The group of giants traveled over the glacier for days, weeks. The landscape was unending ice. The glowing in the sky was brighter now, more definite. However, the sun had set for a final time days ago, only a weak light came during the day and it was getting weaker. The cold was now becoming worse, so bad even the frost giants were becoming effected. The frost giants were not used the idea of being cold, so they did not have much to make themselves warmer other than a few spells from the priestess. She however, was becoming more tired than the others.
They trudged onwards through the ice until finally they could begin to see their goal. Before them was a great mountain that was spewing ash and smoke and even fire. It would seem that the goddess was testing them first in their own element, and now in their most hated element.
As they approached the mountain the ice gave way to hard ground and the air warmed up to merely chilly. As they closed in, they could see there was a path created by a lava flow, for them to ascend the mountain. There, surely, was their goal
As they crossed the land, it became broken and hotter. The swordsage was hit with a blast of steam coming from the ground and fell back, burned. The priestess went to work curing the wounds. Meanwhile Khuros and the wizard looked over the land. Steam would rise in great spurts in different spots, seemingly in a random locations and time. “This route is treacherous.”
“Indeed,” responded the wizard. “It's a maze. We will have to find a safe route through the steam geysers. I will lead us through.”
The wizard led the group around the steam and water geysers. There clearly were paths of safety through them, and sometimes the group went down a path that was a dead end. Many times the group was almost hit by a geyser or had to jump out of the way. However, they became good at noticing the small signs indicating a nearby steam explosion. Finally, they made their way through the steam maze to the foot of the mountain.
The quartet climbed up the rocky path as it snaked up the mountain side. Here the land more difficult but there were no serious hazards. At one point they couldn't walk so much as having to climb up a vertical cliff. Finally, the arrived at the entrance to cavern in the side of the volcano. They went into the cavern and traveled along its twisting route until they came upon a massive chamber. On one side of the chamber there was a cascade of lava flowing down, a sort of lavafall. On the other there was a raised area that appeared to have some sort of liquid in it, water perhaps.
Khuros looked at the lava and the pool. He got angry at what looked like a trip for nothing, “What now? We have reached the end of our path. I see nothing!”
As his voice carried across the cavern, it awoke the guardian of the place. Out of the lavafall came a being of fire, towering over even the giants. It wore a suite of armor and carried a giant axe.
“An Archon!” Khuros exclaimed. The Archons were the dreaded enemies of the frost giants from before even the sundering of their ice continent. In the olden times the frost giants had fought many battles against the fire Archons. This one, though, was larger than any Khuros had seen or heard about. The Archon roared and charged at Khuros and swung its axe. Khuros rolled to the side and avoided the attack. Without magic, this battle would be difficult, but the frost giants had defeated the Archons with cold steel before, and they would do it again.
The fight went on as the two sides traded blows. The frost giants got their attacks in but they had little effect. Meanwhile, the wizard had dropped to the back of the group and out of the fight. For some reason he felt a strange pull from the pool at the other side. He made his way over there as the battle progressed and looked in. The pool contained not water, but a sort of dark ichor. When the mage touched it he felt the sensation of magic returning to his self. The power flowed through him like never before, more than he had ever felt. With the newfound magi, he fired a powerful bolt of ice at the archon, freezing much of the body.
Khuros, was shocked to see his mage performing magic, but kept his battle wits about him. With his sword he swung and shattered the archon, destroying him. Relieved that the battle was over, Khuros went to the pool and the mage, “Wizard, how did you do that?”
“This pool,” the wizard said, still amazed at the power, “is filled with magic!”
The dwarf general marched into the great hall of the Dwarven kingdom in a brisk pace. He went up to the throne and saluted the King of the Dwarves. “My Lord, I have news of the war.”
High King Nadri, called “the careful,” had been the Dwarven King through the entirety of the war. He had managed to successfully repel the invaders but was always of a cautious mindset. Some other nobles had come to criticize him for not taking the war on the offensive, but Nadri sought to save lives first. He knew that, with the help of the gods, the frost giants were losing. The King recognized the soldier messenger and said, “What tidings do you bring?”
“My Lord! The frost giants have gathered together into one army. The scouts have reported they have begun marching here, the capital.”
The king nodded his head in understanding. This was the most significant news in the war for years, but it was not as bad a sign as he thought. Nabli had read the intelligence, and he was confident of his kingdom's position. “Has any of our forces or our allies engaged yet?”
“No Sir, the dryads have disengaged after most of the giant's fleet was destroyed. The halflings have also retreated most of the forces their homeland.”
“Order the generals not to engage”
The general looked shocked. “What? My Lord?”
The King stood up from his throne and spoke enough for everyone in the chamber to hear. “The Frost Giants have begun their final attack. They know the war is lost and wish to make one final offensive. And we shall let them! We will gather our forces here and fight them with every Dwarf here. The frost giants will die upon our battlements.. Our victory will be a most glorious victory for us, and cement our position as the greatest race in the world We shall write a great dirge for the frost giants, when they are all dead and gone.”
The Dwarf general, his confidence greater than before beamed and saluted his King again. The King had finally taken the initiative to destroy the enemy once and for all. It would be a glorious victory.
The Frost Giants marched upon the capital of the Dwarvess, and the two armies set themselves up in front of the walled city. The sides spread out in both directions, their forces arrayed in full strength. The dwarves had the advantage of their walls and defenses, but they were non-the-wiser that the frost giants had gained their magic back, at least temporarily.
Khuros, with his new battle axe, was the the front of his elites. He looked over the field and the enemy positions. He spotted the Dwarven King and his battle standard. “There is where we will go,” he said to his lieutenants without pointing directly.
Khuros raised his battle axe and gave a shout. He then swung it forward, ordering the advance. The frost giants attacked.
The battle lasted all day, into the next. It had been a slaughter on both sides, corpses littering the ground. The wall of the city had been breached and collapsed. Fires raged in parts of the city and fields, some were magical in nature. The dwarves had been surprised by the powerful magics the frost giant wizards deployed, but once they had been expended the wizards were weakened. And now almost all of them had been killed, including Khuros's old companion.
Khruso himself had waded directly into the enemy lines, wielding his massive battle axe with its full power, mowing down and killing dwarves around him without reprieve. So great was he, the dwarves became terrorized of him. The man and his axe would become legend in dwarven history. A great dirge would be written to memorialize the battle, but not for the frost giants. For at the end, Khuros had stood upon the broken battlement, holding the battle standard and the torn shield of the Dwarven King.
The frost giants had won the battle. The dwarves had retreated from the city. But the price had been terrible, the majority of his army was dead and he could not hold this land tomorrow. Khuros took his spoil of war and gathered the survivors that would follow him. Some went off on their own or rejected his leadership.. For those that Khuros still lead, those few, they would go and seek a new place of refuge perhaps.
Somewhere, in the depths of his castle, the Dark Child S'kye screamed in rage.
"Where're my socks!?!" shouted the grumpy old eladrin.
"Don't worry dad, Aevin will go get you some new ones," said his rosy-cheeked daughter. His son, the aforementioned Aevin, left looking slightly put out.
"But I don't want new ones,"he said, irritated "I want those ones I was wearing before, your mother made those you know!" And he glared at her as if she had suggested her mother hadn't, in fact, made them.
"Okay dad, I'll see what I can do," she said, laughing, and she got up to get said socks. And her dad grumbled the whole way.
He grumbled about how he broke his leg, and that was why he was confined to this damned bed. He grumbled about how he wasn't even all that old, but his family kept treating him as such. He grumbled and grumbled, and didn't even notice when the woman entered his room.
She was terribly beautiful, with long, luxuriously dark hair. Her full, almond shaped eyes flashed green in the light from the candle on the bedstead. And when she spoke, her voice was low, and seductive. It wormed its way into the old man's mind, and even stopped his grumbling.
"Hello old man," said the woman, climbing onto the bed.
The man couldn't speak. His voice caught in his throat as he stared at the gorgeous woman. She was so heart-wrenchingly beautiful, it was almost painful. Her image filled his mind, and his eyes began to tear up with her beauty.
"This might pinch," said the woman, and pulled a long, thin green knife from a sheath strapped to her leg. There was but a flicker of green and a blurry of movement. A red ribbon was drawn across the man's throat, blood pouring down onto his sheets. And so the Talua took their second.
Pain. War-cries, battering rams beating against wooden gate, roaring giants...the great mother cried and then everything faded away.
King Nardi, was now alone.
He awoke alone, he awoke just barely alive, his body battered and aching by a Giant's swords but still intact due to Dwarven craftmanship.
The dwarf grunted loudly as he got up from the stone floor. Things had truly changed, what had been the royal throne-room was now just a eeringly empty cave-chamber. Nardi stood still and looked out at the chamber. Here flames had danced, here his people had sung...here he had been crowned by the Great Mother her self. Crowned in the name of his people.
They were gone, everything was gone...but him. The Dwarf stood still, looking out in the Darkness with clouded eyes. No...no...
" NO! "
He roared and began to run. Empty streets, empty rooms, empty, empty. Wherever he searched, wherever he ran there was nothing there! All of them were gone.
" NO, NO, NO! "
He roared once more, falling down on his knees, his face hidden in his hands. Where were they? Where was his son? Where was his wife? Where were they?
The eladrin rushed through the undergrowth, panting and wheezing. His heart thudded in his ears, terror mounting in his chest. He hacked plants away with his long-sword. He reached the edge of the vegetation, and looked down the hill. His heart skipped a beat when his eyes fell upon the village, small a weak looking at the base of the hill.
He had heard reports of monsters falling from the sky, killing, destroying. He feared for his family, and so had returned home, ready to defend against any invasion.
But the town was peaceful, all was well. His heart swelled with happiness as he ran down the hill. The wind rushed in his ears. Shouts of happiness were drawn from his lips in his excitement. Villagers had come out from their houses to see what all the commotion was.
There was old man Raethis, and Saliri the blacksmith! His heart thudded with compassion to see all of these familiar faces! He had been away from home for far too long! He moved through the village proper, everyone was staring at him in wonderment. And then he saw them, his family, and his heart sang with merriment. Little Elizia, Marius, and sweet sweet Sathorna. How he had missed them so! He hugged, them, pulled them close, kissed each of them in turn before stepping back to get a good look at them.
"You're back daddy," said Elizia, her voice strangely monotone. Her words were repeated among the crowd of onlookers "You're back, you're back." It was eerie. He took a step back. What was going on.
"And you're never going to leave us," they all said in unison, and with that, they all descended upon him. With that, the Talua took their third.
Bolts of lightning spread from Anaksi's fingers, spiking through the army of tsarok-minions that were charging toward her from the ruined farm. Damn these things! As the spider-beasts crumpled, smoking, to the ground before her chain lightning spell, she heard an avariel land behind her.
"Make it quick," Anaksi said, turning around, "there are more enemy remnants to exterminate!"
Anaksi was hundreds of years older than she had been since her skirmish with the dwarves and halflings before the food crisis. Now one of the leaders of her tribe, she was arguably the most powerful wizardess on Mt. Gargoth. She, leading a small group of avariels, had killed a pair of tsarok-hem as they charged toward the shadar-kai who the eladrin protected, making herself one of the few eladrin to have landed a killing blow against these horrific aether-masters.
The avariel (a beautiful female, even by eladrin standards) bowed respectfully.
"Mistress," she said, "there is something I believe you must see! Follow me to that ruined manor, hurry!"
"Hmm," said Anaksi, "there's something strange about you."
"What?" Asked the avariel. "Strange? Me? I-"
A blast of eldritch fire erupted from the ground, singing the avariel's clothing and burning the feathers of her cape to a crisp. Collapsing to the ground, the avariel gasped in pain, her eladrin features dissipating before Anaksi's magical assault.
"You're not an eladrin," said Anaksi, "I guess the rumors are true. I'll be taking you to the mountain for questioning."
She gestured for the ghostly hands to carry the screaming talua into the air, and marched it back to Gargoth.
But even as the Talua was lifted into the air, even as the hands grasped her and pulled her up, her screams turned to laughter. The eladrin looked at her as if she'd gone mad. Then, slowly but surely, cuts began to appear all across the creature's body, small, shallow cuts, but all across her body. The laughing took of a hysterical note as the cuts became gashes, deep and wide. Copious amounts of blood poured from its body, and yet the laughter never ceased. Even as her limbs began to be hacked off, the laughter never ceased. They continued, even when she was a bloody mess, even when she was dead. They echoed in the mind of the wizardess, even as she watched the remains fold in upon themselves, and vanish in a mess of blood.
The laughter, however, would never leave the wizardess. Even when she was gnarled and aged, still would she awake in the dead of night in a cold sweat, laughter echoing in her ears.
"Finally," [b]Nyveth thought, "finally I have control over these new abilities our dream-father has given us."[/b] He felt as if he had spent eons focusing his mind and waving his hands at thin air, but now he had finally made something. It was amorphous, with a few long tentacles, but it was something.
He and his brethren, the Ythra, had been playing with their newly acquired power for ages now, and just about everyone had summoned some strange creature from the raw Dream around them. Nyveth and a few others were the first to actually draw upon the Well of Dreams within themselves, not needing an outside source to create
He looked up at their dream-father, Ythrexle, and felt a wave of pride behind his mask. Finally he could create just at It does.
It was soon time to begin boarding the Yrragard, to embark for the distant sphere where the dream-father says all dreams come from. "What does this new World have in store for us?",Nyveth thought excitedly, "What sort of dreamers are there in this strange new land?"
Inside Yrragard it was very dark. Everyone had enough room to stand but nobody could see anything. Nyveth stood with his back against a tall cool surface in the center of the ship. It's so dark in here. I wonder when we're going to arrive?", he thought to himself.
He felt someone brush against him. "Oh, sorry. I didn't see you there."
Nyveth felt this stranger's hand brush slowly up his arm and down his chest. "I'm Allyni. What is your name?", the voice asked as it continued to stroke his skin. "U-um, Nyveth..." he managed to stammer, this stranger was making him feel strange. "Nyveth. A good name." said this voice, this Allyni, and it rested it's hand on Nyveth's shoulder.
But before Nyveth could respond the ship fell apart, opening to a sky that was an alien hue, to a sea that didn't change color at all. Truly this was a strange land. He turned to finally see this Alynni, but no one was standing next to him.