We had made it back to Chimera Keep and after some artful casting of spells from Almaran and Grune, as well as a good nights sleep, it is clear now neither Khanie nor I were in our right mind. Even when we found proof that the vaults were all intentionally infused with Void Spores, I still could not at the time bring my self to believe. I am slightly ashamed at the thoughts I had about my trusted companions and grateful through much effort my mind has been freed. Hopefully Almaran can learn something from the black dragon skin journal that will help protect us from the spores, but for now its moving day.
The camp had been busy breaking down the contents of Chimera Keep and crafting large rafts to float over to the Artistic District. It was an impressive undertaking with both the remaining Farstryders and members of Veritas working side by side. Once loaded up I admit I was a bit nervous about crossing the water. We have yet to identify the huge creature that dwells its depths so its threat is still unknown. Fortunately the passage was uneventful and we made it with no losses.
Osond was there to greeted us and we made introduction all around, and reminded the camp leaders of the rules imposed by the Radiant Muse. There was no shortage of curiosity by the elves and soon pockets of trading was happening here and there. A good start to our consolidation efforts. We spent the day getting the camp setup, and I went over the security protocols with the watch teams. The Veritas members were seasoned soldiers, and the Farstryders were now use to my instruction and new what I expected.
The following day the Alliance once again set out into the city. This time to find the camp of the Steam Coast Trading Company. We discovered that there was a coup recently and their new leader Ivar was a right bastard and had been raiding other camps. He had a failed attempt on Veritas just prior to joining with us and word was he they had made a run on the pirates as well. The SCTc was a threat we needed to assess as it occurred to us that another Aspari could have seized control of that camp and is using them to simply create chaos, keeping us from our goals. In any case they were a concern that required our immediate attention to evaluate, dismiss or destroy.
Even with the limited intel we had we were able to place the Steam Coast camp somewhere near the temple district. Took us all of the morning and a bit of the early afternoon to finally find their camp at the back of the reservoir adjacent to the temple district. The camp we found was very impressive and very defensible.
They had made their camp in some ruins at the base of the cliffside protecting the rear. The area surrounding the walls where full of jagged rocks, thorns and low briars. There was only single clear path leading in or out of the camp. Using several ranger abilities and one elven magic spell I was able to scout the perimeter and gauge their defenses. Almaran summoned a mystic eye that allowed him to spy beyond the walls. What he saw shocked him and gave us all a sense of urgency.
It appeared that the Steam Coast had successfully moved against the Dark Harbor pirates. Many of the them were now held prisoner. That was not the cause of alarm, though. Almaran saw that Ness Ramora was among them and next in line to be whipped by the indentured and unhappy Shiro Gok. It was clear to Almaran by the 3 Legionaries pointing crossbows at Shirou that the swordsmans participation was under duress. He also noted the look of defiance in Ness’s eyes and knew that she would not let out screams easily and might by near death before she did.
A hasty plan was put together that relied heavily on surprise, speed and magic. May the Fickle Fox bless us for boldness, for this will be one for the archives as our plan was a frontal assault.
The five of us knowing, our parts, set to it. Almaran changed shape, took flight and cast a spell to Blend in with the afternoon sky. Khaine and I, riding a sprinting Moonshadow, had the dual task of charging the gates to draw attention from Almaran and a flying Grune as well as actually break them down for a hasty egress if needed. Khaine had anointed his blade with a blanch that would allow Ebonfang to bypass the natural hardness of the wooden gates and has such did tremendous damage on his fist strike. Still it took both of our repeated swings to splinter the gate timbers allowing us to squeeze through while still under fire of crowsbows.
On the other side of the wall soldiers were lining up to repel attackers and Almaran was able to create an opaque barrier between them and the gates as we broke through. This greatly reduced the numbers Khaine and I had to face. We focused our attacks on the Legionnaires as we knew they were the most loyal to Ivor. We also called out warning that we were merely here as retribution for Ivor’s forceful assaults against the other camps. That any who did not pick up arms against us now would be spared. Khaine and I could see some consider, but it wasn’t until the flames cleared after Almaran rained fire down on us and the enemies around us (twice) that several took our offer and fled. As it were, Grune had given magical protection from fire prior to the assault so we were all untouched by the searing flames. Not true for the those that had been near us. The ground was now littered with burnt corpses and it was enough to break the morale hired mercenaries.
This side of Almaran’s barrier was now manageable by Khaine, Grune, Moonshadow and me so the mystic flew deeper into camp to create more magical havoc and help free Ness and Shirou. The rest of us engaged the last three Legionaries, two corrupted blade bearers of Molgus, two prowling dire desert cats and of course Hannigan himself.
We dropped the Legionaries first, and then with a roar of challenge from Moonshadow my mount and I pounced forward to engage the approaching desert cats.
Nature does not typically know good and evil, it merely displays an unforgiving cycle of hunter and hunted. Of predator and prey. These cats are one of the exceptions. Like Moonshadow they are of a breed that is smart and cunning enough to be self aware. Unlike Elven Warcats however, the Desert Cats relish inflicting pain and suffering before the slaughter. Being in their presence I could believe the tales, as these creatures exuded an evil about them.
Together Moonshadow and killed one of the cats as the Lt’s of Ivor approached. These blade bearers of Molgus had the stink of rot about them and a strange affliction upon their skin that looked like growing fungus. Their blades also seemed to carry a magical property to inflict disease as well. Whenever they struck me I could feel my body fighting off the effects. Thankfully, due to the protection magic Grune had provided, my body was able to do just that.
Grune approached to support Moonshadow and I as Khaine, who had hung back, charged an invisible Ivor. Apparently while I was distracted with my fight, the faction leader had taken a potion of invisibility and was stalking Moonshadow and I. Almaran had given us a heads up and Khaine had taken a draught of spirit sight allowing him to see and charge the would be backstabber.
The fighting was fearsome, and Ivor and his allies getting certainly giving as good as their were getting. Fortunately we had Grune who healed our hurts and kept us fighting. Eventually the numbers fell in our favor as I dropped a blade bearer and Moonshadow killed the last desert cat. I was surprised to see that Ivor, fighting one on one with Khaine, was not only still on his feet but holding his own. He clearly had skill, but not enough to win the day. Moments after Moonshadow and I killed the last blade bearer of Molgus, we saw Ivor try a crafty move leaping over Khaine in an effort to surprise him. However my friends eyes were too sharp and too blade too fast as he saw the move for what it was. Whipping his sword quickly overhead he sliced Hannigan in two causing a spray of blood followed by two meaty thuds.
What we expected to be an Aspari still appeared to be human even in death. Yet when his head hit the ground it cracked like an egg and this… goo oozed out leaving a hollow skull. Would could not figure out what this was so I have to wonder, did Khaine’s blow somehow liquify Ivor’s brains?
After that the fight was academic. Almaran had controlled and/or decimated most of the other forces on the other side of the barrier, allowing Shirou and Ness to arm themselves fight together with a few others against their former captors. In less than a minute after Ivor had fallen, the battle was over.
The camp was ours and the Steam Coast Trading Companies faction in Bantu Asparr… was no more.