Barik and I, now supported by friendly soldiers, were able to push the Earthshakers and their guards further back, giving Eb and Verse enough room to join us on the far side of the stone bridge. Eb was able to counter or at least deflect the bulk of the incoming magic the traitors cast at us, and Verse’s daggers made quick work of anyone who found themselves too focused on offense.

Soon enough, we found ourselves within their outer gates, having exhausted their ranks of exterior guards and expendable mages. The air was thick with choking dust, both kicked up from our skirmish and from the hostile winds which howled through the canyons below, and visibility was poor, but we could all see the violet ribbons of the Earthshakers’ ritual snaking through the air, from the casters to their sleeping protector. Taking quick stock of our wounded, I ordered that the assault continue on, either to our destruction or theirs.

Waves and waves of Disfavored emerged from the haze, battle-hardened and ready to die for their cause. Their war cries were met with shouts from the Scarlet Chorus who followed us, and without the bottleneck of a small stone bridge to limit the engagement, a truly grand melee formed atop the arid plateau that served as the center of their camp.

As Earthshakers lay dead and dying all around, one mage who had wisely surrendered cried out and begged us not to disrupt the “Ritual of Fallowing.” He began to mumble about arcane nodes and the danger of disrupting even a single stone in use for the massive spell, but a quick kick from a Scarlet Chorus assassin sent him backward off the high ground, deep into a nearby fissure. “Destroy the rocks, got it,” she smiled.

Though our friends wanted to press the assault, with seemingly little care for the wounded in their number, I ordered them to hold. Verse had been stabbed in the back by a wicked halberd, and Barik was discarding parts of his armour that were too dented to be of further use. “We catch our breaths, then we continue,” I stated, in a tone that brooked no follow-up or contradiction. Eb tended to Verse as I helped Barik, and though both companions were badly injured, neither wanted to slow down the operation any further. They rose to their feet and drew blades, signaling that they were ready.

Cautiously scouting ahead, we came across a large Azurelith crystal, as pure as the one that made up Basilon’s staff but far more massive. A rope-like tendril of magic emanated from its jagged points, arcing through the air and anchored at the other end by a similar stone on Carin’s forehead. At my order, Barik brought the pommel of his sword sharply against the stone, shattering it. Eb and the Scarlet Chorus recoiled in expectation of some sort of magical explosion, as the Earthshaker had warned, but no such detonation erupted from the destroyed ritual crystal. The energy it was feeding to Cairn faded and soon vanished.

One down, two to go.