Monday, April 15, 2024

The Battle for Vulture Point Act II Scene I

The strength of their sinews, the courage in their blood, the quickness of their limbs and the puissance of their enchantments having cleared the immediate field of battle our four noble travelers quickly entered the passage that had disgorged their dog-man foes, closing it behind them lest a vultures follow. A quick checking of the map provided by Lord Ambleer confirmed that they were on a suitable path and so they pressed on, little concerned by the wounds wrought by Vulture points aptly chosen avian guards. 

The passage was ill kept but showed signs of the imperial garrison that once stayed here in the carved steps, smoothed floor, widened tunnel and occasional buttressing. They quickly passed by the point where the dog men guards had been sequestered, and Cybele took that opportunity to summon forth the serpentine aspect of her soul, Renee, and send that enchanted beast scouting ahead. The quartet, with Hiram in the lead, followed at a discrete distance. Hiram's sharp senses spotted signs of stagecraft, and after a moment he was able to locate a tripwire somehow connected to holes in the wall. He gingerly triggered the trap while hopefully out of the line of fire, and was rewarded with the clatter of darts striking either side of the corridor. 

"Darts again." Dietrich muttered. "I'd like to corner the dart concession in this area." 

"Step where I step," Hiram warned his companions before cautiously moving forward. He spotted two more trip wires in the dust and avoided both, but directly behind him Cybele tripped the second, again feeling darts strike her magical protections. "What part of 'step were I step' did you miss?" Hiram hissed as Cybele looked suitably chagrined at her error. The young actor simply bent and triggered the last set to clear the path. Ahead Renee sent back a sense of something like alarm, allowing Lady Floriane to warn her companions. 

Barely moving and with minimal light from the shuttered lantern Hiram salvaged in the Tor they ended the passage, which opened to an unremarkable chamber – ceiling twice the height of a man with rough hewn walls, a finished floor with a large rock at its center, and the southern third raised up some six feet to make an alcove. To the north all of them could hear the sound of dog men in a panic, no doubt preparing the search for the ones who killed their vultures. They were about to confidently move to attack them when Renee indicated with a hiss that the dog men were not the threat…which was when the boulder shifted, revealing itself as another vulture, this one the size of a pony and slowly wakening. But before even that threat could be assessed a figure loomed in the alcove, backlit and sending an enormous shadow across the room - hooked beak, feathered wings, clawed hands and feet - part man, part dog, part vulture, a spawn of chaos the likes of which they had never conceived!

Reactions were swift; before the dog-vulture-man could but utter a single cry a volley of crossbow bolts and darts flew in his direction. Both Melas and Cybele fired wide, their shots misplaced either by fear or by the chaos beast's unseen magical protections, but when Hiram's dart struck its wing to no apparent effect Melas barked "it's immune to our bolts!" Assessing the scene in a flash the quick witted von Eisenwald adopted a new plan: Dietrich smoothly jumped onto the back of the quickening vulture and from there into the alcove, once again drawing his rapier mid leap and landing in full thrust, skewering the dog-vulture abomination in a single action! 

Taken through the lungs the creature fell without a sound, and before the vulture could stir Melas dropped his crossbow, drew his greatsword from the sheath balanced beside his hunch and laid waste to the monstrous bird with a single stroke! The nobles slipped into the room around the felled beast as Dietrich cast a quick eye over the alcove, but there was no time for a more thorough search - the dog men who had been preparing to raid the outside had recognized at last that their enemy had flanked them and were preparing a charge!

Dietrich stepped down, alighting beside Melas and held his sword in a quick salute. Melas, followed, then Hiram and finally the Lady Floriane, her hand dancing with arcane fire, her body limned by an eldritch glow - four of the finest of the old empire, facing a charge of three to one odds with no fear and no regrets.

It is said that a brave man is merely one who is brave for but a few moments longer than the one who runs, but how does that explain the next act of Hiram Desaud, who met the dog men's charge with one of his own, forcing their warriors to break around him, disrupted their momentum and found himself battling three of the abominations with no allies in sight? Perhaps he felt his nerve start to slip and decided to act before he could flee? Perhaps it is the foolhardiness of youth? Or perhaps, just perhaps, a nobleman's courage is cut from a finer cloth than other men. Whatever his reason, the young actor found himself beset on three sides by chaos beasts and only the dash and flare drilled into him on the stage kept his opponents at bay. 

Dietrich von Eisenwald stood his ground, making ready to face his charging opponents. When the first of the lot arrived he neatly parried its attack but saw his counter-thrust dodged by the nimble dog man. He then fell to fighting two on one, back to the wall, the flicking speed of his blade holding the things back but the heat of the fight preventing a clean thrust that would get through their leather armor and matted fur. 

Melas Mejas Belisca found himself encumbered by is greatsword in his battle against two more of the chaos beasts; the creatures too agile to hit with a swing and the sword too large for effective thrusting against the diminutive foes. He felt himself hit by their spears once, twice, three times, and while none of the wounds were deep Melas' hunched back and malformed limbs worked best in quick contests of skill rather than endurance. He knew it would not be long before his breath would begin to grow ragged in the fetid air. 

Cybele Floriane, like Hiram, faced three of the opposition, and while her magical protections turned away the first two of her attackers the third struck home. She was saved from falling to a supine position only by the wall behind her. Still, the shock and stumble were not enough to break her concentration, and with her sword weaving a six-point pattern of defense she unleashed a hellish bolt of energy from her free hand, blowing a hole clean through the beast that struck her. The other two found themselves engaged not just by a fierce noble but the venomous viper linked to her very soul as Renee slipped between them, his hissing and darting throwing the dog-men off stride, preventing them from gaining any advantage until the sorceress regained her footing. 

With first blood to the defenders of the realm the tide shifted: Hiram held his ground, occupying a mass of the enemy while declaiming a great battle oratory from a work of Armado Caltrava – who’s epic octology of the battles of Sybade Mountains never fails to bring the audience to its collective feet – to strengthen their resolve. Melas engaged in a complex beat-thrust to drive both of his opponents back far enough to bring his blade's edge into play, sundering one of the creatures in twain with an arcing swing. One of Dietrich's foes was forced to duck to avoid the great weapon's backswing and never lived to regret the error of lowering his defense, as von Eisenwald's blade flicked through the exposed gap between the creature's doublet and collar, dropping it instantly with a severed spine. Dietrich pressed his advantage with the other, scoring hits in rapid succession that alas did not draw blood through the baying beast's armor. 

Three blades against one is a dance that leaves little room for counterstroke and none for error and so it says much for Hiram's skill that it took so long for one of the beasts flanking him to get through his defenses. Even with the shallow bleeding cut, followed by a second, the young actor never thought to not press his attack, and finally worked his way past the spear of his front most adversary and ended that conflict with a thrust and kill whose flourish would be appreciated by even those in the farthest gallery. 

Cybele, never doubting victory in the overall battle but concerned about not having sufficient arcane energy for later, relied on her blade for a few seconds, holding off both her surviving adversaries and hoping that Renee might bring one down with his venom, but the dog men had quick feet and thick boots. She suffered another hit, and saw Dietrich take one at the same time, leaving all the nobles bloodied, with Melas obviously suffering from his many wounds. While Hiram's voice never faltered the young actor would be forgiven if doubted for a second. 

As second would be all he had time for, as lord von Eisenwald redoubled his attack, taking down his opponent and with a forward run and leap engaged one of the beasts flanking Hiram. Lord Belisca was likewise able to turn to the tables with a thrust that at last got his strength behind it, leaving the beast man impaled on his great blade. With a single stride and swing he flicked the corpse at Cybele's second opponent, then on the backstroke forced the creature off balance, making him short work for the Lady Floriane's saber. Her remaining opponent attempted to flee down a side corridor, but unwilling to let it summon help and no longer harried by combat she neatly removed its head from its body with a blast of magic that snaked across the room. 

Dietrich, while fatigued, was still too much for the dog man who had spent his force against Hiram's near impenetrable defense, dropping the creature with a thrust. This left Hiram alone with the beast who had plagued him from the first, and the young noble, at last able to focus on offense, forced the dog man back with a deft recreation of the balcony battle from Valentin and Esperanza, disarming his foe with a flick of the wrist and placing his rapier directly through the beast's heart, launching the thrust at the exact end of Caltrava's oration.

The four nobles, bloodied but unbowed, surveyed the scene and wondered what might come next. 

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