Ashes and DustEdit
Nihil est aeternumEdit
Nobody could believe their eyes. The greatest empire of all time had been shattered in five minutes. The powerful forces of the Necromancers had overrun Aladarn City and shattered an empire that had once ruled all of Tir Na Nog. Even as the battle raged on into the night, everybody knew it was already over. But they wouldn't let Aladarn fall without a fight to the finish, and so well past midnight hours after the city had been captured the fighting continued.
Jade ran through the burning wreckage as Banshees fought the Humans and Leprechauns of the empire. A Pooka, allies of the Banshees that served under the Necromancer, leaped out and transformed into a wolf, then charged at her howling. In a fluid motion she drew her favourite posession, a gold sword that was magically charmed to always hit it's target fatally, and decapitated, stabbed, maimed and chopped apart what was left of the Pooka, leaving nothing left but a limbless body with ribs sticking out in all directions. She kept on running for where she knew she would be safe, at least for a while.
The end of the world. The end of the world. The end of the world.
It was a thought that kept the Elf mercenary awake on the hospital bed as wizards attempted to heal his wounds.
The end of the world. The end of the world. The end of the world.
The Elf screamed and fell to the floor dead. The Necromancers had claimed yet another victim.
Elven souls are incredibly pure. Unfortunately, that purity could be reversed into darkness. And so the Necromancers used the fallen Elf's soul to summon forth the fallen Drakkon warriors from the first war six hundred years before. The end was starting. Tir Na Nog was about to be stained black and crimson.
Aeternum nihil estEdit
Jade arrived at the fortress, which had been converted into a makeshift hospital, and after five hours on the job she discovered that she had been doing triage for five hours. She decided it was time to take a break. A young boy came to replace her. She stared for hours. She had trained herself to be a warrior with straw training dummies for years on end, even when her devout religious parents, Leprechauns like Jade, forbade it saying it wasn't womanly to fight. For a moment she wondered if they were right. The sword scratched her arm and snapped her back to attention. She had to stay strong. These people needed help. Then, she realized that the boy had only one leg - the other one was hardened aura kept in place by a gold charm. She decided to go back to triage. She had trained herself in battlefield triage in the hope that it might come in handy on a battlefield, so she had an advantage over the boy who was obviously struggling. "Need a hand?" Jade asked. The boy laughed. "Sure," he replied, then mumbled under his breath "A leg would be more helpful."
They didn't talk again for ten whole minutes. "Get this guy in right away," yelled Jade, "move it!" The boy sighed. "Him too. Really bad wounds." Jade nodded. "Yeah." She turned to face him. "I'm curious," she said, "do you have a name?" He nodded. "Finn. Finnegan, actually, but I prefer Finn." She held out her hand. "I prefer Jade." He looked thoughtful for a moment. "Is that a usual Leprechaun name?" Most wouldn't take offence at such an innocent question, but Jade had to live through the taunting at school, the bullying, being called a "leper" all the time. She balled her fists and replied curtly "Perhaps I don't want a normal Leprechaun name. Or am I not a Leprechaun? Maybe I'm…" She growled. "A LEPER!!" she snarled at poor Finn. "I'm sorry," he replied, obviously taken aback, "I didn't mean it that way." She would have ignored the apology, but then she noticed his missing leg. "I bet you're wondering about the leg," said Finn in such an innocent voice that even hot-tempered Jade, the volcano of Sage District and fire and brimstone dragon of the peaceful looking thatch-roofed "boarding house" (which was just a polite way of saying leper colony) couldn't stay mad at him for long. "I'm sorry," said Jade, "I'm sorry for staring at your leg and I'm sorry for erupting on you." He raised an eyebrow. "Erupting on me?" "I've been told I'm a volcano," said Jade blushing. "Alright, friends," said an Imp sergeant, "this 'aint the place for a chattin'. 'Less you can make yerselves useful, get outta the aisle, there're wounded boys here and they're a-needin attention." Jade nodded and they stepped over to the side. "It's fairly recent," said Finn, "the missing leg I mean. I was travelling with my dad - he's a knight, you know, guardian of the empire and all that. Or at least he was." Finn fell silent. "What happened?" Jade pried. "Banshees," he continued in a hoarse voice, "they attacked our caravan. Dad fought with his bow… and then his sword… he was amazing. But he couldn't save me from their archers." He shook his head. "I'm sorry," he said, obviously trying to hold back tears, "theres work to do."
Suddenly, Jade could hear another argument going on. "What do you mean dragon burns? They don't have dragon allies!" "They did, long time ago, was the last war, 600 years back I reckon." It was the Imp sergeant. "But the Star Dragons - well, the Drakkons I suppose - there is not one left alive! They're all dead, and they've been in their graves so long they've rotted into bones and the bones are turning to dust. How can there be a Drakkon on their side?" "Actually," said the Imp, "I here'm surprised it 'dint occur years ago. They're necrermancers, ya here, disturbers of the fallen and raisers o' the dead and forgotten, very disgusting and unnatural stuff. Pretty easy they could raise up an army of Drakkons once they collected enough energy, usually in souls I suppose, 'specially the Elvenkind." The second man was obviously distressed. "Even one Drakkon is one too many. Do you remember what they did in the Battle of the High-" "Private," said the Imp, "ya better learn to control yourselves. We still got enough men a fightin to drive away a Drakkon, if it is just a single Drakkon. Don't panic, boy." The private groaned. "Please, sergeant," he groaned, "what remains of the Aladarnic Empire's army is occupied fighting three times that amount of Banshees, Pookas, Goblins and other unmentionable monstrosities. A Drakkon will destroy them all. Shouldn't we just accept the obvious? Endor III already surrendered the throne to the Necromancer, the battle is over and the Crown Prince is either dead or imprisoned. The war is already over, and its time to flee and save what remains."
Jade was shocked. The battle was over already? The Aladarnic Empire had fallen. No, impossible. The Aladarnic Empire could never fall. They couldn't fall. The Imp sergeant and the private walked away, and Jade was left with more questions than answers.
Omnia imperii cadere debetEdit
It wasn't a single Drakkon. It was far too many Drakkons. There were so many of them that it was impossible to see the two moons or even the Dragon Star, one of the brightest objects in the sky. And this was one of the brightest nights Tir na Nog had seen in centuries. But the fire that erupted from the gaping maws of the Drakkons was ten times as bright as the sky on that fateful night.
The fortress shook violently. Jade leaped to the side to avoid being crushed by falling rubble. Finn lunged, but his auric leg was shattered by a piece of marble, once a statue of the legendary hero Cal Cailan. More rubble was about to fall. "It won't work with an object blocking the signal," Finn groaned, "get rid of that marble and run!" Jade obliged, years of training starting to kick in. She grabbed the chunk of marble and flung it aside and Finn leaped to his feet - or, more accurately, foot. Just in time, for a chunk of stone struck the ground where his head had been moments before. Jade realized if she had been frozen in place one moment longer, Finn would be dead. She had to keep her wits about her. "We have to get out of here," yelled somebody. Jade silently thanked him for pointing out the stupidly obvious and leaped to the side to avoid a flying chunk of gold powering a Wisp lantern. She drew her sword just in case and ran, screaming, to the end of the hallway, where outside it was clear the fortress was being bathed in Drakkon fire. Even the magically strengthened fortress could never stand such an assault, from Drakkons in the air and Banshees on the ground. She turned around and remembered learning about the lengthy history of Dal Diwethath Fortress. It used to be the entrance to a lengthy underground prison, which had become a dungeon. A dungeon. "Bad idea, Finn," she said, grabbing Finn before he could run outside the magical barriers just as a blast of fire enveloped the opening, "we have to go deeper. Much deeper."
Mors expectet omnesEdit
The Imp sergeant was yelling into the mirror, enchanted to link to another mirror in the distant dragon empire in the mountains. A powerfully built, armoured, commanding-looking Oriental dragon was on the other side. "We'll do what we can to evacuate survivors," said the dragon, "but I can't risk lives in a futile battle for a destroyed kingdom." The sergeant was still pacing. "Gen'ral," he argued in his Southern drawl, "I 'aint gonna tell you to risk too many o' your fighting men to save this city, but by the gods, man, we need a spot o' help up here! People are dyin' and you can't see the moons, by Morrigan's sisters, 'cause o' all the Drakkons! And dis is the brightest night for a few centuries, give or take a decade or two. Can'tcha just come over 'ere, breathe a little fire, roar a bit, scare the livin' daylights out a' them Drakkons?" The dragon shook his head. "Sergeant Seabhac," he replied with an air of dignity, "it is beneath our honour to, as you say it, 'come over 'ere, breathe a little fire, roar a bit and scare the livin' daylights out a' them Drakkons.' And for another thing, they're Night Dragons. I'm afraid that Aladarn City is too far gone, and anyways our fastest warriors would take six to seven hours to reach you. Serious assistance could take half a day to arrive. We'll send help, but I fear it may be too little, too late. The throne has already been surrendered, as well as the city, and I suggest you follow suit and surrender your arms. Save what you can and evacuate the city. Mag Mell above, run! Save yourselves!" Before Seabhac could reply, the image faded from the mirror and he screamed in fury. "Fine then, mister gen'ral Craufain," Seabhac growled, "as if we need your sorry help. We can fight this battle on our owns, I dare say." Then the fortress exploded.
There had to be an entrance. The dungeons had fallen out of use centuries ago, but maybe there was still an entrance somewhere. It was probably close to the center of the fortress. Jade thought and thought, and she saw a statue of Mannanan macLir, the king of Mag Mell, collapse and fall through the floor. "Finn," she yelled, "I have a feeling that the entrance is ahead of us." Finn was amazed. He obviously hadn't seen the statue fall. "How do you know that?" Jade shrugged. "Research. JUMP!" She stabbed her sword into the ground and, just as she suspected, it struck the auric shell around the fortress. So the dungeon wasn't protected. Oh well, it would probably hold. If her research was correct, the dungeon was even more reinforced than the fortress itself - otherwise it would have caved in long ago. Also, when a magical object meets aura, there is a reaction. In this case, the auric energy was chanelled through the sword and went through Jade. She started swinging her sword, jabbing and thrusting, and the energy was flung around in a circle, then explosively shattered the floor. They fell just as the fortress exploded.
They landed very painfully in an ungraceful heap two meters below in a long forgotten, cobweb infested hallway. Jade groaned and tried to stand, and then realized her arm was breaking Finn's leg. She withdrew it and he stood up. "That was interesting," he finally decided. She nodded. "You can say that again." She looked about. "Where are we?" Finn looked at her. "Didn't you research the dungeons?" She shook her head. "Never got around to it. We're hopelessly lost, I'm afraid." Suddenly, they heard a growling, animal noise. Jade whirled to find a Pooka glaring at them, eyes red and fiery. She held out her sword. She didn't mention that she never trained herself in underground battle either. Leprechauns are stereotypically afraid of deep, dark places, so she had never seen a tunnel until now. Finn really didn't need to know that. So they did the sensible thing. "RUN!" Jade yelled at the top of her lungs as the Pooka lunged with murder in it's eyes.
Bellum non determinet qui rectum estEdit
Aladarn was burning. Most of it's strongholds had collapsed and the civilian death toll was rising. Seabhac awakened in a M*A*S*H unit. A doctor walked up to him. "Sergeant Seabhac, I presume." Seabhac nodded. "What was it dat happened?" "Dal Diwethath Fortress blew up," the doctor explained apologetically, "you're lucky to be alive. You were skewered by this piece of shrapnel inches from the heart." The doctor produced a chunk of iron from the fortress's framework within the walls. "Only one millimeter over," the doctor continued, "and you'd be going home in a hearse. You still need an operation, but stay hopeful - this is the best M*A*S*H unit for miles." Seabhac nodded. "Say there, mista doctor," he inquired, "whaz yar name?" The doctor shrugged. "The doctor." Seabhac shook his head. "Whatcha mean the doctor? Doctor who?" The man smiled. "Lets leave it at that." As he went under, Seabhac's last conscious thoughts before the operation were about that piece of shrapnel. And he realized he was mortal. It scared him to the core.
The sword missed by inches and the Pooka knocked Jade backwards. It was about to bite her throat, but Finn drew a throwing knife and jabbed it into the Pooka's back. It screeched and partially transformed into a humanoid, then collapsed. It growled and moaned, then it pulled out the knife and tried to stab Finn. However, it collapsed again and fell unconscious. Jade suddenly realized that it's legs were wrong. "Pookas don't have their legs bent backwards like that," she mused, "and they can't transform partially into bipedal wolves. What's going on?" A growling sound came from further down the hallway. "Let's figure it out later," said Finn, "we should get moving." The misshaped Pooka regained consciousness, but it didn't attack them. It growled as if trying to talk, but it couldn't remember how. Finally, it managed to say "Not… Pooka… Help… Me…" The growling grew louder. Without thinking, Jade slung the mysterious "wolf-man" over her back. He was smaller than a Pooka too, closer to the size of an average wolf, or maybe even a fox. They ran as a pack of real Pookas came closer and closer.
Bello tantum determinat qui relinquitirEdit
In the dark, they ran blindly as behind them the Pookas snarled devilishly. The wolf man growled and leaped up. Despite his obvious pain, he ran up to the biggest Pooka and leaped at it. It turned into humanoid form so it could grab it's sword, which was a really stupid idea. The wolf man knocked the Pooka back and snapped it's neck. Her neck, actually, since it was clearly an alpha female. The others grew panicky without their leader and the wolf man easily dispatched two of them. By now Jade and Finn had come to their senses and charged at the beasts. Jade quickly beheaded three of them and Finn's knife plunged into a wolven back. The remaining three took humanoid form and fled, but now they couldn't see in the dark. The wolf-man charged at them and screams could be heard in the shadows. After about half a minute of eerie silence, the wolf-man trotted back to them, badly injured, stained crimson and slightly misshapen. He screamed "Need… Help… Me…" and collapsed unconscious again. This time he didn't stir.
Mortal. Seabhac could have died. He clutched the medal and thought back to the general's words. "Sergeant," he had said, "from now on I believe you're worthy of being a captain for your bravery under adverse conditions. I am also awarding you the Farmer's Moon medal for courage and valour on the battlefied. Congratulations." Seabhac knew that if he could die, others could die. "I'm placing the war effort here under your jurisdiction in light of your commanding officer's death. It's a tragedy. The colonel was a good man and we'll miss him. Anyways, you already ran the show anyway, so I'm confident you'll make me proud." Seabhac picked up a mirror and splashed it with some holy water. "General Craufain, in da kingdom o the Saladar Mountains," he drawled, "an make er snappy."
Fortis adolescens moriturEdit
Deeper into the dungeons, Jade and Finn tried to rouse the wolf-man who probably wasn't a pooka. Jade wasn't too good with healing magic, but she took a shot anyway. The man stirred and growled, then turned into a slightly more human form, but then he turned back into a wolf and then back into human form. He was still in terrible shape. His aura was badly depleted and needed to be refueled.
That's all for now. Here's lookin' at you, kid.