Here is some music for you to enjoy while you read this post.)
- [+] Spoiler
- After Méadaighs besieging army was chased away from Reine, the Reinean army has been pursuing them. They are doing this because they dont want Méadaighs army to return to Reine and because they want to follow them to the fae city of Nemetona to take down the Pale Tree, thus striking at the roots of Méadaighs power.
- The march has lasted over a month. There has been some skirmishing on the way.
- The forest is finally entering autumn, after the overly-extended summer, because Méadaighs powers are waning. The weather, however, is still typical of spring. The leaves are just falling.
- There is still not much food to be had since the forest is entering autumn. A lot of their food comes from the port of Reine, which has been reopened.
- All soldiers have a clear understanding of the plan.
- Nemetona is a new city which sprung up around the Pale Tree when Méadaigh started gaining worshippers. It has a population of about 7,000 people. It consists of trees that have dwellings grown into them and sits atop a hill. Here is a map.
- The time of day is MORNING and the weather is PARTLY CLOUDY like big fluffy beautiful clouds.
- Nemetonas walls are made of honey locust trees. There is still space between the trees because their growth has been stunted by the failing of Méadaighs power. There are rooms grown into the tops of the trees that serve as watchtowers and the trees have branches that connect to form walkways.
- The main force of the infantry (~2,400 people) is marching up to the city walls to break through and cause as much kerfuffle and distraction as possible, drawing enemy forces away from the Pale Tree.
- At first, the front of the army is made up of archers, with ranged mages (mages employed to shoot ranged spells) right behind them. They are told when to fire by mental commands from the battalion leader, an NPC named Inadel Lyben. They focus their attacks on those guarding the walls.
- The infantry is mixed with mages providing defensive magic and illusions of soldiers and champions (people with excessive combative and magical abilities that can kill lots of enemies).
- A fire catches in the tops of the honey locust trees. The ranged fighters are told to focus their attacks on anyone trying to prevent the fire. Kist, who is in this part of the army, uses her complacency bomb ability effectively, making the people in the towers floaty and ignorant of their plight.
- There are two airships travelling with the army: The Green Bird, which belongs to Alexandros Phloropoulos, and Finder, which belongs to Mairead de Latte. Both ships are protected from a lot of the ranged attacks by warding magic. The Green Bird uses grappling hooks to tear down two of the honey locust trees and move them out of the way, leaving a breach in the wall large enough for the army to pass through.
- The ranged fighters are commanded to split up and move to either side. The infantry moves forward into the city with shields raised above their heads tetsudo style while ranged fighters continue to bombard those guarding the walls.
- The city consists of supernaturally large trees that have been grown to accommodate dwellings. Some of the trees are connected by bridges (refer to the map). People both civilians and soldiers are flinging projectiles from the trees and bridges.
- Once in the city, the infantry, which was previously about twenty columns wide, fans out to present a wider front, lets say about seventy columns wide. They are met by a force of fae infantry. When Shrista starts doing her magic, everyone will put in their wax or cotton earplugs to prevent being driven insane. (:
- The ranged fighters attach to the back of the army and march into the city. Their role is to attempt to shoot down ranged fighters, for the most part.
- A group of about 100 people is being carried in the airships to go an sabotage the Pale Tree and hopefully capture the position at the top of the hill. Councillor Aniketos Hesperés is on The Green Bird. They have mechanical beetles on board that are made to burrow into the Pale Tree and ignite it with holy fire.
- As the airships pass over the city, those onboard are throwing firepots onto the city, effectively bombing it. There is no need to light the firepots they are enchanted to light a fuse when they fall.
- Aniketos friend Xanthus alerts him that there is movement near the Pale Tree. There are treants guarding the area. Aniketos remarks that if their ships get taken down they will just explode, which would suck for the fae. Also, the mechanical beetles are programmed to find the Pale Tree no matter where they are dropped.
- Aniketos determines that their best bet might be to program some of the mechanical beetles to burrow into the treants and set them on fire so the crew of the ships can get on the ground. This is probably what will happen if no one else intervenes with a better idea. Aniketos goes to talk to Alexandros and I will let Dnan describe this conversation. (:
The two groups banded together seamlessly. Though they had faced separate sufferings, they were united by the singular power of that ever-persistent Sotoan spirit. They all knew in their hearts that this battle, this fight for the fae city and the Pale Tree, would be the last of this war, whether it was won or lost.
Nemetona was nigh. Though it could not be seen through the trees, its presence was felt. It was felt in the rumours of its appearance, which had been brought back by scouts and coursed through the army with increasingly fantastical exaggerations. It was felt in the daily enumerations of the battle plan, which was drilled into every soldiers head so it would become as fixed as their own names. It was seen in the increasing contortions of the now-naked trees, it was heard in the voices that stayed up through the tense nights in low conversation by the fire, it was sensed in the ineffable flavour of the air, which was fated to become lodged in so many minds as a fateful memory.
The night before they marched on the city, Aniketos tumbled into bed late, having stayed up in final discussions of the battle plans and the comforting of worried insomniacs. Exhausted from the days march, from the thought of an early rise in the morning, from so many nights of struggling towards this point, his last thought before he fell asleep was, When this is over, I can finally rest.
In the morning, augurs consulted the flights of birds from the decks of the airships and the haruspices read the entrails of chickens. Under a bright blue sky radiant with white clouds, the oracles pronounced that the auspices were favourable. Now was the time for war. They left behind the camp, they left behind the healers in the woods before they reached walls of the city, they marched forth and left behind the surety of ever returning home.
The army was constantly forced to break ranks by the impediment of the trees, but drumbeats united them in a march. This motley mass of soldiers, mages and civilians sang together as they approached Nemetona: their voices were raised in ballads about victory and glorious sacrifice, about heroes both fallen and triumphant, about the country and the people and the homes they were fighting to protect.
Not everyone sang, of course: Kist didnt, partially because she didnt know the words, partially because her mouth was locked up under the pressure of nerves.
When she had decided to fly out from Reine and catch up with the Sotoan army she had said to Reverie, I am afraid.
Reverie had smiled and said, Then all is as it should be.
It wasnt until now, when she marched through the trees, through the gloaming air, surrounded by hopeful songs and solemn faces, that she understood what Reverie had meant.
It was not for fear of death that she trembled (though now the trees up ahead dwindled and a space could be seen between them, as well as a structure up ahead, still indistinct but nonetheless provoking her heart to racing) she did not fear it but only hoped that any death given her would swift. Even then, all suffering is ephemeral and death its release: this she had learned (though the man to her left had his lip lifted in a frozen expression of anxiety, his dark eyes squinting, sweat gathering on his lanky red neck). No, it was because she loved life (yes, even the trees now aberrantly shedding spiced autumn leaves, even the voice of Méadaigh that had called upon her faery blood since she left Reine, conjuring up images of quiet groves, trickling brooks and jasmine flowers, saying, See this beauty? Is this not what you want? Should I not reign supreme?), she loved life again in all its hatefulness and, though she did not hate death, she did not want to see her beautiful life wasted, spilled out as a libation to Méadaighs victory.
Take my life, she thought (and the sounds of marching pounded in her ears like the beat of her own blood, and she began to see, between helmets and trees, the dark trunks of mighty, spiny honey locusts that surely extended all the way to the heavens), but let it not be in vain.
Kist was positioned towards the front of the army, having been classified as a ranged mage by the Sotoan recruiting officer. She and other ranged mages were stationed behind the archers, where they would try to incapacitate the guards on the walls while the walls were breached. Behind the armoured archers and variously-dressed mages were the several ranks of the infantry, streaming behind in a narrow file like mottled body of a snake. Studding the edges of this ribbon were mages and champions. The former conjured up defensive spells and the illusions of soldiers that inflated the apparent size of the army by about five hundred. These illusions were rudimentary, but detailed enough to seem real from a distance. Kist had observed one nearby it did not blink, its face was blank, but it seemed as real as could be from a distance and was even advanced enough to prevent people from walking through it. The champions, of course, were there to leap to the defense of the infantry and do great damage to the enemy at whatever chance they got.
The goal here was to minimize losses. After all, the job of this portion of the infantry was to distract more than anything, and to make their way up to the peak of Nemetona if all else failed
Kist was carapaced in a shiny black shell: a moulded helmet with flexing mandibles and antennae protected her head, hard elytra lined with grooves lay over her back and the rectangular strips that covered her belly and were burnished with a slight bronze-ish fur. She had taken the essence for this armour from a black beetle she had found living in a decaying log just a few days before. She had a sword that had been given to her by the master of arms, a curved fae scimitar which had once been used by an enemy oread before she died in battle. It came with a round buckler and both were decorated with twining vines and blossoming flowers.
They had now reached the edge of the tree line. As the very front of the army stepped out into the open space before the city Kist said to the person to her right (whose face she had hardly registered), Now it is time. Best of luck, comrade. The bravery she forced into her voice made her feel just a little bit stronger; she just hoped it did the same for the one to whom she spoke.
A moment later they left the cover of the trees. The full appearance of Nemetona hit her like a physical force. Straight ahead, after a gap of a hundred feet or so, rose the imposing honey locust walls they had been told about. They were taller even than the walls of Reine and great spiny extensions grew from their trunks like terrible, clawed hands, reaching for each other from trunk to trunk. The thorns did not meet as they were supposed to; the wall was unfinished. Kist could tell before she even saw the yellowing of the trees leaves that something was wrong. She could feel, by virtue of her fae blood, the slow death creeping over these vast creations, the mycelium seeping into their weakened flesh. The trees had been grown too fast, their wood was soft and spongy and full of space for fungus to grow, and the wetness of the soil and the lessening of Méadaighs power had primed them for infection and destruction.
Behind the failed wall of honey locusts rose the city, scrambling up the sacred hill. The tops of the trees were verdant in places, balding in others, but the mighty Pale Tree remained as seemingly healthy as ever, its lavender crown towering up to the heavens.
Kist just had time to take all this in before she noticed that a cry was rising up from the walls. Grown into the structure of the honey locusts were watchtower rooms, which were held in the trunks of the trees like great pregnant bellies. Through the windows there could be seen archers and mages, already leaping to the attack and sounding out alarm cries. The branches of the trees were grown together into broad walkways, which also bristled with activity.
As the beating of Sotoan drums accelerated, the fae readied themselves and then loosed a round of spells and arrows. Kist heard something go whizzing by her head and then go tunk! into a shield behind her. At the mental command of their battalion leader, Inadel Lyben, the archers knocked their arrows and the mages drew up their power with a collective crackling of the air. Kist drew in a breath and summoned herself. Then, with a flick of her arm, in concert with the others, she released it. The silvery dart that flew from her fingertips was lost among the arrows and spells that flew forth.
That man who slumped down over the window of the watchtower and fell to the earth was that her doing? There was no time to think of it, for another volley of arrows and spells came their way and the man to her left fell with a cry. No time to think about that either another command came like clockwork and Kist flicked out another dart. All this while the army marched forward, parting slightly around the fallen, allowing space for the runners that came to take the wounded back to the healing tents.
Some spell took light in the branches of a honey locust tree and the drying leaves quickly caught alight. The fae strived to put it out with spells. A mental command drew the armys attention to this occurrence. Stop them, it said. Obediently, Kist pushed the magic up from her guts, up her throat and into the air. A ball of blue light shot across the distance and, to her surprise, it hit, dousing the the fae in complacency. Many floated idly, dreamily, uncaring of the fire that ate its way through the branches above them.
But now a mighty shape passed across the morning sky in eerie silence: the airship of Alexandros Phloropoulos, The Green Bird. The sight of it was so improbable that for a moment she felt as if she was seeing a mountain in flight. A volley of arrows and spells was launched at the ship, but they were largely deflected. This was answered by a returning volley, mustered from the ground and from the decks of the ship. What glory! and yet what horror! The fire had grown and people were trying to escape by the walkways, and Kist watched as some pushed each other off in their frenzy to get away,
The airship positioned itself above the tree directly before them now but thirty feet away and dropped grappling hooks into its branches. While they marched forth, while they shot out volley after volley, while Kist stumbled over one of the massive roots that dissected the ground, The Green Bird carefully positioned its hooks. Then it moved inwards towards the city. The ropes pulled taut, straining colossally. The ship was stuck in place for a moment. Then it lurched forward, the tree teetered, then all at once it tipped and fell with a CRASH! that shook the earth under Kists feet. A cheer rose from the Sotoan army; Kist joined, but raggedly. The tree was dragged out of the way, its broken roots mightily gouging the earth. No doubt a dozen souls had fallen with the tree. Have they died? Kist wondered, scraping together more magic at the behest of another command.
Before long another tree was felled, but this time the fae within had the werewithal to evacuate it quickly. With this work done, The Green Bird disengaged itself, rose imperiously above the level of the trees and abruptly sped off over the city. The silhouette of another ship passed above them shortly thereafter: a silently-sailing three-master that was captained by one Mairead de Latte. It flew far above the battle, deflecting a rain of arrows, and followed The Green Bird over the city without any further engagement.
The ships left behind a large gap in the wall at least fifty feet wide, though lined on either side with dangerous spikes. The drums picked up their pace and the army surged towards the gap. At several terse commands, the battalion of archers and ranged mages split in two and peeled off to the sides, parting like curtains to allow the infantry to come through. Kist went with the battalion that veered to the right. While they concentrated their efforts on those in the watchtowers, the infantry poured through the breach in the wall, their various shields raised above their heads to provide a motley defense against the enemys projectiles.
Now that she was no longer marching, but standing in place and firing off spell after spell, Kist finally began to tremble at the knees. The fire had spread to another tree and the frenzied cries of those trying to escape or fight the fire could be heard even over the roar of the flames and the sounds of battle from within the city. Some mage was manipulating a thread of water from who knew what source into a shimmering snake that plunged its head into the flames. Kist caught sight of the mage leaning absurdly out of a window, twisted about and waving her arms, her face red from the flames. Just then announcement went out from the battalion commander: Stop her!
Kist drew on her magic. Another volley of arrows fell. When it hit the shields of the passing infantry it sounded almost like rain. The spell was forming in her throat and she wondered Will I live to hear the rain on a roof ever again, to be safe and cozy and well? If I live will I ever be able to enjoy anything again?
Even as she thought it, the woman next to her fell, struck by some spell that caused her to seize and convulse and spit, her eyes wide and unseeing with pain. Kist wished to speak but the spell ballooned from her lips instead. She pummeled it through the air with her mind, along with the host of spells and arrows all aimed for that one mage. Kist dropped to help the fallen woman, but even as she did the last motions left her and her glassy eyes reflected the sky.
Kist stood again, already frantically pawing at more magic. Then she saw the mage who had been fighting the fire. Kists spell had struck true and so had half a dozen arrows the woman floated above the battle, her face dazed with a complacent smile, arrows bristling from her body and blood raining from her wounds onto the furor below.
Kists gaze travelled. She saw the back ranks of the infantry marching through the breach. In the spiny gaps between the honey locusts she saw the city of Nemetona: the dwellings grown elegantly into the trees, the twining branches that served as bridges between them and all those perched there, flinging whatever they had spells, arrows, stones. She saw the disorder of falling soldiers, the ranks peppered with holes and the signs of a fight up ahead. As planned, the infantry had fanned out to present a wider front for the enemy, and from that wide front rose the sounds of clashing arms and shouting. The Sotoan banner waved in the gloom under the trees, the emblem of the golden oak shining like a beacon.
The command came; Kist obeyed. The archers and ranged mages fell in with the back of the infantry and, still firing away, they entered the city of Nemetona.
Far above, Councillor Aniketos Hesperés toiled with the rest of them. Crates were strewn across the deck of The Green Bird, and many of the fifty or so souls onboard were occupied with the task of bombing the city. They removed little clay balls from the crates and dropped them overboard. Each firepot ruptured into flame below. Both airships, which flew slightly divergent courses, left a trail of destruction behind them as they progressed towards the top of the hill.
There wasnt much talking aboard; each person was caught up in their routine. Bend over the crate, carefully remove the firepot, hoist its weight and pitch it over the railing. Aniketos felt that he was in some sort of trance, which was only broken when he and the person next to him finished off their crate of firepots. Aniketos straightened up and stared towards the Pale Tree, which tossed its branches slightly in the wind. Now that he had a moment away from labour he had time to think, to truly feel.
His shadow shapes showed him the progress of the battle the infantry fanning out to face the enemy, the fires lit across the tops of the trees, Shrista working her magic to turn still air into gales. They had tried to show him what dangers ringed the Pale Tree, but something had swatted them out of the air, leaving Aniketos in the blind.
He stared towards the top of the hill, trying to make something out, but the ship was still at a low altitude so he could not see over the tops of the rest of the trees. As he took it all in he felt as if a boot kicked him swiftly in the stomach. This is happening. Combined elation and terror made him feel ill, yet he smiled at the stiff slap of the wind, the reality of the forested air he breathed, the light tossing of the ship under his feet. After a year of this shit were finally here.
He turned to to the person nearest him, the one he had shared the crate of firepots with. He laughed almost deliriously, for he was tired and heart-thuddingly nervous and said, Can you believe this?
Even so, as he turned to face the Pale Tree once more, tucking a loose curl under his helmet to keep it out of his eyes, he felt a gloaming arise in his heart. Méadaigh was here somewhere, perhaps she even waited for them in the Pale Tree. Wherever she was, he could feel her call, floating to his mind like a scent on the breeze. She had met him once in the forests of his dreams, in another world where her reign made the earth beautiful. She had touched his face with her hand, she had demonstrated to him her love and longing. Even now, as he sailed forth to rain perdition upon her, he doubted that it was the right thing.
Why not invite her in? Why not let her win?
Another crate was thudded between them. Aniketos scolded those who carried it Be careful with, those things are dangerous you know! even as he bent down to grasp at a firepot.
Would the world not prosper with me at her side?
He pivoted to drop the firepot over the railing. He did as he always had when smitten with these pangs of longing: he brought to mind the dead left in the streets of Madrid, the gaunt faces staring up from Reinean alleyways, the fragile bodies hauled into mass graves, the famished digging roots out of Dramos Park and so on, and so on
Several minutes later, Xanthus rushed across the deck and grabbed Aniketos shoulder. He pointed towards the crest of the hill. What is happening over there?
The treetops seemed to be moving around the peak of the hill. Yet Aniketos knew that no trees grew so close to the Pale Tree. Treants, he proclaimed grimly. A harsh laugh cut from his lungs. Well, if they want to bring this ship down on their own heads be it. Theyll ignite a conflagration thatll be seen from the moon. And the beetles the beetles will know where to go.
Even so, he dropped the firepot that was in his hand and told Xanthus, We will have to divert some of our resources. The beetles can take down the treants as well, I am sure. Ill go talk to Alexandros. Then, as he walked off he added, If they bring us down at least well go out with a bang. He laughed sardonically and went to tell Alexandros his plan.
- [+] Spoiler
- Magic: Carapace With this spell Kist can generate insect-like plate armour over her body. To do this, Kist must have a source of "essence" (truly DNA) from any insect. The carapace thus generated will imitate the appearance of the insect so if she uses a scarab beetle, she will be covered in iridescent plate, but if she uses a luna moth she will be covered in a warm fur. The susceptibility of this plate to attack is dependent on the type of insect she uses so obviously the moth-based carapace will be flimsier than that of the scarab beetle but at its strongest can be as resilient as chain mail. The carapace is generated from external sources of organic matter (e.g. leaves, twigs, dead animals) so Kist cannot use this spell if there is not enough organic matter within a fifty foot radius of herself, e.g. if she is in a bare stone room. She also obviously cannot do it without a source insect (which is completely consumed over the course of this spell.)
- Magic: Dart Kist generates a silvery dart, about five inches long, which will fly like an arrow at a target. These darts dissolve upon striking a physical object and are enchanted to home in on body heat. They are good at punching through armour, and even when presented with full plate armour they may at least go so far as to break skin. However, due to their short length, they do not penetrate far into the body and will not always kill their target unless they strike something important like an artery. Kist can generate about twenty of these every four hours.
- Spell: Complacency Bomb Kist has the ability to disgorge from her mouth a viscous/jelly-like glowing blue substance which originates from the Provider's magic. This can be flung mentally or physically at a person or group of close-standing people, whereupon it will suddenly dissolve into them before hitting them. The effect of this is sudden pacification and floatiness. The target will become suddenly calm and content and will also lose their ability to stay on the ground, leaving them to drift about complacently for up to 5 minutes. If she tries, Kist can reduce the complacency effect and simply gift a person the momentary ability to fly and a general mood lift. Targets that are very determined, very afraid or in a berserk-like state are harder to affect, as are those with abilities for mental defences. Wards/shields/defences/spells against magic will entirely block the substance. Using this ability significantly reduces her ability to use the Provider's Presence ability and anything else originating from the Provider's magic.
No active abilities yet, so here is a list of his passive abilities for future reference.
- Magic: Ward II [Upgrade] A magical shield surrounds Aniketos and can protect him from a fair bit of harm. This is accomplished by blocking objects moving at a certain speed towards Aniketos' body (anything above roughly 10 mph, which is about the speed of a punch)- objects/blows heading quickly towards his body will simply seem to bounce off without causing harm. It now takes about ~15 normal blows with a weapon/~10 powerful blows with a weapon to degrade his ward to the point where one can take shots at his body. It takes Aniketos up to 24 hours to fully recharge his ward (time depends on the amount of damage done).
The ward does not defend against gusts of air, direct magical attacks, energy attacks (ie. fire, electricity) and objects enchanted to pass through down wards. There exist spells and enchantments that can break a ward, but as this is an advanced ability, simple-level enchantments will have no effect, intermediate-level enchantments will degrade it by 25-50% and advanced abilities will degrade it by 50-70%
Since the wards protect against things moving at a certain speed, there are certain odd side effects. For example, heavy rain will slide harmlessly off the ward without touching Aniketos, keeping him looking nice and fresh in bad weather. If someone were to jump on him to hug him/fling themselves at him in a lustful frenzy, they might just bounce off awkwardly. If Aniketos falls off something and is going too fast, he will bounce a bit before making contact with the ground and thus be protected from harm.
- Summon: Shadow Shapes Aniketos can summon beings apparently formed of solid shadows. These beings take mental instructions from him and can last indefinitely, though with a minor energy drain from Aniketos (enough to make him a bit more tired than usual but not completely debilitating.) These creatures can take just about any shape and can shift, combine, split, etc. as necessary, though the total mass of the summoned creature(s) is limited to the mass of an average man.
The shadow shapes can move through darkness undetected, they can carry things and engage in fighting to an extent. They take only a little damage before dissipating, usually about 3-5 blows, and so if Aniketos uses them for fighting, he tends to use them as ranged attackers. The shadow shapes can make weapons from their own bodies, including arrows, which dissipate in a minute (may be worrisome for those who have been struck as this allows for a free flow of blood). In the case of arrows, each arrow slightly diminishes the size of the shadow shape. Shadow shapes have no magical capabilities other than changing their form, and they don't think independently or make noise.
More often, Aniketos uses these as spies or messengers, for they can move quickly and undetectably.
- Inspiring Presence Aniketos is, of course, a natural leader- there is something about his oratory abilities, his appearance, his fame and/or his confidence that tends to make people strive to perform better. Thus, when leading a group of people in an activity (such as a fight), Aniketos tends to increase their moral, upping each individual's efficiency and fighting strength by up to 25%, even up to 50% for those who like him or who are Sotoan patriots. Of course, if an individual doesn't like Aniketos or just doesn't have the kind of personality that's affected by the actions of others etc., they won't be affected as much.
- Ward: Magic Resistance Over time, Aniketos has improved his wards so that the help to protect him from magic as well. Thus, simple-level spells/enchantments will not affect him at all, intermediate-level spells/enchantments will be 50-25% less effective and advanced level spells/enchantments will be up to 25% less effective (though many are likely to bypass the ward entirely). Even so, as with his ward against physical attacks, this ward can be worn down over time and can be broken down by 10-15 hits from offensive simple level spells, 5-10 hits from intermediate ones and up to 5 hits from advanced ones. This ward is separate from the one against physical attacks, so some interesting situations may occur. For example, if his normal ward is broken but his magic one is not, an object that has been enchanted may still hit him but the magic won't affect him. These protections do not keep Aniketos safe from non-magical fire, lightning and other forms of energy but if these are magical, he will be safe. Normally, the ward will also hinder healing spells, but he can drop them at will if need be. When damaged, the ward will take up to a day to return to full strength.