A bucket brigade organized by Norro Wiston had saved the Temple of Yondalla, but not the neighborhood. The dragon’s flame had tore apart the halfling homes of wood, mud and thatch, a smoldering ring of charred wreckage washed up against the foundation.
“Well done,” said Jarvis, clapping his hands. “I couldn’t have done it without your help. No need to thank me, I’m off to the real battle!” Rearing up and pawing the air, Rikki scurried away with the tiny, halfling wizard waving his cap.
Outside the walls, a gang of ogres had retrieved the head of the fallen dragon Abithriax, mounting it on a spear. “Haha, you are all going die.” They thought it was so funny.
Despite the best efforts of the city’s defenders, the walls had been breached and pockets of invaders had trickled in. Lord Jarmaath speaking telepathically to his sister asked us to secure the Dawn Way, while alleys and cross-streets were covered by groups of Lion Guard. A barricade had been constructed, and Sylvana called on none other than Lieutenant Arianne and her ranged specialists.
From the magic bag, Meiyvr found a scroll of grease and fireball. “One of these could be useful,” she said.
Lieutenant Arianne arrived in a contraption constructed by the gnome toy-maker. Accompanied by four female guard, on a cart mounted with not one but two heavy crossbows, the banner of Brindol wildly waving on a pole mounted to her high-backed seat.
Sylvana and Garrock took position up front, near where the wide street turned. Winnie and I in the second rank, with the Lions taking cover behind the barricade. Meivyr touched Crawdad who pecked at me and I turned greater invisible, like I had against the dragon. In this way, I could get in multiple cheap shots.
A troop of hobgoblins ran around the corner, seeing us, hit the brakes, pulling out their bows. The sergeant shouted to someone. “Clear that barricade!”
Swooping over the rooftops, a manticore lashed its tail and unleashed a volley of spikes at the Lion archers. Spikes stuck in the barricade, skipped off the cobbles. Timony was gashed in the forearm. “No, not Timony,” I said to myself, striking the manticore with a shocking arrow in the neck. A second manticore appeared and a rapid fire of spikes at the Lions. This time, Weiss, Cole and Timony were hit! Brownstein, she was unscathed. “Take me instead,” I thought. Lieutenant Arianne gritted her teeth, squinted her eye, and pulled the triggers. BUDDA- BUDDA. Two heavy shots in succession. One hit the uninjured manticore with a thud. The Lions raised their longbows and riddled the opposite one with arrows. I shot him down, turned to the other and hit him in the eye. “Is it time for fireball — or grease?” said Meivyr, who instead finished off that one with a pair of scorching rays. The Lions drank potions.
The disciplined hobgoblins stayed in formation, firing arrows at the barricade. Now, Garrock roared and charged into them headlong. Winnie drew her mace, and Sylvana stepped up with two-handed steel. Flanked by enemies, Garrock took advantage taking down one and cleaving to another. Currgh bit the sergeant, and pulled her to the ground. Sylvana took out one and Winnie another. Lieutenant Arianne’s bolts struck the last one standing. An arrow from Timony pierced the prone sergeant’s neck.
I turned to the Lions and raised my bow in salute. A rousing cheer from the Lions! Looking beyond me to Sylvana. (Of course, I was still invisible.)
As we were distributing healing potions, Rikki came scurrying from a side alley. Jarvis announced he had only one spell left, and there was little time to explain. He requested a blue gem from Meiyvr as she had so many. He ordered Garrock to strap him snugly to the weasel’s back, so he would not fall from the harness. His last instruction was very important. Once he cast the spell we must place the gem into the weasel’s harness. “Winnie,” he said. “I’m sorry I tried to rob you.” The gem filled both his tiny hands, as he pressed the gem against his forehead, muttering the arcane. The gem slipped, tumbled on the ground. Jarvis’ eyes rolled back, drool escaped his mouth. Limp as a rag doll, he slumped over the weasel. I plucked the gem from the street, polished it on my sleeve, and peered inside. I deposited it in a saddle bag strapped to the weasel. Winnie asked Meiyvr what the wizard had done. She was certain he had stored his soul in the gem, but to what end she could not say. Rikki did not seem too bothered, and off he went.
Howls coming around the bend. Goblinoid voices shouting, shrieking. Loosely translated, they said, “I want to kill. I mean, I wanna, I wanna kill. Kill. I wanna see blood and gore and guts and veins in my teeth. Eat dead, burnt bodies. I mean kill, Kill, KILL, KILL!” An especially mean, nasty ugly hairy goblinoid, streaked with warpaint or blood, came bounding around the corner. “KILL, KILL, KILL!” And another and another joined him, jumping up and down. A trio yelling and jumping up and down. “KILL! KILL! KILL!” Bugbears, uglybuggyveryscaryugbears! (I had warned the others about this lot who I had encountered while snooping in their camp. Winnie had asked Fharlanghan for just the spell.) Without missing a beat, they hurled shining throwing axes. One skimmed off Garrock’s shoulder by a whisker and a shield of faith. He took out the javelin of lightning and the window of a store front was shattered. Damn! It was the kobold’s donut shop. The bugbears hooted and hollered. Sylvana charged and smacked one. Easy to hit, harder to take down. Meiyvr moved up, pulling out a scroll “Is it time for grease?” Another one just missed Garrock with a great axe, while Currgh dragged one down. Eight bugbears in total, now they are all here.
Winnie raised her hand gently. “Friends, Fharlanghan begs you give it a rest.” A wave, like a soothing sea breeze on a scorching summer day, passed over the raging brutes. Half the bugbears mellowed out, watching the action with their axes on their shoulders. “Attack the angry ones,” Winnie said, “while I keep the others calm.”
Now, it was Garrock’s time to roar. The lion in him was roused, and with his trident he tore into one, giving Currgh a chance to withdrawal. Sylvana was hit by another greataxe, clearly feeling it. The fighter answered, sliding between two. With a single stroke, she cut down an injured one, taking off its shoulder as she turned on the other and struck his neck, separating the head, screaming even as it rolled on the cobblestones. Lieutenant Arianne gasped. But, the fighter was not done. She just couldn’t help herself and struck one of the calm ones, who was within reach. This roused the bugbear out of his stupor, and he returned the favor with a wicked hack. Sylvana was bloodied, hardly beaten.
Strategy was working. I stayed back, firing arrows. Garrock took more damage. Sylvana took damage. But they paid it back. Meivyr got close enough to suck life force from another, until one raging one remained. Lieutenant Arianne finished off one. Each of the calms ones was woken up in turn, and dealt with. Still, Garrock and Sylvana were wounded badly. But if not for Winnie, it could have been worse. She healed Sylvana as it might not be over.
Not long before we heard a roar, rumbling around the corner. A large blue lizard with a prominent horn put is head down and rushed Sylvana. She somehow managed to step aside. A goblin rode on top of the beast with a bow. Lieutenant Arianne’s crossbow hit the lizard but it broke against its hide. Whoa! Another lizard just gored Garrock and knocked him back, but he made a dent with his trident. Winnie said they were storm-lizards, spawn of Tiamat. Goblin riders laughing, firing arrows at the Lions in the rear. Two more came upon us, running downhill. Sylvana was smashed by each, and if she won’t survive another gore attack. To add insult to injury, a bolt of white lightning coursed between the horns of the two beasts, zapping a fly. Instead of charging, from its horn it fired a jagged bolt of lightning that singed Garrock and nearly made toast of Weiss and Timony, but I was able to dodge out of the way.
Meivyr said, “I believe It’s time for — fireball.” She dropped the ball of flame around the lizards. The flame hurt them, but they were still up. Winnie said, “I have just the spell for this.” A pillar of flame collapsed down on her enemies. When the smoke settled, all the goblins were dead, and the lizards were noticeable injured. The battle turned. A gore attack missed Garrock and he stabbed it. The dragon bane blade, in the hands of Sylvana Jarmaath, did the the rest. In seconds, two of the lizards crashed down between her. Only two remained, injured but still dangerous. A line of electricity stuck Sylvana flat in her breastplate, and she collapsed. Winnie nearby said she was alive, just barely conscious. It was up to us to finish this. Winnie raised her mace and swung, but missed. Garrock took another gore, but was still alive. He struck it with his trident twice, but the beast was still up, though teetering. Jack Wiston drew his rapier, nimbly stepping around, to flank with Garrock, only to miss. A gore attack just missed Garrock, but the two lizards were aligned — with my sister between them. Suddenly two arrows from the barricade hit their mark, and one blue spawn storm-lizard fell. A heavy cross bolt took out the other. “You’re welcome,” said Lieutenant Arianne.
A wave of pain passed over Sylvana’s face. “Hold your position, Lieutenant” she said to Arianne, and she started running for the Square.
Tredora Goldenbrow’s celestial voice soared, full of fear and fury. “Take cover! Take cover!” She floated down the Cathedral steps, pointing at the coffin maker’s shop across the square. “There! From that building, the shot came from there.” And the aasimar moved straight into the line of sight. It was the coffin maker’s shop, Discreet Departures. Lord Jarmaath was down. Captain Lars shielded his lord, clasping his hands against the pulsing wound, until the cleric could reach her beloved. “Kerden,” she whispered. “Pelor, give me strength.” But her voice trembled, the human part.
Norro Wiston did what he could. He had his back to the coffin maker’s shop, making certain others found cover, rather than seeking it himself. “Into the cathedral, quickly!” As we came upon the scene, the old man spotted us and shouted out a warning. “Winnie, Jack. There’s a sniper in the—” His legs gave out, to his knees, falling on his side. A bolt in his back, our father was bleeding out.