Events post #328: The Second War of Night, Part XX: A Dragon's Promise

8/29/2022 at 3:41
The Second War of Night, Part XX: A Dragon's Promise

Ohlsana's Generals continued testing the defences of Sapience's cities, save for Bloodloch who still, after prolonged weeks of military sojourns and violent skirmishes with the other three on the part of the Shadow, remained unharmed, its resistance not yet challenged. Dragonlings now lurked among the hosts sent forth from their respective commandposts, the brunt of the damage suffered by Spinesreach, for which Generals Telorach and Mazgal seemed to harbour particular desire to do harm. Nevertheless, each incursion provided valuable experience to those under siege, their reactions faster, their forces more disciplined.

While Enorian turned their focus to angelic communion, Spinesreach hastily developed ballista technology to battle the corrupt dragon brood, Duiran awaited Haern's return from Dia'ruis, and Bloodloch made promising overtures to the Empress Xa'azamit (this writer notes that he is not terribly invested in the Empress's continued survival, perpetually or otherwise) and her Corrupt Court, insidious divisions of Shadowbound soldiers continued attempting claims in the world. Encouraged by some scant success in Mostyn, the emboldened troops attempted a similar claim at North of Trees, and another brazenly marched into and through the City of Spinesreach itself to lay a claim to part of the Tundra. Both were stymied.

Assaults on Arbothia met a similar fate; absent the shadowworm that so riotously tainted the already-ailing Bloodwood, the eastern village survived a large incursion, thanks in no small part to the efforts of Sapience, ably supported by the mace of Exarch Berrad. A quiet confidence prevailed, despite the dark star growing in size and antiluminosity amidst the stratosphere, the ugly, light-purloining phenomenon seeming to become larger with each passing day.

In early Lanosian, members of the Sentaari and Sciomancers overheard clandestine conversations, the former through enhanced telepathy and the latter via the latent connection to Shadow. Though fragmented and hard to decipher, battle plans were soon unravelled, the target of the Shadow's next strike becoming clear: Saluria. Word quickly spread thanks to Pentas, Ayanala, Aisling, and Wjoltyr, and Sapience took up arms in preparation, wheeling bells and ballistae into the rainforest-surrounded village and urging the inhabitants to evacuate. Most resisted, stating that Shadow was no stranger to them, and declared their intention to fight. They would soon get their wish.

Around a day and a half after the warning, while preparations for Saluria's defence continued, divisions of Shadowbound soldiers marched into the Square of Sonn, fanning outwards around the village and fortifying themselves in readiness to spread the shadowrot. The call to arms went out, and it was Duiran under Iesid and Sibatti who responded first, rapidly followed by Bulrok and Sheryni of Bloodloch. Durdalis and horrors marched forth to meet the Shadowbound, taking grave losses but triumphing. Victory was short lived. More divisions marched in with similar intentions, and, as Duiran and Bloodloch scrambled to field more of their own troops, pleas to the Dragon of the North were rebuffed, the Spirean military left idle due to lack of designated command. Enorian answered the plea in the form of Kalena and Benedicto, bringing knights from the Beacon to assist.

Still the Shadowbound kept coming, and still the three armies resisted. When all but two sets of Ohlsana's soldiers had fallen, Senator Legyn at last brought the Spirean hoplites onto the field and, between those and the remaining knights, the Shadow's troops fell.

Immense pressure built all across the Primal Eye then, the breach between planes screaming in protest as the forces of Ohlsana wrenched it open ever further. Under the imperious eye of Shadow General Murgraxis, corrupted dragonlings spilled through the rift in droves, swiftly ascending to the darkling skies. Swarm by swarm they took their leave, sallying forth with shrieking resolve and fell purpose, black banners painting the air in a morass of unfurled pinions and gnashing fangs. At the smae time, orders rose from a clandestine outpost in the far south, the commands of General Saglozol a sussurant whisper of divergent voices conjoined as one authoritative demand.

Within mere minutes, streaks of black daubed the skies over Saluria with the arrival of Murgraxis' corrupted dragonflight, hovering in anticipation from their winged dominion over the town. Deploying more shadowspawn from their entrenched positions near the city states of Sapience, the Shadow Generals sent forth armies of their own, the disparate legions converging as one monstrous horde striding out towards Saluria. Amid bellicose war cries of bloodlust and confidence, the horde traipsed into the Western Itzatl and pressed on resolute, the rainforest's myriad inhabitants scurrying out of the way. Even the rojalli fled, seeking sanctuary from the otherworldly roar of Ohlsana's monstrous beasts and gruesome ghasts.

Pavement and cobbles sundered beneath the incoming black tide, shadowbound innumerable converging with murderous intent upon the village. The makings of rot bubbled up from a crack in the stone, the air shuddering queasily at the disgusting incursion. The invasion began in earnest, and carnage dominated Saluria both below and above, dragonlings scorching the sky and rampaging beasts trampling the ground. The adventurers fell again and again, rising each time with renewed resolve to destroy the interlopers as they had at Kald, as they had at Arbothia, as they had on the Tarea battlefield.

Fighting on through blood and injury, the shadowspawn proved that they were not, in fact, endless, the Alchemical conduit of Molotok proving deadly against the dragonlings in particular. The routing of both their infantry and their spawn left those that remained broken of courage and frayed of will. Yet as they turned to retreat, their escape was stymied, curtailed by forces invisible as a sudden sibilant wind rose at Saluria's heart to drown the village in blistering, bone-chilling cold. It began as little more than a hazy silhouette, a streak of darkness rippling through the air. The eldritch being, for that was surely what it was, sloshed itself into existence, pinpricks of inky black congealing and contorting to shape a vaguely humanoid apparition. Then, the errant shadowspawn fled with greater zeal, the tempestuous winds a sinister harbinger, herald to the arrival of Shadow Lieutenant Sphere, once a guardian of the Shadow gate now twisted to Ohlsana's corrupt purpose. As she entered the fray, her amorphous presence undulated wildly, like the night sky incarnate forced into distinguishable form.

Death and murder reigned for an entire quarter day, the Shadow Lieutenant proving herself a formidable opponent. Each adventurer she felled found their heart torn loose and tainted to Sphere's fell purpose, radiating agony with each blow she took from the some fifty three adventurers arrayed against her. Unstable singularities exploded violently at her behest as she preyed on the minds of the weak, claiming life after life after life without pause. Sapience rallied and brought spell and sword against her despite the theatre of death on which she played. Even as she faltered, swarms of grotesque, crawling darkborne came forth at the crooning call of their mother macabre, but they too were vanquished. After girding themselves and enduring protracted battle, the harrowing, shrill scream of defeat at last came from the Shadow Lieutenant, whose spectral form discorporated to specks of blacklist dust. The howling winds died to little more than a muted zephyr, scattering the Lieutenant's remains.

Far in the north, the ire of Murgraxis split the skies with a draconic roar of absolute rancour, defeat fomenting indignation in Ohlsana's Dragon-made-General. Agile and swift, he soon took flight above conquered Sterion and soared southward, leathery wings stirring miniature squalls with each repetitive beat. His voice grated with frustration, coldly dismissing Kolgrik and Sphere as failures while naming Agrimarha the worst of them all as he vowed to see to Saluria's destruction himself. Swarms of dragonlings joined their profane progenitor in flight, their mass swelling to fill the heavens. Plumes of grey-black smoke spilled from their nostrils, alighting the air with dervishes of cyclonic filth. In short order, the long shadow of Murgraxis and his brood fell like a heavy blanket across the Itzatl, the twisted, foetid, tainted dragonflight nearing its destination. Shades of black and violet painted the skies, the very air scorched, infected by the rot of Shadow's befouling touch.

Pride stirred from Her roost and Spinesreach trembled, the Dragon of the North quaking in upheaval beneath the manifest wrath of its ancient, elder namesake. Four eyes of silver opened as one, and Midwinter's Star spiralled upwards into the firmament, Her monstrous bulk cresting heavensward at terrifying speeds. In a voice brooking no denial, She reminded Murgraxis of the warning She had issued to not trespass in Her domain, making Her own vow to keep Her promise.

Flanked on all sides by uncountable dragonling spawn, Murgraxis held fast, the beating of his wings a steady, confident rhythm. The shadowbound dragonlings fanned out, surrounding their father in a protective formation, and the air itself seemed to shiver in anticipation, an arc of coruscating lightning presaging the Sun Drinker's imminent descent. Clouds fled from the path of Tanixalthas, the power of Sky Dreaming wreathing the winged Goddess in a captivating aura of azurine light, and like a comet She streaked across the heavens, the skies convulsing in exaltation to mark Her ineffable passage.

The First Dragon wheeled above Saluria, peering down with inconsolable anger at the General hovering below. Her muscled form tensed before She dove at Murgraxis, a thunderous sonic boom exploding outwards as She collided. Incandescent lightning illuminated all of Sapience in a sheen of lucent blue, roiling storms gathering about and above Saluria in vaporous clouds pregnant with soon-to-be-unleashed rage. Brilliant flame poured from the jaws of Tanixalthas, tooth and talon and fire working as one to harry the Shadow's General. Inky blackness shrouded Murgraxis in a sinister penumbra, each flap of his wings unleashing cascading waves of oily filth toward the First Dragon, turning aside Her indignant lightning and redirecting it elsewhere. Enraged, Sky Dreaming pressed forward without mercy or compassion, the two Dragons fencing in a frenzied exchange of raking claws against armoured scale, of monstrous jaws closing about draconic limbs, both fighting with intent to kill.

Despite the strength and confidence of Murgraxis, Midwinter's Star fought like a blur, a draconic spectre of impossible speed and orgiastic violence, Her powerful limbs and rapacious jaws working independently of each other to ravage Her opponent again and again. Seething as they came to his defence, the brood of Murgraxis moved to surround Tanixalthas, sheer numbers shrouding Her from sight behind the aerial black wave. A great bellowing roar tore free from Her maw and the turbid stormclouds detonated, spraying arcs of scintillating lightning and shards of frozen hail in all directions.

Dozens of broodlings fell from the air, vanquished by the lambent fury of Sky Dreaming's relentless storm, and the dance of Dragons went on. Fire and filth clashed still in the firmament, Air Goddess and Shadow General trading sweeping blows of titanic might. The swarm of Murgraxis pressed in further around the Sun Drinker, the vast swarm tearing at Her scales as blackened fire seared angrily at Her craggy body. Waves of putrescent smog erupted from the maw of Murgraxis, ash and smoke and ruin raining down on all who dwelt below. The Shadowbound Dragon banked in mid flight and surged at the now-struggling Tanixalthas, fangs and talons bared and hungry.

The firmament shuddered, yielding to the thunderous voice of Tanixalthas as She boomed a single word in the tongue of the Dragon: ZFELAUKAL. Almost immediately, ominous clouds rolled in on a swift-rising wind, a vigorous mistral keening with every gust bringing the eddying storm nearer. The air creased, convulsing as if alive, frenetic incandescence flashing in and out of focus with the sky as its stage. In moments, cacophonous shrieking shattered the illusory conjuration, cloud cover dissipating in strands of gelid cirrocumulus to reveal Pride's brood, roused to vicious anger by the threat facing the Sun Drinker.

The chorus of young Dragons boomed in horrifying unison across the skyscape, draconic voices lifted in outrage, paean for their beloved Mother and harbinger to their soon-to-be retribution. Effortless flight ensued, the winged motions of a true and untainted dragonflight fanning out as one mind bent to singular purpose. Cerulean fire blazed bright, synchronous conflagrations set loose against the darkling spawn. Each determined to triumph, the two opposing broods clashed in the clouds, talon and claw lashing out alongside azure flame and black-grey haze. Making known Her ire in the form of an explosive tempest, She Who Hungers rolled in mid flight, a sinuous motion inciting turbulent gusts to toss myriad shadowbound aside into the waiting jaws of Her issue.

Emerging from the swarm surrounding Her, Tanixalthas levelled out, Her rippling scales dappled with spots of Her own blood. She paid Her injuries no heed, the silver quartet that is Her gaze trained, nay, fixated on one thought, and one alone. Murgraxis jeered at the Dragon Goddess and lunged, yawning wide his maw to unleash another torrent of shadowflame
even as claws came up to rend Her in twine.

But the Shadowbound Dragon was found lacking against the might of the First Dragon. The fathomless pique of an ancient, elder being flared to an impossibly vivid radiance, a storm of bedazzling incandescence shrouding She to Whom the world is young in its terrible embrace. Awash in Her crown of storms, the Dragon Goddess turned aside the flood of dark dragons, felling them from the heavens - Her heavens - with nary a thought nor effort. A snarling rictus contorted on Her face and She roared a challenge - to Murgraxis, to the world entire - aloud. Forward She glided through Her domain, the ultimate predator launching towards the ultimate prey. Heavy sleet rained down from above to batter at Murgraxis, empowered hail lancing viciously at scale and armoured hide alike.

Again the firmament shuddered as Sky Dreaming raised Her voice. "YOU ARE NOTHING, FALSE DRAGON." She roared. "YOUR TIME IS ENDED." Claps of deafening thunder heralded the Sun Drinker's second mighty collision with the Shadow General, the force of Her impact driving the storms to yet greater intensity. Stunned, Murgraxis lifted his wings to shield himself, violet tendrils coalescing about him in a final act of defiant survival.

With a squall of callous, predatory delight, the Sun Drinker's claws at last struck true, cutting ruthlessly at Her enemy in a furore of unrestrained violence. Black blood spattered across the ground below as She withdrew Her questing talons, the General's heart clutched in Her grip. Bellowing Her triumph for all to hear, the Dragon Goddess shredded the organ into umbral ribbons, the defeated corpse of Her prey left to feed Her brood before it could even hit the ground. Injured but victorious, Sky Dreaming took a long, appraising look of the smoking battlefield beneath Her and turned north, Her awkward flight carrying Her into Spinesreach where She alighted atop the Dragon Spire to nurse Her remaining wounds. Promising Spinesreach the Dragon's skull as a trophy once Her brood had finished feasting, She slipped into rest.

As the dust settled over Saluria, a faint ray of light drew the eye to nearby fields, where something long lost flickered in the grass. The shard of Truth's Sword was quickly acquired by one deft, resourceful adventurer, its current location unknown, but nonetheless spared from the Shadow's hands. In the east, outrage marked the camp of General Isalemei at Murgraxis' fall, the slender, armoured figure of Shadow General Azgon marching forth from his post in the Pash Valley to take up reluctant sentinel at the heart of Czjetija's Primal Eye, where he now patrols...

Penned by my hand on Kinsday, the 15th of Lanosian, in the year 504 MA.
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