that these men were simply following orders, but had picked a side and lost. It would not bring solace to their now broken families to learn that they had died in battle, as so many who join the Watch glorify. War was an ugly and greedy beast, forced onto those who wish for a simple life by the ambitions of self-important men. War would come to this world and Kesarakk had spilled first blood.
Bells tolled in the town of Brekfuntle as the companions made their way into the forest. It did not take much convincing from Kesarakk to get them on their feet and moving. They walked in silence as the shouts of men and the crying of women replaced the silence of the quiet farming town. Several hours later they halted. Thren and Miller gathered firewood while Chaka busied herself with setting up wards around their makeshift camp. Anastacia summoned a panther from another plane of existence and had brought back a deer, not an hour later. The companions ate their meal in silence, not wanting to bring what they had witnessed into reality. Kesarakk kept his eyes focused on the crackling fire until it had died down. His mission, though a failure, was complete. Now, it was time to pick up the pieces.