The Scarlet Chorus were delighted to see us return to Howling Rock, far angrier in countenance than when we left but now in possession of the powerful crystal that would let us invade the Earthshaker’s camp. “At your word, we’ll cut them all down,” the red-garbed leader grinned, eager to put his heavy mace to work.
Pulling Barik aside, I wanted to make sure he understood what was about to happen, and that we were going to be killing men and women he once called allies. “They turned their back on Kyros, and thereby the Disfavored. They sully every oath they swore when they decided to continue serving a traitor.” It was the most I’d heard him speak in days, and I was glad to see the cold resolution in his eyes. Nodding, I called for the Scarlet Chorus to circle up behind us. This assault was done for the honor of Kyros, and it would be a Fatebinder who would lead the charge.
Several Disfavored, the wizards’ guards, watched us idly from across the dusty chasm which separated Cairn’s resting place from the rest of the rocky terrain. Confident that we wouldn’t be able to cross without command of the powerful Earth magic they studied, they stood relaxed, not even alarmed enough to announce that we, an obviously hostile force, were gathering across the expanse.
In one regard, they were right – never in my years had I been taught the mystic arts, or learned the control of any element. Even with the Azurelith staff in tow, there was likely nothing I could do to make the crossing possible – save for the tendrils of power which had awakened within me and grown with every claimed Spire, magnified by the raw magics I absorbed while completing Kyros’ Edicts. In ways I can’t readily explain, I could feel the connection between the staff and the ground beneath my feet, how it seemed to pulse and throb with the same arcane energy, even if my other senses felt nothing.
Stone-faced, I did not call out to the guards. They knew why I was here, that their actions caused Tunon to send a Fatebinder to enforce Kyros’ will. They stood, confident that their sleeping master would protect them from the Overlord’s command. They had ample opportunity to save themselves, and chose rebellion instead.
Reaching deep within myself, grasping both the power held inside and that which flowed through the rocks at the bottom of the steep canyon, I demanded the energy to rise. The guards looked on, unimpressed, until they heard the sound of moving earth. Screaming with effort, I brought the stones up and together to form a natural bridge between the two mesas, opening the Earthshaker camp to the Scarlet Chorus assault.
Rivulets of sweat left muddy tracks in their wake; the effort of controlling the very ground itself neither came naturally nor easily to me, and perhaps was only possible due to the staff I had taken from Basilon. The work was done, however, and with a triumphant shout, my party drew arms, causing the opposing guards to scramble for their weapons, shaken from their awed reverie at the “impossible” task they had just witnessed.
The narrow bridge only let us cross the deep ravine one at a time, a tactical disadvantage the enemy jumped upon. Barik and I crossed first, endeavoring to push through their front lines and open a path to their casters. Stymied, it was all we could to do hold our ground, our heavy shields taking the brunt of sword-strokes and spear-thrusts aimed our way. Verse was able to use her bow to great effect, firing over our heads and into the ranks of the mages which had broken off from their large ritual in order to bolster the guard. Eb was chanting something, but I was far too focused on the men and women trying to kill me to pay attention.
Eventually we were able to push them back, enough that two more Scarlet Chorus could join us in the fray. Arrows flew overhead, the air crackled with magical energy, and the stinging dust whipped across the stone that had become our battlefield. The Earthshakers realized, perhaps all too late, that this was not a mere distraction or probing attack, but rather a full-frontal assault on the being they revered like unto a god.
As their numbers began to winnow, they fought harder, calling for more to disengage from the ritual and put an end to our interruption.