Escorting Lady Wren Gyre after having been held hostage by the Dragon.
Kulira, Anwar, and Travis are the only Circle of Eight representatives on the treacherous escort back to civilization. Dandelus remained with the Dragon for a short stay, and Kur and Faradey had left before Lady Gyre was truly saved. Kulira almost went with them, but her responsibilities fir the rest of the group forced her to remain with them.
Easwar’s Elite are missing Kynnel, for obvious reasons. Easwar himself is steadfastly determined to remain grim. His failure to stand against the Dragon has deflated him to a great degree. Discovering that his father’s greatness was (at least in part) due to the influence of the wyrm has made his demeanor even less tolerable than before.
The Northmen are prone to a bit of sulking themselves, for they felt as though there wasn’t nearly enough slaying done.
But Travis is aglow with joy. In many ways his almost bubbly behavior is more annoying than the ‘Elite’. He spends time with Wren for hours telling her stories of far off places and romantic sights. Kulira hovers over him constantly, trying in vain to insist that the Lady would best be in the care of another woman, and not near all these “sweaty men”
Aoife floats nearby, raptly listening in to the Lady’s conversations. Though small and unseen, she is entranced by her likeness. After all, the closest she had been to being exposed to class was one of Kulira’s etiquette lessons (instructed on while riding in a cart full of pyrotechnics and whetstones).
The Lady’s grace and beauty goes a great deal towards erasing the moments spent facing the Great Beast. It’s size and power permeated everything, bringing strife and confusion to the minds of all. Anwar had flinched a time or two when a ‘trusted’ friend came upon him to quickly after being the target of so many attacks.
With travel weary muscles and steeds, the group began to set up camp in the mountains a few days after leaving the dire lair. The experience of the group showed itself then. From out of the shadows, a score of armed mercenaries appeared suddenly.
Easwar and Anwar were together combing down the horses. The villains rushed upon them intent to overwhelm quickly. The Hakenese warriors shouted loudly and engaged into battle. Steel rung upon steel, and the trained horses broke their tether in eagerness to draw blood.
Kulira, Hanso, and Dek were by the campfire. They grabbed up what weapons were close at hand and charged towards the battle. At the same time, quick acting Travis was able to protect Lady Gyre by covering her with the canvas of a tent. From somewhere among the rocky landscape he heard a woman’s husky voice say, “Whoa, what a rush!”
As the warriors ran forward, their own shadows rose up in front of them, forming into a formidable trio of foes. The shadows had the same strengths of the warriors which they mimicked. Sword and shield came together in a great fury.
Maurr, the pet grizzly, leapt into the fight in a great bound. He knocked down Dek’s shadow, and the northern priest used the time to call upon the Gods of Battle to aid him in his struggle.
Elsewhere Anwar struck down a foe with a mighty swing, as Easwar held three at bay. They were outnumbered ten to one but never wavered in courage.
Travis looked for the owner of the voice, his intuition telling him that there was yet a threat unseen. From his hiding place close-by, an agile and familiar form lept down at the traveler.
Evinstrike had murder in his eyes. His blue-black pair blades caught the firelight as he swept down upon Travis. Swords rang as Travis strove to boldly defend the object of his affections. But the skill and fury of the elf was unstoppable. Evinstrike slashed his foe across one arm, and then stabbed brutally into his abdomen. Travis was able to cut the villainous elf’s side, but then fell back in agony. The blades had been laced with poison that burned like fire. A haze fell across his vision, the world was reduced to one thing only, the elf he fought. With a zeal that would have made Anwar proud, Travis attacked with a passion before unseen.
Almost casually, Anwar severed a leg of one man, and then the head of another. Beside him Easwar slew his share, and the bodies began to pile up. Mersuf dashed wildly through the melee, creating carnage on a grand scale.
Kulira faced a dark form of herself, and had to use every trick she knew to hold even. Beside her Hanso traded blow for blow with his shadow, having abandoned the concept of defense in desperation. Dek held the upper hand against his own shadow, which was punished by the holy power of the priest.
A beast of terrifying proportions grew from the darkness. No one had much time to admire the creation, but Muarr lept upon it and the two animals rolled across the slope, crushing rocks and tearing flesh and shadow. “There’s such power here!” Shade breathed in the mana that flowed around her, uncertain of its cause. She laughed at the sight of the battlefield.
Her laughter was premature, however. Dek, with a shout, caved in the shadow-skull of his foe and began to chant a battle hymn. Hanso and Kulira felt the strength of barbarians flood their veins, and the shadows were forced to cringe at the sudden onslaught.
Pain lanced through Travis’ chest as another sword cut flashed past his defenses. For all his valor, he realized he had little time left.
Easwar and Anwar had reduced their foes to four, when Easwar’s blade suddenly got wedged tightly in a corpse. Not bothering to spend the time to free it, and bleeding from a number of wounds, he rushed unarmed at the remaining mercenaries. “Anwar, go to your friends, they need you!”
The Sarshi grappled all four men backwards over a small drop and the group rolled, entangled on blades and limbs, down the slope into the darkness. Anwar ran across the campsite intent on drawing more blood.
Evinstrike rolled under Travis’ lunge and came up behind him. He lifted his sword in a move that was sure to behead the traveler when a small growl cut through the night. Aoife appeared and struck at the elf with her war-flail. The force of the blow deflected the strike against Travis, but did little damage. As Anwar came running, a dim silhouette of a woman grabbed Aoife in a strong grip.
The elf looked at his foes, wanting to finish what he started. Instead he stepped backwards and disappeared along with Aoife and Shade. All that remained was a curl of shadow-smoke.
Travis pulled himself up and called to Anwar, “They took Aoife! She’s been-” He stopped himself then, realizing that Anwar was likely to comment that he was happy to see her gone. Instead Travis shouted to Kulira, telling her what he had witnessed.
She managed to defeat her shadow just then, and had some stamina left to help Hanso and Dek kill the hulking barbarian’s twin. Travis went to Wren, and found her to be well, but could get little satisfaction knowing that Aoife was gone…
Soon, Easwar was recovered along with the bodies of the last of the mercenaries. Dek had to spend a long time trying to find a bone that was unbroken to tie a splint to, but he decided that the desert warrior would survive his wounds, given time and care.
So the wounded group was able to settle in for the night, keenly aware that the trip home would be a perilous one.