Amazing. Simply amazing to see how things worked out in the end of this battle. Lord Navrip, apparently the lone senior officer of the KoT, decides to challenge the good LoKs to a duel-a suicidal duel, no less-for supremacy of LoK. Meanwhile, the three sinister, power hungry lords of the dark, Dark Legion, Soth and Evil, battle each other in the Abyss to vie for the favor of their goddess, Takhisis.
In light of the current conflict engulfing the LoK on Britannia, it seems prudent to point out some of the interesting facts illuminated in this text regarding these same foes of good. Soth, for example, is shown here to be defeated in a duel. Navrip is also defeated in a duel. And Evil is nearly defeated by someone before their duel is interrupted and he disappears. In all cases, the individual is shown to be vulnerable at any given time to any worthy opponent. This gives hope to those currently engaged in battle with these same opponents.
Also, please note that the son of Oakbow is given great import in this account. That same son is involved in the current conflict and should be treated with great caution. Finally, great import is placed upon the fragments of the green gemstone. I know not their power or ability, but perhaps someone else may be able to shed light on what happened to them, and how they may be used against the KoT or Soth or Navrip.
Until we meet again, my dear friends, at the Inn of the Last Home.
Cleric Theobald, dead guy
Assistant Guild Sage
Lords of Krynn
The New War
"Damn!" Navrip swore, as Evil's forces poured over him. He fought them off, but he felt this mortal body beginning to slow. He wasn't used to the weaknesses of the flesh. "Thrice be it damned!" he cursed, when Evil made his escape. Evil's forces quickly made their way to the dark portal. Navrip wasn't going to risk jumping through, knowing to do so would be suicide.
"Give Pirvan's body back!" Tina yelled, grabbing his shoulder. Navrip shrugged her off, knowing that she wouldn't harm him, and Pirvan as well, too seriously.
"I'm not finished with it, yet. I said when I get a new body I'd give it back. I don't seem to have one of those, yet," Navrip sneered. "I will, however, release you from service!" With a wave of his hand, Navrip caused Tina to slump to the ground. Teleporting the body somewhere safe (he was an honorable man, after all), he teleported to meet with his forces at the Temple of Takhisis. When he rematerialized, tens of spear points were at his throat. "Get these toys away from me. It's me, Navrip, back in the body I belong in. Get Embros; I must speak with him."
The spear points did not move.
"If I really was Pirvan, would I have teleported into the middle of an enemy encampment? Not even he's that stupid!" Cautiously, the knights lowered the spears. They recognized Navrip's vocal inflections.
Embros was quickly retrieved, and he instantly identified Navrip's powerful emanations. "My commander, what are your orders?"
"The battle is NOT over. I refuse to accept it. Our troops may have been routed, but they are not dead! How many troops do we have left?"
"We have two hundred and seventeen Lily knights, one hundred and three Skull knights, thirty-seven Thorn knights, and one thousand, two hundred and forty-six brutes left, sir," Embros said.
"Good; that may be enough," Navrip said, stroking his/Pirvan's chin. With a sudden thought, he cast a mass dispel field, canceling any existing scrying magics which may be present. He then cast a spell to protect the area from any type of further scrying. "The forces of good will not be expecting an attack now. They think we're too weak. I earned a few...favors during my brief planeswalking between the destruction of Neverwinter and the discovery of Sosaria. I'm going to call those favors in. Within two days, they'll be able to arrive. Spread word among the troops to be ready in that time, but make sure they don't act like they're preparing. If they do, it could tip off the goodies. In the meantime, I'll be looking for a suitable body. This one is...beginning to chafe me." He teleported, leaving Embros to carry out his will.
Embros saluted the disappearing Navrip and went to spread the word. Navrip is taking command of the small force that remains, and new allies are coming, he thought. Perhaps the forces of Takhisis will succeed after all.
Blades whirled about, slashing everything apart. Huge shards of jagged metal flew about, slashing in two anything in their path. Such was the nature of the fourth level of Acheron, Ocanthus. Barely anything could live in this layer. One of those anything's was currently Navrip. While his normal, metallic body could easily avoid harm from the blades, this fleshy body needed magic to protect itself. His destination: the bladeling city, Zoronor. He wouldn't actually venture into the city; even in his former body that would be suicide. No, there was a small outpost about two miles outside the city which housed a small, somewhat independent group of bladelings. That was were he was going. A blade came wizzing past his ear, neatly deflected by his magical shield. Renewing his magical protection, he surged on. He came to the outpost suddenly, after passing through a thick swarm of blades. As he approached, a bladeling sentry called out to Navrip to stop. Navrip did so, not wanting to invoke the wrath of the fiendlings. A small troupe approached him after a few moments.
"What is your bussiness here?" asked the patrol leader, brandishing a nasty looking sword.
"I need to see Hythrell. Tell him it's an old friend who needs a favor repaid."
Evil stood in the Abyss before his Queen. He was being praised for his "good" deeds this day, for Evil and his army had killed many. After her praise was over, Evil bowed his head and said, "Thank you, my Queen; your prais-"
THWACK! Something hit Evil hard in the side of the head and he slumped to the ground, momentarily stunned by the elbow of Lord Soth. The Death Knight towered over him, his power radiating off of him like heat from a fire. "Traitor," hissed Soth.
Evil regained his footing quickly and stood before Soth, trying to summon every defensive spell that came to mind.
"Your spells will not defeat mine," hissed Soth. "As a matter of fact, why don't you try that 'Dark Soul' spell you used on my commander, and we will see who truly has the darker soul!" Soth advanced with power.
Evil prepared for the fight of his life.
Takhisis threw her head back and laughed.
The glum plane known as the Gray Wastes sucked emotion out of everything, including Navrip. He felt the familar sensation gladly. He had forgotten how emotion could hold a fleshly body back, and this lack of emotions was comforting to him. He couldn't wait to be rid of Pirvan's weak flesh. He would have been fuming over his meeting with the bladelings had he still been able to fume. It had gone nowhere near how he had expected it. The fiendlings would pay for their unfaithfulness. This next meeting would be more fruitful, or so Navrip hoped. The yugoloths had much more to lose if they didn't agree to Navrip's terms. The arcanoloth named Jeremka had deep connections, and even deeper enemies. Navrip knew how to exploit this yugoloth, although he would normally never have tried it.
"So, Navrip, you want my help?" Jeremka asked.
Navrip smiled, even though he felt nothing. "That's right. I need a thousand yugoloth troops, all loyal to my cause. I will accept no betrayal. Any disloyalty will be met with severe retribution, if you catch my meaning." He watched Jeremka squirm in his seat. The creature knew very well what Navrip meant. This time, Navrip's smile did have feeling behind it.
"And if I agree, my debt will be repayed?"
"Yes...it will be," Navrip said.
Navrip ventured back to the Temple of Takhisis after his meeting with Jeremka. He had aquired what he needed, although not as much as he desired. Now only one part of his plan was left unfinished. A portrait hung on the wall of his quarters. It was a portrait of Navrip. He couldn't remember the artist, but he thought the picture was the most beautiful thing in creation. And had he been another person looking at the portrait, he would have felt the same way. It depicted Navrip's human form, kneeling at the feet of a large, unnamed angel, eyes looking toward the ground. The angel held in its hand a blade, glowing with a purity that couldn't be put into words. It looked at Navrip, its face contorted in sorrow, a tear trickling down its cheek. In the background wheeled two dragons. One was a huge gold, its features visible even from so great a distance. The other, black as pitch, yet also metallic, was Navrip's dragon form. It was wounded, ready to plunge to the ground in death. At first glance, it seemed that the picture showed how Navrip would fail. Indeed, Navrip had almost killed the painter who had made it when he first laid eyes upon it. Yet upon closer inspection, the darkness of the painting could be determined. The gold dragon, when viewed carefully, was even more horribly wounded than Navrip's dragon. The light that seemingly glinted off its scales covered the horrible gaping wounds, but if you looked just right, the truth could be seen. The angel was similarly not what it appeared to be. Upon its breast was the faint outline of a rose, blackened as if it had been burned. The sorrow upon its face suddenly gave it the look of having skin tightly pulled against the skull. And the holy sword seemed to suddenly shine with great darkness. The painting truthfully showed how evil was in the eye of the beholder. What others saw as good, some may view as evil. What some saw as victory, others saw as defeat. That's not what brought him to emotion at this moment, however. It was the fact that his body was captured in perfect detail. "My body...my own body...Damn Evil for destroying it. Damn him..."
Takhisis stroked her enlarged belly and snapped her fingers. Dark Legion suddenly appeared in the Abyss alongside the enbattled Evil and Soth. She hissed, "All three of you have tried to curry my favor and failed miserably in conquering the Lords of Krynn. You have defied what my grandson Ariakan set forth in the Knights of Takhisis. It is time to see who truly will win my favor..." Evil grinned toward his mother. "Ahh...my son." She gave a menacing glare to Soth and then to Dark Legion. "Children are what make the world go round." She seemed to lose interest and went back to massage her stomach.
Dark Legion was bewildered by this sudden turn of events. One minute he was burning bodies, the next in the Abyss. He looked across at Soth still raging with power. "Home!" he said defiantly, and his war mace appeared in his hand. "Power is to the righteous," he muttered to himself. He assumed a battle stance. "I was playing with you before, Soth. Let's see what you've got..." He beckoned Soth with his left index finger.
Evil let out a sigh of relief as Soth turned his attention to Dark Legion. Takhisis may have enjoyed mayhem among her minions, but it didn't appear she was ready for Evil to die. The return of Dark Legion had most likely saved his life. Evil was utterly drained after his exploits on Britannia, and a fight with Soth at this time would have been his last. He grinned as Dark Legion uttered his challenge, and decided not to waste precious time seeing who would win this fight. He was home now, in the Abyss, and Soth had no chance of following him around, down here. Soth had spent all his long years on Krynn, and had very little understanding of the workings of the Abyss or how to navigate it. Indeed, if Evil had been at his full power, he would have welcomed a fight against Soth here, for in the Abyss he could possibly defeat him. For now, though, he would use his knowledge to disappear and lick his wounds. Uttering a few words, Evil was gone. Evil would lie in the dark, the wonderful healing dark, and wait and watch and heal...
One moment, shadows flickered in the encompassing heat of the hearth, dancing to the chaotic pattern of consumption. The denizens of the rustic inn were still growing used to the summer's warmth, and the rush of cooking fires was largely ignored. It had been a harsh winter, but one of stories and shared ale, so the crackling flames were fondly remembered.
The next moment, the shadows grew deeper and an unnatural coldness crept in like the autumn come early, curling around the seated visitors to the inn with an icy grip. From the depths of a quiet corner, a dark elf emerged with strands of spider webs trailing from a regal cloak of royal purple. He had the garment pulled up over the bone white of his unruly hair and the midnight blue of his skin. He was not a Krynnish dark elf, but seemed to be a drow from Toril. Despite the concealment, his violet eyes were a gaze that was known and remembered in the Inn of the Last Home, at least by a few. With a few long legged strides, the traveler took a seat at the bar like a leaf drifting to the ground below. The chill that surrounded him was palatable, but he seemed oddly at ease. Swiveling to look about, he narrowed his eyes, intent. Many looked away. Sighing, he turned his attention towards the bartender. A low, deep voice dawned from the thin elf. "Perchance, has Talmorr, Shirak, or Oakbow been about?"
Raising a bushy eyebrow, the large man regarded him with interest. "Perhaps. What's your interest in them?"
With a slight chuckle, the odd traveler answered. "If ye should see them, tell them an old friend has come t' visit for a bit. Tell them Dirge misses his credit at Thorn's brewery in Neverwinter."
"And that'll mean something to them?" He looked incredulous, as if the statement was meaningless.
With an absent minded motion, the dark elf brought a long finger up to touch an amulet buried in the folds of his cloak.
The bartender could just make out the images of a dragon carved of onyx or some equally dark stone.
"Aye. Tell them, if ye would, the Midwinter's Lord of the Conclave of the Wyrm has come t' pay his respects. And, should it nae be a great demand, I'll have a mug o' whatever ye have on tap." A moment later, taking a seat at an otherwise unoccupied table, the dark elf nursed his drink and tried to enjoy the warmth of the fire. But his own cold seemed to stifle the flames. He pulled a tome bound in some sort of dark hide from a pouch at his side, and turned the gilt pages. The commoners left him alone; avoided him, even. He read and waited.
Oakbow was finally feeling good about the castle's new defenses. Everyone had been working day and night without rest to make sure the new castle was prepared for any attack. Everyone here had seen more than their fair share of war, and there would be no more "surprise" attacks. Oakbow had bolstered their ranks not only with the Virtue Guard insurance but by hiring a group called the Mercs for two months to stay within their castle until LoK's own ranks could be brought back to speed. As Oakbow went over the castle defenses in his mind, he knew that an attack on this castle now would be near suicidal. The attacking army would have to be enormous, and capable of laying down a mighty siege complete with a full complement of siege engines. Double watches had been set and everyone was still edgy from the constant fighting of the last few days. Everyone knew Soth was a maniac, and many suspected that a major power struggle was occurring for Takhisis' favor. The probability of an attack on the new castle was high since the enemy would undoubtedly think the castle a mere husk and not nearly complete. They would find out differently, though, if they dared attack, Oakbow thought to himself. The castle had been under construction for nearly a year, and word of it had been kept secret until it was ready, which, unfortunately, had been not soon enough. Soth had struck too soon, but luckily the good forces of LoK had managed to survive, thanks to the backstabbing actions of Evil and the mid-battle disappearance of Soth and Dark Legion.
Suddenly, a messager ran up to Oakbow and delivered a message to him. It was from the Inn of the Last Home in Krynn! When last on Krynn to recruit help for the battle, Oakbow had visited the Inn and set up a system by which he could receive and send messages so that he could stay in contact with Krynn. He had constructed a small magical gate here at the castle and at the Inn. All you had to do was drop a message into the gate and it would appear at the recieving end of the other gate. Oakbow wondered what it could be... He opened the sealed message and read quickly. An enormous grin split his face. Grabbing the messenger, he shouted, "Find me Talmorr! And send word to Shirak, if you can find him! Dirge is at the Inn!"
Talmorr appeared minutes later, grinning like a schoolboy as well. Oakbow didn't waste any time. Leaving word that he would return soon, he led Talmorr out to the courtyard, oriented on the mail gate at the Inn, and brought forth a gate so that he and Talmorr could visit an old friend. Bursting into the Inn, Oakbow and Tal immediately spotted the lone traveler sitting at a table near the back. Oakbow gave out a boisterous, "Hallo! By gods, it's been a long time, old friend! Bartender, bring us your best! I wasn't sure if any others had survived the holocaust at Neverwinter, my friend! Tell me, how have you been?!"
Walking up behind Oak, Tal listened as Oak chattered away. Catching the dark elf's eyes, Talmorr nodded and bowed. "So, how have you been, Dirge?"
Navrip stood in the depths of the Temple of Takhisis. These catacombs were his own; not even Soth knew about them. Navrip had discovered them under the foundation of the temple shortly after it had been built on Sosaria. Nothing lived here, and nothing "living" had tread the ground for millenia. Nothing until now. "This flesh has defied its sanctity," Navrip whispered. Navrip used these caves for solitude, where he could be alone and think without any disruption whatsoever. He also used it to house his equipment. He had a vast scientific lab built underground. The thick rock would protect those above from any unwanted explosions. It would also block all scrying attempts by anything short of a diety. Navrip looked at his work. Work. It could hardly be called that. It was his creation. His new body. Navrip sighed to himself. It was nothing compared to his old body. That had been developed by hundreds of MECH scientists. It had been built painstakingly by hundreds of MECH technicians. It had been crafted of unique liquid metal that allowed him to polymorph at will. This new body had been developed by Navrip himself. Crafted by the hands of one man. Built from the iron found in the mountains of Britannia. It had nowhere near the powers of his old body. It was just as durable, true. He had installed weapons, but they weren't as powerful as the old one's. He could no longer shapeshift. Well, not as much as he could before. He had enabled his body one transformation. He could transform from his human body to his draconic one. He lost some of the fluidity of his body by doing that, but it was barely noticable. He was happy with his new body. He had made it, and he would willingly enter it. No forcing, and no servitude to others.
Taking a dagger from his pouch, he pointed it towards his stomach. He thrust the dagger forward, driving the point into Pirvan's belly. Navrip gasped as he felt his soul shocked free from Pirvan's body. He was suddenly floating in the air, looking down as Pirvan collapsed to the floor, blood pouring from his wound. "Home...HOME!" he commanded his soul. It slowly floated towards the new body. "FASTER!" he commanded. He lurched forward, then his hand brushed the body. He was quickly sucked in. Neurons fired, electrodes activated. With a hiss as the pneumatic gears activated for the first time, Navrip sat up. He looked down at Pirvan's crumpled body. "Damn, I promised that I'd return him alive. Too bad; I'd rather be rid of him." Navrip poured a potion on the wound to heal it, after pulling the dagger out. "Vas Rel Por," Navrip chanted, opening a gate to outside the LoK Castle. He pushed Pirvan through.
"Now. To conquer LoK!" he triumphantly declared. He had made sure to wipe Pirvan's memory so that the fool couldn't betray Navrip's plans. He left the caverns and traveled back to the main hall of the Temple of Takhisis.
"Sir! Sir!" came a call.
It was Embros. The lieutenant wasn't surprised to see Navrip back in a familiar looking body. Navrip had told him to expect it. "Yes, Embros? Report," Navrip told him, sitting in the throne Soth normally used.
Embros paled when he saw Navrip commit such a brazen act, but quickly recovered. "Scrying has reported Oakbow and Talmorr have both left the castle. If we attack now-"
Navrip cut Embros off. "If we attack now, we die. We don't have the troops to win a fight. We wait for my reinforcements. Then, and only then, do we move." Embors bowed to Navrip, then respectfully withdrew, leaving Navrip to sit atop the throne, occupied by his thoughts of conquest. No one had seen Soth for a long while. Neither had anyone seen Dark Legion. In fact, a certain other important figure in the KoT was missing as well. He lost himself in his own thoughts for a several minutes…
"Major Navrip, I have the soldier reports that you wanted!" came a call from the front door.
It was Embros. The lieutenant was getting a bit too brazen for Navrip's tastes. He had barged in on Navrip many times, lately, and had taken it upon himself to perform extra drills against Navrip's orders. "Yes, Embros. Report," Navrip said, waving his hand dismissively.
"With the recruits from Krynn, we have the following troop numbers. We have two hundred and seventy lily knights, one hundred and forty skull knights, and fifty-five thorn knights. On top of that, we have one thousand, five hundred brutes, four hundred Krynnish ogre warriors, and two hundred minotaur warriors. We have nine white dragons, seven greens, four blacks, two reds, and three blues. On the matter of siege engines, we have very few. Soth never saw much use for them. We only have five ballistae and three catipults."
Navrip nodded. "Good, good. Speaking of siege, has anyone seen the Colonel around, lately?" Navrip asked Embros.
"No, sir. We assume that he fell in battle. Seeing as how Dark Legion burned the bodies of the dead, we cannot confirm or deny this."
"Ah, well. We might as well move without him. What about the artifact?" Navrip asked.
"It's fully functional. It blocks all scrying from anything, including dieties unless they are physically within five miles of us."
"Good. That means the other LoKs couldn't possibly know about our plans. You are dismissed, Embros. Oh, yes, and cease the extra drills. We don't want them to suspect anything through spies." Embros bowed and hastily retreated.
The next day, Navrip looked over the assembled army. They were a mighty force. With the addition of two thousand yugoloths from Jeremka, that brought the total army size to four thousand, five hundred and five regimented troops, twenty-five dragons, sixty greater yugoloths, and eight siege engines. With luck, that would be enough to bring down the forces of good. He had less troops than Soth, but his plans didn't call for the mass sacrifice of troops by throwing them at LoK in continuous waves. He would encircle the castle and starve them out. "Soldiers! March forward!" he proclaimed. An arcanaloth, named Lermmim, stepped forward. He bowed slightly to Navrip, who saluted him in turn.
"Major. I'd like to suggest an alternate route. We have this...device known as the Maledur..." The yugoloth seemed reluctant to continue.
"Yes, what about it? I'm impatient to begin!" Navrip growled.
"Well...we have a roster with the names of all the troops on it. We have...temporarily placed the names in the Maledur."
"So?" Navrip asked, his curiosity suddenly piqued.
"Well...we can have the troops teleport directly to the castle. Unfortunately, the castle is barred from teleportation by all means but rune travel, else we'd just teleport in directly and attack."
Navrip's eyes went wide. "Why didn't you tell me this before?!" Navrip screamed.
"Because...yugoloths aren't supposed to give the Maledur names without first getting a promise of undying loyalty from those who get put in. I didn't know Jeremka had done it until a few moments ago."
Navrip backhanded the yugoloth, sending it to the ground. "That's for failing to mention the plan to me. Be glad you're a daemon, else you would have been hurt by that blow. Now, tell me how you teleport."
The yugoloth stood, unharmed as Navrip had said. "Just tell the troops to picture being outside the castle. They'll be there within a few seconds."
Navrip called the troops to a halt. He told them to do as Lermmim said. Navrip stayed behind, telling the troops who couldn't seem to do the trick (they numbered one thousand, seventy-five troops of various types plus the eight siege engines) to follow behind later, possibly as reinforcements. Then Navrip himself teleported, arriving at the front of the army arrayed outside the castle. Navrip told his troops to hold and stepped forward. His powerful legs churning, he ran towards the castle, kicking up as much dust up and causing as much noise as a horse. His intention was to talk before fighting. Avoiding unneccesary bloodshed was a priority.
The castle sentries were suddenly a flurry of action. The sudden arrival of the army surrounding the castle had caused alarm amongst them. Then, what seemed to be a lone warrior rode from their midst, his horse kicking up dust as he headed towards the castle gate. "Lord Oakbow! Someone find Lord Oakbow!" the sentry captain roared. Tens of sentries left to find Oakbow and alert him to this danger. Suddenly, the rider was directly in front of the castle. The dust settled and the rider could be seen. In fact, it wasn't a rider at all. It was a lone being. It was Navrip, standing there, his sword sheathed.
"I am Major Navrip, de facto leader of the Knights of Takhisis in the absence of General Soth and Colonel Siege. I come to claim the entire guild of the Lords of Krynn for the glory of my Queen, Takhisis." There was a thwang! sound and Navrip jumped backwards. An arrow quivered inches from his feet. Navrip looked up at the walls in disgust. "You dare fire on a man empty handed? Where is your honor? I come to negotiate!" he called.
"We don't 'negotiate' with your kind, Navrip!" the sentry captain called back. He took huge initiative in making an assuption only Oakbow could make, but he guessed that it was a worthwhile risk.
"Fine, but your leaders may have other feelings toward the matter. Tell them this: I suggest ritual combat for the command of LoK."
Murmurs went through the assembled sentries.
"I will face seven of your number, chosen however you wish. It will be an honorable combat, one on one, one after another; no magic, no tricks. If I defeat all seven of your champions, LoK is handed over to me, no questions asked. If I am defeated, I shall call off the army and return to the Temple of Takhisis. "You know that I am an honorable man, despite my affiliation with Lord Soth," Navrip almost spit the name of the leader of the KoT. "I shall keep my word, and I expect that you will keep yours. I await for you reply. Bring it within one day or I'll consider the offer void, and assault your keep." With that, Navrip turned away and sped back to his troops. Whatever the descision, it would give his reinforcements more time to arrive.
The rangers knew what was to happen, now. Their training and their experience sprang them into action. Deftly, the rangers moved forth into alcoves of the castle and into different places. The many rangers that carried small pebbles in their backpacks tossed them to the ground and commanded them to grow. In the space of a few minutes, the entire courtyard of the castle was filled with stone boulders soldily blocking any means of teleport into the castle. Then, Connor gathered his ranger officers together. "Navrip has made an offer, lads and lasses; one I do not think would be much trouble to pass on, but might save a lot of bloodshed." Connor's officers listened as the plan was outlined.
Oakbow scowled. The blue sapphire which hung about his neck was flashing, which meant there was an emergency at the LoK Castle. Oakbow hoped, for the sake of whoever had signaled him, it was a real emergency, because he had not seen Dirge in a long time and hated to depart so soon. Oakbow and Talmorr took a moment to apologize to Dirge, provided Dirge with means to visit them in their new castle should he wish to come along, and made haste for home. Emerging from the gate in a secret location in the castle, Oakbow and Talmorr found the place in chaos. Men and women were running to and fro, shouting orders and wearing worrisome looks on their faces. Oakbow grabbed a man by the shoulder and demanded to know what was going on. The guard blanched at who had hold of him, but managed to find his voice and filled Oakbow and Talmorr in quickly. Wasting no time, Oakbow and Talmorr sprinted down hall after hall, asking those they saw if they had seen Connor. Finally, they got his location and burst into a room to find him in heated discussion with his ranger officers. Oakbow interrupted immediately. "What is this about, a challenge of seven? Is there really that large of an army outside our walls?"
Connor turned and took a moment to confirm the events that had transpired in the last hour or so.
Oakbow responded, "Navrip. The idiot thinks he can do what Soth could not when he had us with one fiftieth the defenses, the complete element of surprise, and our members spread all over the map? Bah! I grow tired of these power hungry fools! You say the dolt sets up for a siege? Good. I'm glad he has not discovered our ability to gate once again to Kyrnn from within our castle. He will find himself sitting outside our castle for a very long time indeed if we wish to wait him out."
Talmorr cut in. "Navrip believes he can defeat seven of us in a row? The nerve of that fool! Just thinking he could defeat myself, Connor, and Oakbow all in a row is ridiculous. Let's meet his challenge and show him the error of his ways. I doubt he will defeat our first champion, much less all seven."
Oakbow looked troubled. "He has something up his sleeve. Why else would he make such an absurd challenge? It sounds like something my father would do. Mayhap we should wait and see what his army can do. He has no clue about all of the defenses, and no idea of the reinforcements we have available on the outside. If we needed to, we could sandwich his army between our walls and our outside allies and crush him, though with an army his size, there is bound to be more death, which I don't wish to see. I don't know. After what Soth did, I just don't trust these KoT, anymore." Oakbow paused and waited to hear further thoughts from those gathered around.
"Indeed," Talmorr said, "I wonder what he is up to. He can't defeat seven of us in a row, and I don't think he's crazy enough to believe he can. No, there is something else going on, and we have to find out what. And he can't take the castle with that army out there. He can't siege us out, and he can't take it by direct force. That leaves subterfuge, powerful magic of some sort, or more forces than we know about. And remember, Evil, Siege, Legion and Soth are unaccounted for. Whatever we do, we shouldn't underestimate him."
Oakeye had sat on top of a high tower with a good bottle of ale in his hand and had listened to Navrip give forth his challenge and the sentry respond with fiery defiance. Even as his son and the other leaders of LoK talked, Oakeye laughed heartily at the thought of Navrip defeating the seven best in the castle. If the others decided to go through with it, Oakeye would make sure he went first-or as close to first as possible. He had nearly gotten the upper hand on Soth and that metal piece of junk out there was Soth's lapdog. He wouldn't lose twice. And if Navrip decided to play unfair, Oakeye would place twice as unfair.
Pirvan stepped up to Oakbow. "Oak, if we do accept his challenge, I ask that I be the first to face him."
Oakbow turned to Pirvan. "Pirvan, that's brave of you, but you are no warrior. If you fought Navrip, it would be suicide. You're a mage and he said no magic. There's no way you could defeat him. And if you did fight, you'd almost surely be killed."
"I don't care. He's my clone. I vowed on the day of his creation that I'd destroy him. I can't give anyone else the chance before I try myself."
When Navrip arrived back amongst his troops, he was met by several of his lieutenants, including Embros. "Major," Embros exclaimed, "what you proposed is suicide. You cannot possibly defeat seven of LoK's best! Lord Soth himself couldn't do that!"
Navrip's face looked grim. He checked his anti-detection artifact, making sure it was still working. It was. "Of course I won't," Navrip said. "If they accept the challenge, I fight them and probably lose my life. But they won't accept. They think it to be a trick. They think because I served Soth that I am like him. They refuse to see past broad generalizations. But they're wrong. I would fight seven of them, if they accepted the challenge. But they won't accept, and that's their mistake. Then we can defeat them. They may have more troops than before. They may be better organized than before. But they think that they can still escape."
"What do you mean, sir? They have several powerful mages who can gate. And many of the LoKs are able to recall. Surely, if they needed, they could escape. We can't stop them from that," said Lieutenant Khalt, an older knight with a whitening beard.
Navrip let out a metallic laugh, the sound grating the ears of all those present. "The pact I made with the yugoloths didn't only supply us with troops! Jeremka has allies among several high ranking ultroloths. Maybe even the General of Gehenna itself. These ultroloths know how to pull strings everywhere in the multiverse, including with the laws of nature and magic. They will make it so no one can gate or recall into or out of the area surrounding the LoK castle."
"But, sir," said Embros, "doesn't that mean we can't gate away as well?"
"Yes, that's true. But, hopefully, we won't need to. And if we come to defeat, then we surrender. Not all LoKs are honorable, but most are. They would accept any surrender we offered."
The lieutenants fell silent. Navrip dismissed them with a wave of his hand, and they all quietly walked away. Navrip turned to face the LoK Castle, trying to guess what would result from his challenge.
The discussion continued on whether to accept Navrip's challenge or not. Everyone tried to think of every possible situation that could result. Every angle was covered. And the talk went on. Taking a moment to excuse himself, Oakbow decided to get things ready for the worst. He moved swiftly to a secret antechamber, whispered a few syllables and a series of special comm crystals protruded from the wall. Oakbow activated the first and spoke, "Lord Fredaghast, this is Oakbow from the Lords of Krynn. It is time to earn your pay. Our castle is surrounded. It is imperative that you bring your five hundred Virtue Guard force silently up behind the army surrounding us. They are only four thousand, five hundred or so, and are spread very thinly. Come within striking distance, but remain out of sight. Kill any scouts that see you. Don't attack unless I give the word. There is still a possiblity to avoid conflict. Arrange your force as close to the siege engines as possible. Your job, should a war start, would be to destroy them."
Lord Fredaghast replied, "Consider it done. You will find your money well spent, Oakbow."
Oakbow smiled and activated the next crystal. "Gharric. This is Oakbow. I have further need of you. I know we have a small contingent of your Mercs within the castle. I want to offer twice your normal fee for the rest of your Mercs. Payment upon success. You know I have the money and will pay. There is an army surrounding our castle. I want you to bring your men within striking distance, but stay out of sight. There is a chance to avoid a fight; either way you get your money. Don't move once you reach your position until you hear word from me. Understand?"
Gharric responded, "You got that kinda cash to hire us all? Then you got yourself a kick ass army, my man. I warn ya, though: you don't pay up when this little job is over, and it's your ass. We'll be ready. Out."
Oakbow activated one more crystal. "Guildmaster Morley of the Mages of Britain, this is high mage Oakbow. I am in need of your help. My humble castle is under attack. I am in need of a large contingent of mages to gate to Lord Radaghast's side upon my word. He has the beacon stone for them to orient on. Can you help me?"
On the other end, Morley flipped through his book. He saw that Mage Oakbow had been paying his guild dues regularly and was an excellent customer at all the mage shops. "Yes. Have no more fear, my son. Your enemies are as good as dead. Just give us the word."
Oakbow smiled at this. Greed always worked in your favor when you had money to spend. Oakbow had become a member of the Mage's Guild long ago, just so he could get better prices. The Mage's Guild had no idea he had his own guild already, and they didnt care. They just wanted his business. But now his membership was turning out to have some benefits. Very nice indeed, he mused. Oakbow gazed at the other three crystals he had not activated for a long time. No, they are not needed yet. No need to show my full hand of reinforcements, yet. Oakbow moved back to the room where the discussion continued.
All around him was a cacaphony of pure nature. Flames threatened to melt him to one side. Thousands of tons of stone was poised to collapse upon him from another. From yet a third side water waited to rust his body. Howling winds beat against his fourth side. Yet he braved the elemental storm. It was only in his mind. The elements swirled together, threatening to break his concentration. He was but a short distance from the Eye of the Inner Planes, the place where all six of the Elemental and Energy planes met. There sat the greatest of them all. "Oh, Great One," Navrip said in reverent tones, kneeling. "I ask for assistance."
"Yes, I know what you wish. I am a master of the elements. I am part of nature. Tell me: why should I help you?"
"You have no reason. Only your whim. Help or not; I can do nothing to sway your descision."
"You are wise, for a mortal. Leave me; I will consider it." With a wave of a claw, Navrip was banished from the realm. He found himself sitting in his command tent, in a meditative trance. "Another ally, perhaps," he said with an emotionless face. "A better chance at winning."
The Lord of the Green stood and spoke. "Oak, you are the guildmaster and I am sworn to follow you, like your predessor; but we have a chance to avert loss of life, here, by facing this metal knight. Alone, one on one, I, yourself, Talmorr and a great number of other LoKs could defeat him. I ask you: is it such a high price to pay? We can avert the loss of those new and young lives. Should we not try? Aye, I for one offer my magical blade and my skill at facing down this creature of darkness. But know you this, guildmaster: that if we fight a war, it shall not be as before. The rangers respect the balance and love all life, but no quarter will be given, this time. Before, the rangers held back and did not even attempt the carnage and wrath they are capable of. Know this, guildmaster: if we go to war, many of the rangers might die, but for the first time in eons the rangers will go to war, also. And many KoT will feel the wrath of nature." Connor sat down, his eyes smoldering.
"If I may say something?" Nic saw that the assembled Lords and Ladies gave him their attention, so he continued, "I must state that I agree with Lord Connor in this. Not just because he is the head of the rangers, of which I am proud to be a part, but because it makes sense. As a healer, I can honestly tell you that the best way to treat a wound is to never have gotten wounded in the first
place." Nicodarious paused here, as the assemblage chuckled a bit at this. "If we can avert an entire war by a battle of champions, then I say do it. I know I am a relatively young and new officer, and most here have much more experience than I with battling the likes of Lord Soth and Navrip, but even if Navrip does plan on treachery, we have the entire army here within these walls to set things right. If we go to war, at least let us go knowing we tried our best to avoid it. We are, after all, supposed to be men and women of peace." After having said his bit, Nic sat back down to listen to the rest of the war counil, thinking all the time, I'd rather be discussing peace.
Oakbow cleared his throat. "Okay, everyone. I think it is time to reach a decision. Though we all suspect treachery and will be on guard for it, I believe the general consensus is to accept the challenge of seven. Now, we need volunteers. Pirvan will be the first. He has put in a special request to be first, and considering his special relationship with Navrip, I will grant his request and wish him the best. That leaves six spots; I plan to take one of those, and I know my father plans to take one, as well. Are there four others willing to accept the challenge?"
"I'm sorry to say that I won't volunteer," Nic said. "My skills as a fighter are no match for many here, and I know I'm no match for Navrip, either. I'm a healer, not a fighter."
"Well, the challenge has been made and we have accepted. I will be one of the seven. The metal knight will learn not to trifle with us," Talmorr said.
A quiet, feminine voice spoke up from a corner of the room, a huge war mace held easily in her small hands. "Aye, Unari stands wi'ye. There be no metal what I an' th' Peacemaker canna handle." The mace quickly came down with a loud THUD! and marked its place solidly in the table.
"I, Connor Maceloud of the Clan Maceloud, will volunteer to take the feaild against the unatural beast. As my fathers before me, I shall defeat him or expire trying."
Strider trusted Navrip about as far as he could throw his metallic body, which was to say hardly at all. But if these warriors were choosing to accept the challenge, Strider planned on covering a few contingencies on his own. Therefore, he began brewing up some extremely nasty potions, just in case. If the forces of evil thought they could pull a fast one on Strider's brothers and sisters, they were in for a very unpleasant surprise. Strider made a mental note to get some of that good ale that Oakeye liked so much; might as well be ready for the celebration contingency, as well.
Nicodarious walked into the work room where Strider was preparing his potions. "Mind if I help you out, here? I've got that explosion potion down cold, now, and I've been working on a few alternates myself. For example, if you mix the explosion with the strongest poison you get a noxious cloud of vapor that would either kill or knock out anything that breathes. We can launch a few of those with the catapults, if need be."
With a smile, Strider said, "I can always use a bit of help, and I've got other surprises in store myself." So saying, the two began working, lost in their work but hoping it wouldn't be needed.
"That gives us six. Myself plus Oakbow, Oakeye, Talmorr, Unari and Connor. We need one more. Are there any LoKs away from the castle who we may contact?" Pirvan asked.
"I could fight," Tina said, "if need be. I'd rather let another take my place, as I'm not nearly as powerful without my magic."
"Tina," Oakbow said, "you shall be the seventh, but fear not for your loss of magic, brave lass. I could not comprehend that metal tin can beating the first six. Send a courier to inform Navrip we are ready to begin. Pirvan shall proceed first. Oakeye second. Talmorr third. Connor fourth. Myself fifth. Unari sixth. Tina last. I pray we need not go past Pirvan, but we must be prepared in any event. May the light of Paladine shine upon thee, Pirvan. I wish you luck, old friend."
The seven had been choosen. The fight would begin. There was little preparation. Weapons were gathered, armor was donned, and prayers were said. Pirvan was wished luck by several, including Andrew, whom he had taken under his wing as a junior Corrections Officer. A messenger had been sent to Navrip, bearing the word of the acceptance of the challenge. The fight was set to begin at full sunrise of the next day.
END OF CHAPTER 9