Airk was silent as he fought, never losing his focus, but somehow knowing that the Crown of Arumdina was helping him battle.
He was silent, knowing that just as the Crown was helping him, it was helping his allies as well.
Remembrance For The Brave
Many of Lady
Babylon’s minions had wanted to go and attack the rest of Flinthold’s cities
after they conquered the capital, but Lady Babylon overruled them. She insisted
that they remain to guard the capital against the gnomes’ attempt to retake
their home. Lady Babylon had kept her forces on high alert ever since the
gnomes had retrieved their magical crown, ready for the attack they knew was
coming. She had no intention of dividing her forces or surrendering their
defensive position until they’d broken the gnomes’ resolve once and for all.
Gnorf was one
of the hill giants on duty guarding Flinthold’s surface door when they saw the
human Flan army approaching the city. Gnorf and many of Lady Babylon’s other
servants had been dismayed, eager for more bloodshed and plunder, but now they
saw the wisdom in their lady’s decision.
fellows, Gnorf was on edge, as the guards from last night had reported a
massive set of campfires some distance away. Judging by the number of people
that would have been sitting around each fire, the force was likely massive. The
Flan army wasn’t what they’d expected, but some of the humanoids who lived in
this part of the Lortmils said that relations between humans, dwarves and
gnomes were often strained. Gnorf realized that the Flan were probably trying
to exploit their rivals’ weakness, but Gnorf knew that it wouldn’t be as easy for
the Flan as they apparently thought.
side of the Road of Tears was thickly forested, but there were enough gaps
between the trees that Gnorf and the rest of the guards could see the Flan
constantly moving between them. Gnorf realized that the force was just as large
as last night’s fires predicted, and he picked up a large calling horn sitting
on a boulder next to him. Putting the horn to his lips, Gnorf blew several loud
notes on it to call his fellow minions to arms, alerting them to the force that
As Gnorf heard
the rest of Lady Babylon’s forces running to join the battle at Flinthold’s
surface gate, he reached for the boulder that the calling horn had been sitting
on. The gnomes had destroyed most of their anti-siege equipment and the locks
on the city doors before fleeing, and Lady Babylon’s forces didn’t have as much
missile capacity as she would have liked. Besides the archery of smaller races
like orcs and gnolls, giants like Gnorf also contributed by throwing missiles
like boulders and pieces of masonry and other heavy debris from the ruined
invaders and Lady Babylon’s defenders were soon engaged in a fierce missile
battle, but Gnorf and his fellows knew the Flan who’d come out into the pass
were just the vanguard. The Flan army was much larger, and Lady Babylon’s
forces called for reinforcements.
among the trees on the other side of the Road of Tears, Borrinn watched the
Kutunachke battling the Scarlet Woman’s forces through a spyglass. He smiled at
the realization that the Scarlet Woman’s forces seemed to be falling for the
Kutunachke’s tactics to lure them to Flinthold’s surface door.
One of his
tactics was to have his warriors set a large number of campfires on their way
to Flinthold, but each fire only had one man tending it. Most military
campfires had several people sitting around them, so it was an ideal way to
trick the monsters into thinking the Kutunachke were greater in number than
they really were.
The other tactic
was to have his warriors march multiple times between the gaps in the trees. It
was difficult for the monsters to tell the Kutunachke apart at such a distance,
so they didn’t realize that what they thought were multiple warriors was in
fact the same man passing by the same gap multiple times. Such was the
Kutunachke’s skill at using the land to their advantage that they executed the
maneuver nearly flawlessly. It was a time-honored tactic among Flan warrior
societies, one that had helped them prevail against other races time and again.
satisfaction, he sat down on a large stump and reached into his satchel. He
pulled out a wooden stand and a large crystal orb, which he placed on the stand
in front of him. The orb was one of the Kutunachke’s most sacred treasures, a
magical scrying device that allowed its user to not only scry on people and
places they knew, but also to communicate telepathically with anyone they saw. Besides
his training as a warrior, Borrinn also had some skill as a mage, which he used
to activate the orb. Chanting quietly, he activated the orb’s powers, thinking
about the adventurers who’d visited his people.
Within the orb,
Borrinn saw a vision of the adventurers ready and eager for battle, surrounded by
a large force of gnomish soldiers. They stood in one of Flinthold’s emergency
escape tunnels, ready to attack at any moment.
reaching out to Airk, who stood at the force’s head wearing the Crown of
Arumdina, Borrinn advised his gnomish ally that it was time.
Flinthold’s tunnels, Airk heard Borrinn’s message, and signalled to his friends
and his fellow gnomes. They raised their weapons to acknowledge his signal, as
runners went to signal the gnomes in the other escape tunnels that the time for
battle had come.
As he signaled for
the escape tunnel to be opened, Airk thought a silent prayer to Garl
Glittergold and Gaerdal Ironhand. The Crown of Arumdina started to glow on his
head, and he felt a powerful surge of energy course through him. He was
wreathed in a golden aura, and as he looked back at his friends and kin he saw
their reactions as they felt a similar burst of power. His adventuring friends
clearly felt that power too, as the Crown of Arumdina gave them its blessing even
when they human and halfling.
As the escape
tunnel opened, Airk saw a horde of the Scarlet Woman’s minions rushing past as
they ran to reinforce Flinthold’s surface door against the Kutunachke. A few of
the monsters turned in blank surprise as the door opened, caught completely off
guard by the cleverly disguised tunnel.
gnomes shouted angry war cries and calls of hatred at the monsters who’d razed
their home, but Airk himself was silent.
He was silent
as he led the gnomes’ charge out of the escape tunnel, his friends close behind
him, and struck at the bugbear standing in front of him. The bugbear raised his
shield in defense, but Airk was faster. He was silent as his military pick struck
the bugbear’s arm, and the sound of the bugbear’s arm breaking was even louder
than his scream. Airk was silent as his next blow struck the bugbear dead on
the spot, hitting harder than he expected it to.
Airk was still
silent as he realized he was moving more quickly than usual. His attacks hit
harder than he was used to, and he more easily blocked or dodged the attacks of
the three gnolls he suddenly found himself battling. One of the gnolls struck a
vicious blow in Airk’s shoulder with his axe, but Airk only felt a small
stinging sensation as he realized the axe blow was much shallower than it would
have normally been.
Airk was silent
as he fought, never losing his focus, but somehow knowing that the Crown of
Arumdina was helping him battle.
He was silent,
knowing that just as the Crown was helping him, it was helping his allies as
Mannor was finished when the orcish arrow struck him in the chest. He was
shocked when the arrow skidded off Mannor’s armor, leaving a bloody cut along
his ribs. Mannor was clearly in pain from the arrow strike, but he was also
more than ready to continue the fight. He retaliated with an arrow of his own,
taking down the orc who shot him with deadly accuracy.
followed up Mannor’s shots with a flurry of magic missiles from the wand he
carried, but he cursed as a piece of Flinthold masonry flew at him, hurled by a
verbeeg. He tried to dodge the flying masonry, but as he saw its angle he
realized it was probably going to hit him. The best he could do was to avoid
the worst of it…
…or so he
astonishment, the masonry slammed into the ground close by him and then bounced
further down the mountainside. It came close to hitting several more Kutunachke
warriors, but they managed to get out of its way in time. Ahead of Borrinn, the
verbeeg stared in shock at his missing the mark, before shouting in a rage. He
raised his spear for a throw, but Borrinn was faster, striking him in the face
with another flurry of magical missiles, killing the verbeeg on the spot.
been surprised at the verbeeg’s bad throw, but he was even more surprised by
the size of his wand’s missiles. They were larger than his wand usually cast, and
judging by the verbeeg’s reactions they were doing more damage than his wand’s
concentrating too hard on the battle to notice before now, but he felt
something within him that he’d never known before, something that aided him in
remembered how, when he’d contacted Airk with his crystal orb, he’d seen Airk’s
crown start to glow just before he ended his scrying.
Tricked by the
Kutunachke’s maneuvers into overestimating the size of the Flan warriors’
force, most of Lady Babylon’s minions ran towards Flinthold’s surface door.
That left them with fewer troops at Flinthold’s underground doors and elsewhere
in the city.
soldiers struck in waves, with different groups attacking one after another at
points and times where Lady Babylon’s forces were most vulnerable. Some gnomes burst
into the city through the hidden escape tunnels, while others overcame the
weakened defenses at Flinthold’s underground doors. Lady Babylon’s generals
tried to rally their soldiers to meet each new group of attackers, but the situation
constantly changed as new groups of gnomes joined the battle. Soon, Lady
Babylon’s forces were in complete disarray, divided and unable to adjust their
tactics quickly enough to respond to each new wave of attackers.
minions were fiercely devoted to their queen, and their determination led them
to slay many of the attackers. But the casualties the monsters inflicted were
hard won. Many of the attackers struck harder than the minions expected, or
were better at dodging or resisting the minions’ blows.
the Crown of Arumdina, the gnomes of Flinthold and their allies, whatever their
race, soon found the battle for their homes turning in their favor.
seethed with rage as her generals reported the course of the battle. The Flan
warriors had steadily gained ground outside Flinthold’s surface door, and they
were now starting to pass through the door itself. The gnomes’ surprise attacks
through their hidden tunnels had split up her forces, leaving them disorganized
and unable to counterattack properly. The gnomes also captured both of
Flinthold’s underground doors. All of her enemies, not just the gnomes but
their human allies, fought beyond what might have been expected of them, as
though they were being aided by some supernatural force.
realized that her enemies were indeed being aided by a supernatural force, and
she knew where that force was coming from. The legends of the gnomish crown’s
powers were true after all, giving everyone who fought for the crown’s homeland
powerful blessings to aid them.
Her eyes blazed
as she realized the potential advantage of that fact. If she seized the crown,
the gnomes and the Flan would lose its power. From there, she would rally her
forces, and her enemies would burn to ash.
Once her grip
on Flinthold’s capital was unbreakable, the rest of the kingdom would swiftly
She would be
queen of all she saw, all that belonged to her.
Some of her
minions would be shocked when they saw her truth, but others would fight all
the harder for her, loving and fearing her even more than they already did.
As if by magic,
she rose into the air and flew out of the Regency Council’s manor towards where
she could sense the Crown of Arumdina’s powerful energies. Her minions cheered
as she flew overhead, while some of her enemies shot missiles at her.
Strangely, despite it all, every one of their shots somehow seemed to miss.
The rose petals
burned up as Seline threw them into the air, consumed by the power of her spell.
More than a dozen of the hobgoblins charging at Seline and her friends fell
asleep in a moment, and her friends quickly slaughtered them.
momentarily shocked at how effective her sleeping spell had been. It was a
simple incantation, one that even the most novice wizards could cast. It
shouldn’t have been able to take down that many hobgoblins, but it did. Then
she remembered that, just as the Crown of Arumdina increased many of her
friends’ fighting abilities, it was enhancing her magic.
Many of the
spells she’d memorized for the battle were designed to hinder large groups of
fighters, allowing melee warriors to fight them more easily. She’d cast them
sparingly, saving them for emergencies, not knowing how long the battle might
last. She had more powerful spells ready, but she’d decided to save them for
battling that mysterious red-haired woman Gilduros told her about, realizing
the woman was likely a powerful mage.
came sooner than Seline or any of her friends expected as they came into a
large park. Before the monsters’ invasion, the park was filled with comfortable
benches and tables, carved wood and stone statues of various burrowing animals
and lampposts with globes containing fire beetles. Now, the park was strewn
with wreckage and corpses, a representation of the devastation that had ruined
Airk, who led the companions and wore the glowing Crown of Arumdina, Seline was
dismayed at the look of horrified grief that crossed his face as he took in the
gruesome sight of the park. Some of the gnomish corpses were those of children,
of mothers and elders, people who stood no chance against the invaders. Even
the Crown of Arumdina’s glow seemed to dim at the sight, as if the gnomish gods
grieved for their lost followers.
Crown’s light flared again as a look of boiling rage crossed Airk’s face. The
look in his eyes promised death to the woman that caused the deaths of so many
of his kin, and he was eager to confront her.
confrontation wasn’t long in coming, as Luna’s cry of recognition alerted the
rest of the companions. Looking up at where Luna was pointing with her mace,
the rest of the companions saw the Scarlet Woman flying down towards them,
leering with malicious glee. She moved with an almost inhuman speed, and her
eyes glowed with their own inner fires.
understand why the red-haired woman was approaching them alone. None of her
minions seemed to be approaching. If she descended, she’d be facing the
companions all by herself.
roar the Scarlet Woman told Seline more than she likely wanted to know. Seline’s
blood ran cold as she realized what the Scarlet Woman likely was, and she could
tell from her friends’ apprehensive looks that they realized the awful truth
Woman’s skin turned from snow white to a deep blood red, as her soft flesh was
replaced with hard scales. Her dress tore apart as she grew massively in size,
from just over five feet in height to nearly fifty. Her hands and feet turned into
massive reptilian paws brandishing deadly sharp claws, even as her mouth
bristled with long, swordlike fangs. Powerful batlike wings supported her
flight, while a long serpentine tail whipped around with a life of its own. Her
head became a gruesome cross between that of a lizard and a demon, her eyes
burning with hatred and malice.
“I am Lady
Babylon, Queen of all that I see,” the red dragon said, staring with hatred at
the companions. “And now, you all will die.”
And then she