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Baja Stratics News: "The Revenge of the Scythians" by WarderDragon

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Babbling Loonie
Stratics Veteran
Stratics Legend
Originally posted August 5th, 2009.

The Revenge of the Scythians: Chapters 1 & 2

The Revenge of the Scythians: Chapter 3

Chapter 1: The Battle of Northern Dawn & Darkmor Keep

On Saturday, July 25th, The King of Britannia summoned his subjects and loyal followers to witness the public beheading of Lady Aino Nystad, the disgraced former Captain of the Royal Guard and Commander of the Town Watch of the City of Britain.

The actions of Aino Nystad are a capital offense. As such, her punishment will also be capital. With a heavy heart, I announce that less than a week from now, Aino Nystad – the shamed captain of the guards – will be executed.

Once again, the unpopular foreign despot seemed poised to make an example out of one of our own. Casca would use the execution to strike fear and self-doubt into the hearts and minds of his detractors, both Britannian and Sosarian alike, while feeding into his own misguided paranoia.

People like Aino Nystad must pay a heavy price for their actions. If there was ever another amongst us that had plans for similar machinations, then they would look back to this day and be discouraged.

The citizens and representatives of a number of Britannian villages and Sosarian city-states arrived to watch in disgust and horror as someone whom they had come to respect and admire was being dragged unceremoniously through the mud to the executioners block, the spectators helpless to stop Lord Casca's evil charade or to do anything to help the beleagured woman. Or were they? Oriana, Lady Governess of Heaven's Forge, flung herself at one of the Royal Guardsmen, but was shoved back into the crowd. Also in attendance, standing in open defiance against the Britannian crown even on Britannian soil, was Lady Wildstar of Dawn and Lady Cymidei Fier of Wind, both warning Casca of the consequences of his actions, much to the elven monarchs chagrin.

But were they so helpless to stop this paranoid scheme? Or was this defiant spectacle merely the precursor to something more? As the former captain was marched to the guillotine, several noticed in awe the strange dark dress that she wore. Although it was not unlike the simple but elegant dresses that she was known for wearing, the shadowy cloth was a sharp contrast to the bright colors that many were accustomed to seeing her wear. And to the sorcerers and thaumaturgists that stood in attendance, it seemed as though the mana was being sapped from the very air surrounding her, properties that belonged to only one substance: Blackrock.

As she was forced down onto her knees before the chopping block, Aino smiled defiantly at the elven king. Casca asked her if she had any last words for him, to which her response was threefold: "Kal Ort Por." The anti-magus barrier that surrounded her shattered with a loud and deafening crack, and when the spectators regained their senses, Aino was gone. Operation Royal Flush had struck again.

Casca howled in outrage, clawing at his elven shirt and shrieking that the War between Britannia and the Sosarians would end now. A flash erupted, briefly blinding the gathered audience. When the haze lifted from their eyes, Nosfentor the Shadowlord stood in Lord Casca's place. Without a moment of hesitation, the battle-hardened and well-trained Town Guards, who had suspected trouble, drew their weapons and lept into action, leading their brave friends and old rivals into battle. Dawnite Knights of the Blue Rose and Red Caps, Necromancers of the Dark Tower and Priests of the Holy Light, Spawners and Keepers of the Dark Moon, setting aside old rivalries to launch themselves at the Shadowlord, who summoned an army of warriors and controllers to her aid.

When the dust had settled in the wake of the ensuing battle, those gathered realized with sudden and ominous horror that the execution itself had been a ruse, meant to draw them away from their homes and villages. The Independant Kingdoms themselves had been left unguarded and defenseless. Lady Wildstar shouted that Dawn had come under attack. The mages wasted little time, opening gates and magical doors to the Realm of the Blue Rose, leaving behind a smoking battlefield and the charred remains of countless mercenaries and a single fallen Shadowlord in their wake.

The Battle of Northern Dawn, as it came to be known later that evening, raged for more than two hours. Tokuno mercenaries and Chaos dragoons flooded the Northern City and the Hordelands, while leaving Southern Dawn relatively unscathed. Although many near-deaths would occur that evening, the healers were quick to drag the injured to safety and revive the fallen.

But just as they thought they finally had the upper hand, yet another Shadowlord emerged in their midsts. Astaroth, the Shadowlord of Hatred. This time though, it did not catch the defenders off-guard. Xel the Wanderer and Nicholas the Old launched themselves towards the creature, armed with the same volatile substance that had saved Aino earlier that day.

"Vas Kal An Mani In Corp Hur Tym!"

The resulting explosions sent shockwaves through the northern hills, leveling trees and small buildings on the Rouvale Peninsula as the Old Priest and the Lord of the Ivory Throne destroyed the Shadowlord's magical defenses, leaving the Dark One bare and vulnerable to the defenders who quickly swarmed around it, using every ounce of their magical prowess to fell the ancient evil. The mercenary army fell soon after the defeat of the Shadowlord and their Captain.

The defenders, bruised, battered, and beaten, had thought they had won the day, but at what cost? The Duchess of Dawn and the Mistress of the Dark Tower were no where to be seen, leading some to worry that the two Scythian leaders might have fallen in battle.

They had only just begun to collect their weapons and inspect the bodies of the fallen for clues of Casca's plans, when the very air began to crackle to life in the midsts, revealing another magical blue portal. From it a sorcerer emerged, announcing in a hurried voice that the Barony of Darkmor had nearly fallen to Casca's mercenary horde.

Worn and exhausted from the previous clash, the defenders forced still found the strength to limp through the gates provided for them, completely unprepared for the sudden onslaught that would await them there. Countless mercenaries swarmed around them as they emerged in from the portals, cutting down man and woman indiscriminately as they stepped into the Covian Woods. But after minutes of intense fighting, the defenders managed to push the Zentoese soldiers back to their own dark portal.

The defenders - Knights of the Royal Flush and members of the Scythian Covenant, the Cartel, the Spawners, and many others - engaged the mercenary captain, a powerful foe that seemed to be impervious to most attacks, and capable of hurling spheres of pure elemental energy at the defenders. Only by cutting off the head of the army could they ever hope to crush the army that swelled through the dark portal into the Covian Woods.

The Captain and his hordes used a noxious gas to choke the defenders, causing many unsuspecting souls to fall to the strange and choking poison. Only the quick thinking of several healers prevented a full-scale retreat from Baron Darkmor's hold.

He would shout to the defenders, taunting them by name, as though he knew them personally.

But healers from the previous battle arrived through the gates, and began tending to the fallen warriors at the steps of Baron Darkmor's Keep. Over time, even the Mercenary Captain found his strength failing him, and when he showed the first signs of weakness, the defenders struck hard and fast. By the time he had fallen, the arrows that riddled the mans corpse, if he could be called a man, left him nearly unrecognizable.

When the dust once again had settled, the defenders expected another attack, but the sorcerers discovered that the four remaining realms had been left untouched and unharmed. The Town Guards quickly returned to Britain in secret, while the Knights of the Blue Rose and the Order of the Crimson Staff returned to Dawn to re-enforce its holdings. The Captains remains were hung from the walls of Darkmor Keep, a warning to any who might strike at the Barons lands.

All knew that, should another strike of that magnitude land again, no one would have the manpower to push it back. Only by stopping these attacks before they could be launched could the Independent kingdoms be saved. It was determined that a counter-attack must occur, and that is when the King of Thieves knew it was time to throw his support behind Operation Royal Flush, and end the War of Many Nations once and for all.


Babbling Loonie
Stratics Veteran
Stratics Legend
Chapter 2: Operation Royal Flush Strikes Back

After a series of climactic sieges that left parts of Northern Dawn in flames and the Barony of Darkmor covered ankle deep in the blood of Zentoese mercenaries, it became abundantly clear to both the surviving members of Operation Royal Flush and the Scythian Delegation that they could no longer simply repel the attacks against their sovereign states if they hoped to overcome Britannia and win this gruesome war of attrition.

The constant incursions into their lands had left realms such as Dawn and Scythe dangerously taxed. And to add to their growing list of troubles, the Britannian armada would soon be returning from Tokuno. Although the sieges had managed to briefly unite old enemies and long-time rivals into two separate, powerful coalitions not seen since the days of Juo'nar and the Grand Alliance of Britannia, a battle of that scale waged against the combined forces of the Britannian army and the Zentoese condoterri they had already been forced to fight was not a possibility that either the Scythians or Operation Royal Flush wished to entertain.

If that was not enough to convince them of the necessity of action, The Shadowlords had once again made their prescence known to the world. Although the Dark Ones were no longer seen as impervious to assault, one having been had its barrier stripped away by Xel the Wanderer in the Siege of Northern Dawn, only the most skilled of warriors and powerful of draconians could hope to stand toe-to-toe with these mighty revenants and wak away intact. And the blackrock used to defeat the shadowy terrors was growing scarce, the known veins having gone dry.

But the worst news of all came with the revelation of a secret pact between the two enemies of the coalitions. The Dark Tower's suspicions had been confirmed with the appearance of Nosfentor in Yew and Astaroth in Dawn. Casca was in league with the Shadowlords. Of that, there could be little doubt.

It was during these most ominous of times that a rumor began spreading. A rumor designed to reach the ears of those few Independents who might strike back against the elven despot and the Shadowlords themselves. The Legendary King of Thieves, who had previously aided the brief alliance of independent merchants and traders against Gideon, was not prepared to offer his services to the Sosarians. On Sunday, he would reveal the way to the mercenaries secret lair. Operation Royal Flush prepared their weapons, gathered what remaining blackrock they could find, and readied themselves for a fight that would determine the fare of all, for better or for worse.

The Scythians spread the word to their own warriors. On Sunday, the hammer would drop. The !!!!!!! elf wouldn't know what hit him.

As the sun reached its noon-day peak in the cerulean skies above, members of the Cartel, the Spawning Companies, Operation Royal Flush, and the Scythians gathered around the moongate of Old Trinsic, where the password to the Feluccian lair was revealed to them.

"CascatheGreat," they mouthed with contempt and hatred in their voice. One by one, the defenders were wisked away to the secret underground lair of Casca's mercenary horde.

And that is when all hell broke loose.

As darkness fell over the eyes of the Sosarians, a cacophony of noise and the screams of the dying filled the invaders ears. Was it the mercenaries? No. In the confusion, the Sosarians realized that they were not being attacked by a legion of angry mercenary guards, but by their own companions. A traitor was in their midst. The Cartel.

The fighting intensified for several long minutes as the band of perverse thrill seekers and uncouth ruffians clashed with the Spawners and the Scythian Lords, leaving some to question who was truly on whose side. Was it betrayal? Or was it some curse of the Shadowlords like the one that had plagued the cities last Winter? Old Rivalries, perhaps? Or simply the desire for personal fame and vain glory? Whatever the reason, it became abundantly clear to the Operation that the Cartel was not on their side.

The mercenaries themselves wasted no time, gathering their weapons and launching themselves at the divided armada. The Sosarians did not realize how close they had come to defeat until defeat was almost upon them.

While the fighting raged around them, three solitary individuals used the distraction to their advantage. They knew their purpose, and no amount of betrayal or infighting would prevent them from saving the Independents from certain doom.

Shadow, the Sphinx of the Britain Town Guard, and Lady Cymidei Fier of Wind split from the main battle, each rushing into the depths of the mercenaries lair, seeking the rooms that contained the black portals. The Sphinx melded with the shadows, creeping around the blackrock engineers and their clockwork creations until she discovered the Black Portal that led to Darkmor's Keep. Quickly, she took to the controls, and activated the mechanism that would lead to the gates destruction. Shadow did the same, discovering the gate to Avalon hidden in a similar room. Cymidei Fier on the other hand chose a different tactic, cutting down any who stood in her way as she and her followers entered the third room, setting the strange advanced mechanism to self-destruct.

Meanwhile, The Cartel realized that it was long past time that they ended this troublesome siege upon their sacred isle. A small contingent of the band of pirates and ruffians broke away from the main fighting, and hacked their way into the western room, discovering none other than the gate to Cartel Island.

A moment later, an explosion caught the attension of the fighting groups, knocking everyone from their feet. The Gate to Horseshoe Island was destroyed.

While the Black Gates had been shattered and their mission was complete, Casca's mercenaries were far from defeated. They regrouped after having initially been pushed back, and now under the command of an awakened mercenary commander, they launched themselves at the divided attackers. Still, the various factions continued to focus on killing one another, even while the mercenaries assailed their flanks.

The Spawners regained control of the entrance for a short while, allowing Operation Royal Flush to engage the Commander. But it would not be long before the Cartel would regroup and take the entrance. They wanted the Commanders head, and were willing to slaughter any who stood in their way.

The Commander revealed himself to be a deadly foe, nearly impervious to most forms of assault. While he looked in every way like a man, the monster devoured the bodies of the fallen in gluttonous rage, replenishing his own life by cannibalizing the remains of others. This made him a nearly unstoppable foe.

The battle raged for several hours, control frequently being traded back and fourth between the Spawners, the Cartel, and the Mercenary armada. The injured dragged themselves through a magical door that had been prepared by one of the Sosarians, leading them to a hospital and makeshift aid station in the City of Moonglow.

But even that was not to last, as Knights dressed in the colors of the True Britannian faction arrived. To everyones suprise, they began to hack down those who had emerged from the gate seeking healing, and executing the few clerics and sorcerers who had chosen to remain in Moonglow to tend to the wounded. Had the faithful servants of Cantabrigian British fallen into brigandry and darkness as well?

The battle did not end for many hours. It is believed that the Spawners, having briefly secured the entrance from the Cartel, managed to defeat the mercenaries and the commander. But it wouldn't be long before the Cartel would return yet again. As the survivors retreated through the gate into Moonglow, the clash resumed, quickly taken to the streets as members of the various orders began to seek revenge upon one another.

While countless many had fallen in battle, and their loyalties to one another were now uncertain, one thing remained clear: The Black Gates had been destroyed. Casca's forces in Felucca had been defeated, and he could no longer use the Dark Portals to bypass the defenses of the Independents and enter directly into the heart of the Independent Kingdoms.


Babbling Loonie
Stratics Veteran
Stratics Legend
Chapter 3: The Path of Nightmares

As the last evanescent rays of amber light dipped beneath the western horizon, and the crimson sickle of the Feluccian moon arose to take its hallowed place, a mournful silence descended upon the lips of those brave few and bloodied souls, who by some trick of Tyche or by the blessing of the Holy Light, had managed to survive that days betrayal and the merciless horrors that followed.

The Battle of the Black Gates. Yes, that is what the chroniclers shall one day call it. Old men, centuries from now, who know nothing of its glory or its sorrows, for such words can never truly describe the evils done that day.

The Order of the Royal Flush, as the rebellion against the tyrant king had come to be known, was now broken by whispers of betrayal and divided amongst its various factions and orders. Where was the Grand Alliance that had bravely stood against the Shadowlords themselves? But there they gathered, a handful of bloodstained and battered survivors, at the J'helom moongate in Trammel. There to await the King of Thieves. There to await the location of their next battle.

They would break Casca's mercenary horde. Or they would die trying.

Nicholas, the one called The Old, closed his eyes as he stepped through the blue portal, summoning to his mind an image of J'helom. A moment later, there he stood amongst them, his wolflike eyes watching the battered knights and weary sorcerers that surrounded him.

Before him stood a disorganized band of mercenary knights and adventuring companies, the badges and banners of their various orders catching the breeze that lifted off the sea. To his left, he saw old friends and allies. Lady Wildstar, surrounded by Knights of the Blue Rose. Lady Drusilla, and others. Soviet Knuckle loaded a bolt into his crossbow. To his right, mounted on her black charger, was Cymidei Fier, flanked by members of her own order. Never was there a more villanous looking woman, he thought to himself as he stepped towards Wildstar and Drusilla.

The Widow appeared first, stepping from the gate amongst the crowd. Lady Fahnzjell British, who according to her own accounts, was the wife of Lord Cantabrigian. Although there were skeptics, the Scythian Bretheren and the True Sosarians had chosen to back her claim. She offered a few words of support to the weary men and women who stood there, rousing them with portents of victory. While few doubted the foresight of Lady British, few could imagine taking victory this day.

And it was then that Talus appeared to them.

Talus stepped from the azure portal, where Nicholas the Old and the Widow had stepped from only moments before. The man, an unimposing figure garbed in an ebon shroud, announced that he had been sent by the Thief Master and had discovered the secret lair of Casca's second army.

"I will meet you at the Gate of Minoc," he announced, disappearing through the portal from whence he came. The Order of the Royal Flush, and their various allies and companions, followed him.

A moment later, they emerged one by one in the forests west of Vesper. The Windemere, the natives call it.

Talus awaited them as they streamed through the portal into the circle of stones, and readied their weapons for battle.

"Casca has sealed this door with another password," Talus announced. "I think you know it. It is the name of Casca's favorite pet."

"Trubo," someone jeered, sending bellows of laughter throughout the crowd.

"Close," he replied with a smile.

"Bar? Bartal?" Proserpina looked to Asimov. "Oh, Bartalbe!" She clapped her hands together, bouncing excitedly.

Lord Asimov, known to some as the Cabal of Death, stepped towards the blue door. "Bartalbe," he mouthed with contempt.

The azure portal shifted before their very eyes, turning dark, revealing a crumbling stone staircase that wound into the black abyss below. The Cabal smiled, shifting his gaze to the Old Priest, his Mistress, and then to his young Apprentice. "I will be right back," he hissed.

The Dryad stepped through the portal into the darkness below. They watched as he descended the crumbling stairs, swallowed by the blackness.

"Master?" his apprentice called after him. Nothing. They waited another moment.

"This is bad," a voice finally answered from the darkness. An explosion erupted in the darkness beneath them, sending a section of the ancient stair collapsing into the sea of black beneath them. The Cabal backed up the steps, his twin swords drawn. He swung, beheading a Controller, only to have another step forward to take its place, lashing out at the necromancer. A fireball launched over his head, whistling up through the portal before erupting in a shower of sparks and embers into the skies above.

Asimov fell back through the portal into the crowd, acrid smoke rising from his armor.

"You were saying," Nicholas replied, murmuring the words to a healing spell.

"Kill them all," a feminine voice hissed from behind them. Together, The Knights of the Royal Flush and the Scythians descended into the darkness below.

They emerged in a crowded antechamber, surrounded by Mercenary Ninja's and Fan Dancers. The warriors went to work, hacking and slashing at any who stood in their way. A few immidiately made for the door.

Two men began hammering their maces into the door, attempting to break the lock that held it closed.

Mama Faith heard voices on the other side. "Do NOT open that door," she shrieked.

But it was too late.

The door swung open with a loud, thunderous crack. The Controllers, Casca's mercenary wizards, began swarming into the hall. Before anyone realized what had happened, lightning rained down from the cealing above, striking down the combatants below.

"Get the dragons back, you fools," Sleath shouted, beheading a mercenary ronin with one clean swipe. "You'll get us all killed."

The Dragons, who had followed their human masters into the battle, seemed to be setting off some sort of anti-draconian mechanism, causing even more lightning to rain down upon them. The bodies of the mighty lizards began collecting at the door.

Nicholas gazed up at the cealing in confusion, a streak of blood running down his forehead. A bolt of lightning had exploded nearby, he remembered, and he had been thrown to the wall and knocked unconcious.

As he looked up, a man in a dark robe stood over him.

"I can heal you," the man smiled. "But it will cost you."

"You've got to be blinkin' kidding me," the old man groaned.

After several moments of intense fighting, The Knights of the Royal Flush watched in amazement as the few surviving ronin retreated through the doors into the darkness. They quickly gathered their weapons, knowing they only had moments before the retreating ronin would warn their masters. The gift of suprise was no longer on their side.

"Ladies," Xel grinned, stepping towards the shattered doorway. "It's been a real pleasure knowing each and every one of you." The Wanderer winked at the Duchess of Dawn, and then at Cymidei Fier. "I expect a sixty-nine gun salute at my funeral."

The Legendary Wanderer reached beneath his cloak, producing two bottles of Sake. Quickly, he bit off the caps, guzzling down the contents. When he was done, he wiped his chin, and lept into the darkness.

Malthonion looked to Lorenzo. "I think I just saw his forearms grow to the size of tree trunks," he mouthed in amazement. "And what the hell is a gun?" The other just shrugged in confusion.

"What a man," one lady breathed, fanning herself.

The Knights of the Royal Flush lept after the Wanderer, charging down the corridor and into the merciless hordes that awaited them.

After what seemed like hours to some, mere moments to others, the bodies of hundreds lay strewn throughout the Halls of the Mercenary Horde. An ankle deep river of their crimson blood snaked languidly amongst the scattered remains and dismembered parts of Casca's personal army.

It beckoned to them. Follow me.

Nicholas gripped his two blood-stained katanas, his eyes seeming to flicker red in the darkness for a moment. There he found them. Asimov, Sleath, Cymidei, Proserpina, and several of who he did not recognize. They were at the controls of a strange, complex panel with glowing buttons and strange switches and levers.

The Old Priest ground his teeth as he sheathed his blades, watching as his old enemies worked the strange device.

A massive, dark crystal rest atop the controls, three black cables snaking their way down from the device to a glowing projector. And atop his projector, hovering in the darkness, was a portal. It was not unlike the moongates of the Britannians, but this one seemed strange to the eye, as though it consumed the light itself.

Nicholas gazed through the portal, a familiar woodland visible on the other side. The Village of Scythe, a small community of hovels and lean-tos surrounding the infamous Dark Tower.

"Here," Asimov hissed, shoving someone out of the way. The necromancers patience had worn thin. He laid his hand on the machine, closing his eyes. The transluscent crystal began to shake, a crack running up its surface. A series of clicks and snaps rang out in the darkness, as the portal began to implode upon itself. Without warning, an explosion sent the gathered, including the necromancer, reeling backwards.

When the dust had settled, they pushed themselves to their feet, the wind knocked out of them. The Black Portal leading to Scythe was gone, only the shattered remains of the crystal standing where the machine once stood.

It was now time to end the Siege on Heaven's Forge.

They hacked their way through the defenders, visiting upon them the same cup of sorrows they had delivered upon the helpless peasants and gypsies of Dawn only a month before.

Vengance was theirs, and oh how sweet it tasted.

The Oracle appeared in their midsts, watching silently from the shadows as the Knights of the Royal Flush and their Scythian Bretheren burst into the Control Room of Heaven's Forge.

The Knights wearily summoned the last of their strength. One by one, they began working the complex machine, pressing buttons, pulling levers, seeking the key that would lead to the clockwork monstrosities destruction and end this evil war.

The Portal to Heaven's Forge finally collapsed, sending shockwaves throughout the ancient corridor.

When the dust settled, the Knights stood. They laughed together. They cried together. They embraced one another, having snatched victory from the jaws of certain defeat.

But as they celebrated their victory, they never noticed the echos that reverberated throughout the halls, or the silent trap that awaited them there.

"I think I heard something," Proserpina announced excitedly, bouncing off her armored charger. The announcement fell on deaf ears, as the weary warriors and exhausted magi celebrated their victory, hugging some unrecognized hero in the center of the crowd. The Poison Girl finally shrugged to herself, bounding off past the distracted Duchess and into the darkness beyond.

Asimov and Nicholas stood on opposite sides of the hall, watching silently as the Knights talked amongst each other. Neither the Priest, nor the Necromancer, seemed interested in joining them. Their cold eyes seemed to be searching for something.

The sound of grinding gears and steam suddenly caught Nicholas' attention. He looked across the room, catching the Necromancers gaze. They had both heard it. They both realized at the same time something was missing.

Nicholas nodded at the Necromancer, signaling up the Hall. The Necromancer sneered, and began sprinting, his divided riding skirts allowing him an ease of movement most ordinary mage robes did not allow.

"Stay here," The Priest murmured to the Duchess, bounding after the Necromancer.

Nicholas quickly caught up to Asimov as they rushed up the Hall. And at the same moment, something caught their eye. Proserpina. She was walking towards them.

And the two watched in horror as a shadow formed behind her. The Clockwork Golem swung its massive arm, dealing a blow to her back that knocked her to her knees. She fell on her face. The Golem lifted its arm again, ready to grind the Necromancer's Apprentice into the dust.

Suddenly, Prosperpina disappeared. The Golem stood their in confusion as two balls of fire slammed into its mechanical arm, melting the gears inside.

Nicholas and Asimov stood over the invisible, unconcious form of the young woman, their swords drawn. Several axe wielding thugs emerged from the darkness.

"So," the necromancer hissed with a cold rage. "Casca set a trap. How quaint."

The Priests eyes flashed red, a dark smile forming on his lips. "We'll just have to kill them all, won't we?"

"I don't mind if I do."

The two men stood back to back, hacking down any who came near the unconcious Proserpina.

Suddenly, out of the darkness emerged a man in a bright blue robe, sprinting past the two men. "It's a trap," he screamed.

"Wait!" Nicholas howled in anger, grinding his pronounced canines in anger. He quickly threw an arm around an executioners head. He pulled, a sickening pop emiting from the mans body. He collapsed in a heap. He turned, watching as the Knight of the Royal Flush ran up the hall in terror.

A moment later, the man began racing down the hall back at them. "It's a TRAP!" he screamed, followed by a column of mercenary ronin, armed to the teeth.

"Get her out of here," Nicholas growled as the horde of soldiers slammed into him. "In Vas Por!"

Wildstar and Claudia felt the ground beneath their feet shake. They looked to one another. "It's a trap."

The Knights of the Royal Flush stopped their merrymaking, also having heard the sounds of the earthquake. Suddenly, a side door opened from the wall, and masked men streamed into the unprepared body of warriors.

The Knights of the Royal Flush retreated back up the hall, hacking their way free of the mass of ninjas and mercenary ronin. There in the hall they found a bloodied Asimov and Nicholas, standing over the form of a green haired woman, barely able to hold the onslaught back.

"We make out stand here," someone shouted from the darkness.

The Knights rushed to surround the two defenders, a healer inspecting the unconcious Proserpina.

It seemed like hours before a handful of remaining Knights, bloodied and shaken, stood in empty halls, having for a third time snatched victory from the jaws of absolute defeat. But at what price, one must ask himself?

Lady Drusilla helped the limping form of the Old Priest over the bodies, back into the antechamber where the battle had first begun. As they emerged from the darkness into the chamber, they found a brilliant blue portal awaiting them. The Oracle stood beside the magical door, awaiting the two.

Lord Casca the Tyrant would soon learn the meaning of fear. The Oppressor would soon pay for every life lost on that day.
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